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9:00 AM EDT, Friday, August 28, 2009: Get your head out of depressing economic stats. Get your head out of ultra-depressing blogs. Turn off Doctor Doom. Don't fret over what idiocy Washington will do next. Visit the real world of real people. You'll discover Americans are actually happy and having fun traveling the west on motorcycles.

It's 80 here in Colorado. Skies are dark blue. The few clouds have serious character. The big danger here is not the crumbling dollar, is not the ballooning deficit, or the accelerating housing foreclosures. It's sunburn. Out here in the Rockies, sunburn is brutal.

This is Scott Galles. He runs Galles Filter Service in Billings, Montana. Because of the recession, his business is down 15% to 20%. He fired one employee. Bingo, the others worked harder, seemingly more appreciative of having a job. The recession is actually turning out well for him. With, finally some breathing room, he got his inventory down and under control. He's running his business more efficiently. And most importantly, he's had time to go riding this summer. This is him with his Honda Gold Wing.

His Gold Wing has a six cylinder engine, a reverse (which you need because it weighs 800 lbs), heated grips, heated seat, heated passenger backrest, and foot-level warm-air ducts, a full GPS,

and far more communications than my wife's Mercedes,

and something I've never seen on a motorcycle -- a cupholder. Scott swears the cupholder hasn't leaked, yet.


Most Westerners prefer Harley Davidsons to Hondas. Sometimes the wife rides on the back.

But increasingly, she has her own bike. This couple teach skiing in the winter and ride Harleys during the summer. Nice life.. Hers is the baby blue one on the right -- the one with the leather tassels (is that what they're called?) on the handlebars. He has mirrors under his handlebars, because they're so tall. Remember the movie Easy Rider?

The moral here is clearly: Get a job you enjoy and you'll never have to work again.

Speaking of jobs you enjoy, this is Amanda's Salon and Spa on the main road into Leadville, Colorado, the highest town in the country.

I tried to meet Amanda. But this was the daunting sign on her front door:

Marketing is everything. Once upon a time Leadville boomed. Then the mines died and the town died. Now the town is booming again. One weekend in the summer, they have the Leadville 100 Bicycle Race (which this year attracted Lance Armstrong) and on another weekend, the Leadville Trail 100 mile foot face (which got huge press in Born to Run, the book I've been raving about.)


Leadville the town is now doing so well it provides free Wi-Fi Internet service on its main street. . I sent Greetings from America's Highest Town emails to all my friends.

Marketing is everything -- part 2: On Main Street, Leadville, there's a store that sells neat fleece clothing. Here's a sample:

The store is called Melanzana. The front of the big airy store has the fleecy stuff for sale. The back, in full view, has the factory: No, it's not in China. They make real clothes in Leadville, Colorado with real American workers.

They only sell their wares in two places -- from this store in Leadville,

and from their web site, Neat marketing. Please buy something. It's good stuff.

Marketing is everything -- part 3. Leadville is very historic. Main Street (really called Harrison Avenue or Highway 34) is loaded with stores selling olde-world stuff, including new clothing made in the style of the 1890s. Walk into one place and you'll find this charming sign:

The west is obsessed with real estate. Or maybe it's just me? I pick up all the color, glossy penny savers for billion dollar houses. Nancy Burniche, according to her ad in Mountain Homes Illustrated, is a "Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist." I don't make this stuff up. It's on page 87. Her web site features this photo:

The first home she's pitching on page 87 is this one

Nancy tells me the house is 4,700 square feet and is priced at $4.5 million. If you're interested, there are a zillion beautiful photos of the house on the web. It's worth flipping through the presentation. Most pricey homes in this area are sold with the furniture.

As houses go, this one is pretty puny. Beaver Creek, Vail, Aspen and Bachelor Gulch have oodles of houses from 8,000 to 10,000 square feet with prices topping $20 million.

Contractors who build these gigantic 6, 7 and 8 bedroom family homes tell me business slowed down in the past year or so, but has begun to pick up.

The day I visited this place

it had 30 people working. Think Colorado Full Employment Act. It was an existing house on which just over $5 million is being spent in a "gut renovation" -- that's about the most you can spend on a house this size , according to the contractor. The best room in the house was up in the turret. It had the best views. Well, they once were. But the owner's wife is afraid of heights and removed the $50,000 spiral metal staircase to the turret. You now can't get there. It's just one big hole.

Instead of a great view, the turret room will now feature a great chandelier which people from afar will be able to see.

Yours truly was gauche enough to ask, "How will you change a lightbulb?"

Answer: The owner installed a $1,000 motor. Push a button and the chandelier will descend to ground level.

Imagine what God could do, if only He had the money.

Children's Science Exam. Once again proving they're far smarter than we are.

Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

Q: How is dew formed?
A: The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q: How can you delay milk turning sour?
A: Keep it in the cow.

Q: What are steroids?
A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q: What happens to your body as you age?
A: When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental

Q: What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A: He says good-bye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery. (The kid gets an A+ for this answer!)

Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A: Premature death.

Q: What is the fibula?
A: A small lie.

Q: What is a 'Caesarian Section.'
A: The Caesarian Section is a district in Rome.

Q: What does the word 'benign' mean?'
A: Benign means I'll be home after eight.

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.