Last week, I embarked on my second annual “Road Trip USA.” I had such a wonderful time doing my cross-country trip last year, I just had to do it again — this time focusing on a dozen fine communities in the Eastern Seaboard, South, and Midwest.
My trip this year began in and near our national’s capital. I kicked things off giving two talks at Asbury Methodist Village retirement community in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I could spend the entire year doing talks like these, as “progressive care organizations” pay well to have me give a talk at their facility (partly to attract prospective retirees who may want to move in). And I really enjoy these talks — I find older audiences impressively young at heart.
From there, I spent the weekend giving two talks each day (travel skills and Italy) as the headliner for the Washington DC Travel and Adventure Show. They pay us well to have a booth there and for me to give my talks, as they need to attract lots of people to pay the $10 admission. These talks are challenging for me because there’s a huge crowd and the venue is immersed in travel-fair commotion — noisy booths, other speakers just behind a curtain, and folk-dance shows. Our booth was really lively, and we gave away 3,000 newsletters and mounds of tour promotional material.
I enjoy checking in with the other speakers at these shows. This time, I got to hang out with Arthur Frommer a bit. My travel writing inspiration and mentor is a gracious man, still teaching travel as he has since his first book back in the mid-1950s. The first thing Arthur asked me was, “And how is your son, Andy’s, little tour business going?”
My DC time was also busy because of everything else going on in that city. My daughter, Jackie, just happened to be flying in for an alumni gathering at Georgetown. She needed a place to crash, so she moved into my hotel room for two days. I wasn’t sure how she’d feel sharing a hotel room with her old man — but it didn’t matter, as she spent each night out with her college friends, and I barely saw her.
I enjoyed breakfast with the Egyptian tourism director, who assured me Egypt is stable enough for Western travelers to feel comfortable. (I’ll see if that’s true, in person, next month.) One evening I taped a pledge drive at WETA. The next I went to the European Union Ambassador’s mansion for a party. Jackie couldn’t believe I was heading out to the party without a tie, so I bought one at the hotel gift shop on my way out. That turned out to be a very good move. Ambassadors from nearly a dozen smaller European countries were invited there to meet me over drinks. I enjoyed being lobbied by each of them to give their country — from Belgium to Latvia to Greece — more attention. The EU is underwriting our radio program, and this evening provided a great opportunity for me to connect with them. It’s rare that I meet people as enthusiastic about Europe as a whole (rather than individual countries) as I am. The EU staff is evangelical about Europe.
As I’m newly elected to the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, my last DC night was spent at dinner connecting with the director and founder of NORML. The three of us talked about the drug policy reform business and coordinating a good plan to build upon our recent victories in Washington State and Colorado.
My DC highlight was taking a few minutes to test drive a Tesla. Wow. I have never had such an exciting driving experience. Completely electric, with almost no moving parts, no gears, a big bright touchscreen computer terminal for a control pad, and rocket-like acceleration, I felt I was piloting the jet-like car of the future as I zipped giddily around our nation’s capital. (Too bad about the price tag.)