Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Westbound Number 9

I'm getting good at the quick getaway.

After Saturday night's killer dance extravaganza with Mr. Fine Wine, I didn't even get up until mid-day Sunday, so the quick trip got a late start.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Who knows when he'll be back in town again?

Necessities and the Sunday Washington Post were thrown in a bag, lunch of fried chicken from Lee's was procured and I was westward-bound not long after 1.

Not bad for someone whose feet didn't hit the floor until almost noon.

Stop one was Lickinghole Creek Brewery for Bluegrass Sunday. This week's band was the Creekside Pickers - mandolin, dobro, guitar, banjo and upright bass -singing with the fields of hops behind them. There were plenty of people there to hear their classic pickin'...or drink beer, I don't know which.

You know which reason had me there.

Two of the music-lovers chose to sit down at the table where I was sitting and, as it turned out, had gone to high school with the dobro player.

Even better, she just happened to have the proof: her 1968 Huguenot High yearbook.

After she showed it to her former schoolmate and they showed it to the dobro player, assuring him that he looked just the same, I asked to borrow it to take in the faces, clothing and ads of 1968. It was some kind of classic.

Most of the boys had bangs swept to the side. Most of the girls had carefully arranged flips and pageboys. There were clubs such as Future Farmers of America, Future Teachers of America and - surely on its way out in '68 - Future Homemakers of America.

There was a school pep rally and lecture warning of the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs. There were a lot of American muscle cars in the school parking lot. And the cheerleaders' skirts came down to their knees.

Some of the best reading was in the back where the class of '68 had sold ads to local businesses, many of them in the Westover Hills and Forest Hills area.

But I spotted one for a car dealership on Broad Street two blocks from where I live, where a Rite-Aid now sits. So I was learning new things about my neighborhood while looking at a civilization that no longer exists.

Let me tell you, I was some kind of sorry when the yearbook's owner decided to leave and take my entertainment away.

Dinner was old school at the Cumberland Diner, a place that has a separate dining room for smokers (and advertises it on their sign) where I had a double cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake (made with the kind of milkshake maker my family had when I was young) and delivered in a metal cup with a long-handled spoon.

Probably a lot like they did in 1968 when those Huguenot High kids went on dates.

Monday dawned sunny and warmer, ideal for a drive to Lovingston to winery hop and procure apples from an orchard.

Arriving at Democracy Vineyards to find a handwritten note on the door saying everyone was harvesting in the fields, we turned around to go just as a voice called down from the vineyards that he was on his way.

The affable owner, clad in one-piece coveralls, drove his mule down from the Petit Manseng fields and welcomed us into the high-ceilinged tasting room decorated with original political posters from around the world and dating back to the 19th century.

My favorite was a WPA sign for a sewer project hanging in the loo.

He called himself and his wife "recovering lobbyists" and lamented the dangers of letting an architect friend design the soaring building complete with a colorful sign on the front.

"Cause nothing says 'farm winery' like an ostentatious back-lit, red, white and blue sign," he joked self-deprecatingly.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that they grow Pinotage, South Africa's signature grape, and one he'd fallen for while there, much as I had.

All the wines had patriotic names  -Republic, Dawn's Light, Suffrage - and we tasted through them before taking glasses of Declaration 2013, a Chardonnay, Viognier and Petit Manseng blend, out to the porch overlooking the hills and fields to sip.

Then it was on to Drumheller's Orchard (established 1937) to get apples (Jonagolds) for cooking. My only regret was that it wasn't the weekend, so there were no hayrides and the apple sling shot wasn't in use.

Who wouldn't be curious about an apple slingshot?

A stop at Blue Ridge Pig for pig and beef barbecue sandwiches (in a rustic, log-style building with enough dusty brick-a-brack to outfit three restaurants) was better enjoyed outside on a sunny picnic table (near a stern sign warning "Absolutely NO alcohol!") next to a car wash where a man was sudsing his front end with his hands.

Cause, apparently, we don't need no stinkin' sponges in Lovingston.

Then it was time for the outbuildings tour. Headed down the gravel path to the bathroom, outside naturally, I came upon the smokehouse, a tiny wooden building with an enormous stone chimney that announced itself with the aroma of smoke as you approached it.

With that smell still on our hands, we wound through sunny back roads to King Family Winery to round out the trip.

A dozen other people were in the tasting room, more than I'd have expected late in the afternoon on a Monday. After tasting through the wines, we took a bottle of their sparkling (which they weren't even making last time I'd been there) out to a table overlooking the polo field to enjoy it as clouds rolled in over the mountains and the sky went from blue to dramatic.

After dinner at Tavern on the James in Scottsville - they were out of the appealingly-named clodhopper steak unfortunately - it was time to take it back to Saturday night.

That's right, sitting outside on the porch swing, the nearly full moon so bright that trees were casting dramatic shadows on the lawn, we tuned into Mr. Fine Wine so I could have another outstanding evening of his vintage soul music.

Just doesn't get much better than Downtown Soulville on a Monday night.

My quick trip had taken me full circle. Mercy!

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