Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm back!

OK, I never actually went anywhere but the point is I'm not going to Washington. After much personal reflection and discussion with family, friends and clergy, I have decided to remain at Chrysler for as long as the wild ride continues.

The decision was the hardest one I have ever made. From a purely financial standpoint it would have been a no brainer. But as the time drew closer I realized that there were many reasons to stay and that money was of the least importance.

While it would have been nice to be closer to the grandkids I still have a son living with us, as well as other family members close by. Not to mention a great network of friends as well as riding opportunities.

I know will have many things to be extra thankful for this Thursday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What was I thinking?

That thought crossed my mind this morning as I was driving into work and the outside temperature read 19 degrees. Why are we moving to another state with snow and cold weather as a normal wintertime event? Why didn't I look for work down south?

But then I started to warm up as the heated seats took effect and I thought about all the additional opportunities for enjoying the outdoors in the snow. And actually, the weather out in Eastern Washington is warmer than it is here. But you don't have to go too far to get into snow already as the higher elevations have some on the ground. Not a lot, but the ski areas are reporting the depth of their bases.

It's been a busy week so far. Tuesday evening was a dinner with some people from Daimler Finance and I got to see some of my old colleagues from Germany. Wednesday was a going away dinner at Robin and Shari's. Sandy got to hear stories about my racing and race planning.

Yesterday afternoon we had a get together at a local eatery for all the ITM employees to see each other one more time before a majority of us retire or leave the company. The place was packed with current and former employees. The restaurant will be packed for the next few days as other Chrysler groups will also be meeting there after work. It will be the last time that most of us will be together as there may not be another big exodus unless the company falls apart or is sold. Unlike in the past, a lot of employees leaving this time will probably be moving out of the area.

Speaking of moving, the realtor was over last night and it may be possible for us to sell and not be too far in the hole. Maybe even break even. The house goes on the market on December 1, the day I am planning on leaving for Washington. I'll be sure to post the MLS listing in case anyone is looking for a house in this area that is within an hour's bike ride of six mountain bike trails and multiple rail trails.

Today my parents come to town for tomorrow's party for THE game. Although it will probably be much like the Lion's game on Thanksgiving. But at least there will be alcohol and good food to help dull the pain (for some).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Snow report - 2000 miles away

As we transition from mountain biking to winter sports I thought I would mention a few of the areas in Washington that will be close to us. This is a photo taken this morning at Red Mountain ski area in Rossland, BC. It will be about an hour or so from us, depending on where we will be living. In addition to downhill it also has a Nordic ski area. As does 49 Degrees North, another ski area that will probably be even closer.

I think 49 Degrees holds one mountain bike ride/race in the fall and is working to open up the trail system for general mountain bike use. It might be a possible location that I can work with to develop a race series. The venue is about 45 minutes north of Spokane so I should be able to get some people to come out. There are not many races in the area.

Rossland is home to one of the IMBA epic ride locations. They have a great trail system and an active trail maintenance group. Check out some of these links to see video and pictures of the trails. There is a town just south of the border that would be about 50 minutes away from work. But I could ride my bike north and into these trails in about an hour or so.

Check out this video of some of the trails mentioned, and trails about an hour west.

Rossland Trails

Rossland Bike Newsgroup

As good as all this future riding and skiing may be, getting ready to move is starting to wear me out. Anyone got a job for me close by? :-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

8 Days left

Since tomorrow is a holiday for the auto industry that means there are only eight work days left in my Chrysler career. After the Thanksgiving holiday I plan on packing up the van with some clothes, tools, at least two bikes and one dog, and heading west. I hope to get to Jason's by December 4th, and then on to the Benny's Motel in Colville. That will be my home away from home for up to three months while I look for a place to live. At some point my wife and the other two dogs will join me.

I won't dwell much on the situation at Chrysler except that I know a lot of people are on the fence about taking the voluntary separation package. I think most of those who are eligible for an early pension are taking it. But come December 1st the company will look and operate a lot differently. A major concern is how they will operate if a majority of the people with the technical knowledge leave.

As you can imagine there is a lot to be done before I go and then my wife will be stuck with the rest. I think I am tied up every evening next week with various functions or dinners as our time in Michigan runs short.

I have gotten a few responses for houses for rent out west, they have generally been houses out in the country somewhere on 5-50 acres. One of the properties has sheep and alpacas and would leave them for the tenant to take care of if they wanted.

When I was growing up I was in 4-H and had lambs but I'm not sure if that's something I want to do now. The owner said he raised the sheep for meat and the alpacas were just pets. Sandy really likes lamb chops but I'm not sure how crazy she would be about them if she knew the donor.

I have been doing some research on shotguns because if we end up in the country we will want one at hand. In addition to coyotes they also have bears, cougars, and rattlesnakes. It will add a whole new dimension to mountain biking

Saturday, November 08, 2008

6th to 14th in two clicks of the shifter

At the starting line of the Iceman today my mind was not really into racing. I was thinking of all the things I should have been doing getting ready to move. The last few weeks have been a little stressful as well so I wasn't sure what to expect when the gun went off.

But once we started the adrenaline kicked in and I found myself in 5th place after two miles in. The lead group started to put a gap on me so I jumped in with the next group of five that came up. We pretty much stayed together or didn't break apart too much.

We seemed to have little groups of two or three and sometimes one of us would be off the front for a while. My 29" wheel bike allowed me to take some aggressive lines through the sand and pass riders while those behind me had to wait and get a clear line.

I noticed on some of the steeper hills that I was having trouble with the chain skipping when in the three largest cogs. I think something must have happened to the derailleur early in the race when one rider's front wheel hit my rear in a corner. I was forced to use slightly bigger gearing than I would have liked for most of the hills.

Another guy was with me when we caught a guy from our class with about 8 miles to go. We ran together for the next few miles, passing racers in unison. With about 5.5 miles left there was a particularly steep hill that the others seemed to get stuck behind slower riders and I thought it might be a good time to go by them and try to get some breathing room.

I shifted down twice in the rear to begin an attack when the chain over shifted past the big cog and got stuck between the cassette and the wheel. No matter how hard I tried I could not get the chain free as other riders now started to catch up and pass me while I was working on the bike on the side of the trail.

Just when I thought I would have to abandon the race I managed to work the chain free and ran up the hill and jumped on the bike. Knowing that my top ten spot was gone my goal now was to finish under two hours.

My legs were really hurting after standing around for seven minutes but I tried to put the power down and pass as many racers as I could. Of course none of them were in my class, they were already way up in front of me.

I came around the last corner and sprinted to the finish in 1:59:08 so I did meet that goal. Looking at the results and seeing who I was running with I saw that I had a possible 6th place out of 55 finishers. Instead I ended up 14th. But that's racing.

The bike handled beautifully, the weather cooperated, and I got to see a lot of people I know one more time before we move to Washington. Maybe I will come back just for this race since just about all the racers in Michigan show up.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Historic Day - for more than one reason

Yes, history was made as the US elected its first black president yesterday. The funny thing is that I didn't really hear too many people discussing it at work. Everyone was waiting to get word of their retirement or buyout offers which were due to come out today.

I met with my director early in the morning and he handed me the package of papers and we briefly discussed the situation of the company, industry, and what was going on. Obviously not good but the unknowns are what is making people nervous.

On the other hand I can now come out and state that barring some unforeseen reason, not only will I be taking the retirement but I have accepted a job in Colville, Washington. Yup, I will be moving in December. The town is about an hour and 15 minutes from Spokane.

I had begun to get worried about what was happening with Chrysler so I was looking at alternatives. I spotted a job that was posted in the Spokane paper and applied. I received a phone interview and a few weeks later flew out to meet in person. Remember the pictures from Jason's a few weeks ago? That's why I was out there.

Obviously it is a big change for the family; our youngest son will be staying behind to finish his degree. And we are moving away from most of our relatives and of course all our friends, particularly those I've made over the years associated with cycling. It's tough to even think about.

But on the bright side we will be out closer to the grandchildren and the area is near great skiing and mountain bike riding, including an IMBA epic ride, about an hour away just over the border in Canada. About an hour west puts us in the Kettle Crest trails area. It's also less than a half hour to Lake Roosevelt.

In the next few days I'll update the blog with what is going on and include links to some of the area attractions, etc.

But first I've got Iceman this weekend and a whole lot of things to do.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cyclocross - Take 2

I did another 'cross race today on the SS with the same result as last time. Second place and beaten by the same person. I still managed to pass a handful of younger geared riders that started 30 seconds in front of us. Not only beating them up the hills but taking them on the inside of the corners, that's when it's really fun.

This race was over in Ann Arbor, home of the Michigan Wolverines, and I managed to convince my wife to go with me. Since she is a dedicated Ohio State Buckeye fan I thought she was going to break out in hives when we crossed the line into the town. At least she didn't wear her OSU garb.

This was the first race of mine she has been to in a long time. Maybe it's an early anniversary present to me. Tomorrow we will have been married for 30 years.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The waiting game

Imagine trying to figure out how your life is going to change 30 days from now without having all the pieces of the puzzle. That is basically what is going on for everyone at Chrysler, and I imagine to some extent those at GM as well. Not much work is getting done as everyone tries to figure out what they will do once (or if) the retirement packages come out.

We have been told the basics of the offerings but have not seen the specifics. Some will have a cash and car option, others will be eligible to start receiving their pensions early. If you turn down a package there is no guarantee that you will still be employed at the end of the year since they announced a 25% reduction target. But most people think we will get a take rate above that.

With GM cutting their maximum layoff benefit everyone assumes that Chrysler will follow suit and may even do so this year. So those who may be let go may not get the amount of severance pay they had planned on when making their decision to stay.

Most people have spent the last week discussing the latest rumours, asking everyone else what they plan on doing, and even using the Internet to look for new jobs. If you do go to a meeting it usually turns into a discussion of what is going on. Plus people are asking what is the point of talking about business when many of the people needed to make changes may be gone in a month.

The fear of those who may choose not to go is who will be left to do the work that is needed to have the company continue to run? If all of the experts leave, the company may implode or cease to operate for a while while those who remained get shuffled into new positions and pick up new or additional responsibilities.

We are supposed to find out the contents of our packages by November 5th, with decisions due by the 26th, making the last day with the company November 30. Since the Thanksgiving holiday starts on the 26th, that will be last day for a good many employees I'll bet. And many will probably wait until that day or a day or two before to make their decisions known.

Stay tuned for more info as the saga continues.