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Road Closed and the Beaver Den

The morning was as wonderful as the evening: birds fluttering over head and frogs calling all around me. The GPS didn’t seem to like where I was (military intervention?) but Google maps routed me due south on what looked like forest service roads. In reality, they were USMC highways to different training areas. I was forced (chose) to walk around numerous gates and through several creek crossings (7 in total). At the first stream crossing, I dismounted, put on the crocs and slowly walked the Trucker across. By the third one I had decided to cycle through it, which was a blast. I made it to real roads (all too soon), and headed towards the base. Not to my surprise, but to my chagrin, I wasn’t allowed to ride through the base.

I headed back out and eventually made it to Fredericksburg, where I was planning to visit Blue and Gray Brewery. (Side note: who would win in a battle, a union soldier with one arm, or the rebel with one eye. That’s what’s on there logo.) The beer was good with the IPA being the best. I met another cyclist who was out on a long day ride. We chatted, he gave advice, I told some stories, and he was kind enough to pick up my tab. I love meeting great people. From there I headed to A. Smith Bowman Distillery. It wasn’t on my itinerary but I was told it was located around the corner, so I hopped on the Trucker and rode over. It is a bourbon whiskey distillery which uniquely stores their barrels upright rather than on the side. The whiskey itself was delicious, especially the Abraham.

I continued south on some spectacular roads, following VA Bike Rt 1/Atlantic Coast Trail. At one point, there was a “Road Closed Ahead, Local Traffic Only” sign. I hoped to pass as local traffic and avoid leaving this route. About two miles from the sign, I came to a bridge, or rather the skeleton of a bridge. All that remained were I-beams, rusty and crumbling. After a couple of moments of thought, I decided to walk across to test them out. Success. Back across, unloaded the panniers and walked those across the bridge. With each crossing, I was formulating how I was going to get my bike over the stream. I assumed the stream was fairly shallow and I could survive a fall if I didn’t jack my head on one of the beams. The bike would also hopefully be fine. Not great thoughts but none the less I was determined to cross. Carrying the bike seemed the most dangerous; I opted to push it carefully across. This method worked really well when there were two beams in parallel close enough to walk on: bike on one, me on the other. Then I got to the last of three beam sections and it didn’t have the second parallel beam. It had two much smaller support beams crossed in a X. Mustering my climbing skills of yore, I shuffled out one arm of the X and back the other, using the bike as a point of balance and friction. And we made it. Safely. Some may say stupidly across but it worked for me.

With no possible traffic coming from behind me, I enjoyed three miles of forested roads. A little while later I came to a train crossing, and there were five cars backed up waiting for the train. As the train slowed down, it became apparent that one car would remain in the way of the crossing. It stopped, no cars could pass, but a bike could. Then I enjoyed another three miles of care free riding bringing me to my next stop: the Rusty Beaver.

The Beaver is found in a strip mall area in Ruther Glen, VA. It was originally a VA BBQ, then homebrew store, now small brewery with homebrew supplies and wings. Yes, spicy, rather delicious wings. The only other food is pretzels. I was greeted by Austin, the head brewer, when I arrived. I had called earlier about possible camping spots in the area because I was concerned there wouldn’t be any. Riding into town I realized there were plenty, mostly on large timber land holdings. I got a flight and started a conversation with a guy at the bar who turned out to be the owner. After talking for ten minutes, I was vetted enough to get the invite to stay at his house, which also had a newly established hop farm. I was super excited. (I had been hoping to see the hop farm. It’s on their website as affiliated and I love hops and farms). Rick, the owner, then headed out to the farm while I had numerous more beers and helped Austin close. It was back to the three sink system for a couple of easy minutes. I was consuming a super sessionable beer (blondish cream ale-ish) called the Smashed Bastard. We closed up and headed to the farm where Rick had cooked up a couple of steaks. Its a 17-acre farm with 100 cascade plants and a couple dozen chinook. There’s also a pond, small mill (trees from the property are being sawn for a farm brewery barn), several gardens and a pool. The kitchen was at one point used commercially for Rick’s BBQ business, Viriginia BBQ. It was awesome seeing a Volcan stove, three sink system, grease trap, and commercial dish washer in a house. We then stayed up into the night drinking growlers and bullshitting. It was a great evening.

 

Published: May 13, 2014 | Comments: 0

DC to the Forest

The lads (now four deep) had to be ready to roll at 7am the next day. I did not, but had no choice but to wake up. After they left, I showered and packed. I had more work to do on the interwebs, but there was no wifi at the hotel (at least not for free). I headed out for food, coffee and wifi. I found coffee but no good food options (at least not on the path I was traveling on). Eventually I wound up in Arlington using wifi and eating food, where I met a young man who had done two bike tours. He was very encouraging and had some great advice. As I readied myself to ride further, I was struck by how hot it was. Fortunately the first twenty miles were along the river on a greenway.

At one point I stopped at a bike shop to put air in my tires. The guys there indicated I would be safe and fine riding down US-1. I listened and wished I hadn’t. It’s a four lane highway, not divided. And unknown to me, I-95 was undergoing lots of construction so everyone was using 1, which largely parallels 95. It sucked. I got passed by cars going 80mph while I was straddling the white line. At one point, some jackass in a RV decided he would pass me on a turn. Going up hill. He was kind enough (sarcasm) to give a light honk before he passed within inches of me, forcing me onto the nonexistent shoulder. I slammed on my brakes, pulled over as far as I could and took several deep breaths. What the hell was this jackass of a human being thinking? “I’ll pass this cyclist here on the curve while he’s pedaling uphill. All I have to do is let him know and it will be ok.” After he almost hit me, he completely crossed over the white line with half his gigantic RV. I continued to take deep breaths and vowed to get off that road. I’d rather be slow getting somewhere and alive, than be early and injured or be dead. It was a serious blow to my mental game.
About the mental game; it’s significantly different from anything else. On the bike, not only are you dealing with the physical components, but also the public at large. And if you’ve ever driven, ridden, walked, or otherwise watched a car, you should know most people are idiots and can’t drive. The mental component of trying to anticipate how someone is going to drive is daunting. You’re helpless. All it takes is someone texting, answering a phone call, eating a Snickers, and WHAM, tour over. Not to mention the mental exercise of anticipating potholes, dead animals and trash all over the roads. I wanted to enjoy riding as much as visiting breweries and meeting people. Up to this point, the riding had only been a means of shuttling myself between watering holes. I decided it was time to enjoy riding.

I eventually got to a point where I could get away from the traffic. As I was extremely dehydrated, I stopped at a gas station and chugged water and gatorade, then ate some dirty taquitos, which although sinfully bad for you tasted great. I was hungry, thirsty and tired. It was time to find a place to sleep. Fortunately I was near Prince William Forest Park, a NPS ran forest adjacent to Quantico. I called to ask about camping and was told to come to the main office. It was 15 miles away, but there were numerous wide sidewalks in the area, which I took full advantage of. I made it twenty minutes before they closed and got my campsite in the backcountry. I had bought some food stuff from the gas station (jalapeño chips, two packs of ramen, a snickers, couple of beers, and M&Ms), and was ready to get to camp. I had three more miles of riding and another ten minutes of hiking. Eventually I found my site, hung the hammock, and crawled in to cool down. It was glorious, swinging in the breeze with no one around; hearing the birds and frogs call to a back drop of military gun fire and announcements. After dinner, I passed out without the rainfly over my hammock. I was awakened several times during the night when I thought I heard thunder, only to realize it was more gun fire. It was still the best nights sleep I’ve had on this tour yet.

 

Published: May 13, 2014 | Comments: 0

DC – Bluejacket, Orchids, and the White House

I awoke refreshed, sort of, as refreshed as 6 hours of sleep can make you feel. I knew I had work to do, but those damn lads from Lexington were still around, so we met up at their hotel. If I was going to stay one more day and night, I needed to vacate my residence. No one told me I had over stayed my welcome, but when you ask someone if you can stay the night and end up staying three, some people (myself included) feel obligated to move on. I packed the Trucker and rode to a brand new Marriott, where I walked the fully loaded bike up to the elevator and then to the 12th floor. People give you some odd looks when you do this, but it wasn’t my first time, and, like all things in life, if you do it with confidence, it usually works.

We left for Bluejacket, again. They had never been there, and I had a record to keep (three days in DC, three trips to Bluejacket and Churchkey). A quick Metro ride and brisk walk and we arrived, just in time for all the Nationals’ fans to arrive. It was crowded on a Wednesday at noon. Finally finding a table, we ordered beers and snacks. The group of men next to us appeared to have been going pretty hard already, and quickly integrated us into their group. Random question: when was the last time you heard anyone yell “social!” at a bar (outside of playing drinking games like Asshole). These dudes kept doing it, but the best part was one of the guys toasts. All were dirty, hilarious, and inappropriate for certain audiences. Jealous of their skills, DH and I googled several good toasts and tried to memorize them. I can memorize a lot of stupid stuff, but struggle to memorize toasts. Now I’ve got another goal for this trip.

Eventually the bar started to clear out for the ball game, and we were able to get a tour of Bluejacket’s facility. They have a coolship. Seriously, there is a coolship with shutters opening to the outside and cedar planks above it. No wort has been fermented in it yet, but soon. The brewery was a wondrous playground of stainless, kept clean by volunteers. There is a yeast lab, and two areas for barrel storage. And the walk-in, it is so sexy and full of kegged beer. The draft components are extremely well thought out and executed. I had all too much fun nerding out in there.

We left Bluejacket and the Boys went about sorting out yesterdays drama. As we drove past the national botanical gardens, I relieved myself of their company in favor of the company of plants. Far and away the coolest collection is the Orchid room. I love orchids and all their grandiose diversity. I sat in that room for thirty minutes. From the botanical gardens I headed for the Lincoln Memorial. I was going to go to the Natural History Museum but remembered I had a pocket knife, and wouldn’t be allowed in. I did a quick detour to the White House and then straight to the Memorial only to find it swarming with the youth of America. Too damn many kids for me. I got a cab, which ended up being a dumb idea. I could have/should have walked to the Metro, but I wanted to get there faster. The cab was way slow with so much congested traffic downtown. Eventually I got out and walked the remaining mile to Churchkey, only to arrive right when the lads were leaving. They had an important delegate meeting or some fancy thing like that. But they had found another Kentuckian, one Adam Watson Esq from Against the Grain. They left me to my own devices, which means I had several beers alone before I befriended the guys from Foothills, Ithaca, and Terrapin.

There was another event at Churchkey, this time North (Ithaca and Allagash) vs South (Terrapin and Foothills). After meeting several great people, I realized I was starving. The entire place was beginning to fill up and be uncomfortably crowded, so I started to walk back to the hotel. On the way I found a Philly Cheese shop that made their sandwiches on Amorosa bread, a company my mom’s close friend’s family owns. I had to have one and it was yummy. Certainly not health food but definitely filling.
Back in the hotel, the trio of Kentucky brewers were eating cheese, bread and meat while consuming beers. Easily the best part of it all was when I discovered one of the guys, who shall not be named directly but uses his last name as an initial he is called by, had purchased parmigiano reggiano and was trying to eat it like it was a slicing cheese. Keeping it classy. We drink everything available and passed out for a couple of hours, only to be woken up by two more Country Boys who were in for SAVOR. I was done with DC. It had been fun but I needed to leave before I spent even more money.

Published: May 13, 2014 | Comments: 0

Lost Kegs and Found Friends

The nice part about sleeping in a basement is that it’s dark, which means later sleeping. Unless you wake up as soon as the house does. Which is my problem. So I woke at 7:30 and fell asleep (barely) until 10, and then was ready to start. The fine gentlemen from Country Boy were already in town and ready to have a beer. An important note: when touring beer places (bars, breweries, etc) it’s always better to have someone who owns or works at a brewery. It lends authenticity to what you’re doing. And when you put Evan Coppage and me together, we can talk our way into whatever (yes, ladies, yes). I was excited to see my friends and to visit DC. We met at Capital City Brewery, located in a large office building downtown with limited signage. Google maps did me no favors on finding this one. After the hugs and tears subsided, we got down to the daily itinerary. Evan and I bullshitted, while DH ensured the kegs were delivered for the event that day. Bad news: the carrier wasn’t sure if the kegs would make it on time. The kegs were “out for delivery” which could be a good thing unless your event is in a couple of hours, as was the case.

As it turns out, the kegs weren’t out for delivery, and they weren’t in the area. They were in Baltimore at the carrier’s warehouse. But where in the warehouse, no one seemed to know. The kegs weren’t lost, but misplaced temporarily. As panic set in (not having kegs at an event in DC where some brewery big wigs would be is not good news), we devised a plan. First, we need a car. Second, drive to Baltimore. Third, find kegs. Fourth, return. After numerous text messages to the four people I knew in Baltimore, Tully graciously loaned us his car, which was located at his house, ten miles away. So we cabbed it to his house, only to be told by the carrier (who DH was on the phone with most of the time) that the beer was still not located. Turns out the truck was checked in but not the beer. The beer was in Ohio, so no chance of getting that back. We turned around the cab and headed back to give Tully his keys, with the Country Boys feeling a little depressed. Then Evan had a grand scheme, which ended up working, and the lads went to institute said scheme. I left as there was little I could do to help, and would rather go have a beer or five. So I went back to Bluejacket.

No one was at Bluejacket compared to the previous night, until an hour before the baseball game. It got crowded, and I rolled out. I did have the pleasure of meeting some real interesting people, including a guy who went to UGA the same time I did, and a Navy Seal who lived in Alaska. After Bluejacket I decided I wanted to be filled with patriotic amore, so I walked to the National Mall. It is truly beautiful and spectacular. The Capital Building, all the museums, the Washington Monument (which was closed until four days after I left, so I never got to climb it, yet), Lincoln Memorial, and all the damn eighth graders in the US. Seriously, I think 65% of the nations youth were there with their schools. It influenced how I toured and made me ready to leave, to go get another beer.

A quick cab ride and I was at Smoke and Barrel ready to imbibe with my friends from Lexington who had found two kegs of their beer. There, I had the pleasure to meet the brewery ambassador from Schlafly, Stephen Hale, where I was hoping to tour in a month. He was pleasantly surprised that I knew one of his brewers, Jared, who is going to be my guide around St. Louis. I did my damnedest to get him to like me, and I think it worked. We will know when I get to St. Louis. The event was fantastic, and the bar as well. I immediately fell in love with the bar: it’s a whiskey and beer bar with great food, and, most impressive to me, they own a recirculating line cleaner!!! It’s a super nerdy thing to get excited about but it means they care so much about the quality of their beer they are willing to purchase the equipment and train their staff how to use it. That was amazing.

I then convinced the lads and Stephen that we needed to go to Right Proper. My selling point was that they brewed a Gotlandsrika, an historic style no one really knows about. We arrived, got beers and cheese, and as I was with brewer’s, we were offered a tour. Post tour, we paid and made to leave. I had been in contact with two friends from Louisville, one (Zach Everson) was living in DC freelancing; the other (Lori Mattingly) was in town to support her mom during a meeting with delegates. As we left Right Proper, these two arrived in what looked like a clown car, except for the paint job. Stephen was done; DH and Evan had no choice but to head to Churchkey with us. Churchkey had tapped several Firestone Walker beers that I was anxious to try and the group humored me by joining. When we arrived, it became apparent that Evan was done, a product of a long travel day, numerous beers, and a lack of food (he eats all the time). We sat down, Evan excused himself, and made for the door to walk home. DH held out longer and eventually we all left. I decided to take the long walk back to the den I had been calling home, and reflected on the days events. I thought about how I needed to get out of DC, but, hell, this is my tour. I had decided to stay for one more day.

Published: May 13, 2014 | Comments: 0

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 | Comments: 0

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 | Comments: 0

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 | Comments: 0

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 | Comments: 0

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 | Comments: 0

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 | Comments: 0

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