JULY 5, 2009 ~ MAY 19, 2019
It began with a family emergency, a road trip from Southwest Florida to Northwest Montana with a belligerent teen in the backseat. It was June, 2007.
On I-90, near Buffalo, Wyoming, I noticed a sign: “Crazy Woman Creek Road.” I nudged my husband and asked if they “would ever name a road after me?” He rolled his eyes, “They already have!” Little did I know the impact that sign would have on my life!
When our Montana mission ended, my husband flew back to Florida after blessing me with assorted camping gear. I had quit my editing job. The kid was in boarding school. I was suddenly free from deadlines and obligations. Why not explore the Northwest?
The first day I headed west from Missoula Airport toward Spokane. My companions were Jazz, the mountain bike, and Slide, my sleek Kevlar kayak. They weren’t talking so I talked to myself. I journaled, which is a lifelong habit. My mood flickered between excitement and discomfort. Where would I sleep? What would I eat? Was I safe? I slept with my camp-ax the first night. I didn’t need it so I didn’t repeat it. I began sleeping with the tent flap open if the moon was full.
I paddled countless rivers and lakes. I crossed a million canyons until one day I stumbled upon Cape Disappointment on the Pacific Coast!
I was on a quest —searching for a feeling or a place — something I couldn’t verbalize. I was desperate for change. I wanted a new life — a new identity!
Four months later I was freezing in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was late October. My husband asked when I was coming home. “RIGHT NOW!” I hurled my gear into the Toyota and sped back to my Southwest Florida home.
But it didn’t feel like home anymore. My heart was in a small Montana town. I returned to it in February, 2008, took my kid out of boarding school and bought a Honda C-RV on a credit card. We rented an upstairs apartment in an old building with a magnificent view of the Thompson Falls Reservoir.
“Could a kayak business do well here?” The locals nodded solemnly. I prepared a proposal and presented it to the Major and my landlords. They approved!
Now, the business needed a name! Thompson Falls Outfitters? What a snore! Suddenly, I remembered the sign on I-90. “Crazy Woman KAYAKS?” OH, JOY! I began laughing – and I kept laughing for the next 12 years!
Crazy Woman Kayaks was an experiment — an expression of everything I love and believe. My financial projections for a town of 1,500 people were dismal, however. I stopped projecting and I relied on intuition, not statistics.
I refurbished an old canoe trailer, bought 13 kayaks, paddles and life-jackets. On Opening Day, July 5, 2008, people showed up and rented kayaks — and they kept coming all summer! “Are you the Crazy Woman?” “YES!” We laughed.
But Montana summers are short. The leaves turned. Snow dusted the mountains. I locked up and drove the 3,000 miles back to Florida.
In December, 2010, I launched Crazy Woman Kayaks on Fort Myers Beach! By the time summer came, I had a good helper. I returned to Montana, but remained open in Florida. What did we DO before cell phones?
Crazy Woman Kayaks flourished! I worked day and night! I became my business. It consumed me while meeting all my needs; Social, spiritual, intellectual, financial and creative. I was constantly learning and leaping over the boundaries of my comfort zone.
But bliss isn’t meant to be permanent. Landlords and neighbors did not expect me to succeed. They were unhappy! There were parking issues. Hefty rent increases forced me to search for other locations. It was willing to risk everything to save myself— but everything wasn’t enough! That’s the short version. I finally rented parking-lot space at a waterfront restaurant on San Carlos Blvd. It was an incredibly inconvenient location. I did not renew my lease.
I brought my kayaks and trailers home. I worked by appointment. Zoning did not allow helpers. The kayaks had to be invisible. Constantly loading and unloading kayaks without help was exhausting.
Two days before category 5 Hurricane Irma ravaged Southwest Florida in September 2107, I was the last person to board a midnight flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador. After one month of exploring Ecuador by bus, I made it my goal to live in Ecuador!
In summer 2018, I bid farewell to Thompson Falls, Montana. In 2019, I listed my Florida house. I sold my trailers and kayaks and returned to Ecuador to stay.
I love my Ecuador life, but not a day passes that I don’t miss my business!
What’s next? While I ponder this, I’m starting a blog. My abbreviated Business Obituary is the new beginning…