Emma’s Note: Yesterday, our globe-trotting colleague Tom Dyson told us the story of how he told Bill he would quit his job at Salomon Brothers in London and come work for him – for free.

That was in 2003. The hoped-for job offer wasn’t forthcoming… but Tom quit his job anyway and hopped on a plane to Mexico City – with no money and no credit cards…

Today, he continues his story of the danger-filled adventure that brought him right across the world…

Yesterday, I told you about my decision to quit my job in Salomon Brothers in London and fly to Mexico City…

When I landed, I made my way to Mexico City’s train yards, which were, of course, ringed by a high fence and patrolled by security.

I went to the place where the trains left the yard. But a) there were no trains, and b) even if there had been, I’d still have had to climb a fence and jump on a moving train to get a ride.

This was 2004, before smartphones. I was carrying a road atlas and a railway atlas. I found the main road north and started hitchhiking, thinking I could more easily catch a train in a smaller town.

I was following the busy trunkline from Mexico City to Guadalajara and up toward the California border. I had no luck catching a ride in Irapuato or Querétaro. I didn’t even see any trains!

Waiting on a Train

Then in Guadalajara, I was sitting by the tracks, having been told a train would come through later that afternoon.

A guy was watching me from a nearby restaurant. He must’ve known what I was up to because, when the train finally showed up, he rushed out of the restaurant, untied his white waiters’ bib, and flapped it vigorously at the engineer as the train went past.

The train stopped!

(It will always be a mystery to me why the custodian of a multimillion-dollar capital asset would incur a large fuel expense by stopping his train for a waiter waving a bib and a gringo wearing a backpack.)

Freight trains take a mile or so to stop. By the time it did, the last wagon had already gone past me and was now a few hundred yards down the track.

So I sprinted down the wooden ties for it. It started moving again before I reached it, but I was able to grab the ladder of the final car before it got away from me, and I hauled myself onto the train.

I pulled myself over the top of the ladder and tumbled into the wagon. I lay on the floor for about 10 minutes while my body recovered from the massive exertion of catching the moving train.

Night Train to Mazatlán

I was in a gondola. This is a railcar with no roof and low sides. I could peer over the sides if I stood up. It’s for transporting loose bulk materials like rocks or scrap metal.

This one wasn’t being used, although there was a lot of trash on the floor.

Night fell. We climbed into the western Sierras. It got cold, but I was cozy in my sleeping bag, rocking with the rhythm of the train.

By morning, we were passing orchards and cornfields and racing through little villages. A beautiful mist gave the landscape a dreamlike feel.

At one point, village kids jumped into my wagon. They were scavenging. They got a shock when they saw me.

That afternoon, we pulled into a large marshalling yard with dozens of tracks. The engineer burst the air brakes with a loud “pssssst.” I knew then that they’d be breaking up the train. So I bailed. And walked into town.

I was in Mazatlán, a port city on Mexico’s Pacific coast, opposite Cabo San Lucas.

Tune in tomorrow to see where my adventure took me next…


Tom Dyson
Editor, Postcards From the Fringe

P.S. My 2004 trip isn’t the only time I packed it all in and hit the road. I’ve spent the last two years traveling the world – this time, with my ex-wife and our three kids.

Before hitting the road, I put all our savings – about $1 million – in a simple investing strategy I learned from Bill Bonner. As you can probably tell, I’m an all-or-nothing type of guy.

So far, it’s working out well… We’ve already traveled to 29 countries over four continents. And we’re currently making our way from Florida to Alaska in a small, pop-up camper van… And our investment is up about $200,000.

It’s not too late if you want to follow my simple investing strategy (round-the-world travel optional!). Bill and I just held an emergency online briefing to talk all about it. You can still watch the replay online… Click here to catch up.

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