Sunday, July 15, 2018

Friends, Wine, History, and Geocaching

Old Geocacher dude and Ms. B. at Delfosse Vineyards near Covesville, VA
Friends, wine, history, and Geocaching, all in one weekend, and for me, things don't get much more special. In the summertime, it's tradition for Ms. B. and I to get with our best friends and travel to some place of interest or another, and this time, it was Charlottesville, VA, with Joe, Suzy, Terry, & Beth, as we've all known each other pretty much since the Cretaceous Period (well, we gentlemen, at least, have known each other that long).

Friday midday, the lot of us converged on Chatham, VA, a very small town some miles north of Danville, where we discovered the Public House, which offers fine food and cordial, attentive service. I also discovered a Geocache — Pitts Bookworm (GC5GHZ8) — as well as a big honking (deceased) female Hercules beetle. Despite being dead, beetle put in an entertaining guest appearance on my dashboard after lunch, at which point Ms. B. vacated the car with heretofore unseen haste and agility. It would be fair to say I am lucky to be alive to tell this tale, and I will say I have behaved at least reasonably well since.

From Chatham, we headed to Delfosse Vineyards, located in a lovely mountain setting near Covesville, VA. To get there, one must leave US Hwy 29 and ascend a long, narrow, gravel road that is strikingly similar to the fictional location I described in my as-yet-unpublished short story, "When Jarly Calls" (which I hope will be seeing publication in the not-so-distant future).
The full crew at Sal's Caffe Italia on the
Downtown Charlottesville Mall

A handful of Geocaches later, we arrived at The English Inn, and here, I must sadly report, things took something of a nosedive. Rather than relate the tale in its entirety here, I invite you to read my review of our direful experience on here on Suffice it to say Ms. B. and I, along with Terry and Beth, successfully sought other accommodations for Saturday night. Apart from that, Friday night proved an enjoyable time as we all caught a Lyft ride to the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, which offered lots of food, drink, music, shops, and Geocaches. For dinner, we found ourselves at Sal's Caffe Italia, which we chose more or less at random, and it proved beyond satisfactory. Excellent wine, and most of us had varieties of pasta. Ms. B. and I both selected Bolognese on rigatoni, which, despite the huge portions, refused to allow us to stop eating it. Seriously. Halfway through it, I was thinking "I gotta stop eating this." Two-thirds of the way through it, I was thinking "I gotta stop eating this." Three-quarters of the way through it, I was thinking "I gotta stop eating this." When I had a few bits of rigatoni left, it finally allowed me to stop eating.

Afterward, we wandered a bit, found a little more refreshment, and went after two very satisfying Geocaches. We all retired relatively early — Ms. B. and I, unfortunately, to a most uncomfortable room (again, see above). Still, we were determined to make the best of things. Saturday morning, I was out of there at the crack of dawn so I might work in some serious Geocaching, which included not one but two underground tunnel hides (GC3AM81 and GC2YXZ2). The first was short and sweet, the second quite long and, though not too physically challenging, so deep and dark it convinced me that a deep dark culvert is not the place to be should a Deep Dark Culvert Monster go on the attack. Now, I've been in many a tunnel, and I know how sound carries and becomes distorted in those winding stone and metal passageways. But about the time I reached the cache, I heard sounds I had never heard before — some kind of groaning, grating noises, almost like an old man snoring at incredible volume, some unknown distance away. I was far enough in that when I switched off my flashlight, it was that profound void you can only experience within the bowels of the earth — which Ms. B. and I had once discovered together while caving near Johnson City, TN (for that chronicle, see "The Darkness Out of Time," Sept. 5, 2011). I dunno what I was hearing here, but when I made my way back into daylight, I was maybe just a little bit glad.

Following these adventures, I joined our group for our daylong winery tour, which included Blenheim Vineyards, owned by musician/artist Dave Matthews, where the stunning mountain scenery exceeded the wine quality — which I would call satisfying but mostly fair-to-middlin'; Cunningham Creek Winery, which I believe was our favorite of the day, due to its decent wines, exceptionally friendly and courteous staff, and relaxed atmosphere; and Jefferson Vineyards, where we found the biggest crowds and reasonably good but somewhat overpriced wine. I complain not one bit here, as the day proved enjoyable (though stifling hot) and mostly relaxing.
Ms. Beth at "the writing wall" on the Mall.
"Supper Club was here."

For the evening, we found excellent burgers at a place called Zinburger near our hotel(s). I had a thing called the El Diablo, comprising Kobe-style beef, pepper jack cheese, fire-roasted jalapeƱos, braised onions, lettuce, and chipotle mayo. I liked it, I did. Then we returned to the Downtown Mall, where in seeking a particular cache — "Number Nothing" (GC69WC1) — we heard Celtic music and stumbled upon a most wonderful little Irish pub called The Tin Whistle, where a trio called The Severed Heads of Guion Pond was performing in an appealing little courtyard outside the pub. Well, damn, this was fun. So we settled in for the evening and listened to some melodic, bawdy, rowdy, soothing Irish tunes until our aging bodies could no longer stand it, at which time we retired, again via Lyft, to our respective hotel rooms.
The Severed Heads of Guion Pond at The Tin Whistle Irish Pub
This morning, Joe & Suzy hit the road early, so Terry & Beth and Ms. B. and me decided to have breakfast somewhere, and that turned out to be The Pigeon Hole, near the University of Virginia campus. It's a quaint old house on a cobbled side street off University Avenue, and the breakfast proved superb, with eggs over medium, crisp bacon, coarse-ground grits, and plenty of good hot coffee. Afterward, we spent a bit of time wandering about The Rotunda on campus, where I found a virtual Geocache and where, in the early 1980s, I had occasionally spent time in the company of my then-girlfriend Allison Ferrill (who has since gone on to become a high-ranking official in the US Navy). Had we gotten married way back when, as we sometimes half-seriously considered, I can't help but think that today, either I would be much richer or she would much poorer.
The Rotunda at UVA
We parted ways and returned to our homes. I received reports from the cats that there wasn't much point in me coming back since they were quite taken with Hailey, the young lady who often looks after them when I am gone. Not that I feel useless, or anything.
You think Imma going in there? You dang right.
The long darkness, filled with eerie sounds
And you spent your Saturday morning... how?
Don't go into the light. Just don't.

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