Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts February 1998
Short Cuts:ON THE (UNPAVED) ROAD
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"
"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
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
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 GHITELMANQ&AS
WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU HIRE FOR
"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."
Manager of Corporate Events
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."
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
"My attendees primarily like big band music, songs from
the '40s and '50s. I like things a little '70s, '80s and '90s."
Assistant Manager, Division of Meetings and Conventions
American College of Surgeons
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