Monday, January 01, 2018 Road Junkies 0 Comments

In our 2018 travels, we became enamored with two parts of the globe we had never visited before this year—Eastern Europe and South America.  We also had some fun times stateside with one month-long road trip in the U.S.  

Our first journey of the year took us to the 34th International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  The contest is the culmination of a year-long series of local competitions around the world.  We gorged for four days on a smorgasbord of the world's best blues music with 250 bands performing at a variety of venues around Beale Street.

In the spring we embarked on a 73-day road trip to the Balkan peninsula and train travel across other parts of Europe.  Along the way, we visit 21 countries, converted prices in 12 currencies, learned a handful of key phrases in 14 languages, and traversed a total of 14,640 miles.  A we enjoyed some spectacular autumn splendor and historic sites.

Though we found the people in the post-Communist eastern European area to be warm and welcoming, Albania in particular stood out as a beacon of hospitality, both to visitors and to each other.  We loved our time there as we encountered one Albanian after another eager to engage with us and to go many extra miles to smooth our way.

Another highlight of the trip was connecting with family in Italy.  With a long weekend off from their summer study abroad program in Florence, grandnieces Karoline and Whitney hopped the train with visiting dad Joey and his wife Sally and met us in Venice to explore the alleyways, canals and islands of that magical city.  By the time we returned home, we had just two far-flung European countries to visit—Andorra and Malta—before we could complete our continental checklist.

When summer temperatures invaded Georgia, we headed to South America.  Seasonally opposite weather and in similar time zones, so no jet lag!  Arriving in the middle of July, we flitted from one capital city to another in the center of the continent—Lima to Santiago to Buenos Aires to Montevideo. Unfortunately, while exploring a historic cemetery in Asuncion, Ken fell and broke his wrist.  So our journey ended 3.5 weeks early as we returned stateside for medical treatment.

Like 2017, we hit the road from Florida to Virginia this yea to break bread with family and friends in their home towns and give us a chance to catch up on their lives.  Circumstances divided this year's Meals on Wheels journey into two segments:  southbound in the spring and northbound in the fall.  In a total of 33 days of travel, we enjoyed 41 meals with 97 friends and relatives in nine states.  

With both of us wearing Apple watches, which track our activity, we also became invested in being more consistent with our exercise.  For the first time, we made it a point to walk at least five miles a day, resulting in our both feeling more fit and healthy.

2018 Summary

Major Trips
  • International Blues Challenge  (January 18-21). Competing blues musicians performing in venues along Beale Street.
  • Meals on Wheels, South  (February 10-25).  Visiting and dining with family and friends in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
  • Balkans and Beyond  (March 26-June 6).  73 days of road tripping around the Balkan peninsula + train journey from Venice to Amsterdam.
  • Points South  (July 24-August 9).  Exploration of several South American countries cut short by an orthopedic injury.
  • Meals on Wheels, North  (October 14-30).  Road trip to the Carolinas and Virginia dining with family and friends.

  • Midwest Meanderings  (November 29-December 28).  A road trip through the Midwest, visiting state capitols and other points of interest, highlighted by a thrilling hockey game in Fort Wayne.

States We Visited in 2018

  1. Alabama
  2. Delaware
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. Kentucky
  8. Maryland
  9. Michigan
  10. Minnesota
  11. Mississippi
  12. Missouri
  13. North Carolina
  14. Ohio
  15. South Carolina
  16. Tennessee
  17. Virginia
  18. West Virginia
  19. Wisconsin

Countries We Visited in 2018

  1. Albania
  2. Argentina
  3. Austria
  4. Bosnia
  5. Brazil
  6. Bulgaria
  7. Chile
  8. Croatia
  9. Germany
  10. Hungary
  11. Italy
  12. Kosovo
  13. Liechtenstein
  14. Macedonia
  15. Moldova
  16. Montenegro
  17. Netherlands
  18. Paraguay
  19. Peru
  20. Romania
  21. San Marino
  22. Serbia
  23. Slovakia
  24. Switzerland
  25. Ukraine
  26. Uruguay

Other Events in 2018

  • May - Venice with Joey, Sally, Karoline and Whitney
  • June - Shoe Shopper trip to Ellijay, GA (Dianne)
  • July - To Millry for Nanamama's 89th birthday
  • November - Attended Grant's last football game
  • November- Chris and Paul's wedding
  • November - Thanksgiving in Millry
  • November - Letterboxing event near Augusta