The year in review

Merry Christmas! Once again, it’s time for my annual fiction-writing exercise… 🙂

Retirement kicked in full-time this year, and with it came a lot of travel. Toni’s niece, Amy, got married in Florida at the beginning of February, and she was kind enough not only to invite me to the wedding, but also to ask if I would be a “supplemental photographer.” Since I’ve stuck my camera lens into almost every other family gathering *without* being asked, I was more than happy to oblige. Some of the pictures I took were even okay!

February also saw a trip to Illinois to celebrate Eve’s birthday. Since I had lots of points in my Southwest Airlines reward account, I picked up the airfare “tab” for her sisters and Mom. It was a lot of fun to have everyone together, although (as usual) it wasn’t a long-enough visit.

I took a couple of weekend trips in May, one to Houston and Galveston, and the other to Flagstaff. I visited the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston and took a drive up the Texas coast a little bit, just to see what was there (hint: not much). In Flagstaff I went to the Overland Expo to get information about an offroad-capable camping trailer I plan to buy this year. While there I also saw some HUGELY-expensive expedition-ready motorhomes (built on Mercedes Unimog chassis), among other things.

In July and August, I undertook the longest “expedition” I have taken in many, many years. Over a five-week period, I drove more than 8,100 miles, touched 25 states, rode 600 miles on my motorcycle, helped Eve and Rick install a new kitchen (floor, cabinets, etc.), attended the Stalker-Callahan-Ackerman family reunion, and touched base with a multitude of other family and friends. Because so many people wanted me to keep them informed, I decided to start this blog. I chronicled (almost) all my adventures here, and some of my misadventures, too – like running out of gas on the Honda in the DC area, and accidentally hitting the engine kill switch during a ride in North Carolina. The blog is ongoing, so please stick around.

I followed the expedition with a quick out-and-back road trip to Sacramento to get a piece for my Jeep (more on the Jeep later), and then in September I tacked on another 5,000 or so miles when I drove to Oregon for the eighth Tour DaVita charity bike ride (bicycles, not motorcycles). Eve and Rick drove out from Illinois to ride with me. They seemed to do all right, but I was *woefully* under-prepared this year, and it was all I could do to ride the shorter distances. Next year’s ride is rumored to be in Texas, and I *will* be better-trained.

After Tour DaVita, Eve, Rick and I visited Rick’s brother and his family, who live in Marysville, WA (about an hour north of Seattle). Ali flew to Seattle a few days after we got there, and she and I then spent a very fun week traveling together for her birthday. We first drove to Vancouver, BC, and saw the MacMillan Space Centre and parts of the Olympic Village before returning south along the Pacific Coast Highway down to San Diego and Sea World and then coming home. Along the way we visited the Astoria Column, the Tillamook Cheese Factory, and the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, among other places. I also drove the truck through a redwood tree!

Last month I flew to Dulles, from where I then drove to State College for some research for a reunion I’m working on for 2015, and then to Richmond, where I went to the 45th reunion of my high school class.

In other news…

Toni’s brother, Will, his wife, Maria, and I hiked to the final two Tucson locations where I wanted to leave some of Toni’s ashes. I still have some of her cremains, and will eventually place them at the two ends of the Appalachian Trail, as hiking the AT was one of our “bucket list” goals.

I have started getting back into four-wheeling. Some of you may know that I’ve had a Jeep since 1993, and that it hasn’t been anywhere since I rolled it in 2005. It was a low-priority project before Toni’s death, as it was definitely a toy and we had other projects to take care of first. We had been planning to use it for a long expedition during our retirement. Well, this year I made some progress on the rebuild project, although not much is yet visible in the garage. I’ll be blogging about the construction project at “From The Ground Up”. Right now, I have my old Jeep on jackstands, a second Jeep body on rollers, a set of tires, and some axles undergoing assembly at a shop in town.

I also rejoined the Tucson Rough Riders – well, I’ve kept my membership alive all along, but this year I went to the meetings, the Summer Picnic, and the Christmas Party. I decided that in 2015 I’ll tag along on trail rides, too, by riding in someone’s spare seat. I also volunteered to be the newsletter’s latest editor, after the previous editor up and moved to Texas. Another excuse to sit at the computer and waste time. 😉

In sum, 2014 was a year when I started getting myself back together after Toni’s death. I’m more confident about the future, at least on a personal level, and am looking forward to what will come in 2015 and beyond. I hope this year was good to you, and that next year will be even better! Please stay in touch by email ( or Facebook. I really really want to hear from you, even if it’s only a Christmas letter. Happy Holidays!

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