Going Places

His grown daughter won some money–not much, especially after taxes. But she knows that if it sits in her bank account very long, she’ll buy something superfluous and ultimately not all that satisfying.

So she calls her father (who had read about her jackpot on her Facebook page.) Before she tells him why she called, he jokes “I read about your winnings. Now you can afford to put us in The Home with all the cat food we can eat!”

“Yeah, the unexpected money is why I called. Let’s you and me take a trip! Soon!”

She had taken her mom to New York City a few years back. They’d gone to a couple of plays and seen the sights. Christmas, the mention had been made of a father-trip, then as quickly disappeared below the waves of holiday busy-ness. But with this windfall chunk of change, now, it was not only possible, but imminent, and decisions had to be made.

Where should they go? There are so many places he’s never been. It would be so easy to blow him away with the natural landscapes he’s read about all his life but never expected to see. He would take his camera and his binoculars; his field guides and his laptop for writing. He’s so rarely traveled with any intent to enjoy the experience. Vacation is a word he’s never used for any time spent away from home. This would be about as close as he’s likely to come.

And he’s asking for suggestions. The sky’s not the limit, but plane tickets, a few nights’ lodging, a dozen meals and some park fees and such are in budget. May is the likely month.

Send them someplace nice. Bring them back with indelible memories of the American landscape–or at least as much as can be seen for one winning poker hand in Deadwood. The old dude needs to get out and see this good earth he so often writes about before he settles back in his ergonomic easy chair to travel in Google Earth reality.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. The Grand Canyon should be on the list if you haven’t seen it. My only other suggestion is The big island of Hawaii to see Volcanoes National Park and all the other wonderful places to see there.

    I have not been to enough other places to be able to suggest what I think you might like.

  2. Southern Utah, Zion and Arches National Park? Alternately, you go go North and visit the Grand Tetons / Yellowstone area. May should be before high tourist season kicks in too.

  3. I’ll throw in a suggestion. Take a look at Charleston, SC. Beautiful city, lots of history, more things to see than you’ll have time for, ample photo ops and good climate in May.
    If you visit the site of the mortar at Fort Johnson that fired the signal shot 150 years ago, you’ll only be 4 miles from where i spent most of my life!

  4. One of my favorite sacred places is the Muir Woods north of San Francisco. A day wondering in the big trees followed by a drive up US1 to Point Reyes… Every time I’ve been in the neighborhood, it’s been a trip I’ve had to make…

  5. Gary, that is where I’ve been sending Google Maps and the browser this morning. Not sure where to fly into for that stretch, plus Redwoods. Have friends in Eugene that could work in the mix, but too many degrees of freedom. I mean, open-ended planning? Unheard of in my prior life!

  6. Since I was always starting from San Fran and business trips with a rental and a day off, it was never a planned trip. But the Muir Woods were just across the bay and anytime spent their was nature time well spent. And leaving there and driving north on 1 as the sun sets into the Pacific is a drive I rank right up there with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Sadly, I have never had the opportunity to make it further north. Also, you gotta want to follow in Ansel’s footsteps just bit and try for your own interpretation of the “Moon Over Halfdome”…

  7. We go to the Moab UT area every spring with a group of friends to mountain bike, hike and explore. We camp on BLM land. The first year we went my husband and I sat behind our tent on a ledge and looked down below and spotted some petroglyphs! The wildflowers are often quite spectacular, and the scenery is certainly a change from SW VA. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are close by too!

    We did a spring break in the Point Reyes Area a few years ago. The Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve was an amazing spot I’d recommend. We stayed in Olema and explored the park from there.

    This past June we were in Santa Fe for a conference and rented a great little casita for less then the cost of a hotel. Can hike in Bandelier National monument, Check out art work, eat amazing food, go to Taos etc!

    So many great places to explore!!! Organ Pipe NM, Big Bend NP, Yellowstone, Denali …………………………

  8. Thanks, all, keep’em coming–even though I’ll never get a lick of work done for playing Walter Mitty World Traveler. Not sure how many days we’ll have but daughter has two of her own, and the papa’s tolerance for being the lone parent may set the boundaries. More known re all that soon.

  9. Just got in from San Francisco today. Floyd-by-the-Bay. OK, maybe 10,000 Floyds-by-the-Bay. Really. Go to North Beach (Columbus) and sit down at any number of Odd Fella Cantinas and enjoy. It is amazing and already warming up. You should go there. Then we can compare notes. You will agree. Floyd = SF/10,000 by size, but fully equal in charm.

  10. My daughter, Greta lives in the SF bay area now, and used to live very near Point Reyes. Beautiful country! There are a few other Floydians out there too. Greta’s living there reminds me of my time there in the 60’s. 🙂 Email me if you decide to go that way. I also like the idea of the western national parks.

  11. I have a brother who lived in Santa Fe for many years, now he lives up the valley a little. I’ve visited there, beautiful country, lots of art, and good food. Earlier than May I think for more desert blooms.

  12. Southern Utah (esp. Canyonlands/Arches), redwoods of northern Calif. and Yellowstone (bison, grizzlies, etc.) . I did a loop through the western Nat. Parks and those were my favorite places. Grand Canyon’s good too, but I found the vastness almost too much.

  13. I second or third the option of going to California. I drove north from San Diego years ago along Coast Highway 1 and was just blown away by the beauty of the drive. I made it across the Golden Gate bridge and drove maybe 50 miles north, but then turned around and headed south again. I’d love to go back some day.