Monday, July 17, 2017
I went to Highway Products spending the morning as they installed the Pickup Pack and Truck Slide. JD gave me a tour of the factory, where everything is welded or drilled and bolted. They powder coat a lot and can make almost any color. There was a very cool, white work truck bed being assembled. You could see all the removed truck beds along the fence, where people had gotten a work truck bed and discarded the regular bed. Should you ever need a new truck bed, this is the place to go!
They also make boats, one being a “surf boat”. It’s purpose is to make a huge wake behind the boat so people can surf behind it. It also has huge speakers so they can hear music while they surf. They make a great drift boat for floating and fishing rivers. They come in several sizes and each is custom made so you can customize it any way you want, but there are some great features on the standard boat. You can move the seats anywhere you want, so you could fish two from the front, or one in the back and one in the front. There is a movable rod holder, magnetized side rails so you can just stick your fishing tools to it, a small propane tank holder so you can have heat on cold days. Being aluminum, it is light and floats high in the water. It has three watertight doors that make it easier to get out. You can put a small motor or trolling motor in the back. I met Steve, who is the boat salesman and fishing guide. We are trying to arrange a fishing trip. There isn’t a big salmon run, there are some.
Later, while waiting, I was gawking at the drift boat when owner, Gene Gros walked by with a box of lights over his shoulder. He came up to ask if I wanted to buy a drift boat. Love to, but Martha might shoot me. A very nice guy, a bit younger than me, he is from Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was assigned to the area in the Army, met a girl who would become his wife, so he stayed. He “worked in the Rogue Valley as a welder/fabricator for a raft-frame manufacturer (Willies’s R&D) specializing in white water rafting equipment, and welding repair. Next-door was a trucking outfit that would often contract with them to do repair work and to make items for their trucks; tool boxes was most asked for. Gene usually did the custom work and was given these duties.” His son now works with him, bringing new ideas. Apparently the old way and the new way don’t always agree, but the business is thriving, and they have a great staff. We talked about health care and the costs. Gene has always covered his employees, although they don’t always understand the benefit. With good benefits and and a great factory, making great products, he has been able to attract good people.
Wandering around the building, I stumbled onto the bay where my truck was being worked on. I really enjoy watching people work. Three guys were placing the pickup pack, measuring the sides, putting sealing strips on the edges so it wouldn’t leak, making sure everything lined up right. One fellow worked a fork lift to lift the pack and position it. He asked where I was from. He lived in North Carolina, but came out to Oregon, interviewed for this job and got it, then moved his family. Nice guys all, I wished I had gotten names, but I was trying to stay out of the way. I wanted to know how they wired it, bit JD arrived and I knew I was getting kicked out. OSHA rules don’t allow observers. Darn!
It was so hot when I got back to camp in the middle of the day, it was no time to reorganize the truck box. After lunch I drove a bit of a scenic loop I had seen a sign for. I stopped at Ti’Lomikh Falls, which is really a Class V rapid on the Rogue River. I sat down to see if I might see some salmon coming upstream. I didn’t, but soon enough two rafts came along. I watched to see how they would run the rapids. They seem to like running with the boat at a 40 degree angle, which would be a kiss of death for a canoe. One rock in that very heavy water and bye, bye! I wondered about running it in a drift boat, and what would happen if you turned one of those over!