Merry Christmas 2015! Happy New Year 2016!

Practicing for retirement was the theme for this year’s activities for Cece and Roger, and travel was a big part of it. We started out the year with a short overnight trip to Traver, California, to visit Bravo Farms, a touristy little farm stand with a lot of fun things to see and do, including climbing through a seven level tree house. We also briefly visited London, but discovered the Queen was not there, as it was London, California, a small community whose population is less than 2,000.

Over the next several months we extensively planned our biggest trip of the year, but not before an overnight trip to Napa, California, to enjoy a Todd Rundgren concert.

In mid-June, we set out on our great adventure, a visit to six of the southern states we had not been to before: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. And because they were on the route, we made repeat visits to Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. To give it an international flavor, we also spent an afternoon in the Bahamas. We began our trip with a red eye flight from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, arriving at 6 AM. After grabbing our bags and a rental car, we stopped for breakfast, then inquired at our hotel for the night if we could check in at 8 AM. Fortunately, the answer was yes, and we were able to grab a few hours sleep, awaking refreshed to swim in the hotel's massive pool and later to meet friends for dinner and a Tiki show.

We continued north to Daytona Beach, where we enjoyed a twilight walk along and in the Atlantic Ocean (our first time) and returned the next morning to drive on the beach for a couple of miles. Our journey took us North and West to Albany, Georgia, where we sat on a dock on the Flint River, dangling our feet in its warm waters. The next morning, we were off to Birmingham, Alabama, to meet friends and spend a couple of days with them.

We were introduced to some fine Southern cooking in Birmingham, where we tried fried green tomatoes at the same restaurant that made them famous in the movie of the same name. We also visited “The Vulcan” a large iron statue overlooking the city and the Botanical Gardens, which only added to the humidity that we were experiencing.

Reluctantly leaving our friends behind, we traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, where we stopped for lunch with Cece’s cousin before continuing on to Elizabethtown, Kentucky and a quick trip to revisit Cecilia, Kentucky (we had been there in 2012.) They continue to reject our petitions to correct the spelling to Cecelia.

The following day we turned again Eastward to Charleston, West Virginia, stopping briefly for lunch at an old fashioned soda fountain in Kenova, West Virginia, a town whose claim to fame is its location at the junction of three states, KENtucky, Ohio and west VirginiA. Our trip on to Charleston was only slightly delayed by a stop at the Mardi Gras Casino about twenty miles west of the capital. A couple of good, solid downpours greeted us in town, and coming in from droughtstricken California, it was a welcome sight, despite the inconvenience.

On our way to the midpoint of our trip in Charlottesville, Virginia, we stopped at Tamarack, a large and beautiful arts and crafts facility featuring “The Best of West Virginia”. Roger enjoyed a BLFGT (Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomatoes sandwich) and Cece enjoyed the experience of shopping for some very nice West Virginia products. West Virginia's adopted slogan (from John Denver) of “Almost Heaven” is well deserved, as the drive was beautiful. In Charlottesville, we met, visited and dined with a long-time friend.

Our trip half over, we headed southward to Wilmington, North Carolina, spending a couple of days visiting friends, swimming, dining, walking along the the Cape Fear River and enjoying outings to some of the area’s Atlantic beaches.

Heading southward once more, we stopped in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, running from the beach to our car to escape, unsuccessfully, a sudden rainstorm. Once dried and fed, we returned to the beach’s boardwalk to enjoy sightseeing and people watching. We continued on to Savannah, Georgia, to spend the night. The next morning we visited Savannah’s beautiful Forsyth Park and enjoyed a long walk along the tree-covered lanes.

Finally, returning to Fort Lauderdale, we checked into the same hotel we had left nearly two weeks earlier for a less hectic passage of three days. We included a ferry boat trip to Grand Bahama Island and spent the afternoon dining and visiting some of the shops and a visit to the local casino, which claimed only a few of our vacation bucks. Although we were slightly underwhelmed by this particular island, we were glad we had the opportunity to visit and hope to visit another Bahamian island in the future.

Finally, after fifteen days and almost 3,000 miles of driving, we boarded our return flight to San Francisco, having now conquered 48 states (we only lack Kansas and New Mexico, which we hope will appear in next year’s letter.)

So, were we done traveling? A day trip in August to Nice, California (on the shore of Clear Lake) inspired us to make reservations for our October anniversary weekend at the Featherbed Railroad Bed and Breakfast. But we were not to return there until another road trip had been completed, one which Roger had been planning for nearly two years, a drive across Nevada on the Loneliest Highway in America, US 50.

This time, only a week was allotted for the trip, which began with a night in Carson City, Nevada, the state’s capital. Over the course of the week we completed Nevada Tourism’s “Survival Kit” getting our “passport” stamped in Carson City, Dayton, Fallon, Austin, Eureka and Ely, all small towns (or tiny spots on the map) in Nevada. Along the way we enjoyed viewing petroglyph sites, throwing our shoes onto the Middlegate shoe tree, visiting Great Basin National Park and riding on the Nevada Northern Railroad. After surviving Highway 50, we risked alien abduction by traveling along the Extraterrestrial Highway, which borders the super-secret Area 51, and topped off our next to last day with a visit to the International Car Forest of the Last Church, near Tonopah, where a couple dozen cars are buried upright in the ground.

Only a week later we returned to Nice for our 39th anniversary stay in a railroad caboose, remodeled to be a luxury suite, enjoying two nights, a nice dinner out, a movie, relaxation on the lake shore and a visit to a pirate festival.

So many more activities during the year bear retelling, but we’ve run out of space, so it only remains to wish you the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years.

Roger & Cece