Friday, June 14, 2013

My Link to Colorado Springs

The Black Forest north of Colorado Springs is ablaze. I've been to Colorado Springs several times, the first back in 1980s. I went there to scope out a remodeled Montgomery Ward store, part of the chain’s futile effort to make itself relevant in the latter stages of the 20th century.

I drove down from Denver. I arrived at the store hours before it opened on a Sunday. With nothing better to do, I decided to drive to the top of nearby Pikes Peak. One of the tallest mountains in the eastern Rockies, Pikes Peak is known for its challenging switchback route to the top, made all the more exciting—read that, nerve-wracking—by its lack of protective guard rails. Keep in mind that going up the mountain you're usually driving on the outer edge of the road. Woe to the driver who chooses to take in the scenery instead of keeping both eyes on the twisting roadway. As I recall, about halfway up the paved road turned to dirt. Fortunately, it hadn't rained, so there were few ruts or puddles.

When I reached the summit the view indeed was breathtaking. It also was difficult to breathe, as the crest of the mountain is 14,115 feet above sea level.

Going down was no less challenging, with signs advising drivers to put their vehicles into low gear. I made a mental note to tell Gilda this excursion would not be amenable to her as she would be fretting the whole way up and down that we would catapult off the mountainside. She'd have been especially agitated if the kids would have been in the car. I could just hear her saying, “Quiet kids, Daddy has to concentrate on driving.”

Years later, as our family drove an equally dangerous Schnebly Hill Road into Sedona, Arizona, Gilda did not disappoint. She admonished Dan and Ellie not to distract me as I navigated our rented minivan along the twisting, mountainous dirt road with breathtaking views of the red mountains surrounding Sedona.

My next trip to Colorado Springs came in 1998. My magazine helped one of our key technology advertisers host a three-day users conference at the Broadmoor Hotel, to be followed by a multi-page special report on the proceedings. We would receive $100,000 for our work, about three times our average account billing.

All went well. At the close of the last session the retailers in attendance were invited to play a round of golf in a tournament. I am by no means a golfer, so I diplomatically deferred.

The next year we again worked with the account to host its user conference, this time in Lake Geneva, Wis., at the former Playboy Club resort. Another resounding success, but this time the account’s national sales manager insisted I join his foursome for the golf tournament. He assured me he would tolerate my incompetence on the links.

To his credit he said nothing during our round. But we never received another piece of business from that account for the next 10 years, until he left the company. No one can convince me otherwise that I lost that business no later than the third hole of that fateful and dreadful round of golf.