Road Blog - Taking My Half out of the Middle

Monday, November 26, 2012

A "new" bike

Since today was a bright and sunny day, not to imply that it was warm, I decided to take my recently completed (Saturday) project out for a spin. So with that introduction I present my “Winter Bike” or as Brooklynn has taken to calling it recently, “the rain bike”.

I’ve had this bike in since 1989, which makes it older than some of my kids (Alessandra) who are now having kids of their own. ~Sigh~ if only the bike could just produce “grandbikes”.

Anyway, this bike was completely rebuilt from the frame up. I stripped it down to bare frame and since its steel I coated the inside with a special product to prevent rusting. I then rebuilt the hubs on each wheel, the bottom bracket and the headset. All of the shifting and braking was completely refurbished and put back on the frame. The only things that are really new is the bar tape, the red tires and the fenders.

I was quite pleased with the look but now that I’ve ridden it I’m really thrilled at how well it came back together. No shifting or braking problems at all and it felt great to be back on the old steed.  After the ride, I hung the bike in the garage next to the summer bike, the relatively new bike, and as I closed the garage door I’m pretty sure I heard snide remarks coming from Summer. I just looked at the black bike and in the sternest voice said “knock it off, you’ve been out all summer long.” She’s always been the snarky one, being carbon fiber and all. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Life's Important Lessons

Every now and again one feels the need, or maybe even the direction, to share something special and personal. I’ve always been comfortable telling stories and will do so from time to time. It’s much more rewarding that way as I can feed off the reaction of the listeners and maybe twist my storytelling style to generate a laugh. Anyone who knows me understands that I enjoy making other people chuckle. It’s part of who I am.

This effort is not for that purpose. And as I begin to put my experiences to paper I’m wondering to what end. This may just end up in my drawer at home or on my blog or I may email it to my children and possibly my mom and siblings. All I know at this point is that I feel very much like I must write this down, and do it today.

Having been raised in a Christian home I can’t recall a time that I doubted that God loves me. I was taught from an early age that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be my example and to be the Savior of all mankind. While there were times in my life that I didn’t hold onto that promise there has never been a time in my life that I doubted it.

My mind races back to that song most of us learned before we were old enough to attend kindergarten.

Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!

The scriptures also give readers additional confirmation. Luke 12:6&7 reads:

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Additionally Doctrine & Covenants 84:80 gives a promise specific to missionaries but I feel comfortable in my knowledge that my Heavenly Father cares for me in similar fashion:

And any man that shall go and preach this gospel of the kingdom, and fail not to continue faithful in all things, shall not be weary in mind, neither darkened, neither in body, limb, nor joint; and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed. And they shall not go hungry, neither athirst.

There has never been a question that God loves me beyond what I can comprehend. I often wonder why, since I feel that I often disappoint and regularly don’t measure up to where He believes I should be. But the fact remains that He does and the following 3 events are testimony-building experiences that prove it to me one more undeniable time.

As you all know, I like to ride my bike and if I’m not thinking about family, home or church and work duties, I’m probably riding or thinking about riding, reading, researching something related to bikes, bike repairs, bike travels, etc. It’s been this way for many years but the internet has increased this hundredfold.

I’ve been riding bikes for nearly 30 years, having started about 1983 in Bishop, California. The first few years were spent riding 7-8 miles per outing. Then I found challenge in trying to ride either faster than a previous ride or further distance than previous routes. Before long my riding became such that 25 miles wasn’t an issue provided I had the time to do it.

Over the years I’ve done a little local, fun racing. It wasn’t anything too serious and I always knew that in any race I’d be slower than some and faster than others. I wasn’t there to win or even compete, only compete with my self-doubt.  I’ve competed in races that were as short as 10 or 12 miles and as long as 70 miles.

In time, my racing days were over and my riding became more focused on health and endurance rather than speed. The longest day ever on a bike for me was 121 miles followed by 85 miles the next day as Alessandra and I rode in the Seattle to Portland ride in 2004.

The reason I introduce this short chronology of my cycling is to set the stage; in all these events, all these many miles that I’ve ridden, I have never crashed. Sure I’ve toppled over a few times when I came to a stop and couldn’t get my shoe cleats disconnected from the pedals. Anyone who rides has done this. I’ve fallen over gently when I have accidentally veered into the sand on a road shoulder and lost momentum. But in 30 years and probably between 15,000 and 20,000 miles I have never crashed.

That brings me to 3 cycling events that I’ve experienced in the past 30 days or so. I’ll relate them one at a time.

August 14 – Mercer Island Slough (Washington)
This was a Tuesday afternoon and I had found time to get in a quick 20 miles before Melodie returned home from work. I had ridden over to Mercer Island because it had some hills and I wanted to do a bit of climbing to see how my legs felt.

This was a route I had ridden 30 or more times prior to this day and would consider my knowledge of this route very good. I was riding on the bike trail and coming off of the island and back onto the Bellevue side under the I-90 bridge.

Because of the hills this particular portion allowed me to gain speed as I approached a sweeping left hand turn. I estimate that I was traveling at 22-23 mph. Now, in a car that seems awfully slow but when you are on a 5-foot wide asphalt path and are riding on 23mm wide tires, which equates to .905 inches wide, it is really flying.

As soon as I entered this turn and was fully committed I felt my rear wheel slip from underneath me. Instantly I knew I was going down. I was going to hit the pavement hard and slide into some low brush, including some blackberry brambles. As quickly as that thought entered my mind I somehow managed to shift my weight and get the rear tire under my center of gravity and was able to avoid the anticipated crash.

Once I was back under control I pedaled another 10 feet before I realized that my rear tire had gone flat. The air was completely gone and had left the tube in seconds. What that meant is that I had entered that turn with nothing more than a bit of rubber and a metal wheel that was touching the pavement. The end result of this would be that the rim would act almost like a metal skate on ice. There is literally nothing to be done.

I took about 10 minutes to change the rear tube with the spare and tools that I keep on my bike, the whole time patting myself on the back about my bike handling skills. While at that time I thanked my Heavenly Father for watching over me, I really felt like he had protected me by giving me the bike experience that I needed to overcome a potential disaster. How arrogant was that?

Had I gone down I think I would have been ok enough to get back on the bike and finish the ride. Certainly I would have been quite scraped up and the bike would have been ok but all in all it would have been a minor crash in my book.

Saturday Sept 8 – Post Falls, Idaho
Between Sept 7-9 Melodie and I drove from Washington to Utah to visit Alessandra and Kyle in Springville. I’ve been training for a metric century ride in early October so I knew I wanted to continue riding while there. Consequently I transported my bike with us. For fun our driving route took us the scenic route; from Seattle to Spokane and then to Missoula, MT before we headed south on I-15 towards Utah.

I planned to get on the bike in Spokane and ride across the state line to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on Saturday. This would give me a chance to train for the 37 miles I needed that day while Melodie had time to have a pedicure and meet me in Idaho and a predefined location.

This was a great ride. The Washington side was full of friendly walkers, runners and other cyclist while the Idaho side had less trail users and allowed me to enjoy the scenery and the ultra smooth, recently paved Centennial Trail. It was a fantastic day for an awesome ride and I took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy it.

About 25 miles or so into my day I was riding on the trail which paralleled the freeway. As I entered the outskirts of Post Falls, Idaho I had an experience that sent chills up my spine. As I slowed and entered a gentle turn I heard an unmistakable female human voice say clearly and loudly, “I’m right behind you.”

I looked over my left shoulder to see if someone was passing me. I thought that would be odd because typically one rider overcoming another would holler out, “on your left”, or even less frequent, “on your right” to warn the rider that they were going to pass.

However I heard “I’m right behind you” so clearly, distinctly and without any doubt in my mind, then or now, that I turned over my right shoulder to see if there was a radio blaring from the backyard of a nearby house that could have been the source of that voice. There were no houses nearby and no other persons that I saw. Nothing. I saw and heard nothing more other than that one sentence.

I immediately slowed down and mulled this over in my mind, wondering what I could have heard, or at least wondering what the source was. While the source of the voice was unclear and somewhat creepy, I didn’t feel any fear from that experience.  I thought about this for days and even then came up with the theory that it may have been a disembodied spirit of some sort. Now don’t go “all weird” on my thought. This voice was so real that I had to try to make some sort of sense of it.

Before we left to come home from Utah I mentioned this experience, without having any explanation, to Melodie and then later to Kyle & Alessandra.

In just a little more than a week later I would have my third and most profound experience.

Monday Sept 17 – Bellingham, WA
Because I was working out of town, in Bellingham, for the next 2 weeks and because I was still training I brought my bike with me. I typically end up back at my hotel by 4:00 or 4:15 each day and there’s plenty of time to get good ride in. Such was the case on Monday the 17th.

I had a planned route to ride which would have me climb gradually from downtown Bellingham past Lake Padden and towards Lake Samish. I would turn around at the firehouse and head back to town on this rural road. The ride out was uneventful and as I returned my speed increased about as rapidly as the “bike lane” deteriorated. I use quotes around the “bike lane” because it really wasn’t an official lane.

Unfortunately there was a painted white stripe between the auto lane and this area that was wide enough to fit a bike, and such that the drivers thought I should be there, but in reality it wasn’t really suitable and presented a lot of obstacles such as debris and uneven pavement. I “popped” in and out of this lane as often as the circumstance required me to.

Once again I’m traveling about 25 mph and just as a car passes I look back and realize that there aren’t any cars coming and this lane is wide open for me to use. 

I decide to pop out of the bike lane one more time and as I do something causes me to loose complete traction. Before I know it I am sliding sideways (at 25 mph) across one lane of traffic and then across another lane of traffic. Of course I had made this move because there were no cars so there wasn’t any concern about them.

Both of my wheels had stopped turning and I was literally sliding sideways for about 35-40 feet. Both feet had come unclipped so that my legs were flailing all over the place. I don’t think I was even centered over the bike at this point.

The first thought that entered my mind is that I was definitely hitting the asphalt on this one. Nothing was going to prevent that from happening, it was just a matter of when and how hard. My center of gravity was leaning into the direction of the slide and I felt like I was going to hit at any second. Before I know it the bike rights itself slightly and before I can process another thought I’m back into the same position for a second time, my center of gravity was way to the left and I realized a second time that I was going to hit the pavement after all.

A moment or so later, which felt like hours, the bike seems to right itself one more time. I really had no control over my body weight or the bike, so when I come to a stop in the intersection of a connecting roadway, pointing nearly opposite from the direction I had been traveling, with both feet firmly on the ground; all I can do is laugh. I think if I hadn’t laughed I would have cried.

I don’t know if I’d say I saw my life flash before me because I knew I would survive this fall. But as I was sliding I calculated, very quickly mind you, that I would probably break a shoulder, an arm (certainly a wrist), or a clavicle and possibly all three. I honestly believe that I would have been hospitalized for a day or two. It was that big of a potential crash.

Needless to say, before continuing, my laugh turned into a very sincere and thankful prayer of gratitude which has continued until this writing. I can’t prove anything to you or to myself but I am positively convinced that the Lord has been watching over me and protecting me for many, many years and evidently more intensely for the past 30 or so days.

Some might call these experiences coincidence or luck. I do not. I know it was the steadying hand of God that has kept me safe.

I believe in angels. Today, I believe that I have at least one angel assigned to me as a guardian. That first flat and slide where I had patted myself on the back for my bike handling skills was the work of an angel. Somehow he or she was able to keep me from that first fall.

When I was in Post Falls, Idaho and heard that female voice I am now convinced that this was my angel, there by assignment to be “right behind you [me]” possibly slowing me down enough to keep me out of another potential trouble spot that day.

And without any doubt or equivocation it was an angel or angels working under the direction of my Heavenly Father to right that bike on the 17th. There was not just one time but two times that I was on my way to the pavement and miraculously, and I do mean that literally, I was lifted back up and positioned to stop that bike before a serious injury.

We often hear that having cancer is such a life changing experience. That wasn’t the case for me. I didn’t have a battle on my hands as many cancer patients typically do. I even joked about it as “beginner” or “apprentice” cancer.

I don’t know maybe I was supposed to learn something then. But now it seems like my Father in heaven has decided to take a different approach to get my attention. These combined experiences have profoundly changed my life.

So, what am I to learn from this?  Well, first and foremost I know that God loves me and cares about me. I have never known this to this depth and degree before. Secondly, I need to slow down. I have felt so good on the bike this year, post cancer surgery (ala Lance Armstrong) that I have been riding much faster all year. Thirdly, for reasons unknown, I am being protected, preserved if you will. It’s His reason. I need to prayerfully seek to know what that is and then work and be prepared to respond to what he may need from me. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Nail (originally written in May 1997)

I took a quick glance at my watch. 8:25 a.m. Great, I should be at Seattle U in 15 minutes, 20 tops. And that’s if there’s a “traffic slowdown”, which can be counted on like rain.

I am heading north on I-5 in my Honda Civic, just south of Boeing Field when it happened. I never even saw it, I don’t even know what it was but I sure heard it. There was a loud thump under the car. I mean loud. I quickly assessed the damage. The oil pressure looked good. The engine temperature was fine. Turning down the radio, I could hear that the engine sounded normal. Then the noise. It really didn’t sound fatal, but it was enough to make me pull over.

I signaled and made a quick maneuver across the 2 lanes with the skill and confidence of a seasoned Indy driver heading for the pits. I found the emergency lane and coasted to a stop. With only one foot on the ground I could already see the problem….. a flat tire. No problem, I can handle this, no one really looks for me until about 9:00 anyway. I’ll just grab the spare and get started.

Moving mountains of stuff that always seems to be above the spare tire compartment, I reach and find……oh no!! It’s one of those wimpy temporary tires about the size of a bagel. No Problem. I’ll change it and head into Seattle and have the original repaired for the drive home. I grab the jack, the lug wrench and all the other junk they give you for this experience and head up to tackle the job.

With cars whipping by at 70 miles an hour (ok, it Seattle, 35 mph) I kneel to loosen the lugs nuts. Oh no! The wrench is too small for the nuts. No problem. I am prepared. I’ll just grab my cell phone that I have just for this purpose and call AAA Road Service. By golly, I’m getting my $40 worth this year. I grab the cell phone and my wallet with a single movement only to find that I don’t have my AAA card. It’s in the van which is in front of the house. I’ll just give Melodie a call and ask her to get me the number. Oh no! I forgot that she was up all night with Alessandra who is sick with the flu. The poor girl has vomited nearly 15 times. The last I saw Melodie was finally getting some sleep.

Well I don’t have much choice. I’ll call and hope she understands. With some apprehension, I dial anyway. The line is busy. Well that’s OK at least I know I won’t be the one waking her. A few tries later, I finally reach her only to find out she was up because Ali had vomited once again. After a quick explanation she agrees to get the number and call me back.

5 minutes, 10 minutes, man its 8:45. She hasn’t called me back yet. Well I don’t want to act impatient, but I gotta get moving. I’ve been sitting on the side of the road for nearly 20 minutes reading the sports page. Traffic has slowed to about 10 miles per hour, and I notice that people won’t even look my direction. They probably would feel compelled to help me. It’s better to just pretend I’m not there. Even the cops ignore me.

I muster the nerve to call her and decide my strategy is humor. She answers and I say, “Melodie, I wanted to let you know that I actually have a flat tire right now instead of planning on having one, and I really need that number”. She tells me, “I did call, I left you a voice mail at the office, I didn’t know where you were.” I can’t believe it.  “Melodie, I thought if I told you that I had a flat tire, it might dawn on you that I was in the car and to call the cell number.” We had a good chuckle and I finally contact AAA. No problem they tell me, “Rudy’s Towing will be there in 15-20 minutes”. Great I’ll finish reading about the upcoming Sonics/Rockets game tonight.

I lift my eyes from the paper only to see a “WaSP” pulling in behind me. A Washington State Patrol. Down in California they have “Chips”, up here we have WaSPs. No problem, I tell him. I’ve got AAA on the way. I’m standing next to the epitome of machismo here in Washington and decide I’ll save face by telling him I would have been done and on my way if my lug wrench had of fit the lug nuts. Oh Great…. He wasn’t to take a look. Does he think I’m some ignorant stranded motorist? Sure glad I’ve got Washington plates on the Honda.

He takes one long look and tells me to remove the hubcap in order to get to the lug nuts. I get down and look again. He’s right; the nuts I was trying to fit the wrench onto are only plastic mock ones on a $5 wheel cover. The WaSP is really starting to bother me now. He actually wants to change the tire for me. I’m an American, keep your hands off my lug wrench.

I manage to regain my manhood and change the tire in such a fashion as to show him that it wasn’t my first. I lower the newly installed bagel to the pavement and thank him for his help. My pride is bruised, but I did appreciate his help. He lets me know that he’d already cancelled the tow truck.

I climb back in my car and pull into traffic, taking caution to follow all the steps one follows after having just received a ticket. Once I get back into the flow of things it occurs to me that I am still the object of ridicule and scorn.  People are actually staring and pointing at the bagel I was calling a front tire.

Ignoring jeers and insults, I fight my way to the office and found in the Yellow Pages a tire shop nearby. I limp in and they quickly repair the flat. I wait and wait for the bill. Finally I go up to the counter. “No charge”, he says. Maybe the day is going to turn for the better after all.

I have a genuine smile on my face as I pull away, windows down and enjoying the nice weather of the day. The sun was shining ever so brightly and the birds were singing. I turn onto South 4th Ave and as I do a large 5 ton flatbed truck comes barreling by. It passes, and then I hear it. “Ching…….ting………ting.”

I glance out of my window and see a large rusty nail that has just fallen of the truck. In slow motion I watch as it cartwheels across the warm asphalt right towards the path of my newly repaired tire.

I’m able to slow and swerve in time to miss the nail and its torpedo attitude. It comes to a completed stop just inches from where my tire is. I smile to myself. It’s going to be a great day after all. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Mouse That Roared!! – Part 3 “The Next Issues and Period”

Editorial note: This is the third installment and will make little sense if read out of order. Please see earlier posts directly below.

Well once the members of SODE’ learned that Gary McCoy, company President had asked for more, we felt obligated to deliver. After all he was the boss.

We spend another week putting together the next issue. We continued and may have even upped the level of intensity. We attacked about 3 or 4 departments in this issue and even more in the subsequent issues. Since Gary had asked for “more of it” we felt we had been given a free pass.

We attacked and attacked, making less effort to cloud who and what we were attacking. Names of departments and certain managers was alluded to and in some cases spelled out entirely. This proved to be a poor decision. I believe if we had been less specific and left names out of the publication all would have gone as expected.

Another bad decision was that we as editors felt we could own up to our efforts. It wasn’t that we put our names on the paper but we didn’t keep our efforts anonymous either. If asked, we all agreed, we would admit we had been behind this. In hindsight it was a good thing that we had disassociated SODE’ with the paper because that would have put all of us, and maybe me individually, responsible for making Kandi cry a year or so earlier.

About 4 issues and 6 weeks later the word came down. Kevin, Bill, Ryan and I were “invited” to the ivory tower at the request of Gary McCoy. As we arrived at the admin office and looked at one another it was clear that no one really knew what was going on. But at the same time we were pretty sure that it had to do with our brainchild “The Mouse That Roared”.

When we stepped into Gary’s office that morning and saw all the past issues of TMTR our suspicion was confirmed. Gary invited us to sit down and then got right to the point. He held up the issues that were on his desk and said. “Enough, the only reason I don’t fire you here and now is that I stood in front of 45 managers and asked for more of this. However, it has gone too far. If you want to keep working for this company not another written word out of the four of you. Is that clear?”

Well I can’t speak for the other 3 members of SODE’ and coauthors of TMTR but I understood exactly what he meant and needed no further explanation. I reflected back on how foolish I had been in and felt really lucky that I hadn’t lost my job. I never mentioned this to Melodie. The SODE’ cartoons, the issues of TMTR or my brush with unemployment were not known to her until years after I left Mammoth

As we got into the elevator in the tower and headed down to “where we belonged”, there was no snickering or scoffing at how close we had come. We knew we had dodged a large bullet.

However, by the time we got ready to carpool home that night our spirits were lifted up and we came up with one last plan. We decided we needed to cease publication in a classy manner. We took our TMTR masthead and on the front page, just below it, put a large 4” black dot. The next day we sent out 10 copies as usual and let the Xerox crowd do the rest.

There was much speculation as to what it meant. Some thought it was a hidden message. Others thought it represented a hole that the mouse had crawled into. For us it was simply a punctuation mark, a period if you will, indicating that our work was finished.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Mouse That Roared!! – Part 2 “Dormancy and Resurgence of SODE`”

Editorial note: This is the second installment and will make little sense if read out of order. Please see earlier post directly below.

Well, it didn’t take long for Dave, Earl and I to realize that we may have ruffled either too many or the wrong feathers with the Titanic cartoon. While Dave and Earl were single, I had a family at home. Regardless we all decided that softening the blow and the frequency of the cartoons might be a wise move, if we wanted to keep our jobs. We continued to put out some cartoons but we much more cautious about this effort. Over the next 18 months or so it got to the point where we put nothing out at all.

About 1990 things had not improved much for the company and Earl was caught up in a layoff and a year or so later Dave moved on to other pastures. One could never know if the pasture he moved to was greener or not. Dave was an interesting guy. I remember one afternoon I saw him in our office and noticed that he had missed a button on his shirt which forced his collar to be so off kilter that it stuck up in a very obvious and peculiar way. I simply said, “hey, Dave, you collar is sticking up because you’ve misbuttoned it.” He looked at me and replied, “Oh yeah, I noticed that this morning at break.” and he simply went on with his day. He didn’t care at all. I miss Dave…sorry for that brief tangential walk down memory lane.

I found myself as the lone founding member of SODE`. No one, except for Dave and Earl even knew what the acronym stood for or who was involved. I never spoke of it to anyone.

In the fall of 1991 there was a large layoff at the ski area. Once again moral was down as employees found their friends and co-workers were gone and wondered if they would have a job next week. The company bus and van-system up from Bishop had all but disappeared and we were forced into carpools. I found myself riding with Kevin, Bill & Ryan each and every day.

With nearly an hour drive each way it didn’t take long before the four of us began to complain, once again, about fiscal decisions that seemed harmful to the health of the company. Someone brought up the topic of the cartoons from years past and how they missed SODE`. After a few more drives of this topic I decided I could trust these 3 and tell them of my involvement. After swearing them to secrecy we talked of the originally meaning and purpose of SODE`. They wanted in!!

After contact Dave & Earl and receiving permission to admit them we made it official. Kevin, Bill, Ryan and I were now the only four active members of the newly awakened Secret Order of Disgruntled Employees.

We never discussed any of our activities outside of the car we traveled in. This assured no else knew or overheard. We decided that we did not want to go the path of cartoons and that like a sword, the written word, if carefully wielded could be more effective. A newspaper, written and copied offsite for security reasons, and distributed in the same fashion would be most impactful. The only change is that we would not put the name SODE` on the work. We didn’t want to associate the new campaign with the former campaign at all.

We talked of content, length and format of the newspaper. But what most of the discussion involved was the title. Since Mammoth Mountain’s mascot was a woolly mammoth it made sense that we choose a mouse, a nemesis to the elephant, as our mascot. We hoped that our printed voice would be loud and clear so we named our newspaper “The Mouse That Roared”, or TMTR as we referred to it.

We worked on the first issue of our rag for weeks. There were first efforts and group revisions all done within the drive to and from work. In our first anonymous printing we included some humorous things but we also took some pretty direct editorial shots at departments and at department managers. We were careful not mention anyone by name but our efforts were so clear that it was easy to know who we were targeting. The first edition of TMTR grew from the initial 10 copies until we noticed them on nearly every desk. It was a huge response as far as distribution went.

About a week after the first issue was released there was a normally scheduled department manager’s meeting in the ivory tower. I heard this story from my manager who was in attendance. Normal matters of business were discussed and then towards the end, Gary McCoy, son of Dave McCoy (brother to Kandi), and President of Mammoth Mountain stood. He slow held up a copy of TMTR and said something like, “I don’t know where this came from, (pause) I don’t know who is behind this, (longer pause) but this is some of the best damn writing I’ve seen in a long time. I want more of it. It’s efforts like this that keep us thinking and keeps us on our toes.”

This proclamation didn’t take long to reach the members of SODE` and in our subsequent drives we talked of what our next step would be.

Within a matter of a few weeks we gave Gary McCoy exactly what he asked for. The question is, “Did he get more than he bargained for?”.

To Be Continued. “The Next Issues and Period”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Mouse That Roared!! – Part 1 “The Birth of SODE`”

Disclaimer # 1. The actions of the individual(s) described in this blog were foolish. I was a much younger and shall we agree a stupider individual 20 plus years ago. May the follies of my youth not hinder me any further than they already have.

Disclaimer # 2. I have changed the names of all guilty participants in order to protect them from any association with the imminent description of said stupid actions. It is possible that some of the participants may still be employed at this business.

Ok…with that out of the way I’ll get started. In the mid to late 80s I worked for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. It was then a large, family owned ski resort that employed about 600 people year round and nearly 1500 during the peak of the ski season.

Many of the department managers, capable as they were, had worked themselves up through the employee ranks from the 60s and 70s and enjoyed what seemed to be quite an easy existence. They were provided company vehicles, free gas and seemed to do very little but drive around. It appeared that they spent most of their time skiing, golfing and cycling. Looking back with more years of experience I’d have to say they probably worked a lot harder than I knew.

This was also a challenging time for the company. They had purchased a much smaller ski resort, June Mountain, and ran it separately as its own entity. June Mountain never seemed to be able to make a profit and seemed to be a cash pit as we tried to make it viable.

I had two fellow employees, Dave & Earl, whom I shared a common office with. We would sit there and discuss all of the bad decisions the company was making, the cash we seemed to be dumping into June Mountain and also how the managers seemed to be on a vacation all the time. Dave, Earl and I formed an informal group, SODE`, (pronounced So Day) which stood for Secret Order of Disgruntled Employees. We were the founding and charter members, yet there was no effort to grow this group. We had plans and too many cooks in the kitchen would ruin the porridge.

Earl was a cartoonist by hobby and one day showed Dave and I some things he had worked up. They were essentially some rough “corporate political commentary” cartoons. This innocent effort turned into our first official plan. We decided to draw up some well-done cartoons that allowed us to exhibit our frustration. Once we completed enough we would distribute them around the company and see what reaction we got. Our plan was to distribute 1 cartoon each week and each cartoon would be signed SODE` giving credit and credence to this unknown organization.

We drew up four or five. Dave, Earl and I all had a hand at creation but some were better than others. We knew that we could not do any of this drawing at work so we worked on them on our own time. We also knew that if caught making copies of these cartoons with company copy machines that could be problematic. So our decision was to copy them at a public machine, which in those days meant a library or Safeway, and then simply post them, clandestinely, around. We would make only 10 copies of each cartoon. We put 2 or 3 in a few mailbox cubbyholes in the mail room and we posted the rest near time clocks in multiple buildings. We were pretty confident that if we kept it simple our fellow employees would become our distribution network with very little encouragement on our part.

The first cartoon that we posted was of a company truck, logo and all, with bicycles mounted in the back. In the truck were two managers with $$ dollar signs coming out of the tailpipe. It was that simple. The statement was made and the SODE` movement had been launched. Within days there were many copies of this cartoon circulating throughout the company. There was a lot of buzz about who this “person SODE” was. The three of us joined in the discussion as if we knew nothing of it.

After a few more cartoons had been distributed in the same fashion we put out our most controversial cartoon. This depicted Mammoth Mountain Ski Area as the Titanic and June Mountain as the iceberg that sunk the great ship. It was the opinion of SODE` that June Mountain was going to ruin the main resort and jeopardize our jobs. This cartoon seemed to be the most popular.

A week or so later there was a company wide meeting where about 500 employees gathered in the lunchroom. The company was in financial trouble and the owners felt like we needed to know what the plan was to climb out of debt and back into prosperity.

Dave, Earl and I found a seat near the front of the hall and sat at a table not too far from the family. There were introductory comments and then it was opened up to a Q & A. We had no plans to ask questions but there were many who did. One of the questions offered was about the financial viability of June Mountain and its impact on Mammoth Mountain. The CEO decided to turn that question over to Kandi McCoy, daughter of founder Dave McCoy, and President of June Mountain.

Kandi stood and began to do her best to answer the question but her answers seemed so empty. Then things went from bad to worse. She began to get emotional and teary eyed. While this was unfolding I glanced over at the family and some of them were lowering their eyes and shaking their heads in embarrassment. I’m sure they felt that this was no way for a company President to act. I was embarrassed for them and for her. Then things went terribly awry.

Kandi, through her tears and intermittent sobbing said the following, “We here at June Mountain are doing the best we can. Maybe you all think that we are the iceberg that is gonna to sink Mammoth, but we’re not. That’s not gonna happen, it’s not I tell ya.” It was pitiful. It was more like a rant that spewed from the mouth of a 3rd grade kid. The family was shamed beyond description. Sitting less than 10 feet from her brother, I could feel it.

Dave McCoy, her dad, stood up and tried to gain control of the situation and give us all hope but the damage had been done and the meeting quickly came to an end.

Dave, Earl and I couldn’t even look at each other. We left the meeting and met up a few minutes later in our office. Although there was some laughter and some congratulations about how much of an impact SODE` had had on this meeting, we did feel bad. Our intention was to be a thorn in the side of the corporation, cause some discussion and hopefully some change. It was never our goal to embarrass an individual or make this personal. Nonetheless that is what we had accomplished so far. It would be a year or more before SODE made another impact. This one was much larger.....

To Be Continued. “Dormancy and Resurgence of SODE`”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Green Motors Fire – Epilogue

So I finally have gotten around to writing the fourth part of my 3-part story. Just the fact that I have taken this to 4 parts has been enough to discourage me from finishing. However, if I don’t get it done this week it will be mid to late August before I do and it’s already been too long since I posted Part 3. So here goes. The events that followed the trial and acquittal of Joe Green transpired over many months but will be condensed here as if it was only a few weeks.

Once I learned that I would be a witness in this trial I was informed that my travel and lodging expenses would be covered by the City of Bishop, as I was acting on their behalf when the fire occurred. Although I had plenty of vacation time as an employee of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area I decided to ask the city if they would be covering my wages that I would be losing from taking off 3 or 4 days from work. There simple answer was “no”, you are a volunteer firefighter.

I questioned that decision. There were full time police dispatchers that had spent their entire time sitting in a rolling chair in front of the radios who were also being required to testify. They would received travel & living, PLUS lost wages. I protested. They didn’t budge. I asked them the following question. “If I was self employed and had been asked to take off days at a time to testify, there would be no compensation?” The answer was yes and if you don’t like it, you can resign from the fire department. Well, the end result was that I took time off, with pay, from my job but I was not happy with the way it had been handled.

Months after the trial had ended I decided to contact the CSFA (California State Firefighters Association) about my concerns. I was put in touch with the liaison to the Volunteer Departments. After many phone calls and letters written, explaining the situation the CSFA committee for volunteers decided this was a cause worth championing. I worked for many months with a state Senator (name long forgotten) and his staff person, Terry, to get a bill authored and to a committee for consideration. The bill would require city and counties to pay volunteer firefighters for lost wages when they are required to testify in court proceedings stemming from their volunteer firefighting efforts.

In the spring of 1992 I was invited to come to Sacramento to speak to this committee. Terry wanted to be sure that I came in full dress uniform, as this would give some level of importance to my efforts. I took Charlotte and Cara with me. They were 11 and 9 respectively. We ended up staying at the late Cory Wolfersberger, Suzie’s brother’s house and were very comfortable there. One side note about this trip is that we traveled to Sacramento via Stateline, Nevada. While in route the discussion between the girls and me was about eating at a buffet. We stopped at Harrah’s there and learned that their lunch would be $12 each. Mine was $16. That was a lot of money then but we went ahead and entered the buffet. My kids have always been good eaters and will try just about anything. Let me just say, they got my money’s worth.

The next day we arrived at this senator’s office and were given tours and other fun stuff prior to my testimony. We had a great lunch in a nice Chinese restaurant not too far from the capitol.

Testimony came and went. Travel home was uneventful. Within days I learned that the bill was passed and that this senator would continue to move it forward and I was thanked for my efforts. I wish that I had written down more information about which senator, bill number etc. but at the time I didn’t see the significance in it. Today it feels good have fought back and won.