2017: Year in Review

Here we are, 31 December 2017. This was a good year for me, one of the better ones I’ve had, to be honest. This morning, I sat at the counter at the Time to Eat Diner in Bridgewater, NJ, and reflected on the Top 10 adventures of the year over a Greek omelette. They reflect a year where I accomplished a lot of goals, both with travel and life.

1) Upper deck on a 747, United UA927 FRA-SFO. Riding in the bubble of the Queen of the Skies was a childhood dream of mine. Thanks to frequent flier miles, I was able to do it right before United retired their fleet, taking with it with my chance to cash in from my primary program for a guaranteed upstairs seat. By far the best 12 hours I’ve ever spent on a plane, so far.

2) The lighthouses of Ouesseant, France. One of the best days of my 18-year lighthousing career was exploring the famous wave-swept lights of Finistère by land and sea with Iasure and Loic, my AirBnB hosts. They went above and beyond to make the pilgrimage to one of the world’s lighthouse hotspots very, very special. I was starting to burn out on lighthouses a bit, and sitting at night watching the immense beam of the Creac’h flood my room in their guest house reinvigorated the passion.

3) Flying out to the Mendo_Recce Land Rover rally in Mendocino NF, California. Having been an active member of the Mendo email list for years now, it was such a blast to finally put so many faces to names and explore a new part of the country. I really, really hit it off with a few people especially and have enjoyed building up those friendships. I also got to spend a full weekend flying out and driving up with my friend Ben, who was a founding member of the list in 1994 when he lived in California, and who now lives a half hour away from me in New Jersey.

4) As an example of those new friendships, I had an awesome time ending the September #JumboJourney in Portland, exploring back roads of Oregon for three days with my Mendo friend Nathan in his Range Rover. It was so cool to explore a new part of the country with someone whose travel style I totally resonated with.

5) Part of that journey was finding the location of the Original Stash, the first-ever geocache placed in 2000. It’s a pilgrimage for all geocachers, and I’m glad to have that on my “permanent record.” This year was a year I came to peace with my new geocaching style, which is “find what I want and skip the crappy ones.” I let a lot of pressure off of how I play the game, stopped caring about the numbers, and played it the way I really want to — exploring new places. I only found about 40 this year, but all of them were worth it.

6) The eclipse from Cashiers, North Carolina. I flew down to spend a few days with my aunt at her house in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We missed viewing totality directly by fifteen seconds in a shift in the clouds just before it began, but we got part of the experience in the darkness and sensory changes, and got to spend a few days one-on-one, which we’ve never had the chance to do.

7) Visiting my friends Barb and Jarek in Florida for my birthday. Having one of the mainstays of my New Jersey Land Rover family move a thousand miles away has been really tough this year; we’ve kept in touch constantly via phone and Internet, but it’s not the same as spending many weekend days popping in at their house 20 minutes away. We had an awesome weekend with warm weather just when I was getting down on winter up here, and an awesome birthday celebration.

8) The Land Rover Mid-Atlantic Rally in Virginia. The Mid-Atlantic has been on my Rover Bucket List for years, and although it wasn’t the same as the MARs of legend in the 90s and early 2000s, it was still fun — especially as aforementioned new Floridians came to join some of our New Jersey contingent. Also fun was the drive home from Blacksburg, Virginia…by way of Marietta, Ohio and Somerset County, Pennsylvania. I saw the steamboat W.P. Snyder, took in some National Park Service units (including the immensely moving Flight 93 National Memorial), and traversed West Virginia in a driving rain. I took two days to get home on complete whim, with absolutely no plans and what became a totally illogical itinerary, The only reason I was able to do that with the Discovery is because of a LOT of hard work, blood, sweat and tears that I poured into it since buying it as a bit of a barn find three years ago. Crossing the Ohio River felt like a major accomplishment.

9) I did 5,600 miles in the Disco between September and now, going to Land Rover events across the East. In addition to the MAR, I did the All Metal Dash, the annual Guy Fawkes Rally, and the Robesonia Trials. I did a ton of driving around locally as well, all with a confidence I haven’t had from a car in years. It still needs work, especially as I plan to drive it to California for Mendo in April, but there’s been so much progress.

10) One of the best Rover trips of the year was actually the one I didn’t take a Rover on. After busting my ass to prepare for the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers Birthday Party in Ontario, buttoning the truck up after weeks of work the night before, I broke down with a fuel pump issue 88 miles into the trip to Canada. Determined to still spend the weekend with my friends, I unloaded the tow truck and headed down to the local Enterprise outlet to hire a Nissan Frontier for the weekend. I didn’t have a Land Rover at the event, but I got to be with my friends, and that was really the most important part.

Here’s to many adventures in 2018, and may they top these, and may it be a healthy and happy year for all!