Western Colorado

Pagosa Springs

The drive from Red River southeast toward Taos and then northwest through Carson National Forest was beautiful. West of Tres Piedras, New Mexico the highway winds through rolling mountains, past lush meadows and across a couple ridge lines where there were still a few patches of snow hanging in there. Eventually the route crosses into Colorado to wind its way up and then down into the cool town of Pagosa Springs. It was really a pleasant drive, despite the jackelope in the Class A holding up a long string of traffic who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—squeeze more than 40 miles an hour out of his rig. I got around the lineup using a few straightaway sections of passing lane.

Tuesday started with phoning in to my 121 life group to hang with the guys for an hour. Followed that up with a hike along the raucous Piedra River. Started out as a beautiful day—sunny, warm, fun trail. Then a thunderstorm built up and dropped rain, small hail and lightening bolts. Like a dumbass, I’d forgotten a rain poncho (always carry rain gear in the mountains!) and I quickly got soaked and cold. But the rewards of the mountain rain aromas, the echoing of the bone rattling thunder and the dramatic colors of cloud and sun sparring were worth every shiver. Just before the storm blew in I’d spent maybe 20 minutes just sitting on a rock enjoying creation. The storm reminded me of what a thunderous God we have!

Finally back at camp I took advantage of their shower facility because I knew I wanted lots of hot water and didn’t wanna fill my holding tank. LOL, I felt a lil bad abot how much hot water I used but so it goes.

Wednesday I ventured outside my comfort zone and hit the hot springs at the resort in town. Going for a quick soak after a workout or rough day, sure, but just sitting around for a couple hours soaking in communal juices is kinda a stretch. But I gotta say, it was cool (the water was hot, lol) and I got a check in that box. Followed that up with a visit to Riff Raff on the Rio for their Yak & Tequila Chorizo meatloaf. It did not disappoint! The brewpub’s beers are good but didn’t really knock me back. The view of the river and mountains sure did.

Durango

The easy 90 minute drive to Durango landed me at the Riverside KOA north of town. Nice campground nestled in the trees alongside the fast-flowing Animas River. This location flooded out last year after the rains followed a pretty devastating fire and it’s been nicely rebuilt.

Historic Durango is a cool town with several hotels, restaurants, pubs & breweries. I bypassed the numerous gift shops to sample a few brews instead. While meandering around Durango I wandered into the railroad museum at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This donation-only eclectic museum is packed with railroad memorabilia, antique cars, an old Indian motorcycle and tons of other seemingly random stuff. It’s definitely worth a visit if you like trains.

D&SNGRR

I’ve wanted to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for as long as I can remember. So I ponied up $200 for a seat in the Alamosa parlor car. The four hour trip, each way, is nothing short of amazing! The Alamosa is the last car in the train so you get outstanding views from the back platform.

I’m not sure why I like trains so much but I do. The coal-fired steam engine just sounds so cool as it chugs up the track. And the screeching and clacking of the wheels really is the rhythm of the rails is all (you) feel. The four-hour trip was over before I knew it. The slideshow pics simply fail to render how gorgeous the scenery is.

Our porter, Ellie, was wonderful. Her knowledge of geography & history and a commitment to superb service made the trip so enjoyable. Each round trip up & down from Durango to Silverton consumes five to six tons of coal (all shoveled by one guy) and about 10,000 gallons of water, which we replenished at a couple stops along the way.

The short layover in the mining town provides only time for lunch and a quick shopping stop for those so inclined. I didn’t mind since I was spending the next two days in Silverton. I was glad I did not opt for the quicker return via bus. The train ride is just too good and is clearly one of, if not the best tourist attractions I’ve ever experienced. If you’re ever near Durango be sure to take this trip. If you’re not near Durango go there.

Our return trip downhill was cold, sometimes rainy & the skies threw down some sleet and hail. But that didn’t dampen the experience I just threw on a heavier sweatshirt.

D&SNGRR Videos

Rhythm of the Rails
Animas River & Train View #1
Animas River & Train View #2
Animas River Rear View #1
Animas River Rear View #2
Cliffside View #1
Cliffside View #2

As a side note, I’ve added a page that shows the National Parks & Monuments I’ve visited. Check it out here.

Western Colorado Part II

Wonderful Risky Road

Heading north from Durango the Million Dollar Highway weaves its way up-valley, crossing a few high mountain passes. US Highway 550 requires diligent attention to downhill speed, several times as slow as 10-20 MPH. With 14,000 pounds behind me and sheer drop-offs, I heeded the speed warning signs! As risky as the road might be it’s a stunning drive. I arrived in the historic mining town of Silverton for a couple days. Silverton is base to tons of off-highway roads and the economy has transitioned from mining to renting ATV & OHVs. There’s a popular loop that runs between Silverton, Lake City and Ouray and I headed up that road for several miles before it was still closed due to slides. I probably wouldn’t have gone all the way anyway, as the road is pretty narrow and rocky, best suited for jeeps and OHVs. A long-bed truck runs the real risk of high-centering. Outside of the D&SNGRR crowds who flood the town each afternoon, Silverton is a pretty sleepy village. Even the bordellos have closed up (dang it!). Lunch at Thee Pitts Again, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, was only fair (think Spring Creek). Meat U Anywhere and AJs on Main in Grapevine serve up much better BBQ. Half a pizza for dinner and a Pizza Girl Black Lager at Avalanche Brewing were great!

Welp, the drive from Durango to Silverton is nothing compared to the northern section from Silverton to Ouray. Gorgeous, but I’d never consider this road at night or in the rain while towing a fiver. There’s a few videos from my newly acquired dash cam below.

Ouray

Ouray is a really cool little mountain town. A bit touristy but still very cool and very friendly. Troy’s crew at the Ouray KOA are awesome. I’m kinda jealous; he just bought the campground. Gonna be looking into that…

Ouray Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail

Friday I hiked the Ouray Perimeter Trail. This isn’t your typical walk around town. Yes, the trail has great views of Ouray but it also gets away from civilization with sections that wind into canyons and across plateaus. Clockwise from the visitor center the trail climbs constantly until it drops into cool Cascade Falls canyon. After that it rises & falls until the final stretch drops steeply back into town. The southern section through Ice Park is mosquito city and doesn’t add a lot to the overall loop; I should’ve taken the Ice Park shortcut. The reported 6-mile loop took me 5 hours, with a few stops at waterfalls and river crossings. I ran outta water the last mile-ish and got super dehydrated. I laid very low the rest of the day and the next. Lesson learned (dumbass). 🥵


Ok, I’m always skeptical of food offered at a campground. But I got to visit with Troy, the new owner of the Ouray KOA, and he insisted their weekend BBQ was very good. I’d had breakfast at the small café and it was, indeed, excellent. The combo BBQ plate Saturday evening (which I got halfway through for just $20) was some of the best I’ve had anywhere. Props to this campground for such a good operation in a beautiful place!

Made a day trip, backtracking 23  miles to Silverton. I wanted to drive the Million Dollar Highway again, this time without Synko in tow so I could easily pull off to enjoy the sights. Took another spur near Silverton, up South Mineral Creek about six miles. On the way out I saw two moose head off the road into the brush. Very cool!

Check out a couple video slices from my dashcam of Million Dollar Highway in the links below. It’s a beautiful, wild drive—especially towing 35′ Sykno!

Video Links

Million Dollar Highway I
Million Dollar Highway II
Million Dollar Highway III
Million Dollar Highway IV
Cascade Falls – Ouray
Bear Creek Falls

That’s it for now. I’m headed to Montrose for an engine oil change, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison, Lake City and Crested Butte to wrap up my western Colorado travels in the next week or so. Happy trails!

 

Arizona

Getting There

As I crossed into Arizona from New Mexico on US70 I was treated to beautiful displays of pale green grasses dotted with yellow and purple flowers. God’s sky also was on full display: broken clouds, patches of blue, and many rainbows. The clouds hugged nearby mountain peaks but occasionally allowed last night’s snowfall to show through. It was a gorgeous drive! As I continued toward Apache Junction the weather vacillated between sunshine, rain showers and a patch of snow-mixed rain. US70 became US60 as I continued west. Together, these solid roads made for a wonderful drive, and I was glad I’d left early enough to miss the brunt of the wind and enjoy the last fringes of the winter storm as it blew eastward. I’m tagging this route a wonderful road! And I lifted a prayer of thanks for safe travels and for the opportunity to enjoy the Creator’s fine work.

Spring Training

The Apache Junction KOA got us by. Pretty disappointing site but not the end of the world. Brad & Jonathan joined me Wednesday night (well, at midnight!). We enjoyed good times at the Rangers/Cubs game Thursday—including the biggest bestest Chicago Dog ever. Sunday we drove miles & miles to Surprise Stadium for the Dbacks/Rangers game. ‘Twas a more interesting game but the long drive made the visit to Sloan Park a little nicer. We took a couple-hour drive into Tonto National Forest Monday before I ran the boys back to the airport across town. Nice drive; the picture credits go to Brad.

Flagstaff

Tuesday brought a nice 3-4 hour drive up I-17 and AZ 89A thru Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. The road sign disallowed trucks over 50′ on the road north of Sedona but since I was not a “truck” per se, and measure just 53′ from bumper to bumper I fudged it and went ahead. Beautiful drive but. yep, tight turns. NTL, made it to Flagstaff and settled in for a few days at the attractive KOA on the north side of town. Some winter weather is forecast in a couple days and I’ll hang here until Saturday to catch the first couple rounds of March Madness. More later… …

It’s now “later”… A few snow showers Wednesday night & Thursday during the day. Made for pretty views outside Majerle’s sports grill where I  watched a few Madness games. I also found my newest favorite brewery—Mother Road. They’ve got an excellent lineup of IPAs, including Tower Station and Lost Highway,  plus a bourbon barrel stout which I’m going back for Friday.

Sunset Crater Volcano & Wupatki National Monuments

Gotta admit, I didn’t know these National Parks were here until I saw the road sign. They are just up the road from Flagstaff and turns out, they’re really cool. Sunset Crater Volcano is raw beauty. Stark. Powerful. Rugged. Fragile. It draws you in.

I took a couple short hikes, enjoying the lava rock trails and surrounding snow-capped mountains. As I was finishing up I encountered Eric, a parks volunteer. Nice old guy (I suppose I need to be careful how I say that!) who shared some info about the park and its geology. And he gave me a good restaurant tip for when I’m in Boulder, Utah in a week or so.

Continuing on toward Wupatki, the drive was incredible, overlooking Arizona’s Painted Desert. Not sure what I expected but the puebloan ruins were really interesting. Nice to see such old (circa 1100 A.D.) structures preserved. The day had warmed from the low 30s to the upper 40s and by the time I’d finished visiting the two parks I was ready to taste another of Flagstaff’s fine breweries.

After refilling a propane bottle (I’m blowing through them pretty quick in this long-enduring winter) I headed into historic downtown and Dark Sky Brewing where I had a flight of five tasters. The Magnum PI’s Pilsner was very good; I had my first Grisette; an interesting Kook Juice IPA featuring pineapple & coconut (good but a taster is enough); and wrapped up with their west coast Strength in Numbers and Send Me an Angel, both very good IPAs. Another favorite brewery discovered! Side note: their music comes from a vinyl LP player (Brett, that’s for you!).

Dinner was a great change of pace, visiting with my friend Maryann, who I hadn’t seen in (yikes!) about 25 years. We had a really good time chatting and catching up. Good friends, good times!

The Grand Canyon

After attending 121 “camp church” online, I headed into Williams for my ride on the Grand Canyon Railway to The Grand Canyon. I kinda feared the event would be a little skitchy but it wasn’t bad. The old west characters were actually entertaining and Annette, our purser, was great, sharing insights and some humor. The two-hour ride to Grand Canyon went by quickly.

I’d been to the Canyon before and it still impresses and amazes! Beautiful, stark, grand beauty. I walked the rim trail 3½ miles from Mojave Point to the El Tovar hotel where, given I only had about 30 minutes before needing to board the train again, I had a Tower Station IPA in the iconic lodge. The train was cool but it sure limits time at the park (about 3 hours).

I didn’t get down into the Canyon—my stupid knee would only gripe at me for the downhill. So seeing the creation from the rim had to do. (I just wish people knew how to get outta the way and walk to the right! It just ain’t that hard. All-in-all ’twas a good day topped off by an excellent Carne Chile de Molcajete at Fiesta Mexican Grill in Williams. Worth returning for that dish!

And with that, Arizona is done. Headed down the hill to Kingman then up remote US-93 to the Las Vegas area for a week. Gonna hang with Julie & Pam!

Utah

Settle in with a cup of coffee, a glass of vino or a cerveza ’cause I got lots to tell about traveling through southern Utah!

Zion National Park & Dixie National Forest

Once you finally leave the traffic jerks of Las Vegas heading north, the canyonlands of a slice of Arizona then Utah reveal themselves. its a pretty drive through Red Rock Canyon, Saint George and into Cedar City, where I base camped for three nights to checkout Zion, Cedar Breaks and some of the Dixie National Forest.

Zion rocks. It just does. A beautiful slot canyon with stunning cliffs, fun roads (including a partially washed-out highway and a tunnel too narrow & low for my fiver) and plenty of picture and hiking opps entice. The Zion Canyon Brewing Company at the National Park visitor center is a nice complement, too! I had visited Zion a couple times before so I moved on, up Highways 9 and 89 through Long Valley Junction and across the Dixie National Forest toward Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Unfortunately, Cedar Breaks was still in the throes of winter and the roads into the Park had not been cleared yet so I missed that geo-feature. Rats. The Monument also was not reachable from the north side near sleepy Brian Head, where it seems they could be skiing for another month. The surrounding mountains are spectacular. Three nights in Cedar City were just about right for what was accessible. I was ready to move on to Bryce Canyon!

Bryce Canyon

Having traveled state highway 14 through Dixie National Forest the day before, I decided to not repeat that route with the trailer in-tow. The road has some significant grades and curves and isn’t recommended for large rigs, so I headed north on I-15 to state 20 where I headed east toward Bryce Valley. Nice drive, including through two arch tunnels that left just 6 inches to spare between my rooftop air units and the harder rock. Whew! A quick two hours later I was setup at snow-covered Ruby’s RV Park, just outside the National Park entrance.

Once again, I was a few weeks early in the season as the trails below the canyon rim were still closed due to snow & ice. But I’d hiked them years before on a day that was perhaps the best day hike of my life. I still remember how cool that hike through Fantasyland and Queens Garden was that October day, with snow flurries capping the hoodoos. I was actually okay with not hiking below the rim this trip as I wouldn’t want to dilute my memories of that special hike.

So I enjoyed the Bryce Canyon amphitheater from the rim viewpoints. Such stunning vistas! This truly is a special place on the planet. Hiking (well, more like walking) between Sunset and Sunrise points, I ducked into the iconic Bryce Canyon Lodge for a bison burger and Squatters Full Suspension Pale Ale. Ryan, the kid who waited on me was an awesome server. Very friendly, interested in my travels, excited to be working at the Lodge. Nice to meet solid young people when there’s so much negativity surrounding the millennial generation.

After lunch I headed downhill to Mossy Cave trail, a short hike up a canyon that terminates in a waterfall and cave full of icicles. Although short, the trail grabs the oxygen outta your lungs as it traverses the steep canyon. Felt good.

Back at camp, I wrestled with getting online streaming to work so I could watch the Final Four. When CBS All Access failed me (“we’re not able to steam live TV in your area”) I was able to get coverage through the ESPN app, which uses the CBS video feed. Go figure. I fired CBS. Was fun to watch Texas Tech make it to the championship game and, as I now write, I’ll be watching the game tonight on digital TV over-the-air in Torrey, UT. No more sport cussin’ trying to get streaming to work!

Grand Staircase Escalante

Utah State Highway 12, also known as Scenic Byway 12 and Highway 12 — A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway is an All American Road. Rightly so. What an incredible, wonderful road! The byway winds through slick rock canyons and cliffs, across a narrow ridge line, and through beautifully colored canyons and hills. If you’ve followed along the past year you know I’ve seen some pretty sights and navigated some awesome roads. This is yet another special route I’ve been blessed to enjoy! If not for fear of driving off the ridge into the canyons on both sides of the road, I would’ve had a really hard time keeping my eyes and mind on the driving task. Nevertheless, I was able to pull off a few times to get pictures of this stunning drive.

A National Park volunteer I’d chatted with at Sunset Volcano near Flagstaff had recommended the Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder Town. This very cool joint serves up fantastic food with super-friendly service. I had the patty melt with Guyere cheese and housemade potato salad complemented with a Porcupine Pilsner from Moab Brewery. Thanks, Eric, for the restaurant tip! If you’re ever in Boulder Town don’t miss this eatery. They’re only open March to November.

The drive across another mountain ridge to Torrey, near Capitol Reef National Park, passed through snow-covered mountains then dropped into a picturesque valley where I unhitched at the small yet very friendly Sand Creek RV Park for a couple nights to take in my next National Park. Torrey is designated as an International Dark Sky Community, one of only 18 communities in the world to enjoy the distinction. And it is so cool! Standing outside at night the stars seem to reach down to earth. It’s amazing. So grateful for a clear night to enjoy the beauty of the universe!

Capitol Reef

I have no words.

Ok… I have some words to describe Capitol Reef National Park. But I’m going to start by borrowing a few from Maltbie D. Babcock in 1915: “This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought, Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.”

That beautiful phrase ran through my mind all day as I marveled at the raw beauty of the landscape. I’m not ashamed to say the splendor of creation brought a tear to my eye.

The park features “Scenic Drive” that more than lives up to its name. You could also call it Splendid, Stunning, Superior, Stupendous, or several other synonyms. I drove it’s ten miles, slowly, to its end in Capitol Gorge where a mile-long trail leads through a narrow canyon with a steep, knee wrecking climb to a few tanks—natural collectors of water in this desert. Great hike on a beautiful day in the mid 70s.

As I was hiking and driving through the park, I was thinking about how visitors centers at National Parks all give such comprehensive coverage to the eons of time and science of geology, but never much is attributed to the undeniable beauty wrought by the Creator. And I’ve read books about old earth vs young earth theories, about 24 hour creation days vs. creation era/days in God’s timing—and I could likely debate myself into either corner and never be fully convinced. In the end, that’s a good thing. Who wants a God they fully understand and completely comprehend? He has given us enough to know Who He Is, and His Son gave himself for me. That’s it. That’s enough.

So it was a great day, hiking and hanging out with my God!

Arches National Park

The 2-3 hour drive from Torrey to Moab was uneventful, across high desert and a short section of I-70. I motored through the town of Moab and settled into a good KOA on the south end of town. Dinner was at Moab Brewery with a good chicken sandwich and a Moab Pale Ale and a FMU IPA. Good food, too!The next day I headed into the Park…

Raw. That’s what the landscape is and that’s what the day was. I got a mid-morning start and after visiting the visitor center (and snagging a pretty cool T-shirt) I headed into the park. There are tons of viewpoints, interesting rock formations, colors & feels. Arches is a very cool place.

It was especially cool this day, as blowing snow followed me much of the morning and early afternoon. It was pretty in its own way but did hamper some of the long-range views and definitely got under my thin hoodie’s collar a few times. I wasn’t expecting snowy weather—and I shudda brought a hat!

Several short hikes, a bunch of pictures and frozen ears & hands later, I headed back down the park road, wrapping up my visit to Arches and headed across the valley to Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

The drive up onto the ridge of the Canyonlands Island in the Sky district took me back into the blowing snow. It’s a pretty drive although, again, the weather really limited visibility. There are lots of hiking opps here but given that the day was running late and I was still shivering away, I opted for stopping at the main viewpoint pullouts.

Was kinda a joke, as the views mainly were of blowing snow. Oh well, I got a few decent pics of Upheaval Dome and an appreciation for the immenseness of the Canyonlands. I was hoping that tomorrow’s visit to the Needles district of this immense National Park would provide better views after the storm blew through.

The next day did not disappoint! As the bottomlands of the Needles district is primarily 4WD roads and crowds were minimal and roads were muddy from the recent rain & snow and I was traveling solo, I opted for viewing the canyons from above, from the Needles Overlook. Discretion, dontcha know…

The overwhelming vistas were on full display! As grand as the Grand Canyon is, I feel like Canyonlands is its big brother, an opinion shared by another camper back at the KOA. The pictures fail to communicate just how awesome this country is. Visiting the five (I tried to get to Cedar Breaks, after all) was a lifetime experience. Such phenomenal beauty, power, serene places. I truly appreciate the opportunity to have visited here but it’s time to move on, slowly headed back home for a few weeks starting with Easter.

 

Prince Edward Island

Allowing myself three full days on PEI, I decided to first drive the Central Coastal Route to get a feel for the island’s heart. This tourism-driven route provides an excellent sampling of both south and north coasts and takes in the country’s national park. What a pretty place! The roads wound their way through seaside fishing villages, over fertile farmlands, and across the cliffs and beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park.

Island Stone Pub, Kensington PEI
Island Stone Pub, Kensington PEI

About a third of my way into the course the route took me through Kensington, where I stopped into Island Stone Pub for excellent fish & chips and a Gahan 1772 IPA. When in PEI, make this restaurant a target for lunch or dinner. Good stuff!

As the day and route was winding down I visited Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown where I tasted a flight across their current tap lineup and visited with a couple friendly locals who gave me a few good tips on PEI and my upcoming adventure to Newfoundland. The Denovo III farmhouse Saison and Go Devil IPA were may favs. I’ll likely revisit this little brewery before leaving town!. . .

Tuesday I met up for lunch with a couple friends who live on the island and then headed downtown to check out Charlottetown. Cool town, lots of restaurants, shops, pubs and, yes, a couple breweries! Gahan’s Juicy IPA is a rare juicy IPA that isn’t over-the-top fruity—a four pointer. ‘Twas a good, easy day kicking around the streets of the island province’s capital city.

My last day on PEI I headed east to Cape Bear Lighthouse and Marconi Station. This station (built in 1881) was the first in Canada to hear the Titanic’s distress call in 1912. The lighthouse is still in operation.

I let B in the Box guide me to my next stop: Copper Bottom Brewing in picturesque Montague. I think she’s been to PEI before because it turns out she knows her way around the island’s backcountry roads. Beautiful drive on two lane, occasionally dirt, roads. Lots of patchwork reveal winter’s toll on the asphalt roads. But I enjoyed driving them, my truck feeling even nimble without the trailer in tow.

Back to Copper Bottom: got the best brews on the island overall. Especially liked Broadside pale ale and Parkman DIPA. Since the big IPA was an 8 percenter, I opted for the tamer Broadside to pair with the buffalo chicken wrap from Red’s Grill food truck across the street. Great 72 degree day for lunch on the brewery’s deck overlooking Main Street.

B in the Box, still in charge of getting us back across the island to Charlottetown, did a fine job and deposited us at PEI Brewing Company. I love a girl who knows what I like! 😜

I wrapped up the day back at camp, knocking out a load of laundry and prepping for an early departure in the morning. Prince Edward Island is a very friendly, beautiful place. I could live here—although I should probably get a taste of January thru April before climbing out on that limb, aye?

Next stop: northern Nova Scotia where I’ll drive the Cabot Trail, take in Cape Breton Island National Park and then jump off land for a 7-hour northern bound ferry ride to southwest Newfoundland. I’m still outbound on this trip, very much enjoying Canada’s Maritime Provinces!

Newfoundland — Saint John’s

In keeping with my theme of titling these posts after Newfoundland tourism, I was going to title it “Avalon” after the east side peninsula. But since I never really traveled outside of St. John’s, well, here we are.

Sunday I sniffed out a great sports bar to watch football. Big TVs, game audio, harbor views. Perfect. If only the Cowboys had showed up in Jacksonville. What a turd of a game. At least I met a couple Air Force guys from Fort Worth so we cheered and jeered our hapless hometown team.

Monday I ran a few errands (Costco, Canadian Tire, scheduling oil service) and washed the trailer windows and screens—much overdue.

Tuesday I first dropped off any Nike (the dumbasses) clothing I had at the local Salvation Army, along with a 22″ LCD TV that had gotten in the way one time too many. I then went cultural and visited the Cape Spear lighthouse & fort and then Signal Hill. Both interesting places with cool histories. Until now I didn’t realize Newfoundland played such a major role in the development of radio service. I might’ve reached my tolerance on lighthouses, though! But at Cape Spear I reached the easternmost point of land in North America. Pretty cool. Beautiful shoreline. Strong & dramatic. Touching that geo-point also meant I’d reached each of Newfoundland’s furthest compass points. I’ve seen most of the massive island. It’s about one-sixth the size of Texas but due to its rugged coastline and significant backtracking you drive a lot to see everything you wanna see. No complaints. I’ve loved it.

Morning for some reason came quick and I had to get to the local Ford dealer for an oil service and tire rotation. That didn’t come particularly cheap in Newfoundland but as a CFA, I have faith in the dealer shop. I was also hoping they could fix an irritating rattle on the passenger door area but their body shop was slammed. I am about to pour a gallon of superglue into the door guts. It only rattles up to about 25 MPH but I hate rattles & squeaks.

For lunch—and I was famished after not having dinner last night (just wasn’t hungry then) and had only a protein bar for breakfast—I found Yellowbelly Brew Pub on Water Street, where the Margherita pizza was very good. A lady near me at the bar had the fish & chips which she said was the best ever, except for the soggy chips. Interesting… that’s been my experience everywhere here too. The fish is always crispy and excellent while the fries are always soft & soggy. That’s actually an ok thing: keeps the fries outta the gut!

Writing as I sit here in Yellowbellys, I’m gonna hobble up & down George Street and check out the night spots to see if there’s anything I can’t miss over the next couple nights. For some reason my knee has flared up in a big way, the lil’ bitch.

img 6044 1
img 6044 1

Welp later, by sole chance I found my way into Christian’s Bar, one of a few “authentic” places to get Screeched-In. And they were having a screech-in so I joined in on that and became an honorary Newfoundlander. With a taste of Newfie steak (bologna), a kiss on the lips for the cod (fish), a shot of Screech (rum), and reciting the oath I’m now more than a welcome CFA (Come from Away), I’m a non-native Newfoundlander!

The master of ceremonies asks, “Are ye a screecher?” We replied, “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” (Translated, it means “Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind.”)

Very cool tradition in a very cool place with very cool people. There’s something about this land.

North in the Southern Peninsula

Been bouncing around upstate Michigan, below the Upper Peninsula, for the past week. It’s not real clear to me what to refer to this part of the state as. The Michigan State Parks website calls it Central but seems everyone I talk with says it’s north. Shelly, I know you know!?…

Anyway, once I wore out my welcome in southern Michigan (that designation is clear) I headed north a few hours to Traverse City where the wooded state park is right in town. Cozy, tight sites but very nice. Lots to see in & around Grand Traverse Bay (see the post on Sleeping Bear).

Then came Young State Park on Lake Charlevoix near Boyne City. Beautiful beaches and views of the lake and I enjoyed walking around “Boink” City as it held the Boyne Thunder poker run. A few miles away the next day I found Burt Lake and it’s awesome, Caribbean-esque beaches. Unreal, warm, clear, golden water that’s waist deep a few hundred yards from shore. Michiganders probably wouldn’t even consider getting in the sludge of Lake Lewisville. These inland lakes up here are really a treasure. I had no idea.

My next stop, this time for a lazy three days was Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake, just down the road from Cheboygan. More warm, clear water. What’s not to love? Except that the third day the air temps dropped a bunch and it was a little cool to be splashing around in the water.

On a day trip to Ocqueoc (Ah-key-awk) Falls and Lake Huron I found the water, let’s call it, less warm. Nevertheless, the big lake is gorgeous and expansive views (if not the water temps) also mimic the Caribbean! Walking on the very cool shipwreck ruins at Forty Mile Point Lighthouse was an unexpected and fun roadside stop.

Enjoyed a great prime rib at Hack-Ma-Tack Inn on my last night in the Cheboygan area. I’m headed back west a few miles to Petoskey Wednesday to hang for a week, visiting Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Mackinac Island and, who knows, maybe a couple breweries along the way. Until then! 🍻

Michigan Breweries — North Southern Peninsula

Michigan packs a lot of breweries into their mitten. Traverse City, on the beautiful West and East Grand Traverse Bays, is home to about a dozen. After a pleasant three hour drive up from Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores through the wooded Manistee National Forest, where the multiple snowmobile trail signs made me wish it was winter, I backed B into a nice site at the state park on East Bay. Then I had to jockey her around to make the power cord reach the common pedestal serving five campsites and ended up with a slideout straddling the campfire ring. I’m ordering a 50′ extension (dang they are pricy!) because the Canadian parcs (their spelling, not mine) warn that their power runs are long too. Anyway… on to the brewery visits! BTW, this is gonna be a lengthy post; as I’ve noted before, Michigan has more than its share of breweries!

First stop: Monkey Fist Brewing Company for a flight of four including an average German Pils, a good pale ale and a couple good IPAs, Peninsula Hopper being my favorite. The still new brewery shares space in a small marketplace and I enjoyed chatting with an old guy (shut it) and watching Croatia and England kick the ball around through indeterminable stoppage & overtime. Soccer is weird. Whatever. Hell, I’m liking saisons & farmhouse ales; might as well add watching soccer to my transformation! 😳

Next I stopped into Mackinaw Brewing Company whose IPA wasn’t anything to write home about. The Walleye sandwich was good. That’s it.

A few blocks away is my latest favorite brewery! Workshop Brewing Company is in the warehouse district and is exactly what we want in a real brewery. No fluff. No BS. Just really good beers and great people. Sitting outside with the breeze off the bay certainly adds to the ambiance. I’ll be back. For this visit’s flight I started with, yeah, the Sickle, a farmhouse. Solid brew. Aaron’s right: I’ve gone over to the dark side. The acclaimed ESB didn’t really blow my skirt up but the IPA was quite fine. Cool place & people.

Thursday for dinner, after an outstanding day at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, I was famished and headed over to The Filling Station Microbrewery for a thin-crust pizza and a couple pints. This popular place is in an old train station where they serve their “ales by the rails“. I had the Walla Walla IPA and the Piper’s Porter, both very good German-style brews in the 7% range.

After hiking in deep sand earlier I was fading kinda fast but headed over to Right Brain Brewing, located on one of the hundred lakes around here. Funky spot where I think we could hang for a day and not run through their beer list. The Looping Owl is an amber ale laid down in Old George Whiskey barrels. The beertender was confused, I guess, because he described it as a porter which when he presented it, it clearly was not. So I tasted it and liked it enough to not have him pour it out. I was in for just one 12 oz. pour anyway and enjoyed it on their patio, then headed back to my home at the park.

On my way from Grand Traverse Bay to Young State Park I passed through Charlevoix which I wanted to visit. Cool looking town but didn’t look like there was any convenient—or inconvenient—place to park my 57′ rig. So I decided to postpone my visit to the brewery there until next week when I can drop down from Petoskey. I continued to the campground and quickly set up (gettin’ pretty damn quick at that!). There’s a brewery in Boyne City, just a couple miles from the park so I headed there.

Michigan Beer Mugs
Michigan Beer Mugs

I knew I’d like Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen when I pulled up and saw the smoker going full on in front. Perfect. My flight of six beers ranged from an amber to a session to a porter to a stout to a strong ale. The beers were good and went down well with the smoked pork nachos. I usually don’t care for the pile style nachos but these were very good. House-pickled jalapeños and house-made BBQ sauce were excellent touches. And their guacamole rivals many. But this post is about breweries…

Stigg’s Avalanche porter went down especially well. Paired well with the smoky, sweet nachos I thought.
Another cool aspect of Stiggs is they host lots of other Michigan beers. So I crafted a second flight of the guest beers, from breweries I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to visit. Melt My Brain, a “gin & tonic beer” from Short’s Brewery was surprisingly refreshing. Tasted like, well, a G&T. I guess not so surprising.

On my way to Burt Lake the next day I stopped into the aptly named Burt Lake Brewery. Their brews are … interesting. The business began as Seasons of the North winery; I liked their wines more than their IPA and cider. Very friendly folks.

Same goes for Cheboygan Brewing Company: great people with some interesting beers. They apparently had a big weekend so during my visit Monday I could only taste their strawberry saison, blueberry cream ale, chocolate cherry stout and bourbon barrel scotch ale. They were actually all darn good. I picked up a 4-pack of IPA to go; they’re in the cooler now.

Beards Brewery
Beards Brewery

After I got settled into the Petoskey KOA which, by the way, is perhaps the nicest KOA I’ve stayed in and knocked out four loads of dirty clothes, I visited Beards Brewery downtown for lunch and to taste through their PAs & IPAs. All are good beers, especially All Paid Up, a hoppy black currant black IPA. It was supposed to be a stout but never developed enough gravity so they ended up with “a lucky mistake” in this good beer. I also like Copperstar Galactica, made exclusively with Michigan Copper hops from nearby. I backed up my taster size with another pint of this one. I’ll revisit Beards to rake in their awesome Lake Michigan views and try out their maltier brews.

Lake Charlevoix Brewery
Lake Charlevoix Brewery

The next day I was wandering around Charlevoix and stopped into Bridge Street Taproom for a quick Rayder Pilsner from North Peak Brewing Co in Traverse City before meeting Shelley & Brett and Fred & Annette for lunch at The Landing on Lake Charlevoix. Lunch done, Brett, Fred & I found our ways to Lake Charlevoix Brewing. A flight of four across the style spectrum was good; I just wasn’t all that thirsty.

Friday’s visit to Mackinac Island included a duck into The Draught House where Bells Brewery had taken over the tap wall. I went big: their Cherry Stout, Black Note Stout and the Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout. It had cooled off and I wasn’t driving so the three big beers worked nicely! I liked them all, pricey though they were!

Petoskey Brewery
Petoskey Brewery

Saturday enjoyed lunch at The Pier on the docks in beautiful Harbor Springs with Shelley & Brett and Shelley’s sister Beth. They were wedding-bound. For me, a rainy Saturday while the last few British Open players finished up called for a visit to nearby Petoskey Brewing. This is a busy brewpub housed in a brewery building from the late 19th century. A very nice patio & beer garden on a different kind of weather day would’ve been great; instead I sat at the inside bar while it dripped outside. The year-round Mind’s EyePA is a runofthemill IPA. But their Hopsessed Double IPA at 119 IBUs and StinkFist Triple IPA at 147 will each tantalize and treat your tongue’s bitter buds. I like them both a lot. My IPA loving roots aren’t gone completely! I finished up with a couple more tasters of Robusta Nut Coconut Chocolate Porter and Morning Fog Mochajava Stout, a couple more four-pointers on Untappd. Petoskey Brewing crafts good stuff. Also cool is they have only a couple staple beers; their other dozen+ brews are limited time pours. I love that in a craft brewery!

Burnt Marshmallow Brewery
Burnt Marshmallow Brewery

A lazy Sunday after Molinari won The Open drew me to a couple outlier breweries cohabiting with wineries. These can be interesting (sometimes at best!) breweries but I was pretty pleased with what I found. Burnt Marshmallow Brewing offered up a fair Pilsner, a very tasty apricot cream ale, a decent session IPA and a hotter-n-hell ghost pepper amber. Pretty place with great views, a curious pig and friendly people.

I followed that up with a visit to nearby Mackinaw Trail Winery/Brewery. Started where I left off at Burnt Marshmallow, with a habanero saison. I liked it (I know, doesn’t make sense to me either). Apparently now I like saisons and pepper beers. Help!

My fiver-flight also included the Red Flannel Saison, a nice follow up to the first beer; a DIPA made with Petoskey hops, also pretty dang good at 99 IBUs; a maple blueberry porter; and finally a coffee stout. I’m glad I swung by this place because their beers were interesting and good. Plus, a pretty lady liked my truck!

My last night in Petoskey I returned to Beards for their recommended Cuban sandwich and to try their maltier brews. The sandwich fell short: nothing special at all. The porter and couple stouts were good beers. I had to laugh though, when the bartender said he was waiting for the temps outside to drop before opening the roll up windows to the patio. It was 74 degrees outside 😝. Knowing I wouldn’t last until their sunset trivia at 9pm, I walked back to my truck several blocks away. A block from my truck I found the Noggin Room, a typical downstairs, low ceiling, dark yet inviting northern pub in the landmark Perry Hotel. Definitely worth stopping in for a Moscow Mule. Gotta love these iconic pubs!

Wednesday as I headed off the Mitten into real northern Michigan I stopped into Biere De Mac Brew Works for lunch. This is a cool, low key place with a wide selection on their tap wall. I liked Jacobs Farmhouse Ale and really like the Blueberry Wheat. I’m hopeless apparently. The cheesesteak sandwich, served on naan bread, was by far the best I’ve ever had. I paired it with a De-Bliss-Cious pale ale and Horse Latitudes IPA, all flight size pours, all quite good. Dessert was a 49 Fathoms stout, named for the depth of the Mackinaw Straits. I almost bypassed this brewery gem and am so glad I didn’t. It’s my latest favorite brewery!

And, with that, my tour of breweries in Michigan’s north southern peninsula wraps up. Over Big Mac bridge spanning the Straits and onto the Upper Peninsula now, where my first stop will likely be the brewpub at Tahquamenon Falls. More on that in the next Michigan breweries post. Cheers, friends!

Ruidoso

I don’t know if when they named the town, they were thinking “rowdy” or “noisy” but the mountain town of Ruidoso, New Mexico at 6700 feet elevation is neither. It’s a cool, small community with a horse track, a couple casinos, golf courses, a few taprooms, and a brewery–and it’s a relatively short eight-hour drive into a cooler, drier climate, a welcome respite from the early arrival of summer in Dallas/Forth Worth. And I got to spend four days there with two best friends and getting to know two more wonderful friends.

Procedures?!

Aaron, Ryan & I left Grapevine Thursday morning and headed west through Abilene, Sweetwater and into the megaplex of Post, Texas, the half-way point where we stopped for fuel and a beer at the diviest bar I think I’ve ever set foot in. I suppose the name, Moose Knuckles, shudda been a hint at the atmosphere of the joint: dark, dank, dirty and reeking of cigarette smoke. We lasted one pitcher of Dos Equis, the craftiest beer they had. At least the employee work procedure notice posted on the refrigerator was entertaining!

Four-plus hours later we arrived in Ruidoso and after chatting with our hosts Jerry & Judy, we found our way to a local taproom for dinner. Friday morning Aaron & Ryan fed the Cree Meadows golf course a few golf balls. It’s a tight, fun course with frustrating so-called greens–the only sand traps were the greens. I hung with the guys to give the cart girls something to do. After an awesome Bánh Mi sandwich at The Hidden Tap we spent a relaxing afternoon on the deck playing dominos and listening to Jerry & Aaron play the guitar and mandolin. Followed by grilled filets and Jerry’s own Cabernet Franc. A perfect day with good friends. I’m over-blessed.

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It was a slow-start Saturday and us three amigos headed to the race track to play the ponies. We started strong and finished flat, breaking even on our commingled bets. Although it took most of the ten races to figure out the scoreboards and payouts, we had an absolute blast! So much so that we returned Sunday afternoon with Jerry & Judy to give the horses another shot at making us rich. Ended up pretty much breaking even, except for the fun… we were way ahead in that category!

Saturday night we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Michael J’s to celebrate Jerry’s birthday. When in Ruidoso you gotta check this place out. Superb.

You had to be there!

Sunday morning the guys played another round of golf before we all went to the horse races. That evening we again hung out on the deck feeding deer, playing games and listening to music. There’s something about being in the mountains, watching (and feeding!) God’s wild creatures, enjoying the company of great friends and sipping good wine that nourishes the soul. Yep, over-blessed.

God gave us safe travels, great conversation, contagious laughter, beautiful views and fun times–all wrapped around loving friends and family. I’m definitely (yup) over-blessed. Thanks, guys, for a phenomenal trip!

Fish Tales – A Closer Look

It’s the best place in miles. It’s also the only place in miles. And I’ve stopped in every day I’ve been here. Love the place. Cool, local, friendly pub paired with a typical dockside restaurant and tiki bar (need a few more degrees for that!). Good food, reasonably priced beverages, craft beers. Great local color as most of the bar patrons are regulars stopping in on their way home on this outcropping of land amid lots of water. It’s one of those “less traveled” places I’m glad I found!