Rick Prebles serves as the National Account Manager at WEX for the 7-Eleven and Speedway fuel card program. He began his career at WEX seven years ago, bringing over 25 years of experience at Speedway. In his role, Rick works with large accounts that typically have over 500 vehicles in their fleet. One of his largest customers is PepsiCo Inc., specifically their Frito-Lay and Pepsi-Cola divisions. It is a relationship that Rick has continued to build for over two decades. He also works with government fleets and utility companies and receives referrals from many satisfied WEX customers.
The power of company benefits: how offering a sabbatical drives employee engagement
Rick recently had the opportunity to participate in the WEX Expedition program. This initiative allows WEXers to take a four-week-long sabbatical, amounting to 20 consecutive days of paid time off (PTO). Salaried WEXers with continuous tenures of six years or more are eligible to apply. WEX provides the Expedition program as an opportunity for its long-tenured employees to recharge and refresh, explore new surroundings, learn something new, or immerse themselves in an activity or passion. The selected employees ideally return to WEX with new energy, perspectives, and ideas that are valuable to the success of the company and its culture as a whole.
The application process is simple and non-judgmental, featuring a “no questions asked” policy that welcomes sabbatical plans of all kinds. Managers review applications, as well as Executive Leadership Team (ELT) members and Melanie Tinto, WEX’s chief human resources officer (CHRO). The application process takes about a month, ensuring a smooth experience for all parties involved. The WEX Expedition program is just one example of how WEX is committed to supporting its employees’ professional and personal development.
On sabbatical: Biking out West
For his WEX Expedition, Rick rode his motorcycle from his hometown of Lebanon, OH, out to Wyoming and back. “I’m an avid motorcycle rider,” he says, “I ride a Harley-Davidson, and it’s always been a dream of mine to just jump on my bike and drive west.” In total, Rick drove about 3,200 miles round-trip, enjoying all the gorgeous landscapes the Great Plains and Big Sky Country offer.
Throughout Rick’s 20 years of driving motorcycles, he has owned six Harley-Davidson bikes. Harley-Davidson is a prominent motorcycle company that is known for its heritage and craftsmanship. It has built up a rich moto-culture and has an iconic logo recognizable nearly everywhere. His passion for motorcycles began when he was young and is tied to his father’s fondness for Harleys. Rick’s current motorcycle is customized with chrome parts, louder exhaust pipes, and a Stage 1 kit for added horsepower. “I like the freedom of driving a motorcycle,” Rick says. “I enjoy getting out there with my tunes on and just driving.”
Rick acquired a backup battery, a flat tire repair kit, spare fuses, a First Aid kit, a full rain suit, and a special lightweight tool kit to prepare for his journey. The only item he had to use was the rain suit, but only once. He also made sure to purchase a waterproof digital video camera that you can see mounted on his bike’s handlebars and a separate camera with a 35-millimeter telescopic lens to capture all the moments ahead. And most importantly, Rick called all of his WEX customers whom he was negotiating with to inform them of his sabbatical. He ensured them that upon his return, he would pick up where he left off, which they all agreed to.
A jam-packed month for Rick’s time on sabbatical
During his journey, Rick preferred not to plan his stops and rest locations in advance. Instead, he drove every day until he felt tired. This flexibility allowed him to visit countless US attractions and national sites. Rick first stopped at “1880 Town,” a historical reenactment of another era, featuring late-19th to early-20th century era buildings, movie props from “Dances with the Wolves,” grazing cattle, and thousands of relics, historical accounts, and photographs of a time gone by. Afterward, he drove to Rapid City, SD, staying there for a few days and using it as a gathering point for excursions to nearby sites. Rick visited the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial, both colossal Black Hills mountain range carvings.
Rick also visited Badlands National Park, where he encountered an American Bison for the first time. The surrounding scenery and peaceful environment made the moment even more memorable. “I took a lot of pictures and videos,” he says. “I mounted video equipment on my bike’s handlebars and recorded some of the memories as I drove.” Rick also traveled to Deadwood City, Keystone City, the Needles, and Sturgis. Later on, he finally reached Wyoming and visited Devils Tower National Monument. He recalls spotting it even when he was five miles away, a token of the rock formation’s sheer size and prominence in the region.
On his way back from Wyoming, Rick experienced the moment of a lifetime while visiting Custer State Park. “I saw a herd of buffalo rushing down towards the road,” he explains, “there were about 25 of them, and they ran right in front of me.” Luckily, the buffalo did not decide to turn and charge at Rick — a close call indeed!
Rick also reconnected with an old friend from high school, traveling twice to Dale Hollow Lake in Byrdstown, TN, to see him. “While I was there, I also saw another friend I hadn’t seen in about 20 years,” Rick explains. “I hope to continue those visits with him because I had such a great time seeing him again.” On a separate trip to Tennessee, Rick visited Nashville and also went to the five-story Kid Rock bar, fulfilling another entry on his bucket list. Rick is also an avid concert-goer, so he made sure to enjoy some live music during his sabbatical. He went to a “Post Malone” concert, a “Kansas” 50th-anniversary concert, and a “Jay Jesse Johnson Band” concert.
Rick wrapped up the month by attending a firework and drone show commemorating Independence Day at Kings Island in Mason, OH. Now that his sabbatical is complete, Rick reflects on the experience with a joyful smile. “I gained solace and peace from being out on the road and just riding, not worrying about anything at work and knowing that when I came back, everything would be right where I left it,” he reflects. “I learned that if you want to do something, do it. Don’t wait because there could always be changes in your life or someone else’s.” Rick is proud to have completed a journey that he has always wanted to do and shares his experience to inspire others.
“I would absolutely apply for a WEX Expedition again if given the opportunity,” Rick says. “Maybe next time, I’ll drive east.”
Advice for other WEXers who reach the six-year mark
Rick shares this valuable advice to all WEXers interested in applying for a WEX Expedition: “When you reach that six-year mark and have the opportunity to go on a sabbatical, you should do it. We have a great team of people here at WEX to take care of everything while you are gone.” He quickly adds, “Make sure to visit some old friends and spend time with your parents.” Rick’s advice highlights the value of taking well-deserved rest and encourages others to find meaningful ways to spend their time.
WEX is proud to offer its employees the opportunity to engage in thoughtful new experiences and commends Rick for his willingness to participate in a WEX Expedition. Opportunities like these are how WEX fosters a strong company culture and stays true to its employee value proposition. To learn more about how WEXers have spent their time on WEX Expeditions, read past articles in the Sabbatical Stories series.
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