Monthly Archives: August 2010

SoCal and Vegas

The hardest part of making our video for northern California was choosing which photos to cut, and the hardest part of making it for southern California was choosing which song to use.  So much has been written, directed, produced and sung about SoCal… and for good reason.  It’s the land of sunny skies, perfect weather, beaches, tan bodies, and world-class style.  There’s something about being in southern California that makes you feel that you’ve arrived – not in the “if you can make here you’ll make it anywhere” sense of New York, but in the sense of “so this is the place I’ve been hearing about all my life.”

We spent a week in sunny SoCal – 3 days in L.A. and 4 days in San Diego.  It was interesting to see the contrast between the two cities, which are just a couple hours away by car but worlds apart culturally.  Both cities defied our expectations, but in different ways.

We arrived in the City of Angels with all the usual stereotypes in mind:  smog, traffic, pretention, fakeness, and social strife. Although all of these can be found in there, the city is also full of positives:  health, fitness, style, fun and beauty.  It all varies by neighborhood. The bottom line is that L.A. is far too expansive and diverse to generalize.

We started our visit in Malibu, the epicenter of sun, surf, and 8 figure cliff-side homes (with 8 figure cliff-side views.)  We enjoyed a personal tour of Malibu by a local, Jared’s old friend Ryan, due to a coincidence that borders on mystic.  As we were driving down the PCH from Santa Barbara, Jared saw a “welcome to Malibu” sign and thought to send Ryan a text, even though they hadn’t spoken in over a year.  It turns out that Ryan was just 4 miles away at his parents’ home there.  He invited us to stop by.

It turns out that he randomly had a dream about Jared the night before (not the dirty kind, we’re assured) and had emailed him earlier that morning. The spooky part is that Jared hadn’t yet received the email.  It’s as if Ryan somehow sensed that we would show up before we did and communicated with Jared telepathically.  He didn’t even know about the Chasing Summer sabbatical, so there’s no logical explanation.  There must be something to all the West coast meditation and yogic chanting.

Ryan gave us a great tour of Malibu, including lunch on the pier, his parents’ neighborhood (their neighbors include Brooke Burke and Dick Van Dyke) and a drive to the top of a mountain overlooking all of Malibu.  It was all a very pleasant and unanticipated surprise. Thanks buddy!

From Malibu we drove to Santa Monica, where we spent a night in a noisy Comfort Inn on Santa Monica Boulevard, and then on to the home of Lauren’s friends Kim and Cory in West Hollywood.

We fit a lot into just three days in LA:  a stroll through the Venice canals, a yoga class in Santa Monica, drinks and sushi in West Hollywood, wine and bruschetta by the beach with friends Lisa and Ned, a hike up Runyon Canyon, a driving and walking tour of Beverly Hills, yachting with friends out of Marina del Rey, and the highlight for Jared – a Sunday morning workout on muscle beach in Santa Monica with the P90X crew.  (Tony Horton was out of town this week, unfortunately.)

We got a great taste of what it’s like to live in L.A., and enjoyed the flavor more than we thought we would.

On Sunday afternoon we made a 4-hour drive to San Diego… 2 hours to escape the grasp of L.A. traffic and 2 more on the highway to our destination.   We were hosted in San Diego by Jared’s cousin Sherri, who moved there “temporarily” after college and still calls it home nearly a decade later.  Apparently it’s a very difficult city to leave.

San Diego is essentially an overgrown beach town.  It’s a laid back haven for surfers, flip-flops, and wealthy retirees.  Given how packed the beaches were on a Tuesday afternoon, we’re pretty sure that nobody there works.  It’s a great town for tourists, and since Sherri is a professional event planner, we were handed a detailed day-by-day itinerary upon arrival, including destination names, addresses, and phone numbers.  We never even had to choose our own restaurant for lunch.  Thanks Sheerrrriiii!

Our four days in San Diego were perfect to simultaneously decompress after L.A. and gear up for Las Vegas, the next stop on the Chasing Summer train.

We needn’t write too much about Las Vegas because just about everyone in America has been there at some point.  Besides, whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?

It’s always a fun town to visit, as it should be since that’s what it’s built for.  This particular trip was prompted by the 30th birthday of Jared’s brother, Scott.  Over 30 friends and family members came out to celebrate, mostly from Atlanta. It was a multi-generational celebration, including 80-something year old grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends and significant others. Everyone had a blast.

We saw LOVE by Cirque du Soleil, took a tour of the strip on a private bus (complete with 2 stripper poles… we told grandma they were structural support), and ate lots of good food. Anything else we might have done is beyond the scope of this blog…

Below we’ll post a video about the SoCal portion of the trip and a group photo from Las Vegas at the famous sign.  Enjoy!

This blog post is being written on a plane en route to Milan, Italy, where the international portion of the Chasing Summer adventure officially begins.  Ci vediamo presto!

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The Central California Coast

There is only word to describe the central California coast:  stunning.   The 5 days we spent driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara were among the most scenic of our lives.  Santa Cruz, Pebble Beach, Monterey Bay, Big Sur, Santa Barbara… each was more beautiful than the last.  The hardest part of making the video for this segment of the trip was choosing which photos to cut.

Santa Cruz is a lazy little beach town about 75 miles south of San Fran.  Its most prominent feature is an Atlantic City-eske boardwalk right on the beach, full of carnival rides and deep fried American goodness.  We spent one day there, which was perfect.

Pebble Beach is one of the premier golf courses in the world and home of the US Open.  By dumb luck we showed up there during the Concours d’Elegance, often said to be the world’s premier celebration of the automobile.  Millionaires and billionaires come from around the world to buy, sell, and show off some of the rarest cars on the planet.  It was quite a treat to see.  All we could afford to buy at Pebble Beach was lunch, which still ran $100.

Monterey is home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, which happens to be an Infosurv client.  Jared’s contacts there were very kind to welcome us as their guests.  The aquarium is unique in that mainly houses animals from the local Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, stretching across 276 miles of central California shoreline.  What we liked most about the aquarium was their passion for conservation.  After spending a few hours admiring their animals we took a beautiful, if chilly, evening cruise through the bay on 65 foot sailing vessel hosted by the aquarium.

From Monterey we drove to Big Sur, a picturesque 90 mile stretch of untouched California wilderness.  We stayed in Cambria, one of the few small towns that dot the coastline, which is mostly protected by state parks.  It takes a long time to drive through Big Sur, not due to traffic or the distances involved, but because every turn of the cliffside highway is straight off a postcard.  Jared pulled the car over every few miles to take another photo, sometimes only to realize that he already took one from there the day before!

We ended his portion of the drive in Santa Barbara, which was beautiful but a bit anticlimactic.  Santa Barbara enjoys perfect weather, perfect beaches, perfect shopping, and perfect multi-million-dollar homes.  It’s so perfect that we found it boring in its perfection.  The highlight of the 2 days we spent there was Jared’s kiteboarding lesson.  Many thanks to Tom at Ventura Kiteboarding for letting Jared crash his kite a few times 🙂

From Santa Barbara we drove to LA, which will be included in the final post of our 3 part series on California.  For now, please enjoy our latest video.  We think it’s the best one yet.

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San Francisco or Bust

Although we’ve been away from our jobs for nearly a month now, the travel portion of the Chasing Summer sabbatical began in earnest on August 9, 2010, with a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. Our week at the beach in Destin and the few days that Jared spent in Montreal with his EO forum were certainly special, but our flight out West kicked off the official beginning of our around-the-world itinerary. If things go according to plan, we won’t be back in Atlanta for at least the next 6 months.

We’ve both visited San Francisco before, as did 15.4 million other tourists last year alone, which could make it the least exotic stop on our itinerary.  Nonetheless there were plenty of fun touristy things to do there, like riding the cable car to Lombard Street, taking a great tour of Chinatown (thanks Linda!), and enjoying a ferry ride to Sausalito.  Many thanks to Jared’s good friend Marty for putting us up in his chic SoMa apartment.

As has become a Chasing Summer tradition, we’ve put together a short video to summarize our 3 days in the bay.  What this video doesn’t capture is the unique spirit of the San Franciscan people — and that’s what makes the city special.  They are creative, liberal, artistic, entrepreneurial, and cutting-edge.  There aren’t a lot of other cities in the US that we’ve consider living in, but San Fran is certainly one of them.

You can expect more blog posts and videos to come as our 2 week driving tour of the California coastline continues.

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EO Forum Retreat in Montreal

One of the benefits of being in EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) is the forum experience. Our Atlanta EO chapter has 100+ members, who each join a forum with 6-10 fellow EO’ers. My forum, called LAVA, is a close-knit group of guys who share advice, contacts, and friendship. Many of us have been together in the same forum for nearly 5 years.

Each year we go on an annual forum retreat. Our first one was in Miami, then Playa del Carmen, then the Dominican Republic, and this year in Montreal. My good friend and forum-mate Rocky planned the retreat this year and did a phenomenal job.

Rocky reached out to several members of EO Montreal beforehand and they really laid out the red carpet for us. We met with prominent Montreal businessmen, had a private tour of the Bombardier aircraft factory arranged by their CEO, and got reservations at the city’s most exclusive restaurants. It wasn’t exactly in the standard Chasing Summer style of travel, but hey, it was a business expense!

Limos, fois gras, fine French wines and spa day aside, it was a mind-opening experience. Montreal is a beautiful city with a complex history and political situation. It’s a pleasure aesthetically… clean, hilly, and built with a very European flair. The French cuisine was the best I’ve had outside of Paris. What really stood out though was mix, and the tension, between the English and French culture and language.

Montreal is divided between Anglophiles (English speakers) and the Francophiles (French speakers.) Predictably enough we spent most of our time with Anglophiles, who are a minority in the Quebec provence yet traditionally possessed most of it’s economic and political power. However several years ago the Francophiles revolted. They voted in a “hard line” French-speaking government who insisted upon protecting the French language and culture within the provence. They mandated that all public signs appear in French, that public schools should be held in French, and even that foreign movies must be dubbed in French instead of subtitled. I’m told that businesses can’t even get government contracts unless the CEO has a French name.

Within the Montreal city limits English is still widely spoken, but outside the city it’s pure French. Whereas poor rural folk can be identified in the US by poor grammar and country accents, they’re identified in Quebec by their French monolingualism. This seems odd to us Americans who usually imagine French as a sophisticated language spoken by the educated elite while sipping on cafe au lait.

I put together a short video to capture the Montreal experience. This is now my second foray into video editing but I think I’m getting the hang of it (many thanks to Apple iMovie for making me appear more talented than I really am.) Enjoy!

Next on the Chasing Summer itinerary is a few days in San Francisco followed by 2 weeks driving down the California coastline. Stay tuned for more pictures, videos, and inspiring prose 😉

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