Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
At the end of his first act, Jerry Palmer found himself out of shape, divorced, and without friends. Deciding to regain his lifelong connection to athletics was the turning point as he began training for an Ironman. After solidifying extreme sports as his passion, Jerry set his sights towards his most ambitious feat yet: crossing the entirety of the United States on foot.
Follow along as Jerry shares his life lessons, from a career of consulting with Accenture to the innate kindness of approaching a stranger. Traversing on foot gave him front-row seats to the turmoil of the country as he witnessed the prevalent inequalities still plaguing our society. Through it all, Jerry’s admirable mental fortitude encouraged him to persist, despite the challenges in his way.
(04:46) First Act: From softball team to internship
(07:30) Second Act: The first Ironman
(16:59) Third Act: What do you enjoy?
(24:43) Melissa: Expedition Leader
(27:40) Left in the Mojave Desert
(36:24) Courage to be kind
(40:10) Control freak
(42:21) You are more capable than you think
(46:32) Cool down
Listeners can connect with Jerry on LinkedIn or visit his Facebook for more information about his journey. To hear about more Third Act stories, subscribe to and follow the Third Act podcast at http://thirdactpodcast.com. And if you enjoyed listening, please leave a review at https://ratethispodcast.com/thirdact.
Liz Tinkham (00:14):
Hi, this is Liz Tinkham and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends, but your show’s not finished. Today, I talk with fellow Buckeye and Accenture alum, Jerry Palmer, the extreme event adventurer. A bit of a tongue twister. I first met Jerry on FaceTime while he was walking along the Arizona/New Mexico border on his way to run/walk across the United States. Amazingly, he has just completed that run/walk starting in Huntington Beach, dipping his toes in the Pacific Ocean, and finishing in Virginia Beach, dipping his toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Jerry is an extreme event adventurer, having completed dozens of Ironman runs, swims, and bike rides, one more grueling than the next.
Liz Tinkham (01:08):
But he wasn’t always this way. When he left Accenture for the first time at age 41, and more on that story, he was out of shape, divorced, and without friends. He decided to train for an Ironman, not anticipating that he would take up extreme events as a full-time hobby. Along the way, he met Melissa, his wife and expedition leader, who is a large part of his success. On today’s show, he talks about his journey from the Ohio State University to Accenture, and recently across the United States. His story about that trip and what he learned about America on the run/walk is absolutely fascinating, particularly against the backdrop of COVID, and the perceived divisiveness in this country. Settle in, because Jerry’s third act is one terrific story. Hi, Jerry, welcome to Third Act. It’s great to have you.
Jerry Palmer (01:58):
Hi, Liz. Nice to talk to you. Nice to see you earlier.
Liz Tinkham (02:03):
Are you recovered?
Jerry Palmer (02:07):
I think so. It’s kind of tough to tell. I mean, we’re old enough now that we always have aches and pains. I’m just trying to measure it from that baseline. I feel like I normally feel, so I guess I’m recovered.
Liz Tinkham (02:29):
In case our listeners missed it in the opening, you just completed a run/walk from Huntington Beach to Virginia Beach, a short distance of 3,032 miles with your wife and dogs, your support teams. What day did you finish that?
Jerry Palmer (02:44):
I finished on July 12, so four weeks ago. Four weeks ago today, which seems crazy. I mean, it seems like we just finished, but it’s been a month already.
Liz Tinkham (02:58):
Yeah. Well, let’s go ahead and get into your sort of first act, a little bit of background. You’re a fellow Buckeye. Yay, go Bucks.
Jerry Palmer (03:05):
Liz Tinkham (03:06):
So first question, likelihood of Ohio State winning the national championship this year?
Jerry Palmer (03:11):
Liz Tinkham (03:12):
There you go.
Jerry Palmer (03:15):
I mean, I think that the nice thing about being an Ohio State fan is that we are eternal optimists. We always think we will win the national championship until we don’t.
Liz Tinkham (03:28):
Well, we have good reason to think that because we won in the past, but a bit of a digression there. You’re an industrial and systems engineer from Ohio State by training. What did you think you would do with that degree when you got out of school?
Jerry Palmer (03:40):
Well, I mean, that’s a good question. I think I originally wanted to be a lawyer or a writer of all things, interestingly enough. But my father told me I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I got an engineering degree.
Liz Tinkham (03:59):
Well, there you go.
Jerry Palmer (04:01):
I think any kid that’s … at school for engineering. I expected that I would graduate and go get a job as a plant manager or something and do that for 40 or 50 years and then retire. And that’s kind of how-
Liz Tinkham (04:24):
Didn’t quite happen?
Jerry Palmer (04:24):
No. It turned out a little bit different than that.
Liz Tinkham (04:29):
Interestingly, you told me when we were prepping you weren’t the greatest of students and a lot of people I interview are like super straight A’s and achieve at work, but you ended up working for what was then Arthur Anderson/Anderson Consulting, et cetera. How did you get a job if your grades weren’t that great?
Jerry Palmer (04:46):
I’ve had just a lot of good luck with timing in the course of my professional life and this was one example. This was in the late ’80s, early ’90s, Anderson Consulting was not really well known. It wasn’t this sort of digital world that we live in now. Nobody had cell phones, nobody had laptop computers. And so, no one really knew who Anderson Consulting was. I guess, the good thing or the fortunate thing about being a solid B student was all the A students had gotten the internships in the manufacturing facilities. General Motor and Frito-Lay and some of these other places. What was left over was consulting type work. And I had a friend, a guy named Dave McAllister, who was working at Anderson at the time.
Jerry Palmer (05:44):
And he said, “If you haven’t figured out what you’re going to do with the summer I think we’re hiring interns. You ought to come in and talk to one of the managers or something.” And so, I went and interviewed with a guy named Blake Sherry. Blake was lamenting the fact that their softball team didn’t have enough people. They couldn’t fill the team for the summer and Blake was the coach. I said “Blake, I have a background in playing all kinds of sports, including baseball and the like.” And he said, “Well,” he said, “You know you could play for us this summer, but you’d have to work here.” And I said, “Okay, I guess I could work here,” and that’s how it started. I mean, that’s literally-
Liz Tinkham (06:32):
Oh my gosh.
Jerry Palmer (06:33):
… how I got my job.
Liz Tinkham (06:35):
I hope you played well for that team that summer.
Jerry Palmer (06:37):
I mean, I don’t really remember much about the actual playing, but that was how I got started. And back then, as long as you didn’t really screw up, they offered you a full-time job, full-time position at the end of the summer. And so, they offered me a full-time position and I took it and that was the summer of 1990. I started for real in summer ’91.
Liz Tinkham (07:00):
Yeah. And you said that you kind of caught fire when you started working for Anderson Consulting and really got going, and you got promoted early, et cetera and you were a partner very early, but you ended up leaving at 41, so sort of what happened there?
Jerry Palmer (07:18):
I mean, I don’t need to tell you that is a tough grind.
Liz Tinkham (07:24):
Right. As a consultant. For sure.
Jerry Palmer (07:30):
2009 was a really rough year. I mean, I think that was the, what we now refer to as the financial crisis and the financial meltdown and there was a restructuring at what was then Accenture. I didn’t make the cut and I wasn’t totally surprised. I think the really funny thing if I think about that, relative to how things operate today, when you’re a partner and I guess I’d been a partner then for nine years or something. They basically have about a 15-minute conversation with you. They give you a three-inch thick binder of things you can and cannot do. They give you a stack of cash, send you out the door, and that’s-
Liz Tinkham (08:20):
Good luck with that, right?
Jerry Palmer (08:21):
Yeah. It was as simple as that. So that was the end of the second act, if you will or the first ending of the second act.
Liz Tinkham (08:31):
Yeah. You said you had a great financial package, but you told me you had no friends, were divorced, out of shape, so what did you think you would do at that point?
Jerry Palmer (08:40):
Well, what I did was a bunch of us went to The Bahamas and stayed with another partner for a while that had retired a few years earlier but quite frankly, I had no idea what I was going to do. It was a really, really rough time for me. I mean, I make light of it now, but it was all I ever did and it was all I ever knew. My social life was geared around my work friends and work things and so I was pretty lost. But at the same time I saw it as an opportunity. I can recall being in my home in Houston and there’s boxes that were still packed from three moves before, when I lived in Columbus, Ohio, which had been 10 years before.
Jerry Palmer (09:37):
And so, I thought, “I’m really going to try to make the best out of this thing and start living my life a little bit more fully and broadly.” And so I thought, “Well what is something that I could do to keep myself occupied, create a schedule that I can keep to, and something to keep me motivated?” I had been, I’d been active probably for at least for 2009, so I wasn’t just coming off the couch completely. But I decided I was going to do an Ironman triathlon, which is-
Liz Tinkham (10:19):
A full one or a partial one? I mean, what was your first?
Jerry Palmer (10:23):
I decided to do a full one, which is a 2-1/2-mile swim and 112-mile bike and then you run a marathon. I hadn’t even done a half of one of those when I signed up for the full one, but that’s always been my thing. I like to put a big goal out there and then figure out how to work my way towards it. 2009, I signed up for Ironman, Florida, which would be in the fall of 2010 and I got to work on getting prepared.
Liz Tinkham (11:00):
Oh my gosh, I’m laughing because when I retired, I thought I got to up my fitness game as well, so I started going to SoulCycle for three days a week. Now I didn’t like … putting a goal out there to do 112-mile bike ride, and the two-mile swim, and the 26-mile run all in the same day. It’s incredible. And it got you launched right into doing sort of extreme events. Did you do more subsequent to that Ironman?
Jerry Palmer (11:25):
Yeah. I really enjoyed that. Just out of pure luck, I ended up getting a slot into the Ironman World Championship in 2011 in Kona, Hawaii, which you can get into without qualifying, which happened to be one of the very first dates I went on with my wife. I took her to Hawaii to go watch me do the Ironman.
Liz Tinkham (11:57):
She knows you as the extreme adventurer from day one. Melissa, is your wife correct?
Jerry Palmer (12:01):
Yeah. Melissa. We met late in 2010, I had just done Ironman, Florida. We were actually introduced by one of our former partners from the Accenture days, meaning you and me, Liz, not Melissa.
Liz Tinkham (12:18):
Yeah. I got it.
Jerry Palmer (12:21):
Yeah. She never really knew me as a business guy. She always knew me as a guy who wore T-shirts and was always busy with exercise and doing races and other things. One of our first big dates was in Hawaii.
Liz Tinkham (12:40):
That’s incredible. But your third act or round one of the third act ends because you end up going back to Accenture, but this time in China. How did that come about and why did you decide to go back to Accenture at that point?
Jerry Palmer (12:51):
This is one of these things I’m glad I did it, but when I look back, except for the China experience, I almost wish I hadn’t done it. I know now that I should’ve left it alone. But anyway, at the time Accenture was looking to grow in the emerging markets, China being one of them. I had a reputation of being someone who could develop business and build relationships. And so, I got a call one day and was asked, “Are you interested in coming back?” And I said, “Well, no, not really. Why, what’s going on?” And they said, “Well, we have an opportunity for you in China that we’d like you to consider.”
Jerry Palmer (13:36):
And so, Melissa and I were dating at the time and I said, “I’ve got a call today about maybe going and working in China.” And I could see the look on her face about, well, what does this mean sort of look. And I said, “But if I’m going to do this, we ought to get married and that way it’s legit and official.” And so, I think maybe the next week or something, we flew to Maine, so I could meet her parents. And two weeks later we were married with the justice of the peace.
Liz Tinkham (14:14):
Oh my gosh, that’s one way to propose.
Jerry Palmer (14:17):
Yeah. And then, four months later, we’re living in Shanghai and she’s starting to see me in suits and work clothes for the first time.
Liz Tinkham (14:29):
After my gig at Microsoft was done, my last sort of stint for Accenture, I got asked to go to Asia. And they’re like, “Hey, you want one more round?” Of course, at that point, I’m 55 or 54. And so it would have been a very, not ceremonial, but a great gig, right? Probably put up somewhere really nice and would have been fun with Asia and I remember my dear husband, who’s been to Chicago and New Jersey and to Seattle with me moved around. I said, “Well, what would you think about Singapore, Hong Kong?” And he’s like, “Yeah, you’re going to be going with your next husband on that round,” so that was the end of that. That’s where he drew the line. I’m not going to Asia. Are you able to continue with your extreme events over in China? Or what happens over there?
Jerry Palmer (15:19):
I was. I still did a bunch of Ironmans. I raced all over Asia, literally all over Australia, Nepal, Butan-
Liz Tinkham (15:32):
Jerry Palmer (15:33):
… Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Bahrain. I mean, we were everywhere. And I think, for us, it really ignited sort of this adventurous spirit and we were doing this all together, but for me what also was happening was I was falling back into all these bad habits that I had developed 20 years of being on the road, which was not sleeping enough, eating too much, drinking too much, not taking care of myself. And so, it had a doubly bad effect because I was doing all these things and I was doing these extreme events when I really wasn’t in the sort of shape that I should have been in to do them. And so, by the time we got back to the United States and toward the end of 2015, I knew it was time to make a more lasting change. And that was at the point that I resigned from Accenture for the last time.
Liz Tinkham (16:42):
All right. For the second time?
Jerry Palmer (16:42):
For the second time.
Liz Tinkham (16:44):
The second time you’re done. Now, at that point, what are you thinking you’re going to do? Just extreme events or are you thinking you’re retired? I mean, where was your head and with Melissa at that point?
Jerry Palmer (16:59):
Yeah. It actually started, this was probably early 2016. I was still getting used to being back in the US and reconnecting and I was still medaling with Ironman and doing other things. I just really hadn’t kind of picked up the steam again. I was doing a little bit of work in Silicon Valley with a startup in the food safety, transparency space and I was just not happy. Melissa came to me and this will be a theme throughout this discussion. I mean, she’s the one who really kind of is able or who has been able to recognize when I need a change, when I need to really get refocused on things that are going to make me happy.
Jerry Palmer (17:56):
And she came to me and she said, “Listen, I know you’re not happy with what you’re doing. This startup thing is a mess. It just is another version of us being in China.” She said, “I’d really like you to take time off and I don’t care if you ever work again. I just want you to be happy. And I know if you do the things that you enjoy doing, which are these athletic events, and that’s all you want to do, and that’s what you want to focus on, then I’m totally supportive of that.” And she said, “I just want you to treat it like you would treat your job or anything.” And that was sometime in 2016. I had already arranged to do a race in Alaska, an event called Alaska Man, which was an Ironman distance race that involved a three-mile swim in 48 degree water-
Liz Tinkham (18:56):
Oh my goodness.
Jerry Palmer (18:56):
… in Resurrection Bay, and some other things that I was not in any kind of shape to do, and so I got busy. I think the beginning of 2017 until I did that race, which was in July 2017, six, seven months. I lost about 50 pounds. I got in incredible shape. I had all the physical markers that would tell you that you need to make changes in your diet and other things had all improved. I was kind of on my way. And from 2017 to today I think I finished about 17 Ironmans.
Liz Tinkham (19:44):
Oh my gosh.
Jerry Palmer (19:45):
Many of this extreme variety, Patagonia, Iceland, Sweden, Northwest Scotland. I’ve done a bunch of ultra marathons, 500K across Tennessee, a 200K across Florida. I mean, just momentum and just kind of keeping after it.
Liz Tinkham (20:09):
Driven. Driven. Goal based. How do you and Melissa decide to do this walk/run across the United States? When does it come up and take me through? I can’t even imagine. You’re laying in bed like, “Hey, what about going from A to B?”
Jerry Palmer (20:30):
While we were out on this journey, we tried to recall all the specifics of what led up to it, because we sort of found ourselves out on the road thinking, “How did we get here? How did this come to be?” And in the way the story goes this wasn’t something that I did because I was trying to raise awareness to any cause. It wasn’t because I was trying to run away from something or I’m searching for something. It was simple as we had just gotten back from Iceland from this race. We had been in Europe the whole summer and I had signed up for this 500K run across Tennessee. I can remember we’re sitting in our home in Houston and we’re trying to just think through what are we going to do next?
Jerry Palmer (21:33):
We had been traveling each summer on these long journeys. And I said, “Well, now that I’ve signed up for this thing in Tennessee, maybe the year afterwards,” which was 2021, this was in 2019. I said, “Maybe instead of going to Europe for the summer, we’ve never been across the United States, maybe that would be a good thing to do is to go use that summer to go across the United States.” I can run and you can drive and we’ll just make an adventure out of it. And she just sort of said, “Yeah. Okay.” And it just sort of sat on the shelf for … It really sat on the shelf for probably seven, eight months. We didn’t give much more thought to it.
Jerry Palmer (22:24):
And I think somewhere in May or June last year, as I was preparing for this race in Tennessee despite the COVID and everything else that’s going on, I said, “I don’t really know about going across the United States. I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” And she said, “Well, why don’t you wait until you do this thing in Tennessee and see how you like it. And if you really like it, then we should do it.”
Liz Tinkham (22:54):
So Melissa, she plays a huge role in this journey, right? I mean, what were her thoughts going into it and what role did she end up playing?
Jerry Palmer (23:03):
Yeah. I think it’s a fitting podcast being sponsored by the Athena organization.
Liz Tinkham (23:11):
Yeah. Athena Alliance, right?
Jerry Palmer (23:12):
Yeah. It’s because so much of this story is about Melissa, my wife and her role and her ability to really step up and take on much more of a leadership role than I think either one of us were expecting. But I think when we set off to do this, to some degree, we were really fortunate that we were so naive. And I think we thought it was going to be as simple as get up in the morning, go about 30 miles, find a hotel, find an Airbnb, whatever, spend the night, get up, and repeat that and repeat it as long as it takes to get across the country.
Jerry Palmer (23:56):
But we kind of knew while we were driving out to the West Coast, that it wasn’t going to be that simple. It was going to take … We had a basic map, a basic route, which is across US-60. The first 1,000 miles of that’s essentially in the desert and there isn’t much infrastructure. At that point, we’re traveling with two small dogs that are eight months old and not every hotel allows animals. That, combined with the fact that I was really trying to do too much early on and Melissa really kind of saw that.
Jerry Palmer (24:43):
I was looking back through the log of the entire event in preparation for this discussion and I started March 24th. The week of April 8th or April 8th is when I wrote about this, she had taken over all of the planning, all of the logistics, basically everything she had taken over. The detailed routing and scheduling and mapping all of it. It was amazing. She just did it because she recognized that it was too much for me. It was too overwhelming. I was struggling just to do the miles. It was really just amazing the way she kind of took charge of things and the leadership role she played.
Liz Tinkham (25:40):
Did you ever want to quit and, if so, why?
Jerry Palmer (25:42):
Yeah. I think the first three or four weeks I think all I thought … The first hour or two of every day would be fine. And then I’d start kind of crying uncontrollably because I just had so much guilt about having our family out there on the road in the middle of nowhere.
Liz Tinkham (26:06):
With the dogs, because in some cases you had the dogs in a buggy, is that right? They were with you.
Jerry Palmer (26:11):
No. They were always with Melissa. I had my stuff in the buggy.
Liz Tinkham (26:14):
Oh, the stuff in the buggy.
Jerry Palmer (26:15):
Yeah. Because they were maybe a day or two ahead, but they were out there and she’s trying to take care of them. She’s trying to watch out for herself and I’m not always there. And I’m thinking, “What in the world do we … What are we all doing out here? And how could I be so selfish to drag my family out here?” And that went on for weeks. I mean, probably at least three weeks.
Liz Tinkham (26:45):
Jerry Palmer (26:45):
And the other kind of process that was going on that I hadn’t really thought too much about it until I went back through the log of things was it’s like every event that I ever had in my life it’s almost like you have this file drawer full of files. You probably went through this. We probably both went through this when we left our professional careers, which is you just have all these folders from all these years. And in my case, they’re memories of people that you feel like that wronged you or situations that you didn’t handle well or people that you felt like you wronged and just all these bad … I just felt like I was clearing these files out of my mind.
Liz Tinkham (27:37):
While you were going?
Jerry Palmer (27:38):
Liz Tinkham (27:39):
It’s all going through your head. Wow.
Jerry Palmer (27:40):
Yeah. It was the craziest thing, because I didn’t really set off to do something like that, to have that kind of like, emotional purge of all these feelings that you have from your life, basically. But that’s kind of what that first three weeks of kind of struggling through this were like. And you get to the point where it’s all gone and you’re not really … The things that you, you kind of harbor or are holding onto, you’re not really thinking about them because you left them somewhere in the desert in the Mojave desert and then it just stops. I mean, I don’t know when it stopped. It wasn’t halfway through, but maybe a quarter of the way through. I never thought about quitting again. It just was something that was there at the beginning, and then it just never reoccurred. And then, all you’re thinking about is what are the conditions that need to be created for us to finish this thing.
Liz Tinkham (28:51):
And did Melissa ever want to quit?
Jerry Palmer (28:56):
If she did she never let on that she wanted to quit. In fact, I was trying my hardest to get her to quit because I wanted to quit. And at one point-
Liz Tinkham (29:09):
Oh, I see.
Jerry Palmer (29:12):
I can remember getting to … I’d finally gotten to Phoenix, which, 400 miles in a desert crossing and swollen feet, no sleep, and blisters and all these things and I’m just thinking, “This is only 400 miles. I got 2,600 more miles of this.” We were in our hotel and I said to her, “If you decide that this is not really something that you want to do and you don’t want to be out here, then we can leave and I will do that for you.” She said, “No way, buddy, you’re not putting this on me.”
Liz Tinkham (29:53):
Oh, good for her. You have a really unique perspective on the United States, particularly having done it in 2021. You’ve met a lot of people along the way. In looking back, what did you learn about the United States?
Jerry Palmer (30:13):
I’m really glad that I took the route that I took, because the route that I took is primarily … There were a few bigger cities along the way. I mean, you go through Phoenix. I went through Springfield, Missouri. We went through Bartlesville, Oklahoma, which is a bigger city, Enid, Oklahoma, Lexington, Louisville, Virginia Beach in Richmond, but it’s primarily a rural route. I experienced a lot that I wouldn’t normally experience in my day-to-day life in terms of interactions with people in that part of the country, farmers, minors, people that work in the forest products, industry of timber, a lot of truck drivers. There were a couple of things that just kind of came to mind. I could probably go on for days about the things that I think need to be fixed because that’s my nature as a problem solver.
Liz Tinkham (31:29):
And a consultant, right?
Jerry Palmer (31:31):
And a consultant. I mean, that’s what we do. We look for the problems. But I’ll start off by talking about the great things that I saw about the trip and where I was. And what I realized was kindness takes courage. It shouldn’t have to, but it takes a lot of courage for people to come up to a complete stranger and ask them if they’re okay. Ask them if they need anything. Ask them if they can buy their lunch, if they can buy the drink they’re getting in the store. And that is what I experienced almost from the beginning. And just kind of a few of the examples that stood out. When I first got to Texas, you cross the New Mexico, Texas border in a town called Texaco, New Mexico.
Liz Tinkham (32:31):
Texaco, New Mexico.
Jerry Palmer (32:32):
Texaco, New Mexico is the border town on Route 60. And then you kind of head north toward the panhandle on Route 60. One of the first towns you hit is Bovina, Texas. Now, like the name implies, it’s a lot of ranching and a lot of cattle processing. The next town is Hereford, Texas, so you get the idea. And I stopped in a little restaurant and when I say little restaurant, I’m talking about a kitchen and two tables restaurant called Highway 60 Burgers in Bovina, Texas. And I walked in and there’s there’s like a high school or maybe a college-aged kid working at the counter. I just ordered something real simple…hamburger or cheeseburger or something and nothing else. And so I started talking to the guy, the kid, and I said, “Oh, here’s what I’m up to. This is where I’m going. This is where I’ve been.”
Jerry Palmer (33:41):
And I walked outside to get a drink or something off the top of the buggy. I was pushing a buggy at the time to carry all my stuff. And I walked back inside and the kid hands me the plate of food. And he said, “Oh, we don’t want you to pay. My mom wants to buy this for you.” And his mom’s in the back. She’s the cook. And so she came out and we talked and I asked her about her business and how long they had had it. They started it during the pandemic. They had bought this little place and they were doing okay, but not much business.
Jerry Palmer (34:24):
And I’m thinking this lady probably sees … She probably gets 10 customers a day maybe and so to give something to me, basically to give a meal to me because she wanted me to have it. And so that was just one of the examples. There are many of them, others that stand out. I was walking outside of Henderson, Kentucky, and a lady drove by in a minivan and she pulled over and she said, “Can I ask you a question? And I said, “Yes.” She said, “Well where are you walking to? What are you doing?” And I told her what I was up to. And she said, “Oh, I knew it.” She said, “I knew you were doing something like that.” And so she rolls down the window in the van and her two young boys are in the back and she says, “Can you tell them what you’re doing?” And so I’m talking to these … The youngest one’s in a baby seat still but the-
Liz Tinkham (35:35):
They’re like, “Who are you?”
Jerry Palmer (35:35):
The older one he’s maybe seven or eight years old. And so I tell him and I’m showing him on my phone the map and the route where I’ve been. And his mom’s telling him “Do you understand?” And she said, “He’s real adventurous and maybe he’ll do something like this someday.” And so, that lady ended up sending out a reporter from the local newspaper to come and interview me and talk about my story and talk about them. Her name was Danielle, and we’ve interacted on a text message since. I let her know that I finished and-
Liz Tinkham (36:20):
That was great.
Jerry Palmer (36:21):
… everything is okay, but they’re just-
Liz Tinkham (36:22):
Jerry Palmer (36:24):
There’s just those stories like that and they happened everywhere. And I was just thinking how much courage it takes to be kind like that to a complete stranger that is out in the middle of nowhere for no reason.
Liz Tinkham (36:43):
Did you experience any of the divisiveness that the press reports on about the United States?
Jerry Palmer (36:48):
I did. This was another one where I walked away from this thing thinking poor doesn’t discriminate. I saw a lot of poor people on this trip, a lot of poor Americans. They were of all races, genders, sexual orientations, whatever. And I just thought to myself it just seems to me like we have bigger problems that we ought to be trying to fix collectively and that is how do we address this issue of poor in the country and raise everybody to a level that’s acceptable. That in my mind, it’s not about a minimum wage thing. I mean, some of these people are still living in towns that are nearly ghost towns. I mean, they’re not even going to exist anymore.
Jerry Palmer (37:49):
And so, the industries whether it was logging or mining or some kind of agriculture as those industries go, when the jobs go and the infrastructure, grocery stores, reliable internet, all these things, they just don’t exist in these places. It would be really great to figure out how to change some of that, how to fix some of that, how to improve some of that at scale, as opposed to picking and choosing groups to focus on and lift up. I mean, there’s a lot of people that need the help.
Liz Tinkham (38:41):
What’d you learn about yourself in the time that you were doing this walk/run?
Jerry Palmer (38:48):
There were two things that I kind of went into it with. One was the goal was never to finish. The goal was always to return home safely, all of us.
Liz Tinkham (38:58):
Safe. Oh, that’s right. Yep.
Jerry Palmer (38:59):
That was always the number one goal. Finishing was sort of number two or number three. And then kind of doing my best was kind of the last part of that. I really was enjoying it. I enjoyed it and I really started to enjoy it the minute I stopped worrying about whether or not I would finish. Maybe that’s the thing that I learned in all of this. I mean, a little of this is strictly consciousness, is just this ability to kind of relax and enjoy things and not worry so much about having it all figured out because the reality is, you’re never going to have it all figured out. I mean, this was a case study in that. I think this notion that you’re going to start at the Pacific Ocean and you’re going to make your way across the country on foot and end at the Atlantic ocean, I mean, the probability of ever finishing that is extremely small, so you better enjoy it while you’re doing it.
Liz Tinkham (40:10):
You probably are used to being in control of everything, like I am, right, and I can’t imagine letting go every single day.
Jerry Palmer (40:20):
Yeah. Necessity is the mother of invention. I had no choice I mean, it goes back to Melissa taking over everything. It was not an option for me to continue to try to do it all. I couldn’t. And so hopefully and a mutual friend of ours, Mike Sutcliffe, Mike and I talked about this very point afterwards. Mike said to me, he said, “Do you think it changed your relationship?” And I said, “I think it did.” I said, “I think.” I said, “Hopefully, I don’t carry this control thing forward. Hopefully, that’s something I left on the road as well and the ability to let go and the ability to not try to control everything.” And so, one of the things I did is I-
Liz Tinkham (41:09):
That might be good for my relationship, by the way. Just saying.
Jerry Palmer (41:13):
It’s good for everybody’s. But Mike suggested, he said, “Hey, listen, why don’t you make sure you tell Melissa that and make sure that she holds you accountable for it.” and I did that.
Liz Tinkham (41:24):
Yeah. That’s a great point.
Jerry Palmer (41:26):
I did it. And she said, “I don’t know about this. We’ve tried things like this in the past.” And I said, “Well, I really, really mean it this time. I want you to hold me accountable if I’m being overbearing or overwhelming or …” We’ll see how it works.
Liz Tinkham (41:49):
Given the listeners we have for this, many of them men and women, both, but they have the time, talent, treasure to do what they want sort of in their pretirement. And I’m thinking some of them are going to be listening, going, “Oh, well, gosh, that whole extreme event thing sounds really interesting.” And I’ve talked to you about, I’m training for the Wonderland Trail and I just did Petagonia. I have a little bit of it not quite as extreme, but what do people need to know if they’re going to take it on at the level that you’re doing it? Maybe know about themselves, I should say, because I’m sure there’s training and all that, but what do they need to know about themselves?
Jerry Palmer (42:21):
Yeah. Well, I think this is where the advice of you can do more than you ever thought you were capable of comes in. There’s just so much that you can accomplish and the process of kind of accomplishing it really isn’t different than probably the process they went through to accomplish the things they’ve accomplished in their professional careers or with their family. I think you have to dream big. I’ve always been a believer in dreaming big and I think you have to be willing to be patient and to focus on the details and be willing to learn new things. If you would’ve ever told me that at this point in my life, I would be an expert in things like weather, what’s going on with the weather or how to look at weather or exercise physiology or how to maintain your feet. I mean, all these things that you have to develop expertise in to be able to do something like this.
Jerry Palmer (43:39):
I mean, it’s all about learning. And so I think that’s the thing that people need to understand is you can’t rely on everything up to this point to then take on these things that are really going to stretch you. You’ve got to constantly be learning, learning new things, learning things that you don’t maybe understand how they relate to the task at hand, but at some point it becomes clear. The example I always use is this, I didn’t have any problems with dogs. I probably ran into 500 loose dogs on this trip.
Liz Tinkham (44:24):
Jerry Palmer (44:24):
Some of them aggressive, some not aggressive, but the way I dealt with them in the last year, one of the things I learned was how to deal with dogs because we had these puppies. I haven’t had dogs in 35 years.
Liz Tinkham (44:41):
Jerry Palmer (44:42):
And so, just the things that I learned in dog training, I applied on the road. I never had to use any kind of violence to deal with aggressive dogs. I just kind of talked them off the ledge. Who would ever think that a dog training class, you’re going to be able to apply it to a transcontinental run, but …
Liz Tinkham (45:13):
What’s next for you and Melissa?
Jerry Palmer (45:16):
One of the things that we have talked about is how do we use this experience to do something, to fix some of the problems that we saw or maybe teach some of the lessons that we learned. And so, one of the things that we kicked around before we started was this notion of how can we take the lessons in this and write a children’s book? Basically, the idea would be that our dogs went along with us on this trip, Burt and Honeybee. They had their own Instagram page where we posted or Melissa posted about all their adventures across the United States. How can we take kind of that sort of a lighthearted structure, but then embed it with some of these messages about kindness, discrimination, poverty, just all these different things that we learned and saw, kind of telling this story to children through the voice of these dogs going across the country.
Jerry Palmer (46:32):
It’s just a concept right now we’re thinking about. Beyond that, where we’re back just getting our lives back in order. It feels like we live very boring lives right now compared to-
Liz Tinkham (46:46):
Jerry Palmer (46:48):
… compared to the last three or four months, but that’s okay. I’ll soon kind of ramp back into some events I’ve got planned for the fall and she’s getting back into her life. We enjoy reflecting on the journey.
Liz Tinkham (47:09):
Oh, well, I think the book is a great idea. I thought about calling my podcast “I’m not done yet” and clearly you’re not done yet. What aren’t you done with yet?
Jerry Palmer (47:18):
We’re in our 50s at this point. My hope is that at some point in our 80s and 90s, when we’ve ended our useful days on earth that they’re looking for volunteers to go colonize someplace like Mars and we can get into a spaceship and get shot into space and see what happens. I mean that’s-
Liz Tinkham (47:48):
You might want to talk to Melissa about that one.
Jerry Palmer (47:50):
Yeah. Yeah. But that’s the-
Liz Tinkham (47:55):
You and Elon Musk. He wants to die on Mars. You can go with him.
Jerry Palmer (48:00):
I think this would be a little bit more science involved. I don’t know. But I mean, that’s sort of … I would think that doing something like that … I did read somewhere there’s actually two game shows now that are like survivor type game shows that the winner of these things gets to go to the space station.
Liz Tinkham (48:25):
Well, that’d be cool.
Jerry Palmer (48:26):
That would be cool.
Liz Tinkham (48:27):
That’d be really cool. Will you come back to be a guest on the podcast if you end up going to the space station?
Jerry Palmer (48:32):
Yeah. If this podcast is still … Yeah, in 30 years, then I will definitely come back for it if I ever…
Liz Tinkham (48:43):
Well, Jerry, it’s been delightful talking to you. Thank you so much. What an adventure and I’m sure you will inspire many people to maybe at least start lifting weights or go for a run or something, so thanks very much. Where can people find you online?
Jerry Palmer (48:59):
If people want to go back and read, I think there’s probably, oh, four to six hours of video, a bunch of pictures, whatever. They can just go on Facebook and look for Jerry L. Palmer, US Crossing. There’s a whole page.
Liz Tinkham (49:16):
And we’ll post that on our show notes. Okay. Great. All right, Jerry. Thanks very much. Take care.
Jerry Palmer (49:20):
Okay, Liz, thank you. Bye-bye.
Liz Tinkham (49:24):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios, and more at thirdactpodcast.com. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.