Thursday, July 10, 2008

Zip Lines Through a Rain Forrest

Today we went on a zip line tour from a Costa Rican rain forrest. This is a picture from a tractor taking us to the top of the mountain. In the distance is our resort and the bay/Pacific Ocean... Here we are at the top of the mountain right before the first of 15 lines we rode. Here they give directions - the most important of which I did not obey - how to slow down. I came in HOT on one of the lines and cut my knee open. It'll be a sweet scar with an awesome story.

Here is a view from one of the platforms. The view is amazing...
You essentially fly from platform to platform and the guides are great. When it is their turn to go they go upside down and do other crazy things. You just sweat while waiting your turn on every platform due to the heat and humidity between runs. They tie you down while on top of the platforms for safety. When/if you look down it is scary and you could easily fall if not carefull.
The other people on the trip were great too, one was a family of 4 teenaged girls with their mom and dad. Todd promised their dad that he'd hook them up with text books since one of the girls goes to Univ. of Florida. They exchanged e-mails and the guy was in the wine business and promised Todd some wine if he came through with the books.

Below is me coming into one of the platforms. If you are affraid of heights this is not a good trip. The lines range from about 60 yards to 100 yards in length. The 100 yard one was the worst because it was went severely downhill which made it very fast. You HAD to "brake" most of the way which did not allow you to enjoy the view. You feel the friction and heat through your gloves on that one. If you don't brake the entire time you'd come in so fast that you'd for sure injure yourself.

Below is Todd coming in to the final line. The final line comes right into the camp where we departed from.

An adrelaline rush/buzz on this trip today. When done you are totally amp'ed up. We've been going non-stop the entire trip. Now we have an entire afternoon and evening open as almost the entire group from the company left today.
We set up our travel for Saturday morning and fly out Saturday at 2pm local time. Arrive around midnight eastern.
Ali, tell Scotty K that I found a store selling Cuban cigars outside our hotel compound. I'll try to get him some prior to leaving.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Deep Sea Fishing

Today we went deep sea fishing - 30 miles out 7am -4pm. Long day on the water. This picuture is of us taking a water taxi to our waiting boat. The boat we chartered all day was only 20 ft. long and I was pretty nervous as we left. The first 45 minutes were brutal and we were getting bounced around. Very rough seas on the way out. All day was fairly calm with large swells every once in a while. They said the pacific ocean is so deep just off shore that the waves are not as high.

This is Todd with the biggest catch of the day. A 40 lb mahi-mahi. It took him 30 minutes to bring in and the fish made several majestic jumps during the fight. Our guide Carlos is next to Todd. Carlos and his driver knew no English.

Here is me with the only yellow fin tuna catch of the day. The guides were most excited about this catch. We left them the fist to take to their families since we have a group dinner tonight.

Here is me with "big yellow." The was the largest mahi-mahi I caught. We caught about 15 mahi-mahi around this size all day. 1 yellow fin and a few needle fish. Brady, Mr. Bird cannot beat this.

Here is the view of an island on the way back into the bay where our hotel is. The guides dropped us off right at the beach of our hotel.
A great day but we're beat. I have fish blood all over my pants and need to take a shower before the dinner tonight.
Tomorrow we are set to ride the zip lines in the rain forest.

Sunset Dinner

Tonight we had dinner at the restaurant and this was the view from our table. It was high up on a mountain overlooking the ocean. It was incredible. A thunderstorm was going on in the distance and the lightning lit up the sky often during dinner.

The food was a bust. 4 people returned their food and mine stunk too.

The one and only time you'll probably see us both in this blog...

Our agenda changed and we're going deep sea fishing tomorrow for sailfish. Leave at 6:30 and get home at 4pm. So posts will be much later tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday Update

Last night we went out to a great local seafood restaurant on the ocean - eat outdoors with waves crashing in the background during your dinner. Great atomosphere. We went with a group of 10 others. Todd ordered the best item - the surf and turf -- full lobster, tenderloin and potatoes.

This was the first time we left the compound. We asked about a cab and the concierge told us it was only a 10 minute walk- so we walked to that restaurant. Big mistake that could've turned out worse... Not only was the walk 30 minutes (in that sauna heat/humidity), it was dark and during the walk there were groups of "locals" staring at us all along the way. We were way out of place and some were yelling stuff in Spanish to us as we walked head down to avoid eye-contact. A few times I thought we were in trouble, but we got there ok - Todd is so big these guys were probably scared to do anything. As Todd said, "that was almost the first loss we took here." "I was going to get the first punch in and run if they came towards us."
This morning we played golf again with 2 other guys (Chris from Lexington, KY, and John from LA) - a lot of fun. John from LA is the first one I've ever met to give Todd back what he verbally dishes out. That guy was awesome. John's best line of the day to Todd came after Todd duffed a chip which made it barely on the front of the green (the pin was back)... "that one is safely on the green." Maybe you had to be there but this guy sparred verbally with Todd all 18 holes.
It was hotter today than yesterday and the beverage cart was nowhere to be found most of the round. At one point we had the maintenance team call someone out we were so dehydrated. That is why the scorecard is not posted today. We quit keeping score because it got bad. I did shoot a 45 on the front with an 8 on #9 (2 lost balls). Tough to play while sweating your skin off and not having liquids. I drank 2 huge 2 litre bottles of water at lunch just now.

Some pictures from today's round... An iguana in the middle of the cart path... The course is named LaLiguna.
This guy was cool. Wish I could have gotten closer. He has a yellow dot on his head and when he ducks down he is fully camoflauged among the yellow flowers in the field. He was "screaming" at me while I was taking his picture. The ponsds like this one on the course have signs warning about crocodiles and rattlesnakes.
This is a picture from the tee-box on #17. One of the best views of the bay where the resort is located on. To the left there are bunch of boats located 100 yeards or so off shore - not pictured.

This is a picture of the pool from my lounge chair. There are contantly games going on in the pool (volleyball, etc.) and it is very similar to the Marriott where we stay in HHI. Lots of pools, they are just all connected here. The beach has dark brown sand, and much of it is grass - so everyone is at the pool. There is a swim up bar too. From this picture the bay is off to the left about 300 yards. There are lots of little kids here too - 90% of the guests are American or speak English.

Tomorrow we're going on the zip line rainforrest canopy tour. The bus leaves at 10am and we'll be back around 1 or 2pm. Todd just left the room to go to a meeting - he's yet to be in the pool - where I'm going right now.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Here is the proof. Despite being younger and stronger, Todd could not hold his own this morning vs. his older and wiser brother on the course. The slope rating which is difficult to read is 135.

Also, another funny story.... Everyone keeps asking us, "who is older?" And, when asked to guess, they pick Todd to be older- despite our 7 year age gap. He got pretty pissed about that last night.

Here is a better picture of the ocean. That is the pacific ocean. We are in the 'mid pacific' region of the country. It really is sunny, but I think the humidity is making the picture seem grayish.

More later...

Morning Golf

We woke up early this morning (5am). Due to this country not recognizing daylight savings time, the sun shone in the room very early. We decided to be the first off the tee in the morning. We were the first group off, nobody in front or behind the entire round.

This is a picture of daybreak. Photo does not do this sunrise over the mountains justice....

This is the first hole. TIGHT like the entire course. Imagine being hung-over, no practice balls and looking down this shute of this first hole. The course is long too. The weather is HOT even though the sun is not fully up yet. The humidity is very high and after the first swing we are dripping sweat. Very difficult to hold the club. We are 10 degrees north latitude, and, Ali, it just like Singapore. You walk outside and sweat.
This is a view from a bridge over a rushing river. The drainage is intense as the rain comes down from the mountains. In the distance that is a barrier island/mountain creating the bay. The water is bright blue which you unfortunatly cannot see in this picture. There are rattlesnakes and croc's in the waters. Here is Todd taking his 8th shot on this par 5. The ground is sooo wet that it is cart path only and you don't get too much roll - if any. Greens are slow too. Those are condo's built into the side of the hill/mountain/forrest. Some of the employees on the trip are staying in those (Todd has not acheived "baller status" in this company to get that level of room yet). When you stay in the condo's you have your own private pool and they provide you a golf cart to use all week long to commute to and from the hotel areas.

Here is another view from #17. Again the pic does not do much justice, however, this is a similar shot as a picture above...
Here is another long par 4 (only because you don't get any roll) and you get an idea of how tight 80% of the holes on this course are...

This is an early picture of the sunrise over the mountains. Tough to see, however, it is very nice. The hundreds of exotic birds yell at you throughout the round. We even saw a lemur or monkey (too far away to take a picture or see exactly what it was). It was 4 legged animal running across the fairway we had just vacated.

In my next post I'll post a pic of the scorecard - ran out of space to add it on this post. Todd - 104. Todd left the course saying, "I'll happilly take that 104 on this course." I shot - 86 (44-42). Solid round for me despite the wet conditions. Long morning for Todd who went through 10+ balls straying from the tee. If/when you stray from the fairway the rough litterally "eats your ball" and it is usually difficult to find.
Even though we rode in a cart, I probably lost 10 lbs of sweating this morning.
We're planning to play again tomorrow morning which should make the course a bit easier since we'll know where we're going. Many of the greens are not visible from the tee here - making it hard for a first time player.

Up $200 in Rummy

Just got back to the room (11 pm local time). 7 am tee time, it's midnight and we've had a few cocktails (oh boy). Although you can't see him, this is Todd, passed out under his covers as I type away to keep you updated...

Tonight was awesome. We had a group dinner - great food (waitresses pushing drinks on us) and met lots of fun people. Salespoeople are bringing their mom's, friends, spouses, etc. and all are partying (at least on the first night) the jury is still out if they are hard-core or not. Kind of reminds me of RL's Momentum on any first night - except at RL's everyone knows each other. Here, everyone is not as close. We did meet a couple who loves Todd and wants to go fishing with us later in the week. Supposedly they have the perfect charter already lined up.

I met a mom in her 60's (being generous) who is going on the "zip line, canopy tour" of the rainforest. I was impressed.

The party spilled out to the casino where we played "rummy" - just like Blackjack except 3 of a kind win's 3-1 and a straight (suited) win's 3-1 too. 21 pays even money. I happened to sit down and play right next to the CEO of the company and be-friended him - high 5'n during wins, etc. Great guy.

Before I figured out the game, I split 8's vs. a Jack 4 times (litterally), doubled down once and won some spending cash for the trip. Ali will be happy. Anyone who knows me knows I hate casino's and blackjack... probably why I won. Unfortunately, no Hold-Em Tables. Very small casino with a handfull of table games (1 craps, 3 rummy, 1 three card poker) and a few slots.

We walked the resort compound today too. The hotel sits on a "bay" surrounded by mountains. I'll get a great picture of it to share. The "beach" is different, and mostly grass vs. sand. The pool is amazing and full of waterfalls, a swim-up bar, tunnels, etc. Pics tomorrow when it's light. As we walked we were "dive-bombed" by bats who flew around as it was right before dark.

Costa Rica is in the Central time zone but does not do daylight savings time. So, we are 2 hrs. behind C-Bus. It gets dark here around 6pm vs. 9 this time of year because of the lack of daylight savings time respect.

More pics tomorrow. I'm brining my camera to the golf course where we're supposed to be able to see monkey's and exotic birds - right from the fairways and greens. I'll be posting again around 1pm my time 3pm est.

We lugged our clubs so it better be worth while. Due to the rain , I guess a lot of drives will "plug" but the greens are lightening quick. Golfers reading this will think this does not add up but we'll see tomorrow - It didn't add up to me either when the guy was explaining it.

Been a long day since getting up at 5am --- going to bed...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We arrive in Costa Rica

We arrive in Costa Rica and Todd somehow gets through immigration (that's him in the blue shirt)...

We board on a bus at the airport and the first negative is that there is a bus next to us loading luggage on the roof with a tarp. We then find out that this is the rainy season here....

The best picture I can take from the bus looks like this.... Pouring rain...

This is a picture of what the shops, bars and restaurants looked like during the bus trip... 2.5 hours of winding roads through rain, tight turns, climbing high mountains and motorcycles. The highlight was a schoolyard of kids playing soccer with awesome skills.

This is a river full of crocodiles. People watching from the bridge.

We finally arrive at the hotel and this is the view. Amazing after traveling 2.5 hours through what seemed like a very poverty stricken area. A group of natives "sporting skins" waved at the bus as we entered the compound. They love tourists and they coin people probably drop here.

There is a Fitness Center and Casino on the grounds. I tried to check it out and set an alarm off. Hope they have poker.

The meeting schedule for Todd changed to give him the morning free vs. afternoon because I guess it rains all afternoon here during this time of year.

Overall the scenery is gorgeous and I wish I'd of been able to take pictures of the landscapes during the drive. Rainforests, mountains, waterfalls and more were the highlights.

The golf course looks amazing too (and empty - nobody playing). We're shooting for a 7am tee time tomorrow (Monday).

More tomorrow!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Partners in Miami

I’ve yet to blog about our newest “partner model,” which is experiencing great success in Raleigh, NC and Cincinnati, OH.

This week I’m in Miami, Florida with Tom Grimshaw and Jennifer McCloskey, owners of Real Living Properties. We are conducting meetings with top producing agents in the Miami area who we’ve carefully selected to become partners in the office/LLC we are forming in the greater Miami area. These are agents who not only produce enough to meet our qualifications but are the right “fit,” to the organization.

The last two days have exceeded my expectations. We’ve met with agents from top companies in south Florida including EWM, Coldwell Banker among others.

Here is what agents are telling us…
- “Real Living’s brand is so fresh and unique. It is exactly what south Florida needs.”
- “I love how I can earn over 100% commission with this model.”
- “This is the first time anyone has showed me how to capture revenue from mortgage and title and I actualy believe you when you say it is RESPA compliant.”

Real Living is dedicating a lot of attention to developing this innovative model in Miami. In the coming weeks, Scott Hoyt, VP of Strategy and Harley Rouda Jr., our CEO have plans to be in the market to assist in selecting the right partners. Scott and Harley are the key "developers" of the model and Scott implemented it first in Raleigh in June, 2007.

To learn more about these opportunities connect with me personally. Or give Tom or Jennifer a call directly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Real Speaker

Due to the successful launch or Real You Incorporated, 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, author and president of Real Living, Kaira Rouda is speaking everywhere. She is on the news, radio, newspaper and cable and broadcast television. Her message is simple, teach people to be real and succeed in business while telling the Real Living story.

Check out this video highlighting Kaira’s speaking engagements.

Real Living is a company that practices what Real You book preaches. We pride ourselves on keeping it real and genuine in business. We are the franchise who understands the consumer and who communicates with them in a manner and tone that resonates.

To learn more about Real Living and our
franchise opportunities, give me a call or e-mail me directly at

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who's First.... Real Living Is

Real Living is a progressive company and a brokerage striving to be FIRST. I’ve had the fortune of witnessing this effort first hand over the past 11 years of my career and thought this would be a great opportunity to air my viewpoint and stake our claim as “the first” in these categories. I’ll go through these starting in 1997, the year I started with the company.

1997 – Real Living, then HER Realtors, created the first help desk for agents and consumers to utilize for home related services and discounts. It was known as HOME (Home Ownership Made Easy) and eventually evolved into the first utility connection company to be known as Unfortunately, JumpHome is no longer available – a victim of .com venture capital funds drying up in 2002/3.

1999 – Real Living, then HER Realtors, created the first agent Intranet, which we now refer to as our Business Center. This was huge and ahead of its time. We delivered all of the tools agents were buying off the shelf from vendors at real estate trade shows (forms, CMA’s, direct mail, CRM software, etc.) and put it online for agents. The applications were made technology easy and because of the ease of use, our agents actually buy into and use these tools. Quite a testament being that the average age of our agent at that time was 55 years old – traditionally a technology averse demographic.

1999 – In conjunction with the agent Business Center creation, Real Living also delivered the first agent websites. Imagine the forethought this took, when, at that time, the typical brokerage was afraid and intimidated by the Internet and less than 5% of consumers were starting their search there. Some brokers are still intimidated. Despite this fact, Real Living gave each agent their own website, the ability to buy and point it to their site, and integrated the MLS into the site. A move that was revolutionary for its time.

1999 – The first fully integrated platform for agents, owners and consumers. The Business Center, agent sites, broker sites, MLS are all fully integrated within Real Living. Every component works together to maximize agent efficiency. Prior to the Business Center, brokers relied on agents to attend trade shows and buy these products for their business benefit which did not work together. Today, they rely on their broker and this integrated platform.

2002 – The first female facing brand is created and launched. Real Living is launched as a result of a merger between Realty One in Northeastern Ohio and HER Realtors in Central Ohio. The brand is the first brand created for a defined consumer – upscale female buyers/sellers. 89% of real estate decisions are made by women – they are not a niche, they are THE audience. Most all other brands still spends millions talking to themselves in their marketing.

2003 – The first “guest password” to the Real Living Business Center. The goal – to provide owners and managers a virtual way to show off the Business Center to recruits and get them engaged in our tools and systems prior to joining.

2003 – The first real estate 2.0 application is created. In conjunction with the target audience definition, Real Living understands that the female consumer is not only online, she wants to be engaged further when investigating her real estate needs. is created as an online portal to empower the consumer with the following features…
- save searches
- have listings pushed to them within their criteria
- share their favorite listings with friends, family, agent
- schedule activities with their agent
- select their agent – elimination of all IDX information
- receive key documents from their agent
- track page views of their home in real time
Today, Real Living receives over 3,000 new registrations for per month.

2003 – The first environmental branding package for franchise brokers is created. The goal being to have a consistent office look and feel network wide.

2004 – The first fully integrated brand management platform is created for agents and franchisees. Real Living began offering Brand Wizard via the Business Center with a goal of making it easy to tap into Real Living’s creative. No longer do agents and franchisees need a full-time marketing person or designer.

2006 – The first “perfect match” system for managers, owners and agents to use to create better communication between themselves and consumers. The system identifies a personality type into REAL --- Relater, Enthusiast, Analyst and Leader categories.

2007 – The first 360 degree marketing platform for agents. The goal of the platform is to educate agents on traditional, mobile and digital marketing and to create their individual marketing plans with the 360 degree wheel in mind. Real Living delivers many of the tools/services on the wheel via the Business Center.

2008 – Real You Incorporated, is launched as the first book speaking directly to real estate entrepreneurs in a way that helps them define their personal brand. The primary role of the book is to…
- assist agents in creating their “real you” brand for use in marketing
- provide Real Living managers and owners a tool to help recruit and system to help agents market themselves effectively
- educate and introduce the Real Living brand to a national audience

Who knows what the next 11 years will bring. However, I can assure you Real Living will continue to be first and improve and innovate the current list outlined above.

If you have questions about Real Living, our brand or franchise opportunities with our innovative company, give me a call at 614-203-0801 or e-mail me at

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Real Living Book – Available This Week

Real Living president, Kaira Sturdivant Rouda, authored a book entitled Real You Incorporated, 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs published by Wiley. The book highlights several women entrepreneurs and focuses on branding and the Real Living story.

I’ve personally worked with Kaira since June of 1995 and can tell you, without bias, that the book is phenomenal. She is the most creative person I’ve ever worked with and her enthusiasm and experiences are the focal point of the book's message. It is a must read for any entrepreneur (
Realtors, broker/owners, small business owners within any industry) as it makes the reader really think about creating his or her brand and differentiating from others in the market. The book leaves every reader with a defined direction.

Real You Incorporated is an easy read. Kaira’s writing style is smart, real, down to earth, and most importantly, fun.

If you are a male, don’t shy away. The content transcends gender.

Read it and post your feedback.