Touring for beer

Beer

I blame my eldest brother for my love of craft beer. No teenager should be grabbing cases of low fill bottles to take to parties. But, alas, I did and I'm all the better for it. Cheers to beer (especially good beer)! It is the ultimate carrot at the end of a stick

Bicycle

Surly Disc Trucker - she's my steel horse. Built like tank, beautiful as any before her. She takes whatever I give her and loves it. She's not cuddly but that's not her purpose

Travel

For me, the best way to grow is to push my own limits of comfortability. Travel is the ultimate tool for growth. I've seen many beautiful things, but still don't know my own country. That must change.

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Foxes, A “Day Off” and Other Lies

I’ve never slept well at other people’s houses.  I think it’s my inability to fully relax, always concerned about some dumb social norm.  Or it’s the fact that I need some ambient noise to sleep.  I’m sure if I had a box fan with me at all times, I’d sleep so much better.  Apparently, I’m an odd ball when it comes to needed this ambient noise.  It’s what makes sleeping in hotels so damn tough.  It’s too quiet.

So I woke up early with maybe 5 hours of sleep.  Dan’s apartment backs up to a National Wilderness area, so I decided to go for a short morning walk.  Once again, this was my first Rocky Mountain experience of the trip.  Before yesterday, I hadn’t seen any “real’ mountains – the young, dramatic type.  Almost as soon as I went outside, I spotted a kit fox.  It was hunting the open scrub land behind the house and didn’t seem to care that I was following it.  I was all too ecstatic to experience what I fondly refer to as a “National Geographic Moment”: those moments that seem made for TV and magazines.  This was one, at least for me.

Eventually the rest of the house woke up.  We packed up the car and headed back to Denver.  All three of us discussed taking a day off from drinking.  Brandon and I had done a solid three day bender; he was worse off than me.  It would be smart to take a day off, I thought.  Then a second thought came to me: you’re in Denver on the ultimate beer tour.  There can be no days off.  I had to break through and keep going.

Enter Todd, my sister’s good friend.  He called and was free all afternoon.  Did I want to go grab some beers and visit some spots around town?  Dumb question, of course.  So after a solid 12 hours of not drinking (during which I hydrated heavily and ate), we were at it again.

So many places to stop in Denver.  We started at Strange Brewing.  I knew this place from a legal name battle with Strangeways Brewing located in Richmond, VA.  It ended friendly but that’s how I knew them.  Their beers were outstanding, with the cherry Belgian being very similar to New Glarus’s but slightly less sweet.
Then to Stranahan’s, Colorado’s whiskey distillery.  They produce one product, an idea I greatly appreciate.  If my memory serves me correctly, their whiskey is aged four years although various vintages are mingled together to achieve the correct flavor profile.  And for such a young whiskey, it is quiet nice and smooth.  It’s easily consumed neat, and I’m sure would make a fine Manhattan.  But I like it neat with a splash of water.  It’s no true Kentucky bourbon, but I enjoyed it all the same.  It’s hard to have such a rigorous metric, but when you’re from the land of American whiskey, it serves you well.

The next stop was a happenstance one.  A brewery had just opened that was on our path of destruction.  And it sucked.  Seriously, the beers were terrible.  Totally off-flavored, textbook even.  Worse yet, they marketed themselves as a heavy metal brewery.  This isn’t a new thing, and I’m not into metal.  What got me was the singer-songwriter playing acoustic at the brewery.  That’s not metal at all.  Neither were the beers, except for the metallic after taste (also not really “metal”).

Great Divide was next.  I love this place.  I don’t go crazy over all of their beers, but I respect the hell out of what the brew, and how they have grown.  Their beers are always on point; not necessarily mind blowing, but well constructed and of the highest quality.  I did my requisite tasting and reminisced about how much they had grown since I last visited four years ago.  Four years is a long time in the burgeoning craft beer world  And yet they weren’t grossly huge, just super big.  Slight difference.

Then to River North Brewery.  My taste buds were pretty wrecked at this point so I abandoned flights and started getting pints.  The few beers I tried here were great; largely Belgian inspired with American twists.  I’ll be returning when I have full tasting potential.

We made a quick stop at Epic’s second brewery.  It turns out that a state that limits the level of alcohol legally allowed in a beer is not a great place to open up a brewery that wants to make high alcohol beers.  Thus, they have a second brewery located in Denver and not Utah.  There exists a flight here called the Gauntlet – it’s 36 of their beers.  I wasn’t ready for that today, but knew I would have to do it before I left town.  Instead, we split a couple of pints and moved on to the next spot, a cider house.

I haven’t been consuming much cider this trip.  I’m not opposed to it, but prefer beer.  And with so much beer to try, I’ve never been willing to dedicate my liver and kidneys to cider.  One day.  We stopped at Stem Ciders for a quick drink.  The ciders were great, as far as I could tell.  Not too sweet, but nicely sharp and sour, like a granny smith apple with less astringency.

Our last stop was Crooked Stave, a brewery I am exceedingly fond of.  The owner and brewmaster is a student of wild yeast, to the point that he possess a PhD in microbiology with a focus on Brettanomyces.  His beers are artfully crafted and utterly delicious.  Unfortunately we hit it at the end of a long day of drinking, and I wasn’t able to fully embrace the beers an brewery.  Aka, I was fairly intoxicated.  As were my drinking companions.  I was only able to have two beers here, which was probably more than I needed.  I vowed to return later in the week, when I would presumably be less drunk.  For now, it was back to Brandon’s and the promise of food.

Published: September 12, 2014 | Comments: 0

Another Beer Festival

It’s not hard to convince me to go to a beer festival, especially if it’s in an area of the country where I’m relatively unfamiliar with the local breweries.  And thus, I was headed to Vail for a beer festival.  Brandon’s fiancé is a beautiful woman: smart, attractive, caring.  So caring, she went to the grocery to make sure the three of us had an extremely hearty breakfast to spend the day drinking on.

It’s about two hours to Vail from Denver, give or take an hour or two.  Traffic is a bitch.  I had only been in Colorado for three days, and I couldn’t stop repeating the Dumb and Dumber line, “that John Denver was full of shit man. The Rocky Mountains don’t look so rocky.”  Of course I knew better, and was super excited to final see them.  To penetrate the Rockies.  Yes.

As life would have it, the guy we were staying with is the cousin of some close friends in Louisville.  Life works out when you let it.  The beer festival was great, for me.  If I hadn’t have been brand new to the Denver beer scene I would shave been bored out of my mind.  But I hadn’t heard of, let alone tried, most of the breweries represented there.  I was able to keep myself more than entertained.

The diversity of beer styles was super limited.  It seemed that Belgian styles and lagers were all over looked in favor of IPAs, reds, and browns.  The stereotypical American brewpub beer list was the norm for the entirety of the festival.  There were exceptions (there always are).  Honestly, few of the beers were that memorable.  The ones that stick out were memorable for all the wrong reasons.  Butterscotch is not a flavor I enjoy in a beer (and subsequently have begun to not enjoy in anything because of the negative affiliation it has in my sick mind).

Eventually, all of us needed food badly.  As we exited, I watched in perceived slow motion as a grown man flipped his hover-round or rascal machine.  It was something out of a comedy movie: over weight man in hover round goes up handicap ramp onto a sidewalk and somehow still manages to flip backwards bouncing his head off the concrete.  It wasn’t pretty, and shouldn’t have been funny.  We quickly ran over to assist him.  My laughter could wait until we knew he was alright.  I had seen his head bounce off the concrete, and knew there was a better than average chance he could have brain injury or a neck injury.  First rule of head injuries is not to move the person about.

Of course, the first person on the scene was a self-proclaimed ambulance driver.  What did he do?  Sat the guy upright and messed with his neck and head.  I tried not to yell out, and my light protest were dismissed.  Fuck it, my Wilderness First Responder and CPR certificates are all out of date: I have no responsibility to act.  I would have, but it wouldn’t have involved me touching his neck.

The other amazing feature of this drama: the man’s family was with him – his wife, daughter and grandson.  The daughter said she was a nurse.  None of the family assisted the man.  They watched as others did their best to stabilize their dad/husband/grandfather.  It was very upsetting to see members of a family not able to help another family member.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were traumatized.  But still….

Once that ordeal was over, I recalled the mental imagine of him falling.  In a way similar to watching someone get hit in the testicles, it made me laugh.  Non-lethal human suffering can be quite funny.  I’m not proud of that, but I laughed.  And smile now when I recall it.

We headed to a raclette spot.  Vail is a beautiful town, but is horribly touristy.  The raclette spot was no different: the service staff was dressed as if they were about to film a Ricola commercial and the prices were stupid high.  A plate of shitty, out of season vegetables for dipping in the cheese was almost $30.  To add meat was even more expensive.  And the food quality was shit.  Tourist towns sure can be exacerbating.

We finished the night off at the local drinking hole.  Fortunately there wasn’t a large tourist crowd  out still, so we got to enjoy some beverages in relative peace and quiet.  Once we were back to where we were sleeping, I realized how breath taking the stars were.  There is hardly any light pollution in Vail, as there aren’t a lot of major cities or industries around.  The Milky Way glowed through a starry night.  I could have happily stayed awake for hours, and did spend almost two hours outside.  The conversation was lively and the celestial show was outstanding.  But eventually the effects of over consumption caught up and it was time for rest.

Published: September 11, 2014 | Comments: 0

More World Cup Action, Alone

The game was relatively early in the morning, and I had hoped to watch it in my hotel room.  With an early checkout option clearly stated on the hotel contract, I assumed there would be some sort of issue for late check out.  So, as soon as I woke up, I went to talk to the front desk.  The woman there was strict but I managed to sweet talk her.  What’s not to love about someone wanting to stay in a hotel room for an extra hour to scream at our national soccer team?  She caved; I wasn’t going to be charged an additional $25 for my extra time.

It was odd watching such an important match alone.  My first USA game was with thousands of avid supporters.  Now I was alone, in a hotel room in Burlington CO, screaming at the TV and drinking extremely cold beer (it had, in truth frozen, so the first beer of the day (at 8am) was a beer slushie).

After the game, I packed the Horse up and headed to the VFW hall, the only place in town open for lunch and, I was hoping, breakfast.  With luck, they were still serving breakfast.  Biscuits and gravy were ordered and quickly consumed.  As was a beer.  Because.  That’s why.

My good friend Brandon lives in Denver and works for a natural resource consulting firm specializing in erosion management and federal compliance.  As chance would have it, he was inspecting a site near Burlington.  Further, he had a truck that could handle my bike.  Perfect, a quick hitch to Denver and a no more flat-middle-of-the-country Plains bullshit.

I tried my best to entertain myself in Burlington for the remainder of the day.  I was anxious to get to a real city, to a real beer drinking community.  There would be microbreweries, beer bars, and great food.  All by the days end.

Eventually I made my way to the city park.  A nap seemed appropriate, but before I could fall asleep, I was greeted by my boy.  The only information I had giving him was that I was at a park; instinctively, he drove around until he found a sign for a park (presumably the only one in the city).  After much embracing, we loaded the Horse and set off for Denver.

My family has a long standing property between Denver and the airport.  I had hoped to ride to that property and set up camp as a king in a familial domain.  With my hitch, I had to settle with a highway drive by.  There isn’t anything there, so I wasn’t missing much.  But the idea had become romantic to me, so I was sad to not fulfill it.  At least I was in Colorado, and headed to Denver.

Upon arrival, we visited a bottle shop.  I referred to it as a package store and Brandon lost it.  For whatever reason, he hadn’t heard them called that.  And I think he liked saying package store.  I managed to control myself to some degree, and only spent $100.  Which isn’t much, as I planned to be in Denver for at least a week.

We made it back to his house and began a path of destruction.  After several at-home drinks, we headed to one of his favorite local breweries (which also happened to be down the street from his house): Denver Beer Co.  The beers were great, and the atmosphere was outstanding.  People were everywhere, and everyone seemed to be in high spirits.

From there to Amato’s Ale House, where a hulk of a man with the world’s deepest voice served us numerous double IPAs.  We didn’t need beers with that much alcohol, but at that point of the night it made sense.  Go figure.

Of course by the time we got back to Brandon’s house we were desperately lacking sobriety.  Shitty, late-night pizza was ordered.  Somehow Brandon managed to dump the entirety of a jar of parmesan (saw dust style, not grated) onto the pizza.  It didn’t matter.  We ate all of it.  Then found the disaster zone the next morning.

Published: September 8, 2014 | Comments: 0

Colorful Colorado

I was quick to break down camp in the morning.  The great state of Colorado lay in front of me and I was anxious to put Kansas behind me.  I had about 70 miles left of riding in Kansas; it would be flat and windy but the end of Kansas.  Certainly not the end of the wind.

Early on in the day I passed my first badger of the trip.  It was dead, but I was too excited to not get a photo of it.  While I was stopped, I was passed by a trucker hauling one blade for a wind turbine.  The blade was probably two and a half normal freight trailers long.  Shortly thereafter, I was passed by the remaining two blades.

There aren’t many towns in this part of the country, so when I passed through Goodland, KS, I was anticipating a bite to eat and not much else.  To my surprise, as I rode into town there was a huge rendition of van Gogh’s “3 Sunflowers and a Vase.”  It is massive and about the only thing in town.  Fortunately, there was a water spigot, so I ate a melted Snickers, drank water, and left.

The next town I came to was Kanarado, which had to mean the end of Kansas was near.  About five miles outside of town, my stomach turned over in a bad way.  There was no where to hide in order to do my business.  I was wishfully searching for a couple of hay bails near each other, or some form of cover.  But no luck.  Then I made it to Kanarado and was delighted to find a city park.

It was completely dilapidated and appeared to be rarely used.  I found the toilet, which was barely more than a hole in the ground.  The toilet seat was made of wood.  For being this close to a city and fairly major road, there still wasn’t any running water or sewer.  This shitter would be more in place in the middle of nowhere in the wilderness.  But I was in the middle of nowhere.  And I would shit on Kansas before leaving the state.

After my appointment with the wooden throne, I retreated to the shade of a nearby shelter.  For as seemingly unused as the park appeared to be, there was a recent flyer for the city’s events.  One of the upcoming meals was an all you can eat buffet of Rocky Mountain oysters.  Unfortunately, I would have to miss the buffet.

I mounted the Horse for my final ride in Kansas.  About a mile outside of Kanarado I passed by the Colorado welcome sign.  What a relief!  No more Kansas, no more flat roads and wind, and there are mountains.  Except this part of Colorado is exactly like Kansas.  And I couldn’t see any mountains.

So my first day in Colorado wasn’t really all that different from Kansas.  About the only difference revolves around some legal issues.  But I’m no lawyer.  Burlington was only ten more miles on, so I rode safely into town.

There weren’t a lot of dining or sleeping options, but I eventually settled on America’s Best Value Inn.  While signing the paper work, I noticed an early checkout option.  I’ve only used late checkout, so I asked the attendant what an early checkout was.  He calmly replied that truckers sometimes use the shower and take a nap, or a young couple needs some private time. You could rent a room by the hour in Burlington, CO.  This thought would haunt me my entire stay here.

Once I had showered, I headed to the grocery.  I was hungry and needed beer for the night and for the USA World Cup game in the morning.  I had a microwave, so I whipped up a gourmet meal of hot pockets and chips.  And beer.  Delicious beer.

Published: August 26, 2014 | Comments: 0

Day Off; Ficky Fossils

The previous day I had been conversing with my rock doctor friend. She insisted I go visit the Fick Fossil Museum, located in downtown Oakley. She assured me it was a one of the kind experience, and it was one of her favorite fossil museums.

It had rained the night before and I was leery of rain all day. This proved to be very well-founded as throughout the day it rained hard. Lightning, light hail, more rain. There were a few short breaks between the rain, but I wasn’t ready to chance the ride into town. I had befriended my bartender the night before, and when I realized he also worked for the campgrounds, I started up more conversation. I didn’t want to ride; I wanted a ride.

By 2pm I was concerned I might not see the museum. I decided my best bet was to convince Zek (like Beck but with a Z) to run me into town. When I went to ask the front desk where he lived in the campground, I turned to see him behind me. Fortunately for me, he was borrowing a car to run to town to cash his check. He was more than willing to drop me at the museum while he did his chores in town.

The museum was amazing: a collection of fossils, minerals, rocks, and folk art. The latter was the most intriguing and disturbing. This area of Kansas is rich with fossils, and the fine folks in the area have grown fond of taking fossilized shark teeth, stingray teeth, and vertebrae and arranging them in various patterns, then painting them. There was a picture of Jesus and the Lamb done in ancient fossils. The irony was killing me.

The highlight was the largest fish fossil found in the US. It is over 13 feet long and beautiful. There were tons of other amazing fossils, from pectoral fins to the wing of a Pterosauris, and tons of smaller fossils. They even had some fossils from Louisville, KY; numerous varieties I had found while digging in my parents’ yard. 

Zek picked me up without really looking around the museum. That disappointed me but I understood. I guess most people don’t have much of an appreciation for fossils and natural history. That’s a shame. It was back to the campground and sleep. Tomorrow I needed to do just under 90 miles to make it to Burlington, CO, and out of Kansas. I was way over Kansas, although I will recall it fondly for the unique beauty it possess.

 

Published: August 14, 2014 | Comments: 0

Bugs, “Craft” Beer, RVs

I knew I had a long day of riding at just under 95 miles. The campground was located outside of Oakley, and the terrain looked to be mostly flat. It was going to be another long and hot day in Kansas. At least it wouldn’t be too hilly.

The first quarter of the day I was on paved roads. Then it switched to dirt. I got nervous, but it turned out to be for no good reason. The road stayed flat, and the surface was well compacted. And there was very little traffic. There were a lot of random gnats, which by the days end my arms were covered in.

A made a short stop in a random Kansas town, a true blast from the past. To say there wasn’t a stop light is an understatement: there wasn’t a stop sign. There was a grocery, and I figured out a quick bite and sat outside enjoying lunch. Since I’m not on a bicycle route, I get a lot of odd looks, especially from folks in small towns. This was no different. The young guy who checked me out of the grocery was staring at me the entire time. As was the bagger, and the rest of the patrons. Fortunately, I’m entirely too comfortable in my skin to mind.

I made good time to High Plains Campground, and was delighted to discover there was a pub on site. It claimed to have high end food and a great beer list. I’d ultimately decided if either were true.

Once again, there were no trees to hang from so I improvised and used a telephone pole for one end and a picnic table for the other. I was still on the ground but the system was taut enough to withstand most storms. And it would have to do just that.

The pub was open at the time I arrived. After figuring out my sleep system and a shower, it was straight to the pub. The beer list was far from craft; I’d call nothing they carried craft. The food was a far cry from elevated; it sat closer to shitty bar food. Still, it was great to have an onsite pub.

While I had been setting up my hammock, I noticed another cyclists with panniers pull in. Wow, someone else on bicycle tour! I hadn’t seen anyone on tour since I left the TransAM in Missouri. Turns out, he was a college student at GA Tech who was traveling from Atlanta to the Grand Canyon. He was riding a front suspension mountain bike with slick tires and rear panniers only. Every stop had been planned out and scheduled. We were on similar adventures with completely different styles.

After more than enough beers, I returned to my campsite. It had been threatening rain for sometime, so I wanted to make sure everything was secure and would remain dry. It didn’t rain until late in the evening when I was mostly asleep. I bolted awake afraid my system had failed, but was happy to discover I did know what I was doing. Experience: it works.

Published: August 5, 2014 | Comments: 0

USA! USA! with Fewer People

Today was a zero day; I had no intention of riding any further than the brewery.  My duties today mainly consisted of doing laundry in the tub, writing for the site, and mentally preparing for the big game.  And I had several beers to consume.

Laundry in the tub is an art that most people don’t seem to understand.  Same basic steps as the machine, except for it’s all in your hands.   There’s the soaking period.  Draining.  Soaking.  Draining.  Then soaking in soap with agitation.  More soaking.  Rinsing.  More Rinsing.  Then wringing out.  Then drying.  It’s labor intensive and time consuming.  More over, it gives me the utmost respect for how clothes were cleaned before the washing machine.

It was almost game time, so I headed back to Lb’s for some food and more kolsch.  When I arrived, it was apparent I was the only one there for the game.  Fortunately, one other fan arrived.  He was from Tunisia, had received a scholarship to study in the US, and never left.

We watched the game together, a starck contrast from last weeks viewing in KC with thousands of my closest friends.  The game was good, but a bit disappointing.  I wanted a win, but a tie would do.  I definitely managed to consume entirely too much kolsch, but was able to plan my next couple of days out after the game.
My friend who lives in Denver, Brandon, is employed as an environmental consultant.  His job takes him all over the state of Colorado, and much to my benefit, he would be in Burlington, CO around the same time I hoped to arrive.  After some conversation, I decided to do a long day to Oakley, KS.  There was a campground there and it was a short distance to Burlington.  There was another World Cup game three days later, and I needed to watch it.  Even if it cost me.

 

Published: August 2, 2014 | Comments: 0

New Routes, Turtles, More Beer

The morning light on Wilson Lake was spectacular. I was in good spirits. I had no choice but to learn a valuable lesson from the previous day, and to take everything in stride. After all, I decided to do this, and no one else. Life is a mental game; play it to your advantage.

Before I reached the main earthen dam, I was able to save three different turtles. Really, I was able to help them cross the road. It wasn’t a busy road, but I felt I had done a good deed. And I really love to play with turtles.

My goal for the day was Hays, KS, home of the best small brewery and best small brewer of the year, Lb Brewing. There is another brewery here, but they hadn’t responded to my pleas for a tour, so screw them. The next USA World Cup game was the following day, so I was going to stay for a full zero day. There isn’t much in Kansas, especially if you want to watch World Cup action. The US team was going to cost me money to watch, and, quite frankly, it would be money well spent.

The riding was great, and my new route was simple and beautiful. I had very few dirt roads to deal with, and the terrain was rolling and varied. I made great time into Hays, and approached the city from the south. Incidentally, I passed Defiance Brewery, the one that never returned my pathetic pleas. It was located between a Budweiser distributor and a Pepsi distributor. I assumed the worst and moved on to Lb’s.

Hays is a quaint town, smaller than Salina, at least to the eye. Lb’s Brewing is located inside Gella’s Diner, although the two are basically the same business. When I arrived, I was pleased to see a kolsch on draft. I love kolsch. I ordered a half liter and it was gone in no time. Then I settled in for a flight, then another kolsch. All of their beers were excellent, completely to style with no frills added. I couldn’t resist another kolsch.

I realized I needed to get a hotel and get cleaned up so I logically asked to fill my growler with kolsch. Apparently, in the state of Kansas, it is illegal to fill any growler except for one purchased from the brewery. As my growler now has stickers from across the eastern US, it wasn’t a single branded growler. Fortunately, one of the bar managers had mercy on me and loaned me one. I assured him I had no desire to carry a glass growler and would return it before the World Cup game tomorrow. 

When I made it to my hotel, there was what can best be described as a redneck, cluster fuck wedding. The first person I saw was a little boy dressed in a camo vest and tie. Classy. Then I started to see the people attending the wedding, and realized the reception was going to be held at the hotel. I knew I needed more beer.

The first room was a disaster. Pubic hair in the sink. Pee stains in the shower (yes the shower not the toilet). I feared I wouldn’t be able to get another room, but the lady at the front was nice and facilitated my move. She apologized, I smiled like an asshole. The lady behind me had the same complaint. Luckily, my second room was mostly clean, at least I could deal with it.

After a long shower and a quick trip to the grocery, I settled into my home for the next two days. Suddenly, I heard mayhem in the hall ways. The reception had reached its pinnacle in the form of the revolving tunnel. The guests were so enthused they were taking the tunnel on a tour of the entire hotel. Twice. Rednecks… at least they know how to have a good time.

For my sake, the hotel eventually quieted down around 11pm. I was able to get some good rest before the game tomorrow. I hoped for the best.

 

Published: July 31, 2014 | Comments: 0

Crap Routing, Crap Roads, Great Swimming

There was an IHOP down the street from the KOA, so breakfast was already decided for me.  It was going to be a hot day, and I had a late start.  I thought I knew what I was doing, my route seemed easy enough and as “Kansas is flat,” I knew I could crush miles.  Boy, was I wrong.

The day started off great.  I passed under a highway where at least a hundred swallows had made nests.  As I went under, all them flew out and dove through the air foraging for insects.  It was a splendid site and feeling that doesn’t translate over well on video (I tried, it’s good, not great).

The road was dirt and flat.  The moving was dusty but fast.  The surface was very well compacted and not too fine or bulky.  The road stayed like this for about twenty miles.  Then it went down hill (the quality not so much the terrain).  Slowly the compaction got less; hidden “speed bumps” magically appeared and shook the hell out my arms.  I was forced to continuously find a new, more compacted path: sometimes following the last tire tread, other times guessing what looked smoother.

We did another 15 miles and needed a break.  I had saved one gose from last night and decided to drink it on the side of the road.  It was warm but boosted my spirits for the time being.     This area of Kansas is famed for its post rock fences.  With no trees around, the locals make fence posts out of stone quarried close by.  The fence rows look like something out of an old western.

The Horse slipped and slid around all day.  She took everything Kansas threw at her.  Then things got worse.  I ran out of water.  I was on my own designed route, and had thought there was a town somewhere.  By the time I got to this mystery town (which was barely a conglomeration of a dozen living structures and a long closed general store), I had been without water for 15 miles.  There was one faucet behind the closed store.  I drank hard, and long.  Then I made my next mistake: I didn’t fill up my extra water bladder.

After leaving the housing conglomerate, I turned down a series of dirt roads.  Both Garmin and Google had provided the same route so, like a dip shit, I trusted them.  The roads began to climb the hills of Kansas, which although they are gently rolling, turn out to suck to ride on country roads.  These roads go straight following cardinal directions.  I was heading west, and that meant any hill would be dealt with in a straight line.  No switch backs, no changing direction.  Up. Then down.  Period.

There’s this crazy thing that happens when dirt meets rain, especially when there’s a channel for the rain to follow.  These roads were that channel, and water had wrecked havoc on them.  There were two points that made me gasp at my stupidity.  As previously noted, Kansas has a lot of fossil beds.  On these roads, the water had removed all the soil and left behind platy-fossil beds.  Not suitable for riding a bike, and hardly suitable for cars.  There were 10 inch gullies down both sides of the hills.  I walked the horse, while sweating profusely.  The heat index was over 110.

Then the roads got some what better, although the pinnacle of each hill was composed of super loose gravel, that proofed to be unridable as well.  I never walked my bike until Kansas.  Assholes.

By now I was out of water, and had been for almost twenty miles.  Eventually I reached paved roads.  The feeling of pavement vs dirt had never elated me so much before.  I was thirsty, verging on heat stroke and dehydration, but oh so happy to be on paved roads.  My mental game was failing fast.  I was barely sweating.  I needed water soon or else.  I didn’t want to go down in Kansas.  Fuck that.

Then a lone house appeared on the horizon.  I had heard of cyclists approaching houses to ask for water, and knew I would soon do the same.  When I got to the door and knocked, no one answered.  No worries, there was a hose faucet on the side of the house.  I crushed over two liters of water, filled my bottles, double checked my distance to Wilson Lake and moved on.  That house and family have no idea what they did for me that day.

I finally arrived at Wilson Lake, dehydrated and tired.  The lake is beautiful and clear with wonderfully chill water temperatures.  I explained my hammock issue to the woman at the registry and vowed to return when I was settled in.  It took me an hour and half before I returned.  When I found some shade, I realized the back of my arms were covered in salt crystals, very visible amounts of salt.  I was that dehydrated.

Water was of the utmost importance to me, so I consumed another 3 liters before returning to inform the attendant of where I was sleeping.  Tonight would be my first attempt at making my hammock into a tent, as there weren’t sufficient trees to hang from.

After a long swim, I sat at the picnic table mostly brain dead.  The lady attendant was kind enough to give me a paper map, the kind that details road surface on it.  Old school, and awesome.  I threw out my old directions and used the map to determine a safer route.  This is when I discovered that I was due south of the geodetic center of the USA.  I was geographically half way across the USA.  Then I slept on the ground, and it was excellent.

Published: July 17, 2014 | Comments: 0

Clouds, Fossils, Dogs, and Sliders

I woke up to cloudy skies; not just cloudy, but stormy, as in I could see lightning flashing in the distance.  After considering my options, I decided to brave the storm.  It was mostly north of me and the weather doesn’t tend to move south here.

Salina, KS was my destination today.  The same Salina as mentioned in “Me and Bobby McGee,” the song I would sing all day in my head.  I had been told to check out the original home of the slider; bonus that there were two breweries in town.

The riding was beautiful, full of fields and flowers.  All of it was blowing in the wind, including me.  It felt like I had either a head wind or cross wind the entire day.  As I was riding, I got passed by the most unusual trailer.  It was no more than six feet high with what looked like miniature horse stalls on either side.  As I continued down the road, I discovered this was a greyhound moving trailer.  Yes, the race dog.

Having never seen a dog race, but being a fan of horse racing, I was intrigued.  Turns out this part of Kansas (Abilene) is home to the National Greyhound Association, and there were at least two huge greyhound “farms.”  I use quotes because it weirds me out.  For whatever reason I can fathom a horse farm but not a greyhound farm.

I continued on until I heard a lot of loud barking; another greyhound farm.  As I approached I noticed a fire nearby.  It was burning a strong blue color, similar to when tires are burned (don’t ask, my experience stems from world travel).  Getting closer, there were dozens and dozens of long runs and pens.  And the dogs were going ape shit.  It was one of the weirder sites I’ve seen.  At least 50 dogs, running back in forth, jumping on their shelters, and barking like crazy.

After the greyhound experience, I came upon a road cut that had exposed lots of fossils.  I pulled over and let the nerdy kid in me come out.  I spent probably an half hour exploring and collecting; then I got rid of everything except for one piece. It is a cast of some prehistoric worm-like creatures tunnel.  I thought it was cool (plus it was small and light).

When I pulled into Salina, the first thing that struck me was the dead industrial grain towers.  They looked like a set for a bad zombie movie.  Fortunately, after crossing the train tracks, the rest of the town was quite nice and quaint.  I quickly found what I was looking for: the original slider.

The story I had been told was that the Cozy Inn originated the slider and, also, the idea of buying them by the sack.  One of the partners had gone on to create White Castle, while the other partner stayed in Salina.  There were some differences though. (Disclaimer: I hate White Castle, it disgusts me).  Whiteys have cheese on them; Cozies (my name not theirs) have mustard, ketchup and pickles.  No cheese, never.

I acquainted myself with the ordering process and proceeded to destroy six.  They were delicious, absolutely amazing.  The flavors were simple but mingled amazing, like the true American creation that they are.  I vowed to return before the day was out for more deliciousness.

Around the corner is Blue Skye Brewery, my next stop in Salina.  I had a flight of their beers, most of which were below great, but above shit.  The stout and the seasonal IPA stick out as their best beers.  The space was beautiful and no expense was spared to decorate and furnish the restaurant.  And the bartender was very easy on the eyes.  That never hurts.

Next to Big John’s Brewing.  I was fairly suspicious of this place before I entered.  The website was shit; it was in a strip mall.  I’d been wrong numerous times before but I still had my qualms.  When I arrived, I realized I was justified.  The place was huge and vacant; lots of mismatched chairs and tables.  And not in the cool, retro recycling way.

Another flight, another round of disappointment.  I quickly finished and headed to a nearby liquor store.  It was pleasantly surprising to find a decent quality package store in Salina, KS.  They stocked a lot of craft domestic including Against the Grain (local boys) and Stillwater (which I’ve hardly seen).  I purchased Anderson Valley’s Gose and headed back to the Cozy Inn.

I was planning to stay at the Salina KOA and needed dinner.  I ordered a dozen more sliders to pair with the gose, then headed out of town.  I’ve stayed in a couple KOAs and don’t really care for them.  Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I just would rather not pay to camp.  Personal issues.

Fortunately, I was able to find two trees to string the hammock between.  The pool was so chlorinated I thought my hair and beard would be bleached out by the morning.  This didn’t happen.  The mosquitoes were the worst of the trip, though.  I was forced to spend most of my time in the common area inside, where I destroyed 10 more sliders.  Then I felt sick and knew it was time to stop.  That night, I wasted food.  I’m eternally sorry for my sins.

Published: July 16, 2014 | Comments: 0

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