Open doors

Image:Open doors
03. Sep, 2018 Written by: Glen Plake
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My grandpa Bob was a depressionist and the old adage of the time R+R meant remove/repair, everything could be repaired or created verses the new world of R+R of remove and replace. Over the years miscellaneous tasks were given to me, and my own interests began to develop playing with an old gocart, I, like most boys, began to love fast loud things and dreamt of driving race cars. Hot Rods were the dream, the bicycles became the performance side of my mechanical life. Fixing my old truck or cars of my friends continued to hone my automotive skills; motorcycles replaced the gocart and my love for stock car racing began to burn.

My first “real” fast life began modifying V driven Flat bottom drag boats. (Goggle search if you don’t know what one is). Taking those skills I decided it was time to try stock car racing myself. I have three dirt tracks very close to my summer home and racing at the local tracks became a weekly occurrence from the lower classes to the top. It kept me busy and was a place to take a break from the long winter schedule. Over the years I became known for my mechanical abilities my cars and boats “ran, and ran hard” with me doing 90% of the work.

Door opens

While on a fishing trip in Baja California during which the famed Baja 1000 was taking place, I spectated, and due to the nature of the race the vehicles pass by a given place for over 24 hours - it was the morning after start time that my father and I saw a disabled vehicle, they were away from radio contact and their mechanics. I offered to help, and solved the fuel problem that had stopped them, ironically during that time together they recognized me “are you that skier, Glen Plake?” “Have you ever wanted to race in the Baja 1000? Thanks for the help...”. 8 months later I was a driver in the Toyota Celebrity Grand Prix in Long Beach, CA, and part of that event was a race vehicle show and the truck I had helped months before was on display. I asked if the driver was around and he was, we “re-met” each other and the offer to co-drive was given, I accepted immediately. “The Baja 500, are you kidding me?” I had posters on my wall when I was a kid... Long story short, we broke a transmission 30 miles into the race but with my help it was swapped and I got to work with the other guys on the team, I would continue to race with the factory Kia racing team for the next 5 years; which included 3 championships, Baja 1000 wins, participation in the Paris Dakar Rally and me driving the 2nd Team car. To be honest, I can sit and talk about racing for hours, if not days...

Self evaluation

I am one of the most known skiers in the world. Sponsored for over 25 years my exploits and achievements have been many: films, awards, high altitude Himalayan expeditions, first ascents/descents in the most famous mountains ranges around the world. Let’s face it, the Industrial Age of my grandfathers is a bit passé, so I find myself frustrated that I have “wasted” a lot of time (and money) in my life with my obsession of mechanics, fixing/modifying things. Can you remove, rebuild and reinstall a mid 60’s Chevy truck transmission? Do you know how to set or are confident enough to set Valve lash in a 1500hp engine worth over 20k? I can and do. How’s your welding/ wiring skills? Ever build a race car from stock lengths of chromo tubing? I have... But you know what? So What? Nobody cares in today’s age, I am being honest, being critical of myself. I am a Skier on expedition at base camp in a tent on an acclimatization day, resting and pondering about the stupid mechanic skills that I have, and it was at that moment a friend taps on my tent and asks the question - “Glen, do you think you can do something about this?” The skis he had (not Elan by the way) had come completely apart, the prototype skis he had were fully delaminated. Me being me, earning the expedition nickname “Mr. Bricolage”, built a makeshift press and using the epoxy in my tool kit fixed his skis over the next two days; he skied them the next two months on the expedition. These opportunities would present themselves time and time again over the years, rewiring headlamps, solar systems and other expedition related repairs but when the front axel was torn off our vehicle after hitting a rock deep in Nepal, Glen, “Mr. Mechanic” as I am referred to by the Nepalese, really got to shine. “Assistance will arrive tomorrow” but after fixing some of our bent parts and sharing some parts off of another vehicle, we were moving along again in less than three hours. I no longer ever question my “wasted” ability to fix things.

Using To designing

When you first begin to be endorsed/ sponsored you “use” the products given to you - you may be asked to do some testing or give some comments about product development and then maybe something that happens very rarely you are asked to actually design a product. Of course, working with others is part of this process - because of my history in the shop, the process was very easy for me to be a part of. My ability to run machines and “dive in” gave me credibility with others involved being able to create prototypes modify and test them is something I am proud to be able to do - whether it’s skis, the numerous boot projects, bindings, and several clothing collections, my presences in the shop has allowed me to do some super cool things with the companies I work with other than just “using” the product. It’s also allowed me to put some products in the public space to make skiing better.

Opportunities

Starting with helping a local ski rep to get my first pair of free skis; a chance to ski in a ski film, not getting on a plane to go back to the States and staying in Europe, working with sponsors in unorthodoxed ways, marrying Kimberly, not going to jail by getting sober, fixing a race car back in Mexico and getting that chance for a ride; my life has been filled with opportunities/ open doors, most did not make sense and some demanded an “all in” decision but I have always decided to walk through those doors over the threshold without entirely knowing what’s on the other side. It’s a cliche but opportunities would not present themselves if they were not meant to be. God works in mysterious ways...

Glen Plake

Glen Plake

Glen Plake

“Be ready to leave next week.” For where? For what?

July 2017

Phone rings: it’s a friend’s wife, ironically it’s my friend from my Kia racing days, she is involved with TV show casting “Glen, are you still racing?” I reply “yea, of course, local stuff for fun...”. She says, “Can you send me a racing bio? They really don’t care about your skiing she says and maybe a Skype interview tomorrow?” Turns out History Channel is developing a 4x4 truck competition show and they’re looking for some hosts and thought I might be good for it. Bio sent, interview done, one week later “Chemistry test” with other hosts over the course of the day I interact with industry experts and other guys that certainly out qualify me, but it becomes clear that I can hold my own and do know a thing or two; at the end of the day I’m asked “Are you available during the month of August?” Fortunately, it is my usual time off. Dead silence, not a word the TV industry is so strange about certain things, on a Friday afternoon, “The Call”, NDA, and a background check, “be ready to leave next week”. For where? For what? After NDA is signed details emerge. Georgia? Isn’t it really hot there in August? It will take place inside a quarry that will be transformed into a giant playground for 4x4’s to compete and the chance to win 10k each episode (which there will be ten). Our job is to host the show, be coaches/mentors to the competitors; who are competing in their own personal vehicles; over the next month I lived in the world of “reality TV”. Fourteen hour days, six straight - one off, seventy cameras, 150 people on set, Georgia heat, humidity, hurricane, a show shot every two days, five new competitors each episode. Like all adventures/expeditions the story tends to unfold as you go, I’ve always enjoyed “finding out” as opposed to the definitive plan, even in my mountaineering, it’s the old question about human traits: are you an artist? Or an engineer? I have always enjoyed the “artist” way, the confusion and chaos of TV production is something I really enjoy. The relationships of the hosts and the interactions with our teams would develop, I would have great success getting my team to the finish, figuring out tactics - breaking and fixing things, was super fun! “Truck Night in America” was born. It would air weekly on the History Channel.

Premiere night - honestly the chance of a TV show being a success is very rare, after production release dates floated back and forth, New York knows all, and says little. Football, Olympics, day and time of the week all of this and a whole lot more come into play. March 8, 2018 is finally the night, Thursday 10pm fingers crossed as I watch, episode 1 in a bar in Canada while on a MTN guides exam, glancing around in anonymity “looks like people like it”. When the rating numbers come in 1.4 million we would hover around the 1 million mark the rest of the season - which supposedly that’s good. Season 2? Like the hosts selection process, the phone goes dead... Will there be a season 2? Will we host it? I am proud to say last Friday I got “the call”. Back to Georgia in August...

Does this mean I’m doing season 3? I don’t know? Is there a future show involving me and skiing/mountaineering/outdoorsman? I do have a few skills in that department... I do know that when the door opened, I walked through it, until another one does, when I am not skiing, I will be wrenching, racing, getting my hands cut and greasy doing the same things that I have always done as a distraction after my winter except now millions of people are getting to know about it... To be continued...

Ski ya on “Truck Night!”
Glen

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