Turning over to look at the 3 inch high red numbers on the bedside clock I think, “That’s more like it.” The numbers read 7:00 and it is the Friday morning that more than a few individuals have been anticipating. It is vacation time for us and yet priorities are priorities. V goes for the shower; I head for the in-room coffeemaker.
“One smallish packet of coffee, huh?” “Good thing there is a Starbucks just around the corner” I add. I am thinking these four cup pots one usually finds in hotel rooms must be measured by those little demitasse things and not the one I usually get started with each day. I make a vow to not let this get in the way of a good start to a day that will culminate in a momentous occasion.
Above the usual noises of make-up application and other feminine type goings-on I hear, “What are you mumbling about?”
I reply “Looks like Howard is going to get some more of our money today. Good thing we put a coffee category in the travel budget.”
I place V’s carefully rationed two cups and not a drop more of the brown fluid on the counter and she looks at me and says, “We can always get a cup at the Oxbow Market. Maybe there is a local coffee roaster too among all the other shops. We can give Howard some money tomorrow.”
I quickly perform the mental calculation of time, speed, and distance, multiplied by desperation. Taking into consideration the trusty Subaru’s drag co-efficient, now enhanced by the newly clean exterior, that’s still a fifteen minute drive. I may be able to hold out that long, heroic fellow that I am.
Driving past the familiar logo just before turning right onto Highway 29 I whimper a little not wanting to pass up the legendary bird in the hand for a “maybe.” My calculation was fairly close and we find we are among the early arrivals and the Oxbow market parking lot was easy enough to navigate. V wants to stop and browse through all the shops and I am close to slipping into a catatonic state. All of a sudden a whiff of fresh coffee floats by me. The recessive ‘hunter” gene in me comes alive and I stalk my quarry. I hear the familiar sound of the milk frother and I know I am close. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good and this time is no exception; I am in luck, there is no line. With the last ounce of strength summoned I utter the words, “large, non-fat, extra-hot, skinny, vanilla latte. Please.” and hold on to the counter to keep from toppling over.
A couple of careful sips of the object of my pursuit now behind me, it was extra-hot after all, I am again the fellow V thought she married and able to support her journey through the market. I did say I am heroic.
V’s version of Heaven is something close to this; spice vendor next to a chocolatier,who is next to a bakery, who is next to a linen and knick-knack vendor, who is next to a cheese and wine vendor, who is next to an olive oil and balsamic vinegar vendor, who is next to a fresh vegetable and fruit vendor. There is also a charcuterie, a meat vendor named “The Fatted Calf,” specializing in all-things meat. That is my version of Heaven, but today is V’s to spend how she wants before we go back to the hotel to get ready to attend the wedding. I stand at the ready to perform the heavy lifting, strengthened as it seems by the coffee now coursing through my veins.
We get a bite of breakfast, make small talk with a couple from San Diego and enlighten them to where they can spend a glorious weekend on a yacht hosted by owners Amos and Shari Zolna, watch a Padres baseball game from the terrace of a bistro near Petco Park for the price of a meal and beverages, and by the way, have one of the best Bloody Mary’s one would ever experience in their entire life, don’t you know. That was hilarious, us Washingtonians telling native San Diegans things about their city they didn’t even know! We bid them farewell to browse the rest of the market and purchase a couple of things we decide together we just can’t seem to live without. All the market shops now visited, V decides that we should meander about the city proper to get a feel of the local culture and snap a few pictures to capture the memories.
We find ourselves walking the river walk path and stumble upon sidewalk chalk art, boutiques, restaurants, and the Napa General Store.
Of course we are going inside. V exclaims “Oh look! The water glasses made out of wine bottles that were on our table at Hotel 50 in Portland two weeks ago! Aren’t we lucky???”
Here I was thinking luck for the day consisted of no one in line at the coffee bar first thing this morning.
Just off the river walk path we walk through a series of vine covered arches to find the Celadon restaurant which was highly recommended to us. No time for a lunch like that today though. Good thing too as Celadon had no open reservations for lunch or dinner. For this trip most likely, if we are lucky to get in, it will have to be Sunday evening as Saturday is fairly well booked with a wine tour we are participating in with the wedding party and don’t know what the plans are after that is concluded. It may end up not being Sunday either as we don’t exactly know what Sunday has in store other than the tour of Francis Ford Coppola’s restored winery, Inglenook. With such a short period of time to spend here in Napa; we are supposed to leave Monday morning we think our focus should be on the wineries.
We find ourselves back at the Oxbow market parking area and decide to go into a tasting room that has a giant corkscrew inserted into a barrel just across the street. The wineries’ products did not meet our expectations nor did the service. Because that little side trip across the street did not take as long as anticipated, we go into the market’s cheese and wine vendor, pay the fee for a light snack and a flight of chardonnays to taste. We want to get acquainted with California Chardonnays as the research will be applied to the fast approaching annual Dunn’s Spring Double-Blind Wine Tasting Event. It is rough duty to be sure and we feel we are up to the task; however, the server was not. Seems she had texting and hugging fellows on her mind. We walk out with half of the wine tasted and vow to not let the two back-to-back frustrations mar the enjoyment of the day or put a black cloud over the evening’s nuptials either. Seems like there was a lot of vowing today for some reason. Retail experiences notwithstanding, one must take the negative with the positive; else there would be no balance. Without balance who knows what might happen in the time-space continuum?
Back at the hotel and most of the “freshening up” is now behind us. V is looking fabulous, like the million bucks I spoke about earlier in Times That Make Up The Middle. I have on a suit with a shirt and Jerry Garcia tie that matches the wedding colors, clotheshorse that I am. We triple check we aren’t leaving anything, like the camera, and that the Google map turn-by-turn directions are firmly in hand. We want no false starts like yesterday. The directions are simple enough; after the right turn onto Highway 29 there is only one other turn and that is into the driveway of V. Satuui, approximately 20 miles up the highway and yet I want those directions and map. How hard could that be? And yet, I know myself all too well.
Traffic is getting heavy now that it is straight-up 5:00 pm. We allocated 45 minutes to drive the distance being unfamiliar with traffic patterns this late in the day. We are driving into the heart of California Wine Country with grape vineyards on either side of the road now. The highway narrows, with roadway work being performed in and around the Rutherford area. We are talking steel plates on the roadway for about 4 miles or so. Just inside the St. Helena area, we arrive in 40 minutes with no wrong turns. Saints be praised! A random thought pops into my head, “Speaking of saints, I hear the new pope is going to be releasing a big group of new ones shortly, and as of yet he has not answered my petition for V’s sainthood. What’s up with that?”
As I turn into the gravel driveway and search for a place to park, we both notice a sign at the same time celebrating 125 years of winemaking. I say to V, “Rob Griffin is celebrating 30 and Charlie Hoppes is close to that, 25 I think, I hope they can hold on that long. Maybe that is what separates the California wines from the Washington ones. Those guys have about 90 to 100 years head start. That is a ton of ground not to mention grapes to make up.” I am so very proud of my intended pun. V is not hearing me; she is fully engrossed in the sights of the grounds and just being “in the moment.” I smile as Daryl Hall’s “Talking to You is Like Talking to Myself” starts playing in my head. My personal soundtrack never seems to stop. I am glad the trusty Subaru does though in the parking spot seemingly allocated for it and I grin and look at V and say, “You are beautiful and I love you.” She hears that by golly. Did I say she looked fabulous?