, ,

There is this end of year ritual among some folks that involves sending family news highlights with a holiday greeting card. It used to be a handwritten line or two within the greeting card; sometimes a photo of the kids was enclosed provided they could be bragged about. With the advent of social media techniques, this ritual is now out of control! And I am guilty!

Of course, these end of year letters only contain the good news. For example, my photos show the family all smiles and hugs; I don’t mention the fights we had.  I brag about my motorcycling exploits, but I don’t mention the accident that caused multiple broken bones and a long recovery. And the travel looks exciting and exotic, but you won’t hear about food poisoning and hospital visits in foreign places where I don’t speak the language (oh, yeah, that was the year before). In any case, this is my happy news; it is the “Happy” season after all.

Typical of retired folks still able to move around, Carol and I traveled a bit during 2015. In January, I flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, for some consulting work and some personal travel to Torres del Paine National Park and across the Strait of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego and on south to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost town in the world. There is a tiny (but official) Post Office at the literal end of the road from which I was able to send post cards.

Christmas Letter 2015

Not content with hanging out while I am on the road, Carol, with her friend Shelia Winett, toured Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. She also treated her “girls” (Julie and Cathy) to an all-inclusive stay at St Maartens with butler service!  

We enjoyed camper trips to the coast at Beaufort, NC, (great seafood) and to the mountains near Asheville, NC (great ice cream). My brother Ted and sister Sadie and their mates camped with us as we visited the Biltmore Estate, Mt. Mitchell, Pisgah National Forest, and breweries and ice cream shops in downtown Asheville.

Jim and riding buddy Bennett atop Cadillac Mountain within Acadia National Park

Jim and riding buddy Bennett atop Cadillac Mountain within Acadia National Park

I become a member of the Iron Butt Motorcycle Association by riding through 38 states (including FL, ME, CA and WA) while visiting 72 National Parks within one year. The ride was especially enjoyable with good riding buddies Bennett Teates and Jeff Green. One of my best rides was to the Midwest with granddaughter Emily where Emily did campus tours of Purdue and Indiana State Universities among others. She was a great riding companion.

Feeling nostalgic for an earlier life experience, Carol and I attended a reunion of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) in Washington, DC. We had a good time with these old, old veterans (What does that say about me?) and their spouses as we toured a number of historic sites. A highlight was a visit to Arlington National Cemetery for a dedication ceremony near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for a granite memorial to helicopter pilots who lost their lives in Vietnam. A formation of four Huey helicopters overflew the ceremony.

Between travels we enjoyed hosting travelers including nephews Brent Burger, Michael Roy, and their sons from Waterville, ME, and my college roommate Steve Chastain and his wife Sandra from Celestine, IN, whom we had not seen for decades.

Michael, Max, Kyle, and Brent visiting Blacksburg

Michael, Max, Kyle, and Brent visiting Blacksburg

But it is our rapidly growing family that remind us most of time passing. Cathy and Mark have three in college: Cathy working on a Masters in ESL and David and Lauren undergrads. John and Leah saw Cecelia graduate from high school and enter Virginia Tech; Emily doing college applications; and James, the youngest but tallest in the family, completing his Eagle Scout Award. Julie and Ben’s girls, Clara (7) and Helen (5) remind us most of time passing as they grow and learn.

We are happy, healthy, and blessed with wonderful family and great friends. Life has been good this past year and we hope it has been the same for you.

Here’s wishing you the best during the holiday and for a great New Year.