But did you know that he rode the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Belmont Park amusement park for 70 straight days with four other people? It happened 16 years ago and Robert still has aches and pains as a result.
During his 10 straight weeks of riding on the historic wooden roller coaster, Robert marked his 30th birthday. He also celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary and signed the papers for his and wife Yvonne’s first-ever home purchase. His sales agent at the time was current PSAR member Pat Russiano.
It was the summer of 1998, and radio station KFMB 100.7-FM organized its second roller coaster riding marathon contest. The year before the winner was declared after 11 days. So, Robert, working at the time as a manager at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point, took two weeks of vacation. The prize was $50,000 to whoever could endure riding the roller coaster the longest. Disc jockeys Jeff and Jer called the endurance event “Whirl ‘til You Hurl.”
“I wanted to open my own business. And, I thought I could outlast the 23 other contestants and be the last man standing,” said Robert. “Besides, I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker.”
Indeed. For example, growing up in Indianapolis, at age 9, Robert delivered newspapers using his older sister’s name because he was too young to be given the job on his own. Also, on his last day as a senior in high school, Robert and a friend wore panty hose over their faces to hide their identity and walked into a crowded cafeteria during lunch hour. Then, they dumped two painting buckets full of canned vegetables on the floor and ran into the nearby woods ahead of the school track coach who was in hot pursuit. “Nope, we never got caught,” Robert said.
Also, right after his introduction to Yvonne at a Christmas party, in order to impress her, Robert stole from a hotel lobby a three-foot high reindeer Christmas decoration. “Yvonne said that it looked cute and I wanted to quickly make some points,” said Robert. “The reindeer later ended up in somebody’s front yard.”
So, in 1998, the idea of winning a contest riding a roller coaster the longest sounded easy to Robert. Starting on June 30 and not ending until Labor Day, the contestants were collectively cranked up to a 73-foot-high point and yanked over 12 twists and turns -- traveling as fast as 55 miles per hour -- for 14-and-a-half hours a day. They slept overnight in a roller coaster car, which counted for eight hours, and were allowed two half-hour breaks and three 10-minute breaks daily.
In the end, radio station management stopped the dizzying ride over health concerns, Robert said. “We were aware that the radio station could make us split the $50,000,” he said. “However, they upped the ante a bit and each of us received $12,500, plus a trip to Hawaii. Fortunately, my employer was very understanding, and I kept my job. Financially, the roller coaster experience was not a smart move, but buying the house was.”
Robert and Yvonne leveraged the equity in their first house to buy a second house, and then did the same to buy a third house, and so on. In 2002, they got their real estate sales license and Robert began working as a full-time sales agent and Yvonne worked as a loan officer. By the end of 2006, they had a portfolio of 17 homes in six states, including Texas, Utah, Florida, Indiana, Nevada and California. The same year, Robert opened his own real estate company staffed with 12 agents.
“Then the market crashed and we lost everything,” said Robert. “We lost the business, we lost the homes. It was a tough three or four years until 2010,” when both Robert and Yvonne joined McMillin Realty. “We’ve had several good years with McMillin. Business is much better right now and we are in the process of rebuilding.”
Robert and Yvonne, who reside in Otay Ranch, are raising two girls, a 17-year-old who just graduated from Olympian High School and a 14-year-old who was recently promoted at Rancho del Rey Middle School. Both girls are involved in sports activities.
As chair of the South District Council, Robert is actively recruiting PSAR members to join a number of PSAR committees. “We have a terrific association that provides excellent service to the members,” he said. “I’m living proof that good things happen when you get involved with PSAR. Besides, it can be just as much fun, plus safer, than riding on a roller coaster for two months.”