Welcome To Mike's Blog (Web Log)
August 1, 2006 to Present Day

Visit Mike Johnson's Home Page
Visit Mike's prior Blog entries 12/05/04 - 3/31/05 and 4/01/05 - 7/31/05 and 8/1/05 - 11/30/05 and 12/1/05 - 3/31/06 and 4/1/06 - 7/31/06 and 8/1/06 - 12/31/06 and 1/1/07 - Present Day
Visit Mike Johnson's EverythingCody.com Home Page

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. :)

8/9/06 4:33 am

Sorry for the lack of entries. Haven't had a day off in three weeks but one is scheduled for this upcoming Sunday.

We survived the Hells Angels visit. We had a few on the trolley and they were just as pleasant as any other customers. Sales dropped significantly though during their visit. We never get many bikers on the trolley anyway and I think their publicized visit chased away many tourists. Sales are still low now. We were up as much as 11% in customer counts but are now flat with last year. I think most everyone in town is severely down now vs. last year.

I'm laying the blame on gas prices and East Gate road construction. It will be interesting to see if we get the second season traffic of older folks who arrive after school starts. August and September are usually strong months for us. Charters are down this year so I get the feeling that bus tours to our area are way down this year.

Only two vacancies in the trailer park with one coming up at end of month. We have deposits on two of those as we check out the applications. We're also getting bites on the house we have coming up for rent on our trolley barn property.

Still wrestling with the sewer situation at the trailer park. After spending $8,000 on an engineering study I've learned that a private system is feasible there, but tricky and expensive. So I'm going to reevaluate the expense of hooking to city sewer. Both options are very expensive but I have to bite one bullet or another so I'd like to select the option that provides the permanent fix.

EverythingCody.com is really growing now. Over 200 daily visitors and well over 7,000 daily hits. That's over 6,000 visitors a month. Lots more growth and revenue is possible once I give it more attention after trolley season.

I'm reading "Financial Reckoning Day" by the same author I hated who wrote "Empire of Debt." I'd ordered the two books at once. This one is written earlier and is a bit better. It's another gloom & doom tome about the coming collapse of our economy. I try not to dwell in the negatives, just want to educate myself and be prepared. Here's a column I wrote about making yourself a lifelong learner called Learn How to Learn.

I came across a great article called Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Get a Job by Steve Pavlina. His website is tremendous too.

I lowered the price of our Lovell building to increase the chances it sells this summer. We had a tenant skip out on us out there unannounced. There are really a high percentage of defective people in the world. As a landlord, you meet a good number of them. In my definition, losers are people who don't do what they promise. Without ethics and self-discipline you will never find lasting success on this planet. So God bless them because they are living in their own self-created misery.

Someone phoned us a couple weeks ago and wanted to talk about working for us. She said she felt like she "was supposed to be our assistant." We could not finish the conversation because we were walking out the door. If you are her, please call or write back.

I'm also looking for an energetic husband/wife team to perform trolley tours part-time this summer and full-time next summer. Job details are posted on the employment link at CodyTrolleyTours.com.

8/13/06 8:54 am

Finally a day off today. Caught up my website this morning. Lots more I want to do with it once I complete trolley season.

We rented the house by our trolley barn to a great couple. They move in September 1 after the old tenants move out. We also got a bid to paint the office building there and are seriously considering it. Just trying to balance cash flow with our goals. That project is a "want-to" not a "must-do" so we're giving it extra thought.

The trailer park signed up two new tenants. The grounds are looking good and we're making progress on the painting of some trailers there.

We paid off our final credit card balance so are now free of that financial drain. Never again. The car gets paid off next month. Soon it will be the house and we can semi-retire. That Dave Ramsey stuff we learned (combined with self-discipline) is paying off. The debtor is slave to the lender and we are making a break for freedom!

I received a great idea for a book during the middle of the 3 pm tour yesterday. I almost pulled over to write it down it was that good. But I remembered it this morning so it's a keeper to go on the project list for when I semi-retire.

My desk is piled up again. I can't even lie to myself and say it will get cleaned off today because I know it won't. Just too much to do and I also want to treat myself to some lazy reading time. I'm still slogging through that "Financial Reckoning Day" book. Also reading the latest issue of "Hobby Farms" magazine one article at a time as I steal 3 minute breaks between picking up guests and performing tours. I'm also going to start re-reading "Replay" today, a time-travel novel I read at least once a year. And there's the Sunday newspaper to get through. I could easily read full-time and be perfectly happy.

But right now I must complete the daily trolley cash report.

8/20/06 3:58 am

Doesn't seem like a Sunday morning for some reason. Normally this is a day off for us but our backup team can't seem to get their schedules coordinated to be able to work the same day together. So rather than Margie & I splitting up, we just keep working together ourselves. Same situation through the rest of August. So I'm advertising for a second backup tour team that has more availability. The ideal situation would be another couple as energetic and committed as Margie & I who would perform the tours as often and as well as us and would eventually like to buy the business.

Today is a lighter day with only two tours so it's sort of like a day off to us anyway, but not really.

This is the time in the season where the schedule seems grueling. Six weeks to go, which in the grand scheme of things, is not very long at all. And we're only performing three tours a day which isn't a heavy schedule. But even we, with our boundless energy, need to get away from the daily schedule to de-stress and relax.

I meet with a computer guy on Tuesday to order a custom-built laptop. I need it to be able to update EverythingCody.com from the road. Traffic is still climbing and I think this will become a nice sideline business for us once we complete trolley season and take a month off. I may hire a reporter and ad salesperson to build the site to its potential. We're also going to improve the look and layout of the site in the fall. Having a writer and salesperson on staff would allow us to implement many other ideas we have as well. We'll see. So many projects, so little time.

We decided to accept the bid for re-painting our office building. That will greatly improve its appearance. Our in-house maintenance guys are also completing the painting of two trailers at Rivers Bend with three more to go. It would be nice to have unlimited cash to complete all our upgrades at once but that's not possible so we try to remain patient as we complete them as cashflow allows. The trailer park gets better every year though and has made tremendous progress these past three years.

Only one vacancy in the park right now with one coming up Sept. 1. Both are getting lots of calls so I expect to be full again soon.

Our daughter returned to college last Monday. Nice to have the house back to ourselves but it was bittersweet too because it is likely the last summer she will live at home with us. She graduates next May and will be jumping into her career as an interior designer.

I still love getting up at 4 am and having the world to myself. I love the quiet, the darkness and getting an early jump on the day. It feels like a mini-vacation within a busy schedule. Gives me time to think which is quite the luxury in the summer.

I know how hard we work and progress toward our goals seems so slow. Makes me wonder how people with fixed salaries and jobs can tolerate how long it takes to achieve large goals. Perhaps they are much better than I at enjoying the present moments. They'd have to be because I'd go insane if I didn't have control of increasing my income and freedom in big bites within compressed timeframes. I'm really realizing that time is the most valuable currency and trading time for income is a bad investment unless you absolutely love every minute of the exchange. I want the freedom to do what I want, when I want AND earn income passively while I do it. I'm so very close, but so very impatient.

Tiger Woods is leading the PGA Championship tournament going into the last day. I love watching golf when he is in contention. Hate it when he isn't. I look forward to watching him again this afternoon between tours.

8/25/06 5:20am

Day 82 of trolley season. Just over 5 weeks left. This season has gone fast. The town is still very slow. We're still putting up decent numbers but nothing great like the weeks before the Hells Angel rally. That rally seemed to just crush the summer season here in Cody. Gas prices and East Gate construction haven't helped either. We're still making a great living with the trolley so no complaints. We just want to maximize potential all the time.

My trailer park manager resigned to take an out-of-state job. Good for her. But she only gave me a few days notice so bad for me. So we're advertising for a replacement.

I attended a meeting with the group that is hiring a replacement for the retiring Cody Chamber director. The situation is confused because a study is determining what role economic development will play in the position. The chamber gets funding from the city for economic development and that grant forces our current director to split his work time 70% economic development and 30% chamber. Some members of this group, including me, want a 100% chamber director which may require us to reject the city funding and find a way to replace it. So the hiring process is much slower. Which means that even though we've known the director was retiring for a year, we're still going to end up without a new director before he leaves. Frustrating.

I'm not on the chamber board but Margie is. She's better in groups than me so she's a better selection. I prefer the private sector where you can make a decision and take immediate action. I don't have the patience for extended talk, politics, group dynamics, compromise and delay. All reasons why you'll never see me running for any office. I may be done with volunteering for any leadership positions too.

I still believe that one person can make a difference but what I've learned is that the personal cost of being that one person is far too high. Pushing your dreams through others is a slow and frustrating process. The world will still spin without my help. It may not spin the best way, or the way I think it should, but it will spin. I'm better off working on myself for both my own peace of mind and to become a better example to others. Besides, working on me is a fulltime job already.

9/3/06 12:49 pm

Day 91 of trolley season. I love this time of year. Cooler temps, older crowds who really appreciate our tour and we can see the finish line of September 30.

I hired a new manager for the trailer park and have high hopes she'll do well. We'll get her trained and started next week. She lives on-site and I greatly prefer that. The park is 100% full, but I heard a rumor of a tenant starting to move out so have to check that out.

We've completed the painting of two trailers and are almost done with a third. Two more to go. The contractors have also started painting our office building that I want to use this fall for some type of publishing and website operation.

We've received applications for the backup trolley team we're advertising for. We hope to make some hires and get them trained and practiced this month so we can make sure they will work out for us next summer. Ideally we'll work 3 or 4 days and they will cover the other days, allowing us to have a normal life during our summers.

Today I have paperwork up the gazoo but have time to get it done if I stick to it. So off I go.

9/17/06 8:01 am

This is the longest my blog has gone without an entry and it reflects my busy life. We have exactly two weeks of trolley season left so we see the finish line.

We hired a married couple as trolley tour guides and they are learning the script now. The plan is to get them performing tours for a week or so to verify they want the job next summer and for us to verify they can do the job to our standards. If so, we all have certainty for our time and income plans next summer.

It has been funny hearing Cody people's reaction to our help-wanted ad. We used the phrase "Full-Time" to describe what we wanted our guides to work and most people seemed to think that meant we were selling out or retiring. They don't realize that we work double full-time ourselves so additional guides will only get our work schedules back to "normal."

This has been a very profitable season for us despite it being a generally poor tourist season for most attractions in Cody. Our customer counts are down 2%, which is much less than the declines we're hearing from other attractions. But with our price increase, revenues are nicely up. I believe we have the type of attraction that people are either going to take or not, so I don't think a few dollars is going to greatly impact numbers. Our results this summer seem to prove that.

So far, so good with the new trailer park manager. She's easing into the job and handling things fine so far. We have one current vacancy with two coming up at the end of the month. See our vacancies by clicking HERE.

We're just starting to research possible vacation locations. We travel in October every year to research another aspect of the Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley story. We might look up the silver mines that caused Buffalo Bill to go broke. But we have other ideas too, so anything is possible. We are re-publishing the souvenir book we give to trolley passengers this spring so we're on the look out for more new material. The book will be much larger this year and provide even greater amounts of hard-to-find info.

We survived replacing alternators in both the trolley and shuttle van during the same week. The trolley part was tricky because it had to be special ordered and only installed after the trolley engine was cool. So we were charging the battery after every tour until the part's arrival and the mechanic's and our schedule could converge. Did that for about 4 days. But all is fine now.

We are going to double A/C capacity this fall in the trolley to finally eliminate the interior heat problem on those 90 degree+ days. It will likely cost several thousand to do it, but we are sick of dealing with it. Whatever it takes.

We are in the middle of Cody's first good cold snap that signifies autumn's arrival and now have fresh snow on the mountains. The leaves are starting to change and fall, and the cooler temps have us breaking out the warmer trolley uniforms. I LOVE this time of year.

EverythingCody.com keeps getting deeper and better and a re-design of the look will really ice it. That site will become a much bigger thing once we return from the October vacation.

The fanatical muslims are rioting and destroying things again. Last time it was over a cartoon. This time they're blaming it on something the Pope said. Idiots. Can you imagine being such a savage that you riot because of something someone said about your religion? Get a life. Get a brain. Take a little personal responsibility for the actions you've taken to create your crappy life that has you so angry. Take responsibility for selecting the thoughts that you dwell upon that push you into destroying and killing innocents. It's not the Pope's fault. It's YOUR fault. Losers.

9/29/06 6:55 am

Another two weeks has passed without blog entries. That's not acceptable to my standards but the best I can do right now. That will change soon since we only have two more days of trolley season left. Plus I bought a laptop so I will be able to update the websites and blog while I travel.

The couple we hired as tour guides changed the training plan so they were not able to perform any tours this last week as planned. So we were not able to evaluate them to see if they qualify for fulltime work next summer. And they did not have the chance to experience the job to see if they can and want to do it. So we go into the winter with an uncertain plan for next summer. Nice people and I hope they work out, but now I have lots of doubts. Life would be much simpler if everyone forced themselves to fulfill their commitments.

We had a nice visit with friends from Sundance, WY the other day/night. Not enough time as usual, but still wonderful.

One of my favorite uncles passed away Monday night in Minnesota. Can't make the funeral because of trolley commitments. But we've kept in touch with him and his family throughout the years and had a nice visit with him two years ago. And we know he is in a better place. So we mourn for his familiy more than him.

My desk is a disaster and I need a couple days to get everything caught up. Thankfully more time is about to arrive just in time.

Today we have 4 tours -- two of them are charters for third grade students learning Cody history. Those are always fun and it is a kick to be looked at as history authorities by the school system. All it takes is reading, travel and listening to old-timers. That and a big honkin trolley.

Watched parts of two favorite movies on satellite last night -- The Shawshank Redemption and Armageddon. Love them both and linked the Aerosmith Armageddon Theme Song Music Video on EverythingCody.com today. Love that tune, love that movie and love Aerosmith from my younger years.

The contractors we hired finished painting the office at our warehouse property. Our repairman is rebuilding a portion of the roof there too so the external appearance is much better. Our maintenance guys at the trailer park completed painting five trailers this summer, one more to go there. Then some winterizing activities and then we ride through winter performing only must-do repairs as they occur. And of course there is the septic system to replace there as soon as possible. I dive into that project after the October vacation. Things get better every year, it just takes longer than we want.

Margie is up to her neck with the Cody Events Committee. They are making the Christmas plans for downtown Cody. The group has solicitated lots more help and their group has grown tremendously. Hopefully that will lead to more leadership depth so the work is better spread. No Santa House to build this year, but they are trying to start a block party event downtown and that will require lots of work. They also purchased three large pine trees and had them planted on the Rec Center hill to honor veterans. The trees will be lit with red, white and blue lights each night during the season and should be visible to a large area of the town.

10/3/06 7:37 am

Freedom has arrived. We put the trolley away Saturday afternoon and then took down the ticket booth Sunday morning. When I shut the warehouse door after storing the booth, our season felt officially over. Everything comes and goes. Now hundreds of hours of work, thousands of conversations and 118 days of tours are all boiled down to figures written on a pile of daily cash reports.

And they are good figures which feels rewarding. Sales up 17% despite working two less days and performing about 30 fewer tours than last year. Customer counts were down 3.2% but that is better than the museum's 6% drop and the drops at other Cody attractions. There were clearly fewer visitors to our town this year but we got a higher percentage of them then our past years and didn't have to work as hard to get them. And thankfully our price increase worked. So we're delighted with the season.

So I still face a pile of work on my desk to catch up. Worked half a day on it yesterday but have lots more today.

Got to goof off shopping yesterday afternoon and went out to dinner at the Proud Cut last night. It is glorious to be free of the daily tour schedule. I want to nest at home for about 10 years! But I'll settle for 8 months. Thank God we own a seasonal business. I could never subject myself to a year-round "have-to-be-there" schedule again. Did it 6 years as a teenage paperboy, 16+ years in the corporate world and another 5 or so years in other year-round ventures. But I've been pretty free the past 6 years or so and I love it.

Margie is taking the critters to the vet for shots this morning. Just one of the things on our long to-do lists to catch up on.

No vacation plans established yet. Other than the fact that we are going somewhere, soon. We'll make decisions on that in the next couple days.

The Minnesota Twins won their division on the last day of the season and start the playoff run this morning. Since I am now free, I get to watch while the rest of the world is working. Hockey season starts this week too, so I get to partake in those viewings. And I've been wanting to attend a Colorado Avalanche game forever so maybe this is the year I work that in. Choices, choices, choices.

10/7/06 9:07 am

Life is settling in far less hectic and I enjoy that. Yesterday I recaptured my desk and paid half the monthly bills. I even got to take a leisurely drive through our trailer park and trolley warehouse properties. We improved the office building at our trolley warehouse with a paint job and rebuilt window awning. We roofed the awning in green metal and it came out pretty good.

I'm going forward with a private septic system at the trailer park. It is extremely expensive but will be a permanent fix and the fastest possible solution. Hopefully we'll gain some extra capacity and I can add a few more units to help pay for it down the road.

The park is full except for one vacancy that should fill fast. The park income now pays our monthly bills which is exactly what we planned when we bought the park nearly 4 years ago. So we are officially financially free -- our bills are paid by income property that does not require our presence. It was a long road getting here, but it feels great to have arrived. Trolley income will now be used to pay down debt first and secondly, to acquire more income property as we discover good opportunities. Both businesses continue to increase in value and represent our retirement fund.

I also had time yesterday to drive through someone else's trailer park looking for homes for sale. Sometimes trailers sell at real bargains and I wouldn't mind picking up a few more for resale or rent.

I'm reading 3 books at once. "Atlas Shrugs" (re-reading for the third time), "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" (re-reading for the second time) and a book about trailer park investing by trailer guru Lonnie Scruggs. Different moods require different books.

I recently completed reading a couple books predicting the financial collapse of the USA and they are pretty convincing. I'm sold on the fact that changing demographics alone guarantees a massive and long-lasting recession/depression as baby boomers age. This is because as people age, they spend less money (they already have all the TVs and cars and appliances they need), and start saving more for retirement. As spending slows, corporate profits drop which will cause the stock market values to drop. Since the stock of public companies is already priced at an outrageously-high average of 22 times annual earnings, once it starts to fall, millions of investors will pull their money (what's left of it) out and that will cause the whole system to collapse. I think half or more of the value will just disappear into thin air. In the real world, privately-owned companies sell for just 2 to 10 times annual earnings. So what you have in the stock market is a giant bubble of over-priced delusion that could collapse at any moment. Similar to a run on a bank, once confidence is lost, there will be a mass rush to the exits.

And then there is the massive USA debt. We are slaves to China and Japan because of the massive debt we owe them. If they ever called in our loans, there would be no way for America to pay up. We'd default. That would immediately devalue the dollar massively. In other words, a dollar might immediately become worth only 50 cents. The Federal Reserve has propped up the economy by printing more money and offering extremely low interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending. That can't continue forever. Deficit spending can't continue forever. Now add the 78 million aging baby boomers to the social security rolls and medicare rolls and the government cannot meet its obligations.

So what do the experts suggest doing to protect your assets? Pay off your personal and business debt so you have less financial pressure to generate income. Get your money out of the stock market. Get your holdings out of cash and put it into gold (which has historically always held value, although a fluctuating value). If you are employed, determine if your job would still exist in a depressed economy. If not, you better start purchasing income producing assets that will still produce in a bad economy like low income housing and/or recession-resistant businesses. You may still have time to create your own income streams that do not depend on the whims of an employer.

I'm normally a positive guy so it is against my nature to spread gloom and doom, but I see this collapse as unavoidable. The only question is when it will occur. In my mind, I'm thinking we have no more than 4 to 6 years to get our financial affairs in order. Definately no longer than ten years. Maybe tomorrow because the value of cash and stocks is based on the mass delusion of millions. Once a percentage of those millions realize it IS a delusion, a stampede to sell out will occur, tubing everyone's holdings. This is scary stuff. That is the downside to reading. But the upside is you learn these things before the masses so you can do something about it.

Back to the world-before-the-collapse, I'm working on a plan to hire a couple writers to help with EverythingCody.com . I want to expand the local content and be able to assign the stories I want, rather than being at the mercy of merely linking to what's available in the online world. We've also scheduled a meeting with a web designer to see what we can do to improve the site design. The site gets better every day and traffic is still increasing.

This last entry pretty much paints the picture of my approach to life. I can see some of the looming disasters approaching but try to keep functioning in the world as it is today. The truth is both positive and negative, the world is both good and bad and everything is a paradox, you and I included. And we get to write our own owners manual on the fly. Welcome to earth.

10/13/06 5:29 am

I am writing this from our Winnebago parked at the KOA Kampground in Billings, Montana. We've been on vacation about 36 hours. The furnace is toasty, the coffee is hot and the dogs are sleeping. Margie is off at the showers. The cat, however, has been on the prowl the last two hours meowing like crazy. She normally travels pretty well but she has been stir crazy. She's just starting to settle down after waking us both up.

The laptop has been working well and I've been able to update my websites using the campground's wireless network from the dining table in the RV. The ftp editor software has been giving me fits after three minutes of use so I have to boot out and start over. Irritating but at least still functional.

I've been able to stay in email contact with our trailer park manager, email payroll to our accountant and even send new classified ads to the local newspaper. So I've finally entered the 21st century of connectivity. I LIKE it.

The campground here is teeming with deer. Whitetails. Saw 10 yesterday within 50 yards of our camper. The campground is on the Yellowstone River - the same river used by Lewis & Clark in 1806. In fact, we visited Pompey's Pillar yesterday, just 28 miles east of us.

Pompey's Pillar is a large sandstone rock over 100 feet tall that William Clark described in his journal. Clark climbed the rock, admired the 360 degree views from the top and then carved his name and date into the sandstone face. His journal entry date matches the date he carved in the rock, July 25, 1806, and his name and the date are still visible today. It is some of the only physical evidence left along the route of the epic journey.

We tried to visit the Pictograph State Park but the road was gated off, apparently closed for the season. We face seasonal closings every October -- the price we pay for working all summer ourselves. And karma for us being closed for season to October Cody visitors.

Then last night we had a great dinner for two at Cracker Barrel for under $30 including a big tip and the purchase of a big bag of old-fashioned candy. Today we meander north and west, letting the road take us where it will. Traveling in our own mini-house is a luxurious way to travel as long as you don't remember you're only getting 6 miles per gallon.

10/15/06 7:12 am

Writing this from Great Falls, Montana. I'm in the parking lot of a Motel 6 poaching a wireless Internet connection. It is just starting to get light. Margie is snoozing but we were both up since 3am. The cat was spastic again. This is her last trip with us. But it makes a good story.

Yesterday we visited the Lewis & Clark Interpretation Center in Great Falls and it was tremendous. Our museum in Cody could learn a few things from this one. Namely, create an orientation movie and steer your visitors to that before they enter the displays. We gained a much better appreciation for what we were looking at.

The Charles Russell Museum is here too, but we are out of time so it'll go on our list for next time.

I-15 is a spectacular drive between Helena and Great Falls.

Some excitement the other day on a Montana backroad - ranchers were moving more than a thousand sheep down the highway with ATV's and Border Collies. We got to park for 5 minutes and watch them all go five feet from our Winnebago. Got some great pictures. Millie was pretty excited and wanted to help herd. The prior day we'd hiked a dry river bed and the dogs scared up a pheasant. Wonder what the adventure will be today?

We're racing weather. Snow coming Monday night and Tuesday. We plan to travel north to Flathead Lake today and then head toward home tomorrow morning to beat the weather.

I'm learning firsthand what campers need at RV parks. Free, easy-to-access wireless Internet! KOA's worked wonderfully, others have been a hassle. I've paid twice and both of those basically ripped me off due to error messages and other hassles. We also need clean showers, 24-hour laundry rooms and cable TV hookups. The only utility we need is electric. If you have all those things we don't care what you charge. Although we've paid $21 to $28 a night so far, which is very reasonable.

I might write more when Margie is driving. Now I wake her up from her nap and we hit the road.

10/25/06 8:06 am

We obviously made it home and then have had the joy of catching up ever since. We did make it to Flathead Lake in northwest Montana and drove along the eastern side. Trolley passengers had told me it was beautiful and they were right. Picked up real estate guides about the area so we could daydream about "some day."

I found it impossible to type in the RV while it was moving due to the bumps of the road. Made me car-sick.

Traveling via RV is a luxurious way to see the world. It's like taking your house with you. Your own private space where you can cook, snooze or use the bathroom at will. Everywhere you stop provides a wonderful, new view. Just don't think about the gas mileage.

But after 5 days and 1,400 miles, I was ready to come home. I now feel extravagently rich having 2,000 square feet to rattle around in.

And now life is advancing in predictable patterns again. Margie is active with her Cody Events Committee members planning Christmas events. I'm handling bills and bookkeeping and administrative duties. Just staying on top of the mail is a big job. We billed the trailer park yesterday. Wrote letters to relatives. Visited with vendors to improve the look of EverythingCody.com. Same ole, same ole.

Each night I'm watching the World Series in a detached manner. Don't really care who wins. I love Joe Buck as the announcer. His voice just drips with the feel of sports. He's excellent at football announcing too.

Last night we broke in a new pub table for the first time in our basement. Margie stocked it with my favorite goodies and we sat there and gave a toast to my recently-departed Uncle Wally who had a great basement bar.

We'd feel rich with nothing, but are finding ourselves feeling richer every day.

Life has a zillion aspects to focus on. I don't know how people can say they are bored. I guess they feel trapped and don't realize they can walk out of the trap whenever they want. You really can just quit that frustrating job or relationship or routine and start over. With the Internet and libraries, you can learn how to do anything new by just trading some of your time and focus. Life doesn't have to be complicated but we seem to be experts on making it seem that way.

Here's to focusing on what we want, dropping what we don't and streamlining whatever is left.

11/2/06 8:46 AM

I took my own advice and quit a writing job yesterday. I should never have taken it but they called me after finding me on the Internet. I had some free time and thought, why not? Within a day I realized about 50 reasons why not. I immediately found myself dreading the work, which is a rotten way to live. Then the client and I could never get in sync on what she wanted so that iced it. I felt greatly relieved after stepping out and ate 10 hours of work to learn the lesson that I will no longer do any project I don't enjoy.

Margie & I are also now reminded that we need to update our goals so that when temptations like dangled writing projects and requests to volunteer appear, we can look at them in light of our goals and immediately see if we should decline or accept. If they advance our goals, we accept. If they take us away from our goals, we decline. Goals make decisions simple.

This is our life and the better we advance to our goals the better we can contribute to the world. Easy on paper, hard in reality.

I had a great moment with a deer yesterday. I was driving home from the post office and watched a deer cross the street to our front yard as I waited to cross the street myself. He was a small buck and he walked right into the driveway where I was to park. So I waited and watched as he wandered into the neighbor's yard and then cut between houses to the backyards. I parked the car and walked out back to the alley behind our house and quietly walked in his direction. I saw him in a backyard behind bushes before he saw me. So I froze right in the middle of the alley and watched. He felt my presence just 30 feet away and froze himself. I out-waited him and he started walking toward a hole in the bushes right in my direction. He stepped into the hole and we both stood frozen looking at each other with nothing between us but 20 feet of space. This went on for three solid minutes, neither of us moving, staring at each other. Finally he decided I was no threat and stepped away, grazing in the same backyard. Once out of his sight, I quietly walked back home. Life is good.

I'd have missed that if I hadn't quit that writing job.

The trailer park is full and that is a blessing. We've turned over a few bad tenants the past couple months and replaced them with better tenants. Our new park manager is doing well and we finished 95% of our summer improvement and winterizing projects. I'm now trying to get us a new septic system as soon as possible. But it's not as easy as making a phone call and writing a check. No contractor does it all -- design, permits, construction. I'm dealing with an engineer, the city, the DEQ and then maybe a contractor. I can install a private system or tie into the city sewer. I prefer the city sewer but that depends on the city. I'll pay the expenses but there are other issues like having to get annexed or not. If I have to get annexed, it adds 4 months to the process. If they will take the park effluent, I can start getting it built immediately.

The next big project is adding more A/C to the trolley. My mechanic is up for that and we hope to get that process started while we travel to North Carolina for Thankgiving. This is a big trip and requires lots of planning because of all the people, places and research along the way. It takes a lot of work to have fun anymore.

Our new garage doors and operators were installed this week. So we can finally push a button and get into our garage again. And the door color matches our house trim which really helped the curb appeal. One more thing that makes us feel rich. It's easy to feel rich after you've gone without.

I'm on page 700-something in "Atlas Shrugged." I love this book but I have to pace myself. I've finished a few other books while reading this one. The gist is that the world's moochers started demanding so much from the world's achievers that the achievers just quit one-at-a-time and disappeared. Soon the entire world started falling apart and the moochers realize their lives depend on the brains and actions of the achievers.

The magic of America is that it was a system set up so that achievers were free to achieve. But that is all changing now. Excessive rules, taxes and political correctness are hamstringing achievers and making their work much harder. Then the poor demand a portion of the achievers' riches for no other reason than they need them. If you're a Republican, you believe achievers should be rewarded for their work and that the poor should be taught how to achieve so everyone gets rich. If you're a Democrat, you believe the achievers are exploiting the poor and the poor are not capable of learning how to become achievers so the achievers should be looted to help the poor. The Democrats' solution is to take from the rich to help the poor. The Republicans' solution is to teach the poor how to achieve.

In life you get what you give. Achievers give a lot so they get a lot. Moochers give little so they get little. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Why does half the country not understand this? It blows my mind.

But if you love this theme, you'll love "Atlas Shrugged."

And one more point about who pays taxes. The Democrats are always saying the rich don't pay taxes. Rush Limbaugh got so sick of hearing this that he permanently posts government statistics of who pays the taxes in this country at the bottom of his website. Just click Rush's Website and learn the following:

The top 1% of wage earners pay 34.3% of all federal taxes
The top 10% of all wage earners pay 65.7% of all federal taxes
The top 25% of all wage earners pay 83.4% of all federal taxes
The top 50% of all wage earners pay 96.5% of all federal taxes
The bottom 50% of all wage earners pay only 3.5% of all federal taxes

This proves that the Democrats' claim that the rich don't pay taxes is bogus. The poor are paying virtually NO taxes already. It also shows that America has converted from a system that rewards achievers to a system that penalizes them. Without achievers, the poor would have no jobs, no I-pods, no low-cost housing and no education system to teach them how to get out of poverty. America is great because of achievers but achievers are getting penalized and verbally attacked more every day. It's becoming exactly like the world Ayn Rand describes in "Atlas Shrugged." And this is due to Democrat thinking. Yet half our population are Democrats. It blows my mind. Scary times we live in.

11/10/06 7:52 AM

The election has come and gone and nationally things went just about as bad as possible. Locally I think we did very well. Interesting times we live in. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in the future.

Right now I'm about to pack for a three week trip. Lots of research, lots of people and places to see. Learning more about the Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley story between here and North Carolina via Minnesota and Ohio. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.

Friends are watching the house and pets and Margie has convinced me to leave the dogs behind. That's a big sacrifice in my book. I still maintain that three weeks is too long to step out of our lives. We'll have the laptop and cell phone so unexpected on-demand work will get done, but it is really hard to complete three weeks of work before you depart. By the time we leave this morning, we'll NEED a vacation from all the prep work.

And of course because we are traveling so far, we want to cram in as much as possible so the schedule is tight. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. We'll see!

When we return we step right into Christmas Light Tours and run full speed through Christmas. So life stays busy even in the off-season here.

Margie is driven. She has put a couple hundred hours into the Cody Events Committee, setting up the parade and downtown stroll on December 9. And the Santa House which operates through December. So she has all of that work plus all her normal work. She's at an events meeting right now and then appears on the radio after that to promote the event. Then she comes home to pack. Which puts us a few hours behind already. She seems to enjoy the stress -- she must -- she goes out of her way to go find more work to do. I don't understand it. As spouse I end up getting the scraps of her time so whatever she signs up for, I'm sucked along in the jet wash. The dynamics of marriage can be weird and I'm sure I'm not the only one who experiences this. Behind every great volunteer is a spouse silently donating too.

This works great for the organizations but is it the best use of time for the volunteers?

"If you don't focus on your own dreams, you're easy prey for others to recruit you for theirs."

Here's to tipping the focus a bit more toward YOUR dreams.

11/10/06 10:22 PM

Bismarck, North Dakota. Drove about 450 miles today. Found a hotel with wireless and it is working fine. Perfect driving weather but temps in the low 20's. For some reason, 20 here feels colder than 20 in Cody. One thing much better is gas prices. $2.15 a gallon.

Updated EverythingCody.com and read that southern Minnesota got a foot of snow. Luckily we're heading to northern Minnesota. I-94 has low traffic and is in great condition. Will take it into Fargo before branching off. Will write more later.

11/12/06 8:08 AM

Baudette, Minnesota. We awoke right on the Canadian border this morning. "The Walleye Inn Motel" offers wireless Internet connection if you are in a room close enough to the transmitter for $5 more. We had to take it. It also offers a maximum room temp of about 65 degrees no matter what you do to the thermostat. We had to take that too.

We're here to look at the area for a "one day" second home. According to the real estate listings I monitor, your money goes far up here and lots of waterfront farms and acreage available. You can't tell much about an area until you visit, so here we are. When we arrived last night it was dark, so this morning will provide our first look.

Then it's off toward Duluth and the north shore of Lake Superior. 1,000 miles on the odometer already in two days.

Yesterday we walked across the mouth of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca State Park and took our photos in front of the giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN. I haven't been to those places since a kid and Margie has never been. I really know how to treat a girl.

11/13/06 6:10 AM

Two Harbors, Minnesota. Early start today. The driving really takes it out of you. This traveling stuff is hard on you. (I know, all you people who are working today are going boo-hoo).

We awoke to Baudette, MN yesterday and liked the area. The town is right on the Canadian border and there is an entrance gate within a mile of town. Duty-free store, "Welcome to the United States" sign and lots of businesses fly American flags. Our favorite part of the area was the Rainey River that runs as the border for over 70 miles.

The river is 300-500 feet wide which is plenty big. When you look at homes on the other side, you're looking into Ontario. Miles and miles of undeveloped riverfront property on the USA side between Baudette and International Falls, MN. Lots of farms too, so you could economically buy 50-200 acres and have riverfront too. The river is large enough that you could travel hundreds of miles in the river or take it right into the giant Lake of the Woods.

We looked at a house in town that was right on the river and it was only $110,000. Very nicely kept with big windows facing the river area they call Baudette Bay. You could literally hop in a canoe and paddle to Canada in 5 minutes.

We drove along the river for 67 miles from Baudette to International Falls. Very scenic drive. We stopped at a property I'd seen listed with 4 RV spaces and an old cabin along the river. Walked the shore for a bit and I could have walked for several miles due to the shoreline terrain. Cheap price on it too. There are so many bargains if you're willing to get away from people.

Temps were in the 30's and it was overcast. We hit snowfall between International Falls and Duluth but nothing bad. Once we hit Duluth we crossed over a finger of Lake Superior into Superior, Wisconsin. My grandma used to live there and I'd been there lots of times as a kid. But I had no memory of where in the town she lived, so we just turned back into Duluth.

Duluth has a great riverfront area. Nightclubs, restaurants, tourist attractions and a nice riverwalk. We parked to take a riverfront stroll and a giant iron ore ship came through the harbor and the drawbridge raised and we got to stand there within 50 feet on the pier with 100 other gawkers as the 700-foot ship passed by. The markers on the ship indicated it had 21 feet underwater on the bow and 25 feet under at the stern.

Margie really enjoyed that. This was her first visit to a great lake and she has always loved big boats. Like I said, I know how to treat a girl.

Then we drove up the north shore of the lake and spent the night in Two Harbors. I had gone smelting in this area as a kid and recognized one place we had fished along the way here. Dinner at Pizza Hut and after spending an hour trying to hook into this Internet here at the hotel, finally succeeded. Every Internet system is different so it is a new adventure every day. The things I do for my adoring public.

Today we visit a lighthouse, drive the north shore and then head to Chisago City to visit some of my aunts, uncles and cousins. Then we spend the night in the Minneapolis area.

11/14/06 7:31 AM

Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. I'm sitting in a hotel in a Minneapolis suburb enjoying a good Internet connection. Everything is working well including emails. Doesn't always happen, so it's a joy.

Of course I'm paying big time for it too. We planned on staying at the Motel 6 next door for $39 but all they had was a dial-up connection. So we moved next door to an Extended Stay America and had to pay $90. The things I do to keep EverythingCody.com updated.

Yesterday was wonderful. We awoke to fresh overnight snow in Two Harbors, MN and when we walked to the car there were three deer in the parking lot. Whitetails. Deer are much more scarce in MN than Wyoming so it was a joy to see them so close.

We then drove back toward Duluth to view the north shore of Lake Superior in the daylight. We saw a lighthouse that was now also a bed & breakfast and walked on a breakwater into the harbor about a quarter mile. It gave us a great view of the iron ore loading docks built into the Two Harbors harbor. A small ore boat was loading. In MN small means under 500 feet long.

Saw lots of adorable farms on the way to Chisago City, MN where we spent the afternoon with some favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. We had a wonderful visit and had that instant connection you have with people you love but don't often see. Wish we lived closer.

We also have a research assignment here. The Indian chief Sitting Bull met Annie Oakley in St. Paul, MN and we've been trying to find the theatre where they met in 1884. No luck yet. Will peruse the Internet some more.

Margie has also scheduled us some time this morning to visit some of my old stomping grounds in my old home town of St. Louis Park, MN. There are far too many people I want to see and no time to do it so I haven't arranged any more meetings. I just barely have enough time to drive by a few old neighborhoods and favorite places. Then it's off toward Ohio - Margie's home state - for more Annie Oakley research and people and place adventures.

Hotel tip: If you charge $90 a night, don't use cheap fluorescent bulbs in the room. You also might want to upgrade to the larger coffee maker. Since you gave us a fridge, you might want to stock it with coffee creamers and offer packets of real sugar, not just Sweet & Low. Traveling really gives you an insight into what makes a stay more comfortable and every hotel owner (and person in the travel industry) should do it to improve their own operation. We've already filled a page with new ideas to better serve our trolley customers.

11/15/06 8:15 AM

Le Roy, Illinois. Another great day yesterday. Toured my old neighborhoods. When I was standing on my old Little League field I realized that almost 40 years had passed since I was playing there. How did I get to be nearly 50 years old???

Saw lots of changes that bothered me. Our favorite convenience store, Sol's Supperette, is gone. Replaced by an oil change place. Mr. Q's Restaurant - the place where I worked my first non-paper route job as a dishwasher and busboy - was gone. Not only gone but it was replaced by blocks and blocks of multi-story condominiums.

But my old neighborhoods were still there. My old house looked good. But everything looked far smaller than I remember it. Drove around my old paper routes and found a home for sale with brochures. They wanted $339,000 for a house that would go for $225,000 in Cody. Big cities, ish.

Found my uncle's gravesite in St. Paul and then we headed out toward Ohio. We're meeting friends there this afternoon. They are the folks who help us run the trolley ticket booth in the summers. We spend the night with them tonight.

Saw 17 deer in Wisconsin. We drove lots of miles again and made it more than halfway to Ohio. Today we drive the rest. Tomorrow we visit the newly re-done Annie Oakley section of the Garst Museum. This was re-designed by Cody's Paul Fees. We'll also visit the Air Force museum near Dayton that holds JFK's old Air Force One plane.

We're staying at a Super 8 as I type. Internet works but email doesn't. Don't know why my email is so touchy.

11/17/06 4:57 AM

Middletown, Ohio. We'll be in this Super 8 for two nights and my email is working here. Touchy little devil it is.

We spent the prior night in Troy, Ohio at friends Suzie & Bill Lester. They built a beautiful new home and invited us over. They've worked with us in the trolley ticket booth many summers and love Cody. The visit was great and they have a nice location that is away from the city but just minutes away from anything you would ever need.

Yesterday was fascinating. We visited the Annie Oakley portion of the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio and then took in the Air Force Museum in Dayton.

Cody's Paul Fees had helped redesign the Oakley area and we wanted to see the improvements. We really enjoyed the improvements and Margie lined up a personal tour from a volunteer there. I still get goosebumps looking at any personal affect that I know she once touched. Clothing, jewelry, a loving cup, rifles, shotguns and hand-written letters were just some of the affects. They play a film clip made by Thomas Edison of Annie shooting and then that actual rifle is on display. We purchased a couple of books and took lots of photos.

We also found Annie's sculpture in downtown Greenville and photographed that. I don't have the time to load photos on this site as I travel but I'll get the technology streamlined one day to do so. And I'm sure I'll post some when I get home.

The Air Force Museum attracted me because of the presidential jets on display. Specifically, JFK's Air Force One plane. I have spent thousands of hours researching his murder and the plane played a key role on that tragic day. Yesterday I was able to walk through the plane and actually see where key events took place like where Johnson was sworn in and where the casket was placed for the ride back to Washington. I walked through twice and took lots of photos. They have everything inside plexi-glassed off making very narrow passageways but I was delighted they allowed the public to go through.

I was struck by how un-pretentious the décor and furnishings were. The plane had been remodeled several times and the current layout is how it was left after Nixon was in office. But there were graphics describing the layouts during the three presidencies it served so you could picture how things were in Kennedy's years.

The museum also had planes from FDR, Truman, Ike and several others used to haul VIPs and presidents over the years. Next to the presidential planes was the research display with all the test concept planes they've dreamed up over the years. You have to take a special bus to go onto the actual military base to see the presidential and research planes so get there early in the day and sign up right away. We were lucky - it was rainy and a weekday so there were only 4 people on our bus. They say they normally fill up every bus, everyday.

Back at the main museum they have multiple giant hangars displaying a B-2 bomber, stealth fighter, U-2 spy planes and every imaginable aircraft from 1910 onward. There are also spacecraft and missiles and rockets in the last hangar. We saw capsules from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo (Apollo 15, one that actually went to the moon and back). Then there were neat surprises like Air Force uniforms from Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan, artifacts John Glenn carried with him on the first orbital flight and a moon rock. The gift shop is impressive too. And admission is free! Your tax dollars at hard at work here.

Wright Patterson Air Force Base is also said to be the place where the government stores the alien bodies discovered at the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico crash site. So of course I had to ask about that. They told me that when kids ask that question, they quietly take the kids to a little vault, slowly open it and expose a couple of fake aliens that are posed waving to whoever looks in. I was too chicken to ask the question while in the research wing so I avoided that practical joke.

Today we visit lots of Margie's relatives.

11/18/06 10:34 AM

Middletown, Ohio. I am typing this fast to beat my checkout time of 11 AM. I am relishing this good Internet connection and used it for lots of housekeeping on EverythingCody.com.

Margie is off with a sister visiting more relatives and I am free until 2 pm when we complete the Ohio leg of our trip at Margie's aunt and uncle's house.

Yesterday was a fun but long day. Margie's schedule was brutal with lots of visits with relatives and gathering info about cemetery monuments for her mother's grave. What an industry! Granite markers run from $1,700 to $10,000+. We toured a cemetery for ideas and the markers have become works of art with laser-engraved portraits of every imaginable scene or photograph. Margie's job is to gather various options and present the choices to her brothers and sisters.

We enjoyed lunch at my favorite Ohio restaurant, Skyline Chili. Wish Cody had one. I told the people at the restaurant that I drove 1700 miles just to eat there and to please build one in Cody because the commute was killing me.

Tomorrow we drive to the Carolinas for the last leg or our trip. So far we have over 2500 miles on the odometer and have been through 7 states. The "Service Engine Soon" light has been on in the Tahoe since Illinois but there has been no time to have it checked. Last time this happened it was a loose gas cap. $56, thank you very much. I'll have it checked when we get to Asheville. I hope that is "soon" enough.

11/20/06 11:33 AM

Lake Keowee, South Carolina. We spent the night at Margie's sister's lake house last night. Beautiful big home right on the lake. I want one!

Had a great night last night playing pool with my brother-in-law Don and watching the Broncos lose by mismanaging the clock.

The night before we stayed in a hotel about 30 miles into Kentucky. Had a great visit with Margie's Uncle Ralph, aunt Marie and their kids and families. Watched Ohio beat Michigan 42-39. That was fun while sitting in an Ohio home.

I just got off the phone with tech support in Cody and got my email problem solved. I hope it lasts. But right now I can send and receive so life is good.

The trailer park is developing some vacancies. All unexpected and all with less notice than our required 30 days. People will always surprise you. As of this minute we are full but all three open up within the next week or so. We've run an ad and added the vacancies to our Website so hopefully Brenda will start getting some calls.

Today is a lazy day with no plans. So it finally feels like vacation. We're going down to the dock and sip warm beverages once everyone gets showered and dressed.

Gas prices here are spectacularly low. $1.96 per gallon! If you live in Cody you are either choking to death right now or forming a mob and lighting torches to carry down to the closest gas outlet. Apparently the eastern seaboard is right in the path of a major gasoline pipeline so distribution costs are way lower and usage is way higher.

We did find cheaper gas everywhere east of Wyoming. Most places around $2.15. Wisconsin was about 20 cents higher but all other states were $2.15 or less. South Carolina takes the prize with sub-$2.00 prices.

What are Cody gas prices today? If you know, send me an email.

Weather is chilly and overcast. 40's. It rained most of our trip so far but not enough to prevent driving or any activities. It just makes places look dreary.

He head to Asheville, NC tomorrow and back to Margie's sister's city house for a stay through Sunday. Lots of family coming in for Thanksgiving there. Then we start the drive home.

11/21/06 8:28 AM

Lake Keowee, South Carolina. Last day at the lake house. If I owned this it would be difficult to ever go back to the city. My brother and sister-in-law say that is exactly how they feel. But on the other hand, they say, their work in the city is what makes owning the lake house possible.

They own 8 McDonald's restaurants and work as hard as anyone else we know. How we all met is a fun story.

Don has worked at McDonald's since he was 15, which makes 35 years with the company now. He was a store manager at a Ft. Myers, Florida store when I was brought in by his boss as a manager trainee in 1977. I'd worked for this boss a few years in St. Pete, FL but had quit to move back to Minnesota. The boss was transferred to Ft. Myers and given the assignment to open five new stores there so he needed people bad and was calling every good employee he ever had and recruiting them to come to Ft. Myers. I accepted and was assigned to Don's store.

Don and I hit it off immediately and rented an apartment together. He had hired my wife Margie a few months earlier as a crew person and she caught my eye because like me, she ran to fill customers' orders while most everyone else walked. We started dating and Margie started bringing her little sister Lois along to the apartment. She caught Don's eye and they started dating. Within a year I married Margie and within three years Don married Lois. So two buddies married sisters and here we are 30 years later.

Yesterday we drove to a secluded waterfall deep in the woods and hiked a bit and looked for good places to pan for gold. I suspect talking about gold panning might be as fun as actually doing it.

Then we had a great night playing pool and we all watched "The DaVinci Code" movie. That movie gives you lots to think about. There is so much we don't know. Just pick any topic and we're all in kindergarten about it, despite what we think we know.

Today we head back to the Asheville, NC house and start preparing for the arrival of many relatives for Thanksgiving.

11/23/06 6:39 PM

Asheville, North Carolina. Had a great Thanksgiving meal and the gathering of 20 people has broken into groups. One group is gambling with a dice game. Another is watching the movie "Cars" for about the 8th time. Me, I'm sitting at the table updating this website, taking it all in.

Denver plays football tonight but this house doesn't get the NFL channel it is broadcast on. Not much chance of getting the TV turned to football here anyway. Heck, I'm even watching football less lately. Gives you more time and less angst.

Some folks might take in a movie at the theater tonight. "Casino Royale," "Bobby" and "Happy Feet" are the top choices.

My brother and parents arrive in Asheville tomorrow night. Saturday we spend the day at an amusement center and hold the Johnson family football game.

Margie and Jess visited the Vanderbilt Estate yesterday and took the "Insider's Tour." It will help her on the trolley tours (the owner's niece sculpted "The Scout" statue in Cody) and she said the tour was fascinating.

I hope you and yours had a great holiday and you have as many things to be thankful for as we do.

11/27/06 7:48 AM

St. Louis, MO. We left Asheville yesterday morning and drove all day. We had a wonderful visit with family from both my side and Margie's side. I'm limping like crazy from the big Johnson football game. My family got beat. Then we repicked sides and won that game. I have girls, my brother has boys. My girls are good, but they were at a disadvantage. On the upside, I know my brother is sore too. We're getting too old for this hootenanny, but we refuse to believe it.

We planned on going up in the St. Louis Arch but arrived at night and decided to keep on motoring through town to avoid the rush hour in morning. We drove right by the arch however and it is pretty impressive.

Today is all driving, all day. We have some Buffalo Bill stops planned in Kansas. We'll get some places mapped and perhaps see a couple historic sites there tonight.

Weather gets worse now as we travel west. Rain, snow and cold coming our way.

The Tahoe is getting 18-19 miles per gallon now that we're in the flatlands. Tennessee and Kentucky were beautiful with rolling hills and large pastures. Illinois flattened out. Western North Carolina was the prettiest with the tree-covered mountain vistas in all directions.

We've seen lots of beautiful places but are returning to Cody re-inspired to look more aggressively for the waterfront dream home we hope to find. And to work more aggressively on ways to move up our time table for buying it.

12/1/06 9:22 AM

Cody, Wyoming. Nice to be home. We arrived back on 11/28 and have been casually trying to get caught up since. The 18-day trip spanned 5,350 miles and took us through 15 states. The Tahoe did great and the "Service Engine Soon" light turned out to be nothing. A mechanic in Asheville reset the light after reading the code and refused to charge us. We made him take a tip and had no further problems on the way home.

Once we made it back to the western side of the Mississippi River we breathed easier from lack of human congestion and traffic. This was really brought home once we were north of Cheyenne on I-25. Driving on a hilltop I saw no other cars for ten miles behind me and ten miles in front of me. After experiencing bumper-to-bumper interstate traffic east of the Mississippi where everyone is going 80 miles per hour, this felt like heaven. We are very fortunate to live in the west.

Traveling really adds perspective to everything. Being away from Cody for 18 days made everything look new when we returned. We really appreciate our home more too. Margie & I tell each other we are rich everyday but returning to our own space after time away has really amplified those feelings.

While traveling through big cities I really noticed how excessively we live. There are so many shopping and dining options. There are stores and restaurants for every imaginable taste. And right next to each other! We Americans live in a level of affluence that is mind-boggling. And we take it for granted.

I also noticed how "franchised" America has become. One city looks just like the next. Unless you have a distinguishing feature like the St. Louis Arch or the Grand Ole Opry, you can't tell one town from the next. Cody's western look and feel really makes us stand out. It is critically important that we never lose that differentiator. It is a crowded, jaded world and having a unique identity really gives us an advantage in attracting visitors to our town.

Another thing I noticed is how little most of the people we visited stay up with current events. I realized that I am in the minority who read newspapers and watch cable news shows regularly. People are just too busy with their lives to keep up. So websites that provide lots of time-saving headlines and a broad array of political, business, news, sports and entertainment links like EverythingCody.com will just become more and more valuable. People are just so time-starved.

It scares me that Americans are paying less and less attention to national issues and events. Nationwide, just 40% of eligible voters voted in the last election. That compares with the 77% who voted here in Park County. So you can argue that people here in Cody are more interested and informed than most of the rest of America. My guess is that conservative areas had a higher voting percentage than liberal areas. I'll have to look that up. It is a fact though that urban residents are more likely to vote liberal than those who live in rural areas. I think that comes down to the differing self-responsibility and self-sufficiency beliefs.

But as politicians learn (as if they already haven't) that Americans aren't watching, they will pull more and more outrageous shenanigans. And we'll get shafted more and more. I have to say that when only 40% of the public votes, that says that the government is no longer meaningful to the public. It also shows we are lazy and/or believe we can't change anything so large.

One person who would be appalled at such beliefs would be Harry Truman. We visited the Harry Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri and gained a much better appreciation of all the issues he faced. Harry actually raised a million dollars himself to help build the library/museum and worked in his office there right up to his death at 88 years old. He'd arrive early before everyone else and would actually answer the phones, surprising callers by speaking with the big man himself.

Harry & Bess are buried on the grounds in the central plaza, surrounded by the buildings that showcase his life and presidency. My most vivid memory of the place was the one piece of paper on display that could be the document that ends the world. It is the letter Harry wrote announcing America's support of the State of Israel. He read this letter to the world just moments after Israel's government formed on May 14, 1948, making us the first (and most important) country to recognize Israel. It was a very controversial decision then and its ramifications continue to play out today.

We spent a few days in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was amazed at how bad the traffic was. If there is just one accident, traffic backs up for miles. Relatives tell me this happens multiple times every day. And people just live with it. If traffic is flowing without accidents, people drive 80 miles an hour bumper to bumper. After experiencing all this death-defying driving, it is amazing that driving your own vehicle is still legal. My personal observation is that at least half of all drivers are consistently bad drivers. If you look at two other drivers and can't identify the bad driver, it's you.

We are so lucky in Cody to not have to face traffic-jammed commutes. Of course my commute is merely walking downstairs so I am the luckiest of all. The only traffic jam I face is two dogs trying to get out the backdoor at once.

All in all, the trip reminded me why I live west of the Mississippi and in Cody, Wyoming specifically. There are many ways to live and thankfully I only have to live the way I want to live and everyone else can live the way they want to live. If that wasn't true, Cody, Wyoming would have a population of 300 million minus the 9,000 of us who would have left to find another Cody-like place.

12/15/06 11:35am

Time is a blur this month. Margie was up to her neck organizing many Cody Christmas events. Then we prepared for our annual Christmas Light Tours with the trolley. We field 500-700 phone calls taking reservations for those. Then I've been busy redesigning my EverythingCody.com website. I think it came out terrific and it is ready for a major advertising expansion.

Technology is so amazing. I can now sit in my basement office and create a daily online newspaper in less than two hours a day. I can upload any story in seconds throughout the day, keeping the content fresh. I don't need an office or printing presses, newspaper carriers, a layout team or editorial department. No receptionist, office manager or accounting department. Margie & I can do all this ourselves at virtually no expense other than our time, right from our home. I have hired an advertising salesperson to help generate revenue. This way I get to focus on what I enjoy, monitoring and updating our news and entertainment. Margie is a great ad designer so we can easily create attention-grabbing banner ads for our clients. Life is good.

We start the Christmas Light Tours tonight. Cody neighborhoods are a little better lit this year so we have a few more good houses to show. Margie photographed all 24 residential and commercial contest entries at night and created a nice display board to be posted at our home base the next 9 nights -- the Eastgate Center Laundromat. This board helps trolley riders recall their favorite houses so they can vote for the "Trolley Riders' Favorite" award.

We had to buy a new inverter to power the Christmas lights on our trolley. The old one burned up after a few years use. Temps are supposed to be just below freezing the next nine nights. A little cold is good for the experience. No snow on the ground yet, maybe that will come soon.

12/27/06 4:47 AM

Up early today. Margie has the Cody Crud and has been coughing all night. She says she worked herself too hard this month and left her body too weak to fight off these germs. I agree. The woman has tremendous energy, but apparently even she has limits.

We completed the trolley light tours for another year. I haven't done a final accounting but it looks like we surpassed 1,000 customers again. The town was well-lit this year and our annual decorating contest attracted 21 entries . There were two divisions and you can see the winners here . The prestigious "Trolley Riders' Favorite" award went to Rodney Kolar.

Weather never got brutally cold so window fogging wasn't a problem this year. Passengers enjoyed the tours and it is fun to see so many people we know making these light tours an annual tradition.

This morning I speak about EverythingCody.com on the radio. We completed the redesign and are launching a public relations and advertising sales push. Our trailer park manager accepted the opportunity to start selling ads for the site this week. She's part-time at the park and ad sales can give her more income with a totally flexible schedule. She's an Internet person and is good with people so it should be a good fit for us both.

Christmas was good to us again this year. Our girls were both in town with our grandson. He's two and a half, just old enough to exhibit all those magical expressions kids get when opening presents.

We got the trailer park billing out yesterday, two days later than normal due to all the December activity around here. We still have a couple vacancies but have made progress filling three homes the past couple weeks. Not many people look for rentals in December so it's the toughest month of the year.

I hope to take it a bit easier the rest of this week. Not many Have-To's on the list but I always have Want-To's that need to be tackled. Ultimately it's your self-discipline toward your Want-To's that determine your success in life. This is a good time to reflect on the year's achievements and take a fresh look at what specific actions can be taken to achieve more dreams in the year ahead. I hope to do a little of both.

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