After battling a monster storm, finding the Duval restaurant, enjoying a wonderful meal and sleeping like a stone, I said a wonderful goodbye after breakfast and headed north. I was on the coast road going north toward Brest to find my Scottish friend, Ian, his girlfriend and Ian's sister.
It was early fall, 1968, and I was enrolled in a winery viticultural work-study program in France and was given a week to venture out on my own. After the horrendous storm of the day and night before — a storm which ravaged the French coast — I found myself back on the BMW R69S, tank filled and brakes, finally dried after the deluge, working well. The day was unbelievable beautiful, the storm leaving behind cobalt-blue skies, dead-calm wind, and weather so warm that I shed everything above my waist except for a bright red T-shirt which flapped easily in the slipstream of the motorcycle. I was looking for some evidence (I had a roughly drawn map of where the "gathering" would be) of where Ian and his "few friends" might be encamped.
Tooling the kilometers along on the coastal roadway, I saw evidence of yesterday's storm. Branches, leaves and other debris made the ride a cautious one as I weaved from time to time between the flotsam and jetsam.
The air was deliciously warm, as was the sun, and I lifted the goggles briefly from my face onto the upper front of the helmet. Taking a slow turn to the right, I saw that the roadway was now open and clear and pulled down the goggles and opened up the bike. At the next — very blind — turn, I slowed and as I came out of the turn I almost literally ran into an enormous blue flag the size of two king-sized bed sheets, crossed diagonally with two broad white stripes flapping lazily over the two-lane roadway. Now I had to find the entrance to where the gathering was taking place. Not 50 meters to my right, in an enormous open pasture stood three large, concentric circles of camper vans, (the Scots called "caravans") tents of all colors, sizes and shapes and a host of cars and motorcycles.
Turning onto the gravel side road was like riding on marbles, the gravel was rounded and wet from the night before. Any sharp turn of the front wheel would have dumped me. Gingerly, I stood off of the saddle and made my way, finally, to where the other bikes were parked. I began to walk among the tents and caravans and the scene was an amalgamation of a medieval fair, Burning Man, Braveheart and Harry Potter. There were many, many groups of people laughing, singing, juggling, playing instruments, selling trinkets in open tents, face-painting, tarot-reading, cooking (bonfires were everywhere), drinking, wrestling, reciting poetry on boxes and skinny dipping in a very large pond at the edge of the pasture. I saw every variety of tartan on various pieces of clothing and Scottish flags hung from time to time from vehicles tents and caravans. This was a delicious madhouse.
Not 10 minutes into my walk this huge guy came up and grabbed my arm. Ian! I had, he said, "urgent and immediate business to attend to." He pushed me through the throng, (many of whom pulled on him and wanted a word) to a flatbed truck parked at the edge of the pasture. I was thrust onto the bench seat with two larger-than-life Scotsmen. Evidently, they had made "arrangements" with a "reluctant" local grower to purchase wine and I was to negotiate the sale and bring the wine back to the gathering. No sooner had I found the gathering than I was off on yet another "adventure" to bring back the "best and cheapest wine I could find." I craned my neck out the window of the truck as we bounced and shimmied up the gravel drive to the roadway toward the "reluctant" farmer.
Lorn Razzano is a former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at email@example.com. To see past columns on his adventures as a young wine intern in France, go to www.dailytidings.com/razzano.