Alzada, Montana

Actually, I’m spending another night in Spearfish, SD, but I’m titling this Alzada because it’s the closest town to my first destination this trip. Allow me to explain…

Take a map of the contiguous United States. Throw a dart at it. Assuming that you suck bad enough at darts that you can’t influence where it’ll land (but also assuming that you don’t suck so bad you put someone’s eye out or ding the 1970’s-era wooden paneling behind the dartboard), there’s a very, very good chance the dart will hit… nothing. No town, no city, no monument or amusement park or music festival; just some part of some state where there’s… nothing.

That’s the theory behind this trip: throw a dart and go there. Only I use a random number generator instead of an actual dart. Saves the paneling, you know.

Destination #1 was here:

Which is an apparently empty spot in southeast Montana. The closest “town” is Alzada, MT; the closest place with actual lodging is Belle Fourche, SD, and the closest place with both lodging and a brewpub is Spearfish, SD. The closest cool spot is Devil’s Tower, in Wyoming; I’ll be visiting that tomorrow.

Incidentally, I put “town” in quotes above because I have the working philosophy that you’re not a proper town unless you have a McDonald’s. Alzada does not have a McDonald’s.

What Alzada does have is a biker dive bar called Stoneville Saloon.

This is false advertising. The food is far from lousy.

I stopped in for lunch, and didn’t get into a fight with a biker club.

Before that, though, I got as close as I could to the spot on the map above – off the beaten path, sure, but that’s part of why I do this thing. I don’t like to inconvenience myself, however, so I just got as close as I could on the gravel road through the high prairie.

You’d think there was nothing there, right? It’s certainly remote. Where I stopped, the only human constructions I could see for miles around were the gravel road itself, and my car. The morning was mild, with a light breeze, but haze dimmed the view of the far buttes.

Heh heh huh heh he said “butte.”

That particular view, as far as I can tell, is impossible to get from the main roads because of ridges in the way, and so I got to see something unique.

As for the spot itself, well, it’s somewhere in this landscape:

Okay, yeah, that’s pretty empty.

I could have walked to the actual point itself, sure, but why risk exercise on such a nice day?

You might be thinking, “Wow, that’s the middle of nowhere.” No, my next destination’s in the middle of nowhere. Fairly close, by prairie standards anyway, to the above destination isn’t the middle of nowhere, but the middle of everywhere – everywhere in the U.S., anyway.

The officially-designated “Geographic Center of the United States,” including Alaska and Hawaii, is some fifty miles or so in the direction my camera was pointing in that last shot. It’s in South Dakota, just off yet another gravel road through the prairie. I’ve been on a lot of those gravel roads over the past few days. My car is starting to hate me for it.

Not the actual center – just as close as you can get by road.

I should point out that the “actual” center of the nation is up for debate; it’s a big country with a fractal and shifting coastline, and trying to pin down the centroid of that area is a bit like counting a moving school of fish. But that doesn’t stop me from seeing how people mark the spot.

The official marked spot, by the way, is a lonely, limp (the breeze had died a bit) flag in the middle of that rancher’s field. My photo of it sucks because of the whole “limp” description of the flag, but here’s one you can see online.

So, yesterday I mentioned I was going to visit Crow Peak Brewery here in Spearfish. I did, and saw that it was good.

Tonight, though, despite how good Crow Peak was, I decided I would visit a local bar called Sanford’s Pub & Grub. In addition to more… common… beer offerings, they had a few craft beers from all over. It was also $1 taco night, so I kinda stuffed myself on tacos.

Some guy came in and I heard him order “a Bud Light and a water.” I was good, though; I didn’t point out the definition of “redundancy” to him.

I did, however, have to wonder why people still swill that crap when so many good, real beers exist. But while watching the football game on the big screen TV (DO NOT JUDGE ME. It was the only thing on at the pub), I think I realized part of it.

Commercials.

I don’t watch television and, in fact, I go out of my way to avoid ads of any kind. If I want my intelligence insulted, I’ll listen to a young-Earth creationist. Ads not only insult our intelligence; they’re deliberately misleading. In this case, it shows shining, happy, thin people smiling and enjoying mass-produced “beer” on beaches and football games and parties and whatnot. The message is clear: Drink this crap and you, too, can have this life! Good looks! Love! Success!

You know what? Even if that were true, I still wouldn’t drink light beer. Some things are never worth the cost.

Point is, perhaps the craft beer community simply needs better P.R. I know that beer snobbery like my own probably doesn’t help, but… well. P.R. firms can work magic.

A friend of mine once bemoaned how craft beer was actually becoming more mainstream. I looked at him in horror. “Isn’t that the point?”

I mean, okay, pretend for a moment that you’re a hipster. I know, I know; just bear with me a moment. You’re a hipster. You’re wearing a plaid shirt and those big horn-rimmed glasses with blank lenses. Maybe for extra irony you’re wearing a fanny pack and socks with sandals. You get on your scooter and ride to that music place in the alley that no one has ever heard of. You walk in and there’s one other hipster there. Being cool and all you don’t acknowledge each others’ presence, but you hang out sipping whole-earth macrobiotic tea until this band, let’s call them Bupkiss and the Snoggers, comes on.

You really like their tunes, and so you pick up their vinyl LP on your way out the door, and then you tweet about them, because blogging is so last decade.

Next time they play, you show up and there’s not just one, but four or five other hipsters there. You groove to their tunes for a bit, this time sampling organic free-trade monkey-shit coffee from South America (that’s really a thing, by the way).

The third time you see them, there’s a crowd. And some of them are wearing polo shirts and khakis. You get pissed off and leave because you liked it better when it was just you and one other nameless hipster.

Problem is… you contributed to their success. You can’t get mad at Bupkiss and the Snoggers, because it was your tweets that drew the crowd in.

What can we learn from this?

Well, the hipster in this parable is, of course, meant to represent your average craft beer fan, who at the very least dresses better than the hipster. And of course Bupkiss and the Snoggers represents the craft beer industry.

So. First. Don’t get mad at places like New Belgium Brewing Company because they’ve managed to distribute their beer widely. Me? I cheer every time I see that Fat Tire truck pulled up to a convenience store.

Second, don’t sing the praises of craft beer and then expect it to be non-mainstream forever.

And finally, we need better P.R. Don’t look at me, either; I’m no one’s role model.

Tomorrow: Devil’s Tower.

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About Waltz

An international man of mystery, Waltz is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Kind of a puzzle burrito, actually. With conundrum cheese and secret sauce. And a side of Riddle Rice.

Posted on September 10, 2012, in Beer, Funny, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Devil’s Tower? As in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? After Kirk’s hometown, and steampunk dinosaurs? YOU ARE ON AN AWESOME ROAD TRIP!

  2. Ok, sorry. I totally geeked out on your there. >.<

  3. First, I thought it was CAT shit coffee, but hey, it could just as well be monkeys. What do I know?

    Second, good point about the “mainstream” thing.

    Third, if you are going to the Devils Tower, make sure to take a gas mask so they don’t try to turn you away. Also, might want to lay off the mashed potatoes for a little while after just so you don’t go “modeling” it and make a mess. I can’t abide wasting potatoes (or any produce).

    Fourth (and final), you really are having a geektastic trip. Although, I will admit that earlier today I used an obscure Star Trek NG (sadly, as I am an original series purist) reference from an episode “The Survivor” to explain what I meant by “bad” in reference to deleting records in their database. I guess I’m pretty geeky too. Sadly, I was able to make my point easily using that analogy as the IT guy was easily as geeky.

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