Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Fortunate '14

2014 was a big year for me! It was the last of the traditional working years for me, as I plan to retire in 2015 (if all goes well). Knowing it might be my last year with my largest career income, we took several major trips and did lots of activities. Here are some of the highlights that I will treasure for a long time. [The links in the rest of this story provide additional information about these activities, in case you'd be interested in reading more.]

This was a big year for my interest in auto racing. The pinnacle was my first trip to the Indy 500. However, I was able to hit a trifecta of racing landmarks by stopping at Daytona Speedway the day after the Daytona 500 (on our way back from our cruise) and driving on the beach. Plus, during our trip out west, we stopped at the incredible Bonneville Salt Flats. Indy, Daytona, and Bonneville--all in the same year!

I also made a nostalgic return (after an absence of over 35 years) to Martinsville Speedway, visited the Wood Brothers museum, drove at racing school again, attended the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour at their stop in Charleston, and made another visit to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

I alluded to our Caribbean cruise when I mentioned Daytona in the paragraph above. We had a fabulous time during February on a cruise that included a trip into the Panama Canal. We also had an interesting journey to get to the cruiseport when Amtrak cancelled our train due to weather conditions.

I also mentioned our western trip with regard to the visually stunning Bonneville Salt Flats. I got to add two more new states (Idaho and New Mexico) to the list of those I’ve visited in my life, but this trip also included Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and a few feet’s worth of Arizona.

Another state I was able to cross off my list this year was Maine (the final state that I needed to visit in the eastern half of the U.S.). I wrote a separate story about riding the train from Washington to Boston, from where we rented a car to explore the fascinating state of Maine (plus a quick trip across the border into Quebec). We really loved Maine and I highly recommend it as an interesting vacation destination.

One of the early major trips in 2014 was going to Nashville for Anna’s doctoral graduation, which included some interesting stops in Kentucky along the way. We also took another one of Lisa Starcher Collins’ bus trips to New York City, and brought Anna’s teenage niece along for her first visit to the Big Apple. Finally, even though it wasn’t an out-of-state trip, our first ever visit to the luxurious Greenbrier Resort is worth noting as a major event for us.

Traveling around our home state of West Virginia is one of our favorite activities, and we did a lot of it in 2014. Although I did some bicycling, motorcycling, and kayaking, this year turned out to be a major year for ziplining. With my daughter and with Anna’s niece, I did two separate trips on our state’s longest zipline. I also got to check out the unusual zipline at Moundsville. Although it isn’t exactly ziplining, I did another trip attached to the safety cable under the New River Gorge Bridge.

On July 4, I returned to Nelson Rocks for the first time since writing my story about their “Via Ferrata”. This time I was there to try out their zipline adventure, but the bigger adventure might have been the “climbing downhill” hike that Anna joined me for that day. That July 4 weekend also included camping at Sherwood Lake, the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, exploring historic downtown Lewisburg, enjoying the Jimmy Buffett concert with close friends, and checking out a pair of nearby state parks.

2014 was also an interesting year for honoring coal miners. We visited the memorial for the UBB victims and attended a ceremony remembering the Everettville disaster. I also made yet another visit (via the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine) to Homer Hickam’s hometown of Coalwood.

Of course, 2014 had plenty of special memories related to my two alma maters—UC and WVU. I was fortunate to see the UC basketball team win the state championship game, plus I watched a couple of football games including the big homecoming weekend. I also wrote about Governor’s Cup alumni reunion weekend and had a great time with friends at the Blues, Brews, and BBQ concert on the riverbank—which was the night before the half-marathon (the highlight of my diet and exercising efforts this year).

I went to many WVU sporting events this past year, including two road trips to Mountaineer football games. Perhaps the most memorable event for me this past year was that the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences honored me with one of their alumni awards—a beautiful cobalt blue Blenko glass vase—given at a dinner that my family was able to attend.

Finally, the year 2014 got off to a great start when Anna and I attended the New Year’s Eve party put on by our friends at ShadowboxLive in Columbus. We also convinced two other couples (dear friends from my college years) to join us for an overnight trip to Columbus to see their first “sketch comedy and rock ’n’ roll” Shadowbox show. Although we had to drive through a blizzard to get there (something we will remember for a long time), we all had a great time. I was also able to make it back to Columbus after the Indianapolis 500 to join Anna and another UC friend at Shadowbox’s annual outdoor tribute to Woodstock. In addition to these special events, we were able to attend most of Shadowbox’s shows this year, including our trip last weekend to see the Christmas show (with Anna’s sister-in-law).

These are just a select few of the many wonderful times I enjoyed during 2014. I am grateful for my relationship with Anna, my parents, my sister, and my daughter. The coming year will see many MAJOR changes for me (anybody want to buy my house or motorcycle?). It will be interesting to see what my life will be like this time next year.

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