Thursday, October 3, 2013

Right Time — Right Place

Long post. Maybe more than people really want to read, but here it is:

Sometimes it is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I told my wife that I felt like this opportunity was just placed in my lap. She strongly disagreed saying that it was a great cost/work to do this expedition. She is right, but doesn't quite understand my perspective. I may be a little strange in my thinking, but it seems that my whole life up to this point has lead me to this expedition. I lived in Alaska when I was very young, and then grew up in Utah hiking in the High Uintas. I knew that my father once had the opportunity to go to Antarctica to do research, and that one of the scientists on the expedition died. All this laid a foundation for my expedition.

When I was a teenager my brother got into computer programming. I did a lot of things that my brother did, and so I also got into programming. It started when I was in junior high school. Mike, my brother, was taking a computer class which involved writing programs in Fortran on punch cards. Mike would write his program and then create the punch cards in class. The teacher would then take the punch cards down to BYU and run them through the computer and bring back the print out of the results. It was a difficult way to program because it would take several days to see the results of changes you made to the program.

My father worked at BYU and was able to get my brother and me an account on the computer at BYU. So Mike and I would go to BYU punch up a program on the cards and then take them to the room next door and run them through the card reader and get our printouts. This was a much better way of programming. After doing this for some time the biology department got some Commodore Pet computers. With this computer you could put a cassette tape in the computer and have it read a program off the cassette. This was amazing to me at the time. So we started playing with those computers. One of the programs they had on cassette was called Basic BASIC. It is what truly opened the world of programming to me. It was a simple program that would explain a programming concept, and then give you the opportunity to write a little bit of code to use the concept. This is how I learned to program computers.

The Commodore Pet was so great and so when my father started talking about getting a computer for our house I was so excited. I really wanted to get a Pet. But Mike was looking at different computers. We looked at an Atari and I thought that would be nice, but the computer my brother wanted was an Apple II. I had never seen an Apple and wasn't excited about that computer, but Mike was using them at school and was convinced that was the computer we should get. I really wanted the Pet. However when we went out and got an Apple II+ I was so excited. The computer could be hooked up to a monitor, but of course we didn't have a computer monitor. We bought a little device that would make it so the output of the computer could be sent to a standard TV. We got the computer home and started playing with it. It was fun, but to save and load programs you needed to use a cassette player and hook the audio input/outputs to the computer. It kind of worked, but was not really reliable. So we went back to the computer store and got a floppy disk drive. Without that drive I think the Apple would have been a failure. But the disk drive was great. So much easier than a cassette tape. No more rewinding and forwarding trying to find the correct spot on the tape for the program. You could actually just put a disk in and load the program you wanted. We also ended up adding a little computer monitor to the computer. The Apple II+ was great.

When I got into high school, I took a computer programming class. It was a lot of fun, but I had already taught myself programming using the Basic BASIC program back on that Commodore Pet. Still it was fun to be writing different programs on the computer and to get an easy A. Then my mother decided to take a computer programming class at BYU. One of our neighbors was also in that same class at BYU. I guess programming didn't come natural to them and they wanted a little help. I was young and didn't understand anything about teaching people, and instead of helping them learn how to write their assigned programs I just wrote them for them.

After I graduated from high school I went on a mission for my church. While I was on my mission my two older brothers got jobs at a place called Satellite Software International (SSI). And the day I got home from my mission I started working there also. It turned out that the neighbor for whom I had written those programs was the brother of one of the three owners of SSI. I guess Pete (the brother) thought I was some kind of child prodigy because of the programming I had done in high school. So I started working on a program called WordPerfect. SSI was the creator of WordPerfect and later changed its name to WordPerfect Corp. Good change because we SSI didn't have anything to do with software for satellites. Anyway, WordPerfect was a great company which eventually was bought by Novell Inc., which had a great record of buying up good companies and then destroying them. For years Microsoft tried to kill WordPerfect and couldn't do it, but Novell did it for them. So I ended up being a Novell employee. All the time I was at Novell it seemed they were lost. Once CEO after another would come it and mess up the company and walk away with millions of dollar. The most successful of those CEOs left to join Google.

OK, so what does all this have to do with biking to the South Pole? Well, after years of programming I was a bit over weight. I had my cholesterol tested, and the numbers were bad. I panicked and changed my lifestyle. One of the guys I was working with was really into mountain biking, and I started mountain biking with a group of people from Novell. I loved it, and it fixed my health issues. So, when I finally got laid off from Novell (if you work there long enough eventually you will get laid off) I decided I didn't want to program anymore. I just didn't have the love for it anymore. I wanted to do something to help other people gain the fitness I had gotten from biking. So I opened Epic Biking.

Epic Biking has definitely been a labor of love. I work incredibly long and hard at this but in the end I can't afford to pay myself anything. Sometimes it is really hard for me when it seems everyone is making money of my store except me. I keep getting closer and closer to being profitable and think I will be there soon.

So last year, my friend from Novell that got me into mountain biking asked me about fat bikes. I had seen them before but never really gave them much thought. I had a couple other people talk about the fat bikes, and so I looked at it more, and on a strange whim, I bought four framesets and built up for fat bikes. We got them done right around Christmas time. After a couple of short test rides we went for our first big ride, across the frozen Utah Lake. About this time I learned about Eric Larsen and his attempt to bike to the South Pole. I would read his expedition log, and was surprised when he turned around. Then a customer, Mark, started telling me how he was going to win the lottery and then get some snow cats as support vehicles and we would bike to the South Pole. I didn't take it seriously. But the idea sunk into my heart. I started talking to a neighbor, Todd, about doing this, and then I started doing some searching on the Internet and found ANI and ALE. Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that with ALE's help I could actually do this expedition. So I talked Todd into doing it with me. Todd thought that it would be hard to succeed without support vehicles. I wanted to bike to the South Pole and if that meant with support vehicles I was OK with that, but really I liked the idea of not having the support vehicles. Well, after doing everything I could to raise money for the expedition I just could not get it. But all that work as a computer programmer meant even though I struggle with not having money for day to day living I do have some assets, which enabled me to get a loan for the expedition.

So I was just in the right place at the right time to get into computer programming. It seems it was just given to me. Then I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to help a neighbor with his homework, and then at the right place at the right time to get in at the beginning of WordPerfect, which then led me to Novell and into mountain biking. Then getting into the biking industry, and finally into snow biking. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to be able to be the first to bike to the South Pole. It appears that I may be the only bike expedition to the South Pole this year unless Juan is able to get his expedition going. But there are several expeditions that are lined up for next year. So I feel like the privilege of being the first to bike to the South Pole has just been given to me. I just need to make sure I execute the expedition properly. Take care of myself to avoid injury and keep moving to the south and I will make it. It really is an incredible thing, and I am so excited for the expedition, but I am also getting worried about having everything in place in time. So much to do and so little time left to do it.

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