There I stood, 20 feet away from a hole riddled map of the United States; my heart racing as sweat began to form at my brow. Maybe it was the 10 shots of tequila I had taken over the course of the night, or maybe it was the weight of the dart in my hand, and the power it possessed. I was no stranger to this game; it’s one I’ve played many times before as I try to strike the nation’s most desirable destinations and create a make-believe vacation from where the dart lands. Out West is always a safe bet, with national parks and mountains strewn across the region there are lots of options for the outdoor enthusiast in me and lots of room for error. Out East holds a little more risk, but the Appalachian Mountain system serves as a quite desirable target. If I go right, God forbid I have to vacation on the coast in a small resort or Airbnb. The hazards lie most everywhere else, with many exceptions, of course, but all too small to see or too far apart to be worth my while.
Unlike all the times before, this throw was for all the marbles. I had finally saved up enough money to go on a week-long trip anywhere in the country. All the lonely nights throwing darts at my map were about to finally pay off. With one eye twitched half shut and my equilibrium at an all time low, I pulled back and let her fly. Immediately I realized my throw was low and to the left as my middle finger stayed on the dart a millisecond too long. Time slowed down as the dart warped towards the Southwest, cutting through the cigar smoked-air, my mind calculating all the possibilities – “Utah is nice this time of year… Ok I think I have an uncle in Arizona… Am I going to need a passport for this?” And then I saw it. Alaska and Hawaii, chilling in a box overlapping the Pacific Ocean and Mexico, with absolutely no business being in that location.
As I approached the map, my worst fears were starting to materialize. Not only had I struck the state with the most grizzly (grizzliest?) bears per capita, but I had managed to hit the top of the highest mountain peak in North America. Right on the “E” in “Denali” to be exact.
I started calculating my options. Do I move the dart? Should I just go Yellowstone National Park where I’ve wanted to go my entire life? Is it too late to hit up my ex-girlfriend? Lots of questions, not enough answers. I weighed the pros and the cons. If I decided to play this game again, what would it mean if I splashed Yosemite, or hit a bullseye on Myrtle Beach. It would be a undoubtable rush, but knowing that I’d flaked out on Alaska would surely damage the validity of this accomplishment. On the other hand, if I went through with this trip, I would need to buy some serious gear and do some serious training if I wanted to climb one of the tallest mountains on Earth.
In the end I decided against the entire trip and chalked the events of the night up to booze and 90’s music. I threw out my dartboard map and used the trip money instead to buy myself the pair of high-powered binoculars I’d been eyeing.