Tuesday, January 01, 2019 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Perhaps we were influenced by the increasing number of candles on our birthday cakes or just our lifelong fascination with history, but this year we decided to focus on the past—more specifically on ancient times.  From the Middle East to the Mediterranean, from South America to the South Pacific, and even stateside, we sought out the remnants of ancient civilizations and marveled at what ancestral peoples were able to accomplish without technology or the modern tools we take for granted today.

In between our archaeological expeditions, we soaked up the splendid scenery in some U.S. states we had longed to explore more in depth, helped celebrate Nanamama's 90th birthday, and took in a few Broadway shows.  As we have in recent years, we spent a total of half the year traveling in 2019.  Over the course of 42,000 air miles and 30,000 road miles, we visited 18 states and 12 countries.  When not on the road, we continued to enjoy life in Alpharetta, north of Atlanta, and pursue our letterboxing hobby, though at a bit slower pace.
Our first major trip of the year was a 43-day exploration of the Mediterranean area from late March to mid-May. In Greece, we found more than enough archaic sites to get oriented to life before the common era. From the architectural riches of the Acropolis to the hillside ruins of Delphi and the venerable citadel at Mycenae, antiquities abound in this former stronghold of the ancient world. 
From Greece, we traveled to Cyprus, Malta, Spain, Jordan and Israel, all with long histories and a multitude of sites preserved from the days before the modern calendar. In every location, we were awed by the resourcefulness and acumen of the ancient peoples who inhabited these lands. 
When June brought the threat of summer heat, we decided it was time for the cooler temps of Colorado. Since we planned to make another attempt at Machu Picchu in July, we were hoping the Rocky Mountains would also give us an opportunity to acclimate to higher elevations. Though we did adjust while there, the effect didn’t last through the few weeks home before we went south. 
However, Colorado, with its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty, has long been on our list of places to explore more thoroughly, and it did not disappoint. We spent 19 days wandering the picturesque byways and mountain passes, discovering tiny hamlets and villages, venturing into abandoned ghost towns, and pausing in Denver’s urban sprawl (and heat!) only long enough to fly in and out. 
After Ken broke his wrist in Paraguay last summer, we were left with some unfinished business in South America, so we flew back to Lima in July, exactly 51 weeks after our previous arrival. This time there were no injuries (just a little bit of altitude sickness), and we were thrilled to finally visit the legendary Machu Picchu as well as other Incan archaeological sites in Peru. Also back on our agenda was a trip to the spectacular Salar de Uyuni, the expansive Bolivian salt flats, where we had fun with the perspective-bending photography made possible by the vast empty, level landscape. 
Though it wasn’t on our agenda last summer, this time we added Easter Island to the itinerary. We have long been fascinated with this remote, miniscule volcanic island, just 15 miles long and 7.6 wide, and its mysterious moai statues, remnants of a past civilization. As at the other iconic South American destinations, our expectations at Easter Island were exceeded, making it well worth the 5.5-hour flight from Santiago.
With its giant evergreens, majestic snow-capped mountains and lush forests, the Pacific Northwest has been enticing us to return since we first visited the area 20 years ago. October brought a three-week opportunity to ramble around the scenic backroads of Washington, and we jumped at it. From Mount Rainier to the North Cascades, we drove almost 2,000 miles in our little rental car exploring the unique culture, quaint islands, and rugged wilderness of the Evergreen State and still felt there was more to see when we left. (Spoiler alert: We’re going back in 2020.)
Having checked out archaeological wonders on three other continents this year, we decided in November to take a road trip in search of pre-Columbian sites in the United States. And even though our country hasn’t always been conscientious about preserving ancient settlements that predate the arrival of Europeans on the continent, we found much to see. From the mound-building Mississipian cultures of the East and Midwest to the cliff-dwelling ancestral Puebloans of the Southwest, relics abound from the early peoples perennially ignored by writers of U.S. history curricula. Our journey was informed by Tony Horwitz’s excellent book, A Voyage Long and Strange.  

After discovering that the logistics were now easier than we thought, we took a last-minute trip to Havana, Cuba, in December.  It was one of our most fascinating journeys. Though we had previously visited at least seven former Soviet states in Europe, we were not prepared for the stark reality of Cuba’s paralyzed economy. Because of the lingering US embargo and without Soviet assistance, consumer goods are in excruciatingly short supply. Yet, even under these challenging conditions, the people we met through tours and in various locations seemed positive and resilient.  In the last decade, some loosened government restrictions have opened the door for individual Cubans to engage in free enterprise, primarily involving services to tourists.  We are hopeful that this trend will continue.  

2019 Summary

Major Trips
  • Big Apple to Beantown  (January 27-February 3).   Theater in New York, state capitol buildings in CT and RI, but Boston still had too many "closed for winter" signs up.
  • Stepping Into the Past   (March 30-May 12).  Visiting ancient sites around the Mediterranean and checking off remaining European countries we hadn't visited before.
  • Rocky Mountain High  (June 11-29).   Three-week road trip around Colorado taking in its exquisite scenery.
  • Way Down South (July 18-August 7).  Returned to South America to finish what we missed before—Machu Picchu, Bolivian Salt Flats and Easter Island.
  • Wonders of Washington  (October 12-28).   Another intrastate road trip with an oversupply of scenic routes.
  • In Search of Ancient America  (November 9-December 4).  Exploration of ancient sites in North America until we were shut down by snow in Arizona.
  • Luna Fete  (December 13-16).   A last-minute trip to New Orleans for their festival of lights.
  • Journey into the Past  (December 24-28).  A brief trip to Havana and its mid-1900s environment.

States We Visited in 2019

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Louisiana
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Mississippi
  11. New Mexico
  12. New York
  13. North Carolina
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Rhode Island
  16. Tennessee
  17. Texas
  18. Washington

Countries We Visited in 2019

  1. Andorra
  2. Bolivia
  3. Chile
  4. Cuba
  5. Cyprus
  6. Greece
  7. Israel
  8. Jordan
  9. Malta
  10. Peru
  11. Spain
  12. United Kingdom

Other Events in 2019

  • January -Trip to Tallahassee to help investigate adaptive devices for Bruce
  • February - Reunion with Pine family in Newnan
  • March - North Georgia and Alabama letterboxing jaunt
  • May - Grant's high school graduation
  • June- Tameka Hunter's wedding
  • July - Nanamama's 90th birthday party
  • September - Ken's birthday in Blowing Rock (just us)