Sunday, October 29, 2006

When are we going back?

In a time before we knew of RateBeer and before there was mapquest, there was Coop's, a set of maps that purported to include the addresses of all the breweries in a particular region. And when we embarked on a two-week Northern California brewery tour in the Fall of 2000, there certainly were more than enough breweries to keep us tipsy, or worse. The only trick was figuring out where each one was without a streetmap. At each brewery I took notes on each beer, for the first time in my life, never realizing that someday I'd enter all of them into a giant web database. You had let your driver's license lapse, so I had to do all the driving (grumble grumble).

Was it only six years ago that we waited in a state park outside of Boonville for a brewery tour, and sat in Sierra Nevada's beer garden in Chico? Walked among the redwoods and along the coast, saw El Capitan and the potheads on the town square in Arcata? To pass the time on the long drives in those days before digital jukeboxes, we played word games, sang songs to each other, and argued whether religion had done more good or bad in the world. In the Russian River Valley, famous for its wineries, I offered to take you to them rather than the area's breweries -- you've always loved wine, and this was a golden opportunity. You replied, "No, we're here to drink beer." Always we visited breweries. Some of them are long gone, others have beers I had just the other day.

I saw your grandfather for the only time in my life on that trip, pushing 90 years old and riding his motorized scooter, living by himself because he didn't want to be dependent on others. We stayed with all three of your father's siblings, including the teetotaler and her husband, who were more than a little bemused by one of the functions of our travels. We had bought little gifts along the way, but didn't fully consider the recipients -- she assured herself that the preserves made with beer must have had all the alcohol burned off. We were awed by the simple beauty of your uncle's timber-frame house, where he and his wife had retired just half an hour from Yosemite. He had been to Fresno just before we arrived, and had bought a growler so we could try something from their local brewery.

There was a newness to those adventures. It was our first big vacation after our honeymoon, and we learned as much about each other as we probably had in the six months prior. And from those two weeks, our friendship bloomed ever more colorfully, and our love deepened to a level far beyond where it was at our wedding one-and-a-half years earlier, even if it was but a fraction of where it has gone since.