My web site gives you a pretty good idea about who I am and what interests me. If you're reading this, odds are you're interested in some of the same things. In general, my blog will share lots of thoughts about entrepreneurism, writing, travel, western history, inspiration and the secrets of life. Oh, and Border Collies.
But enough about me. Let's start talking about what I think. :)
After we complete today's tours we are halfway through our trolley season. Day 60 of 120. This is significant for many reasons. June and July are the toughest months due to heat, passenger loads and the number of kids. Most children are well-behaved but there are a percentage who cannot keep quiet during the 60 minute tour. Since we get more kids in July than any other month, we get a higher percentage who make noise during the tour. This is tough on us as presenters and tough on the audience.
Also, once we've hit the halfway mark we have paid all the big advertising bills and other expenses it takes to get the season started. We're now paying off the "fun bills" such as credit card balances and prior loans. These are payments that make you stronger financially. This next two months is the time of year where we are the most flush with cash. We'll be ordering new windows for the house and new garage door openers which have been an irritant for quite awhile now. We'll also get the last big improvements made in the trailer park and get those Lovell office repairs behind us.
We hired a handyman for the trailer park yesterday. Let the improvements begin. We have lots to do and three months to get it done. We may hire a second temporary handyman for the next three months to make sure we get all the work done.
The plan is that once these last improvements are made, we start taking a salary from the park that should cover our personal bills. Financial freedom from passive income. That's always been the plan since we bought the park, it's just taken us longer to get there. Three years of reinvesting all profits isn't too steep a price when you are able to get current financial freedom AND an ever-growing asset for retirement.
Jessica has gone back to college so Margie & I have the house to ourselves again. It's great. This is really a good time in our lives. Now we just need more time to enjoy it but that's coming after trolley season.
One of our trolley ticket booth employees has a tumor that needs chemo. This reduces the number of hours she can work so Margie is scrambling to find a person to fill afternoons. Tricia, our trailer park manager has agreed to fill-in there as needed until we find someone. It's great having a person on our team with multiple skills and an entrepreneurial outlook.
Cancer has been all around us this year in friends and family members. It makes us greatly appreciate our health.
We're pulling the plug on the flea market immediately. The renter there who convinced us to go another month found another location to rent so there is no further reason to continue it. I'm relieved. It was my idea and it didn't work. Lost about $1,000 on the deal, just to prove that no entrepreneur is infallible. But the loss was small and it allowed us to get Tricia onto our team, so it was actually a good investment.
I like the idea of having that rental office for my own use anyway. Now I get to scheme about what I can use it for next.
We also hired a second handyman yesterday. Now we have a team to get a lot done, quickly.
We're down to three daily tours with the trolley for the rest of the season. We ran three at this time last year and still had enough capacity so we dropped the fourth tour this year. It makes a HUGE difference in the quality of our lives.
Good crowds on the trolley yesterday. We filled up all three tours without turning anyone away and all three groups enthusiastically said they loved the tour. When the audience is appreciative and responsive, there is no better job in the world.
Margie is still looking for an afternoon person Monday - Friday for the ticket booth.
More insurance adventures. I got a certified letter threatening cancellation of my general liability trolley company insurance due to non-payment. Of course I paid it months ago. But I pay my insurance agent's company who then pays that underwriter so it's an internal screw-up from my company which is already jacking me around with my Lovell claim situation. They are close to losing all my business. Lucky for them there is no time for me to speak to other companies. I visited my agent personally with that notice in hand yesterday and she promised to fix it. But still no news on the Lovell claim. Insurance should be something you buy and forget but that just hasn't happened.
Tricia is working the booth at night for us as Margie looks for another booth employee. Last night we had no one signed up for the 6:30 by 4:30. When we returned from our break an hour later, Tricia had it up to 12. We ended up with 21. Good to have her there.
Margie has a new person working this afternoon as a test to see if she can physically handle setting up 150 chairs. If so, we might have the last person we need to get us through September 30 and complete trolley season.
The new handyman we hired at the trailer park is blasting through duties quickly and getting along well with Tricia. Trailer #30, the one I just bought, is getting closer to being ready to rent. Hopefully by August 15. We also have leads for our other two vacancies.
The second handyman we hired starts this week too, so we should really accelerate the improvements out there. We only have 2-3 months of good weather left so we need to.
Trolley is still busy. We sold out every tour yesterday hours before the tour times. We could have had a 1 pm tour but it was too late to add one without knowing the entire day would sell out first. The business is tough to predict. One tour can sell out and then the spigot can turn off and the next tour can have low numbers. So we do our best to offer as much capacity as we think is right as compared to prior year and the "feel" of the day and week. Right now, 120 seats a day is fine. If they all fill, we hope most schedule for the next tour or next day. It's not a bad thing to have a reputation that the trolley is so popular you have to book early. When we visited Alcatraz, the tours there were sold out two days in advance.
Margie is in the middle of reorganizing my office. It looks much, much better. Much more space and new bookcases and file cabinets. It really adds to the positive feel of coming down here to work.
My insurance agent is still not meeting her own promises of resolving several issues by certain deadlines. I'll have to start shopping for a change there as well. If you do what you say, I can build an entire empire around you. If you don't, you're just another problem that's slowing me down.
The weather forecast is finally moving in our favor. Steadily cooler temps all week until we hit 70 by Saturday. Cooler weather is much better for tour quality and experience. I love this time of year in trolley season. Another couple weeks and all the kids have gone back to school and we get mostly adults and seniors who really appreciate our historic content. We had another screaming child last night who put a damper on a great, enthusiastic audience.
The chair program we operate at the Irma Hotel gunfight is really doing well. We sell out 150 chairs every night unless it rains, which hasn't happened often. The gunfighter charities are getting half the profit which has resulted in two large monthly checks to them so far.
The person Margie tested in the ticket booth couldn't handle the physical demands of setting up the 150 rent-a-chairs so the part-time trolley ticket booth staff opening was filled by Tricia who is also running the trailer park. She says she can handle both for the next 8 weeks left of trolley season. The upside of this is that she is learning the trolley operation too so she will make a great back-up for running our empire for us when we travel out of town.
The flea market is now closed down and the tenant in our office moved out. So I can now advertise for tenants out there again or use the space for some other enterprise we want to start like a publication.
Our friend who is a newspaper reporter got a new job out of the country so we can't try to convince her to become editor as we had been mentally toying with. The next business we start has to be able to be run without our direct involvement because we are too busy and I want to kick our activities back a few notches.
In theory, I don't have to start anything else and we're in good shape. Most people would say great shape. So I may do nothing else except online businesses I can run from my basement office without employees or huge time demands. I just know my nature and when I have an extra ten minutes I think of five new business ideas. Think passive income Mike, passive income.
So we'll write another ad and start advertising the openings. Both are three bedrooms so they should go fast. To our old park manager's credit, she's trying to line up a replacement tenant. Tenant turnover is still decreasing but it is still frustrating when you get unexpected vacancies.
Anther busy day on the trolley. Could have been better but 8 people spread over two tours were no-shows after the museum saying they'd sold them tickets. Very odd for that to happen twice in a row with groups of four. So hopefully the tickets were actually sold and the people just decided not to ride. That would still count as a sale for us. But we count by redeemed ticket stubbs so we can't count them as customers. Even so, customer counts are up 7% so far which anyone would agree is great with high gas prices and East Gate construction.
Today's 11:00 am tour was almost sold out yesterday so we're toying with adding a 1 pm. We should, we just hesitate to save our stamina. What happens many times is the 11 is full and then you add a 1 pm and it just splits the numbers between the 1 and the 3 pm tours so you didn't gain anything except working twice as hard. Because you don't know in advance if the 3 pm will sell out, it's a big guess.
Well, I just got off the phone and I took reservations for a party of 3 for the 1 pm so we're committed to a long day now.
We were celebrating paying off our first trolley business loan. Almost a year early too, so we now own our first trolley free and clear. Wish I could say that about our second, 2003 trolley, but we're making steady progress on that one too. Life is funny and time seems to go very slow and very fast at the same time. It still amazes us that we have a successful trolley tour business. We've really worked it hard but it's like you wake up one day and walk up to a full trolley that filled due to systems you put in place years ago. Now it just works very well, consistently. We feel blessed, fortunate and with it being 74 days into our season, very tired.
The trailer park improvements are progressing. Trailer 30 should be ready to rent this week. But the buyer of trailer 11 now wants out of her contract. Changed her mind. So I'm trying to determine what's fair for us both. I haven't had much luck with selling these trailers because people keep encountering other life problems and want to bail out. It's not a smart financial decision to give them back to me but they do it anyway. I make money on the deals and just sell them again. People remain poor by making bad decisions.
I received a low offer on the domain name EverythingDenver.com. I countered with a more reasonable number and will learn soon if we'll have a sale or not. If not, no problem. I'd rather hold on to it than sell it too cheap. I can afford to hold these domain names forever. Like real estate, they will only get more valuable over time.
We're starting to think about our October vacation plans. We're looking at exploring Idaho and Arizona via Glacier National Park in Montana. Might hop into Canada again to catch the Canadian side of Glacier. It's a big country.
What she might not realize is that I still have to approve whoever she sells it to. She'll also have a lot of work to do to make it ready for showing since it's one of the worst-kept trailers in our park. In fact, I told her months ago she had to paint the exterior this summer to meet our park standards. I can see me buying this trailer at wholesale after she suffers through the reality of how difficult it is to sell an ugly old trailer without offering owner financing. But she's not there yet, so let the education begin. Selecting those tenants as roommates was a bad decision. Breaking the rules of her lease was another. Getting so angry she wants to sell her home is the worst bad decision. Bad decisions keep you poor. Hopefully she'll calm down and realize she's living in a good park and put some pride and elbow grease into improving her home.
Our trolley ticket booth girl called in sick yesterday. Tricia covered for us. Then the COLT bus got a flat tire but the driver got it fixed at the city shop pretty quickly. Then I was sick most of the day with a headache. Tough day but we got through it. Still pretty busy with over 90 passengers for the day.
Today is day 77 of 120. Six weeks to go in trolley season. Starting today we have three days of charters scheduled for one large group. We move them to various locations using both trolleys.
The COLT ends September 17 so one month to go there.
I'm definately spending the winter establishing online income streams. Years ago I'd listened to Robert Allen tapes and he recommended multiple streams of income. I took the advice to heart and have established good business and real estate income streams. Now I'm working on the online income streams. I know just enough to know I have the potential to establish another trailer-park-like income without the big investment and management responsibilities.
I'm getting lots of service book website activity already and I know I can massage domain names too. Tricia will work on those over the winter on a commission basis for me so I can set up new businesses online myself.
We approved a replacement tenant for my old park manager who decided to get married and move into the new husband's house. I have to come up with a fair calculation for what she owes for breaking the lease.
We have a showing scheduled for Trailer #30 tomorrow. That's the one I just bought and have invested lots of our handyme's time and money refurbishing into a nice property. Once rented, I'll recoup my investment in less than a year and then it's all gravy.
Still working on getting a handyman to fix Lovell office building. I'm supposed to learn if a guy can do it within the next two weeks today. The potential tenant's wife sounds interested but her husband, who is the numbers guy, hasn't spoken to me yet.
Got the estimate for the engineering work for the trailer park septic system and it's a big number. I have to give this some thought and get some more information before I commit.
Trolley tour revenues are up 10% over last year and customer counts are up 7.5%. Strong year despite the gas prices.
Good news at the trailer park. The renovations on Trailer #30 are complete inside and nearly complete outside. We approved a tenant at $550 per month, she signed a two year lease and gave us a check for first month plus security deposit. She moves in September 1. This will amount to $13,200 income over the next 24 months on my total cash investment of $6,000. In addition, the trailer is now worth $20,000 if I ever decide to sell it. THIS is why I love Real Estate.
I approved the engineer to perform the feasibility study for a new septic system at the park. It will cost me $4,500 to verify a new system can be placed there and $3,700 more for the DEQ application process and system construction plans and cost estimate. The cost of building the new system is additional. But once it's built, I should be good for decades out there. This whole process could take 6 months or longer.
We're starting to think more about October vacation plans, which is a fun mental activity when you're locked into working every day.
The first guy we called to install new windows in our house hasn't returned our calls. Too bad for him, he just lost a large sale. And he was our favorite going into the process because he'd given us a bid a few years ago and is local. So we call the next company on the list.
A contractor in Lovell just lost our $5,000 job to fix water damage for the same reason. He didn't call us back like he promised. Our insurance agent will lose our business too for the same reason. Customer service is dead. Or on life support. It is so easy to stand out from your competitors today -- just do what you promise and be responsive to requests.
Our daughter Jen broke up with her husband is moving back to Cody. It's a bummer but it seems to be for the best. They just couldn't get along. Him being out to sea with the Navy for a year sure didn't help. I support the war in Iraq but this is one of the unseen costs of that war. You can't say the war caused the breakup, but you can say it contributed. Anyway, it will be nice to get her back in town with our grandson. She may even work for us in the trolley business during our last month of the season.
She brings our one-year-old grandson and two cats in tow so our private and quiet little existence just got turned upside down. But she's a good kid and it's temporary so we'll just roll with it.
She'll start in the trolley booth this week and maybe do some painting at the trailer park too. She's also getting her old job back as a hairdresser at the salon in Cody where she worked. Now we'll have someone to watch the house and dogs when we vacation.
Today is Day 89 of 120 with trolley season. It has been very slow the past week. We're in that normal lull period between when the families stop arriving due to getting their kids back to school and the seniors waiting to visit until the kids are back in school.
We canceled the 6:30 pm tour yesterday. The front air conditioner went out on New Trolley and the starter went out on the shuttle van. Got them both fixed since it was so slow yesterday. Felt great not having to do that night tour. If I had my choice, I'd cancel that tour forever since it's our weakest attended and totally unpredictable. Plus the rent-a-chair program we operate for the gunfighter shoot-out is a hassle. Good money, but lots of work. When I'm sitting on that deck overlooking the lake, I'm going to remember how hard I worked to get there.
Next year we're taking a price increase and will take a bold new look at our daily tour schedule to make it work better for us. Or I'll hire people to do at least half the tours for us. Or both.
We're hoping to get a new personal vehicle this fall and are leaning toward a pickup truck that could tow a fifth wheel. We'll see how trolley income shakes out. The list of wants and needs is long.
Over the past few weeks I've been re-reading every Trump book I own. I love Real Estate but am going to be very choosey over what projects I purchase next. I want to pay down debt, not increase it. Even though debt that makes you money is considered "good debt." Buying fixer-upper trailers appeals to me because I can buy them outright and use my handymen to get them in shape quickly. No new debt and great financial returns that will last for decades.
The next book I start to read is about online businesses. I know that's the direction I want to go over the winter so I'm looking forward to getting started.
I got a call from the Lovell police chief complaining that there were 6 foot weeds growing between the sidewalk cracks in front of my Lovell office building. He sent me a certified letter which I haven't picked up yet. This is a downtown location, mind you. I called my property manager and asked how she missed that problem when her office is a block away.
So a couple days later we receive a letter informing us that the Wyoming Association of Realtors has named Margie & I "Business Person of the Year" for our community. I'm not sure if that means Cody or the entire Bighorn Basin area. The letter says the local chapter president will call us to see if we can come to the awards banquet.
Just to prove that it is a funny world, the local chapter president turns out to be my Lovell property manager. I'm sure she's looking forward to making that call.
Even funnier, the property manager calls the only weed control guy in town to fix my weed problem and it turns out to be a company owned by the Lovell mayor -- and he's not sure when he can get to the job that his police chief is wanting done immediately.
Margie asked the right question -- why didn't the property manager just go pull the dang weeds herself and be done with it? It's a funny world.
Several tenants are in an uproar down there because we are requiring them to paint the trailers they own down there. All are going to do the painting they say, but several aren't happy about it. I figure that if we can invest over $100,000 making the park better, they can at least make their own dwellings look satisfactory.
We got the estimate for installing windows at our home and it's higher than we expected. But we'll likely bite the bullet and do it anyway. We've needed them for some time now and darn it, I live here, so I want that job completed.
Had some prospects say they want to buy our building in Lovell but the deal they were trying to conclude to get the money fell through. So I'm back to finding tenants out there.
I have another prospect interested in renting our vacancies at our Pioneer Complex here in Cody but nothing solid yet.
We have two vacancies at the trailer park and one may go to our daughter who has moved back in with us.
Exactly four weeks left in trolley season. I paid $2.99 per gallon for gas last night so I fear gas prices will curtail our September senior travelers who are such good trolley tour customers. We've never faced such a huge jump in prices in such a short time before so this is new territory.
We canceled the 6:30 tour last night so we could get that air conditioning leak fixed on the new trolley. Hopefully the repairs work this time. The gunfight crowds have really dropped the past ten days and our chair rentals have dropped to 100 or less. The late August lull is normal, and we're hoping we get the September surge that is also normal.
Two weeks and one day left of the COLT bus service this summer. Then the city takes it over and we're out of the picture.
The New Orleans hurricane disaster is all over the news. Lots of finger pointing going on by residents. I figure they should start by blaming themselves for not leaving after they were ordered out and warned it would be catostrophic.
I watched Geraldo Rivera make a fool of himself on TV tonight holding babies and crying while demanding someone (the government) do something about the suffering. Shepard Smith followed suit. Both reporters forgot they were reporters and started editorializing and finger pointing and sounding just like the victims. Bottom line: Stupid decisions cause painful consequences. These victims decided to ignore warnings and are now paying the price. Now they want us to pay for their mistake. And we will, because Americans are a generous and compassionate people. At least the Americans that aren't looters and criminals.
The mayor there is way over his head and blaming the federal government when he didn't even use the hundreds of school buses in the city to help evacuate before the storm hit. What a colossal mistake. The people deserve who they elect to these positions of leadership.
I don't think we should rebuild New Orleans as it was because no one can prevent this flooding from happening again. It's a disaster. It's a calamity of gigantic proportions. And residents there would face this all over again someday if we rebuild. We do need the refineries, pipelines and seaports though so a much smaller New Orleans with redundant levies and pumps would be a good compromise. I have no idea if this feasible.
Being poor causes so many more problems. To have a decent life in this world you need an education so you have skills you can trade for cash. If you aren't born into a family environment that fosters education, you need to take it upon yourself to get one. College isn't the only option. You can learn on the job and work your way up. Or read in your spare time. Or attend numerous job service training classes that are free or near free. Self-education takes ambition and self-discipline and persistence. How you spend your time determines the quality of your life. What Geraldo misses when he wines about the suffering there is how these people spent their last 10 or 20 years. If they weren't working and learning and pushing themselves, they have created the circumstances that are now their lives. That's true for us all. Our current life situation is due to how we've spent our time and what decisions we've made. If you do nothing, you end up with nothing. That's the lesson that Geraldo should be broadcasting from New Orleans.
Many people admire how well Margie & I work together and they envy the business we've built and the opportunity to work together while doing something fun. After five years, our presentation is really polished, so they are seeing us at our best. Then they learn we only have to do this four months to generate a great annual income and they are really envious.
I handed the gunfighters a $1444.00 check last night for their share of the rent-a-chair profits for August. We've given them over $4,000 so far this summer for their charities. More than 10,000 chairs have been rented so far this summer so the program is a success for all concerned, although it is a lot of work for us.
Our daughter Jen is moving into a vacant 3 bedroom at our trailer park and Margie has been helping her paint the interior. Jen may get a girlfriend to move in with her. I like Jen living in the park because she can alert us to troubles during the times our manager Tricia isn't there. Also, my tenants in our house at the Pioneer Complex next to our trolley warehouse are building their own home and will be moving when that is completed. I can see Jen upgrading to that home when it becomes vacant.
We continue to progress with completed projects at the trailer park. Lots of painting will get done this week. Also we start the roof sealing. Lots to do there and the weather is cooperating very well.
I read a booklet about copywriting as a great retirement income. It was advertising a pricey copywriting course and it described all the benefits of the freelance life. Which reminded me of that life which I had lived for 6 years. It WAS nice but since I was writing an every-other-week customer service newsletter for a publisher, I got burned out from having to produce 5,000 words from thin air every issue. The trolley has been a nice break from that but now I'm ready to get off the must-be-there schedule of the trolley business. Freelancing looks attractive again, but without the grind of having to create an issue every two weeks.
Anyway, I like the copywriting plan because I've already been a copywriter for an ad agency so with those clips and some specialized training and I'd be off and running quickly. Fewer projects with much larger paychecks. And direct mail letters can earn the writer a percentage of the sales they generate so you continue to get residuals. Nice to have many income options.
We decided to get the new windows for our house. We decided to get a normal window in the living room rather than the $4,000 bay window, so we'll save a lot of money. We'll be selling or renting this house soon so there is no sense in putting a lot of extra money into it. Next we replace a sidewalk and broken driveway slab with new concrete. We're also going to paint the non-brick areas a redwood color to match our fencing. We'll then have a solid home with good curb appeal. This house needed lots of love when we bought it and it has received it. We have gotten good at turning fixer-uppers into nicer properties.
Old trolley needs to go to the shop for electrical work this week. The headlite switch is overheating and we have some night charters coming up where we need that trolley. Then the motorhome goes in for its list of repairs so it's ready for some overnights in Yellowstone right after trolley season ends. Like RV owners say, "I'm fixin to go."
Fleetwood Mac is on the CD player this morning. Cat sleeping on the bookcase near me. Coffee is warm. Life is good in these early morning hours.
Jen's moving company will delivering her stuff from California any day so the pressure is on to have the trailer ready to take it.
Still busy on the trolley. We had over 100 passengers yesterday. That was helped with a tour group of about 20 seniors from Georgia who took the 6:30 tour. Traffic in town seems down a bit but our trolley numbers are still doing well. So it's like we're getting a higher percentage of the people who are here. This is great because it bucks the gas price worries everyone is talking about.
Traffic on the road was killer yesterday. Not because of so many cars but because the cars and pedestrians were always at the worst possible places at selective intersections. It was like someone was directing them to make my driving as difficult as possible all day.
I'm getting quotes from my new insurance agent and will be making the switch soon.
I learned yesterday the Cody Stage steering comittee has given up trying to purchase the building. Their fundrasing drive stalled at a third of the money needed. I think what sunk the effort was they got no one big donor willing to pay for the naming rights to the building. They say they had 80 donors pledge just over $120,000. All pledges are now rescinded (including mine) and all money will be returned. I've been out of the loop on that effort since trolley season started.
I no longer want the building because I saw that the man who rented it all summer for music performances seemed to struggle for an audience every night. That makes me think my melodrama plan would be an uphill battle. Besides, I'm looking to slow down my life after 97 days of trolley with no day off.
Day 102 of 120 in trolley season today. Temps have cooled down which is nice. Fresh snow on top of Carter Mountain arrived last night. It looks spectacular. Margie's back-up guide called in sick yesterday so she had to work. Then she's been painting Jen's trailer all week so our home life is totally out of control right now. No time equals no cleaning, no time together, no peaceful environment during the time away from the trolley. This is about the most stressful summer I've ever had.
I took the dogs for a walk up a mountain out by the dam last night. I pass that place everyday on the trolley tour so have been wanting to do that for months. Then I treated myself to Dairy Queen and went to bed early watching football. Whatever it takes to nurse myself through these remaining days.
The trolley phone just rang. People looking for reservations on this morning's tours. The day starts early.
Yesterday we decided we need a new house sooner rather than later. This one just doesn't have any places in it that make us feel relaxed and at peace. We know that peace is a mental game so we'll work on our brains too as we start our new house scheming.
The trailer painting will soon be done and Jen will soon move out and Margie will be back focusing on OUR home so life will get better. And trolley season will end and I'll have what I desperately need -- time. Uncommitted time.
I still have to get my bookeeping to the accountant for the past few months so I can get updated financials for the banks. I plan on doing some refinancing in October or November to get the lower interest rates I deserve. It's a couple hour process to pull all the info the accountant needs together so it has been on the back burner. But I'll knuckle down and get it done. I've learned through my dealings with others that no one has more self discipline and focus than me.
I had another inquiry for the purchase of two domain names yesterday. I suspect these domain names will eventually become my best retirement account. Prime real estate in cyberspace should increase in value over time just like land-based real estate. Only the carrying costs are much, much lower.
Today is 108 out of 120 on the trolley. One of our ticket booth employees quit last week in an uncharactoristic way -- she walked out after we left on a tour, locked the booth and left a note that gave no explanation why. So Margie has been scrambling to cover shifts. Tricia, our trailer park manager and all-around helper stepped in and worked shifts herself and then found a person to cover three days where Margie was going to work. So Tricia has been a great asset since we brought her on.
We've had more turnover in the ticket booth this summer than all four prior summers combined. We've decided next year that the pay for that position will include a bonus for staying the entire season. We used the same system with our COLT bus drivers and it worked well keeping drivers to the last day.
The home improvements continue. We accepted a bid to replace half of our concrete driveway that was crumbling. That work should be done within the next month or so. The windows we ordered should arrive the last week of September or first week of October.
We also are looking at replacing our 1992 vehicle with a used pickup with topper. Lots of research to do for that.
We gave up on the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center leaders and sent a letter asking them to buy us out. We sent another mystery shopper to the dam and they still are not plus-selling the audio tour to visitors as our contract requires. This has been going on for two summers now and is the reason why rentals of the tour are so low. Since we are the ones who paid for the production and equipment and provided the 300 man hours to complete the project, we're the ones who suffer when rentals are low. The dam suffers too in lost revenues, but they just don't understand how many thousands they are losing. The visitor suffers too because they missed out on a great interpretation experience that they never learned about because it wasn't offered. It's frustrating. And angering. And sooooo like a non-profit organization. In the future, I only do similar deals with private sector for-profits unless I receive guaranteed income or payment up front.
Margie and Jen pulled another all-nighter painting the inside of the trailer Jen is moving into. Margie promised this would be her last time on the project. Too many other things suffer when she's exhausted and still in trolley season.
The trailer park is still progressing. Cabin painting has slowed to a crawl because we've had to use Tricia at the trolley booth and we have our two repairmen sealing trailer roofs while the weather is good. Fortunately they are making fast progress there but have about 18 roofs to seal. With good weather they should complete those next week and then it's all painting, all the time. Lots to do and I am determined to get it done by the end of October.
The park was full but we have an eviction in progress and another tenant gave a short notice. So we'll have two vacancies there shortly. But we're already advertising so hopefully will fill them quick. A full park provides the financial gas to pay for all these improvements. Come December, this park will start paying us.
Tricia signed up a new tenant for a warehouse space at our Pioneer Complex. She has two others interested in space there too. One guy asked us to build him a building so I gave him a proposal at a fair rate and 15 year lease. We're waiting to see what he decides. Our toes are still tapping whether he says yes or not because we have so many irons in the fire already.
We surpassed last year's trolley tour revenue a few days ago so the last two weeks of the season are all an increase. It's a healthy business that just keeps getting more profitable each year. Over the winter I am going to create a how-to manual and sell it to the world because a trolley tour business can work in many cities. Especially in a climate where you could run it year round. A year round trolley tour business operating with our numbers would earn over $300,00 profit per year. I imagine there's lots of fed-up corporate guys who'd happily pay big money to learn how to set that up for themselves and escape the rat-race.
Margie & I have been looking at getting a new personal vehicle. No desperate need but the need is coming because our car is a 1992 minivan. It has been dependable and we haven't had a car payment for 8 years but it is aging faster than us, which is difficult to do. So we were looking at new pickups but I can't swallow the big prices. So we're eying a 2000 Ford Explorer that we could just buy outright and be done with it. We'll see.
Day 111 of 120 on the trolley. Ten days left counting today. We're into the time of diminishing returns. Ran 81 passengers yesterday so still decent sales but according to last year it will now start dropping off to 60 and less per day. We stop the season just right every year. We tried going a few days into October one year and sales were too low to justify it. Besides, we're pooped and ready for the break.
More fun at the trailer park last night. A tenant we evicted abandoned lots of stuff when she moved and our handymen went in, threw away lots of her junk and helped themselves to the rest. It turns out the woman HADN'T abandoned the stuff and called the police on us. So Tricia had to call the guys down to the park with the loot they took and read them the riot act that anything "abandoned" is the park's property, not theirs.
It gets weirder. It turns out the tenant was missing a vile of her father's ashes with a wedding ring wrapped around it. So Tricia was dumpster diving and handing the trash to the guys to sort through but no luck finding it. Glad I wasn't one of those repair guys last night because Tricia was ready to stuff THEIR ashes into a vile.
Another tenant skipped out on her late rent and moved out in the middle of the night. Tricia is on the case for that one too. There is just no predicting what a human being will do next.
On the upside, the roof sealing at the park should be completed today. Then our guys move into full-speed paint mode. With a little focus and lots of good weather, we can finish every dwelling that needs painting by sometime in October and repair and paint all the porches and picnic tables in the park.
No word on the septic system engineer's report yet. I know he's out there working on it and we've had geologists on site. Hopefully we'll get good news to go along with the big bill that's coming.
Daughter Jen is still working on painting the inside of her trailer. She's supposed to get her furniture this weekend and should be moved by end of the month.
We decided against buying the 2000 Explorer. The ride was too rough and it was too small. Now we're eying a 2001 Tahoe. We'll see.
We're down to the last seven days of trolley season. We decided last night's 6:30 tour would be the last night tour of the season. It's getting dark before that tour ends. Attendance is declining and two daily tours provide enough capacity to handle the remaining customers. This allows our day to end at 4:30 each afternoon instead of 8:30 pm. BIG difference.
I'm watching coverage of Hurricane Rita. I am so glad I moved away from that island in Florida nine years ago. I never got nailed but I went through the drill of preparing several times. That island got hit badly by Hurricane Charlie last year so my timing was good. Here in Cody, I only have to worry about Yellowstone blowing up.
A couple waited for us to get back from a tour the day before yesterday and asked us a bunch of questions about starting their own trolley tour company in Florida. We answered their questions and once again saw there is a market for my "How to Start a Trolley Tour Business" manual and consulting package.
My desk has gotten cluttered again so I'm off to take care of that.
I filled out a loan application for a vehicle loan and turned it in today. Our holdings are pretty complex so it took a few hours to pull it all together. But it feels good to have a good look at our results and see our progress. Our accountant will get me year to date financials for all our companies by the end of this week. I then sit down with one of our banks and review our progress and hopefully refinance a loan with a growing interest rate.
We're still hot on the 2001 Chevy Tahoe as the new vehicle. More research needs to be done while the loan app is being reviewed.
We got the damaged driveway slab ripped out and replaced at our house. It looks great! That's a project we'd been wanting to complete for five years. That really finishes off the curb appeal so we can more easily sell or rent out the house when we upgrade to a better home in the future.
The new windows here get installed next week so we feel like we're making giant progress improving our little empire.
Margie is prepping the house for exterior painting before the windows arrive. When they frame out the windows with the white vinyl trim, she wants the siding painted so it has a finished look without having to paint around trim. The home color will change from brown to redwood which will look better with all the light brick on the home and match the backyard fence.
Vacation is fast approaching and we have no firm itinerary yet. We hope to get an overnighter in Yellowstone this weekend, then work on projects here next week and then escape for a week or two trip north and west. Jen will be here to watch the house and the cats. No decision on boarding the dogs yet. It takes a lot of work to be able to leave our world for more than a week.
Our award for "Business Person of the Year" is to be presented to us on Thursday by a group of ten Park County Realtors who will take our 3 pm tour that day. Then we're invited to an awards dinner in November. No idea when the media will get the info.
Our repairmen at the trailer park have finished the roof sealing and are on the cabin painting. So we should be making good progress there. I've been too busy to check. Weather has been decent this week which really helps. The doublewide gets painted next which will be another very visible improvement. We also have interior work needed in two trailers that will take a couple days. We have three vacancies we're working on filling right now.
Yesterday was a very long day. Margie & I both had meetings early -- she with her Cody Events Committee and me with our banker. She's getting city Christmas events planned and I was convincing the banker to give us an auto loan. We both were successful. Her Santa house is underway and our new 2001 Chevy Tahoe is parked in our garage.
After the meetings we had 4 back-to-back tours, gassed up and parked the trolley and purchased the car. Then we had to close down all our ticket outlets which required us to pick up tickets and A-frame signs at all our ticket selling locations. That included saying those end-of-season sad goodbyes to the people at the businesses who sell our tickets. We've made sooo many friends through the trolley operation. We then celebrated by going out to dinner at the chinese restaurant and bringing leftovers home for lunch today. We fell asleep exhausted about 9 pm. Like Bill Murray says on Groundhog Day, completing our season was "The end of a very long day."
We were surprised on Thursday to learn that our Wyoming Association of Realtors Business Person of the Year Award was not only for our county but for the entire state of Wyoming. We were told we were up against about 14 other nominees from counties throughout the state and came out on top. Ten Realtors took our trolley tour on Thursday afternoon and presented us with a beautiful clock plaque from the state. We have another plaque coming at an awards dinner for the county award in November. Long-time Realtors say they can't remember when Park County last won the statewide award.
Our grandson Rylan had surgery on the 29th to repair a defective ureter he was born with. The operation went well but the little guy is very uncomfortable. He has to stay in the hospital a week. Jen is up there with him and Margie is going up there (Billings, MT) today with a girlfriend.
We filled a vacancy at the trailer park yesterday so we're down to two. Tricia is now free of the trolley ticket booth so is back at the park painting. We'll get fast progress down there now.
Margie is painting the exterior of our house. We're trying to beat the window guys who arrive on Wednesday. They will be framing out the new windows with white vinyl so if the surrounding area is already painted, the new trim will lay over it nice and clean without us having to paint around trim. So we have a load of work to do here at home this next week and then plan on taking a short trip through Montana and Idaho.
Glad I read it, don't need to read it again. It covered lots of rehashed history and only added a couple stories I hadn't heard elsewhere. Once again it showed how history is a moving target -- some assertions as facts in the book have been disputed in other works. When dealing with Buffalo Bill especially, it's easy to find conflicting stories about the same events.
The book did do a pretty good job of describing Buffalo Bill's difficult relationship with his wife Louisa.
Back here in the 21st century, the window guys moved up their installation here one day so they arrive this morning at 7:30 am. I hate disorder in the house so I am bracing myself for the worst. The project is scheduled to take three days which seems short for the amount of work involved. Margie has done a heroic job of exterior painting during cold, wet weather to get the areas around the windows painted beforehand. She's not done but is half done and can finish the rest quickly if we can get the installers to start in the back first where she has painted.
The new slab in the driveway finally cured enough to drive on it yesterday so that project is now checked off the list. Everything comes and goes.
Today I still look out the kitchen and admire the new fence we installed last fall and marvel at its completion. In four days I'll be looking out new windows at that fence and driveway. Thoughts manifest.
I got the new copier I ordered from Quill yesterday. That was another irritant I replaced. The old copier was the first office machine I bought after quitting 7-Eleven in 1991 to strike out on my own as a writer. It's served me well but I should have replaced it about two years ago.
The TV guys arrived yesterday and fixed another irritant -- the Tivo I got last Christmas that was never properly installed. It screwed up my entire media system throughout the house and I've been so busy I could never get it fixed since. Finally it all works. I have six TV's in the house, along with satellite, cable and a home theater system. When I added cable and Tivo, it became too complex for me to wire. Another irritant removed.
I signed the loan documents for the Tahoe yesterday and paid for the insurance. Taxes and tags today. Haven't even had the time to take it out of the garage yet.
Commercial insurance is being switched to a new agent this week too, which was a major undertaking.
The mechanic called yesterday and the motorhome repairs are completed. Didn't have time to go pick it up. Will today. A short Yellowstone trip is on the horizon some time this fall. Thought it would be this past weekend but that wasn't to be.
We put all these projects in motion as trolley season was winding down and they are all hitting us at once now. We may shorten our vacation a week just to stay here and get everything done. And once done, staying here and enjoying the improvements will SEEM like a vacation. So we may take several mini-vactions.
We have some lookers at vacancies at our Pioneer Complex but no new leases signed yet. Lookers at the trailer park too but still have two vacancies there.
Once all these immediate projects are completed and we're back from vacation, I need to spend a month on the computer. I have to finish my customer service and trolley websites. I have to write my "How-To-Start-a-Trolley-Tour-Business" manual. Then read my Internet business course I purchased during trolley season. And start income streams from the Internet. So many projects, so little time.
Last night I was standing in the living room looking out our new window, at our new car parked in our new driveway. Not long ago, all those projects were merely thoughts and desires. Now here they are physically manifested. Just more proof that if you think it, you can do it. Thoughts are things and if dwelled upon often enough and with feeling, are brought into physical form. Every thought creates. Positive thoughts bring the thought into substance and negative thoughts erase the progress you were making. So one must remain vigilant as to what one mentally dwells upon.
I completed the switch of personal and commercial insurance to the new agent and agency yesterday. When I told the old agent why I was moving, she blamed the companies she deals with rather than taking responsibility herself. Expecting her to take responsibility for her own poor service was probably expecting too much. Which made moving a good decision. Plus I'll save thousands of dollars per year because she had me covered by companies in the surplus market which is far more expensive to me and better commissions for her. Which was disappointing to learn. So bottom line, I don't know if she just got lazy and never switched me to better, cheaper companies or if she was out for the highest commissions or if she just wasn't affiliated with the better companies. Or perhaps she's just totally overwhelmed and doing the best she can with the time pressures she faces. None of which served me as the customer.
Anyway, the savings are so significant, they almost make the car payment on the Tahoe we just bought. And the coverages are better.
I've had a cyst on my back for years and today I go to the doctor to get the process started to have it removed. Life sometimes seems to be an endless checklist of things you need to deal with. At least I'm getting deeper and deeper into the list and the "must-do's" are getting less significant.
It snowed yesterday and we awoke to an inch on the ground. But it warmed later in the day and melted. Today and tomorrow are forecast to be great painting days so we'll be rushing to complete the house painting. Same at the trailer park.
The window guys made lots of progress yesterday. They finished the inside trim and half of the outside trim. The one window they were short needs to be re-ordered from the factory because the replacement they tried wasn't an exact match. So it'll be a couple weeks until that window is replaced, finishing the job.
While in Lovell we selected some living room furniture and it's to be delivered Saturday. Be careful what you put on your want list -- life has a way of filling it.
Today is all house painting, all the time. Lots to do and only two good weather days to get it done. Sunday the weather gets dicey again and no telling what next week holds yet. Margie got a better brand of redwood paint because the first selection was drying chalky.
I'm halfway through updating the trolley script to match what we actually say on the tour. It morphs during the season based on new jokes and improved turns of phrases. So before I forget the tour, I try to capture it on paper for the winter.
Thankfully we can't paint in the dark and cold so I get some time off the paint brush for desk work. Truthfully, I don't like to paint. I don't have the patience and Margie is a stickler for detail and my results never meet her standards. So it's no fun unless I'm covering lots of wide open spaces and no trim.
Today is a bad weather day and then we get good weather for at least three days after that. So we'll work indoors today and stay in town a couple more days to finish painting before leaving on vacation. The color change will look great.
The window guys finished what they could and left Friday morning. One more window needs to be changed out and trim around the basement windows completed. The new windows make the house much quieter and warmer. Plus they are good to look out. And look IN too because all the curtains and blinds had to be removed for installation. Putting that all back up is a big job in itself. And I can't start until guess-what-is-finished? MORE PAINTING! ARGGGHHHH! The new window frames inside need painting before I reinstall the blind hardware. This job will never end!
We're getting some good publicity from winning the Wyoming Association of Realtors Businessperson of the Year Award. We had a nice write-up in the Cody Enterprise, a nice photo and mention in the Cody Chamber newsletter and now a little feature and photo in the Casper Star-Tribune .
The furniture we ordered arrived yesterday. Now it's sitting in the living room waiting to be arranged. So many projects so little time. In the first nine days of October we have now:
Had windows installed
Bought a car
Replaced a slab in the driveway
Purchased new furniture
Changed all personal and commercial insurance policies
Gotten the motorhome repaired
Scheduled a medical procedure
Painted half the house exterior
Took down the trolley ticket booth
LOTS of paperwork and accounting
We've actually gotten BUSIER since trolley season ended. It's been a good busy though and within a couple days we'll have completed an amazing amount of activity that improves our lives. Then we get to vacation. So no complaints.
Jen returned home with Rylan from the hospital on Friday. The little guy looked a little drawn but he was active and seemed comfortable. Then Jen had to fly back to California for the weekend to help a friend with a crisis. Her life is pretty hectic too.
The trailer park had two good days of painting while we were painting our house. Hopefully good progress was made there -- I haven't had time to check. Then there is the issue of Jen's trailer needing more painting and repair inside before she can move. Somehow it will all get completed within the next couple weeks. Then she'll have her space and we'll have ours.
We've been pretty self-absorbed the past few weeks because our time really wasn't our own. So when we get a minute of "free time" we are very posessive of it and make sure it is directed toward what we want. The vacation will take the edge off having to make every moment count and we'll then hopefully be able to return to reading and learning and experiencing the "big picture" stuff of life and then share what we've learned here on this blog.
Good night with sports last night -- the Yankees lost and the Avalanche won. Watching from the new couch was a nice treat too. Having my Tivo and media center work perfectly was a joy as well. You have to go without for awhile to fully appreciate the things that you have.
For example, back in the deperately poor newspaper ownership days I didn't even have enough money to replace a $16 coffee maker when it broke. I went without replacing that machine for over a year. I STILL feel a wave of gratitude when I fire up its replacement every morning. I think that feeling overwhelming gratitude is a great attracter of more and more good things into your life.
This is without a doubt my favorite time of the year. I've always made big changes in the fall and I love the crisp weather. More recently, with the trolley business, it's the time of year where we regain our own schedule and experience that wonderful, but rare convergence of time, money and health. We also get to reflect on the completion of a huge amount of work which is its own reward.
When my Dad was angry with me as a kid for not completing a task, he'd snap, "Fella, do you know what self-discipline is?" The answer 40 years later is, "Yes Dad. I DO know what self-discipline is. I've become the Poster Child for self-discipline." And it's taken me far. But there is a cost. Anything that requires intense focus means a loss of focus on other aspects of your life. No one can do it all. "Balance" is very elusive and is basically impossible because all you have to do is add one more area of life to the equation and poof, you're out of balance. It's a big world. With lots of things that cry for attention. So focusing on one thing means ignoring everything else during that moment or day or month or lifetime of focus. So gaining the object of your focus comes at the cost of losing everything else you could have chosen to focus on instead.
So with the cost of focus being so high, you darn well better direct your focus on things that you love.
I took a walk in the pre-dawn darkness this morning and realized how much I missed that. Since age 11 when I got a morning paper route, I've loved the pre-dawn mornings. Crisp air, the world to yourself, and time to think. Or to NOT think. Priceless.
I collected rent from a lockbox this morning that one of my tenants uses to pay me. I have a couple other trolley-related checks on my desk that came in yesterday. I love having multiple streams of income. I still find it amazing that we established these income streams over the past five years. It was hard work but we had a plan and the plan actually worked. That should not be surprising, but I'm still grateful enough to find it all amazing and a great blessing. We had to do our part by making it happen -- we had to read many books and research successful people and take actions that were out of our comfort zone. But I'm just wise enough to realize that many aspects of those situations and activities were provided by unseen forces working for our benefit. Hence the gratitude and amazement.
I walked to the store this morning for a cup of my favorite cappucino coffee. When I returned home Margie was playing with our grandson and she sent me to Albertson's for milk. I realized on these trips what a great little neighborhood I live in. I also realized that walking down supermarket aisles is great entertainment. When you have time, money and health all at the same time, the world exists as your plaything. It's a wonderful way to live and I want more of it.
I ordered two new white garage doors to match the new color scheme and two new power openers to make our life simpler during those bad weather days. Combined with the repaired driveway and Margie's great landscaping, the house now has lots of curb appeal. Now I need a new mailbox and the exterior front and back will be totally finished.
Once Margie finishes the touch-up this morning we are free to take off on a trip. Lots of planning still needs to be done and we'll be gone less time than we envisioned. But that's OK because we can take other trips later.
Lots to do so I better get started.
The trip was nice and we saw many beautiful places. We basically circled Yellowstone National Park to explore areas in our region of Idaho and Montana. We now have a good feel for all of Yellowstone's five gateway communities. Our east entrance is still the prettiest of the five but all five are pretty spectacular.
We came home with some more living room accessories that make that the best room in our house now. The freshly-painted house looks good coming back to it after five days away. One of our hardwood trees turned bright yellow while we were away so the beautiful fall foliage we've seen while traveling has followed us home right to our front yard.
No big decisions made on this trip and no big ideas either. Just enjoyed the travel and discovering new places. Of course everything you see becomes another piece of memory that might later be combined with something else to create the new combination that becomes the next big idea.
So today was a lazy, catch-up day. Mostly just lazy. I had 984 emails after just 5 days away and only 3 of them really mattered to me and only 1 was a personal note from someone I know. Junk email has gotten outrageously out of control.
Today is our oldest daughter's birthday. She turns 24. She has a lot going for her. The hair stylist career is building and she's about to move into that 3 bedroom trailer we remodeled for her. She has a good girlfriend moving in with her. Her son is adorable and his surgery was successful. She's a beautiful, smart, hard-working woman. This should be her break-out year.
I'm re-reading a great book called Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. If you love capitalism, rational thought and have passion for excellence, you'll recognize yourself in this book. It shows what happens when a society tries to "equalize" opportunity for everyone by stealing from the top performers rather than building up the poor performers. Sorta what Democrats try to do today. :) But I must warn you it's over 1,000 pages of small print so you won't be reading this tome in one setting.
Which gets me thinking again, which is always dangerous. What hits me today is that at this moment in time, each of us are a physical manifestation of our thoughts to date. This is a double-edged sword. If you don't like the circumstances of your life, you have to admit it is your fault. But the upside is that if it's your fault, you're in control of fixing it and getting to where you want to be.
This is the secret of life that 99% of the world misses:
That's the secret of life.
There are no "stray" thoughts. Everything you dwell upon starts to create. And you have the power to push away negative thoughts and the power to embrace positive thoughts. Thoughts become the blueprint that the circumstances of your life are built to match. So the first step of improving your life is becoming aware -- every single instant -- of what you are thinking about.
Now this will seem difficult at the beginning. And it could take you years to master. Or, if you have intense focus -- like the lead characters of "Atlas Shrugged" -- you could improve your life very quickly. The truth is that nearly everyone you see has no control whatsoever over their thoughts. They are asleep. They are totally unaware. They let their minds drift wherever they will and never realize that they created the life they are complaining about.
You have total control over the life you create and it all begins by taking control of the thoughts you choose to dwell upon.
The techniques to do this are many and varied, but here's the one I like to use.
I pretend that the thoughts that flow through my head are a river. I am not in that river, but safely on the bank. I can casually watch the thoughts that drift by and realize these thoughts are totally unattached to me. If a negative thought comes through, I just look past it farther down the river for its opposite, positive thought. Then I choose to dwell upon that positive thought for a moment to wash away the negative. I am NOT the thoughts that pass through my mind. I am the detached soul who has the ability to dwell upon any thought that empowers me. If the thought does not serve me, I let it flow away.
But the real peace of mind occurs BETWEEN the thoughts. Happiness, love and peace are the default positions of your mind when it is not focused on ANY thought. This is where people go when they meditate.
Detached awareness of what you're thinking of is very slippery. I understand the importance of awareness, but still catch myself drifting in unawareness for hours or days at a time. The price of creating the life you want is constant vigilence of the thoughts you're dwelling upon. Failing to choose your thoughts is the same as failing to choose your life. And sadly, most people are not choosing their life.
But happily, you have the power to do so. And you can create any life you want, just by holding the thoughts that get you there.
Holding the correct thoughts create the proper feelings that get you to take the proper actions which create the circumstances you wanted. Thoughts create feelings which create actions which create results. EVERYTHING starts with the thoughts you choose to dwell upon.
The gap between where you stand today and where you want to be can be bridged. And the time it takes to bridge this gap is merely a factor of how passionately you pursue your ideal life. All the knowledge you need is already written in books or available online. All the confidence you need to take action is already inside your head. You access this confidence through conscious thought and the accumulation of knowledge. If someone else has achieved the life you want, you can read how they did it and take similar actions.
What it all boils down to is choosing to spend your time thinking, learning and taking action toward your goals. The more time you dedicate to this, the faster you arrive. An enlightened soul like Christ could think it and achieve it with no time lapse. For the rest of us, it takes a bit longer between thought and physical manifestation.
But all creation starts with the thoughts you're dwelling upon right now. What are you creating this instant?
Margie has an all-day retreat with the Chamber of Commerce today so I'm free to putter in my office. Which needs major puttering. I was a slacker yesterday and did nothing much other than read all day. Just what I'd looked forward to doing everyday during the last half trolley season.
The book I'm reading Atlas Shrugged , is moving right along. The few "producers" left in the world are getting squeezed ever-more-tightly by the equalization laws of the looters and moochers who think that their need for products and services is all that's needed to justify taking what they want from the people who used their brains to create those products and services. The book is doing a great job of showing how trying to take from the rich industrialists to help the poor is a miserable failure.
The lesson so far is that a man's wealth arrives in direct proportion to what he contributes to the economy through his own work and brain power. In America, everyone has that opportunity.
Even if you are born into poverty, you can self-educate yourself. It all comes down to values and self-discipline.
The band "Cody" played last night and they were great. The band members are all friends of ours so that made it more fun.
The YVI owners, Ron & Kyla offered dinner and room packages and we were upgraded to a great room overlooking the Shoshone River and the Absaroka mountain range. Spectacular views.
Weird to sleep 15 miles from home, but we had a good evening.
I received a call from a fellow selling a domain name yesterday. He'd found my domain name website and wanted advice on selling a domain he and his buddy are partners on. They already had an offer in-hand for $110,000! So this was a nice inspiration for me to continue my domain name investing. A big payday is just ahead for me -- I can just feel it.
I also had a good customer service book prospect contact me yesterday. I sent him the electronic review copy of my book and he and his superiors loved it and asked for a print version to show around the college for a couple training projects they're creating. Seems likely I'll get an order from them. So I'm once again reminded I have lots of potential with the service book too. This person found my service book website so all these leads are flowing to me from an automated system. Which is good inspiration to continue starting Internet businesses this winter.
Tonight we perform a trolley transportation charter for our Rotary Club. We're taking a group to a dinner theatre in Red Lodge. I've never been to the Round Barn Dinner Theatre but have always wanted to go, so it's a nice treat. The show is a spoof on Star Trek -- a show I love -- so I'm looking forward to that.
Margie is painting inside window frames again today. The job is slowly getting completed.
Jen's trailer keeps getting closer to completion. The new kitchen counter top went in yesterday but I don't know if the install was fully completed by the end of the day. That's one of the last things holding up her move.
I looked at a mobile home and lot that is for sale in east Cody yesterday and I left a message to learn more. It might be another good rental investment for us.
Another prospect is considering renting all the available units at my Lovell property. I won't get too excited until I see a lease and a check. Most prospects never materialize into renters.
I updated our Cody Trolley Tours website yesterday. It's still on the old format but at least the info is accurate. I'll be changing to the new design as I can during the winter. It's all set up for me so I just need to add the content. But I added a "Start Your Own Trolley Business" link that offers to help folks start their own trolley biz. We'll give them our comprehensive how-to manual and 100 hours of consultation (as much of that on-site as they need) for a fixed price and a small percentage of future sales. It's not a franchise but a notch above just consulting. I think we'll attract interest there because a four-month trolley season can earn over $100,000 profit. A location with good year-round traffic could make the owner rich in a very short time. With our experience, advice and training manual, a new owner would maximize their chances of success and minimize their trial & error learning curve. I can thank Tony Moreno, my entrepreneur buddy in Kentucky, for pushing me in that direction.
Jen has spent the past two nights in her remodeled trailer so she's easing into moving out. We're easing into getting the house organized and cleaned from the extra people.
I get the stitches out of my back this morning. The procedure went great and the incision seems to be healing right up so it looks like one more thing on my to-do list is "off my back." Ha-ha.
Margie is progressing with painting the inside window sills. We get new blinds installed in the living room today so we'll have that room privatized again. Living in a house with no window treatments makes you feel naked.
I read information yesterday that said that about 3 million people subscribe to satellite radio but over 19 million listen to some form of Internet radio each week. I've spent some time studying Internet radio because anyone can start their own radio station online for almost nothing. Plus whatever you broadcast is saved into files, so it lasts forever, waiting for your listeners to access it at their leisure. This is unlike normal radio which once played, disappears into thin air.
So, being an old DJ, and seeing all the marketing possibilities of having my own shows, I was already impressed with the potential of Internet radio. But the numbers of people who actually listen to it, pleasantly surprised me. They say it's due to I-Pods popularity. Millions of I-Pod owners are trained to download digital content and listen to it on the go. So much so that they call Internet radio "pod-casting."
So until I find the time to start my own Internet radio stations/shows, I reserved some more domain names with the word "radio" in them. I got some good ones too like AllOnlineRadio.com, MenRadio.com and CustomerServiceRadio.com. That last one will complement my customer service websites.
I work on my How-To Trolley Business manual this morning. That is a big job but it's not like I'm unfamiliar with the content. I think the most difficult part of the project will be layout and compiling the photographs.
I love nesting after so much time out in the public so am relishing the time alone here at my computer. I have enough projects to keep me parked right here for years.
My favorite animal is the giraffe and I've always wanted to own one. So I was surfing online yesterday seeing what is for sale on the Internet. No giraffes openly advertised but I did learn you can buy fawns for $100, buffalo for $500 and elk starting at $700. The reason I learned this is because I came across a house for sale in South Africa that is built next to a game preserve and they had a photo of a giraffe from the house's bathroom window. What a neat idea! Instead of building a golf course, build a game preserve as the main attraction of your subdivision project. Here in Wyoming, the animals I priced on the net are what people would expect here. Add some of those and a few fishing ponds and you'd really have something.
So many ideas and so little time.
Our personal insurance was simple and went pretty smooth. Property insurance seems to be OK. But the trolley insurance company is trying to make me insure the COLT bus (which we never owned, only managed) even though we are no longer affiliated with it, and trying to make us insure our Winnebago commercially even though it is now owned personally and has been insured that way for six months. So basically, we have to fight just for the priviledge of giving our business to this insurance company. Which is really whacked.
As for the Lovell insurance claim we've been appealing since January of this year, I'm finally getting somewhere. I went to my old agent's boss and he's discovered that my agent DID have notes proving she requested "special" coverage which would have covered my water damage there. The notes also reflected that the underwriter she spoke to said he could write that policy. Well, the policy didn't arrive for 7 months and that guy quit the company in the meantime and the policy that arrived had a lower, "basic" coverage that did not cover my damage. So it became a he-said, she-said between my agent and her underwriter.
This is good news to me because it shows that I SHOULD have gotten that coverage and I SHOULD have had that claim covered. So I now have to convince my contact that they should pay my claim and take it up with the underwriter who screwed up. He's currently pushing the underwriter for payment so he's not out money but that keeps me in limbo which isn't fair since it wasn't my mistake that has caused this. So I'm patiently waiting another week. They have a lot deeper relationship and much more clout with that underwriter than I do. And I'm their customer, not the underwriter's customer, so I'm expecting them to do the right thing no matter what happens with that underwriter.
Repairs at the trailer park will be completed by Tuesday of next week. Then we go to Lovell to start cleaning and repairing there. I'm over budget at the trailer park but we completed lots of work. Now we're working on filling four vacancies. We have two prospects so the situation might dramatically improve quickly. People move most often in the spring and fall.
I've been adding content to my customer service website Worlds-Best-Customer-Service-Tips.com and it's getting to be a strong little site. I have more to go, including the addition of a free weekly e-newsletter. I'll collect a customer list through the free subscriptions and provide these customers free how-to tips and info each week. Hopefully, this will sell more bulk orders of my customer service booklets.
I'm closer to getting the low powered radio transmitter installed at the trailer park. I messed with it for a couple hours the other day at the house and got it to work. I purchased a large antennae to increase the range from 300 to 3,000 feet and I can't determine what will happen with that until I get it installed at the park and see what the topography does to it. We'll advertise and describe our vacancies with the unit. People tune to an AM station on their car radio and hear our pitch.
My desk is a disaster and I plan to ruthlessly clear it today. Filed or trashed. I spend too much time on administrative duties and I'm determined to reduce that.
Cash flow is an issue again with all the spending our projects have required. The good news is that we start selling next year's trolley advertising this month which generates significant cash. We also perform Holiday Light Tours in December which generates a month's income for us. Then the trailer park finally starts paying us in January. It was going to be December, but our repairs exceeded budget so I can wait another month. I've waited three years to get the park to pay us -- reinvesting all profits into park repairs and upgrades -- so an extra month still looks good.
Still have rental prospects for our Pioneer Complex and Lovell building pending so that can make a big contribution quickly too if we sign either of those. Nice to have multiple streams of income and multiple irons in the fire.
Margie & I have been sick the past week with some sort of Cody Crud. She went to the doc yesterday and got antibiotics. I'm not in as bad a shape as her so I'm trying to beat it myself. You know men and doctors.
I mailed pitch letters to big companies this week for my service book and some select domain names. I'm trying to hit a homerun sale and I figure if I send a pitch to a big player every day, over time something will hit.
I'm still plowing through that novel "Atlas Shrugged." I'm somewhere in the 800's of the 1,000 page book. It's worth a read but I think she could have told the tale with half the words. I may read her other, shorter novel, "The Fountainhead" next.
The Colorado Avalanche are starting to play like contenders again. I enjoy watching hockey and try to catch every game they play. That's not always possible with my schedule but I got the NHL satellite package so I won't miss the games I do have time to see.
I came across a good information website with thousands of free articles. Check out EzineArticles.com . You'll find over 80,000 free articles about just about any topic of interest.
Today I prepare for cleaning up the water damage at our Lovell Building that is scheduled for tomorrow. Margie & I and Tricia and Randy (our repairman) will drive over and remove all the damaged carpet, drywall and ceiling board. Basically strip one office down to its studs. The insurance claim is still pending but I can't wait any longer. This could be a one day job that goes quickly, or a longer job that will drive us nuts. Don't know until we get in and get started.
We'll have a construction dumpster, wheel barrel, hammers, shovels, masks and gloves. A real demolition project.
Paid the majority of my property taxes yesterday. It takes a lot to keep this empire running.
The window guys installed the last window on Saturday and completed trimming out the new basement windows. Margie finished painting the new interior window frames and sills so I was able to hang the last of the blinds. That job is finally finished.
I'm now the proud owner of new windows throughout the house. They look great, are much quieter and I look forward to the energy savings. That was a huge project I am happy to have behind me.
Jen is all moved into her trailer at our park. We still have her cats another week or two until she finishes getting everything there organized. We've retaken back the top floor of our house and got it de-baby-tized and back to its organized, clean condition. The basement is the next big job. A summer of trolley tours and additional tenants really take a toll on a home's clutter and comfort level.
I'm one who needs his personal space and I need everything in its place or I get stressed. I've been stressed all summer. Which made everything more difficult. But my house is becoming mine again and I'm loving it. The empty nest is GREAT.
I enjoyed watching Peyton Manning beat the New England Patriots last night. He finally got that monkey off his back. He had never won at New England's stadium. Peyton is a real class act. Humble, team-oriented and a solid citizen. Unlike Terrell Owens who's loud mouth just got him fired from the Eagles. He deserved it and I wish teams would take similar actions against other trouble-making athletes. There are too many juvenile delinquents in sports these days.
I watched the live West Wing TV show debates between Santos and Vinnick. My TIVO had recorded them Sunday night so I watched yesterday. Vinnick cleaned his clock. Vinnick is the Republican. The show let you vote for who you think won the debate online at NBC.com. So I voted just to see the results. I was saddened to see that 70 percent thought the Democrat had won (Santos). It just goes to show that the online world is overwhelmingly Democrats. I find the same ratio when I chat on AOL. Urban areas have the highest online usage and urban areas are used to the government providing so many services. And if you like the government to give you services, you're typically a Democrat.
So it goes right back to the Bush/Gore election map. The Republicans have the support of about 80% of the USA's geographical areas but the Democrats have the highly populated urban areas. So it's a big divide. And I can't for the life of me understand the minds of Democrats. Which frustrates me.
I'm not involved in politics but I easily could be. It would drive me absolutely nuts however, so it's good that I stay clear. Maybe I'll write political books one day.
The room had spray-in insulation and it was everywhere. It filled a 15 yard construction dumpster and we all went through several masks during the job. Glad we did it, glad it's done. Now the office is ready for Randy to repair. He says it will take him a week or so. The comraderie was a nice benefit that deepened our relationship with Randy and Tricia.
Now I'm more determined to get that insurance settlement. I should hear a decision early next week.
Margie is buried with the Cody Events Committee. They put on the Christmas parade and merchant promotions during the holiday season. Margie organized the construction of a Santa House for Cody's kids so they can come speak to Santa and get their photos taken. Cody businesses have donated all the materials and some Cody citizens are constructing and storing the house for free. Nice project.
It's time to start selling trolley advertising for next year. That's Margie's department too. I help with the letters but she pretty much handles it by mail, email and personal visit. We have a little turnover on the outside of the trolley this upcoming year so she'll work on those spaces first.
I'm making today a puttering day. No "must-do" duties so I'll work on stuff I enjoy.
Margie made me blueberry muffins and delivered them to my desk. Great wife. Her comment was, "It's Saturday, everyone should get blueberry muffins delivered to them on Saturday."
I spent an hour writing a political column that will never see the light of day. I'm a bit angry about democrats attacking President Bush about the Iraq war. The attacks weaken him which makes the job harder, which makes life more dangerous for us all. They forget that thanks to Bush we've had no terrorist attacks in America since he started kicking butt after 9/11. Despite the bellyaching democrats and the lower polls, Bush is sticking to his plan. During these times, resolve and courage are the EXACT traits I want in my president. God bless President Bush. Shame on those democrats.
But in the big picture, the universe knows what it's doing and injustice is merely an illusion. Once you embrace the concept of reincarnation and realize we live forever, you understand that every event is merely another lesson that helps our own growth. Karma is merely the universe's way of making you experience the pain you gave to others so you stop creating pain. But to gain these beliefs, you have to read many books and have a passion to learn why we're here and what's our purpose. And you have to step away from what is popularly believed and do your own research. Because the truth has no relationship with the popular.
So if you read, you have a chance to grow and evolve. If you don't read, you're basically screwed forever. And become a democrat :)
Margie recruited a great team of "elf helpers" and turned her idea for a Santa House into reality. The 8 X 12 house is adorable and nearly finished. All supplies and labor were donated. Professional builders did the construction and a truss company will use their truck and crane to place the house on Stampede Avenue at Park County's Marathon Building. It will appear Thanksgiving night and disappear on Christmas eve. Santa has agreed to a rigorous schedule and will be available to invite children into his house for photos and to learn what gifts they'd like.
The Holiday Light Tours start on December 10 and we run three a night for eight nights and then work a couple more nights giving tours to corporate groups and special charters.
Margie's sister arrives for a visit early next week and will stay for Thanksgiving. One of Margie's friends is having Thanksgiving at her house so we all get to go over there for the big meal.
Good news on the Lovell insurance claim. The company agreed to upgrade my insurance to the higher level that was originally requested and is re-evaluating my claim against that coverage. So it looks like I should get a settlement. We'll see. I've already started the repairs there so the settlement check is important.
I met with three members of the dam board about the low sales of the audio tour and I finally got to give them my full thoughts on the matter. I want a buy-out because they are not upholding their end of the agreement but they are resisting that. But they seemed to understand my position and certainly meant me no financial harm. But they still don't seem willing to require all volunteers at the dam to plus-sell the audio tour like our contract states, so I'm not sure what they'll decide to do. I offered some ideas about sponsorships that could pay for my buy-out and ways to increase rentals and they said they'd get back to me. I spoke very candidly and directly and factually with all the numbers I'd compiled. It wasn't a pleasant meeting for any of us but I don't think any relationships were broken. They know I'm frustrated and they understand why the ball is in their court.
We did manage to clean and organize and recapture 90% of our basement. It's a delight to be able to play pool again while watching a hockey game.
The garage is next. But that's about 80% where we need it so that should go quick.
I ordered that hot-shot copywriting course. I already can get copywriting jobs at ad agencies but I want to get into the megabucks available in direct mail. They pay very high fees plus commissions based on how much sales the letters I'll write bring in. A project like that every month or two and I'd be able to go into semi-retirement anytime I want. Plus I'll gain skills to better sell my own products, services and causes. So I'm looking forward to starting it.
I'm still working on my customer service website. "Customer Service Jokes" is a good keyword and when entered, it brings up my web site #1 on the MSN search engine. Google and Yahoo haven't picked it up yet. I have several other service-related keywords built into my site that once picked up by Google and Yahoo will generate lots of traffic. I also will soon be launching the free online customer service newsletter to build up a good customer list. So things are progressing.
No word on the Lovell insurance claim yet.
I received the copywriting course in the mail.
Jen took her cats last night so two less pets in our house.
Yesterday we drove to Red Lodge for lunch and shopping. The weather has been perfect and should be all week. Today we visit the Buffalo Bill Historical Center . If you click this link, to return here you have to click the back button on the BBHC page several times really quickly. If you just close the window, it dumps you all the way out of your browser and you have to start over to get back here. I hate that website option but many sites are doing that. I guess they think it keeps you there longer. Instead, it merely winds up irritating you and the website owner who recommended that you go there in the first place. But it IS a great site.
I started the copywriting course this morning. I know I can do this and I know I can be successful at it because I was already successful at it in the past. After ten years, I just had to do something else for awhile and get out of the basement and out of my own brain. So I started the trolley company and purchased and developed a mini Real Estate empire.
Now I'm ready to come back to the basement and be a bit less public and a bit less busy. So I'll learn how to write less than in the past but earn three times more. And I'll get some Internet businesses going for other nearly-passive income streams and to feed my own entrepreneurial urges.
So I have many income-producing and interesting opportunities to spend my time and that is something to be REALLY thankful for.
We visited the museum yesterday and as always, I learned a few new things. The place is giant and despite many visits, I always see something I missed or didn't fully appreciate in the past. The more books I read, the more certain relics and displays mean to me because I know the background. Without a capivating story behind it, a relic is just another object resting behind glass.
Randy finished our Lovell office repairs yesterday. I asked him to complete everything except painting and carpet. Margie & I may paint and then I'll have the carpet store do the installing. I'm still waiting to hear from the insurance company. Their customer service remains a disaster. You'd think that once they decided I deserved to get the higher coverage, they would have quickly ruled on my claim and issued a check. Or at least given me an update. Nope. It's been a week of no contact again. So I'll call Monday.
We filled a vacancy at the trailer park so are now down to three available. We'll get there.
The initial report from the results of our test pits at the trailer park says a conventional underground septic system will likely not be the best choice for our site. So my engineer is researching the other options. Fortunately there ARE other options. The big question is how much will they cost and how difficult are they to maintain?
I hear the ladies upstairs doing some cooking so I'll leave my subterranean office and emerge into daylight. The big meal will be held at our friend's house early this afternoon. I love food-based holidays.
This doesn't mean we do no work. I like to work on my own projects in the mornings and then stop for the day by noon. Lately that has been completing sections of my copywriting course and writing the trolley company how-to manual.
I have a couple prospects considering deals with me. One might rent one of our warehouses and another is considering purchasing my Lovell office building. The repairs are complete there now other than paint and carpet. No word from the insurance company about our claim yet.
I was watching "Flip This House" episodes on TV today. People buy a house, do some repairs or remodels and then resell within one to six months for a healthy profit. Picked up some good tips. I felt like we did a bit of that this summer with all the work we did on three trailers. The difference being I rent them OR sell them. Our personal house has gotten lots of improvements this past couple months too. Feels good to make things you own more valuable.
Thanksgiving was a nice day at our friend's house. They served 21 people and there were no calamities. Good time, good friends, good family.
Margie's sister and husband had to leave early to beat approaching snowstorms so departed Friday rather than Sunday. That turned out to be a good decision because the roads are quite icy now. Their daughter flew in from college so was committed to stay until this morning and her plane got off as planned.
So here we are in an improved home with just us and our chosen projects. Life is good.