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Monarch Pass

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Sounds like fun!

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"And I must confess
I could use some rest
I can't run at this pace very long"

(JImmy Buffett)


I've received a number of inquiries as to the details of my troubled travels through what turned out to be the very, very Rocky Mountains. Until now, it's been too difficult to recount the horror but as we climb into the weekend respite perhaps a laugh at my expense will add a bit of levity. It's admittedly long-winded (thus the reason for the late post) but I can't help but think of Todd's mantra that writing is therapy - so thanks for indulging me. Let's just say that to call it a comedy of errors / mishaps would be extremely generous (although not funny at all at the time).


With that said, let me set the scene...


What began as a small gathering of the Minyanville family quickly shifted course. In a manner only possible by the swirling energy of Hurricane Toddo, the event gathered momentum until it soon became a full-fledged, open-access mountain excursion. Never mind that the idea germinated with only two months to post time - it was game on. That, in hindsight, should have been my first warning sign...

Shortly thereafter, I learned Toddo was set to make the trek out to CB a week early in order to "survey the scene" leaving Meehan and I to seal the final details. Uh oh.

Todd quickly mapped out his presentation and headed west while I made a bee-line for the Cape. One slashed foot later and twenty-or-so mountain bike trips around the Butte later and we still had our work cut out. Admittedly, at the beginning of the week a powerful combination of stress, adrenaline and raw fear then began to kick in.

Meehan and I posted a couple all-nighters in an effort to nail down the final details in between trying to keep one eye on the markets. On Wednesday night, I made a mad dash in the early morning hours to pack for the trip with final instructions on printing left with Bill and the fine team at Kinko's. The hard work had paid off - we had accomplished the seemingly impossible! (or so I thought as I settled in for a quick nap).


Needless to say the aftermath the next morning was not pretty...

It started when I walked in with a message from Meehan saying he hadn't been able to pack the night before and would be in later that morning. Helpful. Then, the icing on the cake news - Kinko's had dropped the ball and the printing was not yet complete.

"You have got to be kidding me!" I said to the poor associate as visions of Todd having an aneurism flashed by. Now what?

I called Meehan with the story and devised a game plan - now hearing every tick tock of the clock knowing all too well that I had a 4:45 flight out of town. The day progressed with a constant communication with Kinko's as they trudged through the formidable task of binding the nearly phone-book-size presentation booklets. There was more juggling that day than Ringling Bros.

When I got the call that the presentation projector had been hung up in Pueblo, Co and would not arrive in CB until Saturday I knew that the gale force winds had erupted into a full force category III storm. "Calm down" I urged myself as I spoke to the projector company who assured me that I could get a replacement shortly. Tick tock. The twenty minutes they had promised it would take quickly turned into an hour.

Meehan arrived at the office looking more of a mess than usual and received prompt instructions to physically take over the Kinko's if necessary but not to think about leaving without those presentations. While he bumbled a few blocks over, the tired printer in our office (apparently displeased with the previous night's workload) decided it had enough and promptly quit. Noice!

Intern, Nina Glassman, stepped it up and began to help try to pick up the pieces. "Get me Bill on the horn and please call Kinko's to check the status" I said to her realizing my original flight would be a stretch. "Then call about flights and a rental car to see what's available! And whatever you do, don't tell Todd what is going on here right now!"

After a solid 10-15 minute rant at poor Meehan, he grabbed the tardy projector and headed for the airport. Fokker called to check in at this point and advised me to calm down. "Dude - we've got no presentations!" I said to him in disbelief. "Where's Meehan" he said with no one knowing that they were flying out of different airports. "Here we go!" I am going to hunt him down if he misses that flight.

Kinko's advised me that the elusive presentations were still not done but that they would gladly same day ship them to CO. "Thanks but no thanks - you guys have honestly done enough. Have them ready by 5:00" I told them, "I will swing by and pick them up on my way out of town." I had Nina switch my flight and prepared to head out to catch an 8:00 Delta flight from JFK into Denver. I then called a car to arrange for a pickup at the office and headed over to grab 250 lbs worth of presentation booklets. "Perfect! Just what I need" I thought as I calculated in my head the extra time of hauling four heavy boxes.

The car arrived on time (miracle) but the traffic was simply awful. "I've never seen it this bad" said the courteous driver looking a bit confused. "Of course you haven't" I thought throwing my hands in the air. We sped over to Kinko's to find an unfinished set of presentations and a team of diligent staff members binding away furiously. "I'll take whatever you've got - please just hurry!"

After they presented a bill that was twice the original estimate, I loaded the car and inched along through standstill traffic in an effort to grab my luggage from my place. "You're never going to make it" my apologetic driver actually said at a point. "Thanks much" ... less talk, more gas pedal I remember thinking at the time while he failed to embrace the standard NYC driving techniques.

I grabbed my things and we shot to the airport with traffic finally easing a bit on the way. Thankfully, I pulled up curbside and proceeded to check my bags. "What do you plan to do with these boxes" said the annoyed red cap as we taped them up. "I'm putting them on board if I have to carry them" I said matter-of-factly. "Let me see what I can do" he said as he looked around. "You know....they are probably gonna charge you for those...a lot" I heard him say as he disappeared for what seemed an eternity. He re-emerged to offer that he could help - but it was going to cost me. No surprise there...

I boarded just in time to see a traffic jam of planes on the tarmac and the net result a 45 minute delay. The flight proceeded from there on par with Delta radio blaring along to kill any chance of a nap. My disdain abated slightly as the in flight movie began only to find a showing of what I can only imagine will go down as an all-time classic - "Mean Girls". At least it was something to look at from my view in the middle seat.

The last minute flight change had me seated in the aisle directly behind the velvet rope and the luxurious pancea known as first class. Are these people serious? I thought as I watched the flight attendant pour out another glass of wine and offer a hot towel. I could only think of Tommy Boy when she uttered the words, "you want me to fluff your pillow" If I had the time I would write a letter to Delta and suggest a screen at least to separate the pompous blow-hards and their cabernet. Ok so I was jealous - sue me. Eventually, seemingly against all odds the plane did manage to find its way to Denver International Airport.

I received a definite (but what proved temporary) lift as I met up with my travel companion and we wearily strolled together through the airport. We met at the baggage claim just in time to see about ten staggered Minyanville presentations coming up the belt, no longer inside their protective cardboard box.

"Free advertising!" I thought as the initial prospect of another ticket sale darted through my head (a notion clearly the product of sleep deprivation). It was at that moment the once taped box that I had greased the redcap to assemble came up the conveyor resting opened on its side. I positioned myself to catch it on the fly clearly ignoring my state of alert nor the inherent physics of trying to grab 200 pounds in motion. The net result, the box ripped further and more presentations spewed onto the belt much to everyone else's amusement. I think out of sheer embarrassment most turned their heads as I bumbled and ducked around to wrangle them all up. On my second pass, a man handed me two pieces of my watch which had apparently managed to bare the brunt of the initial impact and promptly snapped. Gotta love it.

Toddo called to check in and I found some glimmer of hope from his upbeat assessment of the Thursday night activities that my journey would, at a point, be well worth it. Then he mentioned the fact we were meeting bright and early at the Center for the Arts at 7:15 am. Great!

With a four and a half hour drive looming in front of us and the morale quickly falling to new lows by the moment, I sat down to collect my thoughts. "We'll die" I said out loud in questioning the logic of a late night drive through the mountains. It was at that point that I decided to call a car service to price out the trip in a sedan with driver and after a little bargaining I prepared to depart the airport finally with hopes of some shut eye. I looked at my broken watch after the 20 minutes had elapsed in waiting for the driver. I called the company back and was told the driver was on the way. "Where's he coming from" I asked as I recounted the timeline of events - "I could use a break" "He should be there any moment - don't worry" I heard from the calming voice on the other end of the line.

Now if there's one thing I've learned in my short time on this earth it's this...when someone tells you not to worry, it usually means one should proceed to run the other way (and quickly). I should have.

Forty minutes later I received a call asking for me to again provide my exact location. I'll never forget Door 507 near the baggage claim and those few precious hours we shared that night. I provided the info and reconsidered for the tenth time whether or not I should simply stay in Denver, get up early and drive to Crested Butte. Just then another phone call - it was Aaron our driver who was at this point walking toward me in the baggage claim area.

"What happened?" I asked as the young lad of no more the twenty straightened his tie. "Uh, I wasn't able to find the door you mentioned. "My car is downstairs - but, uh, there was a slight problem" he said in a shaky voice. "This ought to be good" I said out loud to no one in particular. "Let's hear it captain" I said. "Uh, I wasn't able to unlock the garage so I only have a personal vehicle - but it's a BMW" he said with a smile.

I could only stand there in sheer bewilderment. "Let me get this straight, A. you show up an hour late B. you got lost in the airport (never ever a good sign) C. you are driving a BMW with a small backseat." Hmmm. Perfect.

"Do you know where you are going" I asked while full well knowing the answer. "Uh, no" I pressed my luck "How about a map?" "That's it - I am getting another car service - this is completely ridiculous" I said keying off the look in his eyes.

"No car service this time of night" he countered. Touché. I knew he had me at that point and I reluctantly agreed to proceed. As we wrestled to get our luggage and four unyielding cardboard boxes into the car for what was to be a relaxing trip, it was quickly apparent it would be anything but.

"Can we grab a map near the airport so we know where we are going" I offered. "Yeah I know a place right off the highway" he said.

Anybody have a guess for here....that's right - CLOSED. "No problem, I know of another place" Aaron said seemingly trying to convince himself. The second stop was closed also but he did manage to stop there and at least use his credit card to buy gas - so at least we had that going for us.

From there it was more of the same...

I rustled through my bag and managed to produce a Colorado map that, while failing to identify the specific route, at least showed the general direction of Crested Butte. I'll spare you the exact details of my journey and only add the following other highlights:

After about twenty minutes of driving I made our driver call into his home base for directions alarmingly aware after some questioning that he had less of a clue about geography than we did. He then proceeded to stop on the side of the highway in the pitch black of night while his friend, whom I'm convinced had partaken in heavy drug usage prior to the conversation fumbled his way through a route.
My impatience caused our young driver to feel the need for speed (clearly the wrong move in hindsight) as we nearly went off the road about four separate times
Perhaps as a result, our trusty BMW showed immediate wear and tear and began to shake uncontrollably every few moments. "Is the parking brake on" I asked condescendingly only to watch in horror as he actually checked a full hour into the trip.

Finally after an eternity we managed to find a gas station that was open (oddly enough near Harrison - can't remember if that was a town or a street) and we grabbed a map. For the first time, things were looking up. While I wasn't able to map it out as I have no idea where we went really, our path proved anything but direct.



Map






A dark day had turned to an even darker night, and the car troubles had us on edge and the hours proceeded to roll on. Also, rolling was a spiteful fog which seemingly appeared from nowhere to slow down our inexperienced driver and add another obstacle on our difficult course. Let's just say I will never listen to AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" ever the same again.


Change of perspective...

And then a strange thing happened - the sun awoke and peeked out from behind the mountaintops. For us it was a comforting sign of hope. As we passed through, we were finally able to see the amazing scenery; the mountains became illuminated in a manner that looked simply surreal. I had never experienced a view like that before. A mountain stream wound gingerly alongside the road, nestled between the trees and rocks and I felt the strain easing like the water's ebb and flow as we finally saw a sign for Crested Butte. I had to rub my eyes.

I pulled into the Center for the Arts and dropped off the presentations before my colleagues arrived...it was 6:30 am. As I unloaded the cargo, I couldn't help but notice the front cover which caught my eye in an ominous bit of irony - "The purpose of the journey is the journey itself" it read. You can say that again.

From there, I scurried back to the room, showered, dressed, tucked in the best travel companion one could possibly have and high-tailed it back to the Center for the Arts. I made it back in time to meet and greet and began to prep for the events of the day. Mission accomplished.

Little did I know at that time the real journey was about to begin...and one well worth the trouble. It was great to finally put faces with names and spend some time with all of the great people involved. As I noted, the event was the purest embodiment of Todd's vision to date and I was grateful to be a part of it.

Thank you to all who made Crested Butte such a worthwhile experience. If you haven't sent me an e-mail please feel free to do so. I will say one thing - next year I am going to take Snoop's advice and head out a week early (and I am bringing my own beer). Hope to see you all there next year - I can say from experience that it's well worth the trip.










No positions in stocks mentioned.

The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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