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.

Latest blog posts

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

Boulevardia

The day had arrived.  Four months ago I had told John I would make it to Boulevardia, and here we were.  Just under 1800 miles traveled, and on time.  I was excited.  We made a huge breakfast, a good nutritional base for the day.  I have a couple of festival guidelines (most of which I follow, most of the time): eat as much food as possible, drink as much water as possible, don’t drink beer before the festival (this one usually gets skipped).  Water and food were consumed in mass quantities, and we only had one beer.

Boulevardia is a community festival lasting three days.  There is music, food, beer, and distilleries.  The beer festival is held on Saturday and is a separate ticketed event.  It is physically under an overpass on a road/bridge.  Think of a sandwiched highway bridge with two roads, one on top the other.  We were protected from rain, but it was very narrow.  Very narrow.  This was the biggest problem of the festival: bottlenecks.  You had to push your way through the crowd in order to find different breweries.  For us that was an issue, as John had purchased a sweet walker with wheels.  We managed.

The list of breweries and beers were impressive.  And the vast majority of breweries had representatives as well.  Brewers who are the all stars of beer were causally talking to each other.  I made it a point to introduce myself to the owner of 2nd Shift, Steve.  I had missed his brewery on my first day on the KATY.  He and his wife had been out of town; poor timing on my part.  We talked for a bit, then he invited me behind the counter to try some other beers.  Jack pot!  No more lines, no more fighting crowds.  I was free to consume as much and as often as I pleased.

I talked on and off to Steve and his wife, Libby, and they shared several of their fantastic beers with me (including one not yet released named after Libby, which was a brett-trois saison).  Then I made my rounds.  I went back and forth for as long as I could, until the inevitable need to urinate forced me to give up my momentary VIP access.

Post urination, I met up with John and Amanda and we did some more tasting rounds.  At beer festivals, I believe it is best to move horizontally through lines.  Don’t get in the back of each line; move from the front of one to the front of the next.  It takes some skill but is easily accomplished once everyone else is hammered.

There were a lot of amazing beers but a few stood out: Off Color Screw You, Jeremy Danner (Saison in gin barrels); Allagash Midnight Brett; and Russian River Pliny the Elder.  Plenty of the beers and breweries brought great product, although some were entirely underwhelming.

Once the festival ended, we went to the main area and listened to some live music.  Full pints at the event were cheap and plentiful, so several pints later we realized it was time to get out of there.   To home, ordered some pizza, devoured some pizza, and passed out with my clothes on.  It was a great beer festival.

Published: July 12, 2014 | Comments: 0

Domestic Duties then Beer

I woke up knowing that I had work to do today.  I needed to do laundry, dry all my gear out, talk to some gear reps, talk to mom, write, and plan.  Not that it would be a hard day, but there was also soccer to watch.  I had the house to myself so I quickly set about my duties.

A little after noon, John came home for lunch and for the rest of the day.  He had recently thrown his back out and was dealing with an immense amount of pain.  The only fortunate part of the injury was the timing: it came after the bulk of their move was complete.  Little solace but it’s something.  By this time, the World Cup was on and matches were being played.  It was time for a beer, or more.

We paced ourselves pretty well thru the afternoon until Amanda got home.  Then we collectively made some decisions.  It was the end of KC craft beer week and there were several special events.  We decided to go the Foundry for O’Dell Brewery’s cask of St Lupulin with cucumber added.  It was a good move.  The cucumber cut through some of the bitter notes of the hops, and the cask conditioning made it ultimately smooth.  Also on tap was Le Friek, their sour cherry ale.  Both were outstanding.

Sometimes (really most of the time) I like to introduce myself to the brewers who attend beer events.  At this event was the owner of O’Dell Brewing in Fort Collins, Doug O’Dell.  After spotting him in the crowd, I waited for optimal timing, then struck.  I knew I had limited time but did my best to leave an impression.  He was on the way out the door, but told me to email him when I got to Fort Collins and he would try to have a beer with me.  Excellent.

From there we went on the hunt for the Boulevard Ginger Radler, a beer brewed for summer and with limited distribution.  First to Beer Kitchen, then to Bier Station.  No one had it; worse yet we had just missed it at Beer Kitchen.  Oh well, no need to chase a beer around town.

While we were at Beer Kitchen, I got a little frustrated with their menu.  The printed menu was horribly out of date, as in of the eight on the menu only two were available.  The list behind the bar was even worse.  The bartender had no answers to why everything was messed up, but they did have a Cambridge Brewing Co. sour beer, so I went with that.  It was higher in alcohol than I needed or wanted, but it was tasty (think Flemish red blended with super oxidized old ale).

Bier Station is a rad little spot.  It’s a combination package store and beer bar, not very unlike the Louisville Beer Store.  Apparently before they opened, the owner tried to contact the Beer Store, who according to him never answered.  It happens.  The establishment has a mix of train motives, from the “Marienplatz” sign to the conductor’s hat for special guests.  Since I am on this epic trip, I was honored to wear the hat and have my photo taken for the online media.

As I was perusing the bottle coolers, I recognized one of the Boulevard Brewers who I had met in DC.  I think he had pretty well written me off; after all, I’m not sure I would have believed a random guy telling me he was riding across the US and would be at my brewery in a month and change.  The look on his face gave him away, but he was more than amicable.  I guess I’ve finally got some street cred.

While there, I spotted Gary Fish, the owner of Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR.  I met him six months ago when Deschutes entered the Kentucky market.  The whole crew from the brewery had come to town, and I was the lucky bartender to wait on them all.  I had already had a good day of meeting brewers, so I reintroduced myself and told him what I was doing.  Fortunately, he remember me (or at least said he did) and we had numerous beers and bullshitted for sometime.  Needless to say, I’m excited to make it out to Bend even more now.

It had been a long day of consumption, and when we finally made it back home I was out.  Hard.

Published: July 10, 2014 | Comments: 1

World Cup Action (and Highways)

Storms had been threatening for the last several days, and there was a severe storm warning for the morning.  I needed to make it to civilization so I could watch the World Cup opener, and there wasn’t anywhere to watch it for at least 50 miles.  The first game was at 2pm so, in theory, I had time.

When I woke up, it immediately started to storm.  It rained and was super windy for about an hour, then nothing.  I quickly packed, paid the park attendant, and moved on.  Anytime I try to get somewhere in a hurry, there will inevitably be some sort of set back.  After riding 30 miles on a highway (it had a 8 ft shoulder, but traffic was still moving at 70+mph), I was forced to pull over by another flat.  There was no shade to be found so I did my best to quickly change it and get to town.

Around 1:30, I got really serious about finding a sports bar.  As I passed a Kroger, I saw a dude wearing a football jersey.  Surely this guy would know where a sports bar is, I thought.  And he did; it was two miles away.  I kicked it into gear and made it just in time for kick off.

The game was mostly brilliant, and I was able to try five different Boulevard beers.  The local next me gave me some great advice on how to get to Mission, KS, where my two friends live.  The way both Garmin and Google routed me made no sense to him (or me), and according to him were actually not that safe.

The game ended and I hit the road, following my new friend’s directions, and feeling slightly elated.  The roads are mostly parallel and numbered sequentially, so it’s pretty easy to navigate.  Eventually I road across State Line Rd, which I assumed meant I was in Kansas.  As I went uphill, I hollered at a guy walking down to ask if I was in fact in Kansas.  He rolled his eyes, but the woman behind him confirmed my suspicion.  I had made it to Kansas.

A couple of miles later and I was at the home of John and Amanda Frey.  Hugs were exchanged, and I was given a tour of their new house, and my bachelor pad upstairs.  Once we settled in, I got to meet my other house mates, three dogs and a bird.  We opened several beers, caught up and discussed our future plans.  I was too tired to want to go out, so we stayed in, anticipating the long days coming up.

Published: July 7, 2014 | Comments: 0

Riding with a Purpose

The World Cup starts in two days, and I need to do around 150 miles to get somewhere near the game.  It was time to ride hard.  But first, in the morning, I had coffee, oatmeal, and finished the last pint from last night’s growler.  All of which are pure energy, or so I tell myself.

The initial riding was wonderful, with numerous rock bluffs and historical markers.  At one point, there were some Native American icongraphs on the river bluffs.  I am happy to say I noticed them before I read about them on the sign.  Ah the power of observation (really its the inconsistencies within the environment).

Then I came to the only tunnel on the KATY.  I had to film myself riding back and forth, the first time I’ve staged a video this trip.  It turned out well, if for no other reason then it helps bring back the memory of doing it.

While taking a break near an abandoned tile factory, another cyclists passed by me.  He was the first cyclist who was riding a Surly Disc Trucker, just like my Horse.  He was only out for the week, and as we talked, it turned out he had gone to school in Dayton.  I keep meeting people who have some link to some area of my life.  It is truly remarkable.

That night, I headed to Knob Noster State Park, off the KATY and closer to Kansas City (it was a 95 mile ride from where I started).  I really like saying the name; it must be the alliterative nature of it.  Shortly after I arrived, I met my neighbor, a power line technician who lived in Kansas City.  He had brought one daughter to 4H camp, and the other daughter and he were camping there for the week.  He left in the morning to go into town for work, and camped at night with her.  A pretty neat arrangement, and one I never would have considered. He told me he enjoyed camping in the RV outside of town, and that it was a welcome difference from every other day.

While I was preparing dinner, the eldest daughter came over to invite me for brat burgers.  Of course I accepted and enjoyed two burgers, two ears of corn, and fried potatoes, as well as hours of great conversation.  Both had plenty of suggestions for places I should stop in the future, although the most interesting was in Salina, KS.  Called Cozy’s Inn, it is the home of the original slider, and White Castle had supposedly ripped them off.

At one point, I ran out of beer and made back to camp to grab another.  To my surprise my things were scattered about.  I had been hit by some crafty raccoons.  Those bastards got two of my precious Snickers.  I packed everything else up and went back to my neighbors.  For the rest of the night, we took turns throwing rocks at the sneaky bastards as they tried to get our post dinner trash.

Published: July 6, 2014 | Comments: 0

Car-Free Riding

I had hoped to hit two towns today, Jefferson City and Columbia.  After careful consideration, I decided to just hit Columbia, and hoped to stay in a hotel.  I hadn’t paid for sleeping arrangements since Rough River, so I figured I could do it.

I meticulously packed, careful not to touch all the poison ivy.  Everything was wet, at least the outside of the bags, bike and riding clothes.  The vital items were dry.  I had camped on the high point of a river bluff, so the soil was mostly sand and silt, which was on everything.  I got started on the KATY and was surprised and terrified with the number of downed trees and limbs.  It made me very nervous about camping, and I realized the storm was worse than I thought.

There are several historical markers along the KATY, mostly related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  As I watched the flow of the Missouri, and the overall strength and debris load it carries, I was amazed by the tenacity of that expedition.  To go against the current of a river that at the time was far more unpredictable and wild, and to succeed.  Damn.  Impressive.

It was a nice day of riding, with no cars around me and the ability to throw in both headphones and listen to some tunes.  Everything was going well when I got a flat.  This would be number 4 or 5, and when I found the intrusion, I was shocked to discover it was a tiny splinter of a rock.  Bastard got me good.  Fortunately I had one left over beer from the day before so I enjoyed a it in the sun as I changed the flat.

After a solid day of riding, I made it to the Columbia greenway connector, an 8 mile trail into Columbia.  This route is marked well and offers numerous turn off points to different parts of the city, including the university, housing, and shopping districts.  My first stop was Flat Branch Brewing, where I sampled and ate.  I was hunger and thirsty, and was satisfied afterward.  The beers were good, although one was totally off-flavored.

There are two more breweries in Columbia, and I hoped to hit both.  Next was Broadway Brewery, where I had another flight, and enjoyed some great conversation.  I asked around about hotels and the bartender told me there was actually a camping site west on the KATY near where the connector joins.  My decision was made, so I filled the growler with Broadway’s Session IPA, an excellent and wonderfully flavorful and floral beer.

To make it before dark, I had to skip the last brewery, Log Boat.  There is a fourth brewery in town but they aren’t open, and no one had responded to my pathetic plea for a visit.  The campground is called Catfish Caty’s and it is right on the Missouri River.  I found a campsite, hung the hammock and enjoyed the peaceful sound of a large river at night.  I ate and drank like a king as the river raged passed me.  Sleep was easy, until some local assholes decided to do donuts in the field next to my site.  Nothing like waking up around 1am with bright lights shining at you and the sound of a loud engine roaring.  Dicks.  I fell back asleep after realizing what was going on.

Published: July 5, 2014 | Comments: 0

%d bloggers like this: