SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA EPIPHANY ROAD Gary Erickson Berkeley, California Founder, Owner, and CEO Clif Bar California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo GARY ERICKSON'S OPEN ROAD MAP "Cruises through college" at California Polytech and gets a business degree. Works as a mountain guide; travels the world for a year. Returns home to help launch a bike seat factory; manages it for ten years. Begins bike racing professionally; sells Greek pastries on the side. Takes his "epiphany ride": a 175-mile one-day bike ride during which, after five not-so-delicious Power Bars, he decides to make a tasty alternative. Founds Clif Bar within the year. I can't eat another Power Bar. I can make something better than this. Gary Erickson didn't just graduate from college and say "Gee, I think I'll start a health bar company." Like many of the people we talked to on our roadtrip, Gary's current place in life is not the result of some grand plan he put in place after college. Instead, it's an unexpected culmination of experiences and hobbies that each reflected his interests at a particular time in his life. One decision eventually opened doors to other opportunities, and then more choices. Gary was the first interview we did on the roadtrip, and he told us his story from the passenger seat of the RV. He had a shaved head and wore running shoes, black pants, and a black golf shirt with a white striped collar. "The only thing black and white about my life is my shirt," he said. That's an apt summary of his road because Gary is definitely comfortable living in the gray zone. I cruised through college not knowing what I was going to do. I was a business major because I always had entrepreneurial ideas, and I thought I'd open up a ski shop or something. But halfway through school I changed my mind and didn't think business was something I'd do after graduation. For a while my life was about music. I played the trumpet, I was into jazz and thought about being in a band. It looked great, but then I realized that I didn't want to be on the road playing every night, traveling all over the place. When I graduated from college I worked as a mountain guide and spent a few years taking kids hiking and sleeping outdoors, climbing big walls in the valley or wherever I could go. For a while climbing was my thing. Then I traveled around the world for a year and my parents were pretty cool about it. They gave me a few hundred bucks and said, "Have a great time," which surprised me because they're pretty conservative. I got a backpack and took off to Europe, the Middle East, and India. It was a $10-a-day thing back then, one of those change-your-life-forever kind of trips. Seeing how the rest of the world lived changed my worldview. When I got home I was kind of down. I wondered, "Now what do I do?" The trip taught me that nobody has "the answer." There's no roadmap. I had grown up in suburbia with Evangelical parents, and things seemed pretty black and white. But when I came back to the United States, I realized that there is no black and white. There is a huge gray area, and I was fine with living in the gray. I went to work for my brother at a foundry he owned that made high-tech metal parts and cool aluminum castings. He had just sold part of his company to another company that made bicycle accessories, and they asked him to open a bike seat factory from the ground up. He asked me if I wanted to come along to sweep the floors or do whatever. I did that for about eight months, until my brother went back to the foundry and I became the plant manager. I designed bike seats for ten years. Eventually we moved the production to Italy, which was really cool because IGeghard, Nathan is the author of 'Roadtrip Nation Find Your Path in Life', published 2006 under ISBN 9780345496386 and ISBN 0345496388.