Friday, January 24, 2014

Citizen Of The World

A lot of those borders didn’t exist when I was there.
If you liked the map of American states I have visited, then this should be a nice companion piece. The map above shows all of the European countries I have visited. Throw in Canada and Mexico and you now have my entire résumé as a world traveler.

The world was quite different when I went to Europe in 1978. For one thing, the Iron Curtain was still down and my family could not visit many places that otherwise might have been appealing. Even southern Italy was closed to us … not by Soviet tanks but by the fear of violence following Aldo Moro’s assassination. My parents, my sister and I visited most of western Europe in the company of a friend who was in the United States Air Force. Our route often took us to American military bases where we did laundry and ate fried chicken. In that pre-Internet era, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes was my only link to the Major League Baseball season that I was missing. (We were in France while the Tour de France was going on, but at that time baseball was my only sporting concern.)

Our friend was stationed in Madrid, but as an officer he lived with his wife and sons in a suburban home. Arriving there early in the morning on the first day of our trip, I was wide awake and excited. Everyone else wanted to sleep, but the sun was already up so I grabbed a bike from the garage and headed out to explore the neighborhood. I didn’t know that its brakes weren’t working properly until I really needed them, and I’m lucky that I didn’t suffer a serious crash. That brief misadventure in Spain remains my only cycling experience on foreign roads.

I have not been outside of the US since July 1980 when my family spent a couple of days in Canada as part of a larger trip. In recent years I have been challenged just to visit family and friends right here in America, so traveling overseas hasn’t even been the stuff of daydreams. It would be nice to visit the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia for the first time. And it would be nice to return to continental Europe as a cyclist. I can imagine myself taking on the cobbled roads and steep bergs that are used in the spring classics. Not this year, though.

In an earlier blog post I mentioned the possibility of a business trip to Atlanta, but that proposal now appears to be off the table. So, I am moving forward with plans to visit Pennsylvania in late March. Hopefully the weather will turn around by then, because I am going to need lots of time in the saddle while I’m on vacation.

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