My husband Hunt and I have started our eleven-day car trip through Southside and Southwest Virginia. This is not your typical vacation. Let me explain. Earlier this year I realized I don't know parts of Virginia as well as I would like. I have gone all over the state for various commission meetings but those are very programmed and rushed.
Hunt and I were reading The Extremes of Virginia by August Wallmeyer and we agreed we should visit sometime. The two regions are facing daunting challenges -- economic, educational, lifestyle, workforce, and health. Local leaders and economic development officials are working very hard with mixed results. The state is trying to assist but often we are uncertain what exactly to do.
In April I was asked a question at a large Leadership Arlington breakfast: "What are you doing to make people in the rest of the state understand the needs of Northern Virginia?"
My instant response was that I thought they will listen to me more if I listen to them more. And, then, in an off-handed way I mentioned that my husband and I were thinking of a trip this summer.
I should have known better! The comment was picked up in Arlington Now. That article was put on a statewide news clipping service. It was read by the editor of the Roanoke Times, Dwayne Yancey. He wrote an editorial about my trip and asked readers to send suggestions on what we should see.
We got a really heartwarming response. People from all over the region sent ideas, some invited us to visit them at their home. Significantly, Augie Wallmeyer (the author who wrote the book) offered his help and helped guide our choices. He will join us a couple days.
My fear is that we are overbooked but I am so excited by the prospects of the trip. We will visit Farmville, Danville, Martinsville, Marion, Bristol, Abington, and Galax. We have contacts everywhere -- mostly with people we have never met but who reached out to us.
I'll let you know the highlights of the trip when we get back.