Frank & Nancy Zimmerman

As I learned today, the nickname of Frank and Nancy Zimmerman’s former boat was “Scare-D-Cat V” though for reasons I am not acquainted. But, first, let me back up. I met Nancy shortly after we arrived on Key Largo last November, 2022 or not long thereafter. I was familiarizing myself with my new neighbourhood by tricycling about the whole of Buttonwood Bay. If my memory serves me correctly, Nancy was walking on the island with another (younger) woman who may have been a daughter or granddaughter. It is difficult for me to recall who the women may have been because I learned during that chance encounter (Nancy stopped me to enquire about my tricycle) that she was 91 years old. She looked singularly well for such a remarkable age.  She was asking about my tricycle since she had lately experienced some balance issues with her bicycle.

Since last November I have also met Frank entirely by chance during my ritual tricycling about the neighbourhood.  Frank rides a Dahon collapsible bicycle. It is possible that I may have stopped him initially to enquire about his collapsible bicycle as the style has lately interested me for a number of reasons including portability, storage and general riding experience which I have always heard well reported. The matter was subsequently clinched when I asked my bicycle guru Bill Barrie Jr. of Almonte Bicycle Works for his professional opinion. He extolled the Dahon brand. In fact he applauded the identical model I have my eye on (the Mariner D8).

Dahon is the world’s largest manufacturer of folding bicycles with a two-thirds marketshare in 2006. The company was founded in 1982 by David T. Hon, a former laser physicist, and is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, with assembly factories in China, Macau and Bulgaria. Dahon markets bicycles under its own name as well as other brand names, including the affiliated Yeah and Biceco Brands, and Novara for REI in the U.S. The company is a member of the Global Alliance for EcoMobility. Dahon holds over 200 patents, some having become industry standards.

Dahon was founded in 1982 as Hon California, Inc. After presenting his invention to several established but uninterested companies, Hon and his brother Henry Hon decided to establish their own company from scratch. The two gathered venture funding and established their headquarters in Southern California while Hon relocated to Taiwan to build Dahon’s first factory. Two years later, in 1984, Dahon folding bicycles were rolling off the assembly line as one of the most compact folding bicycle on the market at that time (many will argue the Brompton Bicycle is a more compact folder).

The consequence of my chance cycling encounter today with Frank is not however related in particular to cycling. Though I will add before leaving the subject entirely that when, weeks ago, Frank had told me at another of our casual meetings in a laneway about Buttonwood Bay that he had cycled about 10,000 miles upon the Dahon cycle he regularly rides, I was not entirely persuaded as to the extent he proclaimed. Today however I was abruptly drawn up short! When I remarked out of interest what Frank’s sport of choice was when he was young – and I speculated that he and I were of an age, that is about 74 or 75 years of age – he set me back upon my heels when he paused then smiled and reported that he is 91 years of age!  Honestly, I was astounded!  Frank politely dismissed the celebrity by saying he was just a skinny kid who had been lucky.

Age is not the only topic about which Frank is moderate.  When I asked if I might have his email address he offered me a visiting card upon which was pictured a substantial yacht.  Frank explained that when he and his wife owned the yacht they had embarked upon an extensive journey from Chicago to New Orleans and back north across the Florida panhandle, north to the St. Lawrence River and then – well, I confess I lost track of the episode at that point! It was nonetheless of such an extensive enterprise that my immediate question upon hearing the summary of it was, “How long did that take you?” to which he replied, “A year!” And he further noted that it took a year to prepare themselves and the yacht for the venture.  Clearly Frank does nothing of bantam dimension!

There is yet a final histrionic feature of this account; namely, Frank told me that he and his wife were born within months of one another in the same hospital!