A RISING EXECUTIVE
American Honda Motor Co. Inc. product planner Scott Crail, 35, of Tustin, Calif., went into thin air in July, climbing Illimani (20,550 feet) in Bolivia's Cordillera Blanca range outside La Paz. The first three days of the climb were through two steep, very active glaciers, with car-sized blocks of ice dislodging and starting ava-lanches. From their high camp, Crail and climbing partner Derek Pakiz started their summit bid at midnight. A plod up a 30- to 50-degree slope was followed by the two climbers belaying each other up sections of nearly vertical ice laced with crevasses. Nine hours of climbing in clear, cold weather took Crail to the knife-edged summit. Crail talks of one day climbing Everest, but first it's off to Peru to climb Huascaran.
Sheldon Sandler liked nothing better than to buy his 17-year-old son, Ben, a used Saab. 'It's a big thing for us,' said Sandler, founder of Bel Air Partners, a Princeton, N.J., investment firm that serves car dealers. 'It's a family tradition. My father's first car was a Saab, my brother's first car was a Saab, my first car was a Saab, and I wanted my son's first car to be a Saab.' Sandler, 54, who said he likes Saabs because they are unconventional, bought his son a 1993 Saab 900 for $8,000. Although he now drives a Lexus, Sandler's not a convert: 'I am more comfortable driving my son's car.'
FOREVER A LA CARTE
Scott Smith, 31, president of Sonic Automotive Inc. in Char-lotte, N.C., surprised his fiancee with an engagement ring at a dinner she had arranged. Although Tiffany Baxley, 25, made the reservations, she thought it was a startling coincidence that the restaurant was decorated with her favorite flowers. Baxley still was unsuspecting when a photographer took pictures claiming the photos would be used to promote the restaurant. When she saw a gift box at the table, Baxley thought it might be for Smith. Even when she opened it, she almost missed seeing the ring, which was surrounded by flowers. Baxley was almost too stunned to say 'yes,' as Smith got down on his knee to propose. But she tearfully agreed to marriage and, after a celebration with family, the couple left the restaurant in a horse-drawn carriage.
Ford advanced technology vice president Neil Ressler, 59, has driven just about every Mustang - except the kind that helped win World War II. Flying in a vintage P-51 Mustang has long been a dream of Ressler, who built gas-powered models of the famous fighter plane as a kid. 'I used to ride a bus 10 miles to a nearby airport just to stand by a fence and watch them take off and land,' he said. This year he was invited to take the jump seat of a P-51D belonging to NASCAR team owner and longtime Ford associate Jack Roush. Piloting the craft was Col. Bud Anderson, a triple ace from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and former wing man of Chuck Yeager. Recalled Ressler: 'As we put on our parachutes, I mentioned to Bud, who spent his whole life flying high-performance fighters, that I had never jumped out of an airplane. He looked up and said, 'Neither have I.''
IN THE MOTHERLAND
A new recipe for fun: Take a long trip, much of it in a small car, with your mother-in-law. Really, it was fun, insists Barbara Nocera, 43, Washington-based director of government and industry affairs for Mazda North American Operations. 'She's fine. Very flexible,' said Nocera of husband William's mother, Theresa. For 10 days in August the threesome traveled the roads of England, Wales and Ireland in a rented Vauxhall Vectra, seeking in part to trace the Irish roots of the former Theresa Kearney. They didn't locate long-lost relatives, but they did soak up some cultural atmosphere. Said Nocera: 'She certainly got the feel in the pubs and all, where they played music she had heard as a child.'
JUMPING AT THE CHANCE
Having your parachute fail once is enough to take the fun out of skydiving. But having it happen twice in the same month? Bob McDevitt, 53, had to rely on his backup chute twice this past year, but he is far from giving up the sport. McDevitt, senior vice president of auction chain ADT Automotive Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., made more than 100 airplane jumps in 1998. A couple of years ago McDevitt returned to skydiving after a 30-year hiatus. Skydiving for him is not very different from what golf is for other executives. 'If the weather's nice, I'll go down to the airport and make a jump.'
GRIN AND BEAR IT
It could have been a grisly episode, but Pete Greiner made it home safely after shooting two bears on a hunting trip to Admiralty Island, Alaska. Greiner, 49, president of Greiner Ford in Casper, Wyo., got a silver medal from the Safari Club International for killing a huge grizzly. He had to track the grizzly in stocking feet to avoid alerting his quarry. But the black bear he also shot proved more dangerous prey. He killed and finished cleaning the black bear, but then he had to wait an hour for his hunting guide to bring a boat to fetch the hide. Alone in the dark with a mound of fresh meat, Greiner could hear wolves growling nearby. Said Greiner: 'In the dark, you can never have enough ammunition.'
NOT SELLING THE FARM
Mitsuru Sato, 55, had retired as head of Volkswagen Group Japan and embarked on a life as a gentleman farmer when he was recruited to take over as president of General Motors Japan. He had bought land and orchards near Toyohashi in central Japan, near a major port where Toyotas go out and VWs come in. He also had bought a tractor. For him, the best times of 1998 came down on the farm. He hooked an almost six-foot freshwater eel in waters on his farm and collected 33 pounds of honey from his beehives. 'It's delicious,' he said of the honey. He still has the farm.
RETIREMENT ON THE RUN
Don't expect Jerry Mittman, Ford Motor Co.'s manager of recreation and special vehicle sales for the past 12 years, to line up for a game of shuffleboard anytime soon. Mittman, who retired last month, is a runner and hiker who completed 45 races last year - including six marathons - and climbed to the peak of California's Mount Shasta (14,162 feet). Mittman, 54, made the overnight Shasta climb with his son Michael, 23, two days after they both had run a marathon in San Francisco. How does wife and mom Terry Mittman view all this extreme exertion? Said Jerry: 'She thinks we're both crazy.'
Investment bankers like to talk of the firepower they bring to a deal, but some real firepower came with the cruise Gregg Smith took in Puget Sound. His 'boat' carried twin nuclear reactors and 24 Trident missiles, each with 10 warheads. Smith, 36, managing director of the corporate finance group at Deloitte & Touche LLC in Detroit, and two of his colleagues were guests in September aboard the submarine U.S.S. Michigan. 'It was the most fantastic trip I've ever been on,' he said, 'I've been on a lot of trips with my wife and great golf trips, but this was just a great trip with the guys.' He ate dinner with the crew and later watched as the sub was put through diving trials and a simulated missile launch. After the tour, the sub's captain put Smith and his colleagues aboard a tug bound for shore. The Michigan then headed out into the Pacific.