June 2024 Newsletter

(Photo by park resident Richard Young)

From a Go-cart to a Mercedes

The Long Journey to High-Speed Internet

By Dale Dauten

When we asked Jesse Castro to look back on what’s transpired over the two years since he and his team took over the internet/cable service at sister parks Silveridge and The Resort, he smiled as he recalled a pair of visits that summed up his experience:


“I remember the first time I spoke to the residents — this was at a breakfast two seasons back — and I came in and could feel the tension in the air. I knew all the disappointments they’d been through, and I could feel them thinking, ‘here we go again.’ Then, this last time I spoke, as soon as I was introduced, people started clapping and cheering.”


Yes, Jesse and his team are park heroes, having succeeded in overcoming the many challenges that thwarted other IT consultants. George Igualt, head of management for the parks, says, “Finding them was like finding a needle in a stack of needles,” by which he meant that there are plenty of companies thinking/saying they could solve the parks’ unique infrastructure problems, but, as George, puts it, “There was no off-the-shelf solution — Jesse had the only outfit I know that could solve our issues.”


Looking back, Jesse says, “I met George through a mutual friend and I spent three weeks surveying the parks before deciding if we could help. Things had gotten chaotic and the residents were… I don’t want to use the word ‘afraid’ but it fits. They’d been disappointed before. And so I knew that I had to make frequent appearances. I committed to come to the breakfast meetings to update residents – I’d be there to tell them why things were the way they were and what we were doing to make things better. The biggest problem was back in the server room, where the equipment just didn’t have the processing power; but then we also had to dig new lines.”


It turns out that knowing just where those lines are has been an ongoing challenge: “One of the things we’re working on this off-season is updating the map that shows where the lines run — a lot of testing and digging. We have a map, but we’ve learned that it’s not always right.”


It took many months, but Jesse can now happily assess the progress: “When we started the service was at 10 megabytes per second. We’ve increased that six times, to 60 megabytes. That’s getting out of a go-cart and jumping into a Mercedes.”


Even so, Jesse added, the work is never finished. Not only does technology race ahead, but the old-fashioned issues keep coming up. “Infrastructure problems never go away,” Jesse pointed out, saying, “Someone is, say, putting in new pavers and digging outside their unit and they might nick one of our lines.” Should that happen or if any issues with the service arise, residents can go directly to Jesse’s team at Freedom Cable & Internet via their website:





When we sat down with Jesse to talk about internet service, we also wanted to learn something about his background and how he came to be an internet hero while looking nothing like the geeky kid of the tech stereotype.

You meet people who always knew exactly what they wanted to do in life, those lucky folks who knew in grade school that they were destined to be a firefighter or veterinarian or librarian. That makes life planning a lot easier. And then there are the trial-and-error people – that’s most of us. And Jesse.


As a kid growing up in Colorado, he dreamed of being an actor and singer and studied for both, but also dreamed of being a pilot. He started pilot training but discovered he was mostly colorblind, which meant he couldn’t qualify for most flying jobs. On top of all that, he also loved cars and learned auto mechanics and ended up working at AutoZone and other car parts stores. While working with cars, he developed another fascination: computers. (“It was the modems – how cool that people could talk to each other over computers.”) With an interest in IT and an aptitude for it, Jesse found time to do some moonlighting, starting what he called Smart Guys Computing.


Being self-taught, he figured he’d need to start taking IT classes; however, when he took his first class, the teacher soon hired Jesse to help fix his own computer problems. That skill eventually took young Jesse to jobs with Intel and Motorola and then with a software company. It was that last employer that changed his career trajectory, as Jesse explained:


“The company was doing layoffs, but I wasn’t worried because I was the only one who had this one key specialty. But, then the day came that I called my wife, Debbie, and said, I’m coming home and I’m never coming back to his place because of what they told me. So Debbie asked, What did they tell you? And I said, You’re fired. And then she said, What are you going to do? I told her, I know what I’m not going to do – I’m never going to let anyone pull my paycheck again.”


Jesse went on to elaborate on just what the young couple soon faced: “We had just put 10K down on a new house. And it was not long after I got fired that Debbie lost her job. So we went to the house – it was just a shell – and we prayed: If we’re meant to be here, let us stay. If weren’t not meant to be here, let us walk away gracefully. That was in 2002. We still live in that house.”


The decision about the future became easier when Jesse turned his full attention to working for himself fulltime. He recalls his promising start: “I made 4K that first week.” The company grew and so did the family: Jesse and his wife have two sons. And Jesse eventually found time to get a pilot’s license, and now his sons both plan careers as commercial pilots.


Looking back on his life, Jesse says, “I’ve failed more than most, but I don’t like that word ‘fail.’ There’s a quote – Nelson Mandela said it first – ‘You either win or you learn.’” Clearly, Jesse Castro has learned plenty.