A Hectic Week Ahead….

Yesterday was more disrupted than I intended, but so it goes at times. With the initial recovery well underway here, Hubby’s efforts are being focused on Key Largo. Horizon Divers where he works is ready to go as soon as people can start coming down. The Middle and Lower Keys took the brunt of Irma and their recovery will be prolonged, although we’re not certain of what that means time-wise. The Upper Keys, down through Islamorada, are still restricted with a “boil water” order among other things. The complex where HD’s dive operation is includes the restaurant Shipwrecks and that’s what the HD crew is helping with. It’s high 90s and intense humidity so the physical work required for cleanup and repair is pretty draining. Access to the Keys is limited to residents, business owners, and recovery personnel, but the intent is to be ready as soon as visitors can return. How many will is yet to be seen.

In our community, there were so many events that had to be postponed between prep and recovery this will be a hectic week as we sort through what can be rescheduled and how to do that. Power has mostly been restored here, but there are still shortages in the grocery stores and people whose property was severely damaged are dealing with that. Something as simple as if a restaurant wants to open, not having staff back means “normal operations” can be impeded. School is starting back today and that is an indicator of routines beginning again. It will probably be another two-three weeks though before we can be genuinely considered as recovered.

Why I Love Entrepreneurs….

When I retired and it became painfully obvious I was not going to make an income from writing, I did what most retired military officers do in the D.C. area and went to work for a company involved in Department of Defense contracting. Since we were in a position to where I just had to make a respectable salary rather than as much as I possibly could, I had the flexibility to go with a small, nimble company founded by an entrepreneur whom I grew to greatly admire. Actually, two of them since the company started with either five or seven individuals (I don’t recall the exact number). I’m sure the other founding members were also great, but I mostly dealt with the two. Anyway, even though I chose not to move up much in the company, I was fascinated with how things came about and listened carefully as they expanded literally to the point where they had to sell because they were, “too big to be small and too small to be big”. In essence, in the world of government contracting, there are a lot of “set-asides” for smaller companies. Once you reach a certain size though, you no longer qualify for those contracts and you are thrust into competition with the really big guys. The genuine ability to compete against them is extremely difficult and so the most practical option is hold tight until one or more of them take notice of you and make an offer to buy you out. There are all sorts of considerations, but it’s something that happens all the time.

Anyway, that was a very interesting lesson in the real world of business. Coming closer to home, we had lunch today at the Redlander Restaurant at Schnebly’s  (https://www.schneblywinery.com). They are a fantastic example of starting small with a niche market and expanding in a reasoned fashion. For those who may not be familiar with them they make wine from our local tropical/exotic fruits. They began with what was basically a modular building as their tasting and sales room. They grew to a beautifully landscaped property with a wonderful large room that added a restaurant. During the process they also branched out to brew beer on the property and opened “The Tap Room” which is quite large and serves 18 beers. They are an event place as well and are always coming up with new ideas. They are family run and it’s a pleasure to watch each new venture.

Scuba Related…..

A modular design for an artificial reef created and provided by Walter Marine of AL

Thursday, Sept 14th, I’ll be doing a presentation on Artificial Reefs in Key Largo based on my book, Islands in the Sand: An Introduction to Artificial Reefs in the USA

Since the book came out in 2009, I needed to update a few things for the PowerPoint show. One of which was to check on a guy, David Walter of Walter Marine. I’ll explain. First, artificial reefs for those who might not be as familiar are a variety of items that rest in the water and attract marine life which take up residence and create a reef complete with coral, sponges, fish, etc. The marine creatures don’t mind that it isn’t a natural rock formation – it provides shelter and over time, marine growth increases. The most spectacular artificial reefs tend to be shipwrecks, but there are lots of others. Many are underwater by accident, but the planned ones are the focus of the book. Again, taking a massive ship like the 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, prepping her and sending her to the bottom is a huge effort that takes years of planning/work and lots of money. There are, however, way cool and smaller options.

Every other year, the big scuba trade show is in Orlando and the year I was doing intense research for the book coincided with the DEMA show. I was able to talk with several people involved with artificial reef work, one of whom was David. I have previously posted about Reefball (TM) that is a non-profit organization. They create modules that can be deployed to create a reef based on what size and shape is desired.

David, who as he explained always liked to figure things out for himself, did a few projects with them and then decided to establish his own business. (www.reefmaker.net)  (Note: not sure why, but the website wasn’t loading when I wrote this. It was fine the other day.)

Anyway, back to David. He played around with designs and materials and it was fascinating to talk to him. I popped onto his website the other day to see how he was doing and he quickly responded. His business has expanded and he sent me the photo here. The uses for his products have also expanded and it’s nice to see. (I will acknowledge there are opponents to artificial reef work and they are certainly entitled to their opinion.) I love the entrepreneurial spirit and I love a good artificial reef, so I hope Walter Marine continues to thrive. By the way, the lovey fish along with the jelllyfish in the photo is a type of triggerfish.

Following Up In All Fairness…..

I can see why everyone has been raving about “Hairspray” at the Seminole Theatre. The talent of the large cast was terrific. I’d had one of my terrible bouts of insomnia in the wee hours of Saturday and left last night at intermission, but there was no question as to the quality of he production. As it was the first go-round for the Seminole Players, it has certainly set a high bar for Community Theater.

Last night was a sell-out crowd as have been a couple of other performances. This was the first time there have been as many dates set and all were well-attended. I don’t know if they can capture the data, but I heard several people in the lobby mention it was their first time to be in the Seminole. I went into my pitch of course and one gentlemen gave me his card and asked me to email him with more information.

What If Works Theater and Film, one of the longstanding members of Homestead Center for the Arts, will be doing “Driving Miss Daisy” Oct 20th and 21st and although WIW is a separate entity from the Seminole, this play is also cast with community members. A nice trailer was recently posted to http://www.whatifworks.com

With this being the third season of programming, there is at least more data about what people are responding to and that is helpful. There have been surprises both ways with shows that didn’t resonate that were expected to and others that were very popular that hadn’t seemed as if they would draw much of an audience. There is no doubt as to the hard work that goes into the Seminole and I do hope this is the year it hits its stride so to speak.

 

 

Part of Why Newcomers Get Confused…..

I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but when people first move here, driving around can be confusing. Everyone assumes with GPS tech, you just pop an address in and be all set. In some cases, that is correct. The first thing though is there are two sets of street designations; one is the county and the other is the municipal. Since we are south of the main part of the County, their numbering is quite different. For example, NE 8th Street is the local designation and SW 312th is the county. That also happens to be Campbell Drive, so when you get an address from someone, it will depend on which numbering system they are accustomed to using. Now, let’s say you are given the county number which is what most of the GPS systems are programmed with. You are going along and suddenly the street deadends into a field. This is because we still have a lot of agricultural lands and the street may very well pick up again on the other side of the large multi-acre field. The GPS system doesn’t realize that more-or-less straight line doesn’t actually exist as a road.

The other problem is you may have a  19th Ave, 19th Drive, 19th Place, 19th Street,19th Terrace and 19th Road. This is why when someone gives you an address, you have to be certain of the full address. If you are casually told, “Oh, we’re on 19th”, you’re likely to be in the wrong place. As you can imagine, delivery people can become quite frustrated.

Trying to manage all this in the dark is especially challenging and there are stories to be told by even people who have lived here for a while. In the agricultural community, streetlights tends to be limited and you often cannot read a street sign without literally getting out of the vehicle and using a flashlight. These are all things you get used to, but it does take time.

A Different Kind of Motorcycle Place….

Okay, not travel-related precisely, but I do think I have a few motorcycle followers who might travel this direction. Here’s the deal and it’s seriously cool. K&G Cycles opened a few months ago in Florida City. (http://www.kandgcycles.com) It’s more than 3,000 square feet of space selling all sorts of parts and accessories and a state-of-the-art service center. The motorcycles there are a mix of vintage and other, but “Dr. G” doesn’t actually sell motorcycles.

You can read the entire history on his website, but loving motorcycles led him into a fascination with vintage motorcycle restoration. More than merely tinkering, however, he’s won multiple national awards. His enjoyment wasn’t limited to vintage machines though and in 2006, he established K and G Cycles as a customer-friendly on-line business. He carefully selected the right kind of people for his staff and spent more than a year in creating the website to be as responsive as he envisioned. From that initial beginning, he  expanded their motorcycle parts and accessories offerings to more than 500,000 items and represents products from over 700 manufacturers as well as all major motorcycle parts and accessories wholesalers.

There were a lot of calls asking if he was going to have a full-service store in addition to the website. Although his staff had also posed the question, making the leap from on-line to a store was not a decision to be taken lightly. Two major elements came into play. As any realtor will tell you, “location, location, location” is key. The “where” was an ideal piece of property in Florida City. One of the representatives of a major supplier added this to the mix. “If you open a store, you know you’ll be the only one between Cutler Ridge and Key West.”

“Dr. G” knew if he was going to step onto this path, it would be with the people he trusted. He gathered them for a discussion and to ask for their input about the store’s design and function. He developed the drawing, turned to a builder he had used for other projects, and by Spring 2017, K and G Cycles Motorcycle Service Supercenter opened their doors to eager customers. Service, retail, and the impressive on-line offerings enable him to confidently say, “If you can’t get it from K and G Cycles, it’s probably going to be really hard to find.”

And, as icing on the cake,  if you read the post a few weeks ago, Joe’s Famous Burgers food truck us set up in the parking lot. Okay, maybe the middle of summer isn’t when you want to eat outside. You can do take-out though.

Swimming Lessons…..

When the kids were here last December, our granddaughter was 18 months old. She was immediately attracted to the pool, although was also willing to respect an invisible border we set for her. Not that I think she would have left to her own devices, but of course she was never unattended around it. We were able to get in the pool her first two full days here and the few times her face got in the water, she shook it off and wanted to play more. The temperature dropped too much though and their last couple of days she reluctantly accepted our exaggerated display of, “Brrr, shiver, shiver” as reason not to go in.

I’ve asked the kids to see if they can find someone to teach her to swim this summer because I’m certain this coming December will be entirely different. She is almost up to reasoned sentences and will no doubt employ every bit of two-and-a-half year old logic to explain why she ought to go in the water no matter the temperature. If we’re lucky, we’ll have plenty of warm sunshine and it won’t be an issue. If not, the simple fact is the water won’t be so cold as to worry about hypothermia, but might be uncomfortable for an adult. If she can swim, I’ll be fine watching out for her in case of a problem. If they haven’t been able to get her lessons, I suppose a wet suit might be in order and I’ll keep moving while we’re in. They make toddler size tops and if some sort of flotation device is needed, that will adequately layer her. I don’t want to get her anything too early though since children do tend to change sizes pretty rapidly with those growth spurts.

I always encourage parents to have their children taught to swim as early as possible. Even if you don’t live near the water or have regular access to a pool, it’s still important because you never know when a situation might come up to be around water.

Some Local History…..

Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum (Opened 1917)

The week has been extra busy as one of the boards I am involved with is the Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum. We put together a small reception for our Centennial yesterday and it also marked the retirement of the founder and director who recently celebrated her 97th birthday. (There is some question as to the precise number, but that’s close if not exact). She actually came here in the closing years of WW II and later married into one of the town’s pioneering families. She always worked which was a bit unusual in the 1940s and 1950s. She owned a couple of different businesses and thus became involved in local politics. As the first female Vice-Mayor, she had an impact in several areas. She was well-known around town and the surrounding communities. The Town Hall, which was the first municipal building opened after the town incorporated, was originally the Town Hall, Fire Station and Police Station. In the way these things happen, as the town grew and eventually built a new Fire Station, Police Station and Town Hall, there were  people who held no sentimental value for the original building. With a 5-2 vote to tear it down and create more parking, this lady stood firm at her approximate five feet tall and rallied like-minded citizens.

I can only imagine what some of the discussions must have been and yet, those who wanted to preserve the local history prevailed. The building was saved and then the effort was launched to turn the ground floor into a museum. Who better then to be the Director?  As I think I have mentioned in previous posts, this area has a young history because climate and topography prevented development until the late 1880s. In one sense though, that also means if the history can be preserved, there is a good chance it can be an uninterrupted history. Our museum has limited resources and only the single paid employee which means the volunteers do quite a few tasks. We’re entering a new era and will have to see how things unfold.

Rolling Hills and Red Barns…..

Aside from the delightful evening I spent with the members of the Darting Needles Quilting Guild and seeing my old friend for the first time in more than ten years, my trip to Wisconsin gave me the chance to visit a part of the country I had not previously been to. There were indeed lots of rolling hills, very green grass and trees, lovely wild flowers and plenty of barns and silos. Cows, of course and I passed multiple billboards showing various cheese stores. They must also have a huge deer population because there was a surprising number of dead deer along the roadways. I did go zipping past Wisconsin Dells, “The Water Park Capital of the World,” but didn’t have time to stop. It certainly looked like it would be a fun place.

The little town where my friend lives is very much a “Small Town, U.S.A” with only a couple of streets for the downtown, a park at the end, and the post office, City Hall, and senior center all clustered close together. The hospital is fairly new and in addition to robust medical services for a place the size it is, there was a very large fitness center. We did not go inside, but it looked to be well equipped and there was an indoor swimming pool. All of this makes good sense in a place with difficult winters.

A regional fast-food chain was Culvers, but it is a family-based business that emphasizes fresh ingredients and their specialty is frozen custard. It is apparently made fresh on the premises. They do have a small freezer stocked with to-go containers. It’s one of the kind of places where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table. The staff was quite friendly and I could see why it was a favorite.

Day 3 into Day 4…..

Poignant thoughts alert. Although my time with the quilting guild was absolutely delightful, there was no way they could cover my expenses for this is trip. I came because it was truly fortuitous. Of all the places I could have been invited to speak, what are the odds there would be a group within a five-hour drive of my friend whom  I had not seen since 2003? If one chooses to not believe in such things, that’s fine.

My drive over yesterday was pretty much without incidence, other than the fact they failed to replace a directional sign I needed after doing some roadwork last year. As I was going along and felt perhaps I had missed a turn somewhere, I stopped for a bathroom/beverage break and being female had no problem asking if I had in fact missed a turn. The young lady immediately said, “Oh yes, everyone does that,” and explained the problem. I was only about ten miles off’ so that wasn’t too bad. I arrived within fifteen minutes of my original plan which from my perspective put me on target.

My friend and I passed a pleasant afternoon catching up and reminiscing. We had dinner that night with her daughter who is only a year younger than me and lost her husband unexpectedly Thanksgiving morning. The irony here is I met my friend years ago after she lost her husbandly unexpectedly at the too-young age of forty-five. However, since I lost my first husband unexpectedly at twenty-seven, I was able to help her sort through the intense emotions. And so, last night we were both able to sit there and offer support to her grieving daughter. Such is the power of female friendship.