In the spirit of Columbus, I went exploring today.
Driving out 64, the thrill of a day away devoted to pure fun was matched only by the thrill of seeing patches of blue sky in between clouds the further west we drove.
After nine days of gray and rain, it was liked heading toward the promised land.
A fueling stop was the initial order of business and pulling into Blue Mountain Brewery, a full parking lot was the first indicator that we hadn't gone far enough afield.
Inside, the place was crawling with families and children.
Toddlers shrieking, sullen pre-teens slumped at tables, babes in arms. It seemed so off, I asked our server about it.
"It's like it's take your kid to Blue Mountain day or something," he said wearily.
Honestly, who wants to day drink surrounded by children?
But it was a pit stop, so I ordered the A.M. fog burger (mushrooms, caramelized onions and swiss and named after the A.M. Fog Market barely a quarter of a mile down the road) and a glass of Cardinal Point Quattro, the better to deal with the nursery school that was the dining room.
Fortunately, the food came quickly, we wolfed it down and got the hell out of Dodge.
It wasn't my first time at Blue Mountain but if today's clientele was any indication, I'm not sure I need to go back since I'm not a beer drinker anyway.
From there we went to Cardinal Point winery, a place I've not only visited several times, but have also poured for twice at the annual Virginia wine expo.
There we found a much more civilized atmosphere, did a tasting that included the unique IPC hopped Chardonnay, the perfect wine for those who straddle the beer geek/wine geek line.
John, I'm looking at you.
I was taken with their 2012 Green, a Chardonnay and Petit Manseng blend, inspired by the Portuguese vino verdes I so enjoy, so we got what tasted like green apples in a glass and went outside to the patio to enjoy our glasses with a view of the vineyards, the weather station and ever-increasing blue skies.
One of the winery dogs strolled by nonchalantly with a dead squirrel in her mouth, not once, not twice, but three times, making sure we saw.
What's the point in killing it if you can't show it off?
Our next landing was uncharted territory, Flying Fox Vineyard, a place we hadn't even heard of.
Despite a lack of familiarity, we found an agreeable pourer, the sister of one of the owners, and a couple of men tasting next to us, one local and one from Tennessee.
It didn't take long for them to invite us to join their tent at a local upcoming oyster roast, that's how friendly they were.
After tasting through, we decided on glasses of the 2012 Rose, a lovely dry wine perfect for us to take to the yellow rocking chairs on the front porch and watch the endless parade of school buses turning off the main road.
We'd discovered some pretty agreeable territory, so much so that we lingered almost too long, pulling into Albemarle Ciderworks as the staff was heading to their cars to leave.
Oops. Their tasting room isn't open on Mondays, but they took pity on weary travelers and invited us inside for a tasting.
Our pourer had her sister with her because it was the girl's 21st birthday and they were going out to celebrate.
The newly legal one pulled from her pocket a list of the things she intended to drink tonight -margarita, old fashioned, mojito - to go with her determined attitude.
I can't imagine she's going to feel too well tomorrow, but you only turn 21 once.
For now, she watched as we drank. I got a kick out of tasting Jupiter's Legacy because the blend contained black twig apples, an heirloom variety I'd picked a few weeks ago but had never tasted in cider.
We finished with glasses of Old Virginia Winesap, tasting like a baked apple with a hint of lemon, a cider that would be terrific with a country ham sandwich from Adam's Country Store.
I do love my sweet and salty.
We asked the sisters for a dinner recommendation and the first thing one said was Whiskey Jar, a place I had also heard good things about.
So it was onward to the downtown mall where we found a busy restaurant with its front open to the mall and people in and out eating.
For a place that claims to source and make food that their great-grandmothers would recognize, I had to wonder if Great Grandma would approve of the sullen attitude our server gave us.
They were out of the fried quail appetizer we wanted, so we instead ordered a roasted beet salad with homemade farmer's cheese and fried onions and fried green tomatoes so salty even Grandma would look askance.
My grilled pork chops over house-baked beans would have been okay had I not had such magnificent heirloom pork chops a few weeks ago.
Unlike the marbling in those beauties, tonight's were lean and kind of dry. I have been spoiled by Berkshire/Tamworth chops from Fred and Wilma's progeny.
After a quick stop at the Blue Light Grill, a place I hadn't been to since Chef Lee Gregory was cooking there, we made our way to our ultimate destination for the day: the Jefferson.
Tickets for tonight's Frightened Rabbit show had been procured back in July so I'd been anticipating hearing this Scottish band for months.
They wasted no time kicking into high gear and it was clear what stellar musicians they were from the first song.
"Last time we were here was four or five years ago," lead singer Scott said. "Then we were playing upstairs at a tapas bar."
The funny part was he pronounced it tap-ass, adding to the comedic value of an already-extremely thick Scottish accent.
That accent, like the song lyrics about life's difficult moments - being alone, drinking more than you should, being with the wrong person- are just part of the Scottish identity, ergo Frightened Rabbit's.
Or, as a friend misheard when I told her who I was going to see, Fried Rabbit.
For a misery-focused band, the songs really rocked and eventually I even saw a kid crowd-surfing, not the kind of thing I ever expected to see at this show.
But you never know what you're going to find when you go exploring and, Hornitos in hand, I was open to pretty much whatever happened.
We're talking about a band who writes gloriously melancholy lyrics like, "You're the shit and I'm knee-deep in it."
If that doesn't sum up life and love, you haven't headed out to explore the right places, my friend.