Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Indian Summer, Go Utes!

We continue to enjoy an extended Indian Summer here in Driggs, and I took advantage with a bike ride around the valley last week. The low light angle this time of year makes the views completely unique, and the snow-capped Tetons are a reminder that winter is indeed at the doorstep. After a winter that lasted into June, we're all appreciating the extra sunny days this fall. And, what would fall be without football?

My brother Mark - who used to live & work with me at R.U. Outside here in Driggs - is now in Salt Lake with his awesome wife Annie. They have season tickets to University of Utah football games, and invited us down for the final home game against hated rival BYU. Joanne & I met at the U of U twenty years ago, and were thrilled to make the drive for the occasion. Utah is undefeated, and a win against BYU would almost guarantee a major BCS bowl game.

We warmed up by meeting Joanne's brother Mark (yes, same name) and several friends for tailgating, games and a little football of our own. Joanne throws a mean pass, watch out! Basecamp was just outside the good ole' Union Building, and we visited the student government room where Joanne & I met...and then randomly ran into my buddy Matt Z who scoped Joanne out for me back in the day. Later, at the game, we ran into Joanne's friend Melyssa who scoped me out for Joanne. It was a feel-good day, and whoever says life isn't a circle must be a BYU fan.

The Schilleman family stopped by as well. Joanne guided them on a horseback trip into the Teton Wilderness years ago, and they still talk about it. We knew they were cool, but seeing all the Utah shirts confirmed it.

As game time neared, I could feel that visceral competitive fire building. I love it, and my brother Mark was right there with me. We circled the troops for a final big "Go Utes" chant, then started the hike down to Rice-Eccles Stadium, Flo-Rida blasting. There's nothing like going to battle, and team sports/spectating/concerts seem to fill the void in today's computerized world. Bring it!

So, it had been 18 years since Joanne & I attended a Utah football game...and holy cow, it's way more big-time now. Stadium capacity is twice what is was, and of course the actual football team is twice as good as it was, too. The big breakthrough came back in 2004, when Urban Meyer coached us to an undefeated season and then promptly moved on to coach Florida. New coach Kyle Whittingham is proving to be just as good, and the program continues to roll.

What a game! BYU's QB Max Hall is now my favorite player, as he just kept throwing the ball to Utah defenders. We dropped most of them in the first half, but started holding on and making plays in the second half. The crowd was wild the entire game, it was absolute greatness. Utah QB Brian Johnson was nearly perfect, and the Ute game plan flat-out worked. Final score: Utah 48 - BYU 24, making it a perfect 12-0 Utah season. Huge thanks to Mark & Annie for inviting us down.

Pandelirium (my own word) erupted, and the crowd stormed the field after, taking down the goalposts and chanting "BCS, BCS!!" Being a little, umm, older than most, we remained in our seats and simply took it all in. Not many scenes like that in Driggs, Idaho :-) Utah is now the highest-ranked undeated major college team in the country. They're ranked 6th in the polls, and will just wait to see which bowl they'll be playing in. I'm predicting the Fiesta Bowl, probably against Texas Tech. It would be a barn-burner.

Speaking of barns, we continue to wait for snow back home in rural Teton Valley. This photo shows Taylor Mountain in the background, a favorite backcountry skiing spot. We definitely need more white stuff before the boards and sleds come out.

In the meantime, while we wait: Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours...and Go Utes!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sun Valley, Boise, Driggs...work

My Grandma Norma Harriman used to say "there's Gypsy blood in our family," and the deeper through life I go, the more I believe her. Last week found me in Sun Valley, Idaho, a magical place where our extended family has often gathered. I'm now fortunate enough to regularly visit Sun Valley/Ketchum for business...and of course always mix in a little recreation along with it. There's not a better recreation town on the planet. This photo (taken from a deck at the Sun Valley Inn) shows iconic Bald Mountain, which will soon be blanketed with skiers. With luck, you may even run into Arnold or Demi.

Joanne accompanied me, and we both pursued our separate work projects for a couple of days. With the short daylight hours of mid-November, we didn't have time for much other than work and dinner, but did manage a quick sunset-hour hike. We scurried up the new Gun Club trails above Saddle hill, and this photo shows the view from there looking up Trail Creek. Some of the best fishing memories of my life have been in that creek, dating back to the simple days before I could even ride a bike. It's also home to my brother Mark's infamous wolverine encounter...which I witnessed. But it's late, and that's another story.

From Sun Valley, we followed our Gypsy genes over to Boise and more business meetings. I found a new product supplier for R.U. Outside who actually makes items in the USA!! I'm all about supporting that, very excited, so stay tuned for the product introductions next fall. Joanne had some good real estate-related meetings, plus we connected with an old high school friend who now lives in Boise. Then, at last, we bolted for a mind-clearing trail run in the Boise foothills. Pretty cool to be at the state capitol building one minute, and galloping along sweet singletrack the next. Yet another reason why we love Idaho.

Our quick Tour-de-Idaho concluded with a pleasant drive back to Driggs. Driving on bare roads this late in the year is a bonus that I don't take for granted (too many trips in blizzards over the years). But, the drawback is no snow to play in yet. Grand Targhee always tries to open before Thanksgiving, but it's shaping up to be pretty lean pickings with only a 21" base as of today. They're scheduled to open this weekend, but bring your rock boards. Of course, we never miss a winter in these parts, so check back soon for a snow update.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Travel and Tradeshows

Fall is probably my favorite season here in Driggs, but it's also the time of year I travel far beyond the valley for R.U. Outside tradeshows. It's tough leaving the Teton Valley views behind, but I do enjoy seeing longtime friends, associates and customers at the shows. Everything is a tradeoff.

So, it's been a whirlwind month, but I'm finally back home for a while and looking forward to getting my bearings again. Here's a quick recap of the past few weeks.

First stop was Seattle, with Mt. Rainier standing watch. To me, it's even more of a landmark than the Space Needle...it's just an incredibly huge mountain, and I was fortunate to view it briefly after the rain clouds lifted my last evening. Someday I will climb it.

The Washington State Snowmobile Show takes place at the Western Washington Fairgrounds, in Puyallup (just east of Tacoma). R.U. Outside has been attending the show since 1992, so we've got lots of longtime, dedicated, awesome customers there. Washington is also the home of our own wonderful Kay Lloyd (a.k.a. "K-Dog"), whose daughter Jana, grandson Anthony and granddaugher Jenelle now work that show for us as well. It's incredible to have three generations of a great family representing my business, I am honored. I also want to give a shout-out to Kyle and Natalie for driving the truck & trailer all the way from Logan & back, and selling like pros at the show.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at Anthony's on the water in Tacoma that Saturday evening, celebrating our friendship and a good show day. It was a nice upscale change from the P.O.S. motel we got stuck in for the weekend. Regardless, the "kids" kept me on my feet all night, and I even learned how to follow directions from a Tom-Tom (which is something we don't need much around Driggs). The Hyundai Sonata rental car wanted to go fast, plus the XM sound system rocked...so we missed a few turns but had some great laughs. What is it with me and driving around Seattle? Must be the 3 million other drivers bringing out my running back instincts.

Next up was Salt Lake City, my old stomping grounds and just down the road from our Logan store & warehouse. Joanne accompanied me, and it was so warm we brought the mountain bikes along, too. It's nice having a couple of shows within driving distance for everyone, and also near family & friends. Speaking of which, my lifelong buddy Matt Z and his wife Kirsten stopped by the show to say hello, and pose for my one SLC show photo (hey Matt, your wife is beautiful, smile!). Thanks, guys.

Rachel was terrific as usual coordinating the show, plus working it along with her husband Drew and Stacey & Brent from Logan. It's so nice having good people around.

After a few days home, I was on a plane to Detroit for the Novi, MI show. It's probably the biggest show we do, and held steady in spite of the awful Michigan economy and the fact that it started on Halloween (Let me just say that Halloween in Detroit is a little different than Halloween in Driggs, Idaho. "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto"). Overall, after doing these shows in the same cities for 15+ years, staying in the same hotels, eating at the same restaurants, seeing the same people...it's almost like a part of me never leaves.

Jimmy drove over from Minnesota to help out, which was cool. Kay, Anthony & Jana rounded out the team, and we had a good time. I managed one fleeting photo, with Jimmy sporting his Halloween hairdo and Anthony showing why the Yamaha girls didn't want him to leave (ahh, to be 20 again). Kay held it all together for us.

I eventually made it home, flying into Jackson just ahead of a projected three days of snow. The Tetons will be covered in white the next time I photograph them. R.U. Ready?