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Ten memorable experiences of the past 12 months

The author with his motor home in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

In no particular order…

1. Learning to drive a 36-foot motor home, towing a compact car behind, and avoiding as many “big city” traffic hazards as possible by parking the motor home in the outskirts and using the car to get into and around town

2. Having the ability to avoid snow and cold last winter, as well as oppressive heat this summer by taking my motor home to Phoenix and the Seattle/Tacoma areas when the times were right

3. Eating (real) bear stew at the 53rd Annual McCleary Bear Festival in Washington

4. Meeting a fellow at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery (outside Seattle) who saw my Cardinals baseball cap and introduced himself, then finding out that he grew up just a couple of miles from where I did in suburban St. Louis and attended both my elementary and high schools

5. The Cardinals’ end-of-season surge to a surprising World Series victory last October

6. Enjoying a warm, cloudless early May day at Oregon’s breathtaking, deep-blue Crater Lake, at the time still surrounded and enhanced by massive amounts of last winter’s snowfall

7. Being amused by watching locals at a Burger King in Barcelona, Spain, trying to figure out what to do when they were handed empty cups and directed to a brand-new “self serve” ice and soda dispenser of the type that we take for granted in the U.S., but had never been seen before in Europe

8. Lamenting how incredibly rude, self-centered and aggressively hostile American tourists can be when a fistfight was narrowly averted in an elevator I was riding aboard cruise ship Carnival Magic (Please be assured that I was not involved in the confrontation!)

9. Attending thrilling, virtuosic symphony concerts performed by the resident orchestras of Berlin, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco and Oregon

10. Spending the Christmas holidays at remote but magnificent Big Bend National Park in West Texas

My $2 plate of bear stew in McClary, WA

My May visit to Crater Lake National Park, OR

The New York Philharmonic following a concert in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center