A Local Business Obliges Corporate Types Who Long To Be Rough Riders.
By Kevin Franklin
WHEN I PICTURE powerful tycoons and executives for large corporations on vacation, I see them lounging around the deck of a yacht in San Diego, or playing roulette in Monte Carlo. Maybe they go skiing in Aspen. But never did I picture them pushing pedals up the same rocky tracks I like to think of as my backyard. But they're here, following former corporate ladder-climber John Heiman down steep trails and over boulder-strewn fields.
Heiman's outdoor guide company, Southwest Trekking, has carved a niche by taking corporate big-wigs into our back country.
When conventions and corporate meetings come to town, they generally schedule a variety of recreational activities for their executives and accompanying spouses. Some go shopping or play golf; others go to museums or take in a show. The more adventurous sign up for one of Heiman's outings.
I decide to tag along on a Southwest Trekking mountain bike trip for big-time investment firm Dean Witter.
"For a lot of these folks, it's their first time on a mountain bike," Heiman says. "Some have never been to Arizona before. For some of these people this is like another planet. We're used to it, but some of these executives have never been this far west of Manhattan, and may never have an experience like this again."
Despite a lack of familiarity with the techniques behind adventure sports, Heiman says many of his clients come mentally prepared for this kind of trip.
"Because of who they are, they enjoy a challenge and they're highly motivated to succeed," Heiman says. "That translates right over to what we're doing here. They're real motivated in the business world, and they bring that over to the physical realm. They get into it and indulge."
We pick up today's group at Ventana Canyon. Heiman was originally scheduled to take 13-plus people on this trip. Only four show up; the others are out playing golf or recovering from a night of martinis and discussing the best way to invest your 401K money. This is unusual, Heiman says. More often than not, more folks show up than have signed on to go.
Our crew is composed of two branch managers and their spouses. Mike and Kim Malone, from Ohio, and Clark and Marianne Rush, from Alaska, have ridden mountain bikes before.
"You never know who's going to go on these trips," Heiman says. "I've had CEOs for major multinational firms and all sorts show up."
We unload Heiman's van and Suburban. He's brought brand-new, 21-speed Schwinn Mesa GS bikes with front suspension. I've toyed around with the notion of buying a new bike to replace my cast-iron, vintage-'80s mule, but the bikes in the shops or in the parking lot never seemed that much different. The $600 base price was enough to convince me to stay with the tried and true. However, getting to ride a new, super-light and responsive machine out on the trail is a delight.
Heiman also makes sure everything runs safely by having paramedic and aspiring competitive mountain-biker David Duarte along for the ride.
"These companies make sure I understand in no uncertain terms how important these people are to their productivity," Heiman says. "They don't want anybody hurt or out of work."
Nevertheless, such outings carry a certain amount of risk, and injuries do occur. For the most part it's out-of-shape folks over-exerting themselves and succumbing to the heat or altitude, Heiman says. The most serious injury to date is a fellow who cut his knee-cap to the bone. Fortunately, he was an emergency room doctor and took what he needed out of Heiman's first-aid kit to patch himself up. Ultimately, once back in Tucson, the wound took 31 stitches; but the doctor insisted on finishing the ride, Heiman says.
Our tour goes well. Mike and Clark ride with David and me almost to Italian Trap Spring, and then the company schedule demands we make our return.
"I didn't expect to have the opportunity to do that kind of riding," Mike says. "I was pleasantly surprised."
That's what Heiman aims for: "Arduous journeys for those who indulge in extremes."
Southwest Trekking schedules trips for all sorts of folks, not just executives. If you're interested in a guided biking, hiking, camping or trail-run trip, call 296-9661; or send e-mail queries to SWTREKKING@aol.com.
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