Tom wanders in and out of these posts frequently. I first met him in 1974 when I walked into Alpine West, his outdoor gear and clothing store in Sacramento. I was planning my first 100 mile Sierra Backpack Trek as a fundraiser for the American Lung Association and was seeking a sponsor. After telling me that the trip was crazy and that people would come off the hike hating me and the ALA, he immediately offered to promote the event through his store. That’s Tom. We’ve been friends ever since and have had numerous adventures together that have included backpacking, boating and Burning Man, among others. He was with me when I found Bone on a backpacking trip in 1978. In the photo below, Tom has Bone woven into his hair on an 18 day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon he led in 2010 that included Peggy, me, and other friends.
Three years ago, he and his friend Lita were deglazing a pot that they had used for cooking blackberry jam. Tom threw in a dollop of vodka to make the job easier. Naturally he couldn’t waste the vodka. Much to his delight, the sugar-enhanced blackberries combined with a generous helping of vodka went well together. A new drink was born: Blackberry Surprise! Over the next couple of years, he and Lita made pilgrimages to the Fort Bragg area on California’s Pacific Coast each summer to pick blackberries to mix with vodka as he refined his recipe.
I told him that lots of blackberries grow where we live and invited the two of them up to join Peggy and me in making Blackberry Surprise. To seal the deal, we sent him a photo of plump blackberries a week and a half ago.
Tom called immediately. “We’ll be up tomorrow,” he told me. I hadn’t expected the photo to elicit such a fast response.
“Um, Tom,” I replied, “we are having dinner out with our friends Don and Nan.”
“What time will you get home,” he asked. “Eight-ish” I replied. “Great, we’ll see you then.” I could hear Lita in the background suggesting you don’t call someone and show up the next day. Ha. Tom and Lita drove up the 320 miles from Sacramento in their Pleasureway van and were waiting at our house when we got back from dinner.
Tom immediately broke out a battery operated blender with the power of a professional Vitamix that he had invented and whipped us up a generous helping of Blackberry Surprise. We all went to bed happy.
NOTE: This is one of the occasional blogs I am posting this summer as I take a break.
42 thoughts on “A Blackberry Surprise… And Tom Lovering”
Curt, we will be in your area soon to see a relative. When we planned the trip, I suggested to Alie we invite you and Peggy to dinner, but that was before the heat wave. Now we plan to duck into Central Point and right back out to the coast which is cool and beautiful.
By coincidence, we came upon a patch of ripening blackberries earlier today. Perhaps I should make a note of your recipe – in much smaller quantities.
Maybe we could work out lunch, Ray. Indoor mask requirements will be back in force but I don’t think they will be closing restaurants. Be sure to include the Rogue Creamery in your stop if you like cheese. They still have the blu-cheese in stock that won last years International competition for being the best cheese in the world. –Curt
I would have loved to have met you and Peggy in person, but it was just too hot for us. It was 107 as we came in from the coast. We made a hotel reservation for one night, had dinner with the relative, and will head to Eureka in the morning. Maybe some other time.
Hope you and Peggy are doing OK. It is not just the heat, but we were struck by the smoke when we headed down this side of the mountains.
Sorry we missed you Ray. And you are right about the smoke! It’s become a regular visitor in the summer starting in July and extending into October. Not fun! Makes me think about selling the house and full-timing it on the road— regularly moving to where global warming is having the least impact at the moment. 🙂 –Curt
When we get to Armenia, should we be looking for an original version of Blackberry Surprise? I’m sure the Russians brought plenty of vodka when they arrived.
I’m sure they did, John. And that the Armenians would mix it with blackberry juice seems like a given. 🙂 Thanks for commenting. –Curt
That’s an impressive output.
Laughing, Peggy. It was beyond my wildest imagination. Even Tom was impressed by the quantity. –Curt
Cheers, a job well done.
Glad you enjoyed the tale, Gerard. –Curt
We all need someone like Tom in our lives. Spontaneity but with such wonderful attention to detail 😀
An almost perfect description of Tom, AC. Thanks.
Great friends, and terrific drink!
(Good timing, I posted my father’s letter “Jungle Juice” last week!!)
I’ll have to check it out, G. Thanks. –Curt
What a wonderful story of friendship and juicy recipes!
Thanks Steven. Hard to beat friendships that go back almost 50 years. –Curt
What a wonderful friendship, I remember Tom from your stories, he was beside you on that Lung Association fundraiser. He has a great recipe, nothing can beat the wild blackberries😁 Although it goes well with any type of berry😉
I think Tom and I have gotten into more mischief than we have gotten out of, Christie. 🙂 And I am sure you are right. I’ve sure had my share of vodka and orange juice over the years.
Blackberry Surprise – sounds delightful! Reminds me of the hot summer day we concocted ‘Parsley Oops’. (Oops, we may have added a bit much gin.)
Oops! Love it. 🙂
Oh my gosh…I’ll be right over…
Come on! 🙂
wow what fun You and Peggy are having with Tom and Lita.. Ya know you’re pretty close and could be sharing a bottle over here for a visit. You sure earned your keep with all that help picking.
Cheers to more good times💖💖
That would be fun, Cindy. 🙂 BTW, Tom was raised down in the South Bay Area. –Curt
soooo fun. oh wow.. close alrighty!💖
Hopefully the vodka component dulled any pain from bramble scratches, too! We can’t seem to pick our berries without paying in some blood 🤣.
This sounds like such a fun time- thanks for stopping in to share, Curt.
We wore gloves and long sleeve shirts, Anne. And of course, the Vodka Surprise afterwards helped. 🙂
Wow! OMG the shenanigans you get up to. Productive fun! I’m glad you got to keep some of it. I eat my way around the forest trail I hike daily these days. As you say, the berries are small because of the drought, but if you get them at the exact moment of ripeness they are soooo good. 👍
I might add, Allison, that those shenanigans are often related to Tom being somewhere nearby, a fact I am sure he would strongly deny. 🙂
The small blackberries are just as tasty! I might add that the bears love them as well. We came on a large pile of scat following the trail I built through the forest that reflected just how much. It was indeed a Blackberry Surprise! –Curt
Oh, funny you were posting about Tom when at that same time Pedro was actually suggesting he might try to sneak rocks into my backpack without me knowing it. Isn’t that story from you and Tom? I think that’s how Bone found you two, anyhow. Luckily, I did not discover any rocks in my pack. This blackberry haul looks amazing. NINE gallons. I can only imagine how many scratches you paid in fees to get all that. It would have been fun with Tom’s enthusiasm to guide the way.
Hi Crystal! Right. It was Bone playing rock that got him adopted by Tom and I. Grin.
Ha. I’ll bet you were leaving Pedro behind on the trail again. Poor fellow.
Rocks in packs were a time honored tradition on our Treks.
Next time you and Pedro visit, we will be sure to break out the Blackberry Surprise. It’s important not to have anything else scheduled for the evening, however. 🙂 –Curt
Blackberry and vodka, ah a
great drink, should be a song about it. Stay well.
Good to read about your blackberrying adventures, Curt, together with their little surprises! Hope you’re enjoying your blogging sabbatical.
Thanks, Dave. The break was much needed and has provided the opportunity to think about restructuring our lives. A future blog. 🙂 –Curt
Thanks, Kelly. It definitely has found a place on our liquor shelf. To be used sparingly, however. 🙂 –Curt
😉😉, of course… medicinal
Tom Lovering, the Admiral 2.0, like father like son. Hitting the blackberry sauce, how creative! Have one for me.
Laughing. We had several, Bill. We sure enjoyed our visit with you and look forward to the next one. –Curt
Haha, fascinating. Cin cin! (If there is any left.)