Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Best of 2022

I’m constantly amazed and grateful for all the cool experiences that come my way every year and 2022 was full of great memories.  Forty-three items made the list last year and culling them down to the top ten had its usual tough calls.  As usual, I’ll start at number 10 and work down the page to last year’s star.

10.  Watching Duke Beat Boston College at Cameron Indoor Stadium

Seeing a game at Cameron came off my Bucket List in 2018 and for reasons that will become clearer below, getting tickets to see Duke play should be easier.  But instead of seeing a non-conference, no-doubt, winter-break game, this one was against in-conference ACC opponent Boston College.  We sat way up in the rafters, but the stadium’s 9,300-seat capacity means there’s not a bad seat in the house.  Duke won a hard-fought game by a respectable sixteen points in the first year of Jon Scheyer being their head coach.

9.  Dinner at Kindred Spirits at The Inn at Cedar Falls

Last fall we stayed a couple of nights in a cabin at Hocking Hills, Ohio, courtesy of a gift we received from my daughter and son-in-law.  Very rustic and scenic with a hot tub that faced out to an empty forest, well except for the occasional deer and squirrel sighting.  The lodge at Hocking had been completely rebuilt after suffering a fire a few years ago.  We hiked a few of the more popular trails including Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls.  The highlight of the trip was our meal at Kindred Spirits, a restaurant that we only were able to make reservations for because it was off-season and we were willing to dine at 5:00 pm.  I had Sea Scallops in Brown Butter Sauce, Rainbow Carrots, and Wild Rice, which was my best meal of the year.

8.  Duke Beats Miami

In most years we see one football game for each of Elaine’s sons, but 2022 ended with three apiece.  We drove to Durham for Duke’s opening game, twice to Valparaiso, went to the Valparaiso game in Dayton, and to Pittsburgh to nearly freeze to death watching Duke play Pitt.  The highlight of the season was flying to Miami to watch Duke beat “The U” 45-21 on a beautiful sunny Florida day.  We preceded the game with a family tailgate party in one of the remote parking lots.  We spent a total of six days/five nights in Fort Lauderdale for our third Florida vacation of the year.

7.  A Week in Clearwater Beach, FL

The last week of April is a great time to hit the beach in Florida.  It’s past the Spring Break season, rates have just come down, and it’s less crowded and way easier to get into bars and restaurants.  But what made our vacation more special in 2022 was the week of perfect weather.  You always plan for at least one rainy day when spending a week, but for the most part, even the clouds stayed away.  Our routine is to sleep in, take a long walk or run, get cleaned up, and hit the beach, made really easy by being right on the beach.  A little sun, a light lunch, and more sun until the beer buds kick in.  Never gets old.

6.  Super Bowl Game at Jorrge’s

Our favorite restaurant, Jorrge’s, is closed on Sundays but with the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl, he threw a party for a group of his favorite customers for the game.  Everyone brought food in and Jorrge provided the drinks on the house.  It's not very often that you’re allowed to bring food into a restaurant much less drink a pitcher of complimentary margaritas and a few shots of tequila.  Neither one of us are Cincinnati Bengals fans, but we cheered along for three quarters before going home.  We know how the Bengals do in Super Bowl fourth quarters.

5.  Lunch at The Holly Inn in Pinehurst, NC

While visiting our grandson in April, we headed down to Pinehurst to see the area where I’ve played many rounds of golf over the years and to find a place to eat lunch.  The Holly Inn has an outdoor seating area where we could get a bite to eat and gaze around downtown.  We ordered a couple of Bloody Mary drinks and they brought out a bucket of fresh, hot, and salty potato chips.  These chips are addictive and while we’re happy to share a mini-size bag of chips from time to time, we continued snacking until none were left.  Amazing I still had room for the Hot Mess burger I had ordered.

4.  Pat Getting Duke Job

When my wife got off the phone and told me her son was going to be interviewed for the Special Teams Coordinator job at Duke University, I was stunned.  I’ve been a huge fan of Duke Basketball most of my adult life, visited the campus on several occasions, stayed and played golf at their Washington Duke hotel and a few years ago went to a basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  It was unreal that he might have a chance to coach there.  After the interview, it took a couple of weeks before they officially signed him and they began their move from Indiana to North Carolina.  His first season ended with an 8-4 record plus a victory in the Military Bowl.

3.  Brian and Deborah Got Engaged on July 4th

We rented a house, the “Grace FitzPatrick”, in West Palm Beach, Florida for a week in July so we could attend a family celebration and have a week of family time.  Brian brought his girlfriend and secretly an engagement ring.  After a few days of trying to decide a good time and place, he opted for a stroll along a boardwalk where he walked her out a pier and proposed with the ocean in the background.  She couldn’t get “Yes!” out of her mouth fast enough as she smiled ear-to-ear.  I just told them congratulations and that “Independence” Day was an interesting choice for getting engaged.

2.  Cog Railway to Pikes Peak

I had last taken the ride up to Pikes Pike in the summer before my senior year in high school and was eager to do it again.  I didn’t know that the cog train and visitor centers had been shut down and completely redone, reopening just a few months earlier.  We bought tickets in advance and opted to pay a little extra for specific seats which allowed us to face forward during the ascent, which takes about a half-hour more than the return down the mountain.  The trip up delivered one stunning view after another with occasional animal sightings.  The summit is about 40 degrees colder than the base station with a stiff breeze making it even tougher to walk around in its thin air.  A minute into the descent, a pair of Air Force jets buzzed the mountain, giving us an oh-so-brief up-close view of their planes.  

1.  Chicago and Brian Wilson at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado

When friends of ours offered us some extra tickets they had to see the band Chicago and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys at the Red Rocks outdoor amphitheater outside Denver, Colorado, we jumped on it.  We made a five-day journey out of it with the concert being on the last night of the trip.  Heeding the guidance of people we talked to, we took an Uber to the venue which dropped us off at the top where we could easily walk down to our seats near the top.  The view was absolutely stunning with a wall of red rock to our left and downtown Denver in the distance.  The amphitheater is an acoustic wonder and even though we were a fair distance from the stage, the music was loud and crystal clear.  After the concert, we walked all the way down to exit the venue and walked another quarter-mile down to a waiting fleet of taxis that left Red Rocks without a wait.