Local treasures


For a moment, letís imagine that Iíve never visited the place you currently call home. If you were being honest, what would you tell me are the things to do?

We all know there are big things in different places. Awesome national parks with incredible views. Theme parks with thrilling attractions, electric parades and fireworks. Monuments and museums and shopping and restaurant chains.

Something for everyone.

But, what about your neighborhood? Iím sure there are some treasures there.

There are people that live in Orlando, New York and northern California. They might recommend Disney World, the Statue of Liberty and Yosemite. Someone in Savannah knows to point toward Mrs. Wilkes.

Terry and I have been trying to find a reliable quality bakery within thirty minutes of our home for decades. No such luck (and the best one just outside of that range closed). But that doesnít mean the local areas are completely void of fun things to do and great places to visit.

Any parent with finicky eaters under the age of ten can explain why national chains are popular. Itís the consistency of the menu. You know you can walk through the doors, sit the child down, place chicken fingers and fries with honey mustard sauce on the table and the child will eat. Headache remedied.

When you need a certain product, walking into a larger store with an expanded inventory and brand names you recognize can be important when you find yourself hundreds of miles away from home.

But the reality of all this is that these places often miss the regional charms. Sales get in the way of originality.

I have this theory about tourist destination shopping plazas. You might know the ones I mean. You park your car and walk along a street lined with all sorts of shops bragging in some way about being local. It seems to be a collection of small-town treasures. But have you looked at the reality? Because thereís a pattern.

Every three doors offer something different, and then things begin to repeat at door number four. First stop, discount baseball caps and palm tree statues and cheap trinkets with stickers of the cityís name placed on them. Second stop, a restaurant or shop, and you pick up a bottle of water. Third shop, something amazingly original, brilliantly designed stuff, and surprises on every shelf. The fourth stop brings more t-shirts.

The goal is to get into as many door number three stops as possible. Unfortunately, the reality of travel and tourism dollars means door number one inventories tend to survive with the best chances of thriving.

(Funny side note, head to Florida. Pick any five cities or towns you want, then find a store in each one that is set up to sell knickknacks to visitors. Then head to San Diego and pick two more stores. Iíd be willing to bet you could find the exact same cheap statue of Santa holding a surfboard in every store. Only difference would be that the surfboards in each store would be personalized with the name of the town you were in.

If I wanted to taste the authentic offerings of the region, do you know a restaurant near you worth a referral?

Is your community known for waterfalls in the parks, gorgeous sunsets over the beaches, or beautiful and well-maintained bike paths?

Whatís the history of the wooden roller coaster at the nearby amusement park?

Iím not saying you have to know. You donít. But chances are good you may be missing out on some wonderful unique opportunities. Get outside and live a little. (And if you find a bakery, let me know.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com