“Trash Talk” is a monthly column about life, the lessons learned along the way and some goofy connections between that and fantasy football. Entering her first season of fantasy football writing, Trash Sandwiches talks about National Parks, road trips and players who can move up among the rest of season rankings.
America’s Best Idea
There’s a goofy little saying in the National Park Service:
“Where do park rangers go on vacation? To other national parks!”
So naturally when two park rangers find themselves in the offseason without jobs, they pull out their unigrid, hit the road and visit America’s best idea.
Ever Westward & Back East Again
For as long as I could remember, I always wanted to take that quintessential great American road trip. By the time I graduated college, I had basically never been outside the northeastern U.S. In a moment not entirely unlike Elle Woods deciding to go to Harvard, I decided that I should become a park ranger.
Most ranger jobs are seasonal, so you get a chance to experience different parts of the country. Generally speaking, national parks are really cool places. With my trusty Toyota Prius and a burning desire to see the country, I headed ever westward.
My first park was at a small historic military fort in rural New Mexico. I lived a mile down the road from the fort, which was in turn about eight miles from anything but cows and half an hour to anything other than a post office and a mechanic. And while it did have some drawbacks (namely, no internet), I liked it and enjoyed my time out there.
Of course, I was absolutely thrilled to get my second job at the much-more-exciting Acadia National Park. When the season changed, I packed up and headed back east again. Suffice to say that my time at Acadia was nothing like the sleepy corner of New Mexico. This brings us back to where the story really begins, with two newly-unemployed rangers and an obnoxiously red Prius.
Slow Meanders & Semi-Cursed Tents
While I had seen more states during the cross-country moves between parks, these were more business trips than leisure. Most of my stops were for nights on a friend’s couch along the way, not national parks. The season at Acadia ended in fall and neither of us had winter park jobs or the desire split up. It was the perfect time to make my great American road trip dreams come true.
We followed suit with the snowbirds when fall hit and made our way to warmer places. There were a few set plans – Thanksgiving with my friends in Kentucky and Christmas with his family in Florida. Other than that, we were guided by a couple of vague lists of places we wanted to go and places where we knew someone.
The journey began with a slowly foliage-packed meander along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. We camped, explored, and ended up in Kentucky at 4 a.m. a week before Thanksgiving following an incident with the semi-cursed tent and some nearby wildfires (I should specify that the tent is not fully cursed, as it helped us get out in the nick of time).
But rolling with the punches, or rather rolling with the tent as the poles collapse around you, is all part of the quintessential road trip experience! After an extended Turkey day stay, we got back on the road with the replacement tent poles and the rest of our lives packed into the surprisingly-high-capacity Prius.
Favorite Parks & Fascinating Natural Phenomena
Back on the road, we continued making our way towards and around the cluster of national parks in the southwest. We went to mountains, canyons, towns, rivers, volcanoes, caves, forts and more. When all was said and done, we visited over 20 National Park Sites in two months and experienced a healthy mix of larger “crown jewel” sites and smaller hidden gems. And while it would be easy to call Utah’s Zion National Park one of my favorites, with its sweeping vistas, narrow slot canyons and iconic Angels Landing trail, that’s the equivalent of saying I like Josh Allen.
In actuality, one of my favorite parks was Petrified Forest. This was my first time seeing petrified wood; frankly, I’m still awestruck by its bizarre beauty. But beyond its namesake natural phenomenon, there were petroglyphs and wacky Route 66 history and quietly spectacular views of Arizona’s Painted Desert. Visitors can explore off-trail in many areas of the park, which held a weird subversive thrill for rangers who went through hours of Leave No Trace training.
Another park that piqued my interest was Mammoth Cave, located in a small Kentucky town. I’ve always been fascinated by caves and the endless figures you can find in their speleothem, so it was no surprise I loved this one. As the name suggests, the cave is enormous. With over 420 mapped miles, it’s easily the longest cave system in the world, but it somehow feels both expansive and intimate. And as with many other caves, it likely stretches well beyond the known portions (I won’t get into my cave connection conspiracy here). The unknown size of Mammoth Cave still excites me to this day.
It’s hard to pick a favorite in the National Park System. Even after this trip, we had only seen a small fraction of the country and its special places. My itch for the great American road trip was temporarily abated, but I know I only scratched the surface.
Risers in Rest-of-Season Rankings
With half of the fantasy football season behind us, it can be easy to think that we know what’s going to happen in the second half. And yes, there is some predictability: Allen should still be very good, Zion is still beautiful and water is still wet. But between byes, injuries and the general unpredictability of the NFL, there are still plenty of opportunities for players to rise up among the rest-of-season rankings. Below are two players that I think are poised to do just that, both rostered in under 50% of leagues.
Khalil Herbert (RB, Chicago Bears)
Similar to how Petrified Forest is often overshadowed by another grand national park in Arizona (affectionately known among rangers as “The Big Ditch”), Chicago’s backfield is dominated, at least in name, by David Montgomery. But Khalil Herbert has the potential for a strong second half and climb up the rest-of-season rankings. While he is primarily seen as Montgomery’s backup, he has standalone fantasy appeal.
In Week 7, both players rushed for 62 yards and scored a touchdown (Herbert’s came from a 25-yard reception). Where Herbert stood out was his efficiency. He gained 5.2 Yards Per Carry (YPC) from his 12 rush attempts, three fewer than Montgomery.
In fact, Herbert has had a better YPC average every week that both played, averaging 6.2 to Montgomery’s four. Herbert still racked up a solid 15.7 Points Per Reception (PPR) points against a New England Patriots defense that allows very few fantasy points to running backs.
While he has another tough matchup in NFL Week 8 against Dallas, the Bears will face much easier opponents after that with the Dolphins, Lions, Falcons and Jets. Currently the PPR RB24 by points per game and RB18 overall, Herbert can solidify his spot as an RB2 in the rest-of-season rankings on his own and especially if Montgomery were to miss time.
Wan’Dale Robinson (WR, New York Giants)
Much like a cave that has not yet been fully explored, Wan’Dale Robinson has yet to reach his full potential in the NFL. An exciting rookie prospect, Robinson had a rough start to the season. He exited early in Week 1 with a knee injury and didn’t play again until Week 6. But after returning, he had the most receptions and targets, with three receptions on four targets in Week 6 and six receptions on eight targets in Week 7.
Robinson also had the highest target share on the team, with an eye-catching 27.6 percent of targets this past week. He ran the most routes on the team in Week 7 (29 routes), but it isn’t just wind sprints. He had the highest or second-highest targets per route run among wide receivers in all three weeks played. Yes, the New York Giants’ wide receiver corps has been banged up this year, to say the least. If anything, that provides all the more opportunity for Robinson to move up in the rest-of-season rankings and become the clear top target alongside teammate Saquon Barkley, especially in light of the Giants trading away Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs.
Moving into the second half of the fantasy football season, look for players with hidden value or unrealized potential. There are still plenty of weeks left to turn a struggling start around. For teams looking to add a little depth or upside, these may be some intriguing players to bolster you among rest-of-season rankings and take you on a road trip to the championship.
Thanks for reading! If you like my kind of trash, you can read more here and follow me on Twitter @trashsandwiches.