Always Make Time for Play
Adventurer RON STONE created an extraordinary plan for his life stayed faithful to his aspirations, and fulfilled his dreams.
This self-described regular guy has taken his adventuring lifestyle to all corners of the globe, headed up a Fortune 500 company, and maintained vital friendships lasting more than five decades.
In this memoir, Ron recounts many of his favorite (and not so favorite) adventures, while sharing the wild beauty of our planet in vivid detail.
Narrated with humor and unexpected candor, ALWAYS MAKE TIME FOR PLAY is entertaining, engaging, and filled with insightful observations. Enjoy this colorful story of an ordinary guy who has created an extraordinary life.
Excerpt from: Always Make Time for Play
Working with Ron Stone (and his son, Brian) to craft this memoir has been my pleasure. Ron’s dedication to his lifetime vision is unparalleled and incredibly inspiring. In this excerpt, Ron gives an overview of that vision, summarizes how it worked out for him, and shares one of his more colorful big fish stories. Please enjoy this selection from ALWAYS MAKE TIME FOR PLAY.
Dreams, Goals, and Plans
So, work has been a great thing for me, keeping me occupied for decades. It should be clear by now that although I like to be busy, I don’t care to waste my time; in all of my work life, I’ve had dreams, goals, and plans. Contrary to popular opinion, those three are not interchangeable. When I was very young, I dreamed about living by the beach. I loved everything about the ocean, and I instinctively knew this was where I belonged.
Obviously, as a child, I did not have the means to make that wish come true, so it remained a dream for many years. I spent a lot of time at the shore and observed that the people there were wealthy. That planted a seed in my brain, and the knowledge that I would need to acquire significant resources began growing. It wasn’t long before I was seeking out occasions to make money. Activities like collecting bottles and selling my catch in Venice made me aware that opportunities were everywhere; I just needed to notice and act on them.
As I noted earlier, that’s how I ended up in the army. For a kid who wanted to go to college (goal), the service was a sweet deal. I gave them six months of my time (which, at seventeen, was the blink of an eye) plus one weekend a month for a few years, and in return, I received the opportunity for a good education (plan). In my mind, that was a pretty fair exchange. I needed to make money while attending college (goal), but instead of sweating it out working construction or waiting tables like my peers, I leveraged my connections and abilities and started the school bus service and au pair services (plan). Not only were those easy and enjoyable, but they came with many great perks. First, I was paid handsomely because I was catering strictly to wealthy clients. Second, when the child-care aspect took up too much time, I was able to cut my girlfriend in on the deal. And third, due to the nature of our relationship with the clients, Lori and I had a lot of fun weekends at the beach, in the desert, and on the ski slopes. Neither of us had the means to travel like that on our own, and it showed us what was possible for our future if we wanted it.
Retirement – A Vision Fulfilled
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, so after three decades with the same company, I prepared to transition into retirement. On the one hand, I was beyond excited—I had been dreaming about and planning for this moment my entire working life, and I was on the cusp of achieving the biggest goal I had set for myself: to purposefully spend the rest of my days doing only what I loved.
On the other hand, there was some trepidation. I knew that I would never wake up in the morning wondering what to do with myself because I had plenty of interests to pursue. But I anticipated that giving up my weekday routine might initially be disorienting. And what was I going to do with all those business suits?
It was interesting to observe the various reactions to my retirement announcement. The usual response was, “But you’re so young!” I found that amusing. Where is it written that a man must labor until his body and mind become decrepit, then stumble into retirement with the desperate hope of maintaining relatively decent health until his inevitable demise? That was never my plan!
The Know-it-All Professor
I’m going to relate one more maritime incident, and then I’ll transition to more terrestrial matters. This was one of the more unusual encounters in my long adventuring career. Brian and I were fishing in Mexican waters with my friend Ed Seidlinger on his Radovcich. We were about 120 miles south of the border, and we’d spent a restful night in a protected bay. When morning arrived, we were eager to get out into open water where the yellowfin tuna roam. The first disaster of the day occurred when one of the engines refused to start. Fortunately, Ed was running on Caterpillar 3208s, which are pretty basic workhorse engines without a lot of electronics. I was able to trace the circuit and discovered fairly quickly that the starter solenoid was not engaging because a connector had broken. That was a quick fix, and we were on our way.
The second disaster appeared in human form. He was a professor at UC San Diego and Ed’s neighbor, excited about the prospect of deep-sea fishing. He seemed nice enough, but he had no aptitude for fishing and very little experience with boating. I should have known that he would be trouble when he dropped one of Ed’s very expensive fishing outfits into the ocean and didn’t have the presence of mind to retrieve it before it sunk into the depths.
We arrived in the tuna zone and began assembling our gear. I don’t remember who saw it first, but someone spotted a large, red duffle bag floating nearby. There’s nothing unusual about finding objects floating in the ocean. We spot stuff all the time—plastic mostly, but occasionally shoes, stray marine floats, gas cans—that sort of thing. What made this object unusual was that it was brand new. Most of the stuff we find is weathered and has clearly been in the water for a long while. This duffle bag was bright red, and the entire length of the zipper was sealed with duct tape. My Spidey senses were tingling as my brain started compiling data. This duffle bag was new. It was waterproofed with duct tape. It was bright red — making it easy to spot in a vast blue ocean. We were miles offshore in Mexican waters. The powerful Mexican drug cartels were known to have full run of this area. My intuition screamed that this bag had been dumped intentionally and that it was not in our best interest to disturb it.
But no! Not content to leave well enough alone, the professor insisted that we haul it aboard and open it. Just as I suspected, the heavy duffle was filled with tightly plastic-wrapped bricks of marijuana. I don’t know how much was there, but it was a lot, and I’m sure the street value was several hundred thousand dollars.
Again, my survival instinct kicked in, and I suggested we zip up the bag, replace the tape, and toss it back into the deep. Someone would be looking for this cargo, and I had no doubt they would think nothing of dispatching our entire crew to protect their criminal interests. This was a no-brainer.
Disaster number three then occurred—the professor demanded that we retain the bag and turn in the drugs to the proper authorities. No amount of logic or reason would sway his opinion. I pointed out that we couldn’t get on the radio and announce our find to the Coast Guard because whoever was expecting that shipment would be monitoring all radio channels, and they would certainly target us, as we would be required to identify our boat and reveal our approximate position. And since we were American citizens in Mexican waters, who exactly were the proper authorities? It was no secret that a large contingent of Mexican law enforcement was either on the take or complicit with the cartels. We had no way of determining the good guys from the bad guys. The only other choice was to keep silent about what we’d found and head for the border, hoping not to be intercepted by the cartel couriers.
Poor Ed. As the boat owner and captain of the ship, it was his call. No matter what decision he made, someone was going to be unhappy. The professor and I were each passionate about our stance, and Ed understood both sides. In the end, he decided that we should do right by humanity and turn in the illegal stash. But he agreed with me that there was no sense in putting a target on our backs, so we stayed off the radio. For the next eight hours, we sweated every boat we encountered on our way back to San Diego. Although we didn’t look like international drug dealers, I was still concerned about how we would convincingly explain the excessive quantity of weed on board if we were stopped by the Coast Guard.
Once we had safely crossed into US waters, we radioed the Coast Guard that we were coming in with a suspicious package we had found in the water. We reached the customs dock around 6:00 pm, and we were met there by a San Diego County sheriff. He ordered us to remain on the boat until the customs officials arrived with a drug-sniffing dog. It took the dog all of thirty seconds to locate the duffle bag and alert his handler. From that point, we were questioned extensively about our trip, how we had come to find the bag, and whether or not we had looked inside. The boat was thoroughly searched, our permits were vetted, and our cameras were confiscated. We were finally released around 1:00 am after seven grueling hours of investigation.
The moral of the story: if I see anything suspicious floating in the ocean, I leave it alone. I could be passing up a fortune in treasure, but I will leave it for the next man. Instead, I prefer to live to see the next sunrise.