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…
Thompson Falls, Montana
On my first visit to Montana in June, 2007 I fell in love with Thompson Falls, a tiny town in a remote valley, close to the borders of Canada and Idaho.
I returned the following February. I rented an apartment in a quaint waterfront building on the Corner of Maiden Lane and Broad Street. The idea of Crazy Woman KAYAKS was conceived!
On the Corner of Maiden Lane and Broad Street. The idea of Crazy Woman KAYAKS was conceived!
On July 5, 2008 Crazy Woman KAYAKS opened with 13 kayaks displayed on a refurbished canoe-trailer! Thirty minutes later, I served my first customers – and they never stopped coming!
Crazy Woman KAYAKS began as an experiment. It was the outward expression of my ideals, my passion and most cherished beliefs – and it worked! How I wish it had never ended – but I will forever remember the happiness it produced over the 12 years Crazy Woman KAYKAS consumed me 24/7. How many people can say they have been truly happy?
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Kayak season is short in Montana. By the end of August, after the Sanders County Fair, the kids return to school. The weather is still gorgeous, but the interest in kayaking pales in comparison with the need to gather fire-wood and canning tomatoes in preparation for winter.
I stored my equipment, locked my apartment and drove 3,000 miles back to Florida. For a while, I considered starting a tent campground on my two Florida acres. Thankfully, I decided to explore the option of a kayak business instead. I was invited to launch the second Crazy Woman KAYAKS at Fish-Tale Marina on Fort Myers Beach. Again, the business thrived – and the rest is history.
When one door closes, other doors open. Without Crazy Woman KAYAKS, I was suddenly free to live anywhere — free to do whatever I wanted! As I have done six times previously, I chose to do a geographical cure.
I left my native Norway in 1969, hungry for adventure. I’ve felt at home in Trinidad, West-Indies, in New York, Maryland, Texas, Southwest Florida and Montana. In May, 2019, I bought a one-way ticket to Ecuador and applied for my Temporary Resident Visa.
I am content living in Cuenca, in spite of never seeing kayaks riding on top of vehicles or floating down the rivers surrounding the city. Ecuador is mountainous, its rivers fast, shallow and rocky. I don’t crave injuries. To kayak on a waterfall, a person needs wings – not a paddle.
Cuenca is a World Heritage Site. I am a frequent diner in the myriad of affordable Ecuadorian and Internationals restaurants. The city of 700,000 inhabitants is very walk-able. I don’t want or need a car. There is no end to quaint shops on cobblestone streets, lovely parks, cathedrals, open air markets, street-vendors and museums.
The hope of starting a kayak business in Ecuador is still alive. In March, 2020, the day Ecuador shut down in response to the Pandemic, I moved to Bahia de Caraquez on the Pacific Coast to explore the possibilities. With severe Covid restrictions in place, I explored the recesses of my own mind while my books molded and my laptop’s hard-drive rusted in the humid ocean air. Bahia has no services. When I lost my phone, I could not buy a replacement anywhere in town. I was very happy to move back to Cuenca, high in the Andes Mountains!
In my carport I have four Eddyline kayaks, a remnant of my former fleet of more than one hundred kayaks. I know there is flat-water in the Amazon. I plan to visit soon.
I love my new life in Ecuador, but not a day passes that I don’t miss my business!
What’s next? While I ponder this, I’m starting a blog.