FRED FIRST: Landing on One’s Feet

. . .  and To be a Placed Person When You Get There

In Floyd County—or any county in Southwest Virginia—there will be one or more well known peaks or ridges from which to view your local berg and its landmarks (that are not hidden by intervening peaks or ridges.) The visible contours from high vantage points are the unique fingerprints of that place.

In Columbia, Missouri, if you want that view, use a drone. As you can see from this un-natural view of the CoMo skyline by way of Google Maps, you won’t find high places. Look at that skyline. Where the buffalo roam(ed).

After we move—in a year or less—I will, for a time, be soul-sick from want of the sight of these blue ridges I have known since my birth and childhood in Birmingham. That might be a longing that never leaves the future me in Missouri. It is the cost of doing business in the 8th decade. So this is where we will plant our flag. Our affinities will slowly follow. One can hope.

Highway 63 wraps around Lenoir Woods, the Continuum into which we invest our future selves. The town is about the size of Roanoke if you take away the 31k students. But they would be upset if you did.

The bots tell me that there are something like some 100 towns or villages in the US with the name Columbia or Columbus, so small wonder that the folks I tell about this impending move want to place us in Ohio or South Carolina.

But there have been some, who travel east-west cross country, who recognize the university town as the brief span of exits one passes through, about equidistant in the rural-neon sprawl between St. Louis and Kansas City along I-70.

The dense cluster of overlapping red flags here are outdoor natural areas or trails in or near Columbia. Green is key for me.

If you know me, you know that you might as well shoot me now as put me in a place where there’s no THERE there. And for me the THERE consists to a greater-than-normal extent in familiar living things and unbuilt landscapes wherein to explore and discover the protoplasmic natural-historical WHERE of life. Once a * BoZo…

I am confident we can have some of that on the other side of Virginia. And I am doing the work of poking around, turning rocks, to see what I can uncover to be explored, once our house lands like Dorothy’s in a place that is not Kansas, but can become home. There’s no place like it, right? Dorothy?

So indulge me in the next few posts while I get to know that place I have never lived and never longed to find. Landing in Columbia, I will arrive in an unfamiliar terrain at an unanticipated age where one makes impossibly hard decisions, and hopes some of them turn out right.

I want to tell you the basis for my hopes, even as I tell myself, ready to be convinced but not quite there yet.


We complain about the weather no matter where we live when it doesn’t suit our calendar of events, our temperament or our clothes. But there’s not a lot of complaining in Floyd County, Virginia, where at 2700 feet, we are cooler by 10 degrees in summer than Roanoke, 35 crow-miles away. Winters here anymore are for sissies. The growing season gets longer as the planet bakes. We get ample rain, most seasons of most years. People move here for the weather.

If you look at the US map, Columbia (elevation 800 ft) is kind of smack in the middle of the landmass, and flat as a lumpy pancake. So you can already could predict that it is subject to “continentality”—meaning that you can expect temps to be both colder and hotter there than places at that latitude within the influence of moderating effects of an ocean east or west or south. On the plains (once prairie), I expect no relief from the winds I complain about so often here. We are not moving to CoMo for the weather.

Here’s how compares the two places for climate and weather. We will prune our traveling wardrobe accordingly.

🔵 Tell me about the weather and climate in Columbia Missouri and compare and contrast that to the weather and climate for Floyd County, Virginia.


I have spent hours imagining life to come, for the first time since college, in an apartment. In a city. Finding carpet and not grass right at the threshold of my front door. Having neighbors left and right, maybe over and under me. We’re not in Kansas anymore! (But it’s only 130 miles away!)

Truly, there are things about the Next Place that I strive to imagine, based on facts on the ground. We’ve visited Columbia several times when the kids lived there for a decade, a decade ago, and did not come home thinking it was a place we never wanted to see again.

It is that package of possible future potential that I had set out to describe in this post, but I ran out of reader attention a few hundred words back. You get a cookie if you stuck it out this far.


Hunker down! Next post, I will transmogrify FutureFred onto the Central Plains in his new persona and spiffy superhero outfit. You will hold onto his khaki Carhartt cape and soar with him as he explores the land-and-people-scape of the Central Plains.

You’ll travel along as he immerses himself in the cultural and intellectual and pilsner-IPA opportunities of a college town; as he learns to play pickleball, waits at the elevator for the walkers and scooters to load; and sings karaoke before an audience of dumbfounded college students wondering how it is that this lost character from Happy Days suddenly appeared on stage. The horror!

*BoZo: someone more or less equally fond of and somewhat familiar with both plants and animals, i.e, botany and zoology. 

Don’t fail to miss the next bewildering installment of (Super Hero’s Name) with (the appropriate symbol…TBA) emblazoned on his Republic of Floyd T-shirt. Gonna be epic!

Hang onto your hats, Junior Chipmunks. We are going places! Bring yourself and a kindred spirit along. Pot luck optional.

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