When in Rome, do as the Romans. That's all fine and dandy if you're in Italy. But what if you need a domestic vacation and still must satisfy that ruthless audiophile monkey on your back? May I suggest a visit to Jackson/Wyoming, a mere 80 miles south of Yellowstone and one of the natural wonders of the US?

With a base elevation of around 6500 feet and a jagged mountain range that tops out at 13,770 with the Grand Teton peak; with the Snake river running through the 50-mile long valley and numerous glacier lakes inviting kayakers, swimmers, anglers and water skiers; with first-class skiing in the winter and hiking through Alpine tundra the rest of the year; mountain climbing; bear, moose, elk and other wildlife (some in the many bars downtown) - Jackson Hole offers something for the whole family.

About 14 hours from the Bay Area going through Idaho; about 12 hours from Taos if you play chicken with the radar traps; the final approach arriving from the South through Wyoming's Cheyenne means a good 6 hours of barren wastelands that show nothing but endless grass that's baked to a brown crisp by July. Alas, starting in Pinedale, the scenery begins to display first promise. By the time you've entered the canyons at Hobarth's Junction, you know that the long journey was worth it, with the grand prize awaiting you just around a few more bends.

Still, nothing quite prepares you for the ancient spirit and sheer vistas that greet you once you've arrived in the valley that houses Jackson with its 8,640 residents in its center and is dubbed 'hole' for being surrounded by the Teton range on the West and the Gros Ventre peaks on the east.

A huge tract of land owned by the Rockefeller family has, last year, been deeded to the Federal Government as a land grant for the Grand Teton National Park. Check out some of the lakes that butt right up against the mountains without any intermediate foot hills inserting extra distance.

To satisfy the audiophile Jones, the many published trails won't get you far. Where you want to go is Avantgarde Audio. It's an operation fronted by Larry Cloetta who in his real life fashions teeth for numerous out-of-state dentists. Tooth fairy by day, audiophile by night, Larry has signed up Avantgarde Acoustic, Cain & Cain, JM Reynaud and Proac speakers; PS Audio, Sugden, Tom Evans and Wavelength amplifiers; dCS and Wadia for digital; Nottingham and Walker Audio for analog; Grand Prix Audio for vibration control; and plenty of other items I forgot to take proper note of but which are featured on Larry's site.

Larry won't be quitting his day gig anytime soon. Making a living in upscale esoteric audio is notoriously unreliable. You have to put in significant time to build a loyal clientele. That takes years and exposure. And location. On that front, Cloetta is about as set as it gets. Then there's turning a hobby into a full-time job. That can have the nasty habit of destroying passion and enthusiasm at the end of every month when the bills pile up high.

That doesn't mean Larry turns down business. Far from it. But he's a low-key guy who believes in demonstrating what he sells. He's hands-on and despises phone sales that merely shop on price rather than expertise and service. For example, the recent arrival of Tom Evans' Linear A amp so excited him that he built importer Ed Sheftel the very website our own Jeff Day's review links to at the end just so we'd have something to send our readers to. That's way beyond the call of duty for a "mere retailer" and demonstrates the kind of passion Larry brings to his little audio sideline.

He certainly makes excellent sound, having crafted his own room tunes to optimize a built-out garage space that's separate from the home and allows late-night demos without disturbing the family. Besides Wadia and dCS, Larry also had a fabulous set of tweaked digital Altis separates which he'd acquired from my host in Wilson just on the other side of the valley - Dr. Jim Langham. Jim shall soon feature in these pages as one of the first two owners of Magico's 5-driver 4-horn Ultimate system (which, incidentally, will run multiple Tom Evans' Linear B fully differential push/pull tube amps with custom Dact attenuators for level-matching between the actively driven horns).

Above is the view from our bedroom window at Jim's, nestled against the Western range above the tiny hamlet of Wilson just before the mountain pass into Idaho that took early mountain men in their wagons two weeks to navigate. No navigation skills on our part were required as Jim and his wife Abigail toured us around the many park attractions before Jim, Larry, his young daughter and yours truly set out for Lake Superior. Its trail head is reached by the Jenny Lake ferry depositing wanderers on the far side of the lake. As though ordered by Jim to round out this scenic hike, we got to see 1.5 moose - one hiding in tall grass so only his head and rack were visible; the other standing in full regalia inside a river, posing for a large group of hikers who in some cases had enormous telephoto lenses for extreme close ups.

Natural splendor, outdoorsy attractions, a music festival, the ubiquitous upscale shopping & dining plus expertly set-up high-end audio - what more could one want in one place? Next time you're at a loss where to go that'll be a treat for the whole family and not just the resident audiomaniac, don't trek to New York by your lonesome. Think Jackson Hole/Wyoming. If after a few days of fun & games you'll sneak away for an evening of audiophile whoring, not only will you be forgiven - you won't be missed. After all, Yellowstone is just around the corner to buy you even more time.

Like 6moons with its remote headquarters in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, there are a few audiophile outfits deliberately situated in the hinterlands to afford its operators an unhurried life style away from the madness of the big cities.

As Avantgarde Audio demonstrates, hinterlands needn't mean backwards. Quite the opposite. As though to prove it further, Jackson even has its own airport, readily connected to from neighboring Salt Lake City 265 miles away for those averse to endless freeway miles. A future adventure shall have us visit Golden/Colorado where a similarly minded audio aficionado has set up (full-time) shop to spread the gospel and educate consumers to the more-art-than-science benefits of fine audio put together properly. For today, many thanks to Jim and Abigail Langham for gracious hospitality and to Larry Cloetta and family for feeding our audiophile virus far away from home!