I spent the back half of June in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. This was the first trip I’ve taken since moving to Colorado a year ago in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Although the trip was for business, my family managed to join for part of it and the change of scenery was beneficial for all of us.
We drove up on a Wednesday evening to give our 3yo a chance to fall asleep in the car and just transfer into our hotel. The Basalt Mountain Inn, where we stayed, turned out to be more of a motel – pretty bare bones but just fine for our purposes. It was walking distance from everything in Basalt – including the RMI office – so we were very glad for the location, location, location.
Thursday morning we woke up and had breakfast at Two Rivers Cafe – the only place in Basalt open before 8:00! I was initially very excited about the menu, which featured lots of Southwestern fare – eggs with enchiladas, tamales, etc. – but none of it was very spicy at all. That’s all right, though; it was good diner food and available when we needed it!
After breakfast, I met up with the Third Derivative team and we kicked off our two-day strategy retreat with a hike above the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley. It was amazing to meet in person people I had hired, led, and collaborated with virtually for more than a year. We are enormously privileged to have access to vaccines and we took full advantage.
After our hike, we settled into RMI’s headquarters and innovation center in Basalt. The building itself is amazing and it had been set up for extra airflow plus lots of event space outside to minimize risk of any COVID transmission. We were well catered, including a little sign advising RMI staff who were not part of our event that the food was for us – it felt very much like my IMD MBA experience except that now I was in the group for which the food was meant, not the mooch coming to clean up afterward!
We spent the afternoon talking strategy, sharing out the results of the integrated strategic planning we had done over the prior two months, and soliciting further feedback/refinement from the entire team. Then it was time to kick back with dinner and drinks on the patio right along the Frying Pan River at the Tipsy Trout. It was wonderful social time with people I had been craving time with since we launched Third Derivative!
Toward the end, Katie came out so I split off from the group and Katie and I got a little date night for the first time in . . . ever? That’s how it felt!
On Friday I returned to the RMI office for a day of team exercises, working together to define how we would execute on our grand ambitions. After we wrapped up, we went to take a tour of Amory Lovins‘s groundbreaking energy efficient house in Snowmass, which was an inspiring experience.
While most of the Third Derivative team went to Aspen and Carbondale for dinner, I helped Katie put our 3yo down to bed. By the time they were asleep I couldn’t pin down the team so . . . Katie and I had our second date night in a row! We had a lovely outdoor dinner at Cafe Bernard (The elk tenderloin was wonderful!) and turned in early.
Saturday most of the Third Derivative team returned home so Katie, our 3yo, and my mom went to explore Aspen. We hiked Hunter Creek Trail and then walked around the town center, frequented the farmer’s market, and grabbed brunch with the remaining Third Derivative team members.
Honestly I didn’t love Aspen. It seemed pretty superficial and didn’t seem to offer a whole lot I couldn’t get in any number of other Colorado mountain towns. I was only there for a few hours, though, and not during the winter so maybe my opinion will change in future.
Saturday evening we had an early goodbye dinner for the last of the Third Derivative team and then . . . Katie and I had a third date night!
Sunday was technically Fathers Day but for me it was a working day. My family returned home in the morning and I spent the day preparing for the intense week ahead. I didn’t mind at all, though; for me, every day is Fathers Day!
Monday we held Third Derivative’s Board meeting, at which we aligned on the strategic and operating plan. We’re looking to more than double our activity over the next year so the Board pushed us a bit on our execution risk. At the end of the day, though, we all agreed to pursue an ambitious path – after all, it’s what the climate needs.
I spent most of Tuesday prepping for RMI’s leadership strategy retreat. In classic Bryan fashion, all of my materials came in right at the deadline. It’s a good thing they did too, because, by Tuesday afternoon, colleagues were arriving from all corners of the world. Just as with the Third Derivative team, it was amazing to see them and spend time with them in person. This was capped off by happy hour at a colleague’s place in Carbondale and dinner nearby at Phat Thai.
Wednesday we held RMI program reviews, meaning every program – including Third Derivative – shared out our strategic self assessment and received feedback from all of the other program leads. This was exhausting but also incredibly useful; I learned more about what else is happening at RMI in that one day than I had learned in my prior 15 months. We wrapped up with dinner at Tempranillo and all crashed pretty early to secure adequate recovery before the next day.
Thursday we worked in breakout groups to ideate ways that all of RMI’s programs might better collaborate together. Right now we are relatively silo’ed but there is an opportunity for the RMI whole to be greater than the sum of its parts if we can better coordinate between/among us. I think the content of these sessions was productive but the best part was spending time with these smart, motivated, diverse colleagues for the first time. We wrapped up with a “social” dinner where all we talked about was work at Free Range.
Because my family had already returned home with our car, I had no ride back to Boulder so I decided to test out Colorado’s mass transit. Friday morning I took the VelociRFTA bus from Basalt to Glenwood Springs. There I picked up the Bustang to Denver Union Station. Brant, Third Derivative’s dynamic COO, lives at Union Station so I grabbed lunch with him before taking a Lyft to my house in Boulder. It was quite an odyssey!
Later Friday evening I bumped into one of my RMI colleagues – with whom I had just spent two full days in Basalt – at our mailboxes. It turns out that he has been my nextdoor neighbor the entire time we have lived here and I never knew! #onlyduringcovid could we be on weekly Zoom calls together and never notice that we were physically only a few meters a part!
It was an exhausting, energizing, exhilarating trip to Basalt and I am so grateful for the privilege to have been able to meet safely in person. I’m a technologist and tech tools make it easier than ever to collaborate virtually – but, as the saying goes, ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby!