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No Barriers Podcast Episode 97: Loss and Light with Mike May



Mike May is a business executive, record-setting skier, and innovator who happens to be blind. Mike has taken the adversity in his life and converted it into the driving force behind his innovations in inclusive technology. This episode is sponsored by Arrow Electronics.

Michael May was blinded by a chemical explosion at the age of three, but regained partial vision, at the age of 46, after cornea transplants and a pioneering stem cell procedure.

He has raised millions of dollars to develop four companies and has changed the landscape of how blind people get around independently. Mike’s start-up ventures have included developing the world’s first and only Laser Turntable, inventing a portable heating cushion for sports and medical applications, and starting 2 companies in adaptive technology including Sendero Group in 1999, which released the first-ever accessible GPS for the blind.

Currently, he is Chief Evangelist for Good Maps, Inc., a pedestrian navigation company with an emphasis on accessible navigation for people who are blind or visually impaired. Mike also holds the record for downhill skiing by a person who is completely blind -racing at 65 mph-and is the subject of the best-selling book Crashing Through by, Robert Kurson.

Huge thanks to Arrow Electronics for sponsoring this episode – the first in a series highlighting folks who are pioneering and innovating in the field of inclusive technology.

Resources:

For more information about Mike May, go to http://www.GoodMaps.com or http://www.CrashingThrough.com

 

 

“One of the benefits of being blind from age three is that I’ve had to learn adaptability from an early age. So little did I know when I started my career and it was at the CIA and then at a bank, and all of a sudden I started spinning off into these startup projects and that ability to be creative, think on the fly, and to develop workarounds that turned out to be one of the most important ingredients in starting up companies.”

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Episode Transcript

Dave : Today's episode is brought to you by Arrow Electronics, as part of a series highlighting folks who are pioneering innovation and inclusive technology.

Michael : One of the benefits of being blind from age three is that I've had to learn adaptability from an early age. So little did I know when I started my career and it was at the CIA and then at a bank, and all of a sudden I started spinning off into these startup projects and that ability to be creative, think on the fly, and to develop workarounds that turned out to be one of the most important ingredients in starting up companies.

Erik : It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to aluminate the universal elements that exist along the way. And that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in the summit exists a map, that map, that way forward is what we call No Barriers.

Dave : Michael May is a business executive skier and pioneer who was blinded by a chemical explosion at the age of three, but he regained partial vision at the age of 46 after cornea transplants and a pioneering cell procedure. He has raised millions of dollars to develop four companies and has changed the landscape of how blind people get around independently. His startup ventures have included developing the world's first and only laser turntable, inventing a portable heating cushion for sports and medical applications, and starting two companies in adaptive technology, including Sendero Group in 1999, which released the first ever accessible GPS for the blind.

Dave : Currently, he is chief evangelist for GoodMaps Inc, a pedestrian navigation company with an emphasis on accessible navigation for people who are blind or visually impaired. Mike also holds the record for downhill skiing by a person who is completely blind, racing at 65 miles per hour. He is also the subject of the bestselling book Crashing Through by Robert Kurson. Enjoy the conversation.

Dave : Well, let's dive in Mike, thank you so much for being with us. I know that Erik has known you for a long time and I've known you for years as well. I'd like to start us off with a question Mike, what is it like to ski at 65 miles an hour when you cannot see.

Erik : That was the first thing I wanted to know too because Mike you and I have talked a bit about that, and I'm still blown away by that cool story.

Michael : Here's the irony of it. When I set out to go speed skiing, I thought the barrier was speed skiing. And I liked it because there's no gates and for a blind person competing with sighted people in gates, it's pretty difficult to do the equivalent of running right over the gate. So I thought, "Speed skiing it's perfect it's a steep hill. You point your skis down and you go, which is pretty much the case." So you should be able to be equivalent to a fully sighted person competing in speed skiing. The challenge ended up being getting insurance companies to allow us and a number of times the insurance companies just said, no. We went to Canada ran into the same problem again. And finally our speed skiing coaches Franz Weber and Steve McKinney said, "Hey, come to Les Arcs France that's where all the best records are set."

Michael : We finally get out there after a couple years of trying to compete and we do some test runs and we go a little higher up, a little higher up 50, 60, 65 miles an hour. We really weren't worried about the timing. And then a storm came in and the storm continued for about a week and you can't speed ski when you have fluff on the slope. So in the end we had to go home and call it off and just say, "Oh bummer." 65 miles an hour our goal was a 100. The sighted pros were going over 130, like Franz Weber. And so I thought, "Well, no big... 65. That's not very good." And here it is 33 years later. And that stands as the record for a totally mind person.

Erik : And when you give talks now, do you say, "Look, all you wimpy younger blind people come on 60 miles an hour. Get with it. You can beat it."

Michael : No, I don't quite do it that way. But when I run into blind people, young blind people who seem to have an interest. And there was recently this 13 year old blind kid in Montana he has some low vision, but he's out there skiing amazing stuff. I've talked to him and his dad and definitely encouraged them to go for it. There's nothing that would please me more than seeing my record broken.

Dave : I love starting here because to me it feels like you've lived your life at 65 miles per hour. Always trying to stretch the limits of what's possible doing so many incredible things, entrepreneurial businesses that you've started, saw you worked for everything from the CIA to starting amazing companies of your own. Where do you think you got this spirit to just go try whatever and make it happen?

Michael : Well, certainly from my mentors, my mother and my upbringing and being one of five kids, it's hard for a single mom to be over-protective when she's got that many kids. I have a hard enough time thinking about how it was raising two kids let alone five. Certain teachers in school were significant, my resource teacher, my 4th grade math teacher, the transcriber all those kinds of people really fanned the flame. I started out with the spark, but there were other people that had to fan the flame along the way.

Dave : And Mike you're an incredible entrepreneur. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about some of the products that you've helped been a part of inventing?

Michael : Well, one of the benefits of being blind from age three is that I've had to learn adaptability from an early age and adaptability is what's essential in startup companies. So little did I know when I started my career and it was at the CIA, and then in a bank and all of a sudden I started spinning off into these startup projects. And that ability to be creative, think on the fly and to develop work arounds that at that point let's say I'm 25 years old. I've now been learning to be adaptable for over 20 years. That turned out to be one of the most important ingredients in starting up companies.

Erik : Mike, was that hard working for agencies like the CIA in terms of their technology, I can't imagine back in the 80s or whenever that was that anything was very accessible for the blind.

Michael : No, the number one thing that made it work at the CIA because this is a worst case scenario. I was the first blind person that ever worked there. And at that time in '78, '79, everything they did was print based, hard copy. So a political analyst would come in in the morning, they'd have a stack of cable traffic that's a foot high and they read through it and they synthesize it. They take notes. And so they had to figure out, "Okay, how are we going to deal with the blind guy?" So they got me a giant braille embosser and my pile of braille each morning was about two feet tall.

Michael : And then they had to figure out how to computerize the information, so that I could search for it easily. So that was really at the beginning of the era of search and keyword kinds of access to information. The number one thing that really made that work at all was that the director of the CIA at the time, Admiral Turner said when I joined, "We will make this work. If there's any issue you call me directly and we'll make sure it happens." And they were true to their word. And today they have an accessibility department they've a number of blind people, other disabilities working there. So in terms of being a pioneer in breaking down some barriers, boy, little did I know that was happening in the late '70s.

Erik : There's still got to be though an issue because they're so worried about security, so they have to make things accessible for their employees and so forth, but also incredibly secure. That must be a big challenge.

Michael : It certainly is. Those are two diametrically opposed things.

Erik : Right.

Dave : Mike, I'd love to hear about some of the inventions. One of the things that I picked up during these COVID times, decided I needed some sort of random hobby. And so I had never taken a music history class and so I've been learning about jazz, which meant that I had to pick up a turntable and buy some old jazz records. And I noticed for example, that you invented a laser turntable as well as many other things. So tell us a little bit about some of your inventions.

Michael : That was really a fun invention and it's the kind of thing you could only do if you were naive, and thinking that you could do something that Sony and Phillips couldn't do. So 1984 is when we founded the company and the vinyl record was something that was important to all of us we're music lovers. And the engineers in the group said, "Oh, there's got to be a way to play a record without a needle because the needle destroys the record. Every time you listen to it, it gets more crackly and worn down." So over the course of three to four years, we worked on this solution using servos and lasers to play the groove of a record. And they're not, they're not precisely the same. If you bought 15 copies of the same album, each one would be to a laser slightly different. So it was a huge technical challenge, which we did accomplish, we raised about $7 million in the process which was a lot in the '80s with venture capitalists and all of that stuff.

Michael : Eventually we hired some senior people that kicked us out and we had to go off on our own and the company was subsequently sold. But the cool part of it was that this is when the CD is now coming onto the scene. And I think the laser turntable would have been more successful if the timing was slightly different. Because although we technically completed the project and accomplished what we set out to, to read a record without touching the surface, the CD took over by 1988 and the vinyl record then started disappearing until more recently. Like you say, a lot of people, young people and others are getting turntables and appreciating the benefits of high quality audio and vinyl.

Erik : Are there laser turntables out there to this day, 2021?

Michael : Yeah. They're primarily used for our archival purposes because there can be records that are so old that if you play them once they would de laminate. But they're 10, $11,000.

Erik : And then the talking GPS obviously is the coup d'état. you're talking GPS I don't know for what 15 years probably. I remember plotting in way points and then hiking North Table and giving people tours, North Table's a mountain behind my house. And I'm like, "Yeah, there's a tree over here to the right that you want to check out. And over here to the left coming up there's a nice a bench if you guys... or a rock that you want to sit down on." And I have it all in my ear on a earphone, so people can barely see it. And they're like, "How the hell does he know all this?" And it's all because of your technology. And you've come to No Barriers Summits and led GPS tours and geocaching. And I remember you coming to one of our events in Miami and sailing and doing like GPS tours.

Michael : Yeah. It's been incredible in the '90s when I joined Arkenstone, which was a book scanning OCR company and the. Strider GPS was on the back burner and ended up not being really viable at that time because different reasons. So I left Arkenstone spun off Sendero group and began working on accessible GPS in 1999. And several years later, other companies started getting on the bandwagon and there were more options and GPS technology got more accurate and smaller. It made it more commercially viable because one of the big things, when you're developing something in the access technology world is if it's specialized like a braille display, it's a small market.

Michael : It's going to be a high cost forever because you can't ever achieve the volume you need to have low cost. But with GPS, it became a universal tool for everybody. And so it got cheaper and cheaper. And then eventually in our phones and turned out to be the thing we have today. And it all started with some of those early expeditions like you're talking. About the first one I really enjoyed was in Cortina, Italy, setting up some geocaching, some GPS treasure hunting and walking around and showing people how the technology worked out there.

Erik : Yeah. Explain that. How that geocashing works with talking GPS for the blind, like talk us through it. Like if a blind person maybe is scared to get out of the house what's that process like?

Michael : Well, for sighted people geocashing means that there's a clue along with the GPS position. And the clue is based on the fact that in that final let's say 50 feet you can look around visually and find the thing that you've been working your way towards, and you might've started a mile away. And now you're 50 feet away you look around, you find the thing. So for a blind person we needed to design an audio equivalent of that. We can still guide you to that same vicinity, but what do you do on the last 50 feet? So we made sure and designed things like there could be a fountain, or there could be a bakery, or something that you could detect with another sense that would help you close that final gap. And when we did that at the No Barriers Summits it would be the same sort of thing. There might be a bridge that would be a turning point. You put some sort of clue around a bridge or a set of steps or things like that.

Erik : So cool. And so explain to people they're walking down the street like it's talking to them, it's giving them directions. It's telling them where doors are, entrances to buildings, things like that, right?

Michael : Yeah. You're getting play by play and everything is given to you in terms of direction and distance. So you hear, "Starbucks 11 o'clock, 37 feet." And you may or may not want to go into the Starbucks, but it's just good to know that it's there. So a big part of navigation for a blind person is we don't have our eyeballs to scan around and see what's nearby. But we have a GPS equivalent of that, where this information is being announced in terms of direction and distance. And it helps you to get to know your environment and know what your options are. So maybe later on, you might stop in because you heard about a barbershop, you wanted to get a haircut, things like that. And then the same thing with street intersections as you come to an intersection it tells you the name of the streets. Again, it's not just where you want to turn it's just knowing your environment.

Dave : Speaking of innovative technologies, to help people with visual impairments, you were a pioneer, and trying a new surgery that was designed to regain some of your sites. So can you tell our listeners a little bit about that process and what it was like for you and why you made that decision to try and do that?

Michael : Yeah. And tying back to the speed skiing discussion. Now that I have some low vision, there's no way I can even break my own record-

Erik : Oh yeah. You're ruled out.

Michael : [crosstalk 00:17:02] totally blind person.

Dave : Oh man.

Michael : Yeah. I was offered the opportunity of a stem cell transplant and a cornea transplant in 1999, 2000. That was very experimental and had a 50% chance of success and success being, you might get a little vision, you might get a lot of vision, no vision, anything goes. And for the most part I didn't really want to do it because I was busy forming my company at the time, life was good, "Why don't I need to see?" And eventually my curiosity just won out and I thought, "Wow. What would that be like?" And we tease about different things with my friends and nobody pushed me into it, but my own curiosity that's gotten me into trouble with many other things, all of a sudden prevailed. And I went ahead with the two operations.

Dave : But there was some significant risk involved for you as well. Right. Just because it was a pioneering surgery it hadn't been tried often.

Michael : Right. Besides the success rate or not, there was the increased possibility of cancer because of the immune suppressant drugs that I had to take. And or how would that impact me long-term, and it's hard to know to this day how much did that impact my immune system? I got cancer in 2016, was that because of the surgery who knows? It's just too many variables out there to say, but there was definitely a medical risk.

Dave : And you alluded to this, but obviously you were able to gain regain some of your sight. So how much site did you get from this procedure?

Michael : Well, I certainly learned a lot about vision and neuroscience that I had no idea before I went into this. That vision is not just low, medium, and high that we have... Our brain processes, neurologically faces, depth perception, details, motion in so many different ways. And you can be strong in a couple of those areas and weak in others. So I had to learn that when I came out of the surgery and then it turned out, I had a little bit of vision. I was overwhelmed by all of the visual input. Having had none for 43 years all of a sudden I'm getting a wash of light and objects and everything. It took a lot of 42 to power through that and learn to use the vision, and to figure out what aspects of vision were useful and what were not. So for example, I could see motion really well but if something was stationary I couldn't see it very well.

Michael : I had no depth perception, but I had great color perception. And so how does that work? In the case of something like skiing, it was actually a detriment to see because I was used to following 100% the sound of the guide and the skis and their voice. Now, all of a sudden I've got all this visual distractions and I'd see a dark thing and that dark thing, since I didn't have any detail or depth perception, it could be a shadow, a hole in the ground, a tree or a person. So only one out of four of those things is safe, 3 out of four are not. And so I tended to tense up and it interfered with my skiing for a couple of years until I just learned to tune out the visual information when I'm skiing. Use it when I'm on the chairlift and I can look around and say, "Oh, there're some trees there or I see some people skiing down below." Enjoy it while I'm stationary, but not while I'm skiing.

Erik : And so the idea was that you went blind and we'll talk about that a little bit later, but at three years old. So your visual cortex never really had a chance to start to interpret the sight coming into your eyes, like a person where they in the first six or nine years of life, they're trying to interpret and categorize and figure this stuff out. I even heard from a neuroscientist him talking about culturally, a group of villagers are walking down the through the pasture and they see a dark hole and one's like, "Huh, what's that?" And he steps in it and he follows in to his death. The rest of the group says, "Okay, that dark shadow don't go there. That's a bad thing." So your brain never had a chance to figure all that stuff out because you were blind from three years old. So at 46, you get your sight back, your eyes work but your brain doesn't know how to interpret it.

Michael : Yeah. You nailed it with that example. It's so contextual and not just for a low vision person, as you said for a fully sighted person there's lots of visual things that the neuroscientists can point out, and showing a mask of a face that's hollow on one side and it stands out like a face on the other side. And if they face the hollow side towards you, all sighted people will think that that's a face and they don't realize that it's hollowed out because they're so used to seeing a face in the normal fashion. So I had a lot to learn and some things like color we're obviously well-established by age three and a half, when I went blind from a chemical explosion, other things like the face recognition, depth perception, they never fully developed. And therefore they had atrophied or just not developed at all to begin with. So I was weak in those visual areas.

Erik : But your eyes, if somebody did somehow could figure out the acuity of your actual eyesight, what would it be like 20, 20, what?

Michael : Right. And they, they have done that. Dr. Goodman said, optically your vision would be about 20, 40.

Erik : God, which isn't bad.

Michael : I wouldn't be able to drive. And that's in one eye, the other eye has zero vision. But my measured vision is 20 over 1000. But even that is misleading because the way that they measure is based on the thing that I'm weakest at, which is perceiving letters at a certain distance or a number of fingers at a certain distance that are stationary. If they hold up three fingers, two feet away from me that's about my distance of saying, "Yeah, that's three versus two fingers." But if they wave their hand back and forth, then I can see those fingers probably five feet away.

Dave : And can you enhance that vision with glasses or any other tools or no?

Michael : No. No. I've tried. I've tried reading print visually and it's so stressful mentally that I just give up on it. I can get my nose up next to a screen and I can see letters. And by the time I get to the end of the word that I've forgotten what came before it.

Erik : Was that a let down though it was that frustrating in the beginning.

Michael : Yeah. There was a lot of frustration, more a matter of being overwhelmed like that. And then just realizing wit print, "It's not that big a deal just give it up, focus on something else. Enjoy the motion aspect." To be able to walk out in the backyard and have my son throw a ball to me and catch it in the air was absolutely exhilarating or to look up and see stars. Not that I didn't appreciate stars as a blind person, it's all about where you are and who you're with. And they're talking about stars I never felt deprived, but it was such a fun thing. Kind of like visiting a new country for the first time when I saw those stars and go, "Oh my gosh, that's what everybody's talking about."

Erik : So you found a place to use it and gained some joy from that renewed sight.

Michael : Yeah. I think it's like any new experience we have that you make the most of it, there might be some things missing, but certainly I didn't... I've always said that with my new vision experience, "It's icing on the cake." it's not as though being blind was a drag. Being blind is great. Being low vision is great and the combination is something I had to work out. How do I deal with the two things? So when people subsequently asked me, "Well, I've got the opportunity to get some new vision." I would just say, "Well, make sure you embrace change and that people aren't pushing you into it because this is not an easy road." I happen to love and embrace change and so it was perfect for me.

Dave : Your life and your work has been so varied and fascinating from the early years of the CIA that you mentioned to the entrepreneurial years, to your time advising presidential candidates or presidents and initiatives around assistive technology. I look at your life and I think, "Gosh, you've done so much and always had a quest to make a difference." Which is something that drives me as well. And when you think about that idea of how do we make a difference in our lives and all the different ways you've tried to pursue that. How do you advise people who want to live a life of purpose and meaning and go out and make a difference? What's the advice you give to them?

Michael : Well, probably the quickest way is to tell a story. So in 2007, a book about my life and my new vision experience came out called Crashing Through, and it was a best seller. And we went on book tour with the author, Robert Kurson. And we are in Chico, California. And after giving our talk, people come up and they ask for a signature. And the first guy in line starts talking to me and I'm feeling a little bit of pressure like, "Oh, I've got to get to the rest of the people in the line." Because he's going on about, "We met 18 years ago," and he says, "we were on a chairlift in Mt Bachelor. And I told you that we just had a baby born who's blind. And what was your advice?"

Michael : And I'm thinking, "I've got two minutes to tell this guy what to happen because once you get off the ferry you go separate ways." So I said, "Two things. Teach him that there's always a way and love the heck out of him." And he reminded me of this. I didn't even remember telling him that, he reminds me of this whole story. And he said, "And so I'd now like to have you meet my son, Justin, who's a freshman at UC Berkeley. Here's Justin."

Dave : Wow. What a story.

Erik : And changing tacks, Mike. So you've pioneered so many things, you've broken through so many barriers skiing and the pioneering stuff you've done in blindness and technology but life is so messy. So you get cancer and I saw you, man, when you were recovering, I hate to bring this up but you were really thin and you just squeaked through. Thank God for that, man, I'm so happy for you. And then you have two sons and your son Carson died in an avalanche several years ago. So tell us about your kids and tell us about Carson, if that's okay.

Michael : Yeah. 2016 was a brutal year. Carson went missing in an avalanche in January of 2016 and he wasn't found until February 29th, then I was diagnosed with cancer in May and then went through radiation and chemo and really kicked my butt as you were mentioning. And so here we are five years later and I'm so grateful to be strong and out skiing. I was out yesterday with a good buddy and enjoying living near the mountains, I moved out to Reno so I could be near my son, Wyndham, who is working as ski patrol at the very resort where Carson was lost and where the ski patrol searched for him.

Michael : So that's great to be around him and to see what he's giving back in his way, and he's a firefighter during the flip season. And then I'm on my own avocation working on search and rescue technology for detecting cell phones in the wilderness, using drones and other technology to augment the very manual human and dog approach that's used for search and rescue.

Erik : So just to elaborate here a little bit and stop right there. So obviously, I just can't imagine losing your son. But you're pioneering brain goes into work and says, "My son had a stale cell signal that was operating for some number of hours. And if somebody could have tapped into that cell signal through some kind of technology, they could have found him or at least found his body earlier. So you've been kicking into gear trying to figure out how to save lives out there.

Michael : Right. And it's a parent's worst nightmare and a day doesn't go by that I don't think about him. And I have different ways of keeping his memory alive. So there's definitely that emotional part of it. But my problem solving brain does definitely kick into gear to try to find solutions to help other people. And in the case of Carson, we wouldn't have saved him by having a cell phone detector but there were four or 500 searchers out there that were at risk as the storms came in, could have been additional avalanches. So it's all about potentially saving future lives, but also minimizing the risk to people who are out there volunteering to search for other people.

Erik : The technology exists to detect a phone signal, a cell signal but is it illegal or something like that not in the state of California? What's the barrier and where are you at with the evolution?

Michael : Well, there's something called a StingRay, which has all sorts of privacy issues. And so you have to get a court order to use it because it can listen in on a cell phone conversation as well as detecting where that cell phone is. And I tried to get one out to the avalanche area back in 2016 and couldn't get a court order in time to be useful, so that's not really a practical thing. There is another device that can be mounted on a drone it's called a Wolfhound-PRO from a company called Berkeley Varitronics.

Michael : It's a pound or so and it can fly on a drone and get in the vicinity of a cell phone and zero in on it. So the technology exists, it's not really been commercialized it takes a DIY drone person to really put it together and they're not cheap either. But that's one of the things that I'm exploring is how to commercialize that thing.

Erik : Wouldn't that revolutionize things. If they were able to search for people in the back country in such a more efficient way.

Michael : It certainly would help. And it's like anything else, not one tool does everything but it certainly would be a good, strong, additional tool. And there are plenty of other situations where people have had cell phones running for a long time and they can't be... They don't reach a cell phone tower, but they reach out far enough that if somebody could get a drone in the area, they could pick up that cell phone signal and direction find to that particular person.

Dave : Mike, I'd love to ask a broader question that relates to Carson in a way. But I think loss is such a big part of life, and sometimes it's tragic loss, sometimes it happens early in life. Sometimes it happens later as you get older and it certainly happened in my own life, experiencing significant loss. Do you think there's things that we can do as a species to be better prepared to handle loss? Or is it the kind of thing that really in the moment you just got to figure out, and hopefully have the right team around you that can help you through it?

Michael : I think it's an ongoing challenge, but as you say the team around you makes a big difference. Whether it's a support group, certainly my way of processing may not be the same way as somebody else. I like to acknowledge Carson and some people would maybe be more private. So for example, Carson went every year with me to the Consumer Electronics Show from his age 13. So I ran into people in the last couple of years who would say, "Hey, nice to see you. Where's your son." And I know they feel terrible when I just come or I blur it right out and tell them what happened. But I really appreciate the fact that they're asking that they're remembering and in some stranger's mind, someplace else in the country, Carson may, still exists. And I like to keep him front and center. And if somebody asks me, "Tell me about your kids, how many kids do you have?" I said, "I have two." And I tell them.

Erik : Yeah. So don't bury it. And people get uncomfortable, you probably have the situation where friends don't know how to talk about it, and might even avoid talking to you at all because they feel the weight of it and they don't know what to do, which is a wimpy move but it's human probably right.

Michael : It's natural sure I feel the same way when I lose some relative that I'm not super close to and I think, "Well, should I call or shouldn't I call? They're probably busy grieving." All those kinds of things go through your head.

Erik : Right.

Dave : Mike, do you do anything on an annual basis to celebrate Carson?

Michael : Oh yeah. There's always a Facebook post and at the five-year Mark this January, I wrote up a lot more about him. Skiing at Sugar Bowl is a nice memory, when I'm skiing down that hill and my son Wyndham is calling out directions, "Turn left, turn, right." His voice and Carson's voice are obviously different. Carson had more intonation in the way he would guide me. And so when I get into a zone I'm going down that mountain, I can definitely transfer into Carson's voice guiding me when Wyndham's actually in front of me.

Erik : And Mike, I don't want to blow our idea, man. We've been talking for like what 15 years about this really cool idea that we should end on. And that's this idea that we want to ride single bikes across some cool desert, like maybe the Black Rock Desert using your talking GPS system to all be riding together, which might be the coolest idea ever or an incredible disaster for tracking me. But you never know this until you try, right?

Michael : Yeah. Now that I've moved so close to that area, of course, Burning Man didn't happen this last year, but it's in that same vicinity. I think the dumbest and the coolest ideas are often quite close together so we just need to find out.

Erik : So it's going to be you me, and it'd be cool to pick maybe a third blind person so we could have a really good collision. And then what is it like 80 miles or something across the Black Rock at it's pretty flat, very few rocks.

Michael : It's pretty flat I had somebody look on Google Earth and the idea it's flat, there's nothing there it shouldn't be that hard to just set an end point. But there are an occasional quagmire and sinkhole farm out in the middle of that, so we will have to deal with some objects in the route.

Erik : Okay.

Dave : Well, one of my exciting conversations last week was with this guy from France, who has won some Emmy Awards for his production of documentary films in virtual reality. So one of the films he did was a solo trip to the South pole, it was all shot on a... Somehow they put together GoPros in a way that this guy could capture the whole thing on his own, and then into virtual reality. So my challenge to you is when you guys do this, let's make it a virtual reality film as well.

Erik : No way Dave, you just stumbled on the best idea. We could do it full green screen virtual technology, we'd never actually have to do it.

Dave : There you go. That's another option.

Michael : We'll fake it.

Erik : Yeah.

Dave : Well, Mike, it's been great speaking with you. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your life and the lessons you've learned. I'm sure our listeners appreciate it as always. Listeners can go to nobarrierspodcast.com to find our show notes and things that were referenced here. We'll put on there there's been some amazing pieces written and produced about Mike and his life, so we'll share some of that on there as well. And if you enjoyed this conversation, share it with someone else. One of the best ways to grow our No Barriers community is for you to share this story with someone that you think will enjoy it. Thanks so much Mike and thank you Erik for joining us.

Erik : Thank you. Everyone go out and read Crashing Through. Mike thank you, no barriers.

Michael : All right. Thank you. Nice sharing this all with you. Take care.

Dave : Take care. We would like to thank our generous sponsors that make our No Barriers podcast possible. Wells Fargo, Prudential Co. bank, Arrow Electronics and Winnebago. Thank you so much for your support it means everything to us. The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Schaffer, sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Cottman and marketing support by Heather Zoccali, Stevie DiNardo, Erica Howey, and Alex Schafer. Special thanks to The Dan Ryan band for our intro song Guidance. And thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarriers.podcast.com.


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