Monday, January 4, 2010

Riding Along with the Torch Relay – Part 2

I have to admit that following the Torch with the convoy is pretty cool! I especially enjoyed waving to all the people who lined the streets to see it. It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear I could have stayed with it forever! The best part of the trip though was getting the behind the scenes look at what happens, at least with what Serge and Art deal with, in working to keep the vehicles in the convoy rolling along throughout Canada.

Wow, who is that cool girl in the GM Silverado? Imagine all the shopping bags I could fit into the back of this truck!

When Serge first greeted me, one of the things he showed me was the detailed schedule they receive every morning. I’m not exaggerating when I say detailed. It has every Torchbearer stop outlined by intersection or address, it states what time convoy mode or Torchbearer mode begins and ends, lunch breaks and pit stops are also scheduled. Majority of the time, the convoy is running exactly on time. Pretty amazing when you consider the convoy is made up of approximately 240 people and over 100 vehicles. In Ontario the convoy was travelling on average 200 km a day. In Northern Ontario and the Prairie provinces, it will be 300-400 km a day. One person is responsible for keeping the convoy on schedule. It is a huge job and I really don’t know how they manage to keep it on time every day.

Serge and the GM Silverado. I guess he looks cool too.

Serge also told me about some of the problems that have come up along the way and what they have needed to do to fix them. He said their average turnaround time to have something fixed is 5 hours! I guess that is ok if it is something minor, but for something major that seems almost impossible. But Serge and Art have become masters of the impossible. There aren’t many extra vehicles so they need to keep the ones they have moving. Serge told me one story about a vehicle needing a new door. He worked out a schedule and arranged to have a new door available in a city ahead of them. By the time they arrived everything had been done including the paint, all they had to do was take the old one off and put the new one on.

The morning was quiet for a bit and then the calls started coming. They ranged from needing to change a flat tire, radios not working and the before mentioned generator needing repairs. Serge was working on getting a generator expert to meet them at the evening dealership to help solve the problem. Serge referred to me as his “secretary” as I helped him navigate through the routes and towns. It’s a fun job, I could get used to it (read here GM-HINT, HINT).

The Silverado is kind of like a Command Centre. Serge manages the workload with 2 cell phones, a blackberry and a GPS. There are over 100 vehicles in the convoy that need maintenance, cleaning and repairs. Every night there is a designated dealership to perform any  required maintenance and repairs. Serge also has a small crew with him on the road. When someone calls in with an issue, Serge can dispatch which ever crew member is closest to help out.

I asked Serge if it ever gets tired of seeing the Relay and the convoy. His answer: never. His favourite part is seeing all the kids lined up along the route waving the signs they have made. He also said his regular job may seem boring by comparison when he gets back to it. Completely understandable, how can anything compare to an Olympic Torch Relay? He also told me he is making notes on places he wants to return to. I would like to see that list when it’s complete. Who better to recommend places to see in Canada but someone who has seen them all?

I also asked Serge about their blogging and posts on Twitter. Did Serge and Art need Twitter and blogging lessons before heading out on the Torch Relay? Serge laughed when I asked him this and admitted that yes, indeed he did require and get lessons about posting on Twitter and blogging. For people who have just been introduced to these methods, I think Art and Serge do a great job. It certainly lets us follow along with them and makes us feel like we are right there with them.

It truly was an amazing experience to be a part of it for the short time that I was. I am grateful to have had the opportunity. Serge was a great guide and gave me insight into what goes on behind the scenes. Thank you very much Serge for answering all my questions and having me ride along with you. A very special thank you to Michael Allison from The Wilcox Group for inviting me to do this and getting it set up. Hey GM, if you need an extra body on board to help out Art and Serge, well, they know where to find me!

Enjoy the rest of the ride Art and Serge!

To view photos from the day, please visit my online photo album.

Serge's Vancouver 2010 credentials.  I want one of these for my car!

The Hamburgular from McDonalds.

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