Tuesday, January 10, 2012

11's twelve best

As the year 2011 comes to a close, like many other people I like to reflect back on my fondest memories from this year. I decided to list the top dozen activities from this year which I will long treasure. It was hard putting them in order, so consider this merely an approximate ranking (some were lumped together to allow more to fit into the final list). I’m providing links to the earlier stories on this blog in case you’d like to read more. By the way, I fully realize how fortunate I am to have enjoyed these experiences all in one year.

1. Selecting the top pick was difficult, but I think riding the Greenbrier River Trail gets the top billing (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/06/greenbrier-river-trail-grt-great-trip.html). I am grateful that Anna’s brother accompanied me on this two-day bicycle trek through the beautiful West Virginia woodlands along the scenic Greenbrier River.

2. Anna and I just recently returned from a fantastic Caribbean cruise (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/12/caribbean-cruise.html). Since meeting Anna I’ve learned how nice a cruise vacation can be. Perhaps the most memorable experience (out of many) from this year’s trip was the day we spent visiting with Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic.

3. I had always been interested in riding the New River Train tour that runs up the Kanawha and New River to Hinton each fall, showcasing the fall foliage as well as the geology and history of West Virginia. This part of southern West Virginia has always interested me, and I recently found out that my great-great-great-grandfather spent a good bit of time there during the Civil War. As it turns out, I was riding under the New River Gorge Bridge just one week after walking on top of that famous bridge during the annual Bridge Day festivities. One Saturday each year they close the bridge and allow parachuting, bungee jumping, zip lining, or just simply walking across the gorge and enjoying the view. This was my third time at Bridge Day, and it was a beautiful sunny day. [Back in late March while in Fayetteville, we stayed overnight at the Morris Harvey House bed and breakfast, but the weather was snowy that weekend.]

4. Anna’s family joined together for a weekend of camping at North Bend State Park. To hold down our campsites, I spent the week commuting to work via motorcycle from a tent in the woods (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-friend-north-bend.html) and had a grand time. I purchased a nice kayak from one of my former students and was able to put it to good use exploring the new lake at North Bend. This was also my first time ever to have a laptop while camping. It was a new experience to have a tent lit up by the glow of a laptop screen.

5. Anna’s Ph.D. program required her to travel to Atlanta this summer (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/06/hotlanta-trip.html). We had a great time there (of course, since she was attending classes, I probably had a better time than she did). Highlights included the Carter Library, the Georgia Aquarium, the Coca-Cola Museum, Underground Atlanta, a Segway tour, and more. I also participated in a 5K at the Georgia capitol.

6. Anna, Halley, and I had a fun time together on a New York City bus trip last month (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/11/und-brodvay.html). I’m thrilled that my daughter is so adept at handling herself in a big city, as I described in my blog posting about this trip.

7. The fourth hijacked airplane on September 11 crashed in Shanksville, PA, not all that far from Morgantown (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/08/lets-roll-to-shanksville-pa.html). We had always talked about going to the crash site to pay our respects, but had not got around to it. Finally, this summer (prior to the 10th anniversary) we made the journey, and were glad we did.

8. After graduating from WVU in 1985 with my J.D./M.P.A. and moving to Washington, I saw TV ads for the Maryland Renaissance Festival. While it piqued my curiosity, for various reasons I never made it during the years I lived there. However, those ads led me to check out other Renaissance Festivals over the years. RennFests are a fun combination of history and entertainment. This year (thanks to the Stansberry family), I finally got to check out the Maryland version. It was a lot of fun! It was the best of the RennFests I have visited.

9. Outdoor activities this summer included a weekend taking my daughter and nephew down the Youghigheny River in inflatable kayaks as well as rafting the next day on the man-made course at the Wisp Ski Resort. I also had an adventure weekend in Fayette County with Anna’s nieces, flying on the zipline and rafting down the New River. Additionally, I had lots of fun on creeks, rivers, and lakes with my new (used) kayak (thanks again, Alex!).

10. Anna and I had the opportunity to tour historic Annapolis, Maryland, on two-wheeled Segways. It was a lot of fun in a very scenic area. Other trips to the DC area this year gave me the chance to participate in the Peace Corps 50th anniversary celebration (part of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall) as well as stopping at the Antietam Battlefield and the original Washington Monument on a mountaintop in Maryland.

11. Columbus, Ohio has always been an important city for me, as it is the closest major metropolitan area to my hometown, and this year was no different. Anna and I have always visited several times a year, in part because she has family living there, but also because our first Columbus date involved a visit to the Shadowbox (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/03/10-years-of-shadowbox.html). We loved their incredible musical and comedic talents, and attend several of their shows each year, and this year was no different. One of the highlights was watching their recreation of the Woodstock concert over Memorial Day weekend, as well as attending their last show at their longtime home in the Easton shopping center. This year, we also added a visit to the Funny Bone Comedy Club to see John Heffron, a winner on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Finally, we also enjoyed a ride this fall on the Hocking Valley Railroad with Anna’s young nephews—their first train experience.

12. Many of you know that I am a major supporter of my alma maters—the University of Charleston and West Virginia University. This year I got to see the UC basketball doubleheader at OVU, the annual Governor’s Cup Regatta, and the Homecoming football game. However, the biggest college sporting memory for me this year will probably be from when the ESPN Game Day television show came to Morgantown. Halley and I went down to show our support, and we are sure that ESPN was impressed (as evidenced by the clip I posted on Facebook of Erin Andrews’ positive remarks about WVU while appearing on the Jimmy Kimmel show). While we lost to #1 LSU that night (after rolling up more offense against them than anyone else), the team finished reasonably well. Other favorite 2011 memories of WVU sports includes our trip to Maryland to see the Mountaineers defeat the Terps, my first rifle match (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/11/west-virginia-shootin-match.html), my return to rowing (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-return-to-rowing.html), and the WVU volleyball banquet (http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/03/volleyball-coach-kramer-and-me.html).

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