Posts Tagged With: brewery

Back in the USA

We left Quebec and the Montreal area after yet again another night of rain.  This makes only one night without rain so far. But at least it has been partly sunny most afternoons when we arrive at our destinations.  And the temperatures are upper 40’s at night and upper 50’s daytime. I keep wondering why I packed a swimsuit… what was I thinking?

Ok then, crossing through mostly farmland, once we peeled away from the outskirts of Montreal.  The road is good and drivers seem to keep to the right, except to pass and pretty much stick to the speed limit.  Imagine that. So it isn’t long before we reach the border crossing into New York. Just a few questions and concerns about fresh fruits, particularly citrus, and we are back in the US.  Not in New York long before we cross over Lake Champlain into Vermont. We stop at a welcome center for some local information and meander down the islands until we reach Grand Isle State Park.  Nice spot for two nights, but dry camping (no electric or water hook-ups).

  

Since it is just after noon, we head out to explore nearby Burlington.  A popular spot downtown is Church Street, converted to pedestrian only and lined with very trendy shops, outfitters, restaurants, coffee spots and bars.  There are four colleges in town, so the crowd was young and apparently better off than we were in college, judging from the pricey shops. We found our spot at the Vermont Pub and Brewery and, twist my arm, we ordered a flight.  Probably the Octoberfest was our fave and a raspberry wheat sour.

Further down the road was another spot on our list: Magic Hat Artifactory.  It was quite an eclectic brewery and tap room, with a sort of mardi gras meets carnival theme to it.  Sampling the beer we found the Circus Boy Hefeweisen and Fancy Grade Maple Doppelbok and Heart of Darkness Stout to be the tastiest.  We met another couple also doing the craft beer circuit and learned they were from Maine, so we learned a few tips about the Bar Harbor and Portland area.  Ordered a pizza and headed back to camp.

Next morning’s task was to gas up the motorhome at a station around the corner.  Everything in the motorhome is working just fine, but the generator won’t run if the gas in the tank is below ¼ – so we got maybe 5 minutes out of it last night before it quit.  We usually try to have a nearly full tank before stopping for the night, but we didn’t find a suitable station the day before.  After filling the tank and backing into the campsite again, we were set to head to Waterbury Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s, Smuggler’s Notch Distillery and Cabot Cheese.

Of course it had rained overnight, but this was our first day of rain all day.  Good thing we were just doing the tourist route, not searching for wildlife (no sightings so far).  The drive past Burlington and into Waterbury was nice, but still pretty green with only a few pops of color.  We found Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, along with the several busloads of others. We didn’t take the tour, but did have a hot fudge sundae in the chilly rain.  Next stop was a “made for the tour buses” spot with Cabot’s Cheese (lotta sampling) and SN Distillery (bourbon, vodka sampling). Not as good as the Kentucky Bourbon sampling, sorry.  But we did stop at a cider mill that had amazing cider donuts … yum.  That was also the spot where a winery had samples and the cider mill had hard cider samplings.  Yum.  I should note that most of these samplings come with a minor sampling fee, which is ok, since we are happy to support the local farmers.

 

Further along was the town of Stowe, you know the one — Christmas cards and puzzles are filled with pictures of this town. With all the gold-leaf on the signs, I knew it was probably the Jackson Hole of the East.  We hung a left and wound into the hills … is that music? Not exactly, but our destination was the von Trapp Family Bierhall, yes the one made famous by the family from “Sound of Music” and run by the family (Maria’s grandson).  It was a perfect spot to warm up with some beer cheese soup, bratwurst and apple sauerkraut. The beer was great with the meal – the Vienna Lager tasted crisp and fresh and the Dunkel was a smooth brown lager.

A final stop in Waterbury was a visit to the Green Mountain Coffee Cafe.  The darn “maps” directions dropped us at a very corporate style building with Keurig/Dr. Pepper on the doors and “Welcome” banners out front, so we walked in, went up a floor in the elevator and looked around.  Ummm, don’t think so. And we sure didn’t look the part. Back in the car we saw a cool railroad station across the parking lot and discovered THAT was the cafe. Guess we slipped into the headquarters by mistake.  Good coffee stop.

Now it was time to head back to camp, but we had one last stop at the Zero Gravity brewery, both for a beer and for wifi.  The beer was refreshing, but honestly it did not have the strong flavor profiles of some of our favorites. It was just OK, but the tap room was a really nice spot.  Back in camp, run the generator, fix a dinner salad and head to bed. Tomorrow is another big day.

Thanks for following along.  More New England adventures to come.

 

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Ottawa and Montreal

It was nice not to have to get up early, break camp and head out early in the morning.  We have two nights here in Ottawa, giving us a full day to explore the city.  It is a Saturday, so it is even better.  Of course we had rain overnight, but it wasn’t raining yet, even though the temperature was in the 40’s.  We quickly got to town, in fact we almost missed the exit, it was so close.  First task was to get free tickets for a tour of parliament, then we walked around parliament hill.  There is currently a 10-year restoration in progress for the main historic buildings, so you could see some of the restored changes and compare to the weathered look of some of the older buildings.

 

 

After taking some photos of the Peace Tower we walked to the riverfront and then to Rideau Canal to watch some boats go through the locks.  Further along was the Museum of Art and this wild spider sculpture (reminded me of one mentioned in Dan Brown’s Origin, but that one was in Bilbao, Spain.)  Not much farther along was the very cool Byward Market –  several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and lots of farmer’s market stalls.  Since it was Saturday, it got increasingly busy.  We did manage to grab some delicious pastries and farther along opted for a sandwich and mocha at Starbucks.  It was still chilly and partly cloudy, so the coffee was good.

  

  

Back to the Peace Tower for our tour of parliament.  We got to see the Canadian version of the House and Senate and the Library of Parliament and learned a lot about the constitutional monarchy and the role that Queen Elizabeth still plays in this country, part of the UK.  Interesting contrast to the government buildings we saw on our trip to Washington (Capital and Library of Congress).

  

  

 

 

Lots of photos of stone buildings (gallery below), but it was all so very interesting.  We finished the day with a search for the special Christmas yarn at our second Wal-Mart stop, but no luck.  Wal-Mart 2, Jackie 0.  I also stopped off at the Small Pony Barrelworks for just two more tastes of the sours while working on the blog.  A nice grilled steak finished off the evening as we awaited yet another night of rain (?).  Up early tomorrow for a short drive to Montreal, making camp and heading into the city all in one day.  Should be fun.

MONTREAL

Indeed, it only took us just over 2 hours to reach our KOA outside Montreal, a nice clean spot with many open sites.  We got Kodi and Merlin situated, unhitched the car yet again and drove in to Montreal.  Let me warn you if you are traveling to this city, there is major road construction on the way in and on many of the city streets.  Allow yourself plenty of time.  Fortunately it was Sunday.

We kind of felt like we were in an episode of the Amazing Race, since everything in Quebec is in French.  At least in Ontario you had both English and French on signs.  Not that we find the directional signs exactly plentiful here in Canada.  So we are quickly translating the English approximation for scenic drive, detour, stop, no turn on red, yield … that sort of then, plus still trying to see what 100 kph translates to (maybe 62 mph?)  Closer to the city we were on a wide detour that dropped us in downtown, but there were police lights flashing all around us.  What the heck?   Get this … a motorcycle rally was riding through. – exactly where we wanted to be Lots of police, closed streets and, well, you know our luck and motorcycle rallies.  We scooted around it and found a parking spot and started off on foot in Old Montreal.

The first “must see” building is the Basilica Notre-Dame de Montreal.  Once through the line, we were treated with a beautiful sanctuary.  Impressive design.

  

   

We continued on along the cobbled streets, heading downhill toward the waterfront.  Montreal is along the St. Lawrence River and there is quite a lot of shopping, restaurants, museums and recreation along the waterfront.  While the flowers and artists and shops were colorful and inviting, we were on a mission to find some sort of pub to get something good to eat and drink.  Aha!  Jackie found a spot hidden under one of the old stone waterfront buildings called “Pub BreWskey”  Sounds like our kinda place.  Well it was perfect.  Intimate, warm (it was a chilly day for sure) and lots of beer on tap.  We ordered two flights from sours to ambers to lagers and a peanut butter stout.  They added a special “weekend-only” variant of one of the beers, complimentary, which was cool.

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Food-wise this was a treat.  We ordered two cups of beer cheese soup and split a grilled cheese with skirt steak sandwich, and as you can see by the picture, it was a pretty big portion.  The cheese soup was the best we have ever tasted and the sandwich — yum.  Melted cheese and steak on a crusty French bread, plus smashed potatoes that were really more like home fries soaked in bacon grease and then fried.  Perfect with the beer.

After that meal it was time to walk the several blocks back to the car and find our way home.  This direction we didn’t hit the construction detours, so we made better time.  Wait…. there is a Wal-Mart.  Must stop and check for the special yarn.  Ooops.  Wal-Mart: 3, Jackie: 0, since the store was closed (early on Sundays!)  Darn.  Back in camp we took the dog for a walk, listened to Merlin complain and put our feet up.  Tomorrow is another short run, as we cross the border back into the US and find our way to Grand Isle, Vermont.  We have to dump and fill with fresh water, as we are going to be without electric and water for a week now.

Thanks for following along.  More to come on the journey, as we cross back into the US.

Doug

 

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Crossing Ontario, Canada

An early sunrise greeted us as we showered and pulled up to head into Canada.  Crossing over the bridge at Sault Saint Marie (oh and it’s Soo, not salt), we looked down on the locks, the rapids and the power canals.  And then we were at the border crossing, handing over our passports. A few questions about where we were headed, firearms and did we have alcohol (yes, just two bottles) and we were waved through.  Wow a lot easier than we thought. Shoulda bought that Kentucky Bourbon after all.

The day was a long drive across the upper shore of Lake Huron and the North Channel, but the scenery was spectacular.  There is so much water: ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, bogs all of which look like they would be perfect for wildlife, especially moose.  We even saw several moose crossing signs, but alas no moose. Plenty of beaver lodges though. We are also seeing the first signs of fall color among the spruces, firs, aspens and birch.  Just some pops of color among the dark evergreens and white trunks.

The first part of the drive had small towns and farmland.  We saw some more sandhill cranes in the cornfields and plenty of geese.  One flock might have had some snow geese mixed in. In some of the farming areas we saw horse and buggy warning signs and we weren’t sure why until we passed a horse and carriage trotting along the wide shoulder.  Neither of us knew if there were Quakers or Mennonites locally, but it seems so. As we got closer to our destination, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, the terrain was more rocky, with outcrops along the road covered in reindeer moss and spruce.  Canadians must love stacking rocks, as there were many rock cairns (or totems or hoodoos) on the outcroppings. Some were rather artistic creations, one even had a yellow cape.

The campground was a very nice wooded spot, but the entrance road was way too bumpy – we were pitching left and right and up and down and… well everything seemed to be rattling.  Our site was just across from a stream that ran from a nice lake to the Matawa River, with a nice overlook down 50 feet or so to the water. Once settled in and after a walk with Kodi to find bear or moose (no luck) we sat with our drinks at a table on the edge of the stream.  As we reviewed the day’s travel, we watched several mergansers swimming along. It was really cool.

 

Of course it rained again overnight and the fabric footstools we left outside to dry (from our plumbing adventure) got soaked once again.  But since it was a pull-through site we didn’t have to disconnect the car and it was easy to leave in the moring for our final leg to Ottawa.  The road we travel goes along the Mattawa River, the northern border of Ontario. Lots of water again, ponds, lakes, the river, bogs, several beaver lodges, but no wildlife.  It was an easier day of driving and we got to Wesley Clover Campground, just outside Ottawa and right off the interstate just after noon. Disconnected the car and set up in camp. 

One fun thing in camp are these oversized picnic tables with carved animals on the ends.  It seems that Kodi was quite taken with one.

Jackie discovered (somewhere along the trip in Ohio) that Bernat yarn had come out with special color blends for Christmas, but would only be available in Wal-Marts in Canada.  Well isn’t that lucky for us? So a mission, once we got into Canada, was to find a Wal-Mart and get that yarn. Of course no stores until Ottawa, so once here we hopped in the car to get to a Wal-Mart close by.  Alas, all out. Ah well, guess we will do the brew tour instead.

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Three breweries within 4 miles (er kilometers), so we sampled a little at each.  Covered Bridge brewing had a nice raspberry wheat; Big Rig was a very cool set-up and pretty big, with a delicious pumpkin porter, grapefruit shandy and a porter Jackie liked.  Last stop was Small Pony Barrelworks. All they brewed was barrel-aged sours, so Jackie was kinda out of luck, but I loved it. Sampled all sorts of blueberry, raspberry, sour cherry, elderberry, hibiscus sours, each with a different color and flavor.  What fun. 

Back in camp now, after grilling a nice dinner of boneless chops and brussel sprouts.  Our footstools finally dried so I put them away – which was a good thing because it is now raining once again as I write this blog.  Ah well, at least it really hasn’t rained in the afternoons when we arrive at destinations. Tomorrow is a full day in Ottawa seeing the city and then we pick up and head east just a bit to stay outside Montreal.  Looking forward to a nice Saturday in Ottawa.  

Check back as we post more pictures and stories of our trek to Maine.  Thanks for following along so far.

Doug

 

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Sleeping Bear to Soo Locks

Sleeping Bear Dunes is pretty amazing. Once we made camp in a nicely wooded spot (meaning acorns hit the roof regularly), we had time to unhitch the car and drive to spots along Lake Michigan (this was a back-in site anyway).  The first stop was the Dune Climb.  From the parking lot it didn’t look too bad, just a big pile of sand in front of us, so up we went. Yep, just like walking in soft sand at the beach, except not carrying the chairs, umbrella, towels, etc.  Well, puff puff, maybe a steep beach. Ok then, we made it to the crest … oh but not really. It flattened out a bit and we reached the one mile marker. But it continued onward and upward. We asked another couple coming back down if the next crest gave you a view of Lake Michigan, and they said “no, just the next hill.”  Ok, that was enough. Back down we went. Good thing, cause my toes were cramping in my shoes from all the added sand. It was very fine and had this nasty habit of filling your shoes and socks.

 

Back in the car we drove on another scenic drive that had some overlooks of the dunes area and then we found the best overlook for the lake.  Lots of sand and a pretty steep slope down to the shoreline. You got a great view of the lake and dune from the overlook, but some folks insist on sliding down the sand and then trekking back up the steep slope, despite warning signs.  It would have been nicer if it was not overcast and windy, but it was still a wild view.

Overnight it rained again and in the morning we drove around the corner to hitch up the car in the picnic area along the Platte River.  Once connected, we walked to the river’s edge to watch some morning canoeists heading downstream. The water was clear enough to watch some of the salmon heading upstream to spawn.  How cool.

The drive east took us through Traverse City (darn, too early to sample breweries) along the lake.  One block back from the waterfront is a river that runs through town like a canal, filled with powerboats and waterfront homes.  That seemed really cool for the summer. We headed northeast toward 1-75, across farmland, and I asked Jackie to scout out a place for lunch.  She found Petoskey Brewing along our route. They had ample parking for the motorhome, so naturally that meant we were in for lunch and a flight.  What a great choice it turned out to be! Jackie ordered a Reuben sandwich and I chose a black and blue bacon burger, both with beer batter fries. Totally delicious food.  And our flights (one each this time) were some of the best beers so far. Two favorites for me were Beach Slapped (pineapple, coconut blonde ale – awesome flavor) and grapefruit shandy.  Jackie thought the brown ale was the best. Good pit stop.

 

As we continued north, the day changed from drizzle to sunny/partly cloudy, but the temperature dropped into the mid 50’s.  What a nice change. Pretty soon we could see the Mackinaw Bridge ahead of us and we were driving up and over the connection between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  Cross winds were strong, so we kept it at 25 mph.

Crossing into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the rain started up again. However the scenery of farmland, barns, wineries and orchards continued until we reached Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks.  Our campground was just along the waterway, where we could watch the tankers moving to and from the locks. Actually, the waterway is a rapids downhill between Lake Superior and Lake Huron with several locks for boat traffic. A large canal runs through town and joins Lake Huron through a hydroelectric power plant.  

Since there were supposed to be two breweries in town and we didn’t want to disconnect the car, I decided to walk the 2 miles or so to town after dinner to check them out.  It was a straight shot to downtown that crossed over the canal at the power plant, but otherwise a pretty grassy wharf area. Kinda chilly, so I had a jacket over my hoodie and long pants on.  First stop was Soo Brewing – located in a storefront, tanks and all. They only had three beers on tap, so I had their summer wheat. Not bad, but not a particularly “mature” brew. Next stop was Lockside Brewing and Winery, which was really more restaurant and bar, with only 2 beers on tap and no brewing tanks that I could see.  Their Goldilocks blonde was a clever name, but nothing special. Time to head back to camp.

About the time I reached the halfway point over the canal I noticed a large cat running across the road in the streetlight.  Out for a prowl no doubt and headed for the grassy areas. Further along, I looked left to see the same animal running my direction under the lights.  That was no cat – it was a fox. Around the next building I hustled to catch up, then waited, but it started to drizzle. As I turned away, I saw the fox headed back, bushy tail straight out and trotting along.  What a cool sight. Ah, but the drizzle became real rain and I had to trot my way back to camp before I got soaked. But it was worth it.

In the morning we plan to head out early, what with the crossing into Canada and a long stretch of driving ahead of us.  Still a bit leery of what the crossing will be like, but we have all the paperwork and not much alcohol to declare. Next stop, Canada.

Thanks for following us on our journey to the fall colors of New England.

Doug

 

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Moving along in Michigan

Fort Custer State Rec Area

With a nod to Jimmy Buffet, our changes in lattitude have changed our attitude for sure.  It dropped the temperature considerably – we left the low 90s and are now in the upper 60’s.  We will take that for sure.  We are about to head out, continuing our trip north to Michigan.

But I need to share another “oops” moment.  In Wapakoneta we actually did not have rain overnight, but Jackie woke me in the middle of the night saying she heard water running.  Under the kitchen sink water was spraying all over — I hopped out the door, squish, and ran around to shut off the the water supply.  Well it seems we must have had a pressure burst overnight, which dislodged the plug under the sink water filter, so water was streaming out of the bottom storage bin, which fortunately had only the outside chairs and tables.  But it was a pretty good puddle and some mopping up to do under the sink.  Never a dull moment.

On the road in the morning, again with drizzle and clouds, headed up and across Indiana, bypassing Fort Wayne and into Michigan.  We made it to Kalamazoo area rather early in the afternoon and set up at Fort Custer State Recreation Area. It was a really nice site in a pretty empty campground.  We had filled our water tank in Wapakoneta, since this was electric only. Since the weather cleared, we took Kodi for a walk around the trails and nearby lake. We were surprised to see trumpeter swans in the lake, feeding among the pond grasses.  Kinda cool. The fields were filled with purple asters and milkweed stems that were releasing their silky seeds. Not much fall color yet, but we are hopeful.

Of course the highlight of this stop was going to be a visit to Bell’s brewery – in this case their Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo.  But before we got as far as Bell’s we found Arcadia Ale Brewing and pulled in to see what they had on tap. What a great spot! The tap room opened up to a wide garden area with outdoor seating along the Kalamazoo River.  Although it was still cloudy and a bit drizzly, it was still a wonderful afternoon sampling a flight of their scotch ale, stouts and a very tasty Michigan raspberry and blueberry witt.

Just across the river was Bell’s – not much from the outside but a very cool tap room inside.  We ordered a flight each and a food order. Jackie had mostly stouts, I had some of their tap-room-only brews and liked a saison they featured from a local homebrewer.  The Imperial Octoberfest was great with the meal, but Jackie loved their Brown Ale. Doug paired his beer with a grilled Michigan trout sandwich, Jackie had a burger with cherry jam and bacon.  Good stuff all around.

Next day was another travel day further up the “mitten.”  Another overcast start to the day as we headed up toward Grand Rapids.  Unfortunately it was too early to stop at Founder’s Brewery – we just had to watch as we drove by.  But as we rolled over the hills and farmland, we spotted a harvested cornfield that naturally had plenty of Canada geese.  But in the midst of them was a pair of Sandhill cranes . Rrrrrrppp. Stop the van. Get the shot. Get back in and keep going.  

We were taking a 2-lane road through the country that had some really nice farms along the way. One was a field of gourds and pumpkins being harvested, others had self-serve farmstands at the end of the driveway.  Nice. We also realized we would have time to stop in Frankfort just before checking in at our campground. Frankfort is a lovely town on Lake Michigan that looks like it would be very busy in the summer. The wide main street had plenty of room for the motorhome to park, so it was quite easy to stop and check out yet another brewery for a flight.  Stormcloud Brewing had a nice patio and we had some nice beer. Oddly, our favorite was their Georgia brew with peaches and pecans. Actually better than similar ones we have had back home.

We pulled in to the Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and set up.  Plenty of time to head up to see the dunes and shoreline of Lake Michigan.  But more on that in the next post.

Platte River Campground

Thanks for keeping up with us as we head to New England and the coast of Maine in search of fall colors.  Stay tuned for more.

Doug

 

 

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Kentucky headed to Michigan

Off to a good start here – once we made it through Knoxville on a football Saturday with half of Tennessee headed for the game.  Our first night was a nicely wooded KOA in Corbin, Kentucky.  Got all hooked up just in time for the rain to start.  It continued well into the next day as we made our way to Cincinnati, Ohio.  Showers stopped just in time for us to get caught in a construction delay and we kinda got turned around in search of a distillery on the Kentucky side of the river from Cincinnati, but once we found New Riff Distilling we knew the brew tour had begun.

We had a nice sampling of their newly released bourbon and an amazing Wild Gin, which was locally sourced and bourbon barrel aged.  Truly an amazing flavor, unfortunately we are on liquor purchase restrictions.  You see, we will be crossing into Canada by the end of the week and you can only bring one bottle per person of alcohol across.  Kinda crimps our style, since we packed for a month’s trip and gosh, here we were in Kentucky Bourbon territory!

However, this was a special afternoon after all, with a huge liquor store in the same parking lot that had a brewery attached: Braxton Labs.  We had a small flight with a cream ale, tropical stout, New England raspberry milkshake IPA and blueberry strudel.  What a wild assortment.

Before we left, Jackie noticed the growler fill station and got herself a 32 oz. of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, one of her personal favorites.  Lunch in the motorhome with some iced tea, then back on the road.  Rest assured, we don’t drive impaired.  Most of these flights are about 16 – 20 ounces total, and we split them.  So don’t worry.

 

 

 

We arrived at Wapakoneta KOA just off 1-75 and celebrated the cool temperatures (low 70’s) with the crowler of beer Jackie bought.  A good day was capped off by a gorgeous sunset.  Off to Michigan tomorrow.

Thanks for following along – hope to have more posted soon.

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Leaf-peeping Journey to New England

Maine Route

Seems like It’s been a long summer at home and we have been itching to start out on our next adventure: leaf peeping in New England. Last fall Jackie declared that she missed the bright fall colors of the northeast, so we started to plan out a route that would culminate in Acadia National Park in Maine.

As plans developed, we learned that our nephew was planning an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and there was a possibility we would find ourselves in Maine just as he was finishing the hike. How cool is that? Unfortunately he suffered an ankle injury in the Pennsylvania/New York section of the trail and has had to postpone the final section of the hike. But he tells us he is planning to restart the hike from there and see how far he can go before cold weather stops his progress, so maybe we can meet up in New England after all.

If you have been following our posts, you know we have had a few repairs that were needed on the motorhome. The refrigerator is now back in operation – turns out it was a small fuse in the back of the unit (who knew?) that failed. Now I have several spare fuses onboard, just in case. We also had a growing crack in the passenger side windshield that meant that half of the windshield needed to be replaced. A few dollars later and we have a new windshield, for the second time (hey, it’s a lot of glass in front!) Such is life in a motorhome.

As we prepare to head north, what is on the list? This trip seems pretty well suited to a true “brew tour.”  Besides some wonderful state and national parks, recreation areas and scenic drives, there are a number of craft breweries on the way that you just can’t pass up. So with a pretty straight shot up to Michigan we can begin our quest with stops at Bell’s, Founders and New Holland Breweries.

The trip will take us across into Ontario, Canada, with stops in Ottawa and Montreal before crossing back into the US and across New Hampshire and Vermont and into Maine and Bar Harbor for our Acadia stay. Magic Hat, Harpoon, Sea Dog, Shipyard, Sam Adams– all breweries along the way. Plus the White and Green Mountains, Franconia Notch, and the coast of Maine, then the return through the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Should be a very different type of trip for us.

So we have the RV packed, have health certificates for the pets (border crossings), reservations made and a full tank of gas. The open road beckons! Check back or “follow” to get an alert about new postings — once I have some good stories and some awesome pictures, that is.

Thanks for joining us on our latest adventure.

Doug

First night is a nicely wooded KOA in Corbin, Kentucky:

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The Long Road Back

Vacations are wonderful, until it is time to head home.  That’s the point in our trip for us, making the long drive back east from our fabulous trip to so many great state and national parks …. Glacier, Tetons, Yellowstone, Bighorn, Custer, Badlands … my, it was a lot.  This may sound more like the “lightning round” of game shows, with many stops in many states, but we had a lot of ground to cover.

Tetons Last Day

Wyoming

We left those impressive mountains of Grand Tetons while the air was clearing just a bit and we saw them one last time.  The drive southeast took us along the Hoback River through a very scenic canyon and then into the cute western town of Pinedale.  The streets were wide, the shops all fishing and hunting themed and … woah, was that a brewery we just passed?  What luck, it was lunchtime!  We eased alongside the sidewalk, parked the van and walked back to Wind River Brewing for a delicious lunch of brats, reuben sandwiches and a flight of beer.  One stand-out was their Mango Wheat, which they unfortunately did not have in cans to-go.  Darn.

Wind River Brewing

Wind River Flight

On the nice 2-lane road south again we suddenly saw signs that said “pavement ends” .. what?? Well, one of the area road maintenance strategies is to remove the asphalt from the entire road for miles at a time (5 to 7), leaving a gravel washboard.  This was one of those instances as “whomp” we left the pavement and rattled more slowly along the gravel.  This is no fun in a motorhome towing a car – everything rattles.  After several of these no-pavement stretches we hit Interstate 80 at Rock Springs and kept driving east to reach Rawlins, Wyoming, stopping at a KOA to hook into wifi, cable TV and to check on the progress of hurricane Irma.  

We were pretty deadly on butterflies it seems …

Rawlins KOA

Rawlins, WY

Nothing remarkable, but clearer skies with the smoke of western wildfires left behind.  Next day as we got set to continue east, we noticed that we lost a hubcap on the car somewhere along the washboard gravel roads, dangit!  

Depot in Cheyenne

Accomplice Brewing

Checking in at Accomplice

Approaching Cheyenne, we checked online to find a cool brewery was in town, and since it was lunchtime again, we headed downtown to find Accomplice Brewing in the old train depot.  What a cool area that is being redeveloped.  Cheyenne seems to like their cowboy boots, many of which are decorated around town.  

Great way to serve yourself!

Something special at this brewery was a pour your own feature.  In the tap area you choose the style of glass you want (pilsner, sampler, snifter, pint) and then choose from 14 beers.  You get a plastic magcard to record your samplings, place it against the screen above the tap and it tells you how many ounces you are pouring and what the final cost of your pour is.  You settle up when you leave.

 

Since it was lunch, we ordered a plate of pork nachos (on house kettle chips) that hit the spot, with a couple of pretzels and beer cheese to go with it.  Nice bit of heat to accompany the various brews on tap.  We liked the sours, saisons and hefeweisen.  

Nebraska

Back in the camper again and heading down the road, we crossed into Nebraska, a new state for us, and made it to Ogallala to stop for the night. Driving through southern Wyoming and into Nebraska was pretty much a lot of sagebrush scrub flatlands, becoming a bit more cornfields and crops in Nebraska, but still pretty wide open plains and not a lot of trees.  Ogallala’s campground was in the middle of a cornfield and you could smell the corn on that warm night.

Kansas

Salina KOA

From mid-Nebraska we turned south after following the Platte River and stayed the night in Salina, Kansas.  Lots more cropland, as the land flattened out and you could see hay, corn and soybeans being harvested.  The next day we were approaching Wichita round about lunchtime and lucky for us there were several breweries in town.  Well, you could hardly pass up the chance to stop for gas and then have lunch at one of them, so we found ourselves a nice big parking lot near the Old Town section of Wichita and headed for River City Brewing.  We were very impressed with this part of town, which had brick-cobbled streets and many old warehouse apartment conversions and plenty of restaurants and shops.

River City Brewing

Ordered a flight of beer at RCB and Jackie got a thin crust pizza that was delicious (she shared some) and Doug ordered mac ‘n cheese with Kansas City sausage and barbecue sauce on top – really good food.  Nice spot and easy access for us.  Back at the camper, Kodi and Merlin were quite content and off we went to find a spot for the night further south.  I found myself humming Glen Campbell songs along the way …

Oklahoma

We crossed into Oklahoma, another new state for us, and found an odd city park along a lake just off Interstate 35 north of Oklahoma City.  The city of Perry had this grassy bluff of 10 pull-through campsites, full utilities, on a pay-at-the-box basis.  What fun – just four of us there for the night, listening to cows in the distance and looking up into a dark night sky.  Oklahoma has very few trees, too.  Mostly grasslands and cropland, but you sure can see the horizon easily.

Arkansas

Lake Dardanelle

Ok then, more driving yet to go.  Up and out in the morning, we passed around Oklahoma City and drove east into Arkansas, making our way east on Interstate 40 to Russellville and another cool discovery: Lake Dardanelle.  It is an impoundment of the Arkansas River and the state park that offered camping was quite nice.  Maybe 4 of us in camp that night.  Our goal was to make it to Hot Springs National Park the next day to stay in their campground, but it was not reservable, so we wanted to get their early.  It was not a long trip, only an hour and a half, but it was a “scenic” route, which we know means curvy, hilly and slow going.  But we got there, got a nice spot and unhitched the car (back-in sites) so we could also go into town.

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs can give you the impression that it has seen better days, and indeed it has: around the turn of the century.  The hot baths that sprung up because of the hot mineral springs are all now part of the national park as bathhouse row and you can tour a few of them.  

A few still operate as bathhouses and spas, and one, to our delight, was a brewery.  I think maybe we have the strangest luck, finding these beer joints nearly everywhere.  We had to patronize Superior Brewing, ordering a flight of 4 beers each and texting family about it, when Alex hit us back to say they had been there last Christmas.  Nearly the same seats at the bar, too.

Superior Brewing inside the bathhouse

A flight from Superior

So we walked around town, noticing that the downtown businesses were trying for a turnaround, several of them pretty decent shops and such.  We stopped to splash our hands in one of the open spring pools, only to learn that “ouch” that water is hot!  Unlike Yellowstone’s steam vents, geysers and hot springs, nearly all of the hot springs in the park and town were capped off years ago by the government.  But a few are free spigots for you to fill your jug – just be aware it is HOT spring water.

Louisiana and Mississippi

Still more miles to go, so we set off again the next day toward our destination of Grayton Beach, Florida.  We were still a couple days off, so our next stopping point was south through Arkansas, into Louisiana and over to Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Arkansas really flattens out as you go south and east toward the Mississippi River, with lots of cropland that was being harvested.  The overnight at Vicksburg was a Good Sam campground connected to the riverside casino.  Basic spot with utilities, but we did avail ourselves of the free shuttle to the casino to get something to eat (unfortunately, a less than average meal) and watch the sun set over the river.  That was worth it, not so much the smoky casino.

Alabama

This next day we drove around Jackson toward Hattiesburg and further south around Mobile and Mobile Bay to camp at a spot off Interstate 10 just west of Pensacola, Florida..  It was so hot and humid as we pulled in, all we wanted was to connect to electricity and get the AC going.  It seems that the engine AC lost charge and was only spewing warm air out of the dash for the past two days, and we were now definitely back in the humid south.  As Jackie is trying to connect the electric, a whopper of a thunderstorm was brewing and crackling around us.  All connected, but nothing happened.   Seems the circuit breaker in camp was not working.  Asked the owner to move us, he had to check it out for 10 minutes (uhh, not working, right?) and then we got the ok to move sites.  BAM! The thunder struck, Jackie quickly connected, we leveled up and huddled inside while the rain came down and the temperature inside dropped, finally.

Florida

Still wet and humid the next day, we made our final drive along I-10 into the Florida panhandle and Grayton Beach State Park.  Quick as we could, we disconnected the car, made camp and headed to the beach for a swim.  Gorgeous water, beautiful beach — we cooled off and shed the dusty west.  Dan and Terri from home were vacationing here this week and the plan was to meet up and revisit some of our favorite breweries here.  First night we had a delicious meal at Café 30A, told tales of our bold adventure and watched the sun set over the gulf.  

Dan, Terri, Jackie and I at Craft Bar in Grayton Beach

Another night we drove to Grayton Beer company and enjoyed some of their brews while munching on sub sandwiches.  Plans for Idyll Hounds the next night were to be followed by a visit to a local music spot for open mic night.  Dan and Terri wanted a chance to play a set and have some fun.  Well, the AC repairs nixed plans a bit …

Since the AC in the engine section of the RV seemed to quit the moment we hit Mississippi and the hot, humid weather, I called a mechanic to pay a visit and make repairs.  Steve, the Mobile Mechanic arrived and pronounced the AC compressor bad, in fact bad enough that we would not have made it home without a breakdown. You may recall that just last October we had that replaced, so I will be arguing the warranty with the shop back home.  Two days later we had a new compressor and were ready to roll again.  Thanks, Steve.

Idyll Hounds

Our brewery visit plans were almost ruined, but all was not lost.  We did manage our Idyll Hounds visit and then went on to Craft Bar to try a few other regional beers and have some good eats.  What fun with our really good brew peeps from home!!  Thanks, Terri and Dan.

Grayton Beach State Park is beautiful and you can’t beat the white sand beaches and clear water for swimming.  This part of the gulf and Florida missed the fury of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and, combined with the sunny weather, was just delightful.  

Soon it was time to make one final hitch connection for the car, pull up the leveling jacks, bring in the slides and head for home.  As we drove through Alabama on our way to Georgia, we marveled at this long journey and how far we had come: north from home across the heartland to the Rocky Mountains and nearly over the Canadian border;  back down through the central plains along the Mississippi River to the gulf shores.  We saw so many special places, spectacular scenery, amazing wildlife and had so many unique experiences that surely we will be thinking of this trip for months to come.  

Sixteen states, 5,700 miles, one dented-up Rav-4, one missing hubcap, three grizzly bears, one cracked windshield, seven moose, two bald eagles, six wolves, one AC compressor, three black bears, two weak house batteries, herds of buffalo, several geysers and a lot of hiking … are we the winners of the Amazing Race yet?

Thanks for joining us along the way.  I hope it will help you plan your own adventures and bring you as much fun as we had.  Let us know what you liked!  

Until next time, when the adventure continues …

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Grand Tetons Moose Hunting

Smoky in the Tetons

Getting from Yellowstone National Park to Grand Tetons National Park is not really a long drive at all.  It took us maybe an hour and a half, through the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (a link made possible by the family’s donation of land).  That meant we actually got here earlier than the Coulter Bay campground wanted us.  No problem, we simply unhooked the car, fixed lunch and walked to the camp store and visitor center.

Coulter Bay Camp check-in

Coulter Bay campsite

Once in our pull-thru campsite we actually then took off 30 miles for Jackson, or Jackson Hole (it seems to go by both) to restock on groceries at a beautiful Albertson’s market.  The town seems to be trying for a wintertime mecca along the lines of Vail and the Colorado ski towns.

Some of downtown Jackson Hole

One of several elk antler arches

Lots of timber, rock and steel in construction, and a bit pricey around town.  Naturally we had to stop in at the local brewery for lunch and a flight.  Snake River Brewing was a great spot to hang out.

a Snake River Brewing

Snake River Brewing

Jackson’s town square was really cute, with several arches made of elk antlers.  Since it sits next to the National Elk Refuge, it plays up the animals.

Visitor Center at National Elk Refuge

The NER visitor center was pretty cool, featuring a herd of elk inside (stuffed), but we didn’t see any on the long drive through the sagebrush flats.  One lonely bison, not the large herd we were warned about.  A few small groups of pronghorn, that’s all.  Once back in camp we reviewed the park literature and maps and plotted out the next 4 days.

Since the Tetons were all but invisible in the smoke of wildfires, we decided the first day should be a local hike around the Coulter Bay area.  This is a different sort of National Park, because the whole backdrop of the park is the Tetons – they rise up out of the sagebrush flats and tower over the Snake River, Jackson and Jenny Lakes below.  You almost don’t interact with the mountains; you just gaze at them and hike to their base.  And if you can’t see them, it diminishes the experience.

Beaver lodge on Heron Pond

Beaver dam … but no beavers active

So our hike took us to Heron Pond and Swan Lake, which were marshy beaver ponds that looked like prime spots for moose.  Our goal here in the Tetons is to find moose!  The hike was a bit like walking on bowling balls, since the rounded stones are pretty much everywhere, and we did see two beaver lodges and a beaver dam, but no beaver and no moose.  Had a nice lunch next to the pond though and then made our way back.

Around Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake shoreline

Whitewater

Next day was to be a big adventure for sure.  We had booked a small-boat whitewater rafting excursion on the Snake River and were ready for action.  With quick-dry clothing and water sandals on, we joined the others on the school bus and rode the half hour to the drop-off point.  We were using Jackson Hole Whitewater Rafting, although there are many other outfitters in town, and the total group was 4 rafts, both small and large.  We snapped into our lifejackets, grabbed a paddle, paired up with a family of six (raft of 8), joined our river guide Sky, and set off into the river.  Air temp was 80 or so, water was probably 65 degrees.  Clear and swift.  As we moved along, Sky gave us instructions, we practiced our paddling moves and got into position.  Doug and Adam, were the two lead paddlers in the front, Jackie a few spots back.  But everyone paddled when told.

And what work it was.  Splashing and bouncing our way through some rapids, we paddled, spun around, hit the waves and cheered as we made it through.  Soon we got some total dunks and did a high-five with paddles.  Ah, but it gets better.  Someone could volunteer to “ride the bull” at the very front, one leg in, one leg out, holding tight on a strap.  Stuart volunteered first and got some good dunks.  About halfway down the 9 mile trip Doug took the front spot and got totally drenched in the Big Kahuna rapids.  In truth, the entire raft got doused, Jackie was bounced to the center of the raft and we all were very wet, but excited.  Photos were cleverly captured at that spot and they reveal a wild ride and crazy expressions from the crew.  What a rush. I highly recommend it.

Moose Hunt

Discovery Center at Grand Teton NP

Thursday was to be an early morning drive to a spot just off the south end of the park where beaver pond marshes were known to have moose.  Up at 5:30 a.m. we were off to find those critters for sure. Just past Jackson Lake dam we spotted a beautiful bull elk on the shoulder of the road with a beautiful rack, a female just a bit further – a good sign that we were finally going to see wildlife today.

On the road along the marshes we noticed a Wildlife Management pickup and a ranger in the roadway, which meant something was nearby.  Yes, there was a bull moose not far off, sloshing his way through the marsh.  We tried to stop for a look, but he waved us on.  When we got the chance, we turned back around for another look, but he was moving farther off and out of sight.  Darn.

Moose at last!

We found a small parking area, pulled in and followed another group to the bank of a large wetland.  We were probably 50 feet above the marsh, so it was a good chance to scan for moose.  Nothing.  Heading back to the parking lot, we met one of the other couples who had also been scanning the area for moose and they said “you just missed the female and calf …”  Really??

Actually, they were still moving along the water’s edge, so we hustled and huffed our way further along to watch them.  What fun, as they moved along, in and out of the water, eating the willow shoots and other greens.  Junior would stop and look up at the crowd on the hill every once in a while, mom paid little attention.  Good day for moose.

Drove back on Moose-Wilson road and were rewarded by a great view (and pic) of the bull moose.  Awesome!

We made our way north back into the park, stopped at another beautiful visitor’s center and then to Jenny Lake.  The plan was to follow a short hike to the other side of the lake to see Hidden Falls, have lunch and hike back.  All the maps had this listed as about a 2.5 mile hike one way, so we were pretty confident it was do-able.  It did give us a good look at the mountain peaks, even though still hazy.

Partway along a ranger told us there were moose at Moose Ponds, a short diversion.  So of course we had to go, and we got a great look at another female in the pond, munching on something underwater.  Her calf was nearby, but we couldn’t see it.

At Moose Ponds, naturally

Back on the main trail it was a definite uphill climb.  As I recall, we had gone up almost 700 feet.

A narrow slice across a boulder field was downhill for a bit, with a great view of the lake below, but we knew it would be uphill on the return.  Just before the falls we stopped to have lunch and catch our breath.

Little further along, and downhill, we found the falls.

Hidden Falls

Nice, but it was quite the hike to reach.  You can shorten the journey by paying for a boat ride across the lake, which we opted not to do (after all, we were tough hikers).  But on the way back we were reconsidering the wisdom of that decision.

In fact, it got downright tedious and exhausting as we kept going uphill … until it finally began to slope down toward Moose Pond and finally the parking lot.  Checking our fitbits and also Jackie’s phone step tracker, the hike came in at over 10 miles!!  Not what we had expected.  But we made it, just a bit sore and weary from the effort.

Arriving in camp we were delayed by a mule deer doe and two youngsters, as they crossed the road in front of us.  They do have a peculiar “bouncy” way of running.  So it really was a good day for critters.  Dinner was a quick bite at the lodge restaurant, a couple glasses of wine in the Winnebago to recover and off to bed.

Kodi at the Tetons

That meant the last full day would be restful.  We did some laundry, checked the weather and news online, called Dad to review Hurricane Irma evacuation plans and then made some plans for our next destination.  It was probably best, since the sky is once again hazy and smoke-filled.  You can’t even see the mountains across Lake Jackson, which is right along the campground.  They say there is a chance of thunderstorms tonight, but it seems doubtful.  Crazy that it is so dry in the upper west and so wet from hurricanes in the south and southeast.

Sunset at the lake

Finally clear on last morning

Tomorrow we break camp and head southeast ourselves, hoping to pass Rock Springs toward Cheyenne.  From there it will be one nighters across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi until we reach Grayton Beach on the panhandle of Florida.  Probably won’t be another post until we are in Florida, but I do appreciate that you are following along on the journey.

Stick with us, there is more to come (and one day soon, some video from my gopro)!

 

 

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Bighorn Boondocking

Heading out of Custer State Park our next destination was Bighorn National Forest just outside Buffalo, Wyoming.  One stop along the way was Devil’s Tower Monument, you know, the one made famous in “Close Encounters?”  Since we had been busy watching bison in camp for a few days, we needed another stop at Rapid City’s Wal-Mart for basic supplies, then off we went to Devil’s Tower.

Devil’s Tower and Smoke Ring sculpture

As close as we could get.

The only glitch we discovered was there was very limited parking for motorhomes and trailers, in fact it was at the base of the tower and not yet up to the Visitor’s Center.  Even though we could have disconnected the car to drive closer, we hopped out, took the shots and kept moving.

Devil’s Tower Monument

As we got closer to our destination, I kept scanning the low hills for anything that looked like mountains.  Our campsite was in the Middle Fork Campground and it was hard to see anything that fit the description of mountains, but then it was very, very hazy on the drive.  I couldn’t figure why so much haze and ground level ozone in such a wide open area, but then we learned we were in the path of smoke blowing down from wildfires in Canada and Montana.  As we got closer to Buffalo we finally spotted the mountains looming in the haze… looks like a proper location after all.

Umm, I guess we should shift to a lower gear…

Well, yeah… it was several miles of 7 and 8% grade up, relentlessly. Up, up we went, while the engine temp did the same.  But the outside temperature did the opposite, going from upper 80’s to low 70’s.  Wow, we had a bit of a pause to go downhill a bit, then Jackie shouted, “there, the turn is there –  slow down.”  We exited the highway, across a narrow cattle grate and the road seemed way smaller, in fact it turned into dirt and gravel.  Hmmm, okaaaay…  are you sure this is it?  Oh yeah, the next turn was even tighter, across more cattle grate and less gravel.

Are you sure this is the right way? Can we fit in there?

But the sign announced the campground.  We took a deep breath, drove very slow and across a one-lane bridge, found our gorgeous campsite and decided to disconnect the car and tow dolly and hope there was a turnaround ahead for the motorhome.  There was, and we eased into the site, one that was the BEST ever.  A clear mountain stream rushed along the site and we were in the midst of beautiful spruce and ponderosa pines in a narrow gorge that was now in the mid 60’s.

Great campsite in the spruce and fir forest.

Middle Fork of the Bighorn River, alongside our campsite.

We knew the spot was without electric or water hookups, but there was a handy water pump across from the site, just in case.  Took Kodi off for a walkabout, chatted with the camp host, grilled a great meal, played a game of cards and went to bed with the sound of the stream.  Next morning it was 42 degrees and we were dead on power. The house batteries had drained to nothing and we couldn’t even crank the generator to recharge them.  Ugh.  What went wrong?  I think we forgot to switch the fridge from automatic to LP gas.  It drained the batteries overnight.  So I cranked up the engine (hooray, that worked) and tried to get some charge to the house batteries, but it was never enough to spark the generator or start the fridge, even on LP gas.  So we were without electricity and although we had plenty of water, we couldn’t operate the pump to get it out of the tank.  So the hand pump across from us came in handy for cold, fresh mountain water.

Our campsite was in the wooded gulch in the foreground.

Since we got up way early, thanks to Kodi’s alarm, we took a break to hike out of camp a bit and discovered the beautiful vista we missed the day before: Cloud Peak Wilderness area in the Bighorn National Forest.  It was clear early morning, but within an hour the smoke moved in and you couldn’t see them at all.  Other than that, we totally loved the spot.  We did a late afternoon hike into the wilderness for less than a mile before the elevation got to us (trail was 8,000, camp was 7,400 feet).  We did make a run into Buffalo with the car (down then up the 7% grade) to get a couple bags of ice to put in the fridge.  Total boondocking camping without showers, running water, electricity, heat … oh my, could we survive?

A tribute to the Native Americans who died at Little Big Horn.

The view from Last Stand hill.

We were only in camp two nights and took off early in the morning to see if we could get to our next stop: Billings, Montana and a KOA.  Short detour to see the Little Big Horn Battlefield (Custer’s last stand against the Indians) and on to civilization and an electric outlet!

a Billings KOA (2)

The KOA was actually the FIRST KOA in the world. Very nice facility.

a Billings KOA (8)

The camp sat along the Yellowstone River… how cool.

We made it, hooked up and got everything running again.  Nothing in the fridge or freezer spoiled, in fact the ice cubes were still good.  Lesson learned for the next stop off the grid (which will be Glacier for a week) – we need to check the fridge and be sure to run the generator before turning in at night to be sure everything is charged up.

Lots of hay was being harvested in this region of Montana.

Eclipse Day!  We were off to Great Falls, Montana and figured to be about halfway there by 11:30’s solar eclipse moment.  The route we took was a wonderful 2-lane road that went over the hills of Montana and through the Musselshell River valley, quite scenic.  We still saw plenty of wildfire smoke in the distance, but it was easy to see the many hay fields and sheep grazing around us.  Magpies flew up from the road shoulders as we passed a lot of worn and weathered small towns along the way.

The town of Moccasin, Montana

We stopped in Judith Gap to watch the eclipse, which was around 90% and we had glasses in hand ready to view.  As you can see, everyone in the area pulled off the road to watch the event.

Judith Gap, Montana — where we stopped to watch the eclipse.

The crowd of eclipse watchers left the road and the traffic came to a standstill.

We noticed it was a bit dim outside, but we still saw our shadows just fine.  Ah, well.

Ready with our eclipse glasses … where is the camera?

We made it to Great Falls in time to disconnect the car and check out the three breweries in town, celebrating the “non’clipse” we witnessed.  Mighty Mo, Black Eagle and The Front Brewing were a lot of fun with very friendly people.

Black Eagle Brewing

Mighty Mo Brewing

The Front Brewing

Our campsite was the KOA in town, conveniently located just behind a huge Wal-Mart.  So we are well stocked and ready for our journey into Glacier.

You will notice how convenient the Wal-Mart is to the campsite.

Actually, the view from the other side of camp is quite “Big Sky.”

Yes, more adventures for two former teachers who should know to read and follow all directions.  Blame it on the altitude, we were woozy headed.  Stick with us, as we are headed to Glacier National Park.