February 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts February 1998 Current Issue
February 1998
Short Cuts:

Television commercials for four-wheel drive vehicles push a certain image of the people who drive them: carefree singles speeding past the mesas of Monument Valley or nature lovers out for a family moose-spotting adventure. But those who run corporate outings using four-wheelers have a very different attitude. To start with, don't even talk to them about "off-road" anything.

"Idiots" is the word Harold Pietschmann uses to describe people who use their four-wheelers to explore the back country. "We stay on established roads," says Pietschmann, founder of the Los Angeles-based Adventure Company (213-848-8685). "There are enough really difficult established roads. There's no need to go into the bush." (Note that "established roads" are often unpaved.)

The Adventure Company accommodates groups of up to 60 for expeditions into the Southern Californian or Northern Mexican desert. Pietschmann prefers these treks to last two or more days, since the drive to the desert from San Diego or Los Angeles is at least two hours each way. Among similar operations, Bill Burke's 4-Wheeling America (303-778-9144) is a Denver-based outfit that specializes in teaching driving to smaller groups (up to about 20) amid the natural splendors of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah for one to five days.

East of the Mississippi, where life moves at a faster clip, groups of up to 60 can learn how to drive a four-wheeler and have a vehicular team-building experience in either a two-and-a-half or four-hour session at the Land Rover Driving School (802-362-4700), based at the Equinox Hotel & Resort in Manchester, Vt.

All three programs swear by their devotion to Tread Lightly!, a national campaign that promotes responsible use of the outdoors. All their treks are on and not off-road, although many of those roads are unpaved.

Some of the team-building activities center around just getting a four-wheeler moving. At Bill Burke's driving school, a favorite exercise involves getting a vehicle stuck in a muddy hole, throwing a pile of equipment ("some jacks and winches") on the group and telling them to figure out how to get the car back into motion.

All three outfits promise to teach anyone who can drive a car to drive a four-wheeler -- even blindfolded. The "trust drive" is, it seems, as standard an ingredient of internal combustion-powered team-building as the blindfolded "trust walk" is of more conventional programs.

For those with the TV commercial image of four-wheeling -- speeding dramatically up sand dunes and the like -- the idea of driving a Jeep or Land Rover with only the verbal commands of your passengers to guide you ("Better hang a sharp left just before we get to that 1,000-foot drop straight ahead") may sound a bit terrifying. Not too worry. The trust drive -- in fact, virtually all of the driving -- is done at a maximum speed of five miles per hour. * DAVID GHITELMAN



"It depends a lot on who the group is, as well as the type of function and its objectives. For a sales meeting, the music would be high energy, contemporary, motivating -- perhaps disco, the '90s version of disco. Me, I prefer rock 'n' roll."
Sharon Grote
Manager of Corporate Events
Household International
Prospect Heights, Ill.

"The type I chose depends on the kind of event. For a sales meeting, the music would be more pop-related. For a meeting with the president or CEO, it would be a little more on the classical end. For myself, I like country."
Stacy Jack
Meetings Manager
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
Alexandria, Va.

"My attendees primarily like big band music, songs from the '40s and '50s. I like things a little '70s, '80s and '90s."
Diane Dale
Assistant Manager, Division of Meetings and Conventions
American College of Surgeons
Chicago, Ill.

Back to Current Issue index | Back to Short Cuts index
M&C Home Page
Current Issue | Events Calendar | Newsline | Incentive News | Meetings Market Report
Editorial Libraries | CVB Links | Reader Survey | Hot Dates | Contact M&C