My path to becoming an architect and living in Mammoth Lakes, California was the result of unrelated circumstances that crossed each other. A passion for racing off-road motorcycle racing (motocross) was the thread that tied the knot together.
I grew up in a suburb on the west side of Los Angeles. Riding motorcycles began at age 10 when my childhood best friend’s father taught me to ride on a Yamaha 80. He was a patient man who enjoyed his family and was excited to include other kids in new experiences. I was hooked and wanted to ride all the time.
One thing led to another. I bought dirt bikes by earning money from paper routes. It fed my addiction and eventually started racing a couple years later.
There was an annual motocross race in Mammoth Lakes, California and while on a family vacation we stopped there to enjoy the mountains with all the adventures they provide. This event made a big impression. The family went back every year and I eventually went there on my own to compete in the event.
Later, I worked in a gas station. Pumping gas after class in high school. This particular day was after the annual Mammoth event. A guy about my age stopped to get some gas. As fate would have it, my motorcycle was in the back of my truck. This guy asked, “who’s bike is that in the truck?” I answered, “It’s mine, why?”
At that time, people who competed at the Mammoth event used a different colored number plate background and numbers that were recognizable to other competitors.
This guy and I began to talk about the recent event. We discovered that we had raced against each other. He said that he had placed forth and I said that I had placed third. He was frustrated! You’re the guy who passed me on the last lap to get third! We became friends.
This new friend worked in an architect’s office part time in the afternoons. One day he asked me if I would like a part time job working in the office for two weeks while the janitor went on vacation. I didn’t know anything about being a janitor but they wanted to pay a lot more money than working at the gas station. They hired me for the two weeks.
This architectural office was unique. It was located in the Malibu mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The building was designed around a courtyard that had a swimming pool in it. There were about 40 employees. Everyday a cook came to the office and made lunch for the entire staff. After lunch people sat by the pool. Some people went swimming and others played volleyball. It was amazing!
The two weeks went by quickly and the janitor returned from vacation. The office manager asked if I would like to continue working at the office full time for the remainder of the summer until junior college started in the fall. The new position was helping the grounds keeper maintain the property. This was an easy transition as I had worked taking care of people’s yards, planting, trimming trees and cutting grass from the age of 8 years old. I had quit working at the gas station.
After summer ended, so did the job and school started. The owner of the company asked me if I would be interested in a new job maintaining his house that was about a mile from the office. It was situated on ten acres. There was a small lake. The house was a relatively small, two bedroom contemporary style home with a 12 car garage. This sparked my interest and I took the job.
Architecture looked like it was a well paying profession so I enrolled in a drafting class. It was easy, so I took another class after the first one. It was easy too! The junior college had an architecture course series and I took all of them. They were easy and it seemed to be very natural. I continued to maintain the architect’s home for a couple years.
There were occasions that they needed help at the architect’s office to finish a project to meet a deadline and I would go help. Eventually, they asked me to work in the office as a “gopher” doing Xerox copies and making blueprints.
The staff asked for occasional help with color presentations from time-to-time. They even asked for help drawing once in a while and then promoted me to draftsman. It didn’t take long before I was able to do much of the work that senior draftsman were producing. They promoted me again and it began a good paying job. However, the owner of the company wanted to make it clear that there would be no further promotions unless you finished a college degree in architecture. He wanted to be sure there would be a bigger future and security for me later in life.
The next step was to enroll in an accredited architecture program to obtain a degree. I was accepted to Cal Poly Pomona, in Southern California. There was an opportunity to take a summer qualifying course that enabled you to skip the first two years of a five-year program. I passed the course and later finished the program and received a Bachelor of Architecture.
I had continued to work occasionally at the Malibu office. I also worked in Mammoth during summer vacations working construction. I had done some work for a group of doctors who were trying to design a medical office building next to Mammoth Hospital.
The medical office building project lead to a consultant who did the engineering on the building.
Later, I went to Mammoth on skiing trip and talked with the engineer who worked on the medical office building. Him and his family became friends. I stopped by to say “hello” and see how they were doing. He offered me a job working in Mammoth for an architect’s office he managed. This was a great opportunity to work in a beautiful environment and in an office that was designing large projects in the western United States.
The rest as they say is “history.” I’ve been practicing architecture in the Eastern Sierras and the western United States for the past 20 years. It brought my mother and sisters to the area. It introduced me to life long friends and clients. It has provided many outdoor recreational opportunities while maintaining my addiction to motorcycles and motor sports.