By Victor Block
If the current "don't travel far from home" regimen has you down in the dumps, take heart. A world of wonder awaits, and it may be no farther away than where you live or close by.
The lock-down protocols that have curtailed far-flung excursions don't mean you have to hide the car keys, stash walking shoes, and postpone thoughts of seeing places and taking part in activities that give you pleasure.
Some time spent using your imagination — and your computer — is likely to call up a surprisingly inviting list of activities and places you may not have known or might have forgotten are close to home. From art to movies, gardens to ghosts the choices are many. Let this brief introduction energize your imagination and get you going. You could end up with a heightened sense of appreciation for where you live.
Art is all around us, not just confined to museums. Here are two examples: The Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida, display murals that cover the sides of abandoned warehouses. More than 100 artists from more than 20 countries have exhibited here, and their creations have helped to elevate street art to a respected genre.
The color-saturated walls of buildings serve as canvases for murals in the Foundry District of Fort Worth, Texas. The works by local artists, which line appropriately named Inspiration Alley, are a sampling of outdoor art scattered around that city. Restaurants, shops and other establishments behind the paintings add to the appeal of a visit to this neighborhood.
Meadows, woodlands and wetlands occupy the site of the Storm King Art Center, an hour's drive from New York City. They provide a setting for large modern and contemporary sculptures along with drawings and photographs that round out the collection. While the 500-acre outdoor museum is the best-known art park in the United States, dozens more are located elsewhere.
Mother Nature is the focus at the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, which is considered to be the most authentic in the world outside of Japan. Among eight areas tucked into the compact space are a sand and stone garden, bonsai terrace and tea garden overlooked by a graceful teahouse.
Ghosts, rather than gardens, also can be the object of nearby excursions. Many people who live in, or near, the small town of Napanoch, New York, are aware that the Haunted Shanley Hotel has several resident ghosts. One is believed to be
Beatrice Rowley, the wife of James Shanley, who purchased the property in 1906. Beatrice lost three children at young ages, and hotel guests have reported seeing a woman in period dress wandering the hallways and getting whiffs of the perfume she is known to have favored.
An even older story is told in the tiny village of Whaleyville, Maryland, one of countless places around the country where interesting chapters of history come to life. The miniscule community (population about 150) was founded around 1670 by Gen. Edward Whaley, a fugitive from the English Puritan revolution taking place at the time.
Some of the town's original buildings have been incorporated into more recently constructed homes as kitchens or other adjuncts. While no signs identify these remnants of early dwellings, local residents usually can point them out to passersby interested enough to ask.
Dyersville, Iowa, is larger (population about 4,500) than Whaleyville, and its claim to fame is based on fiction rather than fact. A farm there still contains the baseball diamond depicted in the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams." Fans of the motion picture show up to check out the farmhouse and regulation-size field where the action took place.
A very different site played the role of the Shawshank State Prison in "The Shawshank Redemption." Among places awaiting exploration at the brooding Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield are Warden Norton's office, the Parole Board meeting room and the tunnel through which Andy Dufresne escaped.
If you think Shawshank is an unusual word, how about Zzyzx Road, Puddin' Ridge Road and Capitalsaurus Court? They're among names of streets that are, to say the least, curious. Searching for others near where you live, then researching the source of their designation can provide an enjoyable pursuit without leaving home.
Zzyzk Road, which runs 4.5 miles through the Mojave Desert, got its name from a man who established a health spa in the area in 1944 and sought a unique identity. The word, which has been officially adopted by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, usually is pronounced Zye or Zex.
According to lore, Puddin' Ridge Road in Moyock, North Carolina, was so named because locals said that trying to traverse it following a heavy rain before it was paved was like wading through thick pudding. The discovery of dinosaur bones near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., prompted city officials to adopt the moniker Capitalsaurus Court for a one-block stretch of the street near where they were uncovered.
The names of towns also can provide an amusing, at times amazing, research project. As a starter exercise, consider searching for why and how Accident, Maryland; Boring, Oregon; and Hell, Michigan, came to be called that. Then use your imagination and computer keyboard to discover intriguing treasures near where you live that might have been overlooked and that you can easily visit.
WHEN YOU GO
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
This colorful mural and others draw visitors to the Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida. Photo courtesy of Wynwood Walls.