Tonopah, Nevada

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Delta, Utah

Chucking out the plan again, because roads and services in this part of the country are irregular at best.

I actually don’t have much to say about Delta. It’s flat. Flatter than Kansas. Flatter than some people think the Earth is. On the way here, I started to feel some sympathy for the Flat Earth Society – maybe they’re all from central Utah; that would explain a lot.

Stopped for lunch in Fruita, Colorado. Not only does that small town host two breweries – both excellent – but it has a thing for dinosaurs.

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This is Greta. Greta appears to have an opinion concerning the Grinch.

Their dinosaur fetish seems to spring from the important work of palo… pealeo… pello… dinosaur hunters in the area.

Nevertheless, it is apparent to me that every town should have a dinosaur. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Delta’s could be the aFLATosaurus.

Aurora, Colorado

I couldn’t do it.

My plan was to make it to my next waypoint, in northwest Kansas. And I did, in good time, because it was a straight shot across the northern part of the state.

And then I decided I just could not spend one more night in a beer desert. So I went on to my next marker, just east of Denver.

Glad I did.

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Because beer.

The Denver area hosts more breweries than I can count – including a Budweiser factory, which definitely does NOT count. Dry Dock, pictured here, was simply the most convenient for me to get to this time.

Those beers – labeled there for your reading convenience – made the four extra driving hours worthwhile. Otherwise, I might have been stuck in a fleabag motel in northwest Kansas, being able to smell Colorado but not quite cross the border into the Promised Land.

Clearly, I’m going to have to spend more time in this state. But though today’s weather was a pleasant mid-sixties, I’ll have to come back in the summer. I think I’m still frostbitten from my stay in Alamosa all those years ago.

 

Hiawatha, Kansas

One of the reasons I make these cross-country driving trips is to give myself time for introspection. When I’m driving through places like Missouri and Kansas, there’s little else to do except introspec.

I don’t share many of these insights here. I know when I read others’ introspective musings, I often get bored – and one thing I do not want to be is boring.

Not a lot of choice, though, when I’m writing about Kansas.

So I’ll share one insight. People think places like Missouri and Kansas are boring. And, in a way, they are. They call them “flyover states,” like the people and culture here aren’t worth a closer look than you get from 30,000 feet and 500 mph. But here’s the insight: it’s places like this that grow barley. Barley is used to make malt. Malt is used to make beer. Beer is the sparkling flower of civilization. Consequently, the flyover states are important.

However, here in Hiawatha, there are no craft breweries.

When I asked at the front desk about what there is to see in this town, I got two answers: casinos, and the Davis Memorial.

The casinos exist because this place, as you might have guessed from the name, is surrounded by Native lands.

The Davis Memorial is… a thing.

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A big, stone… thing.

Turns out the story behind it is a bit weird. There are more pictures of it at that link – my photography was limited by the low sun angle.

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Don’t blink.

And this is another reason I do these trips – discovering weird shit in unexpected places. Kansas may seem boring from the air, but up close, sometimes you hit the jackpot.

Even if you don’t visit the Native casinos.

Hannibal, Missouri

And so I find myself in Misery once again.

Hannibal’s main fame claim is Mark Twain. You can’t stumble around without tripping over something to do with Sam Clemens. It’s almost as bad as all the Twilight crap in Forks, except that Mark Twain knew how to write.

Even the local brewpub got on the steamboat.

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I like to think Mark Twain would have had a great deal to say about this.

Whatever they named the brewery, they did the beer right. I sampled a Kolsch (“Clemens Kolsch”), a blonde ale (“Sawyers Blonde”), a brown ale (“Molly Brown”), and a bourbon-barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout (“Passport to Russia”). You gotta give ’em credit for sticking with the theme.

The stout weighed in at a whopping 13% ABV. That’s… a lot. A little bit of that dark beauty goes a long way. It wasn’t quite as awesome as Old Rasputin, but then, what is?

I guess the moral of this story is, if you’ve got a good thing going, run with it. If the greatest writer in American history lived in your town, milk it for everything it’s worth.

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And make terrible puns while you’re at it.

Terre Haute, Indiana

Before I get to Terre Haute, I want to talk about Gnaw Bone.

You know how when you’re driving through the countryside and all of a sudden you get hit by a Reduced Speed Ahead sign, and then you go through some three-house “town” with a cop just waiting for you to ignore the reduced speed limit, and as soon as you blink, you’re back up to normal speed?

Gnaw Bone, Indiana, is like that, except you barely even have to slow down. It’s just worth mentioning because of the name.

No one seems to know where the name comes from.

There is, believe it or not, a winery there. This meant that I had to stop and give it a look.

That’s how I found this:

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“Chateau Gnaw Boné”

While I can’t find a good explanation of how the town (or village, or wide spot in the road) got its name, I have my suspicions. These suspicions include the idea that, like several other place names in Indiana such as Lafayette, Vincennes, and Terre Haute itself, it comes from French – most likely mangled from Narbonne. This is just a guess, mind you. I have no evidence one way or the other.

But it would make the faux-french accented é on the end that much more hilarious.

So. Terre Haute. Incredibly, I found only one brewery in Terre Haute.

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It is appropriately named.

If you’re ever in Terre Haute, go there. It’s not like there’s anything else to do here.

Wheelersburg, Ohio

Look, I’m pretty sure this is a decent enough town. I rolled in just after sunset, so I didn’t see much of it, but it’s not like there were race riots or zombies roaming the streets, so I’m guessing it can’t suck too bad.

But there are no brewpubs, and the hibachi place next to my hotel did not have their booze license yet.

 

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They had fire, though.

Get your act together, Wheelersburg. Grill without sake is like showering without water.

Soured

I like beer.

I know, I know; you’re shocked, stunned, nonplussed, etc. But it’s true.

Well, mostly true.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of IPAs and other overhopped beers. I guess someone has to be a contrarian; it might as well be me. This is not to say I’ve never had an IPA that I liked. I’m especially fine with the New England styles, and I can deal with other IPAs as long as they’re not big on Cascade hops. Beer with Cascade hops tastes like grapefruit juice, and if I wanted to drink grapefruit juice, I would drink grapefruit juice. But I don’t. I want to drink beer.

Another style I’m not generally fond of is sours. I mentioned in a post a long time ago, which I’m too lazy to go and look up now, that I once pointed out that I like my beer to taste different going down than it does coming back up. Sours fail that basic test.

And yet… and yet, it’s still beer, so sometimes I try them anyway.

My favorite local brewery, Three Notch’d, just opened their Sour House. Well, it’s more complicated than that; they moved from one location to another, then rebranded the original location as the Sour House. In addition to – obviously – sours, they also do barrel-aged and other small-batch offerings there.

I visited over the weekend and got myself a sampler.

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This is not the sampler. This is the menu board.

And you know what?

They didn’t suck.

I’m as surprised as you are. Maybe even more.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t be prejudiced against a beer style. You just never know.
  2. Three Notch’d is awesome. Okay, I already knew that.
  3. Try everything. Bitch about it later if you need to, but try everything.

Sometimes I wonder why I travel when Three Notch’d is right here at home. Well, I suppose there are other reasons to travel besides beer. I’ll let you know if I think of any.

Not long now. Leaving Tuesday morning.

Matter of fact, it’s all dark.

As part of the lead-up to my actual trip in a few days, I thought I’d talk about another journey I undertook this year and neglected to write about at the time.

I’d known about the solar eclipse of 2017 for several years. Back when I was planning my first road trip, I came across a .kml file somewhere that showed every past and (at the time) future eclipse track, and of course I imported that sucker into Google Earth.

Six or seven hours later (I didn’t have an especially fast connection at the time), I was able to view every potential solar eclipse visible from anywhere on the surface of our planet.

Then I started planning. Let’s see… Easter Island… no. Svalbard? Oh HELLS to the NOPE. I love astronomy and all things celestial, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the cold.

But what’s this in 2017? A track right across the US? Like, within driving distance? During the summer?! I knew then that I would do something to see this eclipse, barring unforeseen events like having a heart attack.

So after my heart attack in 2014, I put any travel plans on hold, including the eclipse.

Earlier this year, even before the hype started up, I started thinking about it again. I told two friends about it, and these friends were like “Wow, we’d like to see this, too.” So we made plans.

But… where to see it? The path, as you know, crossed the country from west to east. I figured the best chance of seeing it would be around Wyoming, where it would be least likely to be obscured by clouds.

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Oh, look, another Pink Floyd reference.

But adding other people meant accommodating their schedules. This was cool with me. The people involved are two of my closest friends, so I figured that even if we didn’t get to see the eclipse, I’d have road tripped with good friends, and that’s always worth it.

We ended up in Misery. I was hesitant to go there, at first – if you’ve been following along, you might have noted that Misery isn’t my favorite state (well… neither is Wyoming, but never mind that now).

Turns out, though, that even a week before the event, when the weather report predicted mostly clear skies for central Misery, we found a hotel with a vacancy right in the path of totality.

In short, everything was coming up Waltz.

We took a roundabout route to Misery, swinging through Indianapolis for beer and Chicagoland for an incredible brunch buffet – exactly the kind of road trip I like, where the journey is at least as important as the destination.

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“Hit it.”

On the day of the eclipse, some cloud cover threatened our plans, and did obscure the sun for some of the partial phase. I didn’t care much about the partial phase, though; if I wanted to see just that, I could have stayed home.

I didn’t take any pictures of the eclipse. I figured there would be approximately 100 million people taking pictures of the eclipse, and at least half of those would be better than anything I could do. It was my first total eclipse, and dammit, I just wanted to experience it. So, yeah, no pictures. Nor can I describe it – really, it’s something you have to see, when the sun goes dark in the middle of the day and the last shards of light disappear, and the corona explodes into view in all its filamentary glory.

It only lasted two minutes, but those two minutes were worth the trip, and the inflated hotel prices, and then some.

Of course, that evening, we visited a brewpub.

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Misery no more!

So, all in all, a successful journey.

And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon

2017: The Comebackening

After a short hiatus, I’m back. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s been a while. Anyone still out there?

Not that I didn’t travel at all in the last couple of years. For instance, I went to Maui in February.

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That’s right. I went to Maui. And the first image I wanted to share was of a beer.

But the main reason I’m posting out of the darkness is that I’m about to take another road trip across the US. Nothing as ambitious as my coast-to-coast odyssey of six years ago…

Wait. Six years? Damn. It doesn’t feel like all that long ago.

But hey, at least I went to Maui, right? Here’s another pic:

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Oh… right… that’s beer again.

So here’s the plan: I’ve taken a straight line (well… actually a great circle route, shortest distance between two points on a roughly spherical surface) from central Virginia to central California and divided it into equal lengths. I’ll start Tuesday. Each day for 10 days, I’ll go to the next point. Because of mountains and whatnot, some days will feature longer trips than others. Then I’ll try to find a place to crash nearby. Maybe I’ll try to find beer, too. Or maybe it’ll snow and I’ll get stuck in a drift somewhere.

After spending a few days in California – and probably focusing more on wine – I’ll do some traveling pretty much at random. Could end up almost anywhere.

But probably not Maui.

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See? Not all my Maui pix are about beer.