Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Trying times on the road to Burlingame, California!

It didn’t come as a surprise, but when our third snowstorm of the season bore down on us it was the third such event for the month of October. Thi latest snowstorm followed the absence of any snow in September which was a little out of the ordinary. However, plans had been in place for Margo and me to drive back to the Bay Area to attend a symposium and the sight of snow falling a matter of days before we planned to depart was a little unnerving to say the least – what would it be like up in the mountain passes that stood between us and sunny California?

As we had only just returned from our week long trip to Washington DC, it would also represent an opportunity to sample both coasts of America even as it meant adding five thousand plus miles to our cars’ odometers. All the same, it meant not just a change of clothes but a change of vehicles. We enjoyed the time spent in the all-wheel drive Jaguar F Type, but for this trip we opted for the Range Rover. Though we had to be judicious with what we packed in the small spaces provided by the Jaguar at least the Range Rover had a back seat so space didn’t present the same issues as we had experienced with the Jaguar. 

Colorado’s climate is well documented, but all the same, it never ceases to amaze us. Blink and the weather changes; prolong your stay for twenty four hours and you might experience all four seasons. By way of explanation, when we left it was following a morning that registered just 6 degrees and yet, when we returned it was back up to balmy 72 degrees - all measurements in Fahrenheit.  

Colorado’s front ranges are considered high plains with much of it better viewed as high desert – there is next to no humidity and when the sun comes out, the rays simply slice through whatever snow was left lying on the ground and within a day there is little evidence of any prior snowfalls. So it was when the day came to depart for the Bay Area, the temperature was still very cold but the roads looked clear. Just as we left, the first of the early morning golfers were back out on the course!

Unfortunately, Wyoming apparently didn’t read the memo concerning imminent sunshine. As we crossed the state line driving northerly on Interstate 25 (I25) blowing snow whipped up by fierce
gusts made driving extremely hazardous. As in the past, we were hoping not to experience trying times on this portion of the highway but then again, it’s late fall and was to be expected. The big overhead illuminated signs were flashing updates informing us to expect wind gusts reaching 60 mph plus on Interstate 80 (I80) all the way to Rawlins. Ouch; good thing we hadn’t contemplated tackling this journey in our former company command center as the big RV had a much higher center of gravity. On the other hand, we were supported by Range Rover’s immaculate all-wheel drive system and it never put a foot wrong.

We have now nicknamed our Range Rover, “Pumpkin” and for obvious reasons. As this was the time for Halloween it seemed more than appropriate. Orange and black – you can’t get anything more traditional than that when celebrating Halloween. 

Parked just off the intersection between I25 with I80, temperatures well below freezing and so many miles yet to travel it was all rather ominous and as many winter crossings as we have done in the past twenty plus years, no two crossings have ever been the same. Hold on tight; stay focused; drive to the conditions and at all times concentrate on situational awareness as there is a steady lane full of big-rigs alongside you! And it was tough going for an hour or two until Laramie, Wyoming, had well and truly faded in our rear-view mirror. 

Margo and I have often used our time on the road to discuss everything from the latest technology offering from HPE or the newest feature introduced on its NonStop servers to the color scheme for a guest bedroom. Furniture too always generates a lively discussion as in the two years living in Windsor and far removed from the times in our Niwot home, we have moved from over-the-top Province (with a dash of Tuscany) to urban modern where functionality and flow have prevailed. No conversation these days concerning d├ęcor touches the flamboyant but rather, hones in on the overall integration with the look-and-feel we had pursued from the very beginning. Imagine a cross between a high-rise condo and an owner’s balcony stateroom on a cruise ship! Yes, we got it!   

By the time we crossed into Utah the weather had turned in our favor. There was no more blowing snow as we enjoyed extended periods of sunshine that stayed with us all the way to Burlingame, California. This was a business trip after all but time away from the desk (and the keyboard) means time to simply muse on events happening all around us. As for the traditional conversations they too took a turn as we examined, a little more objectively, the business relationships we have developed over the past decade. The major reason for us stepping back from our track day outings (having now sold the RV, trailer and track Corvette) was driven by the desire of Margo and me to stay in business. We have some very serious obligations to a number of major technology companies and should there have been an incident on track that might have interfered with delivering on our promise then our outlook for the future may not be as rosy as we might have imagined.

Cars have played a dominant role in posts to this blog. Indeed, shortly after creating the blog posts we realized that featuring cars was central to growing the readership – people we know and with whom we work have shown an interest in knowing more of what we do in our spare time. For many of them, taking time out to drive their cars and to enjoy roadtrips was part of who they were; cars were never our hobby as I am often reminded, but rather represented an extension to our family. In all seriousness, over the years, we have viewed our cars as others would their children and as sad as that may appear, it has its upsides. 

While cars and children generate the same demands – they need to be fed, housed, bathed when new and yes, taken for a “walk” every now and then cars don’t make all that many onerous demands. Dashboard lights tell us today when we need to replace a tire even as another gauge warns us that shortly, we will run out of gas. I guess you could argue that children can make similar pronouncements; feed me and yes, I need new shoes! 

It’s hard to say whether or not we truly have put our track days behind us. Every time an email promotion of one event or another arrives I tend to wax morosely. Yes I can get a tad cranky as I know that it is completely out of bounds to consider taking any of our current cars to the track – oh, the downside of switching from a Capital Expense (CapEx) to an Operational Expense (OpEx), if you like, as we no longer purchase but lease. Essentially we have copped to a consumption-priced model – paying a flat fee for a service that in turn, allows us to consume or enjoy (however you prefer to call it) them on as casual a basis as you can imagine. While our business continues to bring in the bacon (or should I say, the gas) this will remain the model for some time, but it doesn’t lessen how cranky I can feel. Then again, there’s a reason why the community so often tells tales about cranky old men – I wonder if it has anything to do with confiscating their horses?

And so the conversations continued as we drove deeper into the arid space that fills the spaces in between the Rockies and the Sierras! If it’s cars and crankiness and even customizing the new home that frame more than one conversation there is one other C-word that enters the conversation as well – cruising. For the past couple of winters we have jumped ship, literally. In the winter of 2017 / 2018 we sailed to Hawaii and then in the winter of 2018 / 2019 we flew to Australia where we sailed to Tasmania and then to New Zealand. With winter fast approaching where will we winter in 2019 / 2020? Our friends already have inkling as to what might transpire but it’s a plan that for now is very much a work in progress. More importantly perhaps are our plans for the winter of 2020 / 2021 as there are places we haven’t visited in such a long time where we do need to make a return visit. But only, of course, if I stay off the track and can keep writing.

Our trip across the western half of America drew to an end. Crossing San Francisco’s famous Bay Bridge – renewed in recent times and gone are the memories of the lost spans following the earthquake of 1989. Driving into the Bay always brings a smile to our faces as Margo and I have many fond memories from times spent in this part of the country. While smoke haze could be seen we were very fortunate not to see any of the terrible fires ravaging the region a little to the north of the city, but all the same, conversations did turn to what can be done to mitigate the dreadful side-effects of having nurtured so many eucalyptus trees. Essentially an invasive species not native to the region, these Aussie imports should be ripped up and sent packing.

When we decided to take this trip in the Range Rover there was an element of uncertainty. This vehicle had the smallest engine and yes, it’s a convertible SUV – who buys a convertible SUV these days? As we have stated more than once, who buys a hardtop coupe yet buys a ragtop SUV? It turned out to be a pleasant surprise as the road noise proved to be less than what we had experienced in either the BMW M4 or the Jaguar F Type. As for gas mileage it was out front on that score as even with its additional weight, it only sipped on the gasoline that was made available.

The symposium has run its course and we have safely returned home to Windsor. With a number of food items remaining in the fridge it was time to cook up some “bubble and squeak.” If this is unfamiliar to you then anyone with ties back to the old country knows all too well what a comfort food it happens to be and while tradition calls for the addition of leftover cuts of lamb or perhaps beef, we went with chicken with lashings of sweet onions and BBQ sauce. What a combination and one we knew we wouldn’t encounter out on Americas highways, whether we traveled west or even east. 

The Range Rover had to be thoroughly washed and its various fluids topped up – that image of this vehicle being one of our children continues to linger. Winter didn’t put us off our game nor did it detract from the fun that always accompanies any crossing of the west at this time of year. As we looked at photos from friends looking out of plane windows as deicing took place or standing in line waiting to clear security, travelling by car can be fraught with mischief at these times, but what an escape it is when you get to drive! 

Taking one last photo of how Colorado snaps back as quickly as it does from winter’s early clutches; just happened to catch Margo driving by in the M4. The call of the grandchildren remains irresistible and Margo enjoys her time with them. One day they too will be looking at cars and that will be an interesting time – I wonder if we will be consulted? There is a similar amount of joy and indeed satisfaction that cars and children create. And with that, it’s time to eat – can I get a second plate of bubble and squeak? 

How about breakfast tomorrow? Ahhh - perfect!