When you head north to Fond du Lac from Milwaukee, it is best to take either U.S. Highway 41 or 45. Well, I was enjoying the rented Monte Carlo and rare 70-degree November day and ended up heading north on Interstate 43 toward Green Bay. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake soon enough to turn off onto State Route 60 and pick up 41 North several miles west.
This little diversion directed me through some quaint farm towns and past rather aromatic cow pastures. However, these distractions make visits to finishing shops one of the best aspects of my job. I made it to Fond du Lac only 45 minutes later than I expected.
Getting there is often not the only adventure, so are the visits. There have been visits where the person scheduled to meet with me was sick, and no one knew what to do. I've been greeted by Siberian Huskies and even a Portuguese Water Dog. At some facilities I seemed to arrive at a bad time—no product was running on the finishing line that day. Nevertheless, many were able to improvise for the camera, and it all worked out well.
I have looked through a Tomahawk, (Wisconsin), yearbook and washed my hands under a gold-plated faucet. One Rhode Island finisher was a tour guide, showing off the great summer estates of families, such as the Vanderbilt's. A Connecticut plater intrigued me with tales of the Leather Man caves near Black Rock State Park in Thomaston, not far from his shop. When I visited a powder coating shop in Falmouth, KY, the owner took me to the fanciest restaurant in town, Dairy Queen. That was a good cheeseburger.
I've sprayed paint and powder coatings. I've been covered from head to toe in lint-free suits that were three sizes too big. I've seen parts plated for the space shuttles, Patriot missiles, hip implants and airbags. I've been in labs where titrating was the most elaborate testing and sophisticated labs featuring AA units and SEM microscopes.
Of all of this, what strikes me is that these shops opened their doors to a national trade publication. They were willing to share their technology; at least as much as they could without giving away anything proprietary. What impresses me even more is that most of the owners, managers, finishing supervisors and others are friendly, and cooperative. I want to thank all of you who have helped make my job fun. Have a great 2000!