Creating essence of world travel at home

During these days of economic worries many Americans suffer from affluenza — the bloated, unfulfilled feeling that results from competing with the Joneses. Shhh… methinks of a lyrical alternative to taking a European trip this year.

Remember the bottleneck Highway 280 southeast of Birmingham? Follow the same byway over Double Oak mountain where wee castles dot mountainsides and traffic thins; continue past the Narrow’s Shakespearian shops, through the village of Chelsea and along provincial countryside.

In Harpersville turn right into another locale entirely: wine country at Morgan Creek Vineyard. On July 4 and Aug. 20 delightful events were held here. Another is coming.

An hour before the appointed time, folks gather — couples, families with babes in arms or toddling. They set up tables, chairs and spread blankets. Local pop and jazz bands, such as Tekneek, provide entertainment. Aroma of grilling barbeque floats amidst hundreds of dear hearts and gentle people.

Some guests pick blueberries or grapes while others take a tour guided by the owner himself, Charles Brammer Sr., who explains his vintner ways.

Flaming torches flicker, lighting pathways as darkness arrives. The crowd sways and sings along with the band when the hour approaches with concluding fireworks. Content visitors leave, their minds filled with treasured memories.

Passion for travel kindles many spirits, but during these days when flying airlines is in unfriendly skies, take a look around. As our economy changes the way we live, watch for local events, such as September 20, 10 AM-4 PM at Morgan Creek Vineyards & Winery: a Lucy Look-A-Like Contest, Grape Gathering Demonstration and Grape Stomp. For more information and directions, see www.morgancreekwinery.com

Maybe we need to pretend the Joneses are frugal folks, and try to keep up with them? We can help cure dreaded affluenza in our lifetime.