Thursday, June 16, 2011

Poor Woman's Wine Tour

I have loads of hoity-toity friends who do some pretty swanky stuff. It’s not uncommon to hear that they’re off to a dinner at the Camas Room, or jetting off to Italy to go to a spa, or taking a wine tour through Napa Valley. And they never ask me to join them.

Not that I’m bitter. I mean, I’m capable of making my own fun wherever I go. In fact, when I was not invited to join a friend’s book club I thought to myself, “To heck with them, I’ll start my own book club and we’ll read books like ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ while they read Proust or Hugo or some other totally incomprehensible Frenchman.”

So I started the book club with a friend and we’ve been meeting for over five years now. And we’ve even worked our way up to a few incomprehensible Frenchmen, so there.

So when I wasn’t invited to tag along on a wine tour, I decided to organize my own. One problem, however: I don’t drink wine.

But I am addicted to Diet Pepsi. And I loved the idea of traveling with good friends, drinking our favorite beverage with a tour map in our hands, finding our way to the best places in town for on-tap soda. Once I had reviewed the wine-country movie “Sideways,” I figured I was good to go.

Gas prices being what they are, we decided to stay in the greater Roseburg area, seeing which local fountain offered the best on-tap D.P. (D.P. is the street name – cool people know this).

Next I asked myself “Who should I invite?” So I grabbed my friends Kathi and Julie, two of my favorite drinking buddies, and Julie’s friend Sharon visiting from San Francisco. Sharon doesn’t drink soda or eat sugar (I secretly hate Sharon for this), but she was willing to be the clean, objective palate on board. Plus, she doubled as our designated driver just in case we got carried away during our D.P. bender.

We created an ad hoc rating system. The place of business was rated for ambiance, background music (cause D.P. always tastes better with great ‘80s music), cleanliness and accessibility. We rated the D.P. on carbonation-to-syrup ratio, temperature and full-bodied taste (or lack thereof). Oh, and I had heard that many wine tours offer refreshments along the way, so I picked up a jumbo bag of Twizzlers to offer to my D.P. tour attendees.

Our first stop was a drive-up window on Garden Valley. The first thing we detected was a strong ammonia smell wafting out the window, though the first sip made me forget the smell. Everyone agreed — this soda stop offered the true flavor of D.P.

Next we headed down Garden Valley and turned on Stephens to another mart. This store doesn’t provide a drive-thru window (subtract 5 points), played country music overhead (down another 10 points), and the man in front of me in line had handcuffs hanging out of his back pocket (loss of 15 points). Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m on a mission for D.P. I like to (1) stay in my car, (2) listen to my own music, and (3) not fear for my life. Plus the Diet Pepsi had a little Dr. Pepper added in. This is never good.

We headed down Stephens and took a left at Diamond Lake Boulevard. Again, the store required me to walk in, THEN (adding insult to injury) made me pay for my drink before I could even get a cup and head to the fountain. Sure, they were playing The Cars overhead (add 10 points), but the fried food mingled with the D.P. (and my clothes) and ruined the taste for everyone.

Next, we drove through downtown, crossed the bridge and got on Harvard. This place had a drive-thru window, KISS FM overhead (we asked) and friendly service (add 10 points for each). The ice-to-soda ratio was perfect, the taste was full-bodied, the bouquet was magnificent and we all agreed – hands down — T-Mart reigns as the best on-tap D.P. in town.

Now that that’s been decided I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to do for our poor-woman’s spa week in Italy. Of course, none of us can afford a trip to Italy, so I may call the Holiday Inn. I think they have a hot tub.

When she’s not busy terrorizing the greater Roseburg area on one of her storied Diet Pepsi benders, Eileen Burmeister is a mild-mannered corporate communicator by day, columnist by night, and a D.P. drinker 24/7.

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