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Guest post by Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl of TransAmericas

Ever tried to keep a case of wine at a constant and appropriate temperature in the back of a pickup truck in June, in Mexico? When you’re wine lovers in the midst of a five year working road trip you figure it out. Hint: it involves paper bags, a wine box and dirty laundry. We know this because we’ve maintained a case of wine as part of our gear since our Trans-Americas Journey (www.trans-americas.com) hit the road in 2006. There’s also a bottle opener in every backpack, duffel, nook and cranny to ensure that we’re always ready to pop a cork, any time anywhere (part of the beauty of a road trip is that there are no TSA agents to confiscate stuff like that).

We love wine and its power to inspire creativity and friendships and just plain fun—many of the same reasons we love travel. We wake up every morning wondering which wine will cap the day off best (hence that case in the back) and we can’t imagine a day without wine and have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep them to a minimum, from that fanatically maintained case in our truck to pouring a bottle of wine into a Nalgene bottle and backpacking it with us into off the grid camping areas (this works remarkably well, by the way).

Our current Journey is certainly not the first time our passion for travel and our passion for wine have intersected—and it won’t be the last.

It’s all Mom and Dad’s Fault

Though they grew up in rural Ohio and first dipped into wine with labels like Cold Duck and Reunite, that all changed when Karen’s parents moved to northern California where every summer the whole family road-tripped to the Anderson Valley so her parents could chat with wine makers and wine drinkers, sip their first favorites (Husch http://huschvineyards.com/ and Navarro http://www.navarrowine.com/main.php) and drive down dirt roads in search of brand new favorites (Edmeades then Lazy Creek) while Karen and her sister got sugar highs off the grape juice most tasting rooms kept on hand for the kids.

Pretty soon Karen graduated from grape juice to the good stuff and fell in love with the learning, the laughing, the flavors, the way a shared bottle brings family members even closer and the new friends you can make over a glass or two. It’s also when wine first became associated with travel and exploration as nights spent in the Boonville Hotel trying to figure out the town’s strangely-enduring, slightly raunchy unique local language, boontling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boontling , and “boonting” with the local “bearman” about “Frati” out by the “bucky walter” made her wine adventure complete.

Now that the whole family was involved, wine became a big part of life at home, not just during tasting trips. Wine is really the fifth Catchpole family member, present at every event—from Wednesday night meatloaf to special celebrations which always include cherished favorites (like Fratelli Perata http://www.fratelliperata.com/) and new finds picked up at tasting rooms and Trader Joe’s.

Most importantly, her parents continue to explore the wonderful world of wine the best way possible—by drinking, sharing and enjoying it—and it’s a tradition we continue on the road.

Taking it on the Road

utting our wine club memberships on hold when we headed off to South Asia for four years from 1995 to 1999 and again in 2006 when we began the ongoing Trans-Americas Journey, our five year road trip through North, Central and South America, was painful. We knew we’d be missing great bottles. But at least it was a pleasant experience since people who work at wineries still believe in customer service handled by a real person (not a recording) and the warmth and good will of the tasting room managers we spoke to came through even over the phone.

We’d joined wine clubs as a way to ensure a steady flow of good wine and to feel connected to those great wine country times with family far away in California. We even sucked up the $50 shipping surcharge we incurred on every half case because we lived in a state (New York) that didn’t allow direct shipping.

When we called our wine clubs before leaving home this most recent time they all graciously agreed to put our memberships on hold instead of cancelling them in order to facilitate easy re-activation should we ever decide to ditch our nomadic lifestyle long enough to receive a shipment. This is just one example of why we’re in love with the wine lifestyle and the grape-growing, wine-making and wine-selling community as much as the wine itself. Nicer, more interesting people you will never meet—and that’s before anyone’s had a sip.

Shut Up and Sip

We don’t leave wine behind when we leave home. A big goal of any journey worth the name is connecting with people along the way and wine is a language we all speak. We hatched a daring plan to hop a Dong Feng truck and take it across the Tibetan plateau to sacred Mount Kailash and beyond after opening some pretty mediocre Chinese plonk in Lhasa, Tibet. A bottle of Goats Do Roam and some grilled pork loin got us talking to the guy in the campsite next to ours in Denali National Park and he turned out to be hitchhiking across the country, so that was an interesting night.
True, some places on earth don’t have a wine culture or any wine production to speak of so we bond over other hand-crafted alcoholic beverages like tungba in Tibet to rakshi in Rajasthan to tequila in Tequila which helps us break the ice, make friends and gain insights into cultures and customs. And when our much-traveled case of wine needs re-filling we have another chance to use wine as a travel tool as we quiz locals in search of the best wine shop with the greatest selection and lowest prices in the area (there’s often one nearby, you just have to know who to ask).

Healdsburg and Beyond

Which brings us back to that case of wine in our truck and where we’re headed next with it. First stop, we hope: Healdsburg. Once the six month Murphy-Goode gig is over we’ll resume our Trans-Americas Journey and head back into Mexico (including Tequisquiapan, site of the first vineyards in the Americas) then through Central and South America where we look forward to spending significant time working and traveling (and talking and laughing and plotting and sipping) our way through the wine regions of Chile and Argentina and areas yet undiscovered, armed with newly acquired know-how and an even deeper passion for the perfect pairing of wine and travel.


Read more from Karen and Eric:

Vote for Karen and Eric for a really goode job here.

Catch up with Karen and Eric on thier TransAmericas journey or follow them on twitter @TransAmericas.

In April of 2006 Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl left Manhattan and embarked on the Trans-Americas Journey www.trans-americas.com, their five year 200,000 mile working road trip through North, Central and South America. Along the way they’re reinventing the way they work as professional freelance journalists (writer and photographer respectively) and contributing to some of the best publications and web sites out there (Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Every Day with Rachael Ray and the Minneapolis Star Tribune to name a few). Look for more posts from Karen and Eric from the road right here and at http://trans-americas.com/blog/. Check out www.areallygoodehire.net for more information about them and to play their video theme song then watch and vote for their application video at www.areallygoodejob.com/video-view.aspx?vid=V90wX40i1x0. Even non-relatives say it’s funny and it’s only a minute long!