World travelers: They aren't traveling for pleasure

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

Victor Molina of Fayette remembers the day he was traveling in a car along a highway in China when the pavement suddenly ended.

Victor, a representative from Dayspring International—a Pettisville-based import company that deals in figurines and gift ware—traveled in China often a few years ago. and once you’re in the country, there’s plenty of traveling to do.

“There’s a lot of travel time when you’re in China,” Victor said.

It’s a big country and manufacturing facilities are spread far and wide. It wasn’t uncommon to drive for five hours, he said, then meet up with a train for a few more hours on the rails.

Victor says there are a lot of interesting sights in the giant country, but still, that day on the road sticks out in his mind.

“You can travel on a highway for an hour and suddenly it turns into a dirt road,” he said. “You spend an hour or so on that road and then it goes back to paved.”

Many people travel on business, but only handful of area people head overseas as part of their job.

Spain

Larry Stover is one of several employees of Morenci’s General Broach who have crossed the ocean on business. He’s visited Spain four times in the last two years.

“We’re trying to start a new line of broach cutters in our shop here and the machines to build them are made in Spain,” Larry said.

It’s not a simple process to get the job done.

“It’s probably the most difficult broach cutting tool in the world,” he explained.

World events have changed traveling.

“Before 9/11 it was great,” Larry said. “Afterward, with the extra security, we always fail to make our connecting flights. Normally it takes about 10 hours. Now it might take 30 hours.”

Security measures aren’t fun, he said, but he finds it comforting to know they’re being taken.

Larry was walking with a guide in a Spanish city when his companion said, “We don’t go down that way.”

He asked why not?

“Terrorists” was the answer.

A few members of al-Qaida had been arrested in the area.

There’s little time for sight-seeing on his business trips, but the General Broach travelers try to arrive a day early do have a day for jet lag recovery. Sometimes that allows for a drive through the countryside.

“It’s very beautiful country,” he said. “The mountains meet the ocean at the Bay of Biscayne.”

Speaking of drives through the country, he’ll always remember a taxi ride he and Doyle Collar took a few years ago from the airport through rural Spain.

“The driver spoke no English and that point we spoke no Spanish,” Larry said.

The raced along a freeway with tight curves and tunnels, reaching speeds of about 115 miles per hour.

“That’s the only time I’ve seen Doyle nervous,” says Larry.

Larry has enjoyed the travel, but he wouldn’t mind staying closer to home in the next few months.

“We’re hoping we don’t have to go back for a while,” he said, but he figures there’s more on the horizon.

“We might develop some partnerships with European companies in the future.”

Europe and beyond

Nobody travels like Pat Downing, director of technology for Wauseon Machine.

Spain, France, Germany, England, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand. He might be forgetting a few visits.

He started his overseas traveling in 1996 and averages three to four trips a year, mostly for a week to 10 days. There was one year that he made 14 trips.

It can get tedious when sent to the same location over and over, but he enjoys new adventures. He names Australia as his favorite destination—especially during our winter—but the Czech Republic ranks up there, too, just because it’s so different than the others.

“It’s really old and it’s fairly inexpensive,” he said.

The area he goes to didn’t seem to get touched by bombing in the second world war, and the architecture is interesting.

“With our customers, you’re not always in a tourist area,” he said. “In the Czech Republic, you’re in the middle of nowhere. No one speaks English and you can’t read the menus. You just have to guess.”

Language difficulties are more apparent there than in most locations, but there are often challenges.

“The English are hard to understand and the French don’t want to talk to you,” he said. “In Holland, everybody speaks English.”

Pat prefers train travel to car rentals, but he remembers a time when he drove from Edinburgh, Scotland, a few hundred miles south to Plymouth, England. It was during the hoof-and-mouth outbreak among cattle, and all the way south they passed piles of burning animals.

“I think I might be going to the U.K. in April,” Pat said.

It’s there and in Australia where he has to pay attention to avoid a trip to the hospital. By habit, he approaches a street when he’s out walking and he looks left for oncoming traffic.

“You about get hit by a car because you look the wrong way.”

France & Spain

Don’t go to sleep.

That’s what Mark Ries was warned about when he made an overseas trip two years ago for his company, Hutchison.

“They told us not to go to sleep when we first arrived,” he said, “so we stayed up about 26 hours.”

That cure for jet-lag gave him some time for sight-seeing around Palamos, Spain, and it worked. He was ready to go the next morning.

The routine in Spain called for a big lunch followed by a long siesta, then back to work. The evening meal didn’t come until about 10 p.m. and the guests weren’t returned to their hotel until about 1 a.m.

“Then they pick you up at 7:30 a.m.,” he said.

Mark visited an enormous Hutchinson facility outside of Paris.

“It’s a huge complex. I’d say it’s bigger than Morenci.”

He visited a new factory in Amilly in which employment decreased from 450 to 90 due to an incredible amount of automation.

Wine is acceptable at staff meetings, and Mark encountered some food that he was never served at home.

“It tasted like barbecue beef that was finely ground and overcooked.”

He made the mistake of asking what it was: fried pig blood.

Mark still travels a lot for Hutchinson, but nothing as exotic as that trip. When he leaves the States now, its mostly to Mexico or Canada.

China

Like Mark, Victor Molina is on the road a lot, but it’s all in the United States now.

“I traveled overseas for probably eight years,” he said. “I went to China six to eight times a year. I enjoyed it, but it took a lot of time from my family.”

Touring China is vastly different from life here, he said, and it was frustrating to making business trips that left little time for looking around.

“You see things that are so different and you wish you could stop and take a look,” he said.

He remembers riding a train somewhere in northern China on the way back to Beijing.

“Every time we stopped to let people on and off, we’d see people on their knees brushing and scraping the rails,” he said. “There were always people with brushes and brooms. There were people brushing the floor of the train.”

Travel in China can prove challenging, but Victor always enjoyed meeting people in his travels.

“It’s still very primitive outside the cities,” he said. “You never see a car unless it belongs to a government official or a factory.

His travels these days take him to Indianapolis one day, to Albany the next, then maybe down to Huntsville, Ala. He enjoys being closer to home, but he knows it won’t last forever. Someone else from the company is doing the distant travel currently, but his turn is coming.

“Eventually I’ll have to gear back up and head overseas.”

    - March 12, 2003

Checking back home 

When Pat Downing travels, his cell phone keeps him close to home.

One night he was sitting in a pub in Ivy Bridge, England, a little town near Plymouth. “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was showing on the television, and there was a question about a newspaper in France.

Pat knew his grandmother, Jeanine Price, would have the answer, so he “used his lifeline” and gave her a call back in Morenci.

She wondered how he was and what he was doing, etc., never understanding this was a long distance call from the United Kingdom.

Pat finally wrangled the answer to the question out of her and hung up.

Of course she was right. She knew the answer was Le Figaro.

That’s not the only time he’s called his grandmother for help.

On one trip he was staying in France and wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower. Pat doesn’t speak French and he didn’t want to try to figure out his destination via maps and policemen, so he called grandma.

She told him what subway to take to reach the tower.

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