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.

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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.

 

Heading Home

To condense over a week’s worth of stuff into a short sentence:

I visited a bunch of breweries, a couple of wineries, and some friends.

Check out this view from my friends’ backyard, just outside of Reno:

Deserts are cool.

Deserts are cool.

On my way across Nevada (I’m taking the interstate back to speed things up a bit), I passed this sign (I didn’t stop to take the picture; I figured, correctly, that someone had already posted it on the internet):

I find your lack of trees disturbing.

Tonight, I’m in Salt Lake City. As I discovered on my last adventure, Utah does, indeed, have good beer. But they have weird laws about them. Still, I was able to find a brewery, Red Rock, and sample some of their delicious beers – and I even brought one back to my hotel, one of the few Russian Imperial Stouts I’ve seen apart from Old Rasputin.

There are quite a few breweries here, actually, so I’ll have to come back sometime.

Tomorrow, I don’t know where I’m going, apart from eastward. So much depends on weather.

California

On New Year’s Day, I drove through Nevada. I wanted to make it all the way to Livermore, California in one day – possible, but a longer drive than I’d gotten used to. Instead of my usual leisurely pace of about 6 hours in a day, I was looking at 12. Nothing I haven’t done many times – just not this trip.

Area 51 has a gas station.

Area 51 has a gas station.

This put me on top of the Sierras well after sunset.

It’s cold on the Sierras. It’s dark. It’s empty. So of course, despite being pressed for time, shaking from what I thought was exhaustion and fatigue, I had to stop for just a few minutes.

The stars, when seen from that altitude, with the air clear from being cold and dry, can only be believed if seen. I’ve looked at pictures, too, of course, but none of them come even close to capturing the sheer awesomeness of the night sky from a high mountain range with no Earthly light to drown them out.

I stared into infinity.

Fortunately, it had the courtesy to not stare back, or they’d have found my cold, stiff body by now.

On the other hand, I can’t think of too many better ways to go.

Spoiler: I survived and made it to my friends’ house, where I promptly infected everyone there with a cold I didn’t even know I had until later the next day.

So I haven’t been doing much, this last week. Quick trip to the pit known as Stockton and to Lodi, which is much nicer than CCR would have you believe; I wouldn’t mind getting stuck there. One trip to San Ramon to a place with really, really good beer – but mediocre food, and way too many TV screens.

So many TV screens, in fact, that I made a discovery. I’m sure everyone reading this already knew about this, but remember, I don’t watch sports and I don’t have cable. So the only way I could be exposed to this atrocity was by sitting at a sports bar, which I also tend to avoid.

The discovery?

There exists a GOLF channel.

There is a channel, on cable, devoted entirely to GOLF.

I do believe that this is one of the signs of the apocalypse. Of course, as I write this, we’re watching a TV show where paint is drying – but that is less boring than the golf channel.

But I have the antidote, if only people will listen to me. And this is it:

There is desperate need for a Drinking Channel.

Think about it. We already have golf channels and fishing channels and probably channels devoted to grass growing. The Drinking Channel would be WAY more interesting than any of these. They could go into how various fermented and distilled beverages are made. They could spotlight a different brewer, vintner, or distiller every day. There could be bartenders making their favorite drinks, much as the cooking channel does with food. They could follow around some guy who’s trying to visit every brewery in the continental US.

There is NO downside with this.

“But it will promote drinking!” I hear from that little voice in the back row.

Why, yes. Yes, it will. That’s why there’s no downside to this.

Well, okay, one downside: Cable TV will soon go the way of the video rental store, and this is also a good thing. There could still be a Drinking Channel on the internet.

If I weren’t so lazy, I might even consider working for them.

Another Year, Another Beer

Now, look. I know some people have to travel with kids. I mean, sure, one of the reasons I like to hang out in casinos is there aren’t that many kids around being obnoxious. When I do see them, usually they’re being controlled by their parents lest they wander out onto the casino floor or into a bar and see adults actually having fun.

But then, sometimes, I espy a vile abomination such as this one.

One's bad enough, but now they're cloning them??!

One’s bad enough, but now they’re cloning them??!

After seeing the horrible visage of the mouthless one (twice, even though I was sober), I really, really needed a beer or six. Fortunately, there was Triple 7.

Beer at the bar. Bar beer. Beer bar.

Beer at the bar. Bar beer. Beer bar.

It is, as I post this, already 2014 back home, but here in Nevada there’s still over an hour to go, so I’m still in 2013.

New Year’s, of course, is traditionally a time of introspection, retrospection and whatever you call looking to the future spection. It’s also a time for getting drunk.

Because I’m a contrarian, I’m not drunk tonight. As for the other stuff, well, I’ve had a lot of time to think while I’ve been on the road, just me and the music and the scenery. I’ve thought about my triumphs and failures, wins and losses, and I thought about how I might work on improving myself in the coming calendar year. What I could do to make myself a better person, be more sociable, have more fun, do more things, be kinder to children and be a positive force in the world…

….nah, fuck it.

Too much like work.

Too much like work.

Hey, you got Chicago in my Vegas

So today I made a dangerous discovery.

That discovery is that there’s at least one brewpub in Las Vegas that is open and serving beer all day, every day. And all night. 24/7, as they say. I still don’t know why that expression annoys me, but it does.

Don't ask me why it's named Chicago. It's not cold, windy, or smelly.

Don’t ask me why it’s named Chicago. It’s not cold, windy, or smelly.

This is dangerous, of course, because I’m not one who believes there is a proper time of day to drink beer. It’s not just for breakfast, you know. Nor is there a proper time of day to not drink beer.

Oh, and did I mention the place also has a cigar lounge?

Why, again, do I not live in Nevada?

Oh, yeah, because I’d be broke in a week. Or possibly dead.

Many places here are open 24 hours, incidentally. There are, as far as I can tell, none of those silly laws about when you can or cannot buy or consume beer. Virginia has silly laws like that. Bars have to close by 2 am, if I recall correctly, and shops can’t sell beer between midnight and six am (though they may have changed that law recently – I don’t have to buy it at those hours because I’m usually stocked up). Haven’t run across much of anything like that in Vegas. Places seem to open and close when they feel like it. It makes finding snacks at 4 am much easier.

Anyway, I had a good day at the blackjack table. Good enough that I decided to try some Kobe beef. Well, not real Kobe beef from Japan, but the same kind of dead cow, only the cow, when it was alive, lived in Idaho. I’m not sure it lives up to the hype, but further research may be necessary.

Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can visit more brewpubs. I was here in August, but I got sick, which kind of puts a damper on the whole “tasting” part of beer tasting.