Don't leaf me

Dear Ace: Based on trends from the past few years, what’s the projection for leaf peepers this year? I think it’s going down.—Ray King-Leeves

Ray: Last week, with cold weather quickly approaching, Ace busted out his fall wardrobe and carefully packed away (read: threw stuff in a box) his spring/summer accoutrement. Mother Atkins bought him a fall-themed tea towel (she does this every season and, while her attention is appreciated, what the hell does one do with a tea towel?), and Ace’s sweetie pie helped him pick out a smart—but rugged—trench coat, warm enough for two.

A good indicator of this year’s leaf peepers is the traffic on the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s fall travel website.

Ace realizes, in his infinite wisdom, that these rituals may seem silly to the less experienced of his readers. But, you must realize, Ray, that autumn is the easiest season during which to woo someone. True, spring and summer are filled with blooming flowers and sunny days, but with fall comes chilly weather (for canoodling), smoking fireplaces (for indoor canoodling), and the ground gets covered with brightly colored leaves. Or, if you’re lucky, they stay on the trees long enough for you to enjoy them from a distance…while canoodling. The scene sets itself.

To answer your question, Ace spoke to Tamra Talmadge-Anderson at the Virginia Tourism Corporation, who said that a good indicator of this year’s leaf peepers is the traffic on its fall travel website. “Over the past two weeks,” Tamra told Ace, “visitation to…has increased 100% over 2007.”

She didn’t acknowledge the fact that some people are just too lazy to get out into the fall air and, therefore, seek images of leaves—which can be found on the website—rather than the real, honest-to-goodness experience of autumn, skewing those stats just a bit. But, she reasoned, “there are a lot of things that could be responsible for that, including increased efforts to reach out to nearby drive markets,” and lower gas prices.

Tamra told Ace that Virginia has more than 15 million (million!) acres of fall foliage, leafing (heh heh) tourists with lots of room for travel, like to Skyline Drive or the Goshen Pass in the Shenandoah Valley. If Ace can keep up the charm (as if that’s even a concern) and the cold weather sticks around for a while, he’s thinking that new coat might come in handy.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 19 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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