Our New York City General Manager David, is headed on a cross country drive starting today to Napa, Ca to help start our newest City Winery in Napa. We will keep track of his progress with pictures and quotes every day.
Day 1 – Jan 31st: NJ to DC (Friday) = 5 hours
After six and half hours of packing and debating what can fit on this trip, and what to leave behind, Becca and I hit the road yesterday for the first leg of our drive. First stop, visit our dear friends Sean and Stacey Bradshaw, their three children, two dogs in the Washington D.C. area. Having only the packing space within the cabin of our truck, Becca and I took most of our packing time fighting for space within our cabin for her clothes and my cooking gear and guitars. Of course I was not leaving my collection of hot sauces behind!
When we arrived to Sean and Stacey’s, we were greeting with a great 3 course meal at 10:00 in the evening; A well seasoned salt and pepper ribeye steak, Pearl onions in a balsamic reduction, and smashed potatoes before settling in front of a roaring fire and played out the night listing to some Steve Earle and Johnny Cash all the while drinking a 2002 Sassicaia.
Today, we start our Journey through the state of West Virginia where my Italian ancestors originally settled to find work in the coal mines before heading north to Detroit to work in the Automotive world. We’re aiming to stay in Charleston, West Virginia, home of the Mountain Stage, a two hour NPR radio show aired for the first time in 1983. Who knows – maybe we’ll stick around for taping on Sunday night with some of our City Winery favorites, Justin Townes Earle, Wesley Stace and John Gorka.
Day 2 – Feb 1st: DC to Charleston WV (Saturday) = 5.5 Hours
Yesterday morning began in Arlington, VA where we spent our final minutes with the Bradshaws, as well as a brief visit from Becca’s aunt and uncle Christa and Michael before heading through Shenendoah Mountains via Route 64 south through Virginia and into West Virginia.
On the drive, we were tempted way too many times to stop off at the many historic battlefields along the way but the sun was so radiant and landscape so stunning we decided to trek along in the daylight to take in as much as possible. We were both moved by the raw beauty of the landscapes dusted with snow. If you ever drive through this part of the country in your travels, I recommend listening to the Cheiftiens 2002 album “Down the Old Plank Road”, as well as Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 release of “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions with a big asterisk on the song “Shenandoah,” of course, as we traveled through.
We took a brief detour up into the mountains as the sun was beginning to set. As the elevations made our ears pop, we peered down into the expansive Shenendoah Valley. We passed by too many exquisite pastoral scenes to count, each one more beautiful than the last. We wondered what this country side looked like before the Europeans showed up; before roads and Walmart’s dotted the scenery. It didn’t stop me from taking a picture of a piece of Americana (see photos).
The sunset striped the sky with an array of red tones reminiscent of anything from a pale rose to a luscious Pinot Noir, which prompted us to pull over and snap some photos. We still had about 200 miles to Charleston, WV, so I finally passed the wheel over to Becca and we trucked on.
As soon as we entered Charleston, we were immediately hit with a strong smell of licorice – an effect of the significant chemical spill in the Elk River just a few weeks back. Something neither of us put together when planning this route. A little reminder of the negative impact we’ve all had on this land. We have been careful to not drink the water and to only drink beer during our stay here.
We had originally intended on driving through the town where my family resided in WV, but I had conflicting stories as to which town it was, and as it turns out we’re a few hours away, so we’ll head on down the road towards St. Louis. Stay tuned!
Day 3 – Feb 2nd: Charleston WV to St Louis (Sunday) = 8 hours
A Gloomy and drizzly start to the day as we left Charleston, WV and headed west toward St. Louis. The rain was heavy at times as we journeyed into Kentucky, but all in all a peaceful ride despite the weather and Siri yelling at us every time we ventured off the highway to get gas or explore alternative routes for great photo opts.
First major stop was in Lexington, KY where we had lunch at a great Creole restaurant called Bourbon n’ Toulouse; a super casual dining spot with counter style ordering and walls littered with show posters and artist collateral. When ordering, we dove into all the menu as we typically do in a new spot sampling as much as possible not to miss any gems. Everything was served on paper with plastic flatware and we were able to try their Jambalaya, White Chicken and Cajun Red Chili, Chicken Etoufee, and a few sides (and a Beer) all for under $30. Everything was good, with favorites being the White Chicken Chili for me, and the Jambalaya for Becca. As the rain began to turn to sleet we jumped back on the road toward Louisville, KY.
By the time we got to Louisville, it was 6:00 and someone had already rolled up the sidewalks. We were able to make it to a great coffee shop called Sunergos before they closed. This was a micro roaster shop that came on a recommendation from the cashier at that restaurant in Lexington. The coffee ranked up there with my love for Gorilla Coffee from Brooklyn making it worth the energy to find it. We even walked out with a pound of coffee and a mug. We tried to make it to the Louisville Slugger museum while in town as well to hit the merch shop for gifts, but we were left with only photo’s taken of the workshop through the window.
The rain let up just as the night fell and we were about to take on the final leg of the trip into St. Louis. By the time we made it to town later that evening, the night was too far gone to enjoy the city so we settled in for a early start today. We did get a call from City Winery’s owner, my boss Michael on the ride yesterday who had great recommendations for us while in St Louis, which we’ll try to see before heading to Omaha. I mean, how can we leave town without seeing Blueberry Hill?!
Day 4 – Feb 3rd: St Louis to Omaha NB (Monday) = 6.5 hours
Albeit short, we did have a productive morning in St Louis before heading out to Omaha. We hit a few spots that came as a recommendation from Michael Dorf as to what not to miss before leaving town. The first place we hit was Blueberry Hill; a true landmark of American pop culture. This restaurant & music venue was chock full of rock and roll memorabilia and funky odds and ends displayed on walls & trophy cases. The place spanned over a handful of rooms each with their own style and flavor. We were there at 11:00 A.M. so we didn’t get to see it functioning in all it’s glory but you really didn’t need the company with all the wall candy.
Day 5 – Feb 4th: Omaha to Denver (Bailey CO) (Tuesday) = 7.5 hours
Day 5 started off in a bit of a panic. We had to decide whether to stay in Omaha and risk getting snowed in by snow storm Nika for a few days or try to make it to Colorado, as it looked like the storm was already passing by there. All this despite the fact that if we did go we’d end up driving through it. The decision was made to trek on as the drive ahead was through very flat lands. The idea was if we did drive through, we’d be better served doing so in the Great Planes rather than the Rockies.
All in all the drive was not too hectic through Nebraska as we only faced gusting winds that blew a light dusting of snow over the roads which was very manageable. The road issues started to present themselves as night came and temperatures fell to 10 degrees below freezing as we hit Colorado. We saw many tractor trailers and large trucks turned over on route 70 as the roads began to ice up. From that point on it was a near 35 miles per hours to our destination in Bailey, Colorado where my cousin was hosting us. The total trip should have taken 7 1/2 hours, but when all was said in done, we arrived safely in the Colorado mountains after a 13 hour drive.
When we finally arrived, we were greeted at my cousin’s amazing mountain lodge style house with some great Breckenridge Beers and a Prime Rib dinner. Nicole, Sean and their beautiful daughter, Madeline, are impeccable hosts! We will stay another night here in beautiful Colorado catching up on emails with the mountains as our backdrop. Stay tuned for more pictures and news!
Day 6 – Feb 6th: Denver to Salt Lake City (Thursday) = 8.5 hours
After the stress of driving from Omaha to Bailey, we decided to stay put in Colorado for a full day to catch up on some work, rest and spend a little time with family. The day was very low key, however we did find time to head to a staple Colorado restaurant called the Fort located near the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. The menu consisted of game from local Rocky Mountain ranches and featured Roasted Bison Marrow, Rocky Mountain Oysters, and of course some great Colorado Lamb T-bones. Before the meal I had to start off with one of their staple drinks of whiskey, tobacco, gun powder, and Tabasco, which was admittedly good but didn’t resemble too much of the ingredients listed.
Before we said our goodbyes, we obsessed over the weather report for an hour and debated about whether to leave or not as yet another storm was going to hit our path. We did decide to leave, but decided against heading up to Utah through Cheyenne to reach Salt Late City. A huge snow storm was slamming that area and temperatures were near 20 degrees below zero. Instead we headed west through Interstate 9, up through hairpin turns in the Hoosier Pass, through Breckenridge, and inevitably ending up at the Wine Country Inn locate in Palisade, CO. Palisade is known as Colorado’s wine country, vineyards dot the landscape beneath a series of mesas that border route 70.
After dinner in the hotel, we took a suggestion from our bartender to visit a local distillery, The Peach Street Distillery. They offered a selection of gins, vodkas, bourbons and more that they handcraft onsite. The cocktails were excellent and we left with a bottle of their gin.
Next up is a trek through Utah. Stay tuned!
Day 7 – Feb 7th: Salt Lake City to Napa (Saturday) = 10hs / 31 min
Breathtaking and surreal landscapes took center stage on our drive between Colorado and Utah by way of Route 70 through stunning mesas near Grand Junction to snow capped peaks in the Uinta Mountains near Provo. This had to be our clearest and most comfortable drive yet as the weather cooperated with mostly sunshine throughout and temperatures hovering in the mid 40’s. That is until we turned a corner and headed up a snowy mountain road leading us to Sundance, Utah our next stay before our final drive to Napa.
Despite the gift of more snow, a foot overnight on top of the already 3 already standing, we had come across what has been our most peaceful, hospitable and charming resting place yet; The Sundance Resort. This was a very well run place with the most thoughtful of details, including cozy log cabins equipped with comfy beds and roaring fires, rustic yet chic restaurants and stores onsite in a “town” area with too many amenities to mention, all located next to ski lifts accessible by the way of a complimentary shuttles to and from your cabin within minutes. We regret not skiing as we lacked time and clothing (and possibly skill), but we’ll certainly make it back there someday to enjoy a longer stay and hopefully bring friends along as well. We did debate as to stay another night but bad weather again was looming from Salt Lake City all the way to San Fransisco; directly over our next path. The mountain was expecting another foot and a half of snow and my truck was already buried past the bottom break of the door. Maybelle (our dog) didn’t care for the avalanche control booms in the night, either. We were rather despondent to leave this beautiful place behind, but the road called us onward.
Once we hit route 70 towards Nevada, the scenic snow turned to rain dampening our views if Salt Lake. We trekked onwards into Nevada, ushered across the boarder by neon Casino signs and All-You-Can-Eat Buffets. We had lofty goals of making it to Reno, Nevada, but we were worn out. We wound up in Winnemucca for the night, about 250 miles east of Reno. Some hefty burritos and beers from local Mexican joint, Los Margaritas, sent us back to our room to the Olympics and sleep.
The morning will see us across the rest of Nevada and onto our final destination! We are very excited to arrive in Napa, but not as much as Maybelle!
Last Day! – Napa
Our last leg saw us from Winnemucca, NV to the end of the line. We were up early on that final morning as our internal clocks were still on Eastern Time. We packed up the Xterra one last time with backpacks stuffed of clothes plus two guitars we’ve been hauling in and out of hotels all week and got on the road. After a somewhat of a monotonous drive through Nevada, excluding the kitschy casinos and historic truck stops, we hurtled towards California!
Becca and I were both struck by the stark change in landscape as soon as we crossed the state line. We abruptly transitioned from rocky desert to dark green tones and vast mountains. It was as if the landscape knew we were ready for a change in scenery, despite Nevada’s raw yet hypnotizing appeal.
California had been in the grips of an intense drought preceding our arrival. Luckily for the Californians, but not so lucky for us, torrential downpours were soaking the Sunshine State our entire commute. You can imagine our relief at finally arriving in Napa and seeing our friends, co workers and subsequent roommates, Mani and Tavo Gonzalez. Friendly familiar faces were just what we needed (plus they had beer)! We quickly surveyed our home for the next few months and its surroundings. Even through the rain, we were struck by the beauty in the landscape around us.
Once we unloaded the vehicle we cooked dinner, drank some wine and breathed a sigh of relief to be stationary. There is nothing like Speghattini a la Amatriciana to put you to bed just right. After a great trip seeing this amazing country of ours, we are ready to hit the ground running and start rocking Napa Valley!