Serendipity

As I normally do, business and pleasure are always rolled into one big package. My trip to Utah in mid-January was no exception. But this particular trip had a series of serendipitous moments that collectively had a great impact on me.

I have a client in the outdoor industry. We recently designed a new store for them, The Great Outpost (link here) in Gatlinburg, TN. Being an outdoor nut myself, working with them to develop a new retail concept was simply a natural ‘business and pleasure’ experience. As an added benefit, they signed me up for Outdoor Retailer Winter Market – about one million square feet of outdoor camping, hiking, paddling and climbing gear.

So, while I was there I took time to do some business – meeting with them to go over store construction progress, talk about possible upcoming projects, etc. I also spent some time on the expo floor looking for a few new pieces of merchandise for their store. While at the same time, keeping my ‘antennae’ up for other prospective opportunities.

I planned my trip to arrive a couple days early so I could ski one day, then go to the All Mountain Demo (where you can demo different skis, and other snow sports gear) before the show started. My next serendipitous moment came when I went to pick up my rental car. I happened to look at the forecast for snow, and quickly I switched to a 4WD model so I could navigate the mountain roads – they do not allow other vehicles to go without 4WD, or chains.

The next morning, as I drove up the mountain pass, it started snowing. Apparently, first snow in several weeks, so apparently locals had been skiing on man made snow and sheets of crusty ice. My first day – 12″ of fresh powder, and I had the 4WD to make it to Alta – first in line for tickets and on the lift. SWEET. Second day, more fresh snow, at Snow Basin. Double SWEET.

The first presentation of the market was Christine Fanning, talking about the need to get our children outdoors. The Outdoor Foundation (an arm of the Outdoor Industry Association) has launched ‘Outdoor Nation’ – a national program designed to get kids outdoors. At the same time, my friends the Murrs who are planning on taking their two kids on a trip across the US on bicycle emailed me a list of gear they are looking for sponsorship for. BINGO – I’m at this place where I can talk to any of the manufacturers. And there’s a new national program for getting kids outside. Coincidence? I think not.

Next day, the breakfast keynote was delivered by James Balog, who is photographing glaciers across the world to demonstrate the effects of climate change. A fascinating piece of work. I was planning on having all day to mill about and hop on my 5 p.m. flight, but something in me said ‘maybe you ought to try to get home earlier.’ So after the presentation, I waited around and was able to get my book signed by Mr. Balog. A few moments of chatting with him shifted my perception of climate change. That’s cause for a whole different blog…

Then, as I went back to the hotel to catch the early shuttle, I realized I had some extra food from my hotel room (trail mix, snacks, and some fruit) which I offered to a homeless guy perched on a bench. As I’m riding to the airport, I meet a guy from New Orleans who happened to be a presenter of a seminar I missed – he offered to email me the presentation. SCORE! I get there, and the lady says it’s $100 to change my flight. I weigh the option of getting home at a reasonable hour (since I have to drive from KC) or save the money. I spend the $100.

Waiting for my earlier than scheduled flight to take off, it gets delayed. Agian and again. Crap. We eventually get boarded. As we land in Denver, I have 10 minutes to catch my connecting flight. So I hustle down the terminal, and BARELY make the flight. Thinking, no way did my luggage make it. Oh well, at least I did. Once I arrived in KC, and my bad was there, I was simply amazed – how did they do that?

The last little bit of news came as I was driving home. It’s about 6:30 p.m. My phone rings. It’s my automated Orbitz Flight Status Update. My 5:00 p.m. departure from Salt Lake City has been delayed to 9:30 p.m. Which means my connecting flight from Denver to KC would likely be much later, or not at all. Made that $100 seem like $1,000,000. Well, not really.

I had a great time skiing on fresh snow, did a few pieces of good business, helped some friends make some good connections for their bike trip, and made it home before 10 p.m. on a Friday night. All is good, and all was meant to be.