We saw the hills ahead. The hills were old. The hills were rocky and tall like the mountains behind them, except not quite that tall because if they were they would have blocked our view of the mountains. A stillness sat upon the hills. Heat and grasses swayed in the afternoon sun. The road led us straight verite on to the hills.
I turned to my companions, and asked if any water remained. They checked the cupholders.
“No,” they said, “there is no water here.”
The road began to curve. The curves made the van lean outwards. I thought I might tell my wife about how the van leaned, but then I remembered that she had stayed home because she was sick. Sometimes people are sick. We rose higher into the hills. I began to notice the smell of sweat in the cabin, as the sun heated the air, but didn't say anything because it didn't seem right and it would make a soupcon of noise.
I asked whether the air conditioning was on. They checked the console.
“No,” they said, “it is not on.”
The road wound higher into the hills. Rocks emerged from the soil of the hillside. The soil was yellow and sandy. The rocks were granite. The granite was old and hard. It stood under the sun, indifferent to the heat like the road was indifferent to the heat. The heat was hot and coming down on the rocks and the road. Places like this were sometimes hot. And rocky .
I asked whether we were there yet. They checked the map.
“No,” they said, “we are not there yet.”
We were going to Julian. Julian was in the mountains, and this road led to it. As we reached the top of the hills, I dwelt on the thought that we were going to the mountains where Julian was. There were apples in Julian. It was famous for its apples. And its pie. I wondered if there were apples in the pie it was famous for. Why would you make pie in a place famous for apples, like Julian was, if you weren't going to make apple pie?
I asked whether there was apple pie in Julian. They checked the “Welcome to Julian” booklet.
“Yes,” they said, “there is apple pie.”
After the heat and rocks we came to Julian, which was small and had a lot of trees. I thought about the heat and rocks, and noticed that there were rocks in Julian, but not as much heat. The heat was mostly in the hills. I guessed that the mountains had less heat. We were going to the wolf center, which was a place where they kept wolves. There weren't any wolves where I was from, so I guessed they were all in Julian. After the wolves, we would get pie. The pie would have apples, and it would be hot, so I thought maybe we would have to wait for the hills to eat it.
We saw the wolves. They were unspeakably masculine and alone, except when there were more than one together, and I thought about being a wolf. If I were a wolf, I thought, I would be alone and sit on rocks and look at hills. I guess that's how wolves think. I was thinking about apple pie, but didn't say anything about it. Then we shivered back to the main street of Julian, which didn't have any rocks. On the way to pie, we stopped by a small store where they sold candy. I didn't want any candy, because I don't eat sweet things except pie and cake. I looked at the candy store, and slipped inside the enter-ance. Once inside, there was Weird soda. I guessed they had Weird soda along with the pie, except there wasn't any pie in this shop. I decided to check just to be sure, because sometimes you can't be sure that there's no pie unless you ask. I didn't ask, one time, and it turned out there was.
I asked if they had apple pie. They checked behind the counter.
“No,” they said, “there is no apple pie.”
I looked at her, gauging her eyes and the distance between us. She was wearing a nice shirt. I got her card and asked about which of the sodas she would recommend to someone who had just come from the hills where the rocks and heat were. She recommended the Sprecher Red Apple. She said it was her favorite. Her shirt convinced me, so I took it and two other sodas and also took her card, because I might want to come back sometime and see if there was any pie. But there probably wouldn't be, it didn't seem like the kind of place that would have pie.
Then we went and had pie at a place that did have pie. I had apple pie. The apples were in Julian, as was the pie, the shop which had pie, and the shop which didn't have pie but did have Weird soda. I guess they had apple pie, instead of rocks and heat, there in Julian.
We came out of the mountains and the hills, and left the rocks and heat behind as we drove back on the road. The road was curvy at first, then straight, and I thought that they must have had curvy and straight roads in Julian too. Why you would have pie and Weird soda, but not curvy and straight roads, was something I couldn't imagine. But maybe that's how they did it in Julian.
Where and when: Purchased May 2011 at The Candy Basket, Julian, CA*
Color: Surprisingly, bright red. As in scarlet. The foam leaves an an odd residue.
K-i-C: “Flat. As in nonreflective. Maybe it's just my angle.”
Her angle is acute. She is also acute. Acute woman**.
Scent: Whoo! Apple cider. Serious apple cider.
The K-i-C says there's cherry Luden's dissolved in the apple cider.
Seriously, it's a powerful smell. The apple is very strong.
K-i-C: “No! It's those sour apple candies. The ones that come in the little rattly box. Anyway, it's quite dreadful. It smells strongly of fake.”
Me: “Fake what?”
K-i-C: “Just fake. There's this big box of Fake they use in candy and sodas. You can get it at Smart n' Final, next to the White they use to make ranch dressing and mashed potatoes in school cafeterias. Didn't you know that?”
I can't say I did.
Taste: Sweet, cool, and strongly tasting of “green apple” candy.
K-i-C: grimacing “Does this have some redeeming medicinal value or something?”
The first cool, apple-y taste (not very real apple—none of the tartness and slight bitter of a real apple, more like a candy apple) fades. A slight, very slight tartness lingers at the top of the mouth. The taste isn't quite as strong as the smell.
Oddly, like with the other Sprecher product I've tried, there isn't as much aftertaste as after-texture—a slightly oily feel in the mouth. It's not pleasant.
K-i-C: “I will admit that it wasn't as terrible in my mouth as it was trying to get it into my mouth. However, I tasted it several minutes ago, and I can still feel it. It's like a film in my mouth. Undesirable. Undesirable, I say!”
So we agree, it leaves an oddly physical sensation afterwards.
I don't mind the taste—I even kind of like it. It's certainly quite distinctive. However, the K-i-C finds it extremely aversive.
There is actual apple juice in this, as well as honey. Fascinating. That explains the strong and distinctive taste, but not the unpleasant stuff afterwards.
Quaff rating: This is an interesting case. The taste is strong and interesting, if not all that good. I think the boldness deserves recognition, so I'm giving it 3.5.
Cough rating: Here's where the unpleasant comes in, especially the aftertexture. 2.0.
K-i-C: "I don't have to drink the rest of this, do I?"
Five minutes later, I can still feel it.
*2116 Main St., in Julian. Say “Hi” for me.
** Seriously, she is. Adorable.
Harmony Springs Root Beer
1 day ago