I am being very cautious here, but I think it’s safe to say that spring has arrived in Charleston, blown in by a winter that almost refused to die. Buds are tentatively beginning to open (about two weeks late), but only after sending out bud scouts to see if the coast is clear. A few robins have arrived, but most are wearing tiny rain suits that could only have come from REI. Cliffy was not exaggerating when he said our winter has been too harsh to practice rolling his Cooper. Not for a lack of location, because most of the downtown streets had plenty of water, but rather because of whitecaps on those same streets caused by the 45-knot winds.
Today, though, is 75 and cloudless with a typical April breeze. Power has been restored to the factory (because of the lingering wind gusts from the weekend), and all of us are feeling energized and excited about the new season. Even a bit mischievous, perhaps, as evidenced by the fact that when I arrived at the factory last Friday morning, there were NO cars in the parking lot. Had I not dealt with some past grievance? Their first ever concerted action? Maybe the entire area had been evacuated and I just didn’t get the word. While standing in the office scratching my head the way you do when you’re really perplexed, the door to the plant burst open and everyone screamed “April Fool.” Yes, I was.
The winter, however, was not without its rewards. We have successfully tweaked several of the boats, bringing them ever closer to perfection. The Cooper has had an amazing response and as of this date I can report that NOT ONE PERSON has indicated confusion with assembly. This can only mean that it actually IS easy to put together or that we took extra care with the instructions. Either way, thanks for your kind comments.
Europe seems to have suddenly discovered our boats, too, probably because of our outstanding German distributor and the advantageous Euro/Dollar exchange rate. Europe, after all, has known of folding boat advantages for years, even though some of their folders begin with the letter K. And our equally outstanding Canadian distributor paved the way with their paddling venture to Austria last fall.
I did take advantage of the winter weather by calling in sick for a week while I had a new titanium and HDPE knee screwed in place. (That shall be my official excuse for letting From the Front languish). For those of you who have abused your meniscus over the years, I can’t say enough good things about knee replacement. Mine now works like the old one (before it began hurting) and should be good for about 29,000,000 cycles, which seems like plenty to get me anywhere I especially want to go. I won’t be wasting any cycles on kayaks that pedal, though.
One item that I must advise everyone of, however, is not as much fun as knee replacement, and that’s a price increase that we will put into effect on May 1, equal to about 8%. Alan Greenspan can say what he wants about inflation being in control, but we have seen raw material and health insurance costs soar in the last few years. As our current prices are approximately what they were in 2001, we do think we have done a good job of controlling them in the past. We have tried to blunt the trauma of this increase, however, by offering a neat shipping deal for April.
The bottom line is that even in an REI rain suit, the early Robin gets the worm this year. Happy Spring!