Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Feb 15, 2021 at 2:06 PM Post #71,761 of 79,930

mfadio

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There's nothing quite like getting stuck in a winter storm that came out of nowhere and you are getting blown all over the road by the trucks passing you at 70+ MPH like it's sunny and 80 degrees out and you are fighting for every bit of grip the tires can get at 30 - 40 MPH...

You should get into motorcycles. I rode out of Jasper Park in a snowstorm on a DL650.
 
Feb 15, 2021 at 2:22 PM Post #71,762 of 79,930

golfbravobravo

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Being one that has been stuck WAY too many times driving in the snow/ice in 700+ HP development cars with SUMMER only tires I can definitely FEEL your pain... There's nothing quite like getting stuck in a winter storm that came out of nowhere and you are getting blown all over the road by the trucks passing you at 70+ MPH like it's sunny and 80 degrees out and you are fighting for every bit of grip the tires can get at 30 - 40 MPH... That normally 5 hour trip took 12.

I'm now realizing that the glee of Z51 with Pirelli low profile summer tires and NC at - ooooohhhh maybe 35 for days on end - fades very quickly.
 
Feb 15, 2021 at 2:37 PM Post #71,764 of 79,930

Zojokkeli

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As someone who has spent most of his life in Puerto Rico and cENTRAL Florida, I dunno about those kinds of weather conditions, and it SCARES me. I dunno how people do it.

A hurricane? Psst, whatever. Ice on the road? AW HELL NAW

It’s not too bad, just get a sensible car and winter tires. Snowy Texas sounds almost like home.

@Jason Stoddard
Sounds like you need to get a Volvo for the winter. And maybe build yourself a sauna while you’re at it, they are great in the winter. Beer tastes better there, too.
 
Feb 15, 2021 at 2:59 PM Post #71,765 of 79,930

DJ1421

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2021, Chapter 2:
The Unexpected Is, Er...Unexpected


Okay, so this chapter is really a left turn.

If you’re really only interested in chapters on new products, or on how we’re increasing capacity, you can probably tune out now. Because new products will come when they come, and our capacity is increasing…but ya gotta remember, “increasing capacity” and getting out of backorder is less like the instant acceleration of a modern Tesla, and more like the insane lag of a late-70s 911 Turbo. Mat the accelerator and wait……………………..there it is!

No. This chapter is more of a story (though it has some business stuff in it). It’s more personal. It’s about how the best plans go sideways…and continue going sideways. And, it could be considered The First Texas Chapter.

Doesn’t sound auspicious? Well, let’s just tell the tale.


Jason Goes to Texas, Serious-Like

Now, I’ve been to Texas a bunch of times as we picked a city, picked a building, and started construction. But this trip was to be the first Real Serious Trip, as in, I was:
  1. Joining my wife in Corpus Christi (she’d already been there a couple of weeks, doing the final stuff on our house there)
  2. Going out to help Alex put the finishing touches on the building so we could staff it and start producing Schiit gear
Lisa had already relocated her Wrangler to Texas, so I decided to drive out as well and relocate one of my cars there. Not a big deal, we’d both done that trip already. Simple, right? I mean, it’s not an insane trip, it’s literally just 4 highways (5-210-10-37), 21 hours or so. Drive to El Paso the first day, drive to Corpus the second.

And yeah, you read that right. The halfway point between California and Texas is in…Texas. (Well, it’s probably more like Las Cruces, but close enough.)

The plan was I’d leave California early Wednesday morning and get into Corpus late Thursday afternoon, time for the official closing on our house, time for dinner with Tyler (our Tyler) and Melissa, who were looking at houses in town, and time to get plenty of rest for a business meeting involving our PCB assemblers and purchasing partners, who were looking at setting up a facility in Corpus Christi. (This is a huuuuuuge deal for us, by the way, and it was one of the things that set my timeline for going to Texas.

Easy. Simple. Near perfect.

Except…

But I’m skipping ahead. Let me tell it as it goes.

The first day’s drive was about as uneventful as you could expect. I got out of the house around 5:30 AM, and arrived in El Paso at the Paseo Del Norte hotel at 5:30PM. I had dinner and a local beer (a filtered—yes, filtered—Hefeweizen from Dead Beach Brewing, which was one of the best Hefs I’ve had), and was in bed super early, so I could get up suuuuper early and hopefully get into Corpus long before the closing.

Next morning went well too. I woke up early, got out of the hotel before 5, and headed out.

And that’s where the first indication of, er….interesting things started.

On the dark road ahead, I saw flashing lights that looked brighter than the sun in the pre-dawn hours. These lights were yellow and blue, which in Texas means road crew. As I got closer, I saw two trucks, a chaser warning about “WINTER DE-ICING PREP IN PROGRESS” or something like that, and a truck ahead spraying some glop on the roadway.

Hmm. Yeah, I knew Texas was in for some nasty weather, but that was, like, tomorrow. And it was, like 51 degrees just outside of El Paso.

(And all those who are saying, “Oh, you mean the weather event that has pretty much all of Texas shut down right now?” Yeah, that’s what you call foreshadowing.)

No biggie. I passed the truck and continued on.

Things got more frigid as I got my first gas of the day, but it was still comfortably above freezing. I got a chuckle out of the guy at the Texas checkpoint where they ask you if you’re a US citizen when I said, “Does California count?” He waved me through.

Then the temperature started dropping. Soon, it was 28 degrees, and I was traveling through ice fog. I slowed down to match the trucks and continued on.

The ice fog got thicker, and I started to sweat. Did I mention the car I was transplanting from California to Texas was a the ZL1 convertible I got back in 2013. Yeah, a 580 horsepower rear wheel drive car with 315 section rear tires.

(Thankfully, it didn’t have Goodyear F1 Supercar tires on it anymore, I’d swapped them for all-seasons after finding out (a) they are death under 50 degrees, and (b) they only last about 8000 miles.)

The road seemed OK, though, and the ice fog eventually thinned. The temperature went up a couple of degrees, but never exceeded freezing. The road was dry, though, and all seemed OK.

Until the bridge.

You know those signs that say, “Bridge may ice in cold weather?”

Yeah. Like that.

Up ahead, I saw a whole bunch of state troopers, so I slowed wayyyyyyy down. They were clustered around one of those bridges I just mentioned. The roadway on my side was open, but there was something going on on the other side.

The “something going on” turned out to be a semi that had lost its grip before hitting the bridge and had plowed into the guardrail. The opposite side of the bridge was completely shut down as the authorities tried to deal with the wreckage.

But I only got a glimpse of that. Because at that moment, I hit the bridge.

And realized it was iced over.

The car yawed right. I tried to steer into the skid gently, but the car snapped back left.

Oh crap, I thought.

But either I corrected it enough, or the stability control saved my ass, or whatever, but I made it across the bridge with only a couple of pants-crapping yaws.

Okay. Yeah. Got it. I thought. Slow down. Check bridges, watch the road. You have plenty of time to get to Corpus, and you are headed south. It should get better.

And that’s how I went for the next couple of hours. Oddly, no other bridges were iced over, and the road stayed dry. So I poked along under the 80MPH speed limit, just taking it easy, and as the miles rolled by, I began to relax a bit.

That was the worst of it, I told myself. It’ll be fine from now on.

The only nagging detail: the temperature stayed below freezing. In fact, it dropped. 28…27…26…25…24…

And that’s when it started raining.

Ah hell, I thought, when the drops started hitting. This better stop soon, or I know how this ends.


This is How It Ends (First Edition)

As if sensing my thoughts, the rain came down harder and turned to what Wunderground calls “wintry mix,” which apparently is rain, freezing rain, and hail.

But for a while, things were still OK. The road got wet, but it wasn’t freezing. Maybe it had enough stored heat that I could make it through. The trucks were still barrelling along, and there were still cars on the road.

Then I came over a hill and saw it: slush.

The rain was hitting the ground and freezing into a giant road-flavored Slurpee. The trucks were grinding through it just fine, but there were a few inches of unpounded slush in the middle of their tire tracks.

My stomach flipped a loop-de-loop. I knew this. I’d seen it before. I’d done it before.

Flashback: in 2001, I brought I new Corvette back from Chicago to California in the middle of a storm like this. Maybe worse. Inches of packed slush, almost zero traction, a foot of snow on the backs of the cows huddled by the roadway. I wanted to give up and get off the interstate. Eddie (yeah, that Eddie) told me if I did that, we’d be there for days. So we kept going. And slowly, it got better. We made it through. Oh wait, did I mention that both that Corvette and the ZL1 are manual transmission cars? Yeah. Even better.

I could do one of two things:
  1. Give up and park. But then I might get hit. There were no offramps nearby. Junction (the nearest town) was 30 miles away.
  2. Keep going and see how it went. Maybe I could make it through. Or at least to Junction.
I put on the flashers, slowed down until it seemed safe, then called Lisa and told her the oh-schiit story.

“Well, it’s 35 degrees in Junction,” she told me. “You should be fine by then.”

I frowned. 30 miles away it was 24 degrees. It didn’t seem likely it would warm up that much by the time I hit Junction. But, who knew…maybe she was right. Maybe I would make it.

But the road didn’t get better, and the road stayed about the same. I poked along, and the cars and trucks got few and far between. I saw a couple of cars off the side of the road.

And, when Junction rolled around, it got a lot worse. As in, I couldn’t even maintain 15 miles an hour. I had almost no traction.

**** it, I’m done, I thought, and aimed at the offramp.

I almost didn’t have enough traction to make it up. But I did, and made it to the parking lot of an Econolodge. I found a parking space, stopped the car, and called Lisa.

“I’m done,” I told here. “Stuck in Junction. Not closing today, that’s for sure.”

“I can come get you in the Jeep,” Lisa told me.

“Or I can try an Uber to Kerrville, which is outside the Zone of Destruction,” I told her.

“No, I’ll come get you.”

Now, it’s important to know that
  1. Lisa is trained in off-road and poor condition driving, but
  2. The drive she was proposing was 4 hours out to get me, and 4 hours back
After some discussion, we decided I’d stay at the Econolodge, get a room, and wait for her to come and pick me up. Yes, right then. Yeah. She’s awesome and crazy.

So, story over, right?

Oh no.

I spent the next 4 hours bored at the Econolodge, but at least I got some work done. And the traffic appeared to be moving in both directions on the highway…it was just trucks and 4WD stuff, nothing like a stupid ZL1. That was comforting. She’d probably make it just fine.

Until I saw the traffic going east starting to slow…and stop.

By the time she got to the hotel, it was crawling.

“Will we make it back?” I asked her.

“Sure, no problem,” she said. “It’s just slow because it goes down to one lane for a while. Crazy ride out, though, semis are literally hopping over the ice on the road, can’t change lanes except when they do, I was in 4WD most of the way.”

At first, she was right. The slow-and-go dissipated after we passed a stuck semi. But then, near the 83, it stopped. Stopped dead. Google Maps said take 83 south. But that was a secondary road. Was that a good idea?

We decided to sit in traffic a bit.

Like 2 hours a bit.

During which time the only movement was from people bailing across the median. We didn’t get this at first, but as darkness came, it quickly became apparent that it really wasn’t moving and we were probably headed for a shutdown.

So Lisa whomped it across the median and picked up the 83 south.

At first, this wasn’t confidence inspiring. As in, there was 6-8 inches of slushy snow in the middle of the road, and maybe 3-4 in the tire ruts. But there were a couple of trucks in front of us, and they moving, albeit slowly.

We followed.

This time, what I was hoping to have happen back in Junction actually happened…the road cleared as we headed south and soon was totally dry. The temperature came above freezing. We were able to re-join the 10 at Kerrville and head south through San Antonio down to Corpus.

My planned arrival: 3PM, with one car.

My actual arrival: just past midnight, with my car still in Junction.


The Unexpected Middle (and Business Stuff)

To make a long story a bit shorter, the next day we were able to close the house at 9:30, pick up keys at 11, and make the business meeting with the PCB and purchasing partners at noon. Corpus Christi was cold by California standards, but not freezing; I was happy about my decision to pack it in every time I looked at Google Maps and saw that the I10 was closed down in both directions.

The business meeting, like I said, was important. If our PCB guys and our purchasing/warehousing guys were gonna set up in Corpus, that would make our lives a lot easier. And the PCB side desperately needed extra capacity, so it would be a win-win. They were in-town meeting the EDC and looking at buildings, so as long as our plans aligned, it would happen.

The summary of this is: yes, looks like they’re gonna be here with us.

Why is this a huge deal? Because partners—good partners—allow us to do more things, better, faster.

Go back and read that again.

Let me hone that point: outsourcing to partners enables a broader product line, faster and better than going it alone.

Yes. I know. Vertical integration sounds sexy. I mean, then You Control Everything and You Are Beholden to Nobody But Yourself.

But when you control everything, you need to staff for everything.
  1. Gonna do your own metal? Cool, you need NC guys. And guys to maintain the machines. And you probably still have to send it out for finishing.
  2. Gonna do your own boards? Again, you need programmers, guys to run the machines, guys to fix the machines. And you get to deal with unexpected process control “excursions.”
  3. Gonna do all your own purchasing? Congrats, you were probably already insane before COVID. Now, I don’t know how you’d manage all the sources, lead times, warehousing and kitting.
Which is why we’ve done exactly none of the first two, and very little of the third. We do some direct purchasing of some of the more custom parts, like transformers, but even that is being absorbed by our purchasing guys now.

Also, if you are Beholden to Nobody But Yourself, you:
  1. Are going to have to rely on yourself and your staff for everything, which is sometimes a great thing but many times less than ideal.
  2. Are going to miss out on learning anything from your partners.
  3. Are going to miss synergies (yes, that is a real thing, not just business-speak).
So, yeah, we are super-happy our partners are expanding, and will be locating in Corpus Christi, because we already have great relationships. They have helped us tremendously. And together, it all works much better.

(I sometimes dream of seeing if we can have an audio nexus down here…I need to talk to a few more companies…this could get interesting. Or I could be nuts.)

So yeah, in the house, business meeting done, out for beers and barbecue at Nueces Brewing…that’s the real ending, right?

Nah. Not by a long shot.


The Ending, Second Edition

Here’s the thing you missed: the cold front (polar vortex, martian hellstorm, whatever you want to call it) that stranded my car in Junction was moving south. It was Thursday the 11th when I was stranded and Friday the 12th for all the meetings. Saturday was a blur because we were running around buying stuff for the house, but by then everyone was talking about “maybe snow on Monday.”

Snow. On the gulf.

Yeah, uh-huh. Weird. Fine. That’s cool, I’d pick up the car maybe Tuesday, and that would be fine.

But I didn’t really believe it would happen. I mean, Saturday was nuts. Everyone was out. Traffic galore. Everything normal.

Sunday we went out briefly, because it was cold and rainy (like 34 degrees and rainy, which is cold to people in California). The traffic had thinned out considerably. But I didn’t think much about it, because I was working on the house.

By Sunday evening, though, a friend texted that Nextdoor said the power might go out—and stay out for a while. Yeah, we get that in California too, so again, no biggie.

Until I looked at Google Maps. Now, nearly the entire state was red. And, worse, the local highways were closed. As in closed closed. As in, the single bridge off the island was closed. That kinda sucked, because I wanted to go in to the shop on Monday morning to help Alex set up.

I texted Alex; he confirmed that yeah, we might be in for a rough ride. We’d play it by ear on the 15th.

Still, all seemed OK. Power was fine, and I went to sleep around midnight.

I woke in the middle of the night to the power coming on. So it had been out. Ah well, it was fixed, all was well.

Er…no. When I woke in the morning, the power was out. It was 13 degrees outside. The driveway was a solid sheet of ice. The Texas AES power map looked like the lights on a very overdecorated Christmas tree.

It was gonna be a long day.

So that’s where I sit now. It’s noon, the power isn’t on, we're still stuck on the island, the ZL1 is still in Junction, and we’re using the gas stove to keep the kitchen warm (yeah, I know about carbon monoxide.) But...the Jeep has an inverter. The intartubes are working.

In short, we’ll be fine.

But this is a heckuva way to arrive in Texas!
Lived in San Antonio back in 1985 when the city received 13.5 inches of some mysterious white goop. Roads closed, power out, carports collapsed – it was cowboy chaos. You'll be fine. It will pass quickly and soon Corpus will be warm and humid again. Now you, like all Texans, can talk about this storm for years to come.
 
Feb 15, 2021 at 3:46 PM Post #71,771 of 79,930

yonson

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You should get into motorcycles. I rode out of Jasper Park in a snowstorm on a DL650.

I'm a FAIR weather 2 wheeler... I love motorcycles, but ONLY on dry pavement (unless it's a dirtbike then whatever) in nice weather!

I'm now realizing that the glee of Z51 with Pirelli low profile summer tires and NC at - ooooohhhh maybe 35 for days on end - fades very quickly.

Yeah, anything under 45 and Summer tires get hard and VERY dangerous... I have the aforementioned F1 Supercar tires on my truck and even in 4WD I can break them loose at will when it's under 45 degrees even though I've run an 11 second 1/4 mile time on the same tires in the rain when it was 80 degrees (obviously in 4WD, 2WD it's a donut machine), so I just let it hibernate through the winter now.
 
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Feb 15, 2021 at 3:57 PM Post #71,773 of 79,930
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It’s not too bad, just get a sensible car and winter tires. Snowy Texas sounds almost like home.

@Jason Stoddard
Sounds like you need to get a Volvo for the winter. And maybe build yourself a sauna while you’re at it, they are great in the winter. Beer tastes better there, too.

I have a sauna in the California house (yeah, dry sauna, but whatever). I thought about getting one here...then I remembered that it's a sauna outside about 6 months out of the year.

Things are getting better: power is back on. For now.
 
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Feb 15, 2021 at 4:04 PM Post #71,775 of 79,930

Balthazar B

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I have a sauna in the California house (yeah, dry sauna, but whatever). I thought about getting one here...then I remembered that it's a sauna outside about 6 months out of the year.

Things are getting better: power is back on. For now.

Hey, count your blessings. At least you got to drive into wintery Corpus Christi on the *inside* of a vehicle!

ptafreeze.gif
 
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