Author Archives: Daniel

DC – Flowers and Trees but Beers as Well

Keeping with my not-so-early-to-rise theme, I left Ben’s house around 10:30 for Bus Boy and Poet for brunch.  The food was good, not great, but the espresso was nice.  The atmosphere was really cool; combo coffee shop, restaurant, and book store with an open floor plan and communal tables.

I decided to bike to the National Arboretum.  It was only 5 miles away, and the azaleas were in full bloom.  As I love me some trees, nature, and flowers, I was all too excited.  This was the first time I had ridden the Trucker without padded tights.  It was noticeable, very noticeable.  By the time I arrived at the arboretum I was some what sore, but knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant if I rode all day.  I’m using a Brook’s Standard leather saddle; it’s a saddle, not a seat.  You sit on a seat; you ride a saddle.  It’s widely known that there is a break-in period with these saddles, similar to an all leather hiking boot.  I hadn’t ridden in the saddle for than ten miles before I started this trip.  I know better; I knew better.  But I still did it.  Since my legs aren’t in shape and my lungs and heart aren’t either, why not throw another painful body part in the mix.  Hopefully by the end, all systems will be in shape and adequately calloused.


The azaleas were phenomenal.  The hill slope was covered in all shades of red, pink, white, yellow, and orange.  Some had blooms of different colors and streaking on the same plant.  There were also rhododendrons.  I took more than enough pictures as words don’t adequately do the blooms justice.  From there I toured several other collections: the grove of state trees, Asian garden, fern valley, and lastly, the bonsais.  These were the highlight of the day.  Many of the bonsais were over 30 years old; the eldest was first trained in 1625!.  The exhibit was part of a permanent collection that includes many of John Taka’s plants.  Taka is considered the godfather of American bonsai and wrote several books on the subject.  Of particular interest to me was the diversity of native plants that had been trained into miniature specimens of their mature species.  The time, care, and love given to these plants is outstanding.  To think that someone has kept alive a miniature pine tree for almost 400 years is extremely impressive.


From the arboretum I decided I needed a beverage, so I was off to Pizzeria Paradiso located in DuPont Circle.  According to my bartender last night this is the best location.  The bottle collection was fantastic, and the draft was equally as interesting.  It’s at times like this when I wish I had a drinking partner.  There were too many bottles I wanted to try but know that I shouldn’t because it would get expensive and I’d be wasted.  I splurged on an Allagash Tiarna, an American wild ale.  It was completely worth every cent; I felt decadent and selfish enjoying it alone.  And yet I did, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.  I consumed a couple of small plates, each one I mispronounced (I suck at Italian, and don’t have the balls to throw the hard accent in)(actually I’m pretty poor at most pronunciations).  Then I headed to Churchkey, which wound up being a theme while I was in town.  Churchkey and Bluejacket, each day, every day.  Should have expanded my drinking net, but got sucked in for different beer events.


Upon arrival, I learned there was a Drie Fonteinen pouring event featuring Hommage, a blended lambic with raspberries and sour cherries. Although expensive (and rightfully so), I needed to try it and was thankful I did.  It was glorious, sour enough to prick your palate and no residual sweetness.  The raspberries and cherries were present without being excessive.  I was seated next to a couple of gentlemen who were clearly taking notes and talking flavors.  My curiosity was finally piqued when one of the men bought a bottle of Against the Grain’s Chris Framboise, the brewery I spend the most time at in Louisville.  I asked for a photo of the man with the beer and sent it to some friends, who quickly informed me they knew him and I did too.  Apparently I served him a handful of times during special events at the Grale.  I introduced myself to Gene and we had a great conversation about beer and life.  The world got a little smaller.


I left to meet my friend at his house, and on the way heard from a friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail with me, or rather the same year and we had a lot of fun for the weeks we hiked together.    He met us at Ben’s house, we shared several beers and more stories than the others at the table wanted to hear.  As the rain started, Tully (his trail name) had to ride his bike home, and I was thankful to be staying in DC one more day.  Earlier in that day, the lads from County Boy had contacted me.  They were coming in for SAVOR, a craft beer and food event DC hosted by the Brewers Association.  As I love these boys, I decided to stay.
We (Ben being a trooper) headed to Bluejacket via the Metro.  It was raining, and my guide’s sense of direction was less than on point; thus, after exiting the Metro from the wrong side, we walked more than several blocks to Bluejacket.  It was glorious.  Stainless, more stainless, and even more stainless.  After we ordered beers, we had an interaction with a superbly intoxicated man.  He was most interested in expounding on the benefit of named lineages; specifically, the fact he was the third (his name was Trey, or Tres, or Tray, or Trai) meant he had to name his next male child the fourth.  I suggested Quatro but was shot down.  We were eventually able to relieve ourselves of his presence and had a wonderful time imbibing with the fine people from Right Proper, who had taken a group trip to the ball park (it’s located a mere block from Bluejacket).  Fortunately, for me, it rained and most decided to drink there.  We joined, I judged some pasties, there was some awkward beard rubbing (awkward because I don’t have a beard to rub), and lots of drinking.  We overstayed ourselves, and headed to the Metro.  Unbeknownst to us the last train had ran and we were stuck holding our metro tickets at a loss.  A quick Uber search and we were on our way home.


Published: May 12, 2014

Baltimore to DC – Direct and Dangerous

Baltimore to DC – the hard way

Most mornings Ive been trying to plan my daily route. I’ve been using a combo of google maps, Garmin base camp, google earth (which can be different from maps for some dumb ass reason), and locals. Google maps has been winning but there has been some difficulty in transferring them successfully to the Garmin unit. So I decided to enter the address and let the Garmin do it. As I’m an amateur and didn’t know what I was doing, the Garmin routed me the shortest distance, which also happened to be along the similar stressful roads as the previous day. But I made it super quick like. I was stressed, tired (once again if the cars move real fast I feel I have to as well), and ready to party. The previous day was Derby, the first I’ve missed in years. I didn’t even have a mint julep or a shot of bourbon, or a drop of bourbon. Still haven’t.

My host in DC was a friend’s son, Ben Capshew. Pretty sure his mom did given him a choice. He threw a kicking Derby party and was still feeling the after shocks, but man’ed up and took me out to a couple of awesome spots. First was a bar I’ve heard too much about to not get a nerdy hard-on: Churchkey. Located above Birch and barley, Churchkey is a destination beer bar. My favorite component of the bar are the three separate temperature regulated coolers. Three different temps to serve their beers. Thats awesome. And when you consider they are located above the bar, a winch must be used to get kegs up to the loft, and a ladder used to provide access, you get one super impressed Daniel.
The list was fairly well-curated, with heavy focus on Shelton Brothers Importer’s products. Which makes sense as a family member works there. I’ve been over consuming both Shelton and 12% products for the last four years, a purely first world problem. I love there portfolio, but have had a good component of it. And yet there were still some hidden gems that I wanted. We stayed for a couple of hours and enjoyed several amazing draft, bottles, and small plates.
Next we walked to Right Proper Brewing Co. Upon entering we were greeted by an amazing chalk mural full of squirrels with rock launchers and pandas with lazer eyes. Our bartender was super helpful and the draft list was impressive. Seriously, they had a Gotlandrika, which I had, which was amazing. After working our way through the list, we realized everyone else had left. Luckily we had made a couple of new friends, who ensured us it was OK to hang out for a bit. Then we started mixing – pardon – blending beers to create something new. By the end there were several glasses of varying blended beers. It was a great way to end my first night in DC.


Published: May 6, 2014

From the North via Ghettos to Baltimore

I prepared myself for the short ride from White Marsh to Baltimore as earlier as I could, which ended up not be early at all. I left at 12 but was confident I could arrive before 3 and certainly before dark. There were stops I wanted to make on the way into town (and thru to Catonsville), but as I got closer I decided it was best not to leave all my gear on my bike in downtown Baltimore and then go drinking. Eventually I found out Baltimore is the second most violent city in the US, preceded by Detroit.

I was routed down some fairly major roads; they had six foot shoulders but a speed limit of 50mph with entrance and exit ramps to I-95. Those suck, and make me super nervous. Not to mention the route was up and down pointlessly. When I entered the city proper, I entered a ghetto. A serious ghetto. Run down houses, pot holed roads, foreclosed blocks (seriously whole blocks foreclosed). No longer did I follow the rules of the road; stop signs- ran them; red lights -slowed but kept moving. At one point I had a crack whore solicit me. She pointed at me as I came to a stop and yelled (belligerently), “Hey, you. Come over here.” Ran that stop light. Hoped to not blow a tube and get a flat. That would make life real interesting.

Two blocks later and I was out of the ghetto. It was night and day. Ghetto on one block; highly gentrified dining on the next. But I wasn’t done with the ghetto. Apparently the city is surrounded by one huge ghetto. The ride to Catonsville, and my new friends house, was supposed to take me 2.5 hours. I did it in 1.75 hours. It seems as though ghettos and threatening traffic make me go faster.

I arrived in Catonsville at the house of Ed and Bridget Johnson, a friend from Louisville’s aunt and uncle. They graciously took me in and offered to help me see the sights I wanted to visit. After some great conversation (I think they were feeling me out to make sure I wasn’t a murderer and/or weirdo), we headed out. First stop was Brewer’s Art, a masterfully designed brewery and bar with a casual bar upstairs at the entrance, fine dining in the rear, and super casual, almost catacomb-esque bar downstairs. Their beers are Belgian inspired: golden, dubbel, saison, tripel. All were excellent and the food available outside the fine dining area was exceptional.
Next we headed to Wharf Rat in Fells Point. I was told I had to go to a Fells Point bar and this one made the most sense. It wasn’t as much of a tourist trap as the surrounding bars; and, I didn’t realize this before we arrived, they had several casks available. After crushing a cask conditioned beer called Raven Tell Tale Heart Firkin, we left for Of Love and Regret, the Stillwater Artisanal bar (and I guess taproom).

Several weeks before I left for this journey, I hosted the 1st Annual Stillwater Classique Classic, a 32 person, single elimination, beer shotgunning tournament. I had good hope that Brian from Stillwater wouldn’t be upset about this blatant beer abuse so I contacted him. He was stoked, and asked if we intended to document it. It was documented, heavily. Afterwards, a good friend put together an amazing trailer and then video. Too much fun was had. It was amazing.

I had been told to introduce myself when we arrived. Turns out my welcoming was to shotgun a beer with the staff, which was amazing. A true Brontidian welcome. I talked with the staff and have hopefully convinced them to attend the Fall Classique Classic. The food was fantastic, the beers were even better. My only regret was being so full and fairly intoxicated that I couldn’t try more beers. To sleep and DC the next day.


Published: May 6, 2014

Rolling Hills or Learning to Shift

I woke up with the intention of an early start, but waking at 9am isn’t a good start.  I’m using a Garmin 810 and have to load the maps each day, or rather I choose to.  Then I cleaned and lubed the bike and tweaked the fenders, adjusted the front panniers to put them lower on the rack, and loaded up.  In the last five years, my body had been conditioned not to eat in the morning.  Not really by choice, but because I usually wasn’t hungry in the morning (I say morning but it was historically more like noon).  I jumped on the bike and rode, until I passed a Dunkin Donuts and had to stop.  I had 65 miles to do, I needed fuel.  After entering Maryland, the hills started.  That was when I knew I was in trouble.  I had planned a long day and there was actual topography now.  I also had my first asshole interactions; one truck driver managed to purposefully dust me with diesel exhaust, a dump truck blared its horn as it passed me, and a ’90s piece of shit that passed me with one foot and then swerved into the shoulder to make a point (which I assume was … yeah I don’t know).  The shoulders became nonexistent; the potholes worse; the drivers even worse.  There were several extremely courteous drivers, people who waited until it was safe to pass, gave wide berths, double honked lightly if they were forced to pass close by.

I hadn’t anticipated how different the mental game of riding vs hiking would be.  While hiking, its you and the trail, up and down, avoiding roots and rocks and planning for water and food.  On the bike, its more anticipating where the cars are, avoiding nails, glass, rocks and potholes, and constantly trying not to get hit or have a blow out that would end the tour.  And the hills got bigger, while the shoulders got more narrow, and the traffic worse.  I was all too happy to have a brief respite while riding along the Susquehanna River Greenway (which was in contrast to the ride across the Dam, which was terrifying).  Leading to the greenway, I was doing 35 down hill and came close to hitting a wild turkey.  Post Greenway there was moderate but beautiful rural riding.  I came to Carsins Run Deli, a gem in rural Maryland.  The sub was outstanding.  Refueled I headed on and eventually hit the hills and traffic again.  My legs were giving out.  I finally neared White Marsh, MD and saw hotels.  I was spent.  Time to check in to a hotel; shower; stretch; relax; and walk to the near by brewery, Red Brick Station.

Another English style brewery, Red Brick is in a shopping mall surrounded by chain stores and restaurants.  The bar feels like a sports bar with tons of TVs.  I ordered the sampler (see a pattern yet), and began imbibing.  The beers were good, two had noticeable diacetyl, but it was an English brewery so I guess that’s OK.  But none were impressive.  The potstickers were enjoyable, and the Baltimorian I conversed with was informative and fun.  He was my first fairly thick accented northerner.  He gave me a rundown on where to go in Baltimore and where not to. He also looked at my planned route and informed me of the areas of town where I should plan to be on high alert as ‘People will come out of nowhere and knock you off your bike and steal it.”  Great.  My first real ghetto of the trip, and there would be two sections.  But I only have 25 miles to ride tomorrow to stay with a friends Aunt and Uncle.  Then I painted Baltimore some color of the rainbow and watch the KY Derby.  I’ll be glad to not stay in a hotel tomorrow.  Hotels are killing my budget for beer.


Published: May 3, 2014

Wide Shoulders Filled with Riff Raff

Biking in DE can be quite wonderful.  It’s super flat, there are wide shoulders on most roads, and plenty of rural roads to take as alternates.  Unfortunately there are points where it is necessary to ride on 55mph divided highways.  The shoulders are still huge (6-8 feet) but are filled with garbage, rocks, nails, bolts (lots of bolts), broken bottles, etc.  Trying to dodge pot holes and garbage, while trying to keep an idea of when the next semi will blast pass you at 70 mph is quite mentally stressful.

The ride from Dover to Newark wasn’t too bad.  It had all of these dangers.  But it was mostly flat.  About a quarter of a mile from Stewart’s Brewing in Bear DE, I got my first flat.  First flat on day two; it’s ironic how someone told me they put over 4000 miles on the tires I have and never got a flat.  Me, day two. Arriving in a stereotypical east coast shopping center, I secured my bike and went into the brewery for a beer.

The beers were delicious.  The brewery is English style (referring to the physical brewery) with open fermenters and a predominance of Ringwood yeast, although they use others.  Eric, the brewer, was kind enough to give me a quick walk through.  All beer is sold in house; the grist mill is between the hot side and fermentation, and there isn’t any standard fire proofing since the room is always extremely humid; it’s a Peter Austin kettle and mash tank; two pressure tanks for conditioning; and a handful of serving tanks with converted Hopstefens kegs for other service.  The highlights were the American brown, the Citra IPA (love me some citra, and C hops), and the Golden Ale.

I rode from there to Newark, which was just up the road, a fairly populated well traveled road.  Upon getting to the Super 8, I noticed a giant bottle of Bed Bug and Flea Spray – not a good sign.  There was a pile of box springs and mattresses by the dumpster – maybe a better sign.  I was tired, it was near all the bars and breweries I wanted to visit.  I would sleep on my sleeping bag, as if that would stop the little bastards from getting me.  When I got in my room I promptly stripped the comforter and heavy blanket from the bed.  To my not surprise, there were long black hairs on the sheets, and each pillow had its own hair ball of dark black hair.  I headed back to the front desk, where they promptly got me another room.  I returned to the hairy room to get my stuff as the attendant was remaking the bed as if there wasn’t an issue.  Wow, hadn’t seen that before.  My next room had clean sheets, I was tired, that was good enough.  But when I decided to use the restroom it was apparent there were shit and piss stains in the toilet and the sink had dried spit and ash.  Damn, I was naked, tired and wanted to shower and have a beer.  So I decided that hand sanitizer works on hands so it should work on other shit.  Half a bottle of sanitizer later and I could touch select items.  The shower was wet and made me feel clean, until I got out.  While stretching I noticed all the trash on the floor and under the bed.  Wrappers, kleenex, straws, wadded up paper, empty cans.  “Just don’t touch what you didn’t wipe down,” I thought to myself.  And subconsciously, “Go out and tie one on, that way you won’t think about it when you need to sleep.”

Success on the last thought.  Iron Hill Brewery was first.  Eric from Stewart’s suggested the pils, which got me super excited. But I wanted to try all the beers, all 13.  Sampler one went down easy, and attracted the attention of another bar patron.  Damn, I was that guy, the one who gets a sampler which snowballs into other patrons wanting one too.  NOOOOOOOOOO.  I apologized multiple times, but revelled in how exact each bartenders spiel was about the beers.  There has to be a greeting, serving, describing script each one memorized.  The second flight was finished without issue; all the beers were great or at least to style, or designed for guests (I didn’t like the “light golden ale”).  But no off flavors.  After a full glass of Pils, some scallop seviche and fried Brussels sprouts with rosemary aioli, I moved on down the road.

Intending to hit Deer Park Tavern, where according to my new bar friends “is where Poe always stayed in town,” I instead passed 16 Mile tap house and went in.  The bartender was wonderfully easy on the eyes, and the two beers I had were excellent.  Oyster stout with DE oysters, done.  Imperial English porter with sea salt, juniper berries, and gin, double done.  Then Deer Park, the college frat and local hang out.  It was loud and smelled of lost dreams.  Poe slept here maybe once, but no one knows.  Local lore always exaggerates.  There were some excellent DE beers I had not been able to sample before; Third Wave, Evolution(MD) and Twin Lakes.  All were good, the Evolution beers were probably the winners, although I was feeling a little funny at this point.

Thus I walked back to the shit hole the Patel’s call a hotel (no jokes the owners were all Patels), and passed out.  I woke up without any odd itches or welts on my back.
Lets call it a win and move on.  The next day was planned to be my biggest day yet with 65 miles of riding and a new state.


Published: May 3, 2014

My Virgin Tour Day

With threats of rain and wind burst pushing 30 mph, I decided to be baptized and have my cherry popped.  Fortunately the first 15 miles were only overcast and lightly windy.  After the ceremonious dipping of wheel set in ocean, I loaded up and rode away.  But couldn’t find my starting point with my fancy GPS so it took about five minutes to settle in.  Once settled, it was easy cruising on Delaware’s extremely flat and wide shouldered roads.  Shoulders that are almost 6 feet wide make for safe and pleasant cycling.

As I pulled up to Dogfish Head in Milton, I was greeted by the smells of wood fueled BBQ and friendly faces.  After introducing myself to the bartender and other guests (and having a quick sample or two, as I was thirsty), the tour started.  Its amazing how much has changed in four years, although I was informed it was amazing what happened in one year.  New brewery all together, and they kept the old one (old was 100bbl the new is 200bbl).  My favorite fact is they now brew as much beer in one day as Sam did in the first three years of the Pub.   I also learned that they use around 12 different yeast strains (managed in their world class yeast propagation room); there is a new Palo Santo vessel (now the only two in the world); a pneumatic device is responsible for the continual hop additions; and that there is only one KY bourbon barrel in the brewery (at least that I could discover).  Post tour included a spicy espresso brat, more samples and a pint of India Brown.

I left Dogfish in great spirits for a long ride to Dover and Dominion/Fordham brewery.  About a mile outside of Milton the rain started.  And it rained, occasionally as a sprinkle, sometimes steady, sometimes pelting, but it rained.  Then the wind.  Then the fatigue.  I did great for the first 20 miles; but the last 15 hurt.  My legs became jelly and cramped; I drank all of my water; was hungry; got chills; realized I was drenched to the core.  Then I arrived at the brewery, where there was one car and no one home.  Fortunately I timed it perfectly as the brewer, Chris, was leaving for the day. There was no tasting as the compressor had broken.  Chris was kind enough to give me a couple bottles of their World Beer Cup winning Candi Belgian Tripel.

Elated to have beer and know that the end of my first day was near, I rode to the nearest hotel.  It was full.  So then to the next hotel which had a room and a warm shower.  After the shower I realized how exhausted I was.  I was hungry but couldn’t eat; fortunately I could drink, water, that is.  I barely managed to consume one beer, not because it wasn’t delicious, but my stomach was revolting.  After settling in and ordering food, all was better.  A couple of beers later and it was good night.  The next day is planned to be through Newark DE although I may stay there.  After all, there are two more breweries there.

Published: May 1, 2014

Heading East to Start Heading West

In order to truly ride coast to coast, it’s necessary to start on one coast.  I’m unsatisfied with starting on a bay, which is bullshit.  It seems better to look across the wide Atlantic, dreaming of the great adventures far away in lands both unfamiliar and familiar (you’ve gotta love that the world’s round, so really I was looking at my destination and start point, but could only see one).  And because I’ve chosen to focus my tour on beer, why not start at Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehoboth Beach DE.  Thus, my lovely mom offered to drive me to the start of this adventure.  Doubting my resolve to leave even if hung over, I was forced to wait patiently for her to pack and prepare herself.  It worked out; my dog and I got to spend more time together, which was cathartic.  Eight hours later we arrived at two beloved friends’ house in Richmond.  The next day we arrived in Rehoboth Beach after hours of rain and wind.  Apparently, flat states (Delaware supposedly being the flattest in the nation) can have really high wind speeds with little protection.  Topography! Screwing me from the beginning.

Upon arriving, I had an hour long session of packing and scheming how to carry all this gear.  My own negligence in the previous month was finally catching up.  Partying with friends, lounging in beautiful weather, enjoying delicious beers, walking my baby dog Oak, eating extravagantly, shotgunning Classique.  It all caught up to me in cosmic weather karma.  It was raining.  It is raining.  It will keep raining.  And the wind.  Jesus, it whips you around like nothing.  Thus, on the eve of what is/was going to be my first day, I am contemplating hanging around Rehoboth for another day.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) is forecasted to be 100% chance of rain with storms, some severe, and wind gusts over 30 miles per hour. All day.  As an inexperienced touring cyclists (yeah, I’m an amateur in tour cycling, so what), but an experienced traveler/hiker, it may be necessary to wait this one out.  Tomorrow is a new day; weather forecasts and the assholes who make them are often wrong.
We will see.


Published: April 30, 2014

%d bloggers like this: