Monday, March 16, 2015

Dreams Come True - Visiting White's Electronics

You all know by now how dedicated I am to White's Electronics and their great metal detecting products.  

Recently I was blessed with an opportunity of a lifetime.  I was invited to the White's factory in Sweet Home, Oregon to be part of the new White's Electronics Focus Team.  You may be wondering what that means, and to be honest, I'm not really sure.  I still can't believe it happened to me.  The one thing I do know is that I met some down to earth, really good people on this trip, between the White's Staff and my new team members.

Our adventure began in New Jersey of all places, at the home of Ed Cropski.  Since we had an early flight and he lives close to the airport, he and his wife  graciously offered for me to crash at their house for the night.  Ed and I have been facebook friends for years now, but we've never actually met.  It was so great to meet him and finally shake his hand.

I consider Ed a master of lost/recovery metal detecting services.  He is a part of NJ Lost Ring Finders and has helped so many people get their sentimental or valuable items back.  He has probably helped quite a few husbands out of the doghouse for losing their wedding bands, too.  He's also one heckofa colonial field hunter.  See some of Ed's videos here.

As soon as we met, it seemed like we'd known each other forever.  It's always so awesome to meet a like minded fellow detectorist, and even better to see their collection.  Before long, it was time to head down to Ed's man cave to see his.  As soon as I walked in, I felt right at home.  I've seen most of Ed's finds through facebook pictures, but until you hold that piece of history in your hand, it doesn't really come alive.

We talked for a few hours and they seemed to pass before we knew it.  But we had to get some sleep.  Not only did we have to leave for the airport at 5 am, it was daylight savings and we were going to lose an hour!

We were off to the airport bright and early.  It was a good 5-hour flight to Salt Lake City.  When we arrived in Salt Lake City, we were supposed to have a layover for an hour and a half.  So I tried to order a slice of pizza.  Well, it didn't come by the slice, they only had personal sized pizzas.  So I ordered a personal sized pizza - for $12.  And as soon as I sat down to eat it, they started boarding our plane.  Lesson learned - LOL!  


And just like that, we were off to Oregon.  Destination:  Sweet Home.

Ed and I knew that another team member was going to be on our flight from Utah to Oregon, but neither of us knew him personally.  Due to the wonderful world of modern technology, we could see on facebook that he had checked in.  But it looked like he was at the wrong terminal!  We scrambled to contact him before we boarded to make sure he found our gate. Right before we had to turn off our phones, I got a message that he was on the plane, on our flight.  As I was craning my head to look at the seat and aisle numbers, I made eye contact with a guy who was also looking at his phone and for someone.  It was Bob!  And he was two seats behind me.

This was my first time meeting Bob Buttafuso and I was honored.  I yelled out, "BOB!  IT'S NICE TO MEET YOU!"  We laughed (and so did some of the passengers near us) but we didn't have time to chat because it was time for take off.

Bob Buttafuso is a legend.  He's been a White's dealer for 40 years and a service center for 30.  He's a Civil War relic hunter.  He helped to develop both the blue & gray and the MXT detectors.  He introduced and recommended the current TDI models and recommended that White's develop a pinpointer, resulting in the current TRX.  He's been in White's videos, written books and a software program, and was on tv.  He's a legend.  And as I got to know him, I found that he's one of the nicest guys around.  He's an expert, yet he was gracious enough to ID some of my finds.  And yes, it was definitely awesome to be able to share pictures of my finds and talk metal detecting with someone I respect as much as Bob.

After we landed, Ed and I were excited to meet the rest of the team.  Someone at White's did a great job coordinating all of the travel plans, because everyone arrived within 20 minutes, all from different flights.  


To top it off, not only did we get to travel to White's, but the White's man himself -- Steve Howard -- met us at the airport!


This was the really fun part, getting to meet so many familiar faces after talking to them online for so long.

I was really excited to meet Dave Wise and Todd Hiltz.  These are two of the best colonial cellar hole hunters I know.  They've found stuff that most of us can only dream of ever finding.  They're also two of the most humble people you'll ever meet.  They have an obvious love and passion for history, which you can see for yourself in their videos.  Here's a nice video of Dave in action.

The last two team members to arrive were Dominique DaSilva and Mark Durant - aka "The Silverslingers."  They're somewhat new to the hobby, but have jumped in head first and taken the detecting world by storm.  I wasn't sure what to expect when meeting them just from watching their videos, but it didn't take long to see their love for the hobby is genuine and we formed an instant bond.  Dominique & Mark have found some great relics in the short time since they started, finding things some 30-year detectorists have never found.  This is one of their latest videos.

After the team had all assembled, we loaded up our luggage and headed to Sweet Home, which was about 200 miles away.

On the way, we saw Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helen's -- beautiful sights I've never had the opportunity to see before.  Steve Howard was nice enough to fill us in on local history and some neat facts.  For example, most of the grass seed for the world comes from Oregon.  He also mentioned that it's hard to find a coin from the 1800's out there.  Right away I knew Carissa had nothing to worry about; there was no way I could ever move out there!

On this two hour ride to Sweet Home, I think things really started to set in for me.  Never in a million years did I think I'd be riding in a rental van in Oregon with Steve Howard, Dave Wise, and Todd Hiltz.


We stopped for dinner and had a great meal (I had a steak and coconut shrimp.) Over dinner, we shared excellent conversation.  


After dinner, we took a trip to Wal-Mart, en route to our motel.  


After we checked in, we hung out on the balcony and talked metal detecting.  None of us could believe we were there.  Well, except for Bob.  He's been there a hundred times.

Sweet Home's population is about 9,000 and if you can imagine, there wasn't much going on.  We pretty much had the motel to ourselves.  As we were hanging out talking, a car pulled into the parking lot near our rooms.  Melissa Wise (White's Project Manager) had arrived with the last member of our team, Jeff Williams.

Jeff Williams was brought in as the only serious gold prospector on the team.  He's a YouTube sensation.  You can find him at www.askjeffwilliams.com 

I'll be honest with you, Jeff sure is a character.  He truly has a passion for gold and what he does.  His high energy and superior knowledge always makes for interesting conversation.  He's willing to share his knowledge and is a great resource for anyone interested in gold prospecting.

So now that the whole team had arrived, including Jeff, it was time to turn in for the night.  But even though I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep!  There was so much running through my mind... I couldn't believe I was actually going to the White's factory in the morning.

After just a few hours of sleep, I was wide awake with excitement.  We all met outside to head out for breakfast.  Bob had been raving about this breakfast since we landed.


He wasn't kidding.  This place was great and the portions were massive. 

Having this many passionate diggers around one table was amazing and it seemed like we could talk forever, but after breakfast it was time to go to the factory!


This was it!  I was actually going to the White's factory.  I had no idea what to expect, but I felt a little bit like Charlie going to the Chocolate Factory.

We pulled into the parking lot and a few of the White's staff members were there to greet us.  We entered the building and went to a board room for our first meeting.  After the meeting, it was time for the tour.

I'd been waiting for this and it was as amazing as I'd hoped.  As soon as we turned the corner, I started seeing coils in mid-production and all kinds of familiar parts being produced.  I got to see machines that I use and that I'd like to use being produced from start to finish.  






I'm not sure if I ever stopped to think about all the details that go into making our machines.  Seeing it firsthand gives me a whole new appreciation for the White's staff.  From the engineers to the people who pack your machine in the box to ship it out to you, every single one of those people are important.  This is why you receive the best quality products and customer service in the hobby.  These folks downright care about you, the user, and want you to have the best product possible.




The tour was amazing.  I learned so much and was blown away by some of the machinery they have in there, some of the statistics I heard, and by how genuinely nice each and every person I met was.



After the tour, we had another meeting.  This one lasted about three hours.  During this time, we talked about ourselves and got to know each other a little better.  The White's staff was surprised at how much we talked!  I explained that it's not often that there are so many serious diggers in one room and we could probably talk shop for hours.

It was great to hear everyone's story firsthand.  I've looked up to a lot of these guys for years, and here I was at White's Electronics, sitting around a table in a meeting room with them.  It was unreal to me.

During the meeting we shared a lot of information and a lot of laughs, and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  Honestly, I was still stuffed from breakfast.  I swear, this was a dream vacation.  So far, all we did was eat, see metal detectors, and talk metal detecting.  It was a dream come true!

After lunch we had another session.  This one was the one I was excited about.  I wish I could tell you what we talked about, but I'm sworn to secrecy and you guys are going to have to wait.  Stay tuned!

After this meeting, guess what?  It was time to eat again.  This time we had a catered dinner with a delicious, over the top spread.  It was incredible.

After dinner, we headed back to the motel, where again we hung out on the balcony and talked.  We talked about how great our first day was, how much we appreciated being there, and that none of us could really believe it.  At this point, I felt like we all had truly bonded.


In the morning, we went out for breakfast again.  This time I went with the kids portion and still couldn't finish it.  I'm telling you, these portions were huge!


After breakfast, we headed back to the factory, ready for Day 2.  Our second day was filled with fun and informative meetings.

At one point, they finally said what we were all waiting to hear:  "Let's go dig some holes."  I'm pretty sure all 8 of us perked up at the same time. 


We got to play with some toys and it was great to get some digging in!  Back home, there was still about 8" of snow on the ground.  So far, the weather had been beautiful, in the high 60's.  As green as the grass was, to get out of the northeast, away from the snow and into the sunshine was awesome.


We took a few photos before we headed back to the factory.  When we got back, we had an opportunity to spend some time in the White's museum.  This part was also really cool.  I believe they have one of every machine White's has ever made.  We saw the first machines that they produced and we saw a lot of nice treasures found with White's machines.  (These items were found by White's employees or by White's users who sent in their finds for display.)










After the museum, we had our final meeting to wrap it all up.

Again, I have to say I was blown away by how nice the staff was.  At one point, I was eating pizza with the CEO of White's Electronics, showing him pictures of my daughter on my cell phone. 


Everyone was so kind and down to earth.  They welcomed us and truly made us feel like part of the White's family.  It was a sad moment when it was time to head off to Portland to begin our travel home.

A big part of me wanted to get home.  I really missed Carissa and our daughter.  But at the same time I didn't want this trip to come to an end.


This is an experience that I'll never forget.  

We had no idea he was doing it, but Jeff Williams was filming during our trip and put together this video.  

I really appreciate having this reminder of my trip and being able to share a little bit of our experience with my daughter and family and friends back home.  Thanks, Jeff.


As for the rest of the team, I miss them already.  Those guys are awesome.  I think that a part of our brains all think exactly the same way.  We bonded so quickly during this incredible experience and I'm looking forward to keeping in touch.



I'm sure you're wondering "What's next?"  Well, I am too.  All I can say is we'll have to wait and see what White's has in store for us.  Until then, thanks for reading and keep on digging.

7 comments:

  1. awesome summary of the most amazing trip I ever had!

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  2. Sounded like a great trip. Thanks for sharing....

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  3. I had such a good time and what a great experience. Well written DJ, thanks for taking the time.

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  4. It really was. I'll never forget it. It was fun to hear you and Dave cracking jokes over those nights. We all had some good laughs!

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  5. Got that right Dave! It was a pleasure to meet and hang out with you for a few days! Can't wait till next time!

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  6. Hey thanks Todd! Same for you, it was great meeting you and talking relics with ya. Hopefully one day we'll meet up for a dig!

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