The Canterburys - Christmas 2023

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Friends, welcome to post-pandemic life! I don’t panic anymore if someone gets too close to me, although someone coughing near me still gives me pause. I’m sad for those we lost and their families, and for those still suffering the effects of long COVID. I still think back on the book I read in 2020, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. A key learning is that a pandemic doesn’t suddenly end, but tapers off and becomes less deadly until it falls beneath public notice.

We have been in our current home just shy of 11 years, a new record in a single location for us – the previous record was 10½ years in Twinsburg, Ohio. We love our home here in central North Carolina, an area we moved to 15½ years ago. Even so, we felt compelled to spend some time away from home as we tried to catch up on deferred travel. We spent many weeks traveling together to faraway places this year, as you’ll see below. Jerry had a few additional weeks of travel for cycling adventures.

February brought the return of our annual Groundhog Day party, the 11th annual version of this event. We then continued the month with a trip to Florida for a family reunion and an 80th birthday for Jerry’s dad.

One week in March was very stressful as two of our three cats stopped eating. Spats (left) and Chaplin (center) are littermates and we thought were going to lose them both as they started losing weight quickly. Four costly visits to the emergency veterinarian later, we finally had the right combination of nutrition and medication to return them to normal. They are fully recovered and a little too heavy since once they started eating again, they never wanted to stop. These two have been with us for nine years now and are about 11½ years old. Tiger on the other had perfect health for the year. We still think of him as the ‘new’ cat and it came as a surprise when we realized it’s been five years since he entered our lives. He is now seven years old.

In late May and early June, Jerry jetted off to Belgium with friends for two weeks of exploration of breweries while riding bicycles with a specialty tour company called Beercycling. This was Jerry’s second cycling visit to Belgium but to a less hilly section than last time. Much of the trench warfare of World War I was fought in this area so history was a recurring theme of this trip.

After a brief visit home, Jerry and Nancy visited Iceland for the first time. After a few days in the capital city of Reykjavík, we took a driving tour that circumnavigated the island nation by traversing the Ring Road while also spending some time on the tourist route called the Golden Circle. It was a trip full of waterfalls and glorious scenery. Even though it rained frequently, and even snowed on the Fourth of July! – we made the most of it and enjoyed our time in this beautiful country. The most adventurous part of the journey was snorkeling at Silfra, in the crack that separates the North American and European continents. We wore dry suits as the water temperature was about 35°F. We just missed Iceland’s Litli-Hrútur volcanic eruption which began not far from the airport as were sitting on the plane waiting to depart for home. In fact, our flight was placed on a brief hold until they confirmed there was no risk to our plane.

After another brief visit home, Jerry left once again, this time for the annual RAGBRAI event, a week-long, 500-mile bicycle trip crossing the entirety of Iowa in late July. Starting at the western border, 50,000 people cycle across the state, either the full distance as I did or just certain days, typically camping overnight in a small town before heading out the next morning to the next evening’s destination. This was Jerry’s fourth time completing this challenge and this year was the most challenging as the week was exceedingly hot with temperatures above 100°F. A thunderstorm on the evening before the final day of riding knocked down his tent and soaked his belongings. Fortunately, he wasn’t in the tent at the time and found alternate sleeping arrangements on a concrete floor, but even with minimal sleep, he was able to pull everything together to reach the eastern border, the Mississippi River.

After spending a few weeks at home to rest, the two of us ventured out again for a brief trip to the mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway (“America’s Favorite Drive!”) to experience fall colors.

While Iceland was supposed to be our big vacation for the year, an unexpected offer arose that was too good to pass up which led us to venture to Antarctica for our third time. This cruise started in Argentina and focused on the failed 1914-1917 Endurance expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton and thus included visits to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. And, while we unfortunately bypassed Elephant Island, we instead visited A23A, the world’s largest iceberg – 32x40 nautical miles in size. The trip was full of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and glaciers. At nearly four weeks long from mid-November to mid-December, this adventure was our longest ever. We don’t expect to stretch a vacation that long too often.

Around these adventures, we continued our regular activities at home. Nancy volunteers at Safe Haven for Cats, a local non-profit cat shelter; sings in three local choirs; and serves in leadership positions for the Woman’s Club of Raleigh, the Cary Community Choir, and TeamCBC, a local bicycling club. Jerry has continued his athletic activities of swimming, biking, and running, and has continued to learn to play piano for another year.

Please hug all your friends and family this holiday season and tell them you love them!  We wish you the happiness and joy you deserve this holiday season!

Nancy and Jerry Canterbury

PS: If you want to see more photos of our trips, check out our Facebook pages or travel blog. (The blog is new but expanding soon!)