The Flywheel

Program for March 2nd, 2007

District Governor Candy Pierce

Ms. Pierce has shown herself to be not only dynamic and inspiring— qualities we've come to expect in a District Governor— but also downright funny and entertaining. Hope to see you there.



Meeting of February 23rd, 2007

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Prez. George Egan rang the bell, called the meeting to order, and asked for a moment of silence for world peace. Leigh Johnson led the pledge of allegiance. Prez-in-waiting Pam Jones had not one but two thoughts for the day. She first reminded us that “Everyone brings joy to the world, some by arriving, and others by leaving.” The second, equally pithy and profound thought was a particularly low blow for some but it went like this, “If it weren’t for lawyers, we wouldn’t need them.”

Visiting Rotarians

Ed Marshall was visiting from the Alameda Club and Paul Sato from the San Pablo Club.


  • John Nicol reported that Elof Granberg has arrived home following his hospital stay. While he’s getting along, John said Elof would really appreciate phone calls from fellow Rotarians. (Jon Lawlis said he’d once again send out expanded roster info with phone numbers.)
  • Prez. George asked everyone to bring back the blue piggy banks full of coinage!
  • March 15 will be a joint Thursday meeting with El Cerrito Rotary. No meeting on March 16.


Jim Beaver presided over recognitions and happy/sad dollars.

  • Rich Brandes was recognized for a “double” in Feb (birthday and anniversary). His wife, Lisa, also had a Feb B-Day but it’s connected to a different, more recent decade, as Jim Young quickly reminded everyone. Rich didn’t seem too troubled by jet lag, having just returned from anniversary travels to the no-worries(?!) Middle East destination of Amman, Jordan.
  • Don Lau enjoyed local Chinese cuisine at a dinner out with wife Shelly on an 18th wedding anniversary that was nicely aligned with Feb 18.

Happy and Sad Dollars

Everyone’s dollars proved to be happy ones.

  • David Brown, getting ready to leave for R&R in Puerto Vallarta. (Didn’t he say something about maybe writing off the trip as part of setting up a Richmond Rotary Club branch down there?!)
  • Nick Despota, for a similarly clever follow-on to Pam’s quip about lawyers. Nick’s quote from Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather: “If the brain were simple enough to understand, we’d be too simple to understand it.”
  • Margaret Morkowski, for happily approaching her second anniversary in Richmond Rotary.
  • Werner Schwarz, to mark this day 102 years ago when Paul Harris founded Rotary International.
  • Glenn Daggs, for his daughter being a finalist in a school district spelling bee.
  • Hank Covell, for having met the love of his life, Doreen, some 55 years ago at the Richmond library.
  • Tom Butt, making note of a good week for historic preservation in Richmond. The old Maritime Child-Care Center received the final City of Richmond restoration funding piece and there was news that the Mechanics Bank will be moving into the Pt. Richmond Gateway Project building.
  • Jon Lawlis, for his graceful and efficient delivery of the money-collection basket to the adjacent table.

Raffle Results

Tom Butt won the whole enchilada, having his ticket drawn and then skillfully grabbing the colored ball.

The Program

A Trek to the Mt. Everest Base Camp

Don Hardison introduced speaker Leigh Robinson, a 66-year young local guy who took a trip to Mt. Everest with a couple of friends. To climb to the top? Nah, just to the Everest Base Camp at a mere 17,500 feet above sea level.

Leigh’s a diversified fellow: former English teacher at Richmond High School, a writer and a publisher, an opera buff, an entrepreneur, and he also owns his own airplane.

Leigh shared thoughts about why he decided to climb Everest mountain and it wasn’t just because it was there. With his wife having worked for Pan Am, he’s always been an earnest traveler. Then a series of factors combined to make the trip to Nepal unavoidable: compelling reading (“1000 Places To See Before You Die” and “Into Thin Air”), curiosity, the challenge, the learning experience, the scenery, incredible photo ops, and the personal reward.

Some interesting tidbits and tales from the trip are included in the following. Leigh and his friends

  • Planned meticulously, from trip length (3.5 weeks, beginning at the end of March, 2006) to trip guide (Santash, a $50-per-person-per-day friend of a friend who comes highly recommended).
  • Stocked up on “diamox”, an altitude-coping medication with side effects that help deplete the ample rolls of TP carried in back-packs.
  • Took an all-earth-capable Motorola satellite phone rented from for a cost of only $30 per week and less than $2 per minute of talk time.
  • Spent a couple of nights in the famous Nepalese Kathmandu Guest House, where the Beatles once stayed (room rates from $2 to $55 per night).
  • Flew from Kathmandu on Yeti airlines to Lukla, the airport with the world’s highest and shortest runway (and a scary slope to the edge of a cliff).
  • Realized that nothing moves on wheels from Lukla onward to the mountain. Everything is carried, whether by yak-hybrids or humans with loads up to 150 pounds each.
  • Hiked upward 8 hours per day after sleeping at night on cots in unheated lodges built along the trail (no tents, which are too expensive to be carried). A hot shower with water heated by stoves fueled by dried yak dung could be had for $5. Popcorn was available for free.
  • Briefly contemplated the $70,000 permit needed to go beyond Base Camp to the Summit. The permit buys you a time slot and the entitlement for up to 10 people to go to the top. Sherpas not included.
  • Climbed a few hundred feet above Base Camp, a desolate rock quarry, to Kala Patthai at an altitude of 18, 200 feet, still more than 10,000 feet below the Summit, which stands at 29.035 feet!

Leigh told us of a traditional greeting exchanged by travelers passing on the trail leading up the mountain: “Namaste”, which means “The divine light within me honors and salutes the divine light within you, and in this light we are one.” What a contrast to the flash of passerby middle fingers that often accompanies one’s travels on the highways of the bay area.


- Rotating Editor/Scribe: Tom Waller