January 1, 2014
When reflecting on my 2013 travel highlights, I was surprised to find moments both impossibly grand and so small that they were sublimely, and subtly, perfect. I want to hear about your travel highlights from 2013 and will print them in a future Travel Mechanic column, but first, here are mine:
Door County in winter: This Wisconsin peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan is a popular summer destination, but I went for a New Year's Eve breather entering 2013. It was cold, quiet, snowy — and lovely. The roads, lakefront trails and bar stools belonged largely to us and the locals, which offered a reminder that avoiding peak season can be a joy no matter where you go.
Mount Kilimanjaro: I've written about this experience a couple of times, but it's worth one more mention: Hiking to the top of the tallest peak in Africa in February was as rewarding as it was challenging and unforgettable. Several people have since told me Kilimanjaro is on their bucket list. To them I say: Do it.
La Jolla, Calif.: After an eight-hour trip of taxis and airplanes for a wedding last spring, we were ready to be done with stale air and small spaces. We wandered to a restaurant called The Public House, took a spot at the covered patio bar and drank fresh, local craft beer as a hard rain began pounding the streets around us. We relished the Southern California rain, the warmth and the intense joy of being somewhere other than home. Small travel moments like these, I've found, can be as poignant as the grandest experiences.
Pittsburgh and Calgary: These cities don't outwardly have much in common, but I visited both for the first time in 2013 and can report that they share crucial characteristics: sights, food and hospitality that prove unheralded midsize cities can be just as rewarding as the so-called world-class destinations.
Los Cabos: With the aggressive local salesmanship in Cabo San Lucas — and equally aggressive Americans trying so hard to "be on vacation" — I was unsure about nearby Los Cabos at first. But I was lucky enough to meet some locals who took me to Chileno Beach, a spot tourists pass every day but rarely visit because it isn't part of the proscribed tourism experience. Sticking with the locals, instead of the tourists, made all the difference in what turned out to be a remarkable corner of the world.
St. Louis Cardinals baseball game: In St. Louis for work in August, I took in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. I don't root for either team, but in St. Louis, baseball is a cultural, if not religious, experience. The Reds took an early 4-0 lead, but the Cardinals chipped away until loading the bases in the seventh inning. I was perfectly placed in my center-field perch to see Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig rip a first-pitch grand slam that sent what seemed like the entire city into a frenzy. In that moment, I couldn't imagine a more authentic St. Louis experience than being part of that crowd.
Flight 93 Memorial: I wasn't sure what to expect at the site where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, but the memorial's spare design creates a stirring, intimate experience that is highly recommended as a piece of history just as relevant at the Gettysburg battlefield 100 miles to the east.
Now I'd like to hear your travel highlights from 2013, along with a brief explanation of why your trip — or a moment within a trip — has stuck with you. Write to the email address below with the words "Travel Highlights" in the subject line. Include your name and hometown. Replies will be printed in a future column.
Happy travels in 2014.
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