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2016 in Review: It Wasn't All That Bad

2016 in Review: It Wasn't All That Bad

Who here is eager to see 2016 see itself the heck out the door? There’s been a lot of negative, ugly, and tragic in the news this year. This year saw numerous foreign conflicts and catastrophes, a contentious and divisive presidential election, and the death of too many public icons to count. Coincidental as it may be that all of this bad juju fell within the same year, I’m sure many of you are as anxious as I am to turn the calendar.

Upon further review, however, 2016 wasn’t all bad. I came across an uplifting recap of the year from a national and international news perspective via CNN that got me thinking about the positives from this year. If you’ve followed along with Collin, Mike, and I since we launched Cities | Places | Things back in April, you may have noticed some really exciting developments and experiences. In an attempt to sprint into 2017 on a positive foot, I wanted to reflect on my year and recognize all the good, from trips and celebrations to my favorite new things.

The Travel Bug

Both work and play enabled me to bounce around the U.S. this year, soaking in the local offerings of Albuquerque, NM; Austin, TX; Bloomington, IN; Bozeman, MT; Charlottesville, VA; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; Outer Banks, NC; Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; South Bend, IN; and Wilmington, NC. There’s a glaring neglect of the Northeast in my travel this year that I’ll do my best to remedy in 2017. Toss me your recommendations!

"Duncan, don't eat it. It's not snow."

"Duncan, don't eat it. It's not snow."

Additionally, Rachael and I enjoyed the most adventurous and exotic excursion upon which either of us has ever embarked during our trip to Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Kenya. Our immersion into unknown foreign cultures and visits to iconic natural wonders has me eager for another off-the-grid international trip in the near future. Whether or not that occurs in 2017 remains to be seen, but I’d love to explore South America or some of the less developed nations of East Asia.

There are few views that can rival this one overlooking Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, with the best travel partner, I might add. 

There are few views that can rival this one overlooking Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, with the best travel partner, I might add. 

Family Visits

For the first time since moving to DC, Rachael and I paid all of our parents visits to their homes within the same calendar year. Our semi-regular, ten-plus hour, highway pilgrimage back to South Bend is the quickest and easiest trip to see family, and this year an eighth-grade graduation, a five-year college reunion, and my grandma’s 80th birthday provided plenty of reasons for a homecoming. My inaugural trip(s) to Portland for work and, more importantly, Thanksgiving with the Riders offered a taste of the Pacific Northwest that still has me raving. And as of this past week, Rachael experienced her first visit to Big Sky country for Christmas at the Griffin Barn in Bozeman, MT. Here’s to hoping completing the trifecta becomes an annual occurrence rather than an aberration.

Friends Tying the Knot

I love weddings, probably because I love love. Not only are they festive occasions that typically offer complimentary beverages and an excuse to flail about as if I know how to dance, they’re also a wonderful testament to the two people for whom all the guests are celebrating. This year especially, Rachael and I witnessed the union of some people very dear to us. Lauren and Jared flashed their Hoosier pride during their spring wedding on Indiana University’s beautiful campus. Alex and Ellie tied the knot high up in hill country outside of Austin, TX. Justin and Jackie convinced the Franciscan Monastery in Northeast DC to host their first wedding in decades, a party that concluded with a raucous Disney sing-along medley led by the bride and groom. Ali and Josh were married in a beautiful ceremony in a church on Capitol Hill, and then threw one of the most impressive dance parties I’ve ever witnessed. And finally, Ryan and Jules celebrated with friends and family at a picturesque vineyard in Charlottesville, VA, with good beer and music lasting late into the evening. Congratulations again to all of our newly married friends, and thank you so much for including us in your celebrations!

I kept my hands to my sides the entire afternoon at the Nepola-Zavilla wedding, so as to not break anything.

I kept my hands to my sides the entire afternoon at the Nepola-Zavilla wedding, so as to not break anything.

Fly the W, Cubs Win!

Despite growing up watching the vast majority of Chicago Cubs baseball games during my summer breaks in South Bend, I’ll admit that I’ve been a negligent fan for the past few years. Nevertheless, the Cubs’ historic run through the playoffs on the way to their 2016 World Series Championship was an experience I’ll remember my whole life. From top to bottom, the team was exciting and inspiring throughout the season unlike any baseball team I’ve ever seen. I’ll remember watching game 7 with a host of friends, my wife, and my diehard Cubs evangelizer brother-in-law at Union Pub on Capitol Hill and the tearfully victorious FaceTime call to the Riders at the end of the game my whole life. I’ll also regret not hopping in the car that week to join 7 million other people celebrating in Chicago my whole life.

In the early innings of 2016 WS Game 7, we were all feeling pretty loose. Later the yelling, cursing, and ugly crying intensified.

In the early innings of 2016 WS Game 7, we were all feeling pretty loose. Later the yelling, cursing, and ugly crying intensified.

Can’t Stop the Music

It’s always fun to look back on the music you discovered or rediscovered over the year. I finally made it to U Street Music Hall in DC for several shows this year, including The Wild Feathers and Black Pistol Fire, and also caught Father John Misty and Local Natives at Lincoln Theatre and 9:30 Club, respectively. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and Lord Huron played on a picturesque early summer evening at Wolf Trap. Throw in another incredible Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds performance at Hamilton Live downtown, and I’d call it a successful live music year.

Still recovering from the facial trauma suffered at the Black Pistol Fire Concert back in June.

Still recovering from the facial trauma suffered at the Black Pistol Fire Concert back in June.

Additionally, some of my favorite artists and albums I encountered this year include: Jamestown Revival, Run the Jewels, Umphrey’s McGee’s Zonkey, Rival Sons, Possessed by Paul James, The Revivalists, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Let Me Get By, Chance the Rapper, and Anderson Paak. What were your favorite tunes of 2016?

Podcasts

Speaking of good stuff for your ears, have you guys heard about these podcast things? Apparently they’ve been around for most of my life, but for some reason, I just discovered the joys of podcasts thanks to a longer commute to my current office. My 45-minute metro ride or 30 minute bike ride from home to Crystal City in Northern Virginia provides the perfect time period to consume a podcast or two. My favorites include the witty, often sophomoric banter of The Beerists Craft Beer Podcast, uplifting stories of outdoors challenge and triumph on the Dirtbag Diaries, live performances on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, and the dissection of songs by their creators on Song Exploder. Throw in some current events, specifically environmental and climate news and analysis on PRI’s Living on Earth and BBC’s Costing the Earth, and my commutes to work tend to go much more smoothly this year.

Doggo and wifey reaching new heights in 2016.

Doggo and wifey reaching new heights in 2016.

Four More Beers

Maybe it’s a problem at this point. If I visit a new town, or even a familiar place for that matter, you can bet that I’m going to pay a visit to a local brewery or 12. If you pinned the location of every brewery I visited this year from sea to sudsy sea, it would look like a game of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. A really boozy game of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. From the delicious breweries in Portland, OR, including Rogue and Deschutes, Lagunitas in the Bay Area, Map Brewery in Bozeman, Austin Beerworks, Evil Czech in South Bend, to Blue Mountain Brewery, Hardywood, The Veil and Adroit Theory in Virginia, it was a transatlantic tour of America’s continually maturing craft beer scene.

A pint of Fire Eagle from Austin Beerworks was absolutely necessary on this bajillion degree Texas afternoon.

A pint of Fire Eagle from Austin Beerworks was absolutely necessary on this bajillion degree Texas afternoon.

However, one local brewery rises to the top in my mind. Atlas Brew Works’ tap room has become a second home of sorts, and the rallying point for post-hike beer and pizza, birthday celebrations, reunions, or just a casual drink with friends and neighbors. The team at Atlas is friendly, generous, and attentive. You can bet I’ll be spending some of the few remaining hours there as well as kicking off 2017 at their Northeast DC location. If you haven’t visited Atlas, put it at the top of your brew tour list!

I've been waiting for an excuse to post this picture. Adroit Theory, feel free to use this photo of CP for your promotional materials.

I've been waiting for an excuse to post this picture. Adroit Theory, feel free to use this photo of CP for your promotional materials.

 

In a nutshell, that’s my 2016 in review! Despite all of the negative news, it was a memorable year with plenty to be thankful for, and this writing project has proven to be an excellent vehicle for reflection and appreciation of the smaller, oft-overlooked moments. What are some of your favorite moments or discoveries from 2016? Let us know.

Dipping my foot back into the Red White and Blue.

Dipping my foot back into the Red White and Blue.

Tackling the 2016 Slope

Tackling the 2016 Slope