Thursday, March 31, 2005

RawHyde Adventure Camp


Jim Hyde took this photo of his "RawHyde Adventure Camp" group. We're on his ranch near Castaic, California. That trailer in the background is our sleeping quarters. The blue tarps are individual tent compartments. I'm told it was quite melodious when several of us were snoring during the night.


In my tent at Jim Hyde's "RawHyde Adventure Camp" near Castaic, California. It's one of eight tents mounted on frames high on the the sides of a custom-built trailer. Fashioned somewhat like an upscale utility truck bed, beneath the tents are clothing and gear lockers facing outward, and the center deck of the trailer is used for storing motorcycles being transported to off-site rally locations.

The tents have queen-sized foam mattresses and are very comfortable, except that the entire trailer rocks when someone moves about. Another twelve riders, I think, are here for weekend training camp, and are berthed here and in a large custom motorhome.

The three-day Adventure Camp is designed to familiarize the owners of large dual-sport bikes with various off-road riding techniques. Riders are here from Scottsdale, two from Hawaii, from Redding, two from San Diego and five or six from the Bay Area. I was also introduced to Jim's wife Stephanie and their newborn daughter, and to GeGe, our personal chef.

I rolled into camp after dark and parked amidst a pack of big bikes. Disoriented, but fairly certain I had stumbled into the right place, I heard someone speaking. Only after I had removed my helmet and ear plugs did I locate the source of the voice in the darkness.

Jim was welcoming me. He told me to get settled, then to join everyone else around the campfire. I was the final arrival for this weekend's course. A flood of new names and faces. "Eventually it will settle in." Soon after I arrived, we moved inside a modular home and took seats around a long dining table. I brought two bottles of good Robert Mondavi red wine to contribute to our dinner, in addition to six bottles of reserve wines for Jim, partial payment for the training course.

Jim had warned in advance we would be well-treated. Dinner was served family-style, with Jim, Stephanie and GeGe joining us at the table. Wonderful food: green salad, steak, mashed potatoes, corn and an excellent dessert of brownies topped with gelato and caramel. Jim poured an interesting wine for dinner: a 2003 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile’s Colchagua Valley. It was very good. A taste of things to come. The Mondavi wines were also a hit, but focused a little too much attention on me and my job.

During the meal, we learned a little bit about each one of us, as Jim had us give a brief “bio”. I met “Anne” from San Francisco, who is also planning an Americas trip with three other riders.

Great stories were shared, especially by “Scottsdale”, a lean cowboy-type developer from Arizona.. He talked about the rattlesnake “problem”. When you see one in the road, “you swerve, aim and smear them!”

***

I arrived around 7:00 p.m., later than expected. I was accustomed to making the 425-mile drive from my home in Santa Rosa to my mother’s home in North Hollywood in about six hours, usually with speeds averaging about 85. Typically during such a run, there would be stretches where I reached 120 or 130 mph (and once or twice I tested the upper threshold for my BMW 328i, which is governed at 142 mph.)

On a motorcycle, it is a completely different experience. I felt no need to ride extremely fast. It only becomes less comfortable, and considerably more work. With only two wheels, there is also much less forgiveness when an error is committed, or something mechanical fails.

In the dark, despite clear instructions, I barely noticed the turn-off on Golden State Highway to Jim’s property. Jim warned there was a "wash-out” in his driveway that we would need to skirt around.

In reality, the sight of a collapsed hillside, with supporting girders bent by the earth’s forces and steel cables strung to prevent further collapse was a rather frightening picture, and, I realized, the weekend’s first test. “Don’t look down! Focus on the road up ahead!”

The ride south had been thick with insects; cleaning the windshield was a losing battle. And I was annoyed by the bike’s 200-mile range. In the car I could make L.A. on one tank (if I weren’t exceeding 85 mph). And typically, I would forget to put my ear plugs in (which didn’t become apparent until I was already up to freeway speeds and I was loathe to pull over just to remedy the problem.)

***

Before starting the trip south, I stopped at my office at 9:15 this morning and went into a meeting with our label supplier, Renaissance Mark, followed at 10:00 by a conference call with supply chain managers at Constellation Brands, our new rulers in New York.

There was a barbecue at noon, set up on the lawn outside our Human Resources office. It was a farewell to employees swept up in the “April 1st Wave” of lay-offs. Hank, our CFO was manning the barbecue, with CEO Greg helping out. Kind of like the “old days”. Just “kind of”. But today’s event lacked heart and soul. We were being served by people we knew would never have to work again. I briefly visited with a few friends, then took my leave.

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