On the Road to Romance 

State travel officials fall short with their vacation sweepstakes.

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Virginia marks the 40th anniversary of its Virginia is for Lovers campaign — “celebrating 40 years of a love of life and passion for travel” — by giving away 40 vacations across the state. Unfortunately, some getaways were overlooked. So, despite their tight budgetary constraints, travel officials revealed additional vacations this week:

Bob's Memorial Day Bonanza

Location: Southwest Virginia, in the town of Pulaski, just a short drive east of Wytheville.

Description: You and a guest will stay in the comfy split-level home of Bob, our best friend from summer camp. He may have four kids but he's still one himself, and he's giving you unlimited access to the garage he's converted into Bob's Man Cave. You'll have an all-access pass to the recliner his wife thought he threw out last summer. Play Madden on his rear-projection TV and yell out “Bud” any time you want a beer. His brown lab is trained to grab one from the minifridge and come running. That's all before the block's biggest Memorial Day cookout — yup, it's at Bob's house, where you'll taste the best beef kabobs you've ever had. When you're done with the ersatz Slip 'n Slide his kids jimmied together with garbage bags and a garden hose, the hot tub is yours to enjoy. But the fun's not over till you join Bob for a special side trip along scenic Lee Highway north, to see who all's partying up in Radford.

Estimated retail value: $345.

Waterside Winter Wonders

Location: Just southwest of Warsaw at Island Farm in Essex County, where Piscataway Creek runs into the Rappahannock River.

Description: Forget about the hustle and bustle of Virginia Beach and enjoy the water in a whole new way. You'll leave your Blackberries behind and step back in time, imagining what it was like in the winter of 1607-'08, when Capt. John Smith visited and wrote of the “goodly navigable” area. But we won't leave you without modern comforts. We've borrowed a deluxe RV that's yours for the weekend, situated on a private lot with beautiful river views. There, you'll watch a three-part, eight-hour DVD series about Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 and Jacob Hobbs, who helped develop nearby Tappahannock. When you're finished, local historian Betty Frank makes a special visit to read from her new book, “The Impact of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars on Essex County.” She'll even leave an autographed copy behind! On Saturday, Gus Smith of the Lively Rod & Gun Club in Lancaster will stop by with some fishing gear. Catch your own dinner, then huddle by the heat of the stove to create some special memories. It's quiet paradise at the end of Route 16.

Estimated retail value: $215.

Splendor in Zion Crossroads

Location: In Louisa County, at the intersection of Routes 15 and 250, an hour's drive north of the state capital (exit 136 off Interstate 64).

Description: Stay at the relatively new Best Western Crossroads Inn & Suites, where your room features a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. You'll luxuriate in the continental breakfast lovingly prepared each morning, and end each day by cuddling with your special someone to the glow in the night sky from the nearby Wal-Mart distribution center. But don't get too comfortable. Because this vacation's all about adventure. That's right, drivers come for miles to take a rest stop at Zion Crossroads. See what the magic's all about when you go behind the scenes at the BP station. Experience what it's like renting towels to truckers and building Blimpies for weary travelers. Speaking of truckers, you'll get an inside peek at the cab of a tractor-trailer hauling trees to the nearby lumber-processing yard (liability waiver required). Then, in 18-wheel comfort, you'll be chauffeured just over the county line to Fluvanna, where you'll meet Palmyra's most famous residents, Pete and Sandra Daughtry, parents of “American Idol” rocker Chris Daughtry. (“Daughtry” CD available at half price.)

Estimated retail value: $750.


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