Tuesday, July 30, 2019

We're calling this "camping." Shut up.

For quite a few years (less regularly in the past few years), a bunch of us women have been taking an annual summer camping trip. We started out tent camping somewhere near a lake, then we mixed in campers, then, as we all got a bit more comfort-oriented, we moved up to cabins. We’d pack clothes for every kind of weather, enough food to last a month for a small village, books, board games, guitars, wine, and some fun activity—henna tattoos, hair dying, facials, etc. We’d hike, play music, tour, take turns planning and cooking meals, and stay for 4-7 days, unless the weather drove us home. The campout has always been a chance to reconnect with friends, kvetch in a “partner-free zone,” eat with wild disregard for our dietary restrictions, and unwind (and maybe let loose) without judgement.

Friends join us for brunch at the annual campout.

Return of Godzilla

This year, we were all feeling less inclined to rough it (at least for now), with our CPAPs, bad knees/hips/backs, and our recent or upcoming treatments/procedures/health crises. Fortunately, one of our clan won a gift certificate and was generous enough to share it with us, so our “campout” this year was one glorious night at one of Little Town’s best-kept secrets—our local winery and B&B, Valliant Vinyards.

The winery sits up on a hill overlooking the Missouri River valley, a quilt of woods and farmland. They make and sell their own wines and distilled liquors. The first floor is the winery dining room, tasting bar, and covered porch. The second floor has five B&B rooms, a conference room, a kitchen, and a gorgeous covered balcony. The basement is the heart of their winemaking, and the distillery is a separate building. They have a covered stage outside for “Winefest,” coming up August 24-25 (http://www.valiantvineyards.us/Home.html

We met at the winery Sunday morning for VV’s weekly “Bloody Mary Sunday.” You could call it an XTreme brunch. We had friends joining us for brunch, so we ordered three “Godzilla’s,” which is a pitcher of Bloody Mary made with the winery’s own distilled and pepper-infused vodka. Into that is added a whole roast chicken, and because it was “Perfectly Pickled” day, a plethora of speared, pickled delights—pickled asparagus wrapped in cream cheese and prosciutto, artichoke hearts and other pickled veggies, shrimp, and more.

Post-brunch Catch Phrase
After a long, leisurely brunch, our guests went home and we campers did a wine tasting to settle on wines for the afternoon and evening. We had a long afternoon of wine and games—Catchphrase, Password, Trivial Pursuit. In the evening, we headed to Spirit Mound, a local site with restored natural prairie on a hill significant to Native Americans, for a lovely short hike. Then, back to the winery, where we were lucky enough to hang out on the upstairs balcony and watch an incredible, brief thunderstorm roll in across the farmland.

Back in our room for the night, the Queen Anne Room, we got out guitars and did a little quiet playing before we all hit the hay (with our Kindles) before midnight.

The evening chip selection
The next morning, Adrienne, the winery manager, cooked us a brilliant breakfast (if she’d added a slice of grilled tomato and soda bread, it would have been the Full Irish). We all got good and coffeed up, and we headed home.

I’ll admit I miss the true camping days, and I may get back to that one day, but with Mom gone to the Bohunk Reunion for a couple more days (I’m on dog duty), and with my “travel weariness” not quite gone yet, this year’s campout (spa-cation? glampout?) was just right.  

Pre-storm hiking selfie...uh yeah...we made it to the top...yeah...

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