It is impossible to characterize a region from a single journey. One collects experiences and attempts to connect the dots to create a complete picture. We do this throughout our lives and even with our lives. But the magic is in the moments rather than the lines that we construct.
My trip carried me from Atlanta, to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, into the Appalachian hill country of North Carolina, to the great plantations of eastern Virginia, and on into the historic urban enclave of Richmond. I am grateful for the time shared with friends, old and brand spankin' new. Much good was enjoyed and done.
Starting in Atlanta was fitting, as I have missed it. Since 2008, when the economy took its tailspin, I haven't visited. But prior, I was there several times a year. Halleck Vineyard wines were served in the finest restaurants across the region. I attended tastings, hosted dinners, participated in the High Museum Wine Auction, one of the most prestigious in the country, and built a community of friends. So I was excited to return to Atlanta.
It started in a shoe store of all places. But this is a story for another blog, sparked at the Ahwahnee Hotel last November in Yosemite National Park. I left Foot Solutions in Sandy Springs with new friends and several pairs of shoes. If you go there, talk to Brian or Marcia :-)
We have a wonderful Wine Club crew in Atlanta with almost 40 members. It was fitting that we convene at Restaurant Eugene. Linton Hopkins won the James Beard Foundation Award in 2012 for the best chef in the Southeast. If you consider that New Orleans is part of the Southeast, not to speak of all the other states, cities and towns, this is a very big deal. He and his wife, Gina, have hosted me numerous times for dinner during my visits. They can seat only 16 for private dining, but they squeezed in 20 of us and took care of our every need. And no one felt crowded.
The meal was organized by another Gina (pronounced Jenna) and Angelle. I could not have been bookended by two more gorgeous women, inside and out. I met new friends over the joy of sharing delicious food, every course expertly paired with each of our wines. It was my pleasure to work closely with Juan Cortes, Eugene's sommelier, in dialing-in the menu. But it was the artistic command of the kitchen that delivered on our efforts. Kudos to the chefs!
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the High Art Museum, a cultural icon of Atlanta and the entire Southeast. It was a privilege to return on a mission to enjoy and give back.
My stay in Atlanta was short. The next morning I headed northwest, through Georgia, hopping across a short span of North Carolina, into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I was bound for Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a tourist town on the rim of the Park, to visit a dear friend and Baptist minister, Bill Black.
Bill and I met on the ski slopes of Colorado during the Beaver Creek Food and Wine Festival. We started chatting on a chairlift and became instant friends, skiing and tracking with each other during my work at the Festival. Bill is the first Baptist minister I've met. We connected on a spiritual level that could never be constrained by his Christian orientation or my Jewish roots. He has been out to California a couple of times since our meeting, so it was my turn to visit his turf.
Driving through the Great Smokeys was eye-opening. I didn't even know it was a National Park! It is 30 miles wide and 70 miles long with very few roads. It is the most visited National Park in the US. To describe it as gorgeous, diminishes. Upon entering, I was welcomed by a herd of lounging Elk. They were reintroduced into the park about 10 years ago and have been thriving. From the top, at the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, there is an overlook where you can peer across the unbroken landscape at the "blue smoke" rising off the hills, the source of its name. This mist is a function of water evaporation from the forests and it is nothing less than mystical to witness.
It did not prepare me for Gatlinburg, however. Gatlinburg is a cross between Disneyland and Las Vegas, situated on the edge of the Park. I arrived on a Monday. It was jam packed with people, large (mostly) and small, on the streets and sidewalks shopping, carrying ice cream cones, cotton candy, and popping in and out of the tourist attractions, bars and eateries. It is no more than 20 blocks long and there are 6 pancake houses. The throngs of tourists must really like their breakfasts.
Bill met me in town and immediately introduced me to "inner Gatlinburg". We had a Parton's Deli sandwich made by Dennis, who took over the sandwich shop from his father. Dennis was my age and had not traveled more than one trip to Texas his whole life. He made a mean sandwich, steamed in a contraption out of the '50s.
After a brief pitstop in Bill's picturesque quaint mountain home just outside town, he drove me back into the Park along swollen Little Creek to the historic site of Cade's Cove. I was expecting water, but Cades is a cove defined by the circle of mountains surrounding an ancient settlement. It was first inhabited by native Americans, then by generations of settling families. They were cut off from anything that they could not supply for themselves by days of travel, so this fecund paradise fulfilled their every need through agriculture and hunting.
As the afternoon waned into the evening, we toured some of the early homes, barns and church that remain. We walked the cemetery, noting the names of the families and the generations represented since the early 1800s. We parked ourselves on a knoll, surrounded by the Cove, drank wild moonshine and talked. Because talking is where our friendship began and stands as the basis of its flourishing.
I spent a couple days touring the area with Bill. We took a steep hike off-trail up a creek to a remote waterfall he had not visited for 20 years. I bought a hand-made broom by one of the artisan families, the Ogles, that have continued to ply their trade for generations.
And then we made plans for Bill to join me with friends for my upcoming vintner dinner in another part of Appalachia in North Carolina, near Asheville. I left the following morning.
I headed out to visit my friend and amazing chef, Susi Gott Seguret, at her family homestead outside of Marshall, North Carolina.
Susi met me in Asheville to take care of some last minute shopping for the meal. After a short stop at the farmers market, we headed to the Grove Park Inn, made famous by its early resident, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote several books there while battling alcoholism and depression.
This hotel is in the grand style of lodges, reminding me of the Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park. Perched high above town, it sports huge fireplaces blazing with split tree trunks, ringed by rocking chairs. It is elegant and monumental in scale. We enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh trout on the veranda overlooking all of Asheville.
After lunch we toured some galleries, for which Asheville is famous. I had been told it was the Bohemian mecca of the south and it had all the charm that implies.
At afternoon's end, Susi and I caravanned to her family homestead almost an hour away into the hills. She is an amazing woman, having resettled on her family's 200 acre homestead after living in France for 20 years.
She accommodated me in the "luxury suite", an old cabin without running water and no mobile connection. But it did have electricity, so was the only building on the property that had an electric heater. All the others were heated by wood stoves. My cabin was 100 years old, and one of a dozen buildings of its vintage on the farm. Susi's 50 year old main house had a chef's kitchen, centered around a wood stove that is still used.
The family meal that night could have been enjoyed in a chateau in Provence, but it was punctuated by the banjo playing of "Daddy", who is suffering from dementia, and a bottle of Halleck Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Our wines, in fact, share good company on the rack with French Burgundies and Bordeaux in the kitchen.
The performance was spectacular. It was an extraordinary and unique cultural experience.
The following day, we headed to Three Graces Dairy, down the road a piece, to pick up cheeses for the evening's meal at Laughing Frog Estate. Diane tasted us on some of her selections, then we headed back to the homestead for an extended tour of the property.
We visited Susi's parents compound where she was raised. Susi is almost 10 years younger than me. Until a teenager, the family shared a large room. Much of the inspiration for the compound came from Cade's Cove in Tennessee, from where I had just come. They had no running water, electricity, and obviously no television. Susi was bussed to school an hour each way daily. Her teenage son still follows this regimen, leaving home just after 6:00 am to catch the bus.
The compound has grown since then, adding a few rooms, plumbing (forced by the county) and electricity. But her parents still heat and cook with the wood stove, cutting the wood at over 80 years old. Susi's daddy cannot do nearly as much due to his illness, so the extended family pitches in to care for him and keep the place up. We headed up to another cabin, much newer but in traditional style, that Susi's brother built by hand to serve as an art studio for Susi's mom. She uses it as a daily retreat for her water colors.
After the tour, Susi completed the prep for the meal. We headed out to Laughing Frog for our vintner dinner.
I was completely taken aback by the Laughing Frog Estate, home to Kelley and Stephen Wilkinson. The pictures I had seen display a large rustic lodge peeking out of a wooded background. The web site also appeared somewhat rustic, given my background as a marketing guy and coming from Silicon Valley. These, coupled with my introduction to Appalachia from Susi's family home, set my expectations.
The home was absolutely elegant, modern, gorgeous, of impeccable taste and unexpected. The main part of the house is a log home, built in classic planed timber style of the region. It is enormous, surrounding a large brick pass-through fireplace and rimmed by windows. Susi's father laid the first rounds of the foundation and taught a class in log-home building on the site when the house was first under construction 18 years ago. Then, the Wilkinsons appointed the home with an extravagant chef's kitchen, marble floors, gorgeous furnishings and completed an addition in classic European style. This section of the house has a great room that towers 35 feet, large stained glass windows, balconies overlooking the room, wainscoting throughout, coffered ceilings, and stunning art everywhere. There are outdoor decks and terraces with views that take your breath away.
When I got over my shock and a quick tour, Susi and I got to work to prepare for dinner. We set the table and got the meal on the stoves and into the ovens.
The musicians arrived. Al Petteway and Amy White, married for 20 years, were Grammy Award winners. Their music graces the background of the Ken Burns film, "Civil War". For our meal, they composed and performed pieces to go with each course based on the menu and description of the wine. Playing guitars, a banjo and a harp, the styles ranged from locally inspired string picking to rock to folk.
My friend, Bill arrived with his guests, Clair, Debby and George, to fill the table. We dined for 6 hours serenaded by Al and Amy. We enjoyed blessed conversations reserved for those who can spend the time, are lubricated by wine, and have all their needs being met.
When the dinner was complete, we retired to the Great Room for a finale concert.
There were dishes and a kitchen to clean, so Susi and I stumbled out at 1:30am, tired and well-pleased for our effort.
By 10 am, I was heading to Virginia. I stopped at my first gas station to use the bathroom.
It was a rainy seven hours of driving to arrive in Charles City. Charles City County lies north of the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg along Route 5, a National Scenic Byway, part of which was once known as The Great Road. The eastern end of it follows part of an ancient Algonquin Trail that began near Jamestown. It is considered the earliest developed English thoroughfare in Virginia. The road was an important route used to transport goods and forward communications between settlements in the earliest days of inhabitancy.
I arrived at Upper Weyanoke, the family vacation home of Freddie and Lawrence Gray, poised above the James River. Upper Weyanoke is part of the larger family plantation of over 2000 acres where Lawrence grew up spending summers. Charles City is comprised of large agricultural tracts. The James River at that point is a mile wide, appearing as a lake, leading into the Chesapeake Bay and then into the Atlantic.
I was met by a warm hug from Freddie and shown into the house. We were immediately graced with the swoop of a bald eagle in front of the window overlooking the water. We both regarded this as a good omen.
I was led to an entire floor and wing with 3 bedrooms, kitchen and laundry room in my area of this palatial home. They call it, "The Farm". Freddie fell in love with Halleck Vineyard, "The Farm Vineyard" Pinot Noir, on a visit to an old friend in Sebastopol last year. She bought a case for Lawrence's birthday and it is now their "house wine".
Dramatically situated on the banks of the James, the center core of Upper Weyanoke is believed to have been erected in the 17th century as a stronghold against Indian assault following the massacres of 1622 (347 colonists were killed, including five on the Weyanoke property). Although no one knows how many garrison houses may have been built after the massacres, Upper Weyanoke is the only one that remains. It is believed to be one of the oldest houses on the James River. There are still original floors, fireplaces and doors in this section of the home. This land is where the first slaves landed in the New World and was an active port for some time. In the 40s, an addition was constructed to accommodate a family. Five years ago, Lawrence and Freddie began the three year project to bring the home to its current grandeur. It stands as a showcase of good living. There is an astounding chef's kitchen, guest rooms, guest houses, a "scary house" from the 1800s that will be a future project, gorgeous gardens, two boat houses, docks, a stunning pool house, barns and plenty of spots to enjoy a cocktail. It is a place to PARTY!!!
And you could not ask for a nicer or more gracious couple of people to party with.
After a long shower and shave, Freddie and I had our first cocktail. Then we headed to chef Annie Chalkley's home for our staging dinner. Freddie and Annie invited a dozen friends to preview the dinner planned for the following night at Upper Weyanoke. The event was auctioned to benefit the World Pediatric Project, an amazing organization that travels into the Caribbean to assist children with medical care. More on that later.
I did not realize it, but this was also my "coming out" party for the Charles City community of Annie, Freddie and Lawrence's friends. Annie and I had collaborated on the menu via correspondence. Freddie did not want to waste the effort on just one dinner, so they planned two: one for their friends and the other for the winners of the auction lot.
The dinner was wonderful and the wines were perfect matches. Annie and I made some minor tweaks, but we were good to go. And I had a whole new circle of friends.
The following day, Freddie and Lawrence took me on the rounds. First thing, we attended the last fox hunt of the season. It was held on the Tyler estate, called Sherwood Forest, original home of President John Tyler (1841-1845) and still one of the homes of the current generation of Tylers. We were served port, sherry, bloody mary's and some special little sandwiches of Virginia ham. The dogs were out and all the riders were decked in full regalia. Grooms were polishing the boots of the riders and the horses' manes and tails were braided. We were met by all the friends of the previous evening. Jeanine and Susie were riders, but the rest of us watched in the morning chill. They looked gorgeous on their gussied-up steeds in their gussied-up outfits.
When the horses were off, we made quick exit to meet Andrea Erdas at her family plantation, Westover Plantation. This august home is steeped in history and continues the glow of its noble past. Westover is considered one of the most perfect examples of Georgian architecture in America. Its elegant yet simple form and proportions, combined with a commanding setting overlooking the James River, convey the essence of 18th century artistic ideals adapted to a wealthy planter's style of living in Colonial Virginia. It is a living museum, converted into a thriving business to support the extravagant expenses required to maintain it. It is regularly a site in films, there are tours of the home and grounds, and it serves as a venue for weddings and celebrations. Andrea and Rob have taken over the family business from her mother and father who live in another beautiful home on the grounds.
From Westover, we headed to Tayloe and Susie's plantation, Upper Shirley. Again, a gorgeous period dwelling, with a history of modernizations to bring it to a state for fine living. But Tayloe has a more interesting story that prompted my visit; he has planted 35 acres of vines, is building an ambitious 15,000 foot tasting facility and venue, and is devoted to making great wine in Virginia. He has planted Petit Verdot, Viognier, Merlot and Tannat. This is a "growing" movement in Virginia, I was informed, with restaurants focused entirely on featuring Virginia wines. Tayloe was enthralled with the Halleck Vineyard wines he tasted at Annie's home, so was excited for me to visit. As soon as we got to the vineyard, we left everyone in the dust, so to speak. His trellising and pruning techniques were interesting. The soil could not be more different than in California. It is rated the most productive soil in the world. There is plenty of water and plenty of everything else. How does one stress a vine in such conditions? This is his challenge and we could have talked for hours. And we certainly will, but time was not our friend, so we headed out to another estate.
Joining us at Upper Shirley was John Hinson. His wife, Jeanine, was one of the fox hunt riders. He drove up in his fully restored, 1962 Austin Healy. It was truly a work of art. He offered me a ride back to tour his place, Evelynton Plantation, so I hopped in. He placed his cute dog on my lap and we were off like a speeding bullet. I almost soiled his car I was so frightened. We were on a narrow country road, unimproved, which exited the Upper Shirley estate, going 80mph! I tried to enjoy it for about 15 seconds until I realized I was not. My youthful days were behind me with the scenery and I was fear-struck. It only took a word and we were cruising at a pace in harmony with our bucolic surroundings.
Evelynton, a Georgian Revival manor house, was built in 1937 on the site of a previous structure which burned in 1862. Evelynton was the site of fierce Civil War skirmishes in 1862 at the end of General George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. J.E.B.Stuart led the Southern offensive in the Battle of Evelynton Heights. The original house was burned during that conflict. John and Jeanine bought the property in 2008 and fully restored it to all its glory.
From Evelynton, Lawrence, Freddie and I took a short stop for lunch at the historic Cul's Courthouse Grill, built in 1872. This was the site of another historic event, Lawrence's 50th birthday. This special occasion, he took his spot with the band and relived his wayward youth as a rockstar. Crooning songs and hammering away on his axe, he entertained guests as they danced in celebration of entering his sixth decade.
With the morning gone and dinner approaching, we headed back to Upper Weyanoke for a waking tour of the extended family's 2000 acres. Childhood stories were shared of cannon blasts, swimming parties, sleep-overs in the caboose, and bombing around the property in go-carts. We toured the family manor and chatted about the other family members. Some much needed exercise was gotten.
After our walk we settled in for a nap and dinner preparations. This would be the Main Event: the dinner for 12 that auctioned to benefit World Pediatric. This organization does extraordinary work to relieve the suffering of children through medical treatment of entirely treatable maladies. More importantly, the money donated achieves a 4x multiplier: this means that for every dollar received, $4 worth of care is delivered. This is because ALL the docs and nurses donate their time. The money goes only for medication, supplies, transportation, and a modest amount to sustain a staff to organize all the services delivered. So the funds we generated during my visit translated into approximately $40,000 in benefits for these unfortunate children. It makes one feel good to do good. And even better to do great.
Freddie, Lawrence, and I welcomed our guests as the sun was setting over the James River. Annie and Rhonda held the fort in the kitchen. The dinner was won by Janie Armfield and her husband, Billy. They were joined by their son and daughter, their spouses and a few friends. They arrived in a shuttle, arranged by Freddie, to save anyone from driving. Cocktails, bubbly and beer was enjoyed to warm the cockles and loosen the tongues. It was a gorgeous evening with temps in the high 60s.
We served as kitchen and wait staff for our guests. I LOVE that! It was a pleasure to be server and sommelier, retreating to the back with "the help", to discuss the event and our next tasks. The five of us worked like a well-oiled machine, smiles and joy throughout the meal.
Since I was not dining, I needed to be "the talent" between courses; so I took stance at the corner of the table and improvised, telling stories, describing the wine, teaching how to taste, and answering questions. The time filled easily and our guests barely realized the transitions.
It was a marvelous evening that turned into night. Everyone was well-pleased. Before leaving, a few members asked to join our Wine Club, and Janie committed to outbidding the event for next year. So our benefit to World Pediatric was doubled again. And our community expanded.
The following day I had one more event to host to cap my southern trek. This time it was in Richmond, VA. Again, on behalf of World Pediatric, I was asked to conduct a tasting at Diane and Murray Wright's French chateau-style home. This was won by Blair and Darcie Nelson, who hosted 20 friends for Halleck Vineyard wines. This added to our contribution, lifting the benefit to children for my time in Virginia. We also gained another three Wine Club members.
I left the Wrights to find my way to Freddie and Lawrence's Richmond home, just a couple miles away.Freddie and their spunky 14 yr. old daughter, Arlo, met me at the door. Arlo was decked in lacrosse attire, sporting a couple of "sticks". Freddie showed me to my lofty suite above their four story home to change and get ready for a driving tour of Richmond with she and Lawrence. We enjoyed dinner at a favorite Italian haunt, got home early, and I crashed into a 9 hour sleep. This was the most I had slept my entire trip. I awoke refreshed; after packing, Freddie and I walked a few miles around the neighborhood and the University of Richmond. Very fond farewells were bid and I headed home.
"Building Community Through Wine" is more than a tagline. It is impossible to express how grateful I am to be doing this work. I am privileged to apply myself to what I love, share it with people around the country and the world, make a living, build a legacy for my children, and contribute to making the world a better place.
With time to cool my heels, I am gearing up for two big weeks of travel ahead. I write as I look out at the fog billowing in from the coast. I was hoping for an afternoon cycle, but visibility precludes.
I just returned from six days in Utah where I enjoyed the most epic skiing of recent years. I began the trip near Provo, at the home of my dear friends Leesa and Gary Lee Price. Adriana picked me up at the airport for the drive south. We scoured the countryside for cigars before arriving at Leesa and Gary's. Gary is a sculptor working on the biggest monument to be on this coast, the Statue of Responsibility. It will the national bookend and same size as the Statue of Liberty. I had the opportunity to tour Gary's studio, full of varying models of the over 300 ft. statue.
I met Leesa late last year at CEOSpace and we became instant friends. Gary and Leesa joined me at Halleck Vineyard for lunch soon after to discuss their project with Potenza, who has been working on her "Hearts of the World" for over 20 years. Bonds were established and I am excited to witness one of the greatest artistic endeavors of our time. We hope to have Potenza's Heart flags encircling the island which will host the Statue of Responsibility on the San Diego coast.
The next morning, I headed to Salt Lake City to meet my friends, Bob and Jean Jacques, for our ski adventure. We were housed in a 50 year old cabin on the mountainside ski resort of Alta. Friends of 40 years, I met Bob and Jean Jacques as young men in Kenya in the mid-1970s. We were joined by an old friend of Bob's, John (now a Halleck Vineyard Wine Club member :-). Our food was snow-catted up prior to arrival. We had to take two lifts up the mountain in a white-out blizzard, wearing backpacks with our gear; then we skied down the mountain, off-piste (not on the ski runs, through the trees) to find our cabin. Bob has owned the cabin for over 30 years, so it is well maintained and he guided us without getting lost. I would NEVER have found it on my own!
The five days of skiing were the best. Classic Utah Champagne Powder. We barbecued ribeyes and burgers, roasted a turkey, enjoyed pasta and ham for dinners. Lunches were sandwiches of the same. Someone's wines graced the table, punctuating the communion. And those cigars were also enjoyed. Four old guys camping in luxury. Snow whirled around for two days, then we had 3 bluebird days. Wed and Thursday offered fresh powder fields under sunshine, but required some serious ski-hiking and traverses up. Kicked my sea-level ass! And I was the youngest among-us! It was awesome!
I headed home on Saturday for a charity dinner at Halleck Vineyard for "Rooms That Rock", an organization that decorates hospital rooms for children with cancer to soften their institutional experience. I was partnered with chef Charlie Ayers, owner of Calfia in Palo Alto. Charlie was the head chef for Google, one of their first employees. Calfia is one of the most popular amongst the "tech-set" in Silicon Valley. He was joined by his colleague, chef Frank Otte, who has travelled the world on private jets serving the business and political elite for most of his career. He now oversees all of Calfia's bustling catering business. They did an amazing job, comparable to any of the best meals I have had at Restaurant Picco, Gramercy Tavern, or even Per Se.
The three of us worked seamlessly, though having never met. It was a love-fest. Every desire of or philanthropic guests was catered to. I look forward to hosting a Halleck Vineyard event in Palo Alto in the not-distant future.
My next stop was intended to be Houston for the Grand Opening of Peli Peli in the Galleria. Unfortunately, due to an administrative snafu, permits were delayed. So the events are postponed and I have a few unexpected days to myself.
On Saturday before dawn, I head to Atlanta. Dinner is on Sunday at Restaurant Eugene to benefit the High Art Museum. Atlanta is a favorite town. Before the market shift, Atlanta's top restaurants served Halleck Vineyard wines. I made lots of friends and Wine Club members. This will be a wonderful home-coming for me. Chef Linton Hopkins received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Southeast in 2012. Get the picture?! This is primarily a farm-to-table dining experience. I have had the privilege of joining Chef Linton and his lovely wife, Gina, many times during Atlanta stays. The dinner has been sold out for weeks. I am excited!
Then I begin a road trip through the South. I head north with my great ski buddy, soul brother, and Baptist Minister friend, Bill Black. He lives in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and has plans to show me around. He introduced me to real Moonshine. We met years ago on a ski lift in Beaver Creek Colorado during a wine event. This has been followed up by over a hundred oysters at Nick's Cove, skiing in Tahoe, and a night of Moonshine out of a Ball jar.
We will head to Asheville, North Carolina, to meet up with my friend, Susi Gott Seguret, Executive Director and Chef of the Seasonal Culinary Institute. Susi has created a one-of-a-kind experience. I have never had the pleasure of dining at this level. We will be in a remote location, the Laughing Frog Estate. Susi, VERY French trained, has created a menu to pair with each of my wines. You can click to view the menu. Then she has engaged a Grammy Award-winning ensemble to correlate musical arrangements with each dish. How is that for pairing.
The following day, Friday, March 20, I head up to Charles City, Virginia to the home of Annie Chalkley, chef extraordinaire. Our friends and Wine Club Members, Freddie and her husband, Lawrence, own a family estate called, The Farm. I met Freddie in Sebastopol at a "girls party" where I served my wines and, of course, she fell in love with Halleck Vineyard, The Farm Vineyard, Pinot Noir. She bought a case for Lawrence's upcoming birthday. She and Lawrence have sponsored three events, two for charity, while I am in the neighborhood. Annie is the chef. So I continue with Annie, Freddie and Lawrence on Saturday and Sunday at an event each day with Halleck Vineyard wines to meet new friends and grow our community.
Freddie has promised a wonderful tour of southern culture, hospitality and comfort. Hopefully the weather will be warm enough to enjoy it. I have not been through the South since I was a child. To be carried along on the hearts of so many generous and caring people promises for a meaningful trip.