Ride to the Sun Reunion: Tropic, Utah


Day Two.

380 miles.

300 of it into some of the strongest headwinds I’ve faced yet.

After 6 hours my neck, shoulders, and forearms were burning.  Tough riding conditions have a way of making me reflect …

It was late afternoon and hot in Nebraska. I was baked, parched, burned, annoyed, and worn out.  I pulled off the road at an intersection of two country roads, mine going North-South, the other one East-West.  I took off my helmet and gloves, and shed my jacket.  I had one bottle of water left, and I was going to slowly pour it over my head and let it run down my chest and back, down my pants, and into my boots.  Biker air conditioning.

vulture2_smWhile I was unscrewing the bottle cap, a black chopper with a long haired biker wearing black leathers and carrying only a round day pack on the rear fender roared past me, heading West into the sun.  He cast a perfect silhouette, stretched forks, long hair trailing behind, and a slouch that would make a vulture proud.

It was a memorable motorcycle moment.

To have one, everything has to be right.  The bike, the weather, the road, you.  Mostly you.  If you’re not right, the moment goes right past you.  And you won’t even know you missed it.

It only happens to me on a Harley.

I still remember where I was sitting when they brought in the smooth talking new management guy to tell us that, henceforth, there would be no more problems at Sun.  Only opportunities.  I had to bite my lip so I wouldn’t squeak from the back of the room …

Houston, we have an opportunity.

Today’s buzzword, and I hope it’s yesterday’s buzzword soon, is passion.  Management wants us to be passionate about our work.  Sure.  Passion is a powerful motivator.  While it lasts.

Sorry boss, I lost my passion for build 12.  I’ve got a thing for ham radios, now.

I’ll leave passion for the bedroom or perhaps the garage, and take old-fashioned reliability to the office.  Which means that plenty of the time work is going to feel like anything but passion.  That’s why they called it work in the first place, in case some of you young punks were wondering.

And so it comes to pass that in a work environment, sooner or later the boss will ask me something dumb like why my performance evaluation isn’t done and all I’ll want to do deep in my soul is lift him by his lapels and growl straight into his face, “Because I don’t give a shit!”

Instead, I’ll tell him I’ll get right on it.  Like I always do.  Because I have a family.  I’ll do it day in and day out.  Week after week.  Month after month. Over the years, all that restraint?  It shrivels my soul.  After enough years, I want to scream.

Harley_fishtailsBMW’s, Hondas, Triumphs, and the others, they are fine motorcycles. But Harleys are the proverbial Middle Finger to the Man.  They are some of the slowest motorcycles made, the heaviest, the poorest handling.  Yet  with a defiance that gives me solace, they claim to be Number One.  When the industry demands performance, they deliver blinding chrome.  When the pundits vilify their 19th century engineering, they equip their bikes with hand-stitched leather seats.  And when sportbikers mock them for going too slow around corners, Harlistas drop the suspension even lower, add apes, and install fishtails.

Harleys are my scream.  That long-haired black rider on the blacked-out chopper, he’s my Tyler Durden.

Top photo: Linda Lu at Red Canyon
Middle photo: sculpture from roof of scrap metal junkyard in Cortez
Bottom photo: custom Softail Heritage Classic courtesy of hotbikeweb.


Ride to the Sun Reunion – Cortez, Colorado


The Rockies were uncharacteristically hazy today, so I couldn’t get any clear pics.  This is the fence that runs along Route 160 on the West side of Wolfe Creek Pass.  Temps were warm, between 60-80, but there was a stiff wind coming from the Southwest.  Linda Lu did fine.  The bag-on-the-fender hack held up.

The friendly folks at the White Eagle Inn in Cortez, Colorado warned me to stay away from Monument Valley.  The big wind swept a lot of dust onto the road, and it’s deep in some spots.  I rode through a dust storm just South of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument a few years ago.  Not a lot of fun.  Neither is fishtailing on a road covered in several inches of dust.  So I’ll stick to Northern Arizona.

Here’s another pic of the San Juans.  I tried removing the telephone pole from the picture, but it was too heavy and stuck too deep in the ground.


Total distance: 380 miles.  Elapsed time, including stops to eat and chat with the locals: 9 hours.


Why I’m Going to the Sun Reunion


People are tempted to dismiss the Sun Reunion as an exercise in sentimentality.  High tech is about the latest and greatest.  Not about reliving glory days.  Besides, the past often proves to be far less pleasant than we remember.  Kinda like childbirth.

But Roland Smart  asked me today if I knew any other company that did reunions.  I could think of colleges, fan clubs, alumni organizations, veterans, vintage car clubs, towns, countries, and biker clubs.  Not companies.  Companies don’t do reunions.

So why are Sun alumni doing one?  And why did I jump at the chance to attend?

I’m going because of Lou Delzompo. Lou taught me the meaning of competence.  To show up prepared.  Before productivity software was invented, Lou kept a complex engineering project on track using an ASCII keyboard and an inkjet printer.  As Laura Ramsey put it, sooner or later everyone at Sun got their Lou Delzompo.

I’m going because of the engineering team for NIS+.  The product was released too early and, as a result, had a lot of problems, but it was that engineering team that taught me to expect and demand excellence.  Besides, they gave me my own small lab to write this book.  🙂

I’m going because of Mateo Burtch.  Walk the halls of Solaris engineering, and to this day you’ll find Mateo’s cartoons with “Save” boxes drawn around them.  Erase one of those, and you will die a quick and painful death.  But Mateo was a lot more than his cartoons.  He was the type of guy to show up to a customer meeting wearing Boston Celtics boxers over his suit. Not sure it helped his career, but Mateo’s irreverence gave the rest of us the courage to question authority.  And with those questions, to contribute to the innovative culture of Sun.

I’m going because of the Rocky Mountain Technology Center.  I didn’t stop smiling for the two years I worked there, and I believe I gave everyone at least a dozen hugs.  At RMTC and other Sun campuses I met too many delightful people to enumerate. The picture of the San Diego Timex crew, above, will have to represent.  At Sun we bonded because we learned to count on each other.  We delivered.  No matter what.

I’m going because of Dave Miner.  Smart, like all Solaris core engineers, Dave is willing to slug it out on the technical issues like all great Solaris core engineers.  But he’s also kind.  And willing to take the time to explain this technology to head-scratchers like me and the folks in the BigAdmin and OTN communities.  Even though he can’t dunk worth a damn.

I’m going because of Robert Weeks and BigAdmin.  And Constance McKenzie, Karen Perkins, and Christine Sterner, who helped me keep it alive during Sun’s financial decline.  A decade later, an entire engineering team couldn’t muster the courage to tackle what Robert built.

I’m going because of Ed Zander.  Next time you walk through a rough part of town after dark, bring Ed.  In no time he’ll have the gangs on your side of the river working for him, and figuring out how to take down the gangs on the other side of the river.  Ed imported some badly needed Brooklyn street swagger to Sun’s California Sunshine culture.

And, of course, I’m going because of Scott McNeally.  If ever this phrase applied to anything, it applied to working for Scott: if I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.

I don’t know how many of them will  be at the reunion, but I will.  And they’ll be on my mind.