Pre-function… Or Road Trip To The Road Trip

The great thing about road trips is they never really begin or end. And though on the last great road trip team I am the son, in life I play a father for two great kids. Today I drove down to Portland, Or. with my boy. We made the trip to see our friends at Metal Tech who are doing several mods on the Toyota FJ Cruiser. I will tell everyone about that tomorrow. But coming into town a day early gave Boy and I time to kill and for Boy there is no better way to deal with time than by tearing up a skate park.

Those who know skateboarding have heard of the Burnside Skate Park. Famous around the world for the skaters who fought the man and the skaters won. In 1990 skaters cleared away the bottles, cans and trash to put up a few transitions right on the concrete pillars of the Burnside Bridge. Over time skaters added in more transition and bowls until in 1992, the city recognized that under the Burnside Bridge was a city skate park. One of the most unlikely places for a park, it sits beneath the bridge in the industrial area just east of down town with trucks and forklifts moving all about. The skate park looks as sketchy and underground as its surroundings. This is exactly its appeal and since it was built by skateboarders, it reflects what skateboarders like to skate not some municipal engineers idea of skating.

Boy loves to skate Burnside whenever we drop into Portland. The thing we have discovered about the Burnside skate park is that you never know… and you don’t. What does that mean?

It means sometimes you will run into friends that moved out of the state and made a pilgrimage back just to skate Burnside. Sometimes it will be pouring down rain… this is Portland remember… and Burnside skate park is the only dry park filled with every skateboarder in town. Other times you have the whole park to yourself, the only sound is the constant drown of tires hitting the expansion gaps in the bridge above and you thrash around the transitions.

This time, with the rain threatening, Boy made a few warm up runs in an empty park. After a ten minutes of soulful skating and solitude, a van pulled up. This weren’t no ordinary van, it pulled into the lot like… like a prom queen yelling look at me in the middle of the home coming parade. The van was wrapped with graphics front to rear displaying earth, wind and fire, the three elements of life. When the van stopped next to the park’s quasi entrance, out poured a bunch of pro-skateboarders from team Element, including Chad Muska, Levi Brown and Tosh Townend. These were real skateboard pros. The type of pros who skate each day on a dozen new boards, have their pictures in magazines and posters. They have their own camera crew filming them for the next “Lords of Dog Town”, and they make personal appearances at shopping malls and skate-centers hawking decks, trucks, wheels, shoes, shirts, energy drinks and anything else marketing experts feel they can get young teenage boys to buy.

But today the pros of Team Element were at Burnside just to skate. Just to spend time at Burnside as regular guys who love skating with their friends. And today, Boy was one of their friends who they would hang and skate with.

Watching Boy skate is always exciting as he throws himself into it with everything he has. Today was no exception and having
several of his heroes applauding and encouraging him made it that much better when he stuck the landing.

And if you’re ever in Portland, Or. on the east side under the Burnside bridge look for some of the new feature the skateboarder are adding. A continual work in progress, skateboarders are always looking for new challenges in their sport. Whether it is jumping the great wall of China or traveling city to city in the team van, at the end of the day these guys still remember it is fun to skate and hang out with you friends.

Bonus feature: Here is the Element skate session video  (unfortunately Element took it down). Look for cameo appearances by Boy and the rig.

They were all stock once: 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

We have started the ball rolling for a number of the mods we will need in order to take the FJ Cruiser on our off-rad adventure to the Arctic Circle. Some of these mods are simple; others involve major components. To record the humble beginning we started with, say the best stock off-road rig available today, we’ve captured a few quick shots of our stock rig in action.

One mod you will see already in place is the new addition to the factory roof rack. The FJ Cruiser Adventure Rack has been installed. I know the factory roof rack catches a lot of flack, but like it. The look works for me. What I did not like was all that wasted space up front. The new wilderness rack sits in the front and creates a nice four-inch deep basket. Having these two basket areas also helps keep everything neat and tidy while allowing access front and back. I only need to focus on digging through or securing half the load at a time.

While this little set of two tracks is nothing to write home about, in fact it is only six blocks away from home, it did give us a change to validate that all the nuts and bolts were tightened as well as test out the low gears and rear locker. The stock clearance is good enough to go up and down these little 20-degree dirt terraces but we’ll be adding to it soon.

Toyota did a nice job with their rig making it off-road capable right out of the box. Sure they made compromises to sell to a wider audience but it still retains its trail worthiness and Land Cruiser heritage. Part of our preparation is to ensure the rig is as self-sufficient as possible since more often then not the nearest civilization will be a couple of hundred miles away as we will travel down washboard gravel and mountain pass two tracks heading to the Arctic Ocean. Of course we’ll be carrying a couple of tires, fuel and the usual stuff to get unstuck. Even though we are not going rock-crawling we will be getting off the beaten path and don’t want to rely on someone else coming by for help.

Soon we’ll post up the rig with its mods so you can follow the changes. We’ll also let you know if the mods perform as we hope and tell you weather we think they are worth the trouble, at least from our point-of-view. You can decide if they are right for you.

Meet The Newest Sponsor To This Off Road Trip Adventure

Press release shows, Off Road Adventure receives help attaining its goal. Metal Tech 4×4 has joined the team as the newest Gold Level sponsor. In the coming weeks you’ll be seeing the results of their sponsorship with pictures of the mods they are performing. Included will be a lift, bull bar and winch.

Metal Tech is Protection Evolved. Fabrication specialists for all Toyota cage kits, bumpers and slider needs. The guys are located in Newberg, Oregon and on the web at www.metaltech4x4.com Go take a look and let them know their support is appreciated… I’ll wait.

The Culture Of The Road

Culture influences all aspects of our lives. Everything from the work ethics that drives business to courtship and marriage are affected by culture. Here are some of the influences our culture has on us that we often over look:

  • Environment: How individuals view and relate to the people, objects and issues in their sphere of influence.
  • Time: How individuals perceive the nature of time and its use.
  • Action: How individuals conceptualize actions and interactions.
  • Communication: How individuals express themselves.
  • Space: How individuals share their physical and psychological space.
  • Power: How individuals view differential power relationships.
  • Individualism: How individuals define their identity.
  • Competitiveness: How individuals are motivated.
  • Structure: How individuals approach change, risk, ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Thinking: How individuals conceptualize.

With all these influences on our minds, body and soul, is it any wonder we have to work so hard to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?

In my travels around the world I learned more about cultures by simply shutting up, sitting quietly and observing all the differences I could notice. Of course those differences are hard to nail down and it is easy to label meditative as lazy or friendly as pushy. For example, the personal space needs for a coffee crazed Seattleite and a Bombay Indian tea drinker biking to work are usually quit different. However change the perspective and personal space similarities abound between an India traveler and a New York subway rider at rush hour. Are New York or Seattle commuters representative of the USA? With each having there claims to an American culture, who is right? I like to think they are not right or wrong. Each person, with their interpretation of their culture, is making a contribution to the melting pot that continues to simmer.

Road Trip Diversity

di·ver·si·ty – [di-vur-si-tee] The state or fact of being different; a point of difference

What does it mean to celebrate diversity? Celebrating diversity is not about assimilation. Instead, it is about valuing the differences. Diversity is about understanding, respecting, valuing, and accommodating human and cultural differences. It recognizes uniqueness without requiring assimilation. The celebration is intended to maximize the potential contribution of all of us. Together we can do more than any one of us can do alone to reach our ultimate goal of building a world without boundaries.

A new project has been started this year by Yann Arthus-Bertrand called “6 Billion Others“. There you will find others from around the world telling their story. The Last Great Road Trip will collect stories of others along the way to the Arctic Circle and post them here. With a little luck, soon the web will be filled with billions of stories and the term others will be synonymous with all of us. Tell us how you celebrate diversity.

Did You Hear The One About The Caveman Who…

Geico insurance has hit gold following the first rule of marketing: “make fun of yourself while showing off your product”. Geico’s “so simple a caveman can do it” campaign certainly falls into this category. But why is it funny.

The ad campaign appeals because Geico shows how foolish stereotyping can be. And they do it with irreverent, humorous elements and a little self deprecation. Their message that applying for Geico insurance is simple to apply for comes through as well while reiterating the dangers of stereotyping. Of course there are lazy, spiteful and mean people in the world. Just no one ethnic, sexual, religious, gender or age group has a monopoly on those people. Unfortunately all groups seem to have their share.

Of course these are only my thoughts on the caveman campaign. Surf the web and you’ll find a number of other opinions about the campaign including those who believe the commercials are anti-semitic. We see the world through our experiences in life. If we want to change the view we need to change the lenses we look through.

Press One for Diversity

Yesterday a school family forwarded to my family an email that demonstrated a complete lack of respect for us and all people of diversity. The email centered around immigration with some tasteless comments about phone systems and pressing one for English. Clearly this family did not know or care that my own grandmother came north from Chihuahua so many decades ago.

My business travels have allowed me to travel around the world. On those trips I managed to successfully complete very complex assignments in India and Asia. The success I experienced in those business engagements was the direct result of others, who were able and willing to speak my language in their country. The folks oversees I was lucky enough to work with spoke several languages and compensated for the fact that I only speak English.

While I’m lucky that around the world English has become the language of business, in the USA the consumer is king. Businesses are always looking to make it easier for consumers to purchase their products and services. Making options available to each and every person to ensure they are comfortable doing business is what the free market is about. Press one for English, sounds like their is opportunity for smart folks to develop a phone system that will recognize your language preferences, product concerns and possible service needs before you connect and deliver a message catered specifically to you. The possibilities are endless for this application and represents millions to the one who delivers it.

So while it never ceases to amaze me the level of insecurity of those individuals who insist everyone else walk, talk and look like them, I firmly believe in the capacity of the human spirit to overcome all obstacles, including the irrational fear of those who are different.

NPR and Last Great Road Trip

Today, dad and I came together on a conference call with Aingaran “Ike” Sriskandarajah , a young National Public Radio (NPR) intern. Ike is from Brown University interning in Petersburg Alaska with KFSK. Turns out Ike got excited about the last great road trip because of his drive from the west coast to Brown last fall. And although Ike had the university as an end goal, he said he found himself wishing he could keep going.

As we told Ike, while the Arctic Circle is our destination, it’s the journey there and back that holds the adventure for us. Although we must admit, telling everyone we are driving to the Arctic Circle sounds so much more impressive than saying we’re bound for Kansas.

Ike, dad and I chatted for about an hour on a number of topics including reasons for the trip, if we play by the office rules of road trip bingo and how we came up with this road trip adventure. Ike tells us the interview will be broadcast on Father’s day which is appropriate considering how this trip is all about my opportunity to spend time with my dad. You can hear the full interview on KFSK

We will be stopping in Petersburg Alaska riding the Marine Highway ferry on August 26 at 10:15 pm. Turns out Ike leaves the island for Brown two days before we get there. Maybe we can swing by the station while the we are docked in port.

North Of Schizophrenic And South of Dysfunctional

A longtime ago I asked my lovely wife, Hula Betty, to marry me and to my surprise she said yes. And to my bigger surprise her family, all ten brothers and sisters, came along as a package deal. Over the years my wife’s family and I have reached a de taunt of sorts, not unlike that of China and Taiwan. They believe their sheer numbers will wear me down and I accept that celebrating diversity starts at home.

Of the ten in this Irish clan, there is one, JJ who has always struck me as my favorite in-law even though we are nothing alike. As number ten of ten, JJ has that uncanny survival instinct of knowing how to tell you to go to hell and you thank her for the ticket. One minute she has you laughing in stitches and the next she is throwing you under the bus because you looked at her the wrong way. And in this dysfunctional, bi-poler, schizophrenic relationship with JJ there has always been one truth. When it comes down to it I have a bizarre respect for her ability to be true to herself and be her own person. She does not expect anyone to agree with her choices or bail her out of the consequence of those choices.

I bring up these family skeletons for two reasons. One, as I start to take inventory for the Alaska adventure I cannot help but tally up the relationships, fuel and mental baggage needed to complete a 5,000 mile adventure in 14 days. B, when it comes to a writer who can take day to day mundane events and spin them into prose flowing as polished threads of spun gold from Rumpelstiltskin’s wheel, there is no equal. You will find JJ at Trauma: The Drama a title which should bring you back to my earlier in-law description.

I encourage everyone wanting to take a side trip on this Last Great Road Trip to head south of the boarder to JJ’s blog. This year it is the Arctic Circle, who knows… next time maybe the Baja and we’ll be sure to drive by (not stop…  just drive by) JJ’s place.