Oakley Co-pilots  - Dann
I recently won a trip to the headquarters of Oakley, makers of sunglasses, goggles, watches, etc... It was an awesome experience, so the following is a day by day account of the trip:
Day 0 ï¿½ Thursday, March 19, 2009
The trip began at 10AM as I headed out the door and off to the airport; my wife and daughter waving at the window. I dropped by my brotherï¿½s new house since he lives near the airport and gave me a quick lift. After that tour ended, I was off to catch the flight. I was filled with butterflies, which was either due to the excitement or the uncertainty that they would allow two full sized backpacks through security. My fears were reassured after seeing people with large rolling duffels and large backpacks. After a quick x-ray process, I headed down the one wing we have, picked up a book for the flight and settled down until the plane arrived.
The first leg was uneventful; I was in the first few rows, so plenty of overhead space. For some reason, I was brought to Atlanta, which is a three hour flight south, so I hadnï¿½t gained much ground, but here is where I was to meet up with Phil and a few others. After getting off the plane, I saw my gate, which didnï¿½t match the one on my boarding pass, but I set off that way anyway. After a while, I received a text message from Phil stating that he had arrived. I awkwardly typed a response back, which I donï¿½t do often, all the while trying to avoid internet abbreviation, since I have an aversion to that. A few minutes later Phil comes around the corner, and we shake hands and show off glasses and the posters that Phil printed off. We talked vintage for a while until an announcement instructed us to Move from Gate E33 to the ï¿½Aï¿½ terminal. The entire flight picked up and packed onto a tiny tram. Once there, they cited some mechanical problems and kept us for about an extra hour. Once that passed were allowed to get on, but overhead space was sparse. Luckily one spot was left, and I didnï¿½t have to check my back full of expensive glasses and camera lenses.
Oakley managed to book adjacent seating, so I was able to talk with Phil on the way there. Once touching down and trying to regain use of my legs again, it was off to meet the Oakley representative. Since we were delayed, other flights had arrived. I met up with Eddy, who after 5 years of co-running the site, finally saw in person. Alfonso was the Oakley employee who met us at the gate and brought us to the vehicle. The truck we would be traveling one was dubbed the ï¿½Dog Catcherï¿½, I imagine due to the large box on the back used to transport goods (more on that later). We met Brandon, our escort and tore down the highway towards the hotel.
After a short drive, we arrived and saw a gathering in the hotel. Yukio sprung out of the doors and complemented the beard. I thanked him, and Dawn was right behind. Upon entering the lobby, I was greeted by Rich Barrios and others who thanked me for adding them to the site. After some handshaking, I realized I should check in, so I could get my room settled and drop off some things. Before heading there, I met Jose and Joanne who had a gift bag full of goodies. I brought these up to the room and gave them a quick look-over. There was a pair of Desert SI Boots and a backpack full of materials and a piece of the now removed basketball court. I left these on the bed and returned downstairs since most people were now at the local restaurant.
The recent arrivals took the short walk down to the Fish Taco place and saw a lineup of people who greeted up with a cheer. I shook hands with Rick, Mike, Mark, Nike, Paul, Josh and a few others. We had to grab another table due to space availability, but this opened up the chance to meet a few more people. Phil ordered some onion rings, which looked more like doughnuts to the untrained eye. Rick congratulated me on getting a picture of them. Eric, from Oakley, dropped by to talk Camera and convince me to buy a 5D. I responded that I was planning on it upon my return. It dawned on me that we had talked before (while I was in a Marsh photographing dragonflies), but I was still trying to tie faces to names. After people had eaten up, we got up to leave. Rick grabbed a photo-op and I was able to talk to Mike as well. The White-camo Warwagon drove up, and we jumped in the bed for a quick trip back to the hotel. A few more people were around, and I met Steve, Toxic, and Dustin. I realized my HI Blue lenses were giving me the wrong white balance on my pictures so far, so I recalibrated, and we set off to get some HQ night shots. A few shot off in the Warwagon, but the majority walked. We scaled the side hills to save some time and were presented with HQ in all its glory.
As we shot pictures of the building, it gave us more time to talk. This went on for a bit, which included some gratuitous PW shots. The Warwagon gave us another truck bed ride back to the hotel with the rental car in hot pursuit. Back at the lobby, there were still as many people as before. I met a few more people that were still new to me. Slowly as the hours went by, people began heading to their rooms until it was just Nik, Travis, Yukio, Dawn, Phil, Lake and me. It was around 2:45, so I was the last to leave and get a few hours sleep. I set my alarm for 5:30 so I could get some morning shots.
Day 1 ï¿½ Friday, March 20, 2009
I didnï¿½t really sleep, and being used to an East Coast time zone, I was naturally awake. I got up, packed some camera lenses, and set out for HQ to get the sunrise. It was foggier than I had expected, so you couldnï¿½t see as much. On my way to HQ, I saw a snail on the sidewalk and bent down to take a picture. I was approach by someone behind me who asked me why I was taking pictures of the sidewalk. I figured it was a stranger, so I responded with some comment, but then saw that it was Jose. Also being on the East Coast, he was awake and off for a walk, so we continued together. After winding around the driveway, I got a few more shots of HQ, but the fog was still heavy. I jumped the gun a bit and sunrise wasnï¿½t for an hour, so we made our way around the building until the sky started getting lighter. With the fog, there was no real sunrise though, it just got lighter. Giving up, we headed back for breakfast and met up with the early crowd.
As time passed more and more filtered into the lobby to grab some breakfast and chat while waiting for the bus. I was getting nervous about not wearing the official shirt, but luckily Yukio, Dawn, and Nik at the last minute showed up and didnï¿½t leave me being the only one. I did have my Medusa on hand, so I still stood out a bit. After checking in and switching places with Rick (something I regret not pulling off more times throughout the weekend), we headed out to the bus to hear Cale talk about the day. One-by-one, we filtered onto the bus and took our seats. I sat next to Bill, who I had only talked to via the loopd.com site previously. After waiting for Nik to return, we set off the one block drive to HQ where Colin Baden was waiting alongside a security force with mock-assault rifles. He gave us some brief history as to his involvement with the company then led us into the auditorium.
The event kicked off with a montage of clips set to ï¿½Black Bettyï¿½ followed by a speech by Scott Bowers. They covered some new products that were coming out and provided some firsthand laser and clarity tests. After these presentations, they took the chance to answer some questions and offer ones for prizes. The only catch was that after your first win, you couldnï¿½t answer again. This made it interesting since you didnï¿½t know whether to hold out for a better prize or if you would even know the answer when it happened. Luckily most of the prizes were worth owning, but the questions were not as easy. The first question, which carried a prize of an Athens Olympics watch, asked what the original Frogskins line was named after. The correct answer was Jupiter, and the prize went to Dustin. Further questions asked the name of the original Blade material (Serilium), the wild animal that roamed the halls, last three addresses of Oakley, and the name of the first M Frame stem. They accepted ï¿½hammerfangï¿½, but Iï¿½d argue that those were only on generation 2 M Frames, while the first was simply the ï¿½hammerï¿½. I held out regardless until they asked what the first three Mumbo lenses were. I immediately answered ï¿½V, 67 and Hybridï¿½. Memorizing old catalogues paid off, and the prize was a serial #11 X-Metal Ducati Juliet. Jamin Jannard threw a few questions out, and offered his personal Diamond Time Tank if someone knew the original Oakley dogï¿½s middle name. Someone finally answered ï¿½Annieï¿½ after some wild guessing. Once this completed, they stated that there were two hand painted Flying Tigers pairs to give away throughout the day. They decided to give away the Oil Rig right now if someone could list the first six models of eyewear in order that were produced. After some silence, I raised my hand, but openly admitted that I had already won a prize. They told me to give it a shot, so I listed the first twelve. Scott laughed and threw the Oil Rigs at me.
As I was leaving and went out into the lobby, a familiar face greeted me. This familiar face had an Overthetop with spikes drilled in it. He said I was part of his tour group just as I was four years earlier in 2005. After this, we checked our winnings with security and then headed out to the helicopter pad for lunch. They had a barbeque set up and even had spam sushi, I imagine much to Dawnï¿½s delight. This gave us more time to chat and for me to check out the awesome Jawbones that Spencer won. Seeing them in person sold me even more. After we ate for a bit, they brought out a cake for Scottï¿½s birthday. Then we went back in ready for the tours. The icons on our name badge corresponded with our tour groups. Mine was a gold square icon, which was the Elite group with Jason Spencer.
First stop was the Rx department, where they went through a very thorough presentation on the need for Rx technology and the hurdles that they had to pass before achieving the current lines. They also showed us the upcoming Rx models. At the end of this, they handed out Persimmon Scars as a gift. This then lead out to an area where we were shown impact testing on Oakley models and the competition. As expected the generic models shattered on both the high impact and high mass examples. Some material jumped out and landed near Phil. He threw is back into the box, at which point it broke again thus showing how brittle it is. We were shown the bare minimum requirements for eyewear manufacturing, which was a combination of the two tests. However itï¿½s the worst of both world involving the speed of the low mass test and the mass of the low speed one. This shows how much Oakley goes above and beyond the call of duty for our safety.
We were brought through the manufacturing process and shown how each step of the way, the materials are individually inspected. There are no automated procedures in this process. After this we took a tour through the marketing department and saw some of the upcoming advertisement campaigns. Along the way were odd one-offs lying around, some new, some vintage. When we were all done, we were given the chance to create an OCE Flak Jacket. I thought about choosing the Team Green frame, but figured that I would have to use a neutral lens, so I opted for Team Orange, white socks, orange icons and HI Blue lenses. While they were being assembled, we were brought through the new museum and saw many of the historical models and ads. There were also some prototypes of the upcoming glasses and watches. The end of the museum tunnel opened to the lobby O Store, which was packed. I didnï¿½t end up getting anything at this time due to the crowds.
This led outside where a RC track had been built, and they were readying to begin some races. All of the tour groups started gathering and had some food. The RC races went through three tiers. The first race forwarded the top three winners to the second race, and the second forwarded the top racer. Josh easily made it to the top place, but during the final race, Luke gave him a run for his money by staying on his tail, and even passing when Joshï¿½s car flipped over. It was almost a sure victory until Lukeï¿½s car flipped, and Josh regained control taking gold. Alfonso, the employee who met me at the airport took bronze. For their prizes, they won Beijing Olympic Holeshot watches in Gold/Silver/Bronze.
A bonfire was started to provide some warms, and one of the souped up trucks was fired up and did some doughnuts in the pit out back. We also received our OCE Flak Jackets, and my combo didnï¿½t look as bad as I thought it would be. After a while of hanging out, Phil and I found ourselves the only non-employees still hanging out, so we took a walk back to the hotel. We stayed up a bit, but only until 2AM or so since the next morning had a 7AM departure time.
Day 2 ï¿½ Saturday, March 21, 2009
Woke up at around 5AM, but then rested a bit more only to realize it was now 10 of 7, and I needed to get downstairs. I grabbed breakfast quickly and then we got onto the buses to head to paintball. Iï¿½ve never done this before, so I really didnï¿½t know what to expect. We arrived and ate too many Twizzlers. After some safety briefing and waiting to get our gear, we took a group photo and headed out to the first match. This was an escort mission where we had to bring two Oakley VIP CEOs to their destination while avoiding the evil competition. When it came time to finally fire, my gun wouldnï¿½t work, so I checked it and saw that the safety was on. I fired a test shot, and shortly after the game was over.
The second match was a capture the flag mission with four points that were rotated. Again my gun wouldnï¿½t work, but I noticed the pin wasnï¿½t pulled back. Then again, the round was over. After four rounds, I think I fired one other test shot. For the next round, we had to escort another person, the Antix, as our team, the Hijinx. I lasted a while, but caught a shot to the mouth and promptly swallowed some paintball shell. The next round was a team vs. team. Jose and I holed up in a room, but I was taken out from the side after a while. The last round was another team vs. team, but we were allowed respawns. This game was an attempt to use up the ammo. The guns were so inaccurate that I really couldnï¿½t line up anything despite emptying two pods. I eventually gave my gun up to someone who could use it.
This concluded the session, and we had pizza and more Twizzlers. I handed in my equipment and called home to check in. I was on the phone for about ten minutes and saw Travis walking over, so I followed him. We werenï¿½t able to find anyone, so we check at the tent and it was empty. After looking all around, we called someone and found out that the bus had left already. After 15 minutes or so, it turned back up and we got on. People were still on it, so I felt bad for keeping them on longer. I got a chance to talk to a few more people, and we passed the time by recalling old Tom Green skits for some reason. Finally we arrived back at the hotel, and I cleaned up for dinner.
The buses brought us to Dave & Busterï¿½s at the Irvine Spectrum. We were going to make a quick run to the O Store, but that was open for a while, so we had some food and took turns signing the large group poster. After some chatting and waiting for others to finish eating, we took a large group over and stormed the O Store. A few people took the reins opening cabinets and ringing up merchandise. This provided plenty of opportunities for PW shots and plenty of spending. I ended up getting a Minute 2.0 for my wife and a pair of White Tiger Fives Squared. I figured Iï¿½d look like a fool, but somehow they worked. Plus I needed to keep up on the animal print frames. After $5k of damage to the storeï¿½s sales, we returned to the restaurant and organized a Time Tank shot. We estimated there was about $23k in that one shot. My flickr account lit up after with that one shot. We ate some cake and then headed back to the hotel.
I started capturing all the pictures that I had gathered and getting them into one place. Others joined in, so I was able to get pictures from all places during the weekend. We chatted as a group for a while, but the snuck off to HQ one last time. I was lucky enough to ride in the box of the Dog Catcher as they drove up hills and generally knocking us around. We gathered a few people for a group shot and played around with camera settings trying to get a properly exposed picture with HQ and the group. It took a few test shots and experimentation, but we were able to get a few in. Much goofing around and silliness ensued. Of interest were Oogieï¿½s Quest and Eddyï¿½s multi-Time Tank posing. There was also a torpedo incident which shall go unmentioned. Well undetailed anyway. The rest of the night revolved around chatting until 4AM and going over pictures. Yukio and Dawn stayed the longest, but soon I was the last man standing (unlike in paintball).
Day 3 ï¿½ Sunday, March 22, 2009
At this point I returned to my room and started the packing process. First off was cleaning my gloves and shoes. I hadnï¿½t worn my new SI Boots to paintball, since it would have been a shame. My SI Shoes were easier to pack anyway. I feel bad for the washcloth that I left behind. After a few revisions of trying to pack everything, I somehow managed to get everything into the two backpacks that I had originally brought. It was a tight fit, but I wasnï¿½t about to spend $15 to check my bag. There wasnï¿½t much else to do, so I went back to the lobby and chatted with the night watch women until people started filing down around 6. I hung out with them until they left for their flights. I was able see most of the people off until my flight.
At around 7, breakfast started and more people started showing up. I got a few people to sign the box of the one thing I bought there. There were more goodbyes, and I thanked Eric and Joanne for their help with the weekend. Cale was our driver for the trip to the airport. Again it was Phil, Trevor and Mike heading out on the same flight. I barely got through security and managed to drop my laptop on the ground while trying to hold multiple pairs of glasses and everything else. Bringing boots through security is also another challenge. Finally I got through and the laptop seemed to start fine. The flights home were pretty uneventful. I think I managed to catch a few hours of sleep, but plane sleep is all but resting. During the layover, I said goodbye to Phil and crew and finished the last leg of the journey on my own.
It was an amazing trip and one that I will remember forever. I came home with (collectively) over 1500 photos, which document every small detail. Those and this write-up will hopefully allow those who participated to relive the experience down the road. With any luck, this wonï¿½t be the only co-pilot event. I hope to see everyone in the future.