I woke up before my alarm went off and jumped out of bed. It was adventure time!
I got to LAX early in the morning, wrote and posted a blog post and then prepared for my flight across the country. For long flights I don’t take pills or consume drinks to pass out. Instead, I make like a bear and go into hibernation. I go into zombie mode and essentially temporarily die for the duration of long flights. I am pretty sure it will earn me more days when I am old ;-p
Many hours later, I landed in Portland, Maine, picked up a rental car and drove to my hotel. I had slept all day so I rolled around the unfamiliar bed all night until the sun convinced me to start my day.
I took a
much needed well deserved shower, hopped into the car, cranked up the radio and smiled down at the gas gauge showing full. It was go time. I was off to visit some more states in an effort to complete my bucket list item of taking a photo in all 50 states.
My first destination was Libby’s Market, an off the beaten path lobster market that had been recommended to me by a friend I made in the Maine airport. As instructed, I ordered my first Whoopie Pie and a lobster roll. I watched as a lobster that had been caught that morning was prepared. I started with the pie (over the last six months, I have gotten in the habit of always eating my dessert first) and quickly was overtaken by how sweet and filling it was. It was like eating a circular shaped chocolate flavored Twinkie. In Maine, they don’t mess around with their pies.
I snapped some photos and prepared myself for the lobster roll. I took it out of the cooking paper and took a quick smell. I am not a fan of shellfish but it smelled fantastic. I raised it up and took a big bite.
I then instantly threw it up.
It wasn’t that it was bad, it was just that my stomach disagreed with my eyes and wasn’t going to do seafood for breakfast. I felt like a jerk and tried again. Same result.
It turns out that even the best lobster is too much for me. I made sure no one saw me desecrate the fine state of Maine and quickly drove off.
I took the backroads of New Hampshire to get to Vermont. I was actually quite happy with this route and enjoyed the ride. Although it was 80 degrees fahrenheit outside, New Hampshire was full of frozen lakes and waterfalls. The road was snow-free but the views were snowtastic. I drove along with a huge smile on my face.
As I got further and further into the state, I started to notice more and more moose notices. It started with warning signs (which made sense, crashing into a moose will ruin more than a paint job) and (d)evolved into moose hotels, moose bars, moose merchandise and even a taxidermist specializing in… you guessed it… moose stuffing. Apparently New Hampshire really likes large forest dwelling animals.
I eventually made it past the Vermont border and was really impressed with how beautiful the state was. It had fantastic mountains, large forests and many winding creeks and rivers. It was also the home of my most exciting destination, the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. For me, this was the main event.
Ben and Jerry’s Tour
I don’t know what I expected with this tour but it ended up being better. I arrived at my happy place and was immediately greeted by a hippie ice cream van and giant sized Ben and Jerry cups. I literally ran out of my car and into the lobby. As luck would have it, a tour was started right when I arrived and they asked me if I wanted to join. I gave a very happy yes and then made a joke to the two people standing near me that I hoped this tour turned out better than it did for the Willy Wonka tour members. They didn’t laugh :-)
The tour group itself was two grumpy men, myself and about ten little kids. I was clearly the most excited of the group. I laughed at all of the awesome ice cream jokes and at the references to spying Häagen-Dazs employees. We saw a movie in a cow themed theater about the company and got a tour of the production facility. I was impressed that that plant alone produced a quarter million pints of ice cream a day.
The end was the best part. The tour guide/frozen cow god took us into what he called the flavor room. It was the room that Ben and Jerry themselves had originally used to come up with and test new flavors. The tour guide then explained that it was time for samples. Everyone got quiet and he made a point of asking people to control themselves and not cause a mob. It was a fair warning.
I tried some samples and then despite the angry glares of the little kids, helped myself to seconds. :-) I was on a mission.
We ended the tour by passing the person with the coolest job in the world. As you would imagine, the factory runs quality assurance with each batch of ice cream that is prepared. In order to do this, they hire people to sit in a room and eat the ice cream as it is made. They literally get paid to eat ice cream!
In return, they get a generous salary, paid gym membership and quarterly cholesterol checks. It’s the American Dream, ice cream style. Many people can imagine their dream jobs. I was fortunate enough to actually snap a photo of someone doing mine.
I checked my phone and noticed that I had received a voicemail while I had been without cell service. It turned out that a reporter from CNBC had called me to request an interview about a recent Google update. Flattered and quite happy with how fantastic my day was turning out, I called back to take the interview while at the Ben and Jerry’s factory. Unfortunately, the reporter had had to submit the article to the editors before I was able to get the voicemail. I’ll just have to wait until the next one.
Feeling great, I hoped back into the car. I still had four more states to hit! I headed south and snapped a photo in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and eventually New Jersey. It was a great drive and I was happy to be making great progress on taking a photo in all 50 states. Thirty-three states down, 17 to go!
I finished the long day in New Haven, Connecticut where I enjoyed some beers with Daniel, a good friend of mine. He was a grad student and we enjoyed some beers with some other law graduate students in a tiny pub on Yale campus. It was the perfect end to a fantastic day.
Lecturing at Yale
I woke up the next morning and got a tour of the Yale campus. It was full of gothic style buildings (I prefer to think of them as “learning castles”) and many impressive collections. The juxtaposition of authentic east coast academia was slightly intimidating for me as I am normally surrounded by the Silicon Valley tech scene.
We entered a private Shakespearean club and was greeted by the original version of a painting that had been on the cover of my history book in High School. It was a bizarre experience to enter a world where the focus was on learning for the sake of learning rather than on learning for the sake of creating something new. It was very different but I really enjoyed it.
After the tour, I went to the law school to give my lecture. Happily, when I arrived the room was already full of people who had come to hear me speak. I started with my story of how I had gotten myself into this goofy situation and broke the strict academic tension that was in the room.
Normally when I give lectures, the attendees are already familiar with my book and I have to spend a lot of time diving deep into a few specialized topics. This lecture was different in that the room contained two readers of this blog (Hi Jeff and Claudine!) and a bunch of students and professionals from various departments around Yale. As such, I got to spend the entire time tying theory to action. It ended up being one of the best SEO lectures I have given.
The audience was fantastic and asked some very smart questions. It was really nice to look around the lecture hall and see an entire room full of engaged listeners. I felt very lucky to be there.
As soon as I was officially done talking, I was bombarded by about a fourth of the audience who wanted to ask me additional questions. I answered them and exchanged contact information with some people who might be able to help create some pretty awesome opportunities going forward. The talk was a win-win for everyone involved.
Afterwards, I grabbed ice cream with a blog reader who had drove to Yale after hearing about my lecture here. She was just in the beginning phases of starting her own bucket list and had already decided on a using a five year deadline after reading about my list. It was really fun to meet a Life Listed fan and I was really inspired by her journey. You rock Claudine! I’ll be posting her blog here as soon as she gets it up and running.
America’s First Hamburger and Frank Sinatra’s Pizza
I spent the next two days exploring Connecticut with my friends Daniel and Atara. We had originally met at a party we had all stumbled upon in Buenos Aires. At the time, we were three of only a handful of native english speakers at the party and we had started talking about my bucket list. I mentioned that I was heading up to Rio to go celebrate Carnival. They mentioned that that was on their informal bucket lists as well and I invited them to come join me. After having an amazing time traveling together, they became two of my closest friends in Buenos Aires.
Together we enjoyed burgers at Louis Lunch (the birthplace of the hamburger), pizza at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana (Frank Sinatra’s favorite pizza place) and an impromptu exploration of the backroads of Connecticut.
My friends Atara and Daniel, threw a fun party at their house and I got the opportunity to meet some really amazing law and architecture students. It was really inspired by having the opportunity to meet so many people who were accomplishing so much. They were tremendously modest and extremely entertaining. Some of these students will soon graduate from the top law school in the world and will be on the forefront of changing the world. It was an honor to get the opportunity to get drunk with them :-p.
I am writing this while flying a red-eye back to LA. I have about 48 hours left in the country and I am excited that this adventure gave me the fuel I need to start my next adventure. I have said it before but it is worth saying again. Fully committing myself to my bucket list has undeniably been the single best decision I have ever made. When I look back on my life, it will be the adventures that I am experiencing now that will be some of my fondest memories.