Day 1 of my excellent San Francisco adventure took me to California’s wine country. The beauty of the countryside around the Bay area is both complex and simple as illustrated by the intricate row houses of the city back dropped by rolling green hills. The land flattens out and the hills embrace as you enter Napa Valley. Cornerstone Gardens was our first stop and is a collection of 20 garden landscapes, each created by a famous landscape architect. We walked around and snapped a few pictures, including sad, photographic evidence of where I lost my Bluetooth headset. After building up a thirst, it was time to toast Barb’s new job with a glass of the bubbly at Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves. Of course it’s not really “champagne” because the grapes are grown in California, but I don’t want to go all “wine snob” on you…

It was a great day including service by a “Wheel of Fortune” winner at Domaine Carneros and a nice tasting at my favorite winery out there, V. Sattui. The wineries caught us by surprise with their 5:00 – 6:00 pm closings, so we headed to Bistro Jeanty in Yountville to see if we could get a table before our 8:30 reservation. We sat at the bar drinking wine until they sat us around um, 8:15… Dinner was spectacular and a fitting end to a wonderful day. Well, except it wasn’t quite the end. We still had a little ride from Yountville in Napa Valley to Santa Rosa in Sonoma. Yeah, we were headed over the hills and through the woods in the dark, through clouds of valley mist and fermented grape.

Barb was at her post in the co-pilot seat and she had the map firmly grasped in her hands. Unfortunately, her hands were attached to her sleeping self. Yep, my trusty navigator was counting sheep after a 20 hour day. I needed a Plan B, and I had one. As you may recall, I posess the Swiss Army knife of the technology realm: The “Jack Bauer” edition Palm Treo. On it I have the until now, classified “Directory Assistant” app.

With thumping music building a fake sense of tension in the background, I quickly found the hotel address and then plugged in our current zip code. In less time than you can say “24,” the directions were on my screen. I punched the gas pedal (not really, we were in a “thickly settled” 20mph zone) and screeched toward our destination. Barb continued to hold the map. I’m certain some terrorist likely named “Marwahn” probably spiked each and every glass of wine she had that evening.

(We’ll now return to reality…)

I wanted the right music for this “rural route” home. Uncle Tupelo’s “Anodyne,” as it has before, got the job done. It turned out to be an apt soundtrack to the dark, slow ride through the twists and turns separating life in each valley. The songs got me thinking. They also got me singing. For me, that music is cleansing like a hard rain. Its words offering a slightly different meaning each time they’re heard; some more pointed, depending on time and circumstance. On that night, on the road I found myself on, one line stood out:

“Danger/Slow” says the sign ahead”

The Treo got us to our hotel and I got Barb and her luggage (I swear it was so freakin heavy I think Hervé Villechaize was in there…) off to her room and then I found mine. It was a campus layout, so I just followed the signs. It’s really that easy. If you open your eyes, the signs are there. It’s up to you whether or not to follow them.