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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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

Railroad Mishaps; Tallgrass; Swimming

I left early in the morning and rode straight through Topeka.  I had hoped to see a coffee shop, diner, or someplace fun on my way through town but saw nothing.  Lots of closed taquerias and tire dealers but nothing of substance.  I crossed over the Kansas River and headed west towards Manhattan and Tallgrass Brewing.

By the time I was three miles passed Topeka, I realized how hungry I was, and there was nothing coming up until Manhattan.  I passed by a huge grain holding facility which had several rail lines running to it.  There was one point where three rail lines ran parallel across the road.  I angled my tires to be perpendicular to the tracks until I realized I was in the other lane.  As I tried to correct my error, my front tire/wheel slipped into one of the tracks and I went flying over the handle bars.  I landed on my left shoulder and elbow, not too hard, but hard enough to hurt.  It was my first wreck, and hopefully only.  It sucked.  The worst part was the older woman who watched it happen and kept driving.  She was right behind me, saw me fly through the air, skid across the road, and jump up pissed.  My gear was everywhere; she drove by as if nothing had happened.  Bitch.

Of course I had a flat.  And the rim had numerous gashes in it.  I took several deep breaths, realized how fortunate I was, and proceeded to change the tube and deburr the rim.  The most upsetting part of the wreck was that I know how to cross railroad tracks.  I should have eaten breakfast and drank coffee.  Lesson learned.

Moving on, I pedaled hard to get to Manhattan.  I had met Jake, the sales manager for Tallgrass, at Boulevardia.  He actually believed I would visit and was happy to give me his information for when I arrived.  He was finishing a sales meeting when I arrived, and the other employees were somewhat confused as to why I was there.  Tallgrass is in the process of moving there facility to a new location, and have thus closed their tasting room.  There are no tours and no tastings: I had once again been fortunate to meet Jake earlier.

I got the grand tour and tasting.  Tallgrass cans their beers in 16oz tall boys, so it was cool to see that process.  The brewery was a buzz with activity, and most everyone gave me little notice.  Tallgrass does a lot of cask conditioned beers, especially for the local markets.  It was great to see the conditioning area, and to hear how they condition in the traditional process, aka they don’t force carbonate the cask, but rather allow the yeast to eat and process additional sugars added for that purpose.

Before the tour, I was able to try most of their beers.  There was a tasting room exclusive (ironic because the tasting room isn’t open to the public) that was made with plums.  The closest style would be a weird gose, with no salt, light tartness (not lacto derived) and a pleasant plum flavor.  The plum flavor was between green plum (where I think the tart was from) and over ripe, juicy plums.  It was fantastic.

While touring, Jake gave me a four pack of 8 Bit, their hoppy pale ale.  It was fresh off the line, and I was supper excited to drink it.  I was also told to go to Cox’s BBQ, located just down the road.  Of course, I did, and the food was good.  It certainly was not Oklahoma Joe’s, but was still yummy.

It was so hot out, I decided to stay at the BBQ place for an hour, hoping against hope it would cool down (plus the World Cup was on the TV).  Eventually it was time to leave, so I headed towards Milford State Park, another large park with a huge reservoir.  I managed to sneak past all watching eyes, and find a great camping spot.

Before I swam, I used one of my bungees to anchor the beers to some rocks.  Bad move.  Boaters were cruising by and creating wakes; I hadn’t considered this and instantly had one beer get a puncture.  Beer sprayed, I drank it.  Stupid me left them in the water and swam.  I came back to grab them and another one had a puncture.  Rather than drink it (as I still had one opened from before), I shotgunned it, using a rock I randomly found.  It wasn’t my finest shotgun but it was still fun.

The last two days had found my hands numb and hurting, so I contacted my boys at my local bike shop (On Your Left) for advice.  After some back in forth, I moved the stem up and tweaked the position of my saddle.  It ended up helping a lot and made for much more enjoyable riding.

The evening passed pleasantly: I watched fish jump, fishermen tried their luck (with no catches), and the sun set.  It had been a great day.

Published: July 15, 2014 | Comments: 1

Leaving KC; Hello Kansas

I’ve technically been in Kansas since I arrived in KC, but today was my first real riding day in Kansas.  I planned to hit two breweries in Lawrence, then ride to Topeka to visit another brewery.  I hoped I’d find somewhere to camp along the way.  As I started to load my bike, I noticed a flat.  Damn it.  It had been full last night, but somehow something had been able to deflate the tube.

Once everything was back in order, I loaded up the Horse and headed out.  I had enjoyed myself to no end in KC, and said my goodbyes to the animals of the house before I left.  It was easy riding to Lawrence and my first stop, Free State Brewing.  The most eventful site was a random club that had a bus parked out front.  All the windows were pictures of women’s backs with panties on.  It’s called the “Booty Bus” and is a traveling strip club.  Sweet.

Free State has a great atmosphere and they produce excellent beers.  I immediately ordered a full pint of pilsner.  If there is a lager on draught anywhere, it tends to be my first beer, even before flights.  Water and a pint lager, then I settle in to try other beers.  Their pilsner was excellent and I almost didn’t try anything else.  The other two beers I had were excellent, but in the end I had another pilsner.

Then I rode to the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, where the only “surviving” member of Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Big Horn is kept.  Comanche is a stuffed war relic, an adult horse, and really quite creepy.  I had never seen a stuffed horse, but now I have.  It didn’t take much time, and I was thankful there were fossils to look at as well.

On to 23rd St Brewing, where I had met one of the breweries at Boulevardia.  Luck would have it that he was still around after work, so I was able to get a tour.  The brewery is physically above the bar, and is the centerpiece of the place.  You walk in to a semi-circle bar with the brewery open and above the main bar.  It’s a 15 barrel brewery, and they are getting ready enlarge it.  To grow, they are going to have to cut out the tanks and do a lot of physical manipulation and positioning.  The tanks already in the brewery barely fit, so it should be interesting to see how the build out goes.

The beers at 23rd St. were great, although some of them were lackluster.  My favorite was a super hoppy, but not bitter, IPA, called the Bitter Professor (ironic because it wasn’t that bitter. Maybe it should be called the Nosy Professor).

While there, someone walked in talking about a new Boulevard beer released in honor of Sporting KCs championship last year.  I enquired where to purchase said beer, then quickly left for the package store.

I rode on towards Topeka, where I had hoped to visit Blind Tiger.  By the time I got close, I realized it was too late and I was too exhausted.  I had no place to stay and didn’t feel like rolling the dice at Blind Tiger, so when I passed a state park with a lake, I stopped and cruised in.  The nice part about being on a bike is that most campgrounds don’t notice you, especially when there is a line of RVs waiting to get in.  I bypassed the fee area and headed to a quiet corner near the lake.  Hanging the hammock I was overcome with the desire to swim.  Into the lake and on my back floating in a freshwater lake; life was good.

I floated for a while longer then swam towards a Great Blue Heron perched on the shore.  I got within 4 feet before he flew off.  It’s wonderful to interact with an animal so seemingly common place but so infrequently encountered up close.  Magnificent creatures.

While making dinner, I opened the new Boulevard beer.  It was great, although I really wish it could have been sort of chilled.  Either way, I enjoyed the shit out of it while watching the sunset over a Kansas lake.  Tomorrow would be a new day, and I hoped to make a good amount of miles to Milford State Park.

Published: July 14, 2014 | Comments: 0

Touring Kansas City Breweries

With plenty of rest and water, I was feeling decent, not great, but decent.  We decided to get some brunch at the Foundry and then tour several Kansas City breweries.  The O’Dell Friek was still on draft, so I had no option but to have another.  It still tasted delicious.

Then to Boulevard brewery.   We figured it would either be packed or dead.  It was mostly dead.  Apparently several days of festivities had taken its toll on the population of Kansas City.  Flights were had, the ginger radler was never found, and so we decided to keep trying. (side note: Boulevard has two electric car chargers and parking spaces.)

To a Spanish tapas place, where we blew the keg before a pint could be poured.  I mentioned my philosophy of not trying to find something, that it would happen more organically.  They agreed so we kept our train rolling onto KC Bier Co., a newer, German styled brewery.

When we arrived, I noticed the excellent beer garden, although there was zero shade.  The children’s area had a “mock bar” replete with faucet that served water.  We sat at the bar and got two flights.  The beers were excellent, very authentically German.  My favorites were the Helles and Pilsner.  I hadn’t had a liter on this trip, so after the flight, I forced myself to enjoy a liter of Helles.  Damn it was amazing.

Then to 75th Street Brewing, part of the KC Hops restaurant group.  The beers were completely underwhelming.  After so many skillfully crafted beers at Boulevard and KC Bier Company, I had no desire to imbibe a full pint.  My curiosity was satisfied and I was ready to move on.

We went back to Bier Station and enjoyed a couple of different beers and split some bottles.  I had been wanting to try some authentic KC BBQ, so we went to Gate’s BBQ.  Wow.  I had been warned that they would yell at me.  As soon as we walked in, I was greeted with a firm, “May I help you?”  Shit, I had just arrived and hadn’t read the menu or even figured out what the hell was going on.

I stepped out of line and into the shadows to better peruse the menu.  Ribs sounded good, so I ordered them and patiently waited and watched.  It’s a well oiled machine, as far as taking and delivering orders is concerned.  Cleanliness isn’t the highest I’ve seen, but the food was good.  The meat was a little dry, and it certainly didn’t fall off the bone.

I noticed one guy in the corner getting a lot of extra attention, so I spied on him, and determined it was Mr. Gates himself.  The desire to introduce myself was overwhelming but I had nothing to say.  “Mr. Gates, your BBQ is real nice but dry, so I guess I could add a bunch of sauce to it. And the lady at the cash register was stern with me.”  I left (but not before riding the saddled barrel) and hoped to have better BBQ at Oklahoma Joe’s.

Published: July 13, 2014 | Comments: 0

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