Five executives. Five passionate pastimes
President, Hawaiian Cement
When John DeLong discovered geocaching a year ago, you might say that all the coordinates matched up. The adventure game, which marries cutting-edge technology with old-fashioned treasure hunting, requires players to find a hidden "cache" in an obscure location. The only tools in this quest are a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) locator, a pair of good hiking boots and keen powers of deduction. DeLong, the president of Hawaiian Cement, is an avid hiker and an admitted gadget guy, so the attraction to the scenic and noncompetitive game was immediate.
"It's not like the ‘Amazing Race,' or anything, but it was perfect for us," says DeLong, whose wife, Cheryl, is also a dedicated hiker and joins him on geocaching expeditions. "You can get a GPS, with all the bells and whistles, for about $300. It's got a color screen and detailed maps, ideal for a guy like me."
To get started, treasure hunters visit www.geocaching.com and type in the zip code of the location they want to explore. The Web site lists all the caches in the area, providing GPS coordinates, brief descriptions, ratings of the level of difficulty and a hint (in code). The GPS locator will only take players to within 20 feet of the buried treasure, usually a metal box, which contains trinkets to take along as a souvenir. To find the treasure's exact location, cachers have to decipher the code and figure out the hint.
According to DeLong, there are more than 500 caches throughout Hawaii, with the vast majority buried on Oahu. During their 11 years in Hawaii, the couple has found approximately 25 caches, many of which dot the ridges of the Koolau mountain range. They've also geocached on Maui, as well as on the Mainland and in Asia.
"It's really easy to do, and it's a wonderful way to see parts of the Islands that we would have never seen otherwise," says DeLong. "We've been through a lava tube near the Blow Hole, and we've crossed a natural bridge on the slopes of Koko Head. The hikes can be breathtaking, but it's also nice to get a little prize at the end."
President and Executive Director, Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center
Claire Asam has a regular morning routine. Every weekday, she rises at 5 a.m., eats microwave oatmeal, stretches for 10 or 15 minutes, then watches the morning news. The last thing she does before walking out the door is play her harp.
"Harping puts me in a good mood, which is important when you're the boss and the buck stops with you. You might say that I leave home with a song in my heart," says Asam. "Playing is also a great way to release tension at the end of the day. After I get home from work and after I exercise, eat dinner and clean up, I'll play for a little bit."
A reliable routine has been essential for Asam, who climbed up the corporate ladder with her hands full: The onetime Kamehameha Schools teacher put her husband through medical school and raised two sons, while getting both her master's and Ph.D. in education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Being a working mom going to school, you have to make good use of your time," says Asam. "Having a reliable routine makes life easier. You don't think. You just do."
Asam, whose childhood friend played the harp in high school, had always had a soft spot in her heart for the stringed instrument. Every holiday season, she would tell her husband that one day she'd play "Silent Night" on the harp.
On Christmas Day, 12 years ago, Asam's husband surprised her with a harp. She began taking lessons and was soon playing "Silent Night" and a host of other musical compositions, contemporary and classical. Lately, "E Kuu Morning Dew" and Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major" are favorites that help kick start and wind down each day.
"Those piece are just so beautiful and calming. The music feeds my soul," says Asam. "You have to take care of yourself, so you can help others, give to others and be in charge of others. The harp gives me balance and enables me to do that."
President and CEO, Hawaii Pacific Health
Model Train Enthusiast
Next Stop: Beaver Creek, U.S.A., where mass transit isn't an option, it's a way of life. The idyllic Pacific Northwest town is home to 3,200 well-traveled residents, a thriving Main Street, a bustling industrial center and a rail yard with nearly 200 engines and hundreds of passenger cars.
Beaver Creek's founder and resident transportation deity is Chuck Sted, who, when he's not maintaining his tracks and locomotives, is the president and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health. Sted, who grew up in train-rich Cleveland, Ohio, has been building his railway community since he moved into his Waialae Iki home 10 years ago. (It took Sted an entire year just to lay down the tracks.) He finished Beaver Creek, whose city limits take up a vast majority of his den's 550 square feet, a couple of years ago.
Beaver Creek's fine details are mind-boggling. In addition to intricate landscapes and city scenes, the town boasts some unexpected surprises, such as a film crew shooting a train documentary, a wholesome farmers' market and a somber crime scene. The town is also overrun by "rail freaks," visiting tourists wandering the countryside.
But as captivating as the miniature town is, Beaver Creek's most valuable resource is its collection of trains, which all hail from the 1940s, '50s and '60s—the golden era of railroading.
"Ninety-five percent of my time is spent on the models. My primary interest is in passenger trains and these colorful paint jobs," says Sted. "I'll just get involved in a particular model and get lost in it for hours and hours."
Sted dismantles every model he buys. Before reassembling them, he often adds precise new paint jobs, decals and additional items, such as new roofs and seats. The work can take up to three months per car.
Sted is content with life in Beaver Creek, but he's not ruling out a little sustainable growth or even relocation. "I keep on kidding my wife that when I retire we're going to move to a different house with a bigger train room, where I'll start over again," says Sted. "She doesn't think that's too funny."
General Manager, Sports Authority, Honolulu
Ben Arita has a hero complex—and it's pretty complex. The Sports Authority general manager owns a collection of more than 1,000 comic-book figurines, an action-packed army of superheroes and super villains. But his collectibles don't sit on a dusty shelf in their boxes or behind glass. Arita puts his characters to work in a game called HeroClix.
The board game, which burst into living rooms and hobby shops about five years ago, is a colorful combination of chess, Stratego and comic books: Players assemble a force of superheroes and super villains, each of whom are given numbered ratings of their ability to attack, defend and move great distances or at significant speed. The ratings are noted on a rotating wheel on the bottom of each figurine. When two opposing characters meet, a player rolls a pair of dice and the balance between each character's ratings and the number on the dice is clicked off the figure being attacked. The player with the last hero or villain standing is the winner.
Generally, the more popular the character, the stronger he or she is. For instance, Superman has a superhuman point value of 265, while Catwoman, whose 2004 movie flopped, is a real pussycat at 50 points. Most of the figurines cost in the neighborhood of $1 or $2, but Arita has paid as much as $150 for Galactus (an apocalyptic, 1,500 points) to as little as $.25 for Captain Cold (a lukewarm 40 points).
"I used to be a completist. I wanted whatever came out, but now I just go after what I like," says Arita. "I know guys who get two of everything, one to play with, one to collect. But it's no fun, if you don't play with them."
Managing Partner, the Shidler Group
Larry Taff's mother doesn't know where she went wrong. Her son had always been such a good boy: compliant, respectful and a good student. One day, he was a mild-mannered accountant and the next thing she knew, he was a speed demon.
"I had never ridden, because, like a lot of us, my mother never let me. I always thought it was too dangerous," says Taff. "I was a little bit of a daredevil growing up, so maybe that's why my mom tried to steer me clear of bikes, which was probably a good thing."
Taff bought his first bike eight years ago, after a friend convinced him that the Porsche he was contemplating buying would never give him the rush of a motorcycle, just about any motorcycle. But Taff, the responsible accountant (and son) that he is, didn't just walk into a shop and buy any bike that struck his fancy. He did his research, taking all the necessary preparation classes and bought all the available safety equipment. He also chose his first bike carefully: The Honda Magna 750, a cruiser bike with a sporty engine, wasn't too expensive or too fast. But less than a year later, Taff took his first ride on a sport bike and the Magna was left in the dust.
Taff and his bikes got faster and faster. Three years after his first ride, Taff was taking the turns at Hawaii Raceway Park at 155 mph (sorry, mom). Taff even opened his own motorcycle repair shop, Superbikes Hawaii, to meet the needs of discriminating riders and racers like himself. Today, his track racing bike is out of commission, like the race track, but Taff still has five other motorcycles in his garage: a BMW R1100 GS, a Harley Davidson Road King, a Harley Davidson Street Rod, a Honda Rune and an Aprilia Tuono R.
"I was up to 11 bikes at one point. I would find something really interesting and buy it and ride it for awhile," says Taff. "I've kind of evolved to bikes that are interesting looking and fun to ride. But I'm still hoping that we will eventually get another race track."
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