Thursday, March 27, 2008

Getting to Know Me

This next post is simply a quick overview of what got me to where I am today. It's not intended to be a really interesting or intriguing read but rather to allow those of you who don't now me very well to get an idea of where I come from and hopefully better understand my stories and views. The Coles Notes version would say I am a French Canadian from a small logging community in Nothern Ontario, grew up passionate about motorsports and music, went to McMaster University in Hamilton, graduated, was employed in my field of choice and making rapid progress to get to where I had dreamed I would be, at which point I started asking myself. What I'm doing? Working excessive hours, for little reward or enjoyment, to hopefully reach a position where I would make a lot of money, drive a fancy car, work long hours, rarely do things I love and rarely see those who are important to me. Hhhm this doesn't sound like much fun anymore. I had an epiphany that I should be working to live and not living to work. So I started the a search I'm still on today with a move to a career in a field I'm passionate about, spending every free moment around the outdoors and the things I love, and well.... trying to find that road to nowhere. For those of you that want to know this story in a little more detail read on.

So now that I started this blog thing what am I going to do with this space. (I'm feeling like its the end of this trend and definately isn't the cool thing do. I must be close to the end of the early majority or beginning of the late majority in terms of adoption [Technology adoption lifecycle].) I don't plan on being one of those excited bloggers that post multiple times a week letting you know my every thought that goes through my mind and every move I make (I'm really not that interesting). This space should be about the truly exciting adventures/trips I partake on, as well as the events and thoughts that really define who I am, and that a few of you may even want to read about. For those of you who don't know me very well, or just stumbled upon this page lets start with a quick background about where I'm from, and what defined me growing up and built the foundations of who I am today.

I grew up in a small logging town in Northern Ontario, called Longlac in what is seemingly in the middle of nowhere situated about 4 hours west of the Timmins/Cochrane and 3.5 hrs East from Thunder Bay on HWY 11. If you are trying to find it on map of Ontario don't forget to turn your map over to the other side. The population was about half English and half French Canadian (which I fell in and I'm quite proud of. However, short of speaking French at work I can't say I'm actively participating in it or ensuring its maintaince/growth.) First and foremost my family has always been a very important part of my life. I'm an only child, who's parents where always there for me. I can't think of any time in my life where they didn't find a way to provide me with what I needed (or wanted for that matter) whether it be support, love, friendship, financial aid, or a swift kick in the butt (not that it was needed often). We are still very close today regardless if distance separates us by thousands of kilometers. My mothers carrying, supportive nature and my fathers love, support and work ethic are nothing but things I strive for. I can still remember growing up and going out with dad to the lawyers, accountants, or coffee with the boys, being my first choice over playing with friends or family. I always wanted to be just like him (I wish I had the little picture of me in the worlds smallest cowboy boots, jeans with Ronald Mcdonald on the butt trying to do just that.) Up until oh.... lets say, the age of about 10 or 12, my life was pretty well the same life most kids who come from a loving and supporting family.

My current interests really started to form and consumed all my free time around the age of 12, namely Snowmobiles, Motorcycles, Music, and Fitness, with work interrupting every so often (however, I spent most of that time at work dreaming of motorcycles and snowmobiles). My love for Motorcycles probably started with one of my earliest memories. It was a spring day an I was on my first bike rides sitting on the pillion, instead of sitting on the tank between my dad legs when the sirens sounded of the local OPP, pulling me and my Dad over on his ‘81 FXR because I couldn't touch the passenger pegs (that might explain why I'm nervous every time I see a cop car). However that wouldn’t deter my father from taking the little guy out so he went about fabricating a way to mount a set of passenger pegs to the top of the shock mount and of we were soon at it again. As I got older I spent many days on Dirt Bikes with my friends and familly riding around gravel pits and old logging roads. I remember getting that first bike (Suzuki DR100) and my parents telling me you can drive around grandpa's yard but don't go to fast and stay in first gear. Well we all know where this is going and as soon as they where out of sight the challenge was how fast could I go and how many gears can I get through before I ran out of room. (I can proudly say I found third gear that day.) The search for the adrenaline rush and speed must be something you're born with, because I never wanted to slow down after that.

Around the age of 13 a new fire was lit though. I had my first chance to drive a snowmobile. My parents had just purchased a Grand Touring 580 and my dad let me loose on the lake. What a rush, speed, power, the handling. Now that Grand Touring only sat in our garage for 1 or 2 weekends as it got traded in for a Mach 1 (that speed gene must be hereditary). The next season saw another trade in for two new sleds my dad needed the new King, the Mach Z (disputed by the Artic Cat boys the following year with Thunder Cats, but they hadn’t figured out how to harness all that horsepower yet, so I stand behind the Mach as the top back then) and I got my own MXZ (well by my own I mean the second sled that was supposed to be shared with my mother.) Luckily living in a small town from then on essentially every day there was enough snow I was out on the MX Z, I’d get up early in the morning to start the sled so I could take it school, and after school we'd be out on the local trails and on weekends we'd be exploring the OFSC system, doing poker runs, ditch banging or trying to find some powder to get stuck in.

If I wasn't on a Motorcycle, Snowmobile or reading about them at this point in my life I was probably either playing guitar, basketball, curling competitively (wipe that smirk of your face, I swear it really is a sport.) I must say I didn't leave myself much free time. Music was the last of my passions when I was growing up. My passion for music started shined through when I was I too small to even reach the record player. My parents would leave the room and I would turn up the stereo to 10, take an AC/CD or ZZ Top Record, climb on the couch, drop the record on the record player I still couldn't see even with the added height from the couch, would shuffle it around till it fell over the pin and drop the needle on it. (If any of you are reading this going what? a record player? Give me break I'm not that old, at least I'm not talking about 8 Tracks). It never took very long for my mom to run out, turn the music down and tell me not to do that again. My parents bought me a guitar sometime around the age of 10 and they where subjected to countless hours of Chinese torture until I learnt how to play properly. (They where just lucky they didn't buy me drums, they could at least unplug me from my amp once in a while.) High School saw me pick up a bass guitar to play in a cover band. Then I played both guitar and bass in various bands through till about the second year of university when I just seemed to run out of time. The other hobbies I had all seemed to revolve around fitness, and I think came as much from my competitive drive as my desire to play the sports themselves, I spent many hours playing Basketball (well as much as you can call a bunch of French Canadians playing rugby with a round ball and throwing it into a hoop - basketball), Tennis, ball hockey, and weight training in the Gym.

Unfortunately around the age 17 reality kicked in and work got in the way of a lot my play time. The opportunities for employment in a small Northern Ontario community where great as long as you could get into the mill. It meant if you worked hard enough you could earn more in High School then quite a few of my friends did when they graduated university. However, 30+ hrs work weeks, holding a good avg. at school, and trying to squeeze in time for your hobbies brought a whole new meaning to time management. But most of us managed the live by the good ol’ work hard and play harder mentality. This time management and the ability to pick out the fluff in school also helped me out through university (I'm sure a few of my friends still scratch their heads about how I managed to get through those first 2 years of university with good grades after all the "Social" Activities I participated in.)

Those first 2 years of university where pretty standard of the educational experience most kids have at University. I met some of the best friends I could ever ask for and my curent Girlfriend. I'm lucky that the two core groups of friends still get together regularly and stay in touch. (I could tell countless stories of good times I've had with those friends but I'll spare you. Especially since if you ever spent a night drinking with all us you are bound to here some of them first hand.) University did bring about two opportunities that really helped define me though. The first was an Exchange or as McMaster liked to call it Student Ambassador Program (I guess it looks better on a resume). I sat through a presentation on doing a term abroad purely out of curiosity without any real intent on going. Coming from Northern Ontario the GTA was already quite an adventure! The night before the deadline I said to myself hey why not you only live once, filled out the application, wrote a little essay that night about why I'd be a great ambassador, and probability topped it all off with a couple of "beverages". Well what do you know a couple weeks later I get a letter in mail and I'm going to be living in Norway for 6 months? Whooot Whooot. 6 months in Scandinavia, adventure, a new culture, a new learning experience, travel, new beers and Scandinavian girls. Sounds like what just might be the time of my life. If I told you most of the stories I'd probably get in trouble so those you'll have to pry out of me (or give me a couple beers one night). However the experience was amazing and opened my eyes to what quality of life meant. The Norwegians traveled more, put a higher value on their personal life then work, lived healthier active lifestyles, and seem to be a lot less up tight then. I'll never forget the days Hiking in the Fjords, Whitewater Rafting, Road Tripping the country side, exploring Scandinavia, traveling some of Western Europe and drinks with the friends I made while over there.

The second was an Internship with Kruger Inc. Ever since I was 12 or 13 I wanted to be a controller (or comptroller the position must be important it can be spelt two ways?), eventually work my up CEO of some big company, drive fast cars, have a big house, etc. etc. So I set out to get my H.B. commerce, with a concentration in Operations Management and Managerial Accounting classes, the first summer I went back to Longlac, I managed to talk my way into working in the accounting department instead of on the plant floor, and next thing you know I'm interviewing for internship positions with multiple company's after my third year of University, getting a bunch of offer and Kruger who I had started with when I was 17 on the production line made me an offer I couldn't refuse in a new facility in Mississauga. Who would have thought moving 12hrs and getting an education would end with me working for the same employer and the same boss I had back home. So 6 months in, through all my determination to climb the corporate ladder as quick as possible I decide to start taking night classes and 24 months later of commuting from Hamilton to work on the QEW, managing a career and school I'm graduating on time with the rest of my class, working full time and starting to scratch my head. (As a side note I don't know how some of you commute from Hamilton to Toronto? I guess it's all relative, I could drive around the entire city limits of Longlac in about 5 mins. but I still think you are all crazy)

The year after graduation started with me trying to find new hobbies to drive some passion back in my life. Tried golf, that didn’t do it! Played some rec. league ball hockey which was fun, but without the adrenaline rush of Dirt bikes and snowmobiles I was a little aggressive. I also took up skiing and had some fun, became a ski patroller and found a new winter hobby in Nordic skiing (got bored of Ontario’s downhill scene pretty quick). Then I found mountain bikes. I heard about this thing called Downhill Mountain Biking going on at Blue Mountain and bought a Freeride Bike (a Brodie Thumper). A new passion was born. It's a very similar rush to dirt bikes but more accessible, and keeps you in better shape. Now after my second year I have a season of racing XC on a Hardtail Commencal with highlights being 1st in the 5 person Coed at the 24hrs of Killington, 12th at the Elliot Lake O-Cup and respectable completion of Paul’s 100KM Enduro. I’ve also done a season on Blue Mountains DH Bike Patrol and I’m committed to racing my first season on the Ontario DH Series as well as, hopefully a few races in Quebec.

The last thing I’m going to discuss here is somewhere between starting mountain biking a couple years ago and today I had that Epiphany, that set a new mentality that life is meant to be enjoyed and I started that path to find that road to nowhere I speak of. The first step was starting a new career. Trying to find something new I explored thoughts of becoming a paramedic, working in SAR, going away for 6 months to do a course with NOLS and trying to get employed in the outdoors. Finally I landed a job in the motorsports industry with Yamaha Motor Canada. Who knows what the future will bring, whether it becomes a long standing career with Yamaha, someone else in the motorsports industry, following a dream and starting an outdoor adventure company or something else entrepreneurial as I try and make some money to feed my hobbies. I’ve made the first and second steps in reaching that road I’m looking for (i.e. realizing it, the taking the first step towards a career I will enjoy and allow me to prioritize life.) So now you've gone through 25ish years of my life in one read and hopefully you'll understand a little more about me and the stories I right about throughout the future I post.

If you got through all of that and are still reading I’ll say I'm truly impressed and hope some of my future post will get your imagination going and mind thinking as I right about mountain bikes, racing, snowmobile trips, and whatever adventures I get myself into.

Where to start: THE ROAD TO NOWHERE

So I've been looking back at my life and looking forward to where I want to go and find things are often a blur. So I thought why not do as every other person who seems to have access to the Internet and start a blog so I can one day look back and at everything that happened, and if want to, share with others the fun things I've done, allow those who are far away to see what's happened and if I feel insightful one day maybe even share some thoughts with you.

Why Dustin's Road to Nowhere - Many of you will see this title and immediatly expect this to be sad, dark, or negative but I don't see the analogy Road to Nowhere as negative, actually it's quite the opposite. I believe the Road to Nowhere is where I want to be. It's that place or state of mind you reach when you are exactly where you want to be and you are traveling forward in time but you aren't trying to go anywhere. OK for those you that are going what hell is he talking about here's an example:

It's late January or early February, it's been a stressful week (I can't remember why?) and I'm out Nordic skiing at Duntroon Highlands, it's about -5, fresh fluffy snowflakes are falling, I haven't seen anyone in over a half hour. I'm seemingly alone in the wilderness, I've skied about 7 or 8 Km's nonstop, I have a smile, the stress from the week is a distant memory, my thoughts are void (Similar to the state of mediation that the Buddhist monks try and achieve through mediation and stay in that state for hours, days, months or longer.). All that can be heard are my deep breaths border lining on breathless and the gliding sound of my skis, I still have another 7 or 8 Km's till I get back to the chalet But I'm not trying to get anywhere, I'm exactly where I want to be and would carry on like this forever. I may be moving forward, covering distance, you could say I'm travelling, but I've already reached my destination, my goal. At this point I'm travelling A Road to Nowhere.

These moments can be found anywhere and are found in different places and at different times for different people, it can be when you are surrounded with laughter and the people you love, holding that special someone in the middle of the night, beeing isolated in the wilderness away from reality, tying together curves on a motorcycle down a deserted twisty highway, or scaring the shit out of yourself riding off an unexpected rock drop on a gnarly mountain bike trail. However, I think there's a lucky a few that follow their dreams, whatever they maybe and reach a point where every moment of their life they are travelling that Road to Nowhere.