California Wine Leads to a Dogfish Head Vegas

I caught a good ride down the coast, I was dropped off in Paso Robles at sunset. I was unsure where I'd be sleeping this particular night, but I was looking forward to seeing Candice, I was waiting for her to finish up with a wine tasting.

An hour passed beyond the time she said she'd meet me at the grocery store where I was waiting, I decided to go walking to find a spot to camp out before it got too dark, I even considered hitching another ride if the opportunity arose, Bakersfield I thought. I'd walked a good distance through back roads by the time she called, I could hear a happy wine buzz in her voice, it was infectious.

I told her how to get to where I was, soon I saw her familiar white car turning the corner. She pulled over and got out, her smile hit me just right, followed by a hug that felt like home. We got in the car and she popped a champagne bottle, I got to drinking it to catch up, then off we went driving around.

We spun a few ideas around, as far as bars and meeting a friend of hers. She apologized many times, she wished to let me stay at her place, but her landlord didn't allow her to have overnight visitors. I didn't mind, it was a nice night for camping. She talked herself into sneaking me in, unwilling to leave on the side of the road somewhere.

We rolled into the driveway, deep back in the woods of Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. I quickly went up the steps to her room, the second floor of a separate house, maybe it was a garage. It was nice inside, peaceful. She got to pouring wine right away, wine that came from the winery she was working at now. We drank the night away, catching up and laughing. We spoke of an early attraction we'd had for each other, this lead to more, then finally a promise to forget about it. I'm unable to make such promises, as my thoughts and emotions flow as they will.

We laid out on the bed, she put an old movie on and fastly fell asleep. I was wild with wine and passion, torn between her words and actions on the night. I paced a bit, letting my mind wander to other things, many ideas passed through my head, but finally sleep won out.

We snuck out early in the morning before her landlord would wake and have a chance to see me. Candice grabbed some food and a big bottle of beer, 1554 from New Belgium, a good dark beer out of Colorado. We pulled up to a park where we talked and shared the bottle, smoking a bit too. Time caught up with us and Candice had to go to work, I got out and walked around a bit, going to the library once it opened.

I pulled out my computer to do one thing or another, but sleepiness had me pulling my hood up and nodding out for a while. I woke up and made a sign that said "Four Vines", the name of Candice's winery. I walked down to the freeway, then along it I walked to the next exit for her turn off. I made my way to a pullout and held up my sign, a pickup truck stopped and I hopped in the back seat. The two guys had their own winery, Two Brothers I think they called it.

They dropped me off at Four Vines, it was less than 10 miles down the road. I walked into the busy tasting room, Candice was there pouring wine for a group of people. I set my bag down and she grabbed me a glass, she poured me a little of everything.

Afterwards I went across the street to try and hitch back to town. I stood there a while as cars kept passing. I pulled out my harmonica and blew into it for a while in between passing cars. After an hour or so I was over it, I went to Candice's car and passed out for a bit. I woke up and got to carving a piece of drift wood I'd found on Mendocino beach, that kept me busy until Candice got off work.

She was exhausted, it was a busy day and she was running on the same small amount of sleep I was, but she hadn't gotten the chance to have a library nap or the backseat nap that I'd gotten. We went back to her place, her landlord wasn't home, she got some food in her and had soothing music play until she was back to good.

We headed for a bar in town, the tilted kilt we called it, her friend was there. I sipped a beer and talked to her friend for a while, she claimed to be able to talk to dead people and have an extra sense about certain people, knowing bits of their future or current situation. It was an interesting conversation, afterwards she had to go to work, she was a bartender at the very bar we were sitting in.

Candice and I headed next door where she knew the bartender working. I got a good beer there and we all talked a while. Another beer came, then another, a bill would never come for any of it. A shot of jameison or two also got thrown in the mix, also some pitas and sauce.

Candice wasn't going to risk having me stay another night, but the bartender said we could both crash at his place. We stayed at the bar while it closed down, then hopped in cars to get to his place. Once there he discovered his roommate's boyfriend was there, this meant that we couldn't stay the night. We parted ways with him and headed back to Candice's. She decided I could sleep in the car in the driveway, this way I wouldn't be seen, so that's what I did. There was a bit of tension in the air, we'd talked about the night before. She wanted promises from me I couldn't make, although I knew I'd probably abide by the terms of it in a natural way, I just didn't want to put hard and fast words on anything.

Candice hopped in the car in the morning, I popped up once we were out of the driveway. She had a bit of time before she had to be at work, we decided to go to a wine tasting at a place called Turley. Afterwards we went to Candice's winery, she gave me her keys to use her car while she worked. I drove around looking for a spot where I could use my computer, a grocery store coffee shop is where I landed.

I didn't stay long, after a donut I was in the car again heading back for the winery to meet up with the couple I'd be staying with for the night. I gave Candice her keys, she came back out and got me a pastry from the place next door while I waited. It felt like a parting gift, "have a nice life", yet still with a warm smile.

The couple soon came with their daughter riding an old fashioned looking car. After a quick errand we arrived at their piece of land far down a winery laden road, several different structures were on this property. We went inside the one that was their house, made with straw insulation, built by him he told me. They were peaceful, their daughter was intelligent and well rounded, a reflection of her parents. After a piece of conversation with them all, I headed up to the loft they'd set up for me. The past couple days had offered scattered sleep, I took advantage of the comfy bed and gentle rain outside for an afternoon nap that ranked high on my memory of afternoon naps.

I came down refreshed, even more so after cleaning up in their rock garden type shower. I sat and talked more with them while reading a coffee table book they had, it showed categories of products (computers, hygiene, coffee, etc) and broke down what brands were best from A to F, judging everything from environmental friendliness to social issues like child labor and employee treatment. This book made sense in their home, they were very conscious of such things. Their house was designed to be as efficient as possible, they even had a solar cooker they'd use from time to time.

The rain continued, causing a giant double rainbow out over the hills in the soft yellow light around sunset. We had a big meal they made up of burritos with great rice, followed by root beer floats that hit the spot. We talked a bit more about travels and solar cookers, then they headed to bed, me up to the loft for sleep.

I woke nicely in the morning, having a bowl of cereal and doing a bit of writing. I'd given Candice a call, we'd had talk of me riding with her as far as Bakersfield or Vegas on her way up to Salt Lake City. I started thinking about hitchhiking after some time went by, my hosts offered me a ride to the freeway later when they'd be going to town. I ended up hearing from Candice, she came and scooped me up after some talking in the house.

We cruised through the fields and windy roads around the hills towards Bakersfield. By the time we reached their I'd decided I may as well get to Vegas while I had a ride, and by the time we reached the world's largest thermometer in Baker, Candice decided she'd stay a night in Vegas with me too.

We got a bottle of Champagne after checking in at the Luxor and headed up to the room where we popped it open. We drank on that, back to the car for more wine, back to the room to drink more, then out into the casino. I got comped chips that I used at the craps table, then took the money from there to video roulette to increase my cash, getting free drinks along the way.

We got some food upstairs, our wandering afterwards lead us by the oxygen bar, next to which were water massage machines. Talking to the young guy behind it somehow lead to Candice getting into the machine for free, I sat at the bar while he gave me tubes to the oxygen with a wink, there was a big guy sitting next to me who was paying for whatever the young guy behind the counter could get him to pay for.

I sat breathing in the flavored oxygen getting high, maybe just from laughter and the nights steady flow of booze. Candice finally emerged from the machine in smiling relaxation, after sharing some tubes and talk, we were heading down to the craps table with the big guy next to us. We were both throwing money on the table, Candice lingering about in time for the drink lady, I kept saying "two more please!", soon I had a small stock pile of drinks beneath me, trying to keep up with the waitresses rounds.

In a bit of time my money was gone, all money I hadn't walked into Vegas with in the first place anyhow. Next thing I knew I was waking up in the room, it was morning, a glazed over headache that made life seem simple, I was probably still a pinch drunk. I found forty dollars I didn't know I had, we took it down to the roulette machine with a single mission, one that was accomplished. I wanted to win just enough cash to go to the Burger Bar and get us some tasty beers, I won $21, we headed up the stairs to the Burger Bar.

We both got Dogfish Head Palo Santo beers, sipping them down, the familiar bartender girl was there, Janet was her name I finally learned. We got fries and sliders too, a decision Candice made, a strange one since she'd typically been a vegetarian. The bill came and I put out the $21, Candice got the rest, I was left with my surprise forty. She took off after that, heading for Salt Lake, I'd then go to sleep for the rest of the day and into the night.

I woke the next day after a long long sleep. I realized I needed money for my student loan, around $230, I had only $40. I headed to the roulette machine and grinded it out in several sessions until I built it up, from there wandering for miles in the Vegas sun to get to a bank to deposit the money.

I relaxed for a bit in the room after, the walk had me double backing and gone for hours. I wanted beer from the Burger Bar again, I used the roulette machine again to make enough for a couple, then headed up. Janet was there again, I started with the Dogfish Head Raison D'etre, we talked beer a bit in between the business at the bar. I got a Dogfish Head Brown after that, another great choice. She asked me if I'd ever heard of their 120 Minute IPA, of course I had and my immediate smile made that clear. We swapped stories about it, anyone who's drank it has a good story, and I'd had it more times than most.

I drank down the Brown while talking with different people at the bar when suddenly I spotted a beer in their fridge that wasn't on the menu, Life & Limb, a beer the Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada had collaborated on. I asked Janet about it, she said it was $21 for this 24 ounce bottle. I wanted it... I decided I'd go down to the roulette machine and try to win my way to it. Janet came back around, we both tried to talk at once, I started with my idea and a request for the check, but what she had to say was better.

"The Casino's a trap... don't do that. Anyways, here's what I'm gonna do: I'll sneak a bottle of the 120 when my boss isn't looking and we're gonna split it, they'll just think I gave you a sample of something on tap", she smiled and corner-eyeballed her boss behind me who's back was turned. She slyly swiped the bottle and two glasses and gave me a pour. I smiled and sipped the greatness, the kind of smiling sips that make me think of the first day I got on the road and everyday since, further fueling my smile until I look like an ecstasy filled lunatic. She snuck me another pour shortly after and soon we'd finished the bottle.

I left a pile of money and told her I still planned on being back for the Life & Limb. A fast walk turned into a jog down the escalator and to the roulette machine. I quickly won exactly $27 and came back up to the same stool, her boss was there talking beer with a couple who'd just sat at the bar pursuing the beer book. Janet couldn't believe to see me back, "You really just won?".

"Yup, Life & Limb it is!", I smiled, her boss looked a bit out of the loop, but intrigued.

Him and the couple were interested, beer people, "Let it sit for a few minutes and warm up just a bit, that's how that beer gets great", the boss told me. I took a quick sip for gratification, then let it sit a minute while talking beer with the couple. I talked with them until the bottle was empty, they were from Portland and knew a whole lot about great beers. I left my $27 on the counter and was done, a good Burger Bar night.

I managed to lose the rest of my cash at the same roulette machine on the way back to the room, save for $4, I was glad I'd lost it then instead of before the great beer session. In the morning I'd be using the public bus system to get to the edge of town and hitchhike out of there, I'd need all four of those dollars to do it. Phoenix would be my destination; earlier that morning I'd gotten a message from Molly who'd arranged for us to volunteer and get free tickets to the Coachella music festival, this would prove to be an amazing trip.