Rocky Mountain High

Teeming with well-heeled celebrity clientele, Colorado’s trendy skiing villages provide lucrative, although elusive, high-end special event work.

Ray Savage’s company, Going in Style, has a small inventory — one unit, to be exact. But it’s a big one. Four years ago, Savage bought a 45-foot 1993 Great Dane extra-wide insulated semi-truck trailer, built two restrooms inside of it, attached it to his 1987 R Model Mack tractor and started renting it out for black-tie affairs in Aspen, Telluride and other elite Colorado mountain towns. Savage was 69 and retirement didn’t suit him.

“I retired when I was 65,” he says. “I tried it — we had the 5th wheel and put on 200,000 miles — but I’ve got to work. I want to die going down the road in that truck.”

Savage started out in construction, then owned a welding shop for 20 years. After that he moved to the mountains and got involved in oilfield work, building out locations and hauling water. He was once hired to spray down the dirt road leading to actor Kevin Costner’s ranch for the comfort of guests arriving for Costner’s wedding. As he got older, Savage started pondering his future.

“Driving that water truck, I’m thinking that one of these days I’m going to get to where I can’t get out there and haul water like this,’’ he says. “Then this came to my mind. No matter how rich you are, you’ve got to go to the bathroom, and (wealthy) people want something nice.” He designed the rig in his head, then he and his son, a carpenter, spent two months building it.

As you walk up the steps, the women’s room is on the left, the men’s on the right, each with four stalls and flushing Kohler toilets. The hot-and-cold water Kohler sinks (three in the women’s, two in the men’s) have automatic shutoffs. The unit has air conditioning and electric baseboard heat.

The 1,000-gallon water tank, water pump, and hot water heater are located in a rear compartment. The 1,400-gallon waste tank, propane tank, and generator are underneath. Plumbing is installed so the waste is moved by gravity, with all the piping inside so it won’t freeze.

Savage used classy finish materials — wood, chrome, porcelain — but the most stunning feature is the giant mountain-view mural painted on the outside of the trailer by a local schoolteacher.

At an event, flowers are added, the trailer is skirted, a carpet is laid out and a table set up for patrons to set their drinks on. Savage and his wife, Dora, are on hand to keep things clean, dressed in white shirts and black pants — and perhaps cowboy hats when the occasion warrants.

Being new to the industry, this has been a learning experience for Savage, and one with some unique challenges.

Finding the customers

Although Savage figures he needs to work only about 20 days a year to make a good living, it’s not always easy to find the work. “The whole secret is knowing how to get in with the right people,” he says. “There is big money out there.” He’s tried working with wedding planners, party rental companies and marketing people. He briefly joined the Moab, Utah, Chamber of Commerce and has serviced charity events at reduced rates just for the exposure. And, of course, he leaves his business cards out at events. But those endeavors have been only partially successful, and he doesn’t feel he’s hit upon just the right strategy.

Pumping with pride

Up to now, Savage has relied on area septic companies to pump out his restroom trailer. But this has presented a few problems. One, he feels it’s expensive. Two, he says the companies have not always been reliable. And, three, the appearance of the vacuum trucks aren’t always up to the high-end service standards he must maintain for the lucrative events. Savage has reluctantly decided the best solution is to buy his own service truck, which he is in the process of doing. This creates some problems of its own — namely, needing another driver, or driving it himself, making an extra trip to the event site.

Finding a place to park

You can’t just park a big rig on a city street. When the Savages lived in Rifle, Colo., they were able to park the trailer on a friend’s property. But in early 2007 they moved to the small town of Canon City, and in looking for a new home they had to limit their search to ones sitting on some property. They found a one-acre lot not too far from the town center.

Passing security

Because the events they service are often attended by the rich and famous — movie stars, entertainers, heads of major corporations, world leaders — the Savages and their trailer are subject to scrutiny by security personnel. As an extreme example of that, at one event in Aspen the Savages weren’t even told what kind of event it was — just that it was for “two hours, two days.” After they set up the trailer, a German shepherd went in and sniffed around, followed by a gentleman who flushed every toilet. Savage also noticed several men around the perimeter with machine guns. It turns out this event was for the head of state of a Middle East country and his entourage of 300.

The Savages are generally not allowed to take photographs of anything but scenery.

Protecting the investment

Savage is a fanatic when it comes to maintenance and upkeep on his vehicles. “If you take care of stuff, it lasts forever,” he says. As for cleaning: “You just keep it cleaned up all the time and it’s never a mess, and it’s not a big job to clean it.” In keeping with this philosophy, Savage has learned to be somewhat selective in the types of events he’ll do. Moab, Utah, for instance, is a hotbed of activity for biking, hiking, and four-wheeling, but is also famous for its red mud. One event there convinced him it just wasn’t worth it. He also avoids — or charges extra for — events at which children will be present. He hastens to explain: “Kids are kids, and there’s nothing wrong with that — we all had to learn and that’s OK. But it’s just that much more work for us.”


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