If you have ever wondered how a traditional Finnish sauna ends up at a Tech conference in Riga, this was that story.
This all started back at a Slush18 pre-event*, where I made the commitment to Kristine that, once again we would bring the sauna to TechChill. I had mentioned that the biggest challenge each year has been getting a sponsor to cover the cost. As anyone who has ever tried to get sponsorship knows, closing the first deal is always the hardest one. This is where Kasper from Superhero Capital stepped up. Living up to their brand, agreed to be on board to cover at least the cost of the fuel. Fuel for the trip is not an insignificant cost as when towing the 2 tonne, 3.5m tall by 2.7m wide sauna the landy’s consumption nearly doubles.
Now comes the first set back - the PaloSauna that we normally rent was off the road, due to the stove being burnt out. The club that owns the sauna was not so keen on doing the job of replacing the stove in -15°C winter weather. So time to hit google and find an alternative. I found a few, but none were available for the period we needed. CRAP on a stick . Back to the Palosauna guys, and a new deal was struck - we would fit a new stove. Not so hard thanks to Kris and Antti.
Next challenge, the sauna trailer needs an MOT inspection. And there had been some problems with the lights, but we managed to show them working at the inspection station. Of course we then discovered, the problems were caused by me putting the connector in the wrong way round. Finally with 4 days to go, we were ready.
Then the lights went on the landy. Luckily this is a known problem to us. A simple switch swap was the fix (2 years ago, this happened on the way to TechChiill at the Hesburger near the border, same fix)
Because I got to pick the ferry times, for once, we took the 10:30 ferry. So it would be a mostly daylight drive, rather than the classic night time, late night struggle.
No real challenges, apart from the the first fuel stop also included the folks picking up a “couple of beers”. So now we are stopping for snacks, new beers and pee breaks every 40 mins or so, which slows the pace even more. 🐌
A little before the Estonian-Latvian border, the wipers decided to stop moving. No real worry, as folks wanted to stop for something to eat anyway. So we stop in Salacgriva, a small former fishing town. Shame the only restaurant/pub on the town was shut for a stock take. But a bit of wiggle on the wipers got them working again. Only for them to stop working 150 kms from Riga. And then, of course, it starts to rain. Oh well, good thing the roads are so bad the speed limit is 30 kph.
We arrive at the location for the party. One small problem - it is the location for the Friday party! The sauna should be delivered to the Thursday location. 🤦🏼♂️ Not sure if this was due to me mis-reading an email or not remembering correctly. Either way, this year, this sort of problem was not such a challenge as there was one nominated person on the TechChill side who was the only point of contact. That made things so much easier than attempting to get hold of the overworked & stressed CEO to find out what is happening, and what should be done. Over the next 3 days Kate really lived up to the Techchill brand and made everything smooth and stress free 😇
Day zero and day one pass as expected - busy with meeting old friends and talks of the party & sauna.
In a nice change from previous years, we even had help in filling the water buckets. While setting up, Kate showed me the “Rules of Sauna” that one of the sponsors had requested be put up, which caused some smiles. Another huge plus of having someone know well in advance that the sauna was coming was, that, there were plenty of towels that had been rented from a local hotel. Oh and one real luxury, showers!
The evening was pleasant, apart from the super rude people who kept opening the door to check that the sauna was hot and had people in it 😠 . Oh, and the super drunk American who lost his clothes and thought they had been stolen, and then we find a lot of other people's clothes had been moved around 😒 All ended fine though and no-one had to walk home in a towel 😌
Late that evening came, possibly, my favorite moment when, one of the volunteers related the story of how last year when she arrived at the after party the first thing she saw was 2 fat, naked guys standing in the street. Of course they were not naked, they were wearing towels! Then she added “WTF, This is my kind of weird”.
Now as the sauna had been full all evening. the discussion starts around “what do we need to do to get the sauna to the Friday party?”.
I was busy all day == no one to drive
the landy was off having it’s wipers looked at == nothing to tow with
While the sauna was not as busy on the Friday night, it was still popular. I was fast running out of power after 3 days of early starts and late finishes, so we left Voitto to close up the sauna. This year the parties seemed calmer as the only underwear left in the sauna was the custom made Maria01 underpants.
For some strange reason, the drive back after the epic closing party is always very quiet. 🤫
I had planned that we would have enough time to get some food and also stop to buy some alcohol. After we leave the store, I realise it is going to be tight to get to the ferry on time. Much tighter than i would like. In a final twist of fate the navigation app on my phone freezes just outside Tallinn, so Kasper, has to do a fast navigator re-plan, while I am temporarily following the road signs for Helsinki & Stockholm. Turns out, this is a much better route, as it is not through the city center. As an added bonus the new registration plate system at the port works really well, and we got pretty much straight onto the boat. 🍀
The final steps of these trips is to wash 600 kms of road crap from the outside of the sauna and 6 hours of sweaty butts from the benches inside. This was made a bit harder by a missing hose, so we ended up having to do it all by carrying many buckets.
Now clean, it was time to return the PaloSauna to its home.
This is at the top of a 50m long steep hill that is covered in ice. Time to use the other leaver in the landy - low range AND diff lock. Choose second gear, and push the gas pedal hard. As Jeremy Clarkson would say “ POWER!”. Pretty much the whole way up the traction control indicator was on 🤪. But we made it there. Land Rover Defenders FTW!
And that was the story of taking the PaloSauna to TechChill19 and back again.
Anyone want to join the trip in February 2020?
* Technically this all started back in 2012 with the first TechChill event, when we first took the sauna to Riga.