The grass wasn't necessarily greener in the yard of Steve Mudge's neighbor. In fact, the neighbor had a diseased walnut tree begging for removal.
But Mudge saw potential in that diseased tree, and is hoping the cycling world will agree.
The 55-year-old Modestan took a chunk of that walnut tree and turned it into the base of the wood-and-steel trophy he has created for the Stage 3 (San Jose-to-Modesto) winner of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California.
"I'm hoping whoever wins it likes it and the Amgen people also like it and come back to me next year for another trophy," Mudge said. "I really enjoy doing this."
The trophy features cyclists riding past the Modesto Arch.
Mudge, a former mechanical technician at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, bought a plasma torch for home hobby use roughly 15 years ago and started creating items such as lawn ornaments and wall racks.
Four years ago, he started creating cycling trophies for races hosted by the Dublin-based Valley Spokesmen club. When Mudge read about Modesto landing a finish line for a stage in the 2009 race, he contacted Jennifer Mullen, executive director of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau, about creating the winner's trophy.
Roughly 30 hours of work later, the finished piece emerged. Mudge is being paid $500 for his efforts.
"The idea is to build up my name in this area," Mudge said. "Every item I create is a one-time thing."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached
at email@example.com or 578-2300.