Yes, some musicians and actors and athletes I like died, and we had a really contentious and nasty Presidential election, but entertainers and politicians aren’t responsible for my day-to-day (or year-to-year) happiness or contentment; I am.

This was the most successful year I’ve ever had professionally and financially, but that’s not how to measure whether a year was great or not.  For me, it’s in large part concerts and travel.

This year, I got to see Madonna, Prince, Duran Duran, They Might Be Giants, Van Morrison, Smashing Pumpkins + Liz Phair, Willie Nelson + Kris Kristofferson, Cyndi Lauper, Journey + Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, The Cure, Guns & Roses + The Cult, Richard Marx, Kanye West, Heart + Joan Jett + Cheap Trick, Adel, and Beyonce in concert.

I traveled to the Hike Inn in north GA (twice), Washington DC (twice), New Orleans, San Antonio, Edinburgh + York + London, Hadrian’s Wall hiking trail from Carlisle to Newcastle, Amelia Island, the Hiwassee River for kayaking, Dallas for a Bama game, Lake Guntersville to see my parents, St Simons Island, Cumberland Island, and Nashville (thrice).  Even better, most of these trips included my wife and children.

For the past 3 days, I’ve been in Phoenix + the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert + Monument Valley + the Grand Canyon (where I am now!) with my family.  Today, I stood where Forrest Gump stood when he stopped his 3+ years of running and decided to go home (and I made a reenactment video of same).

I can only hope we can have as many exciting adventures,  good fortune, great health, and wise decisions in 2017 as we’ve had in 2016.  And I hope the same for you.

Not long ago, my friend Jeff Bogle told me Kia was sponsoring a road trip from Atlanta to Nashville a few days before Thanksgiving and asked if I’d like to participate.  He promised good food, good music, and good company.

The last time I’d spent any time with Bogle was when we walked 100 miles across England to raise over $40,000 for Camp Kesem last summer.  As awesome as that was, the opportunity to drive a couple hundred miles instead was quite appealing.

We started with brunch at South City Kitchen, one of my favorite places to eat around these parts.  Then, we took off in our Optima Hybrid for a stop for coffee in Chattanooga.  Bogle found a mural and went to work creating artful photographs.

Once we arrived in Nashville, we walked to Third Man Records to check out some vinyl (the conversation during the mile or so walk there lead me to ask Santa for the record player Bogle has, so, hopefully, I too will want to walk to obscure record stores across train tracks in newly-visited cities in search of vinyl, too!).  Then, we had dinner at Union Common and hit Winner’s Bar and Losers Bar in the Gulch area before sleeping at Lowes Vanderbilt.

The next morning started at Pancake Pantry, where obscene amounts of processed meats and maple drizzled carbs provided the base coat for a day of exploring Franklin (just south of Nashville).  Our first stop in Franklin was the Factory, where we toured  Artisan Guitars (and got leather guitar straps as gifts that I’ve already affixed to my Taylor) before visiting Honest Coffee Roasters and myriad other little shops.

Then, we toured Arrington Vineyards and tasted lots of wines and chocolates and cheeses, and even the most Philistine among us felt sophisticated.  We all got to bring home a dessert wine and additional bottle of our choosing (I went with the Red Fox red; it was delicious).

After that, Bogle drove the Kia (he abstains from the firewater, so I tend to take his share, as I really can’t stand waste), and we headed back into town to let him take some pictures by the river and of Second Ave (where I could lament the absence of all the places I used to visit in high school and college, when I called nearby Hendersonville, Tennessee “home”).

Dinner was at Merchants, where I had dinner before one of my high school proms.  Then, the whole group went out to hear live music and enjoy the Nashville night life on a Tuesday.  Stops included the Valentine, Coyote Ugly, Skull’s Rainbow Room, Crazytown, Robert’s, Tootsie’s.

When the last haunt closed at 2:30am, we listened a talented busker channel Randy Travis on the sidewalk by Broadway before catching a 3am cab back to the hotel, so Bogle could pack and make his 5am flight.

The next morning, I drove back to Atlanta.

This was a wonderful trip.  I loved the conversation and scenery along I-75 north and I-24 west.  I loved the myriad live music venues we got to experience Tuesday night.  I loved the meals we enjoyed and the folks who surrounded me at each one.  As someone who’s had a 6,000# vehicle for the past 5 years or so, I also enjoyed driving the peppy little Optima that never seemed to need gas!  I’m grateful to Bogle for extending the invitation and to the folks at Kia for including me in this adventure (to read Bogle’s synopsis of this trip, click here).

And speaking of adventures, in just a couple weeks, our family will take Sorento on a national park filled roadtrip from Phoenix to Atlanta!

For our 11th anniversary, we flew to Jacksonville on Veterans Day, took a shuttle to a ferry at Fernandina Beach, and then disembarked at Cumberland Island for a quarter mile walk along a sandy road to the Greyfield Inn, our home for the weekend.  We grabbed a pair of bikes and road a couple miles to the Dungeness Ruins, ate a picnic lunch, and saw some wild horses, armadillos, and turkeys.

horses-by-ruins

But mostly, we just stood still, looking and listening.

ruins

I’d never been to Cumberland Island before.  I guess I was expecting a less inhabited version of St. Simons, Jekyll, or Amelia, but it was completely different.  No paved roads, condos, traffic lights, or commercial signs.  No traffic noises.  In fact, there was hardly any sound at all.  It was the most peaceful location I’ve ever visited.

sunset

After our bike ride and watching the sun set, we cleaned up and went downstairs for dinner and shared a meal with an attorney from south Georgia whose wife was turning 40 and wanted to spend the weekend where they’d spent her 30th, and a couple from Jacksonville who came up just for dinner on their anniversary. The food and wine pairings were as perfect as I can remember having anywhere.

The next morning, we had a large breakfast before climbing into the back of a truck for a tour of the beach, the woods, and the little church where JFK Jr. got married.

truck-on-beach

little-church

After a picnic lunch, we hopped back onto the back of the truck and toured Plum Orchard, where Lucy Carnegie’s granddaughter (Lucy Ferguson) lived for a time, and we marveled at her wallpaper choices.

plum-orchard

After the return trip, we had an oyster roast, which is by far the best way to eat oysters, I’m now convinced.

oyster-roast

with-d-at-gf-inn

An hour later, it was cocktail hour, which I interpreted as “Very High End Bourbon Hour,” before another wonderful dinner, this time spent with the former CEO of Hunter Fans (the realization of which caused me to inform him just how many of of his fans are in my and my parents’ house; he was both pleased and astounded).

The next morning meant another large and delicious breakfast before we walked around the hotel grounds and meandered down to the dock where the ferry took us back to the mainland.

horses

A weekend at the Greyfield Inn is a ferry to a simpler, quieter time.  Cellphones aren’t allowed (and barely have coverage anyway), and everyone there is celebrating something special.  I don’t remember what it costs, but it ain’t cheap.  However, lodging includes the ferry there and back, gourmet meals, and use of kayaks, bikes, and other outdoor and indoor equipment during the stay, in addition to guided tours around the island.  The service is impeccable.  The experience is “grown up” in every sense of the word, and given our attendance immediately after the most antagonistic and adolescent national election in memory, the trip could not have come at a better time.

I can’t wait to go back.