40 years ago Merri and I began our international investing and global business adventures that have led us to live, work in and visit over 70 countries….plus now more.
Many readers have seen this picture at www.garyscott.com/international_investments/international_investments_50.html
However what few know is that the photo itself was not taken in 1968 when I made my first trip, but earlier, forty years ago in 1966 when the adventure really began. I was working my way through college and was talked into becoming an insurance salesman for Prudential. That made me the youngest Special Agent ever appointed at that time. Perhaps the record stands. In Oregon one could get an insurance agent license at age 18 then. I doubt if this is possible now. I worked hard selling insurance to college students and became “Rookie of the Year” in Prudential’s Portland Special Agency. That really was no big deal, but the photo was taken to hang on the wall of the offices along with the top salesman of the month year, etc….sort of a sales motivation thing they used back in those days and maybe still do.
I like to think that the adventure began in 1966 because this was when I learned American sales technology and in the late sixties this became the big American export. We’ll examine the consequences of this in a future message because since 1968 our forte has always been writing about global investing.
Investing globally has been a really good idea for these 40 years but, despite all its problems, the largest economy in the world remains the US.
We have not ignored this fact and though we have spent more time than most gallivanting around the world what most readers do not know is that 13 years ago we set up a plan to take a series of driving trips through every state in America. So far we have taken three of these trips the last starting three weeks ago which completed our first goal, to drive through all the Continental states.
This was a significant journey in numerous ways the first being that three days out on October 18th (my Dad’s birthday) at 7:46 in the morning as we neared Roundup, Montana, preparing to have eat breakfast at the Pioneer Café (do not do this-a sign on the door says “Warm beer Cold food”- and we know the food part is true), the US population hit 300 million.
This is an important event we’ll look at. One paper stated that when asked how the 300 millionth resident felt about this, his response was “Que?” This is an important thought we need (and will) address….but in time.
In this trek we drove from Little Horse Creek over the Blue Ridge into Virginia and headed west through West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Washington. Then we dropped south into Oregon and California before heading back east over Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and back into Virginia and then home to North Carolina.
Total miles racked up on the odometer, 6,514 miles.
Our morning of departure was glorious. Here’s a shot at the start of the trip at an overlook near our farm.
The leaf change was nearly over in our neck of the woods so we hoped we would see more great colors elsewhere. We could never guessed how wonderfully this hope would be filled.
Each direction took us about four days. We averaged just over 800 miles a day, so did not have much time to stop and stare. Our goal was to have a fast flow through the nation. We wanted an overview that gave a feel of the change from one portion of the nation to another….plus we only had a short time before we head south for our Ecuador International Business Made EZ Course.
Our hope was that during the drive we could ponder and talk about what in America is great, why this nation’s economy is strong and what trends might emerge here. And keep in mind, both Merri’s and my viewpoint is skewed…as we have known other countries and their great cities far, far better than our own. We have been more at home for instance in London, Vienna, Copenhagen, Paris, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Manilla, Bangkok, and Zurich than in most cities in America. In these American Road Trips, we hoped to gain more knowledge of our own country.
During a trip like this one spends a lot of time in alpha, letting the mind drift. During this process lots of ahas can pop out and we look forward to sharing what the ethers gave us in this way…some of it hopefully might be good stuff.
At the broad level I can now share the fact that we should form an economic sense to forget the concept of 50 States. Instead let’s look at America divided into parts based on terrain. An eastern coastal plateau leads to a low eastern coastal range including the Blue Ridge. Most of America’s population lives on this plain. This makes driving the West so nice….nary another car in sight.
On the other side of the eastern mountains (this land is best for recreation, nature and a new form of living we’ll look at later) rich green, rolling hills make perfect land for dairy farming and such. This finally flattens out into a pancake that goes on and on and on. This is beautiful land for growing wheat, soy, corn, rape (canola), sunflowers and such and does not require so much labor, just really big tractors and other equipment that sits around looking like it costs a lot. Then some of the western parts of the plain fall arid and aren’t fit for much but a few cows until you reach the rich western mountains that rise before another coastal plain that holds the rest of the most of the population.
Then down south that plain becomes just desert. This is a great place for people to live. They stay warm and don’t use up valuable land that can grow food. There is one slight crunch about this fact we’ll review in a bit.
At the mundane level I can tell you that gas prices in America ranged from $1.97 to over $3.50. I saw $1.97 in either Indiana or Illinois (late at night as we whizzed past) and $1.99 near Bucksnort, Tennessee. Gas was $3.59 in the hinterlands of California at places like Olancha and Lost Pine.
Our goal was to avoid the freeway when we could. Thus instead of taking Interstate 65 from Lafayette, Indiana (our first night’s stay) to Wisconsin, we drove back roads (highway 52 to Kentland, Indiana) onto Highway 24 that took us to Gridley, Illinois.
These back roads showed us another interesting fact that I suspect has something to do with all this expensive looking farming equipment. A lot of farm houses are empty. Perhaps they have been bought up by big agri-businesses that can afford to buy the huge tractors and implements that work best on this flat land that goes on forever.
Any ideas from those of you in the heartlands? We spotted this in southeast Oregon and Northeast California as well. Lots of wonderful looking old ranch houses with no lights on at night, no sign of home life all in Big Country.
This can give us some economic clues for trends that we’ll ponder in the days ahead.
But first back to the trip.
At Gridley we turned north and raced into Wisconsin where we discovered indoor water parks. We could not figure out what the heck all these hotels with huge tubes poking out of the rooms were. Later we found out that this is one of the fastest growing entertainment phenomenon in the US.
This was a big revelation we gained on this trip as it highlights one of the huge ideas we can share to make our lives better. Water plays a really important role in prosperity. The difference between the east and the west is not just that the east started first. The east has much more water! I have been writing about the value of investing in water for a decade or so and will continue to do so. Indoor water parks bring a new dimension to the thoughts about how to invest in water that I would never have guessed.
In Wisconsin at Wisconsin Dells (if you have not been there, you should go for the incredible beauty) I first started to realize that something was going on, seeing lots of resorts with large hotels that appeared to have water slides coming out the windows and wrapping round the buildings.
“These are either the biggest, oddest fire escapes I have ever seen or something different is happening,” I thought.
I was keeping a list of questions to ask readers, (such as about the empty farm houses) and I added to the list, “What are the big tubes coming out to the hotels in Wisconsin?”
Then synchronicity stepped in (if you have been sharing our messages for long, you know I watch for this type of thing).
An October 18, USA Today article Dennis Cauchon entitled “Water’s always fine at indoor parks” answered my question.
This article says that indoor water parks are the latest recreation fashion sweeping the US. They began in Wisconsin Dells and are credited to the innovation of Stan Anderson, who owns the Polynesian Resort there. He started his water park in 1994 and a total of 144 parks with 36,000 hotel rooms will be open by the end of 2006 up from 50 with 8,500 rooms in 2002.
Wisconsin became the homeland of such parks before it spread to other Great Lakes states and then the East and West Coasts.
The article says: “Indoor water parks are usually available only to hotel guests. Most parks are aimed at kids up to age 14. They are regional destinations, attracting families within a three-hour drive, and don’t compete directly with mega-theme parks such as Disney World in Orlando. Guests seldom stay longer than three days. See http://www.wisconsin-dells.net/wisconsin-dells-indoor-water-parks.asp
I am looking for businesses now that might profit from this trend, either in the US and abroad. One great way to make money is to spot trends that have exploded upwards in one country and then find other countries where they should also do well but have not yet taken off.
However another quote from the article gave me pause. It said: “What’s really driving the indoor water park is the changing nature of American childhood. Kids want to be entertained non-stop. They want fast action and they want it in a hurry.”
We’ll look at this in more detail in upcoming messages. For now back to the trip!
We did not dwell long in Wisconsin though plan to return. Not for the water slides but there are some really nice looking areas in the northwest of the state including Chequamegon National Forest and where the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers become the Mississippi. How many people realize the significance of the Lakes Namekagon and Eau Claire Lake? I did not and wanted to see this.
Instead we meandered further east and spent our second night in Sauk Center, Minnesota. We did take time along the way to visit Cabela’s, one of the incredible outdoor sports centers. This is another trend we need to review in this the series.
Next we headed northwest planning to zip all the way north to Highway 2 where we would skirt across the top of America visiting Minot ND, Shelby, Whitefish, Kalispell Montana and Bonner’s Ferry Idaho.
An unexpected snow storm kicked that thought in the head. Instead we slipped and slid most of the day through ice and snow on I-94 all the way to Miles City, Montana where we spent the third night. The weather cleared next morning so we headed onto Highway 12 definitely off the beaten track at Forsyth, Montana..perhaps past America’s 300 millionth resident. This was a smart move as we saw many wonderful small ranches and only 13 cars but somewhere around 101 deer over the next 101 miles!
We stayed on these back country roads through much of Montana, all the way to the headwaters of the Missouri River. Did you know the Missouri starts in Montana? I did not. Near Missoula we jumped back on I-90 for a glorious ride through a mountain leaf change past Coeur d’Alene Lake. It was like driving through a tunnel of gold. The mountain larks were exploding in brilliant yellow and turned entire mountainsides into nature’s most gorgeous art.
We’ll have a lot to say about real estate based on our observations, but here I’ll limit my comments to, “Buy land near water”. Prices around this lake attest to this fact. It is a wonderfully beautiful area.
After spending the night in Spokane, we slid into Seattle where we stayed two nights with friends and visited a great exhibition called “Bodies”. This is an educational exhibition composed of dozens of bodies created completely from cadavers. See this if you get the chance. Seeing some of the blood systems was very revealing as they express forms of nature we see in so many ways and reveal realities far beyond anatomy. We’ll also look at this aspect of nature and how it befits our economy in upcoming messages.
In Seattle (or should we rename this whole region Starbucksville?) we had a chance to meet with Tate Dwinnel who produces www.selfinvestors.com
Tate has always been a numbers guy and was fortunate to work as a researcher for one of the top independent investing advisory services around, CANSLIM.net. He enjoyed following the markets and steering others in the direction of investment success by sharing what he had learned over the years so created a site of his own.
Tate has also just added an ETF service worth knowing about. See http://etf-fund-investing.com/
Tate’s blog has been recognized by both Forbes and CNN as a top financial blog and I am a guest editor there. See http://investing.typepad.com/tradingstocks/2006/10/mastering_the_e.html
This is an excellent technical service that balances my fundamental approach to spotting trends and shows how different routes can get us to the same destination.
Next, we drove down to Portland for the real goal of our trip, to visit Sequoia Narayani Cross, our new grand daughter. She is fabulous. What can I say as a proud gramps? Oh, her mom (our daughter), her dad and her great grandma (my mom) were there too.
3,230 miles so far as we drove into the old family home in Rockwood, Oregon where my mom has lived for nearly 50 years. I’ll have more to say about “Dear Old Rockwood” tomorrow.
The next three days we enjoyed luckily with clear skies and little rain, playing with Sequoia, enjoying our family, talking business and revisiting all the scenery and beauty of the Northwest.
After too little time, we headed back starting off the freeway, over Mt. Hood on Highway 26 into Eastern Oregon. After the mountain we turned right, due south onto Highway 31 at La Pine which took us all the way down to Lakeview near the California border. More on that and the California Highway Patrol tomorrow.
During the journey many revelations about the now in the US reminded me of travels to the East during my journeys through countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. We’ll try to tie the past and the future the East and the West together as we meander though this trip in upcoming messages to see if we can spot trends in the US and global economy, for health, investing and adventure in the days weeks and years ahead.
Until then, I hope every day is an adventure for you wherever you are.
Join us on our adventures in 2007 and save up to $17,927.
Attend up to nineteen of our courses worth $16,281 FREE…plus more. Save up to $17,927 in all. See https://www.garyascott.com/catalog/iclub.html