I argued that she was a native Texan and therefore didn't know what she was talking about. This, I have found, is pretty sound reasoning in any argument, although it does strain marital relations at times. (Hon, it's a joke. A joke. Geez, those Texans are so sensitive.)

She and I flew into Boston and drove up the coast to Bar Harbor, then north into the woods and across the state into the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. I don't believe her jaw unslackened the whole trip. "So," she said at one point, as we rounded yet another bend to reveal yet another color-soaked vista, "this is fall."

I took my son, Sam, to Maine one year. He was about 9. Dazzled by the psychedelic panorama and the ubiquitous lobster rolls, he loved it so much that he claims to this day that Maine is where he wants to live. I don't have the heart to tell him that it isn't autumn year-round there.

More than once, I went to Michigan, where I drove along the shoreline of Lake Superior in the state's Upper Peninsula, a place so remote the locals have their own identity: Yooper, a derivation of the area's acronym, U.P. They even have their own food up there. It's a simple, hearty meat-and-vegetable pastry foldover called a pasty (pronounced past-ee, like repast).

A couple of times I went to New York, where a walk through Central Park may not equal the splendor of Maine, but is startling because it surprises, and, in any event, has the advantage of being in the same corner of the city as the Carnegie Deli, home of the world's best pastrami sandwich.

One year, I found myself on the slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon, where it snowed so furiously through the night I thought I might have to spend several extra days there. Alas, I navigated my car down the mountain through the predawn blizzard and made it back to the airport and home in time to enjoy the remaining days of 90-something-degree Texas heat.