Apparently I started this post a long time ago, and forgot about it. I finished it up some time over a year after I started it, but better late than never, right?
I had the distinct pleasure of going to a Gordon Research Conference this summer, and the only bad thing I have to say about it is that I wish I had started to go to them earlier. It was totally awesome.
That being said I went unprepared for some of the activities and issues, and wanted to document them here just on the off chance one of you hasn't been yet, but will go in the future. I went to the natural products meeting at the Tilton school, but I expect a lot of this will be true for other meetings, as well.
We stayed in dorms without locks on the doors. Odd, and reasonable under the circumstances, but if you have valuable shit or are neurotic, you might need to spring for a hotel nearby. I recommend the dorms, and you can request to share a room with a buddy if you want. I got paired up with a stranger and had no issues at all, he was a really nice guy.
The shower was communal, and down the hall (obviously) so you may want to bring some flip-flops to walk to and from the shower. We got little hotel soaps every day, but no shampoo. If you have preferred toiletries you should bring them, just in case.
Right as I walked in from the bus, there was a sign in area, right next to a "purchase drinks for the week area". Beers for the week were $30 and sodas $15. Since it's pretty easy to drink $30 in one night, I though it was quite a deal, and people were already heavily taking part in the libations. We had dinner, the talks started the first night, and the the heavy drinking began. After the bar closed at midnight the coolers of beer were brought out, and a short while later the grill was fired up, and brats were served to all comers. It was a lot of fun, everyone was really nice, and it was a great opportunity to chat with old friends and meet new people as well.
This brings up three important points together:
Drink in moderation, there is a whole week of all nighters to look forward to, don't overdo it if you want to go the distance.
If you don't drink it might be a drag to hang out with all the drunks, so be prepared.
If you don't eat meat it might be a drag to hang out with all the hungry drunks, so be prepared.
Most nights there were people out till well after 3 AM, and often a few stragglers made it to sunrise. The morning talks always seemed to come much too early.
If you don't pace yourself it can make for great entertainment for the rest of us when we get to hear you retching in the communal bathroom the next morning and then make fun of you later in the day.
There are periods during the day for rest relaxation between talks. I didn't know, and didn't bring any clothes for hiking/swimming/softball etc. If you can find out what the activities are ahead of time, plan to do them, they are a lot of fun, and are great opportunities to meet new people and hang out in an informal situation while not loaded.
If you don't know what the activities are, or what recreation there is nearby, it's not a big deal. Bring some clothes that are good for the outdoors, and ask someone the first night what there is to do the rest of the week. Often these meetings are attended by people many, many times, and they are very familiar with what there is to do.
Have fun, meet new people, have some drinks (or not, you pussy), and learn some chemistry!