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. :)
Last Thursday, March 30, we attended the annual chamber banquet. Had a good time sitting with a table full of bankers. They were all friends so lots of laughter. At these banquets, who you sit with makes all the difference. So far we've lucked out every year.
Friday we skipped out in the afternoon to watch the high school play "The Boyfriend." It was the best $2 we spent last week. Man what we could do with our Rotary show if we had that talent, costuming and set construction. It would also help if we could practice for a couple months like they do. Oh, and memorize lines too. Anyway, the performances were terrific and going during the work day was a real bonus.
Saturday I attended the library book sale and spent $3.25 and came home with three bags full of books. It's amazing that for the price of a happy meal you can learn how to scuba dive, meditate or become a millionaire. Dollar for dollar, there is no greater investment return than what you get from a used book.
Monday was an amazing day because we took the day off to travel to Billings, Montana to see the Shrine Circus and ZooMontana. Plus lunch at Applebee's. Click to see our photos from the Shrine Circus and ZooMontana.
Tuesday we performed a transportation charter for a local bank and that was fun. We're getting lots of charter requests now for upcoming events so we feel the season arriving.
We are still waiting on the dam board to close the purchase of our audio tour. The deal was approved nearly two months ago. Our new closing date is now April 13. I'm staying patient but am disappointed in the lack of urgency. This reaffirms that selling out was a wise decision. It also shows that people you like personally don't always make ideal business partners.
The trailer park has had a few twists. A long term tenant moved with no notice and then left half her stuff behind and has so far stiffed us on her last bill. Once they know they have lost their deposit, they loose motivation to pay any balance due. Now we have to pay someone to move all her stuff into storage so another park tenant can transfer into that home. People.
The park has been full and vacancies have been coming up with 30 day notice. Until the surprise. So I'm sitting on one vacancy now and another coming up in a month. But lots of prospects so they should fill fast.
Our taxes were completed and came in without any big balance due surprises. I'll need those forms for the bank's refinancing paperwork of our Lovell building next week. That building is now listed with a Realtor for sale and I hope it goes quickly. It's priced to do so so we'll see.
Lots of correspondence to catch up with today. Letters to friends and letters for our business. I already answered an EverythingCody reader's travel questions and a friend's comments about David Lifton's Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy book I recommended in March. She loves it. But she hates the cover-up. You will too.
My desk has amassed a pile of paper again so that too, will meet its demise today. I will do it in broad daylight from the rear. But I will shut the dumpster lid so none blows onto the grassy knoll. I am the lone punman
Margie picked up her trolley ticket print order so that is off her back. You wouldn't think printing tickets would be a difficult job but there are many variables that require different designs, prices and perforations. She's close to completing all trolley ad sales and is starting to get back the produced signs for the inside and outside of the trollies. It's a big job but worthwhile for us and the advertisers.
We're also creating a restaurant guide because our number one question all summer is "Where's a good place to eat?" We decided to NOT create a magazine because it would not be financially viable with the limited number of restaurants in Cody and the huge amount of copies we'd need to print to cover all visitors to the town. So we'll create a legal-sized handout that can be easily copied instead.
We met with the chamber yesterday and firmed up plans for our annual "Recommend Cody" tours. We take front line staff to the top attractions in town so they can get inside each one and hear a short pitch from the managers of each attraction. We provide these two-hour tours for free because 40% of all visitors say they get their information from hotel clerks, waitresses and other frontline staff. The more educated and enthusiastic we can make the frontliners, the more they'll recommend attractions (including the trolley tour) to visitors. The more attractions visitors experience, the longer they'll stay and the more money will be spent in town. Everyone wins.
Recommend Cody tours will be held May 16 and 19th with the ability to add more as needed. Last year we had about 200 frontliners take a Recommend Cody tour. These are not the same as our regular tours. We are merely acting as the bus that hauls frontliners to the various attractions.
We also provide two days of free trolley tours to local residents before we start our summer season on June 5. These are our normal 60-minute historical tours that we provide visitors all summer. By offering the free tours to residents, we get to practice our tours to get back into the summer groove and residents better understand what we do and why a trolley tour is so great. The most common comment we get from residents is, "I've lived here ___years and I learned more in one hour about this town than I'd learned in ___years of living here!" We never tire of hearing that and some of our best advertising comes from word-of-mouth.
Overcast day here in Cody today. Of course you can see current conditions yourself by clicking the Cody Webcam. But the weather has been warm and the yard is starting to green. Which means I'll be pulling out the lawnmower soon.
But we actually ARE working some now and time is STILL flying, so rely on those equations at your own peril.
We had a good meeting with a rep from a local tourist attraction to start another marketing partnership. This could be very helpful to us both, and the entire town for that matter. Details to follow after we get it launched. Spies peruse this blog (you know who you are) so a little secrecy is called for occassionally.
Our property manager secured a renter for another warehouse and has hot prospects for our last vacant trailer, so our rental properties are doing well. The refinance of the Lovell building is progressing and the building is getting advertised in the "for sale" market.
We celebrated Margie's birthday yesterday. We worked in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon. Went to dinner with daughter #1 last night. We're going to see daughter #2 in Colorado this weekend. Tough call, but we're leaving the dogs home. Daughter #1 will watch them and the house.
I'm still following "West Wing" and "The Apprentice" on TV. Tivo is working well now so the episodes get automatically recorded for my viewing pleasure later. Great to fast forward through the commercials.
I also still follow the Colorado Avalanche. They only have a few games left and are right on the cusp of making the playoffs. Usually they win their division outright and get a high birth. This time IF they make it, they will barely squeeze in, which is new territory for them. They need something to jolt them awake this year. They really miss goalie Patrick Roy who retired a couple of years ago.
Margie got her trolley tickets back from the printer and organized them in a cabinet which is a great improvement over prior years' storage. We interviewed a part-time driver yesterday and hiring looks good if the rest of the paperwork comes in clean. He also offered to handle the rent-a-chair program for us so that takes a big load off us this summer. The city took over the COLT bus program last fall so that's one less thing we'll have to run. And we sell the audio tour to the dam board today so there's another load-lightener. We might actually get through this summer working like normal people.
I posted a study on EverythingCody.com today that shows that the self-employed are happier. We already knew this, of course, but this is for the rest of you. :)
Working with non-profits is difficult because the mindset is not as ambitious as entrepreneurs who have capital on the line. That's a vast generalization but our experience shows us it is mostly true. So we will be more cautious making deals with non-profits in the future.
Another sad moment today when Margie got her mother's life insurance check. It's enough to cover burial expenses, and will be sent in its entirety to the sister who handled the arrangements out east. Mom lived with this sister for years and she deserves far more than the amount of that check for all they did for Mom those past years.
Today we head to Colorado for the weekend. The to-do list to get away from our life for a couple days is quite lengthy. It won't always be such (I hope) but that's our life today. So off I go to work down that to-do list!
We had a great weekend. We visited our daughter in Fort Collins, CO. Got to see her classrooms, a model apartment just like the one she moves into this fall and her workplace. We visited her dorm which is at the top of the building on the 12th floor. The tallest buildings in all of Wyoming are ten stories. Our daughter has a virtual penthouse overlooking CSU. Our kids sure have come a long way since I was a kid.
Then we toured the Molly Brown house in Denver. Molly was a famous survivor of the Titanic and eerily, we visited on April 15th, the 94th anniversary of the sinking. The house was interesting and the tour guide was knowledgeable. Her story of Molly's last moments on the Titanic were riveting. Click here for our PHOTO essay of the trip.
Then we attended a Colorado Rockies baseball game. It was my first trip to Coors Field for a game and I loved it. We won 10-6 which helped too. But the stadium is spectacular. The jumbotron is a huge asset to the experience and the place has every kind of food you can imagine in the numerous concession stands. The stadium is on the light rail train line so you can travel by train right to the games. The big city DOES have advantages. Click here to view my PHOTO essay of the event.
Sunday we attended a Unity church service and it was wonderful. I wish Cody had one. It's the closest religion to our beliefs. And that's all I'll say or I'll be labeled by some as a heathen. Too late! Whoops!
Since I've already stepped in it, Unitarians believe in Christ and they believe that every thought is prayer. If you think it, you're asking for that thought to manifest. Your own thinking determines the quality of your life. Hate someone and that's what you attract. Love someone and you attract that. Worry about lack, and lack enters your life. With awareness and practice, you can control your thinking! If you've read this blog for any time, you know I'm really into that topic. So anyway, the church service was the best I've ever attended.
Then we had lunch at a Sonic drive-in and loved that too. I've always admired them from afar but never took the opportunity to eat there. Great. Wish Cody had one.
Finally, on the way home we drove across a part of Oregon Trail and found a location where Buffalo Bill Cody changed horses during his amazing 322 mile Pony Express ride in 21 hours and 40 minutes back in 1860-61. The building was gone, but the location still held magic as we imagined the 14-year-old, not-yet-hero galloping across the prairie. Click here for our Split Rock Station PHOTOS.
I was up most of the night after waking at midnight. I haven't been on AOL for a month so I checked in there. I dropped by a chat room and had a few conversations with strangers.
Chat rooms are a strange creation. Not too unlike the bar scene in the first Star Wars movie. On one hand you meet fascinating, funny people from all over the world and on the other you have idiots who type in the most enflaming comments just to see if they can set people off. They usually succeed, proving my point that only the insane argue with idiots. While all this is happening, automated text robots drop in trying to sell you everything from mortgages to cybersex. Online chat is an unruly world. Some days you want to shower after going in there. But on the upside, when you crave a little mental interaction in the middle of the night, you'll find other insomniacs typing away in their pajamas too. So it's mental stimulation without the hassles of appearance, hygiene or relationships. As a man, I kinda like that. :)
When I was writing fulltime I used to chat daily and made quite a few online writer friends, some who I even met in real life. Writing is demanding, lonely work and chat made for a nice mental break without having to leave the house. Or the desk, for that matter. Many people get addicted to it. I can see how that happens. Fortunately, I have enough going on in real life to just have the normal addictions to money, work, dogs and TV.
Today the desk gets cleared off. I will be ruthless and trash most of it. The trouble with thinking up ideas all the time is it is hard for me to throw away anything unopened. I'm afraid I might miss a good idea. So I collect junk mail. Not that I'll actually order whatever it's hawking, but that I might be able to combine that idea with something else to create something entirely new. So the desk piles up.
The other thing about being idea people is we always see potential. And of course, this being earth, nothing ever operates at full potential. Being entrepreneurs, we can incorporate our ideas to get closer to maximum potential in our own businesses but when we see potential in organizations we DONT control, we get the frustration of trying to push our dreams through other people. That's a recipe for disappointment if there ever was one. And believe me, we face that a lot!
Which leads me to reveal that Margie has a paint fetish. She paints something at our house all the time. She likes freshly painted surfaces so much that she looks at other buildings in town and wants to paint them. I keep telling her she can't paint the world. So that's our line when frustrated by another organization operating far under its potential -- you can't paint the world! And that's good advice when faced with anything that stresses you out. You can't paint the world.
Another cold front is passing through and it has snowed a bit today. More forecast today and tomorrow.
Tricia filled our openings at the trailer park so we're 100% full again. Another tenant who gave notice apparently had a stroke this week and may be turning the cabin back to us sooner than planned. Our daughter may be moving out of her trailer next month too, so more work will need to be done to stay full. Demand for housing is pretty high this time of year so we should fill upcoming vacancies quickly.
We refinance the Lovell building this week, paying off the owner we bought it from.
We cut two radio ads for our EverythingCody.com ad campaign. We love one and merely like the other. We may think up something to replace it with or just go with the one we love. Once I get the files, I'll link them here.
We had a good wedding charter with the trolley yesterday afternoon. The wedding party needed more beer so we drove the trolley up to the drive-thru window at the liquor store. Everyone loves when we do that and photos are always taken. The groom is a fireman so we dropped by the fire station where they pulled out the firetruck and took photos of the wedding party (many of which were firemen too) on the fire engine. We're pretty good at accommodating special requests.
The night before we volunteered to help run a racquetball tournament at the Rec Center for three hours.
Today we need to get the trailer park newsletter written and the billing forms and envelopes printed for park manager Tricia. She bills the park tomorrow.
The Colorado Avalanche won their first playoff game against Dallas and looked really sharp. I hope it continues.
We went out to dinner last night with oldest daughter and her new boyfriend, who seems like a nice guy. Daughter might work one day a week for us in the trolley ticket booth. Her sister will be working 50 hours a week all summer to earn money for her last year of college.
We have a final proof copy of the 2006 trolley brochure design to review. We'll be giving that to the printer tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting trolley season started.
We spoke to the vet about the baby bunny our cat drug in and she said it would be better off without the shot. So we released her in the woods behind our trailer park. She seemed very active and immediately started chewing on some grass so that was a good sign.
We received a couple inches of snow this morning and it is still snowing. It's not unusual to get snow into May here.
I had a good meeting with my bank this morning. The Lovell building re-fi is going well and another property loan will get improved for us as well. Nice to have a good relationship with your bankers.
The Colorado Avalanche won again so have a 2-0 lead in their series with Dallas. I hope the streak continues.
On Monday my favorite contestant was fired on "The Apprentice." Andrea is a multi-millionaire in real life so she won't go hungry. But the rest of her team thought she was too pushy. She was a bit stilted in her people skills but I thought she had lots of other good talents. I really don't have a favorite within the people left competing so we'll see who steps up now.
Yes, I'm twisted. I enjoy lawn mowing because you can instantly see the results of your labor. Not so with so many other projects we're involved with. And I usually think up good ideas while mowing. The body is brainlessly occupied so the mind is free to dream. I also use mowing to evaluate where I am with various goals. For example last year when mowing I thought, "Next year at this time I'll be looking at our new house windows while I mow." Sure enough it came to pass. The year before it was a new backyard fence. Check. Next year it will be far less debt, a fat savings account and the attainment of a big net worth goal. Mowing helps me set milestones and then measure their attainment.
Last night we donated our trolley services to guests traveling to an after-hours chamber event. Nice event but not much trolley use. We suspected as much from our past local shuttle gigs. People are independent, so drive whenever they can. They don't want to be trapped staying longer than they like, dependent on someone else's schedule. Even so, the folks who rode with us enjoyed the trip and conversation, as did we.
The event was held at a Shire horse ranch. Shires are the world's largest draft horses -- even bigger than Clydesdales. There are only 2,500 Shires in the world and this ranch had at least 10 of them, possibly more. Beautiful creatures and their stables made me want my hobby farm even more.
Click Here to view photos of the horses.
Click Here to view photos of the event taken by Margie.
We also had lunch with a fascinating couple we've been wanting to get to know better, Chris & Renee Turner. Chris writes and performs a weekly radio variety show called "Comfort Food: Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes For Your Mind". The shows are in the same ilk as Garrison Keillor's -- good music, comedy and a few surprises. He archives his show audio files so you can listen to them right from your computer. Here in Cody they are broadcast live from the Irma Hotel on Saturday mornings from 9-10 am on KODI 1400 AM radio.
Anyway, Chris is a retired TV journalist who has covered national and international events all over the world. He's also the son of one of the CNN founders which has exposed him to a million other experiences. Yesterday we only covered a few presidents in our lunch chat so it'll be years before we run out of topics.
His wife Renee is a spiritual healer with a medical background so Margie was in her glory chatting about that topic while Chris & I were busy disecting LBJ. Really neat people so I can see many more lunches in the future.
We had our weekly Rotary lunch immediately before that lunch, so I felt like a Hobbit having First Lunch and Second Lunch right after First Breakfast. To Chris & Renee's credit they didn't freak out when I ordered ice cream as my entre.
Tonight we're having dinner at the Chinese place with another friend and her guy friend. If it wasn't for food, I'd have no social life at all.
I managed to attend the closing on our Lovell Building re-finance. One more thing off my list. We'll pay off the old owner tomorrow. We also renegotiated another loan, gaining a 1 point reduction in interest rates and more favorable terms without having to pay a large fee. The bank didn't give everything I asked for but we did improve our situation so I feel good about it.
Checks are coming in frequently now which is great because May is our toughest month since it's the last month before trolley season. The trailer park paying us an income really took a load off. Trolley ad sales and charters are also coming in. With our new debt elimination plans, this should be the last "tight" month we ever face. The businesses we've put in motion are really starting to click now and generate what we'd hoped when we started this little empire 5 years ago.
We took a great day trip to the Wood River Valley southwest of Meeteetse on Sunday. We almost got the Tahoe to Kirwin, an old mining town that holds the foundation of a log cabin being built for Amelia Earhart when she disappeared. We got stuck in the snow just two miles short of Kirwin. Some ATVers helped push us out, although with the smart use of some rocks, we'd have gotten out ourselves in another 5 minutes. Had we been expecting to get that close, we'd have walked in but we weren't prepared. The road was so good that we just kept traveling until we couldn't.
Anyway, I'll post photos from the trip but this area is the prettiest of any area around Cody. It beats the Southfork, the Northfork and even Sunlight Basin. Forest, river, deer everywhere and spectacular, 13,000+ snowcapped mountain elevations. Certainly a place where we could delightfully live one day.
Back to the world of work, the trailer park had a couple bad situations today with tenants. One applicant who had promised to move in on the 26th strung us along and then left town. Another tenant who had created some problems for us also bailed out over the weekend, moving out of state with no notice and not even telling us. Frankly we're glad they left. So we went from one vacancy coming up to two immediate vacancies and one more later this week. Sooooo.... back to advertising. I still think they will fill fast. One is a 3 bedroom which is always in demand. And we have a prospect list of prior callers to check back with. You can see our openings at RiversBendMHP.com.
One other revived income attempt has to do with domain names. I'm starting to mail pitch letters to big corporations who can use some of my premier names. It's like printing my own lottery ticket and provides a degree of hope and excitement for the price of a few sheets of paper and a 39 cent stamp. Domain names continue to grow in value and I'm holding some really good ones. It's only a matter of time before I get some big sales.
I'm also starting to put some thought into creating a website that will appeal to a national audience. EverythingCody.com has been a great learning experience for me so far.
I also wrote two new trolley radio commercials today. We cut them this Thursday. I'll post them here when completed.
May is my favorite month of the year, followed closely by October. The weather has been tremendous and other than this flu, I feel really good about where we are heading.
Here are the Wood River Valley Photos.
We just completed two days of charters with the trolley business -- four in total. The first was a transportation charter on Thursday, moving a group from a guest ranch near Yellowstone into Cody and back. It was the first time we took the trolley out that far. Great group and we saw hundreds of deer and a dozen elk. We brought them into town to shop and eat dinner and then we parked the trolley at our house and a had a couple hours off. We pinch ourselves that we are so close to everything in Cody that we literally are working in our own neighborhood many times.
Yesterday we performed three tours for 3rd grade classrooms studying history. 96 riders, making it the unofficial start of our summer season. By the second tour we were back in the groove, re-memorizing our tour content. Even though we've delivered it thousands of times, take a week or two off and it starts to slip from memory.
I'm getting a new credit card vendor for the trolley business. We'll get better equipment, better rates and can take a couple extra cards.
Margie has lined up her marketing partnership with a major Cody attraction and the printed materials will be ordered next week. Our new trolley rack cards should arrive to us next week. We also completed our trolley radio commercials for our summer campaign. They don't start running until June, but you can hear them now by clicking Trolley Radio Ads Here. We are encouraging Cody residents to recommend our tour to their visitors all summer. The humorous campaign is titled "House Guests Taxing Your Patience?" We think they came out great. Tell us what you think.
Today we attend the Spring Open House at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. A friend of ours produces and performs Wyoming's only live radio variety show Comfort Food: Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes For Your Mind. He's performing the show there this morning so we want to watch. Also, the museum is screening a new documentary about Annie Oakley we want to see.
The east gate of Yellowstone opened for the summer yesterday so we want to sneak off for an overnighter in the Winnebago before we get insanely busy again. That's tentatively planned for Monday-Tuesday.
Lots to do so off I go!
Over the fast few weeks I've finished reading three books. 1)A history of Lyndon Johnson's first year in office as president, "The Johnson Treatment." I was drawn to the book because of my fascination with the JFK assassination. There are so many sub-plots and off-shoot characters in that story that you could spend 100 years researching it and never learn everything. This book was OK, but didn't shine much new light on LBJ for me.
The second book was a fun, classic submarine novel, "Run Silent, Run Deep." I'd read it as a kid and enjoyed it and it was even better as an adult. Nice escape book I recommend.
Finally, I finished "Bill & Hillary" a book about the Clinton's and their marriage. The guy was a total disaster and Hillary is right there with him. Both are power-hungry, arrogant, serial liars and if you support either of them it is only because you haven't done enough research about them. Bill should never have been elected because most of his character flaws were known by enough people to have been publicized before he was elected president. Shame on the media and the people who voted for him. Hillary is the same way and shame on New York for voting her in. Once again, if you support her, don't do it too loudly because you are telling the world you are ignorant to what she really is. The truth is out there in many more books than the one I mention above.
We get the government we deserve. We just don't supervise our leaders tightly enough and this has been going on since 1776. We're too lazy and too busy with our own lives. We have handed over our role of "self-government" to professional politicians and we get what we deserve. And worse, whatever shady stuff is being done without our knowledge on the federal level is being funded by the taxes stolen from us. So I cringe when I imagine what is going on behind the scenes without our knowledge now. Imagine what can happen with unlimited budgets and no supervision. It will be our downfall one day. The only question is when.
I think you can see I have a burr about this topic. It comes from my past JFK research learning ugly, scary stuff that the general public doesn't want to know. But I can't do much about it on a national level, so I just live my life like everyone else. And try to forget it so I can stay positive. I do what I can locally. But I say again, if you think your view of government is accurate, just start to read. There are plenty of books to knock you awake.
The fun fact about those three books I read is that they cost me about 25 cents each at the library's used book sale. Books are the best investment you'll ever make.
We were on the radio again yesterday promoting the "Recommend Cody" tours we give each spring. These are for frontline staff to get educated about the many attractions Cody offers visitors. These frontliners can then enthusiastically recommend the attractions to visitors, which will get them to stay longer and spend more time and money in our town. Cody's economy is still tourism-based so increased spending helps everyone in our town. We volunteer our time and trolley to give these free tours as our contribution to the community.
I picked up two more advertisers for EverythingCody.com. I'd like to drop the gloves and build up to 20 advertisers before trolley season but time is short and the to-do list is long. But the site traffic is still climbing and the content gets better and deeper every day.
Anyway, without the wife home I fell asleep on the couch watching TV and here I am awake in the middle of the night. I imagine many men end up with the same sleeping arrangements. Some because the wife ordered them there, and the rest because ...well... we're men.
I updated EverythingCody.com already so I feel ahead of the game. Hard to believe I've been running my own daily online newspaper now for 6 months. Time flies. I like being able to communicate with my town and the world. I like being in control of getting stories and events publicized. And I love being able to do it without employees, printing bills and delivery hassles. Technology has come so far. We live in amazing times.
We're getting good comments about our radio ads to publicize the site, so that type of creation is fun too.
My desk has filled up with another pile of stuff. I'll clear it this morning. And time to pay the bills again today too. But we have made it through another off-season into the cash-earning time of trolley season. We've already had several charters, sold lots of advertising and have sold many tickets through credit card reservations so the income has already started despite us not opening to the public until June 5. It's a great business and we're proud of what we've created.
Our new Trolley Website has made a huge difference in the number of reservations and inquires we're receiving. It's also attracting people from other cities inquiring about starting their own trolley tour business.
We've also created a Cody restaurant guide in partnership with the Cody Night Rodeo. We're printing 20,000 copies for distribution on the trolley and around town. In exchange, many of the restaurants and hotels will place our tent card on restaurant and hotel room tables that promotes the trolley and the rodeo. We figure we are the two best attractions for keeping visitors in Cody longer -- the trolley because we promote all the attractions and the rodeo because if you attend the rodeo, you spend the night. By promoting us and the rodeo, restaurants will sell more meals and hotels will get more nights. The visitor gets a better experience. Everyone wins.
The materials go to print on Monday.
We received our new trolley rack cards. All 45,000 of them. Very similar to last year but we were able to add a panel promoting EverythingCody.com so when people go back home they can stay connected to our area.
I picked up the secret to getting rich by the way. Read it in another book that quoted Benjamin Franklin. Old Ben Franklin boiled the wealth secret down to two words -- Industry & Frugality. He defines "Industry" as working hard, smart and steadfast in your career, and "Frugality" as living well within your means during good times and bad. Ben says if you don't waste time and you don't waste money, you can't fail to get rich.
While you're pondering that, here's a couple empowering questions I'm going to start asking myself to get more
from my days:
What new things will I learn today to make my life better?
Who will be the most fascinating new person I'll meet today?
Margie and Jessika arrived home about 2 am from Ft. Collins, CO. I managed to clear my desk and pay the bills. The lawn got mowed and the girls are watching a Harry Potter movie on the big screen next door to me in the basement.
Tonight is our 13th and final Financial Peace class. This Dave Ramsey program has been great. I highly recommend it.
The weather here in Cody has been perfect. We have clear skies and 70 degree temps. Supposed to stay this way all week. I could take it all year. Our lawn looks great. Grass always looks the best one day after you cut it. Our trees are all leafed out and the lilac bushes are starting to bloom. May is one fine month in Cody.
People always ask us what we do keep our lawn looking so good so here is the answer. We have it sprayed by a professional service once a month with a "weed & feed" mix. We also set the mower to cut the grass a bit higher than normal. Grass eats from the top of the stem so the shorter you cut your grass, the more "stomach" you take away from the grass. It can't eat as well when it's shorter. Also, we don't use a bag so the cut grass ends up feeding the lawn. This works very well, as proven by the fact our grass always greens first in the neighborhood and looks lush the longest.
Yesterday I received a copy of a memory book from my 30th High School reunion. I couldn't make the event last summer so the book is the next best thing. I read the bios of some of my classmates and as you'd expect, some are living small and some are living large. Makes you wonder what makes the difference. I'm putting my money on self-confidence and the environment you grew up in. I think people tend to default to the same level of achievement their parents achieved. It takes special effort to exceed them.
As parents, you really show your kids what is possible just through every day living. So live up to your potential -- You may be the only bible some other soul ever reads.
Anyway, the memory book included a directory of addresses so I'll likely contact a few of the old classmates. 30 years is long time, but it doesn't seem that long once you reconnect.
If only there was a way to pass what we know now back to ourselves back then. It seems that by the time you get your mind where it needs to be, your body starts to fall apart. The ultimate practical joke. Life is so tough nobody gets out alive.
Margie's restaurant guide we're promoting with the rodeo gets back from the printer Monday. Her hotel and restaurant tabletop signs sometime before June 1. So that's a lot of new marketing for us.
We started our annual leave of absense from Rotary until November. Our last meeting was Thursday.
Another person hired me to help her start a trolley tour company in her large city. I'll keep the city name secret until she launches. She found me on the Internet. Due to my tight schedule we'll use phone, email and overnight shipping.
She has a very short timeframe to get started so she's flying low. You get more done under the pressure of a deadline so that's likely a good thing. She seems very ambitious and entrepreneurial-minded so has been fun to work with. I sent her a big package of our materials to give her an idea of our approaches that work in the areas of tour content, marketing and operations. If she can navigate her time pressures, I think she'll do fine.
Everytime I consult on a trolley business though I realize how lucky I am to have Margie. Two people working together makes the process go much better, faster and confidently. Plus Margie is a crackerjack designer so we can make any sales or marketing materials on demand in our own basement offices. Big plus.
Had a website scare this week. My web hosting company moved my entire site to a new server and we had lots of problems. Many of the files moved over with no content in them. Luckily the company had backups and was able to replace the damaged files. It seems everything is back in order but I have so many files and links it would take me hours and hours to check them all. I'll have to do that a little at a time but I'm feeling like we're in pretty good shape. If you discover a broken link, please let me know.
Today I have scheduled myself to build a new site posting the info we included in our Recommend Cody Tours. With this site, a new employee can get a virtual tour of the largest attractions in town right from a computer. This will help businesses who hire folks through the rest of the summer. We have plenty of photos from the attractions and of course, their content, so it should be a straight forward project. But working with the web always takes longer than you expect so I bet I'm dreaming that I'll finish (or even get to it) today. The site will be posted at RecommendCody.com.
I hesitate to reveal the next piece of news because it's personal. And it may come across as bragging even though I feel humbled and blessed by it. But I think the inspirational value of the story outweighs those concerns and I hope it benefits you. This is a true story and anyone with enough passion who reads this can duplicate it. And I bet many who read this have a similar story and have far surpassed our results. So here goes.
We crossed a significant financial milestone at the beginning of May. We have become millionaires. On paper anyway.
I had to update our net worth statement for the bank when we refinanced the Lovell building we own and darn if the numbers didn't squeak by the one million mark. The form merely asks you to list the value of all your assets and then list all your debt. By subtracting debt from assets, the difference is your net worth.
The numbers are arbitrary because it is up to me to estimate the worth of my assets. But I was pretty conservative so I feel comfortable that I'm accurate.
Learning that I am a millionaire was anti-climatic. I always thought it would happen in a flash of celebration. Make one big killing by selling a domain name, or a piece of property. I now realize that most millionaires discover they made it by completing some banker's financial paperwork. That's a pretty underwhelming way to discover you've achieved such an important milestone.
The thing is I don't feel any richer. I've felt rich for many years -- rich in the things that matter -- health, family, ideas, freedom from direct employment, living in a beautiful area, the respect of friends -- but I don't feel flush with cash. Because I'm not. To access my million, I'd have to sell all my income-producing assets and I'm not ready to do that. They are the golden goose that fuel our dreams right now. So we'll just keep on swimming a while longer, eliminate all personal debt, keep reducing business debt, and think about semi-retiring in 3-5 years.
But I won't kid you, I'm delighted we crossed this threshold because ten years ago, we were bankrupt. We left Florida and arrived in Cody with a total net worth of $2,000 -- and most of that was equity in a used car. One thing we did have though was everything we'd learned from going through that situation, and it turned out to be enough to make a fresh start.
We'd started a community newspaper in Florida and ran it for three years. It nearly killed us but we made that little bi-weekly work for everyone except ourselves. Readers and advertisers loved it and we put every ounce of time and energy and love into that 24-page tabloid. Our 100-hour weeks made us sleep at the office. We did most of the writing, photography, layout, ad sales and design, bookeeping and delivery. The best day of our life during those years was the 24 hours between dropping the layout boards off at the printer and getting the printed bundles of newspapers delivered to our office. Done with one issue, too soon to start the next. We were 100%, totally insane. There was zero work-home balance. It was 100% work. Work, work, work. What an education! And when it came to marketing, nothing forces you to create zany, but workable ideas like being desperate. If we didn't sell an ad or a subscription, we didn't eat!
I remember going without a coffee maker at home for over a year because we couldn't afford $16 to buy a new one. I STILL want to kiss the maker (and the coffee maker) whenever I fire up my Mr. Coffee now. Nothing makes you appreciate what you have more than living without.
The payoff for those times is that we use all the skills we learned back then to be successful today. Thanks to those difficult times, no one can match our work ethic. Or passion. Or creativity. And thanks to what we learned back then, we keep ourselves out of situations that force 100 hour weeks. Even our tough schedules in the summer with the trolley are nothing compared to those three years in Florida.
So when I say we are now millionaires, you understand why it's such a big deal to us.
So what was the difference between the us that went bankrupt and the us that earned a million?
We always had the work ethic and the energy and the passion. And we always made sure everyone else benefited by their association with us. But we never gave ourselves that same treatment. We took the scraps. We just didn't know enough about business or balance or building wealth. We were inspired, but we weren't educated.
We filled that gap with exhausting experience and by taking four years "off" to recharge and educate ourselves when we arrived in Cody. Just after the bankrupcy I secured a writing client that had me produce customer service newsletters for them every two weeks. This provided a regular fulltime paycheck and gave me plenty of time off. I used that time off to read everything I could about wealth building and real estate. I started looking at trailer parks because they required the least amount of capital but still generated apartment-like rental streams.
We lived in rented houses in Cody until a conversation with a Realtor informed me of the WCDA house-buying program. After four years of renting and with our income at the time, we qualified for the loan. Buying our home is what started us toward becoming millionaires, so we really achieved that goal in less than 6 years once we started acting on our ideas.
Six months later we came up with the trolley tour idea, wrote a well-researched business plan (something we never did with the newspaper, which if we did, would have shown the paper was doomed from the start), sold $10,000 of advertising and qualified for a business loan to buy a used trolley and start our tour company.
I kept the writing job which kept us financially viable and we ran the trolley company the first year and broke even. The second year we made many improvements and started a partnership with the museum and tripled sales. We were off and running. In year three we purchased a new trolley to improve the tours further. In year four we paid off the original loan and by year five we'd paid off half the new trolley. In a year or two that will be paid off and we'll own the company free and clear.
All that time I was reading about trailer parks, meeting with owners and Realtors and had actually made offers on several parks that never worked out. So I was ready when Rivers Bend hit the market. But I still didn't have any money. The trolley was just starting. We'd only owned the house for 18 months. But I'd learned how to put deals together so they worked for everyone. So we met with the sellers and learned their needs. We met with our bankers and learned their needs. We researched the park to make sure it could meet our needs. And we put together a plan that allowed us to buy that 32-unit trailer park for $1,000 down.
Three years later, everyone has benefited. We plowed all the income back into repairs and upgrades, and evicted any tenants with drug or crime problems so the current tenants have a much better environment. The sellers got two thirds of their money in cash from our bank loan. They carried a second mortgage with us and now receive a dependable check from us every month. And we purchased a five acre, riverfront trailer park that has doubled in value these past three years and generates income for us each month. Everyone wins.
Self-education made the difference for us. You can read a book for free. You can buy a book for peanuts compared to what it returns to you. And sadly, most people read less than one book a YEAR. Millionaires read one book a WEEK. Because the more you know, the more the dough. I only wish I'd internalized that when I was younger.
So my advice is to decide what you want and then passionately read and learn about it from every possible source until you're as prepared as possible. Don't hesitate to speak to people who have already acomplished what you want. Then take the actions needed to bring your plans into reality. Life will pay whatever price you ask. You just have to be willing to learn how life wants you to ask.
Then we installed the new ads on and inside the trolleys. It takes quite a bit of work on Margie's part to get to that point -- sales, design, follow-up & sign production, so seeing them displayed all finished on the trolleys is a nice feeling.
But Margie stepped on a pipe while moving some boxes and twisted her ankle pretty good. That tempered the warm glow of achievement a bit. It swelled up pretty good and shes limping around today.
While at the trolley warehouse I took many photos for the lady who is starting her own trolley business in another city. Our knowledge can save someone like her years of trail and error and lots of lost revenue dollars. We feel blessed we are in a place to be able to share what we've learned. So many people ask about starting their own trolley tour company each summer that I've written a how-to manual and put together a consulting package. Because I'm on my own trolley all summer, this consulting package is available October through April.
Finally I cut the lawn and Margie planted flowers so our landscaping is looking great for the summer. We were both physically beat and slept like rocks.
This morning we took the primary trolley in for its annual inspection. This is required of commercial vehicles and gives us peace of mind too.
Today we have a long list of phone calls and contacts and details to complete to progress toward being ready for trolley season. It's a great business for many reasons but it takes quite a bit of complex work to get it fired up every summer. I always say that performing the tours is the easiest part of the business. What's difficult is all the operational prep work and marketing that must be done to attract people TO the tours.
Ever since I was hired to help start a trolley tour company in the Lexington, Kentucky area I've been more interested in thoroughbred horse racing. This area is the breeding ground epicenter for the sport. I still only watch the major races but I've was horrified like everyone else to see Barbaro break his leg at the Preakness. I'm following the news of his hopeful recovery and posting it on EverythingCody.com . I hate to see any animal suffer and it seems far worse with so many dashed expectations in such a public spectacle.
It is already hot and looks to be 80 degrees plus today. I'm not a big fan of the heat. It makes the trolley tours harder and we have three of them this afternoon.
We also had three yesterday and have two more tomorrow morning. All but one of them are the free tours we give to Cody residents so they'll recommend us all summer. We'll give away over 300 seats by the time we start our season to the public on June 5.
The tours went well yesterday and we are about 98% on our performance standard. These tours are also good practice for us to get back in the groove.
The trailer park is full again. We had a burst of vacancies and a burst of new tenants. Luckily they matched.
I read good news from the property assessor yesterday. Commercial and residential property values increased 8% last year and our county assessor says they'll go up 10.5% this year. That means that for every $100,000 in property you own, your net worth will increase by $10,500. In one year. Following the prior year where they went up $8,000 per $100,000. It doesn't take a lot of property ownership to build an amazing annual gain. And it s mostly passive income without having to be there! Now I see why the rich get richer. You absolutely HAVE to own property if you want financial independence. Nothing you do in life will ever generate wealth as easily as real estate.
I'm not saying there is NO work involved, because there is. But compared to working a job or a business, you just can not physically earn more money working than you can earn through property appreciation.
And it doesn't take a lot of money to get started if you invest in your brain by reading and researching. A great place to find hundreds of free how-to real estate articles is Creative Real Estate Online .
Remember we bought a trailer park with $1,000 down with a bankrupcy in our past so it CAN be done. Through good management, many improvements and property appreciation, that investment has multiplied itself by 400-500 times in just three years! I wish I owned 10 trailer parks.
But that's all future money for retirement. The here and now money is the trolley income and we're in the last rush of getting everything ready for season. Our poor daughter is our only staff person until we open to the public so she's getting chased on errands all over town. Pretty stressful times in the Johnson household until season starts. The grueling daily tours produce it's own type of stress, but giving the tours is far easier than preparing everything else that fills the tours. And no matter how tough a day we have, it's still 10 times better than working a job for someone else. Most days it's still down-right fun.
Margie's ankle is back to normal. The phones got hooked up in our ticket booth. The proofs are back from our hotel and restaurant tabletop signs. We picked up the 20,000 restaurant guides we had printed in partnership with the rodeo. The trolley shuttle van annual inspection is complete. New trolley uniforms are ready for pickup. Oh, and I'm refinancing Jessica's college loans to lock in a good rate before the increases hit July 1. And we're attending a friend's going away party tonight. Something major is happening here every day now.
I trained a trolley driver on Sunday and he practiced with our other tour guide yesterday. Having a relief team will make our life much better this summer. So far, so good.
I spent all of yesterday completing the RecommendCody.com website. This site trains new employees about all the most popular attractions in Cody so they can enthusiastically recommend them to visitors. If visitors learn of all these great attractions they will stay in town longer and have a better experience. They'll also spend more money ($100 per day per person average) and that helps everyone in Cody because we are still mainly a tourism economy.
Saturday reminded me that trailer park ownership isn't always easy. A row of trailers at our park lost water service on the morning of the first day of a holiday weekend. My manager was out of town and no plumber would return calls so I was the guy on the hotseat. It has been awhile since that has happened. Luckily I was able to diagnose the problem and a plumber returned my call and came over and made the repair, saving the day. After it was all over it was satisifying to know I'd handled it as fast as possible. However I'd have preferred to have those three hours back for my own use.
Still, not a bad price to pay for all the benefits that come from owning real estate.
We are giving a free tour to the school district personnel today. We're also getting calls from visitors wanting to go already. We've been putting them on other free tours as possible to avoid turning them away. There are just enough calls to make us wonder if we shouldn't be doing one tour a day until our official opening on June 5. We might try that next year, but we have too much to do to get ready for June 5 to start early. Once we start, we're trapped by the schedule.
Our gunfight rent-a-chair program starts June 1 and we need to clean the chairs and get them down to the Irma Hotel. It's a great program for all involved. We give half the profits to gunfighter charities and that amounts to about $5,000 a summer. The visitors who rent the chairs love the service and front row reserved seats, and of course we make a profit for running the program and providing the chairs. Everyone wins. This year we are paying others to help set up, sell and take down the chairs, so our life gets easier.
"The Apprentice" is down to the last two contestants. Sean has the clear advantage. He's older, smarter and selected a better team. Lee is still immature and it shows. He picked a horrible team and seems way over his head. Anyway, it makes for nice TV for me and it is my favorite show right now.
Our charter with the school district personnel went great yesterday. We nailed the tour and they were an appreciative and responsive audience. We also had a family on board from Thailand who couldn't wait for our June 5 opening. They enjoyed the tour too and it was fun for the school district folks to see the international appeal we attract to the trolley.
It feels really comfortable driving the trolley and we're already in the summer groove with the tour performance. It's just a nice feeling to be good at something that most people appreciate. It's a very good, wholesome, established business that should be operating in Cody far after we are gone. We're blessed to own it.
I mowed the lawn yesterday morning, something I'm doing every four days now. We have fast growing, healthy grass with Margie watering as much as is legal. The lawn looks great but since I'm the designated lawn mower, I sometimes wonder if her watering isn't actually an assassination attempt. :)
We got all the chairs and carts moved to the Irma from our warehouse yesterday. That took about 8 trips. One more thing off our list. We train the team who will set and sell them tomorrow afternoon and then we are free from that daily grind.
We learned a friend might be moving and spoke to him about buying his house. It might make a great rental for our daughter and grandson. Lots to consider but nice to be able to at least consider it.
Our family has been watching a lot of "Star Trek, The Next Generation" lately. That's the one with Captain Picard. I love that show because the people are all professionals and the ship and personnel are almost always operating at peak performance. They show how things should be in the real world. I'll break down one day and just buy all the episodes on DVD. We liked the original series, but they look so dated now when we watch them. We never got interested in the several series that followed after Picard. And of course we go to all the Star Trek movies that are produced. We used to treat their appearance as a national holiday and even took our kids out of school to attend the first showings.
Margie finished the last of her "slide show" ads that we place on a DVD and play on the trolley while passengers board. Passengers love watching them. We also have to go to a metal fabricator today to make a fix for two magnetic signs we had made for an advertiser. It turns out the space on the trolley where they will be displayed is not magnetic. Oops. So we're in entrepreneur recovery mode. No fear, we'll find a quick solution.
I'm reading an old used book that profiles how the very rich got that way. So far the biggest generalizations are that the mega-rich all marched to their own drummer, worked extremely hard, stayed focused on their goals, ignored the negative naysayers who told them they were fools and plunged ahead with an initial large risk that could have wiped them out at the beginning, but made it work and sent them forward toward success. Some focused exclusively on one business and others had a million enterprises going on all over the place. If you ever want to achieve a worthy goal, get great tips by reading about the people who have already accomplished it. Better yet, speak to the living people in your community who are achieving it now. Most successful people are happy to share what they know.
Anyway, the trip was amazing. For starters, the weather was perfect and the views from the mountain top were spectacular. There is a small buffalo monument up there that is in disrepair. It looked better than I expected, but it is still a sorry substitute for what Buffalo Bill had requested in his 1906 will.
After looking at the buffalo monument, Elbert and Bob took us to the possible burial sites and we were very impressed. The two men varied in their locations but were not far apart. Since Elbert lives up there, he has had time to thoroughly explore the entire mountain top and even Bob was intrigued with the location and physical properties of the site Elbert located.
As we kneeled by the possible grave, we tried to imagine the thoughts of the men who had stolen Buffalo Bill's body and replaced it with the body of a Cody vagrant made up to look like Buffalo Bill. We imagined them working in a hurry, worried that Denver authorities had followed them to Cody and would appear at any moment and catch them in the act of interring the stolen Buffalo Bill on Cedar Mountain. We tried to imagine their frustration of trying to dig the shallow grave in the rocky terrain using pick axes and shovels. And finally, we imagined that if they were successful, we were kneeling just several feet from the actual body of Buffalo Bill Cody, miliatry hero, showman, town founder and the most famous man on earth in 1900.
Margie reverently cleared the area of a few sticks and placed wildflowers on the rock that stood at the gravesite. It looked like a natural piece of geology until you looked closely and saw it was exactly perpendicular to the grave area, making us suspect it had been installed by human hands.
Everything felt right about the site. The location. The view. The seclusion. The serenity. I've been to the Denver gravesite and Cedar Mountain is every bit as good a location but it overlooks the town Buffalo Bill founded through his $700,000+ investments and his priceless love and passion. At the risk of being extremely presumptuous, I have to conclude that if Buffalo Bill could view both gravesites today, he would clearly select the Cedar Mountain location. Click here to see our Cedar Mountain photo essay .
Back to more mundane matters, we opened the trolley season to the public yesterday. Smooth day with about 75 passengers. The tours went well, the audiences were responsive and appreciative and the sales operations went smoothly at all ticket outlets. Sales were made at all outlets except the chamber yesterday, so we feel comfortable that we're off to a good start.
The new credit card machine is working well and I found a case of tape locally, which surprised me. Our daughter is back in our ticket booth for the summer and she did great as usual. It felt good be back in the trolley.
We hired some folks to handle the rent-a-chair program for us and it has been great having that off our backs. Performing the tours takes lots of energy and we need to conserve it to provide good shows. One day down, 117 to go. :)
The tours are going well the first five days. We're happy with the early numbers and know they will only grow because Cody doesn't get its real summer crowds until June 15. Customers are providing effusive compliments and that is a good sign they are enjoying the tours too.
We've had some very high winds the past few days. On Thursday the winds were so high they blew a 6 foot advertising sign off the side of the trolley. That's never happened before because they are installed very securely. So we re-doubled the installation strength when remounting it.
I received the small swamp cooler I ordered that will work at the drivers area of the trolley to keep Margie & I cooler. Now I need to get power for it wired. I'm also researching a radio headphone PA system to deliver the tour over headphones so I can run the trolley A/C on high without drowning out the tour. We're starting to talk about ordering a new trolley in the next year or two to get the perfect climate control system we need. That would also free our current trolley to allow us to add new types of tours to our menu.
All quiet at the trailer park lately. No vacancies and no big problems. We have one late payer who has me concerned but nothing that keeps me awake at night.
I'm reading a book called "Empire of Debt" and it has some really cumbersome writing. But I'm hanging in there to learn the author's warnings about an approaching financial collapse. I'm an optimist and a conservative and this guy seems to be a pessimist and a liberal so I'm having to force myself to stay with it. Hopefully the effort will pay off with some new learning. Or at least another viewpoint to consider.
Happy Father's Day. No special plans here although our relief team is covering the trolley tours so we have the day off. Traffic counts are starting slower than last year but since we took a price increase, sales are better than last year. It should start to pick up this next week since this is when the real busy season traditionally starts.
The relief team seemed to do well last Sunday so that gives me confidence. Being able to get the occassional day off is important for 50 different reasons.
We're already 10 percent through our season after just 12 days. So even though the days seem long, they are flying by already.
I installed the little swamp cooler I ordered for the driver's area and it works great. It hasn't been tested on a 90 degree day yet, but it made driving pleasant on 80 degree days which is a great improvement. Now I'm working on a series of fans to bring some relief to the rear of the trolley, which gets too hot on days over 85 degrees. I've given up on a headphone PA system. Very expensive and I'm not convinced the trolley could stay cool on hot days even with the A/C on high. I've read that the average human gives off 5,000 BTU's of heat each hour, so with a full trolley, I'm having to overcome 200,000 BTU's just to break even. I'd be better off just spending a few thousand more on upgrading the A/C system. Since the high setting is too loud, what I need is more ceiling units so the low setting has more sources dispersing cool air throughout the cabin. Bottom line: we need a system so powerful that it will cool the cabin on 100 degree days while on the low setting.
We had a wedding charter yesterday and lined up a past driver to handle it for us. She's been a dependable driver for us when we ran the COLT bus and she's done many wedding charters for us. It was fun seeing the old trolley on the road while we were performing a tour in the new trolley.
Margie & I also had a tour group charter from Texas yesterday morning. They were a fun group and absolutely loved the tour. I'd like to significantly build our charter business and that segment will get much more of our brain power this next winter.
I sent a sales letter to about 40 restaurants for EverythingCody.com late this week. I'm trying to convince them to post their menus on my website. There are many times I'm trying to decide what to eat and I'd love to have access to menus and prices from my computer so I can phone in an order for pick-up. I think any restaurant that provides that info will sell more meals. Think of all the busy people who could make meal selections from their work computer and phone in the order for pick-up on the way home.
I still have about three photo essays to post on EverythingCody.com. So many projects, so little time. The web stats I review show they are a popular feature with my readers.
The trailer park got interesting this past week. Three possible evictions at once. One tenant bounced his very first rent check and then made it worse by not contacting us. A second got a fine for a controlled substance which we don't allow in our park and a third -- the late payer I mentioned earlier -- broke another payment promise. So I may have three evictions at once after a pretty quiet month.
This is a good reason why to have a manager because it lets you make decisions without getting involved with the personalties that make these decisions gut-wrenching. Yes, we have compassion and yes we work with people who seem to be trying. But it has to be a two-way street. It has to work for us too. It took me quite awhile to realize that -- in everything I do -- so I'm a bit more pragmatic with these types of decisions now. I can size people up more accurately through their actions than their words anyway. Having a manager lets me make decisions based on tenant actions without getting sucked in by their words.
If you've read this blog for any length of time you see we work all the time. We're really out of balance in that way. But we are getting closer to semi-retirement every day. I only hope the lifelong habit of working all the time can be altered when the day arrives when we don't have to work to generate income. I also hope I realize when enough is enough. I think I'm going to have trouble with both of those concepts.
The thing is that no matter how good you've structured your life, you can always see ways to make it better. So you're always reaching for the next goal. That's great for personal growth, but that makes being happy with your current position challenging. Peace of mind is the real prize. If you can just relax and appreciate what you have, you have all you need. They say we teach what we most need to learn. So there's my lesson for the day.
Some excitement on the trolley this week. The air conditioning crapped out Monday morning. We took it to our mechanic Joe McNeil who found some burned wiring and made the repair between tours. He's best at emergencies that require creative solutions. We were ten minutes late for the 3pm tour but we didn't lose any business.
Yesterday had a scary event. An elderly woman either tripped or passed out and fell onto a seat on her way out of the trolley. She was going in and out of consciousness so we called 911. Paramedics arrived within a couple minutes and took her to the hospital. We heard later she broke her shoulder. It could have been worse. I suspected a stroke due to her lack of response but I'm no medical guy. That's the first time we've had an injury on the trolley in 6 years.
It's been a weird year for Wyoming attractions, especially river trips. A raft rolled this spring in Jackson, killing three passengers. A raft flipped here in Cody a few weeks ago, killing one person and another raft flipped last week sending three to the hospital. A Michigan woman was killed falling off a cliff in Yellowstone. Very unusual to have so many nasty events so close together. You don't expect to die on vacation.
Two of the three tenants who faced eviction in our trailer park might be allowed to stay based on their recent actions recovering from their offenses. The third has to pay today or get the boot. We'll see.
I was just interrupted by two phone calls and a conversation between daughter and wife. The world has just barged in on my peaceful writing space, so I'm surrendering and signing off for the day.
It takes a lot of energy to give a tour so we won't add that fourth tour until we are sure we need it. Once we add it, we're pretty much committed to it until the end of August. The downside of a fixed schedule is you have to run as advertised so people can depend on you, no matter how many people sign up for the tours. The upside is that you're offering more tours which attracts more customers. The trick is to gain extra customers, not just cut the number of customers you already get on one tour in half with another, which makes you work twice as hard for the same money.
Anyway, we're very close to last year's customer counts and based on what I hear from other attractions, we are down far less than other attractions in town. So no complaints.
We are evicting that tenant who hasn't paid at the trailer park. He has basically abandoned his entire household so we have to move all his stuff out. People are funny. If he had communicated with me, we might have worked out another result. But he didn't, so he's out and we both lose.
I did some math and feel comfortable semi-retiring in 2 years and three months. This gets us through this trolley season and two more. Life has a way of interferring with our arrogant plans, however, so I'm flexible to go longer or shorter as needed. I need to have a light at the end of the tunnel to help me get through some of the tougher days. I truly don't know anyone who works harder than us and we abuse ourselves daily, rationalizing that it is saving us time later. I hope that turns out to be the case.
It's not that the work is all that difficult, it's the demands of maintaining a schedule of "Have-to's" at the expense of postponing your "Want-to's." Financial independence requires massive amounts of self-discipline. You have to put aside dozens of momentary desires to do the work that gets you closer to your goals. You have to say no to yourself way more than you say yes. If you succumb, it just takes you that much longer to get to your goals. The trick is to enjoy the journey while you are rejecting dozens of daily desires. That doesn't come naturally for me.
Dave Ramsey says it nicely: "If you make yourself live like nobody else long enough, one day you will get to live like nobody else."
Margie's computer hard drive crashed last week. But after lots of anguish and the expert help of David Wilson of Yellowstone Computer Service, her data was recovered and her system repaired. We both purchased external hard drive backups and are on an automated weekly backup schedule now. Her computer was also tuned up and runs better. Mine goes to Dave today for a tuneup and memory increase. It is great to have discovered a tech who seems to be able to handle any computer need we'll ever have. We highly recommend him.
EverythingCody.com traffic continues to climb. It's getting lots of good word of mouth and lots of returning visitors. We're advertising but time plays a role too. The site gets deeper content everyday and that attracts more search engine listings. This site is helping traffic at all my other sites too. I have now been operating EverythingCody.com daily for over 7 months.
I'm re-reading one of Og Mandino's many great books, "Secrets For Success & Happiness." This book is basically a journal of Og's life in the 1991-1992 time period. We have about ten of his books and anything he writes is great. He's most famous for writing "The Greatest Salesman in the World."
At this time of year, I'm only able to read a few minutes at a time in between tours or just before bed so books take lots longer to finish. But this makes reading a much more special treat than normal. But then with our summer schedule, ANYTHING we can do not related to the trolley business is a special treat.
We started delivering the normal tour, but much abridged so he could translate for his group. That didn't work. So we improvised and just took them to the Scout statue of Buffalo Bill and let them out to photograph the monument and climb up the steps. They perked up and starting photographing each other and spent about 20 minutes there.
So we showed them so other statues and then took them to the back lot of the rodeo, which was in progress with lots of pageantry and activity. We saw two rodeo queens sitting on horses and stopped, let our group out and they were delighted to pet the horses and get photos taken with the queens. The group was captivated by all the western activity and greatly enjoyed our adaptation.
It made us realize we need to develop a special tour for the non-english-speaking in the future.
So we performed five tours yesterday and had a really good sales day.
The day started with a goosebumps moment. While getting ready for work, I told Margie that when we "retire" our next gigs should be writing and delivering the occassional speech to a national audience. I said that we should write our speech like we've written the trolley tour -- with both of us delivering lines and interplay -- to be different from all the other public speakers.
So an hour later we complete the 11 am tour and while returning a couple to the Absoaroka Bay Campground in the shuttle van, learn they are spiritual writers and public speakers and have traveled the world delivering their speeches. And guess what? They both talk and interplay with each other during their presentations!
We learned they are Jack & Louise Hawley and for the past 28 years, have spent half the year in India and half in the US lecturing and learning about the classic Bhagavad Gita spiritual text. Louise said we were the first people she'd seen presenting like they present and said it was fun to watch us perform so they could see what they look like from the audience's perspective. Jack gave us an autographed copy of one of his books with a warm note and it was a wonderful connection.
There really are no coincidences.
Then on the opposite spectrum of the day, we encountered a trolley audience with a woman who would not stop talking during the tour. And she was very loud. So loud it was disrupting the tour. We finally had to stop the trolley and Margie had to unplug and walk back to talk to her. Apparently she had no idea she was so loud (that's what she said) because that stopped the problem. Jessica had warned us earlier about a very loud lady buying tickets. Apparently she'd been going through life grating on everyone. Whether she realized it or not isn't for me to determine but my passengers wanted to kill her so we had to save the tour for them by talking to her.
Which leads me to my philosophy about defective people. There are far more of them out there than most people realize. In the big picture we're all defective in some area, but there are just so many people who can't even function properly in a civilized society. If you dwell on it, you get depressed so let's not go there. But because my audience becomes any member of the public who buys a ticket, I'm thrown into the mix and continue to be amazed at how some people behave. Fortunately we meet plenty of people like Jack & Louise Hawley to balance it out.
I remember an old boss telling us about a friend who retired from the post office. My boss asked him why he retired and he was told that his friend "Was tired of having to serve any SOB who had 2 cents in his pocket." I understand how he could reach that point!
Anyway, after the huge week we've had on the trolley we've caught up and surpassed last year's passenger counts so all is well. It's a throwback to my corporate past that I always try to beat prior year numbers to keep the business growing. So far, so good.
We are off today and our other tour team will perform three tours when the typical Sunday only has two. The July 4 weekend is the busiest time in Cody all year and we are lucky to get any time off. But we take it when we can because our other tour team has limited availability and it is rare they both can work on the same day. When that converges, we get a day off.
Today is our grandson's second birthday. Our daughter is throwing him a party at our house this evening. About 20 people are invited. The theme is John Deere because Rylan's other grandparents own a farm and he's become enamered with all their farm equipment. He sees a tractor and screams "John Deere! John Deere!" It's adorable.
He loves the trolley too so he's one lucky kid to have two sets of grandparents with such cool rides.
We filled the one vacancy at the trailer park and learned of another coming up at the end of July. Plenty of time to fill that so we'll hopefully stay at 100% occupied.
We got through the July 4th holiday. Those days have parades which prevent us from performing an 11 am tour (streets are closed) and that tour always sells out so we actually lose business on July 3 & 4 while most others gain. Still, we were able to hold three tours on July 3 (all sellouts) and two on July 4 (both sellouts). The gunfighters took July 4 off so we cancelled our 6:30 pm tour that night which was wise, especially with the year's largest rodeo starting at 5 pm that night. Looking back we had three sellouts on July 2 out of three tours so we're on a run of 12 straight sold out tours. Nice.
I had a nasty headache all last night and awoke with a shadow of one. I don't get those often but rotten when they occur. They never last all night. I forgot to eat in the morning yesterday and I think that caused it. So I'm moving slow this morning doing what is best for my body comfort. Which means leisurely coffee, peanut butter toast and a peaceful blog entry.
I finished my Og Mandino book and will reach onto my office bookshelf for another. I'll start right after I finish the book given to me by Jack Hawley.
We are rich in books and have hundreds of them in the house and hundreds more stored away. If we were ever forced to stay within these walls, we'd have a lifetime of education and entertainment available at our fingertips in our books. When I was younger, I preferred to be with people where I was often the life of the party. Today, I'd much prefer staying home alone curled up with a good book and my dogs.
Sad event at the July 3 parade. A woman's horse spooked, threw her off and rolled over her. She died that night. You wake up one morning looking forward to riding in a parade and you end up dead. Life is so fragile and precarious.
I'm enjoying speaking to our trolley customers because they are from all over the world. When I meet someone from a location I'm interested in, I can ask questions to learn more. And of course we meet many people from places we've already lived or visited so those connections make fun conversations. We have a great life.
Today is the 6th of the month which means all the trailer park rents were due by yesterday which means I need to compile the late list today. Rents are actually due on the first but I give them a grace period without late fees until the 5th. Then it's a $25 late fee and $3 a day until it's paid. Most pay on time and those who don't are paying us through late fees for the hassle of us having to go collect.
It rained last night which means the trolley needs to be washed this morning. Even the lightest rain requires us to wash all 33 windows. This job usually falls on Margie since I'm doing the books and updating EverythingCody.com. Jessica cleans the windows in between tours from her location at the trolley station at the Irma Hotel.
We need to have a delicate conversation with the gunfighters. Their show is starting late and taking longer each night. What could be done easily in 30 minutes is now taking 50 minutes. Many in the crowd are grumbling about it to us and the gunfighters aren't hearing the complaints. We deal more personally with the crowd than they do because we have personal transactions renting 175 chairs every night and then conversations with viewers on the trolley after the show. We can't leave on our 6:30 pm tour until after the gunfight ends without majorly disrupting their show so it is abusing our passengers to have to wait (and the crowd of 300) while they drag the show out so long. So we need to speak to them to see if they can tighten it up. Imagine all the wasted time when you multiply it by 300 people and 100 nights! Time is all people have so it should be highly respected. Margie gets this fun assignment because people like her better than me.
So even though we own our own business, we can never control all facets of our commerce. Dammit. So we just sigh and mutter, "you can't run the world," all the while wishing we could.
We attended the Dan Miller Show last night and it was wonderful. Warm, sincere, hand-clapping, toe-tapping music and cowboy poetry. Dan has three others in his group, Evan, Tim & Jo. All were wonderful musicians and singers. Banjo, mandolin, guitar and fiddle players. We're delighted to find such a professional and entertaining group in Cody.
Which leads me to dwelling upon the need for a new type of media that could alert every person in Cody about new businesses and noteworthy news. The twice-weekly newspaper here is too expensive and shows no enthusiasm for business-boosting. The radio station is much more civic-minded and economical but the timing of radio is hit or miss. The Internet doesn't reach enough people because everyone still doesn't use it. So I'm thinking about a print or email product that could reach every person, every day, economically. And run by a business-friendly, town-building editor eager to help new enterprises get publicized and promoted.
Printing, paper and physical delivery is such a waste. Every household should have a portable, etch-a-sketch sized tablet that gets a daily download of news overnight so paper printing and physical distribution is no longer needed. But until we reach that day, I'll keep publishing EverythingCody.com and keep my brain working on another alternative.
It is so difficult to get a new enterprise started and promoted that it is a great loss to the town to have something as great as the Dan Miller show remain a secret. And Dan is promoting like mad. It just takes so much to make people notice, and even more to take action and visit a new business or attraction. So education is not the only hurdle, but human apathy is a whole 'nother problem to dwell upon later.
The trolley needs to at least double its air conditioning system this next winter to handle these super-hot days. The trick is to provide more cool without adding any more noise. The two household swamp coolers I ordered do not make enough cool to even consider putting them on board. The little "Swampy" I ordered a while back does help the driver's area a little, but not enough to be comfortable on really hot days.
This week is predicted to be hot everyday with 100's possible.
I just got word our tenants in the house at our trolley barn complex will be moving in August. They sold us the property a couple years ago and have been renting the house and a storage warehouse as they build a new house. The house they are vacating is very cute and should rent quickly. I'm eager to get in there and study it more closely because we've never really had the chance with the old owners in there.
If I wasn't so tied to the way our house is set up here, I might consider moving there for a change of pace. But that house is smaller so that wouldn't work. The office building there is still vacant and I still consider how I might use it for my own businesses. It would make a great newspaper or publication office. The property has a vacant half acre too, so I'm thinking go-cart track or storage buildings. Neither's prospects excite me however, so the land will just sit until I think of something that does.
My website traffic continues to grow and I'm now getting over 200 daily visitors to my sites. That's 6,000 people per month! That adds up quick. Most of it is due to EverythingCody.com which gets better and deeper every day.
The trailer park septic study has cost more than expected. We also have to add a pump to our wellhouse to improve our irrigation. Still waiting on the electrical upgrade estimates and the septic system estimate. Lots of money will be needed for those major projects. The park is still full and we have good leads for the two vacancies coming up August 1.
We've had a nibble at our Lovell property that is for sale but no bites. I'm patient there because the place more than pays for itself with current tenants.
I'm re-reading Og Mandino's "A Better Way To Live." Yesterday's revelation took a twist on the old adage, "Live today like it's your last." The new twist on that that Og shared was "Treat everyone you meet today as if you knew they were going to die at midnight." I toyed with that last night with my trolley passengers and I actually was more friendly, giving and considerate. They responded well in return so I'll work to make this idea a habit. So many things to focus on, so little time.
Due to other jobs they are not available as often as we'd like so I'm looking to hire another guide to increase the number of days off we can get. We just have to get out of the trolley seat more often to stay on top of the rest of our lives.
Yesterday was supposed to be a day for guerilla marketing but after getting the oil changed in the trolley and solving a couple of unexpected business-related problems and completing 20 errands, no marketing occurred. I did cut the grass and got some reading in, which was a real treat. We also had a family dinner in the backyard with our daughters and grandson and that was relaxing.
We've realized our life is way out of balance with our work and are ready to make changes. The trolley business will do fine with us using backup tour teams more often so we will start to move that way. The current team is getting good reviews so quality isn't an issue. It's just hard to let go, but we can only physically do so much.
Our backup driver will be out of town for the next two weeks so Margie & I will work everyday until he returns. Then we can hopefully get a couple days a week off (or more!) the rest of the summer.
Ridership is now up 9% over last year so the good year is continuing to get better.
I'm now reading the autobiography of Boone Pickens who was an oil man, entrepreneur and corporate takeover expert. Great book and I love the way he approached business.
The guy who abandoned his trailer finally showed up and we avoided the nasty scene I was fearing. We had to move his stuff into storage due to his not paying rent and then re-rented the place to a new tenant. We had no way of contacting the old tenant so we couldn't avoid surprising him with those developments. Luckily he remained calm and will be picking up his stuff in a week.
I've been fighting a cold all week which affects my voice. It is slowly getting better.
The trailer park has gotten into problem mode again. Another tenant abandoned her dwelling, leaving us to empty her junk and another hasn't paid after bouncing their first rent check. So they get evicted this weekend after we gave them many chances and they broke every promise. People. It's not what they say, it's what they do. I've got that lesson tatooed on my forehead.
On the upside, we're going to get some more improvements going out there. Hired a second maintenance man so painting can get going. The septic system study is costing way more than estimated but we're getting closer to getting an estimate on the cost of replacing that. I still have hopes of completing that this fall.
I finished the T. Boone Pickens book and am forcing myself back to the "Empire of Debt" book that is absolutely rotten. I'd abandoned it because the author is anal-retentive about throwing in every piece of research he ever collected which overkills every point he makes. The book could have easily been a white paper or report rather than a book. But I want to see what protective actions the author advises since he insists the entire USA monetary system will collapse soon.
I'm looking at a five dollar bill on my desk. I've decided to leave it there for awhile as a reminder of how rich I am. The $5 was a tip from a blind man who took a trolley tour this week. He was cheerful and appreciative despite his handicap and his tip reminds me that I have quite a ways to go to match his outlook on life. And I have extra physical resources to do it that he doesn't have.
The phone is ringing and the 11am tour has just sold out so we may end up adding a 1 pm today. We'll see.
Still, we are well above last year in customer counts and sales, so no complaints.
My voice isn't yet 100% but it's getting there.
The tenant with the past-due rent finally paid up so avoided eviction. One less vacancy. But they are now on double-secret-probation so it's one more worry for next month.
The septic system estimate came in outrageously high so we are back to the drawing board researching other alternatives. The tight site close to the river is a challenge but we'll solve it. They can send a man to the moon so they should be able to send sewage somewhere beneath a crescent moon.
We were able to sneak off to the Park County Fair the other night. We canceled the 6:30 tour after a long day that included an extra charter tour. Had a nice date with Margie and we smooched at the top of the ferris wheel. Bought a bag of mini-donuts and a lemonade and spent lots of time in the sheep, cattle, pig and rabbit barns. We love animals but we love freedom too so it's best to visit the barnyard creatures rather than owning them. Although I could easily settle onto a farm and raise a hundred animals. I could never kill them though so I'd end up with thousands, go broke and die in a cardboard box on the street clutching 22 cats, 5 puppies and a lemur. My pauper's grave marker would read: "He try hard, but this man doolittle".
My impression of the fair was that carnivals are a dying industry. The rides were old, dirty and tired. It takes lots more than that to capture the attention of this videogame/cellphone generation. I suspect carnivals are living on the good graces of nostalgic memories of people my age and above. Sad.
I always thought I'd buy a sno-cone or cotton candy concession and travel the carnival circuit. My aunt does this and my cousin even owns circus elephants so it's in my DNA. Instead I became a businessman. I've always loved carnivals but even I'm less excited visiting those small midways. When they start losing hardcore carnival guys like me that doesn't bode well for the industry.
But then I do have a carnival attraction with the trolley, so I guess it's all in the way you package it to yourself.
I still dream of opening a storefront in downtown Cody that sells every type of fair food and calling it "Grease on Earth."
So many dreams, so little time.