The trip by car from Washington to White Sulphur Springs, mostly by interstates (I-66 west, I-81 south, then I-64 west) takes four to five hours. You can also get there by Amtrak. For those with corporate jets -- and you know who you are -- there's a small airport in nearby Lewisburg, W.Va.

To make an appointment at the Greenbrier Clinic, call 800-362-7798 or 304-536-4870. You'll be connected with the reservations desk at the hotel to coordinate your stay. Room rates, including meals, vary wildly according to season. For example, the standard rate for single occupancy in winter is $260 a night; from April through October, it's at least $520. That's why I cheat. I cheat two ways.

First, my annual physical is not, strictly speaking, yearly; I often let the date slide, so I actually visit the clinic every 18 months or so. Thus, since 1995, instead of nine exams, I've only had five.

Second, just because you're a patient at the clinic doesn't mean you have to stay at the Greenbrier. I've spent two nights at a delightful bed-and-breakfast in Lewisburg called the General Lewis Inn, and one night at an old-fashioned, bare-bones "motor motel" right in White Sulphur Springs for something like $29.95.

-- Walter Nicklin