I’m on the train from Atlanta home to New York. I left October 29 and visited Chicago, Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego, and New Orleans too. The impetus came from attending the Summit in L.A. I found reasons to visit places along the way.
Here are 30 highlights an lowlights from the trip.
1. I traveled intercity only by train and bus since I’m not flying.
2. At the Summit I spoke to several world-renowned people, establishing relationships, and taking steps to record conversations with them for Leadership and the Environment. They’re bestsellers, TED speakers with collectively over 150 million views.
3. I got a guided tour of Patagonia’s headquarters, which Leadership and the Environment guest Vincent Stanley set up. Their culture is incredible and I recommend anyone visit. I saw the anvil in the tin shed Yvon Chouinard founded the company with. I was scheduled to get a surfing lesson, but the waves were less than a foot.
4. I met my first podcast fan to whom I had no direct connection. She approached me at the Summit and asked, “Do you have a podcast?”. I said yes. She asked, “Is it the Leadership and the Environment podcast?” Surprised, I said yes. She told me her whole family listened to it. She learned of it from a friend who started acting on the environment from the podcast.
I asked how she knew I was the host. She had heard me introduce myself as Josh, who taught leadership at NYU and figured there couldn’t be too many.
5. My friend and former boss took me for my first ride in a supercar, his 1985 Lamborghini Countach. This picture looks just like it:
He just drove me around L.A. When we stopped for gas, people pulled over to look, take pictures, ask if they could sit in it. I saw a status and pride of ownership I hadn’t seen before that was an interesting lesson in human emotion.
6. I ate at Vespertine, perhaps the most incredible restaurant I’ve experienced. The term restaurant doesn’t do it justice. Its chef, Jordan Kahn, has created a comprehensive experience beyond what I could have imagined for a restaurant. I’ll write a full review in Inc. It was Jonathan Gold’s number one restaurant when he died.
7. I cooked my famous no-packaging vegetable stew for several friends who hosted me and their friends, including the Countach owner, my host in San Diego in a 20-person dinner, and my host in Houston for Thanksgiving dinner. Several described the food as inspirational and life-changing. I bought one a pressure cooker to use after I left. He and his girlfriend already started cooking their versions of the stew.
8. I attended a 24-hour Berlin, Germany-founded hedonism party in Los Angeles. Probably best not to share what happened there, except that I loved it, met amazing people, and was more than tired the next day.
9. I spoke on leadership, entrepreneurship, and the environment at the University of Southern California, Rice University’s business school, and the Houston Advanced Research Center.
10. I spoke at several Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) groups.
11. I ate incredible produce in southern California and Houston, including fruit I’d never heard of before: soursops, flavor kings, pomegranates, mandarins, persimmons, pineapple guavas, lemons from the tree, pecans, strawberries, avocados ripened on the tree not shipped across the country, and I forget what else. I can’t believe how delicious they tasted.
I also got vegetables from local farms and less sexy fruit including kale, collards, butternut squash, cabbage, red peppers, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, kabocha squash, sweet potatoes, jalapenos, onions, peanuts, almonds, cashews, beets, some crazy varieties of beans, broccoli, and more.
12. I introduced several friends to farmers markets—some for the first time, others to enjoy more, like how to get farmers to enjoy giving you lots of free vegetables. Some described the experience as life-changing and have told me they’ve already started going regularly.
13. I took three ice baths in freezing water, alternating with a 200-degree sauna, called contrast therapy. The goal is to stay submerged from the neck down for three minutes each time, keeping your breath calm.
My first time I made between 90 seconds and two minutes, breathing frantically, barely able to keep it together. The second time I made three minutes, working hard to keep my breath somewhat controlled. On exiting the tub the second time, I felt making three minutes was achievement enough and thought I’d forego my third time.
Instead, after warming up, I went for a third go, in which I breathed nearly calmly the whole time. It took a lot of work, but I learned a lot about myself in the process, a lot like when I fasted for 73 hours. Here’s my Yelp review of the trainer and gym.
14. I met the founder of the Summit and his family.
15. I did all my sidchas: my burpee-based calisthenics, cold showers, blog posts, and one-minute bed-making wake-ups.
16. I did my first two 5-day cycles of lifting weights and cardiovascular workouts, but missed the next ones. I don’t like missing those cycles, but they aren’t sidchas. I also did a few sessions of things like yoga, jumping rope, and meditation.
17. I took subways in L.A., buses in Houston, and walked in each destination, avoiding cars in each as much as I could, though took shared Lyft rides in Atlanta, which felt like defeat. A majority of people in Houston and L.A. said things like, “I’ve lived here for over ten years and never took public transit.”
18. I met with sustainability people at Coca-Cola’s global headquarters. I think the meeting went well. I’ll know if it leads to follow-up meetings.
19. I interviewed for Leadership and the Environment an astronaut who has walked in space in Houston and a Sundance-showing Hollywood and Broadway director, playwright, and screen writer in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.
20. I saw the physical beauty of the country up close from the train—prairie, city, mountain, mesa, Pacific coast, and more.
21. I augmented my disgust for comfort food—that is, food whose main attraction comes from salt, sugar, fat, or some combination, ignoring the beauty of vegetables. Beside Vespertine and the Patagonia headquarters cafeteria, every restaurant served disappointing food. Some home-cooked food I liked.
Perhaps coincidentally, I think every person in Atlanta’s Peach Tree Amtrak station is overweight or obese. Several are so obese they struggle to walk. I thought two exceptions were two men who looked Korean or Japanese, but when they stood up I saw one had a pot belly, which made me skeptical of the other, whose bulky clothes made it impossible to tell.
I’ve also gained a pound or two from getting stuck with comfort food, making my abs less defined. I’m making reestablishing that definition a top priority.
The TV in the waiting room showed a special on George H. W. Bush, whom I presume died recently (I mostly avoid the news). Scenes from his youth show almost only fit people. Scenes recorded recently show almost only overweight and obese people, sometimes older versions of the once-fit younger versions.
22. I give mixed reviews to Amtrak. The train I’m waiting for now is nearly 90 minutes late. Nearly every train I’ve taken has been late. Actually, my reviews aren’t mixed. Amtrak is third-world quality.
23. I met several friends I had theretofore only known online—in Chicago, L.A., San Diego, and several in Atlanta. I loved the meetings.
24. One Coke person at yesterday’s meeting worked on and remembered working on Submedia’s 2001 debut, which was with their Dasani water brand, including our 92% recall rate and subsequent campaigns. She remembered it fondly, except for the planned launch date of September 11.
25. I’ve nearly finished my second book up to the copy editing stage. I’m behind schedule, partly from my schedule being more packed than I expected, but also from discovering several major points I hadn’t fully understood.
26. Despite over 150 hours of intercity train and bus time, I watched only one or two movies. I spent my transit time mostly productively. I might watch another in the last leg of 17 hours.
27. I brought all my food for the 67-hour trip from New York to Los Angeles, not counting lunch in Chicago with a longtime friend I hadn’t seen in about 15 years. It was no-packaging vegetable stew, as you might expect. I unplugged my refrigerator while I was gone and used the containers and utensils to avoid using disposable plates and utensils at the Summit.
I’m mostly fasting for the last leg home. From a post-dinner Friday 11pm snack of a few almonds, cashews, and local-Texas pecans to arriving home around 2pm Sunday, I’ll have eaten only lunch Saturday and drank water
28. I enjoyed legal cannabis for the first time in California, at least at the state level. I still haven’t gotten over its utter normalcy, such as when my friend’s friend—a grandmother—took me to a cannabis sales shop. She might as well have been buying a bottle of wine at a Pennsylvania state store.
I attended a satellite event at the Summit hosted by Eaze.com. The host mostly stayed out of the way, in favor of the models showing off their products, but my hustling skills are strong and I can’t help meeting the ranking person at a place. He had two joints, both machine-rolled hanging from his lips, evoking Hunter S. Thompson, and gave me my share to smoke. I later learned almost nobody else got to meet him, so they didn’t get to sample the product.
The food I ate afterward tasted incredible, both at the Eaze.com event and the later Summit event featuring Mexican, Cuban, Japanese, and I forget what other food, except that I got seconds of each.
29. I’m bringing most of the trash and recyclables I used home with me to put in my home trash bag and hold myself accountable for polluting the world we share. I couldn’t help losing track of some. The total amount is something like a tenth of a pound. I’ll try to lower that next time. In any case, the pollution from the intercity trains and buses probably dominated my pollution, which I can’t see.
30. My stopover in New Orleans was for about 40 minutes. I love Cajun food so decided to hurry from the bus station to what place I could find with take-out vegetarian Cajun food. Challenges included that the bus got in at 8:40pm and most places closed at 9pm, the streets are hard to follow, and not much Cajun food is vegetarian.
Nonetheless, I got a fried green tomato po boy and got back in time to catch my bus, where I ate it, stuck in a crappy seat because I was the last to board and breaking my avoiding fiber-removed food with the tomatoes’ breading and the soft white bread hoagie roll.
Holy cow, what a trip! I didn’t cover the non-highlights and non-lowlights, which were more numerous.
Since my only plans before going were the Summit and Patagonia, that everything else came together on the trip tells me I can declare victory.
Still, I can’t wait to sleep in my bed.
EDIT: Bonus #31: How could I forget to mention shooting handguns at a range for the first time in Texas? I gave it its own post, Shooting guns in Houston, Texas.
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