Posts Tagged With: craft beer

The BIG Cruise

Some time after the holidays this year my brother told me that he and Dad were planning their next cruise in April and I enthusiastically wished them well. Jackie, John, Dad and I had done a Carnival cruise over Halloween to Nassau and I was just fine passing up any cruise for the next year. But things evolved and the cruise choice was no longer a 5-day out of Charleston but a 7-day out of Port Canaveral aboard the Oasis of the Seas, the first mega-ship by Royal Caribbean. Jackie and I still felt we were just fine sitting this one out and, again, we wished them well.

During a late January visit with Dad, he and my brother leaned on me to join them on the cruise — Dad pulling a bit of a guilt trip “I just want both my boys with me .. not sure how many cruises I have left in me” .. so I agreed to think it over, which meant of course we booked ourselves on the cruise shortly afterward. Heck, it should be fun on the Oasis class ship.

Then an accident happened while the ship was docked in Nassau for maintenance. A crane fell into the stern AquaTheater, the ship slipped and the (new word) azipods were damaged below. We kept our fingers crossed, but two weeks before sailing we learned the cruise was cancelled, refund was on the way, future cruise credit to be applied. Oh well.

But we would not be deterred. Since that meant that 3 cruises of 6,000 passengers each were now looking to re-book their cruise, Jeff and I jumped on the phone to contact our travel agents and find some options. The solution was the next ship scheduled to leave from Port Canaveral, the newer Harmony of the Seas, which was the same Oasis class of ship that hosted 6,000 guests and 2,000 crew. We booked the second week of June for an Eastern Caribbean cruise and hoped for the best.

So our most recent adventure just completed was an amazing cruise aboard a floating hotel/mall. Seriously, this ship had everything and really felt like you weren’t even on a ship most of the time. Not sure I can fully describe the wonderful time we had and all the available amenities the ship had to offer, but I will certainly try. I also have some videos that will take a bit longer to edit, but I promise to post them soon. I was having fogging issues with my 35mm camera aboard ship, what with the cold AC in the room and the warmer, tropical air out on deck, but the GoPro was good with the underwater shots and such.

Pre-Cruise Orlando
We drove to the Orlando airport area the day before, since it is about 7 hours (8 if you drive through rainstorms like we did) and stayed overnight. That meant we were less than an hour from the ship’s terminal and would have no problem arriving before Jeff, Vic and Dad (oh no, I am not competitive at all). So after checking in at the Best Western we searched for “breweries near me” and found several choices.

 

Since Rockpit Brewing also served barbecue, that was the choice for dinner, followed up by Dead Lizard brewing. I enjoyed Rockpit’s Yudu Yuzu, a sour Berliner Weiss, Jackie liked Nudge, Nudge golden ale and we both liked a mango beer that neither of us can remember the name of.

Slipping in the door of Dead Lizard we were immediately asked if we had a lighter – it seems they were having a birthday celebration going on and no one brought matches for the birthday candles. Sorry, we are just here for the beer (and the sticker), so we moved to the bar and ordered a flight. Pretty funky vibe to the place and we enjoyed a Hefeweizen Orange Ya Glad I Didn’t Say Banana and Key Lime Chameleon Cream-Sic-Ale. On the way out we got totally drenched in a downpour before heading back to our amply-air-conditioned room to chill for the night.

All Aboard!
Up and out and we were on our way through the Florida sunshine to the Cape and our ship. No traffic, no problems, parked close to the ship, breezed through check-in and we were in the boarding area by 10am. Within 20 minutes we were joined by the rest of our party and, gosh we were onboard in no time. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for a very smooth check-in and embarkation process. Now, where is that first drink??

We explored the ship, got lost and turned around more than once, found our way to the Solarium Bistro for lunch, found several bars, stood for the safety lesson, checked out our room and settled in for fun. As I have said before, the first day aboard ship is the most exciting and the sail-away is exhilarating. As you stand on the rail watching the shoreline pass by and disappear into the distance, all the stress of the trip and worries back home just slip away. It’s party time!

So what exactly did we do?
I’m not sure when we did just what onboard, mostly on the three sea days, but I can share the activities. And we had three ports of call, so hang on, it’s a busy schedule.

Perfect Day CocoCay
This was a totally different experience from our last visit to the private island. The investment of over $250 million to transform this island into a waterpark with a new dock (no tenders!) was fantastic. We didn’t pay the extra fee to ride the waterslides, zipline or splash in the wave pool, but we did enjoy the upgraded food service, bars, huge Oasis Lagoon pool with swim-up bar and the snorkeling off Chill Island beach. It is a clean, lush landscape that just opened officially and it is a game changer.

 

 

After snorkeling and lunch we were enjoying the pool while a film crew used drones to capture the crowd for an upcoming promotional video. Perfect Day got a little less perfect when thunderstorms moved close and everyone was whistled out of the water. The rain made it easier to find a lounge chair, but I am guessing that thunder-rumbling, rain-soaked footage won’t make the “perfect day” video. Darn, and I was looking pretty good in those fly-by shots!

St. Thomas
We cruised into the port at St. Thomas about noon, a beautiful approach to this island. We were keeping it pretty casual that day and decided not to fight our way to a beach or snorkeling location, since we had a nice excursion planned for the next day.

So it made for a good day of having fun around the ship without the crowds. We never really felt like there were 6,000 other people crowded around us anyway – except on the pool deck on sea day afternoons – which is to Royal Caribbean’s credit for having so many places to hang out.

St. Maarten
This was our first time to the French/Dutch island and we were lucky to be the only ship in port at Philipsburg. Another gorgeous green-mountain island with a broad curve of beach along the harbor.

We had booked a snorkel excursion on a small-boat tour, hoping to avoid the disappointing experience in Nassau where we were overloaded with 60+ folks on a kayak, paddleboard, snorkel, party boat. Jackie and I walked the half-mile along Great Bay to the boat dock to check in and were told that once the other party of 2 arrived we would be good to go. That meant that all four of us had the boat to ourselves for a fabulous private tour along the coast.

First stop was snorkeling in Little Bay, a cove below the pelicans of Fort Amsterdam with clear water and some reef fish. The bottom was mostly rock and not much in the way of fans and corals, but there were fish around and some sunken artifacts (canon, helicopter, small sub, grocery cart?).

Back onboard and we zipped along the coastline, noticing the remaining damage from previous hurricanes (two Cat 5 within 10 days). Captain passed around a bowl of french bread, cheese and apple slices and we washed it all down with a cold beer. Hey, snorkeling is hard work. We stopped in the path of approaching aircraft as a jet passed overhead to land at the airport. This is the famous Princess Julianna airport with an over-water approach where people get blown around during jet takeoffs. Just Google Maho Beach. Then we crossed to the French coastline and hopped out for a swim in a turquoise water cove, Baie Longue, surrounded by villas that rent for thousands a night (Belmond La Samanna). Ahh, and we got to enjoy the same beautiful waters that they did. Time to head back to the ship and across some choppy water that made for a bouncy ride on a beautiful afternoon.  Snorkel video is posted here.

The excursion was really a treat. Back at the dock we stepped out of the boat with our gear, except that I was so focused on my footing that I completely missed the overhead metal rail of the bimini and “klunk” I hit it hard with my head. Had I been watching earlier, I would have noticed Jeff do the same thing as he was getting out. Ah … what’s a little blood in the scalp?

Aboard Ship
When we weren’t lounging by the pool or slipping down the waterslides, we might have been walking down the indoor Promenade (just like a mall), sitting at an outdoor cafe in the garden areas of Central Park listening to Spanish guitar, having a drink at an Irish Pub with a folk guitarist, watching robots fix our drinks or trying our luck at the casino. Our rooms were upper level balconies that overlooked the Central Park “canyon” so it was also nice to sit with a drink and listen to the music or wake up with a cup of coffee out on the balcony and people watch.

 

 

 

The casino was a destination for Dad most evenings, as he loves to play roulette. Jeff and I sat with him and played a few times – actually we donated to the casino, but our game is the craps table. We had our ups and downs and some nights were just wild at the table with some good runs, but in my case I came away just less than even for the week. Actually that is great, considering how long we played all week and what fun we had. We met the friendliest casino dealers who would really help you understand how to improve your odds and by week’s end came to recognize you. What fun.

Food
We did our best to try every eatery on board and enjoyed them all. Of course everyone heads to the Windjammer buffet for breakfast and lunch but we ventured away from that most days. The Park Cafe had delicious roast beef sandwiches and salads for lunch on the terrace in Central Park and Sorrento’s had pizza almost all night. The Solarium Bistro (the adults-only area on the decks 14 – 16 at the bow) had slightly lighter fare and a great view. There were several up-charge specialty restaurants that we mostly skipped.

Dad, Jackie and I ate lunch at Jamie’s Italian (complimentary for balcony bookings) on a sea day and were totally stuffed. Appetizer was an antipasto plank of cold meats, cheeses, olives and veggies; main courses were pasta, burgers and salads. We each made a dessert choice, whereupon our waiter asked why not all of them?

So, as you can see in the picture, we were served another plank with Tiramisu, Lemon meringue cheesecake, brownie, Almond sponge cake, and a raspberry pavlova confection. Yikes.

Dinner was mostly in the main dining room (short ribs and rack of lamb were the best), but we also tried the Solarium Bistro on the upper deck for dinner as we sailed out of St. Thomas and then the Izumi Japanese hibachi grill on the last night. That was a hilarious show of food preparation that none of us had yet experienced. Chef tossed pieces of egg for us to catch in our mouths – ok, weird but fun – and a few of us (Doug and Dad) nailed it on the first try.

Lobster, scallops, chicken were all delicious, and the tenderloin beef was mouthwatering. And some strange ice cream-filled dough balls for dessert.

Jackie and I also had a complimentary dinner at Wonderland, themed with Alice in mind.

Definitely something different, with all sorts of special food effects – smoked buffalo chicken eggs, “liquid” olives and mushrooms, spicy tuna in frozen limes, baked halibut and branzino. Quite the presentation, capped by a dessert plate of fungi: mango sorbet with cake and meringue mushrooms in pop-rocks dirt and a crazy bit of wizardry: The World – a chocolate sphere that melts before your eyes as the waiter drizzles hot caramel sauce, revealing salted caramel ice cream and chocolate mousse. Wow.

 

Drink
I did get a chuckle on the first day when I pulled out a bar checklist for each of us – crazy Doug – but later in the week we were all caught checking which bars we might have missed! “Oh, did I get a drink on each floor the Rising Tide bar stopped at?” “What about the Bionic Bar?” “Darn, I missed a glass of wine at Vintages.”

The robot arms of Bionic Bar

If you purchase the Deluxe Drink Package, you will have more than 16 bars to choose from. Poolside, in the Central Park garden area, restaurants, Promenade (mall) area, Solarium (adults only), plus the island of CocoCay. Yeah. That’s right. You try it without a list! Plus specialty coffees with a shot to start your day, like Icy Bourbon Mint Coffee.

We definitely gave our beverage package a workout.

Fun
Yep, another checklist just to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Besides the snorkeling in St. Maarten and CocoCay, there were plenty of activities onboard.

 

 

Whirlpools, main pool, the 9 deck drop on the Ultimate Abyss dry slide, three waterslides, rock climbing wall (made it halfway), zipline over the boardwalk “canyon” … busy, busy. We didn’t ride the carousel, ice skate, or play mini-golf, nor did we try surfing the flo-riders, but it was fun to watch. We saw the Jules Verne styled ice show “1887”, “Grease”, “Columbus, the Musical”, “Fine Line” and “Big Daddy’s” aquashows and a rock tribute band, all of which were top-notch entertainment.

 

You might not have the pool to yourself

Riding the waterslides was crazy, since two of them were designed for you to race your opponent. Jeff and I swapped winning times, but maybe my worst showing was when halfway down the dark tube I realized the water was pretty much disappearing and I slowed to a stop. “Send water!” Soon a gush hit me from behind and I started to move along again, but it might have been a long squooch, squooch crawl to the end. And yes, Jackie did try the Ultimate Abyss, which also lost some steam at the finish and we both had to scoot ourselves out of the last 3 feet of slide. The launching pad was the best part, as you are perched on a glass floor high above the stern of the ship!

 

I guess this all sounds like one big commercial for Royal Caribbean, but it turned out to be a much easier cruise for Dad than we expected and I do have to give credit to the cruise line for a ship that was well designed. It never felt crowded, it was gorgeously appointed, there was plenty to do for all ages, the rooms were thoughtfully laid out, staff was abundant, friendly and attentive. Dad had his walker and our rooms were close to elevators, so it was easy enough for him to head to the casino or up to the buffet on days when we were ashore. Jeff and I figured out how to push him along backwards in the walker when we needed to cover some ground quickly, and he was a good sport to go along with it. These twice-a-year cruises are his big vacation getaways, and as his escorts we are happy to go along (but seriously, we need some time to recover!)

Once we got back home we were greeted by two of the five fawns born around our yard this year. I guess they thought we had left town for good this time and they had the run of the place. Kodi keeps a careful eye out now and the mommas don’t seem to be as fiercely protective, so it seems safe to use the backyard again.

Up Next?
Well, it isn’t really an adventure, but it does involve the motorhome. We head to the mountains of North Carolina to help John with some work on the cabin he is building. It is under roof now and I think we will be doing some staining and working on the deck railing. Once again we will pack the motorhome with supplies and the pets for a trip to the mountains.

If you haven’t checked out some of my latest glass creations, be sure to look over the Glass Totems page and then catch up with recent events on the Happenings page. Stay tuned for a brief blog with some of the crazy video from the cruise, once I get it edited.

Thanks for following along on the adventures. And to borrow a phrase from our cruise director, “bing bong.”

Doug

And I should thank Alex and Bethany for watching Kodi and Merlin.  It looks like Allie kept a wary eye on Merlin, though.

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The Lure of the Trail

We just had a great weekend for several reasons.  First off, it was the best weather we have had all year – cool, dry air that turned nice and warm with the sun and perfectly clear blue skies.  Secondly, my sister Linda was in town from California (where they supposedly have this weather all the time) and we joined our BrewCrew to volunteer at the Kennesaw Beer and Wine Fest (see the update on the “Happenings” page).  It was a really great afternoon spent pouring beer for the masses and then enjoying local brews after our shift ended.

It was a great day for wearing pretzel necklaces. The “BrewCrew.”

Third, and most important, we were joined at night by more family as something of a hostel/trailhead start to our nephew’s AT thru hike.  Let me explain a bit more:

Our nephew Adam has been planning his end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail for years.  With his service in the Army National Guard Infantry Division completed and his college degree behind him, Adam was set for this adventure.  He had his gear and his blog (follow him at http://amoodyadventure.blogspot.com/ ) all set.  He and his girlfriend Ashley drove up from coastal SC to stay the night before driving to the AT Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia.

Once word got out that he was going to get started this weekend, his cousin Alex (our son) decided to join him for the first day and night of the hike.  How cool.  So we also had Alex and Bethany with us Saturday night.  Good thing Doug had cooked up some good barbecue the day before – that made it a lot easier to feed the crew when we got home from the beer fest.

The night before departure.

Stories and S’mores around the fire.

We spent the evening around the firepit, making S’mores and talking about the hike, and other adventures.  There was a bit of discussion about pack weight and necessary v. unnecessary items.  The camp chair was a point of dispute, however Adam declared that it was essential, even if it added weight and bulk.  Jackie and I told about our two short hikes in the area:  the Len Foote Hike Inn Trail (parallel to the approach trail and documented on the blog “Hike Inn Anniversary”) and the hike up Blood Mountain from Neel’s Gap (Not so Smoky Mountains).

    

   

My sister shared that she helps as a trail angel on the lower portion of the Pacific Coast Trail and had just finished up feeding their herd of hikers who were just three days into the South-to-North trek in California.  Her husband Norm had walked the three day start from the Mexico border with his niece, so Linda had some fresh tales to tell.  And one more mountain trek connection to share is that one of Alex’s best buddies from college has also just started the hike north on the PCT.  So the lure of the mountains and the summer hike has called to many in our circle.

Sunday morning the boys and their driver hit the road to Amicalola Falls State Park after a hearty breakfast.  Their plan was to hike the approach trail to Springer Mountain and go on to the Springer Mountain camp area.  I think they figured that to be about 10-12 miles in.  Soon we had a few pictures of the first night’s camp.  Alex was going to hike back out the next day and return home to work.  Adam is continuing north and should actually hit another spot in North Carolina near his family in about 10 days.

Adam is ready to start his adventure!

Alex and Adam’s first night at Springer Mountain. Notice the “essential” chair.

And if all of that isn’t enough, our fall New England motorhome adventure should put us at Acadia National Park in Maine the second week of October, possibly the time when Adam is reaching Mt. Katahdin (northern terminus of the AT) in Maine.  So, if timing is right, we might just connect with him at the end of his hike.

Hiking Cousins

Adam and Alex on Day 2

Spring is indeed finally here and the summer adventures have begun for our family.  We couldn’t be prouder of all of them, and of course wish Adam good weather, good friendships and good times.

Thanks for following along.  Our next adventure is just weeks away when we head out to Panama City Beach for paddleboarding, snorkeling and grouper sandwiches!  Stay tuned.

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Beach Tales 2

Jackie reading

Good beach read

Heck, who doesn’t like a good sequel, right?  Well this is the rest of the story of our camping adventure along the Emerald Coast of Florida.

Sandy feet to remember later

Sandy feet to remember later

It continued to be great weather for us: hot, sunny and bright with water temps reaching the mid 80’s.  While most folks probably think that is a great temperature for swimming and bobbing in the waves, it turns out that summer water temperatures have a dark side.  What the travel brochures don’t tell you is that warm water usually means more marine life.

Marine life warning

Marine life warning

I recall spending summers at the Jersey Shore and late August usually meant warmer water and jellyfish.  And if you stayed at the beach during the hot summer, you probably know this.  Just the same here in the Gulf of Mexico – the purple warning flags went up and we spotted more and more moon jellies and felt bits and pieces of them zapping us once in a while.  That tapered off after a few days, but what also appeared in the beautiful, clear water was Junegrass (that is the local name for a green algae bloom).

Good day at the beach

Good day at the beach

This band of green hugged the shoreline most days and we found ourselves moving along the beach to find a relatively clear spot of water to splash around in.  It was really more a nuisance really, and maybe it would not bother you if you didn’t mind swimming in a soupy broth, but it did put a damper on the experience.  Chatting with locals we learned that it is something that stays all summer once the water gets warmer.  Sun + nutrients + warm water = algae bloom.  Just something to keep in mind.

World of Beer b

Nice lunch at World of Beer

Our last day in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park was not a good beach day, so we drove to Destin Commons and had lunch at World of Beer.  While it looks like we sample a lot of beer these days, the important word here is sample.  Then of course I have to do it for my readers, you understand.  Love their flatbreads paired with some beer from Apalaciacola’s Oyster City Brewing (loved First Light of Day blonde summer ale) and Atlanta’s SweetWater (Jackie likes their Bourbon barrel aged Imperial stout – Cork N’ Cage series).

World of Beer 2

World of Beer, Destin

Not All Who Wander Are Lost - our new mantra.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost – our new mantra.

While the beaches we visited were great, getting there can be a good bit of exercise.  We are almost thinking of them in terms of beer calories now.  “That was at least a two-beer trek.”  This campground is said to be a half-mile to the beach access, but by our estimates it must be twice that.  You can take the tram, but that means waiting for the twice-hourly pickup and that’s not always what you want at the end of the day.

Tram to the beach

Tram to the beach

Option 2 is walking the paved road with chairs, towels, umbrella, cooler and beach toys (not recommended for families) or Option 3 is riding your bike.  We managed to hitch up the trusty Tommy Bahama beach cart to Doug’s bike and rode our way to the beach access — which worked out fine.  Oh, but you aren’t toes-in-the-water yet.  You still have the long boardwalk to traverse and then the soft sandy dunes to drag your cart across.  Set up umbrella and chairs, relax, swim and then repeat the trip back across the sand and back to camp.  So yeah, probably worked off at least a beer or two there…

The long walk across the dunes

The long walk across the dunes

Last night in camp we were prepared for thunderstorms and were not disappointed.  We had packed up everything, so it didn’t cause us any problems, but I couldn’t help but think about those folks in tents and tent-campers who would be watching the canvas all night for drips and leaks.  Our only leak came on the road, as a crack in the upper part of the windshield appeared and started leaking when we hit some intense rain in Alabama.  Another call to GEICO for windshield repair when we get home.  I think this might have been from one of the stone pings we got while on the fall trip out West that eluded the crack repair in the fall.

Heading home at last!

Heading home at last!

So off we go, back home for now to enjoy the 4th of July and hopefully some time with the grandchildren.  Not sure about the next summer camping adventure just yet, so stay tuned.

Be sure to check the updates in the Mews, Places and Foodie pages.

 

 

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Beach Tales

St Andrews 2016 (100)b

A month in Florida is hard to beat: a perfect mix of sunny weather, sparkling clear water, a white sandy beach and plenty of little fish to chase around the water.  That’s been our June so far, with a few stories to share.  We don’t have wifi here in St. Andrews State Park so it has been a convenient excuse to postpone updating the blog and just enjoy the sand and surf.  But a trip to Starbucks will give me time to share what’s been happening:

St Andrews 2016 (65)b

St Andrews 2016 (111)b

St Andrews 2016 (132)b

We love Panama City Beach and St. Andrews State Park.  For us it is a very casual, friendly and laid-back vacation spot.  Can’t beat the campsite, with a view of the Lower Lagoon, a nice breeze and lots of kids on bikes and golf carts zipping around.  We arrived just as the rain stopped from tropical storm Colin and many of the sites were underwater.  A high tide surge added a little more waterfront to many sites, too.

Nice (?) waterfront site

Nice (?) waterfront site

St Andrews 2016 (6)b

High and dry at St. Andrews

The storm cut into the dunes along the Gulf beach, creating a cliff of sand.  You know how kids always want to get buried in the sand at the beach?  It usually means someone gets totally covered in sand and has to rinse off.  Well, sadly, a teenager who had been digging tunnels and caves in this particular sand wall was trapped when the sand collapsed on him.  We were watching the boys dig the tunnels, but minutes after we left the beach emergency crews arrived to dig him out and administer CPR.  Unfortunately he died the next day.  Kind of a rough start to the week.

Ready for the beach

Ready for the beach

Jackie’s sister Judy and family came down to PC Beach mid-week and we spent time at the beach together, snorkeling along the rock jetty and splashing around in the surf.  Just had to snap a shot of us all getting slathered with sunscreen!  We joked about the long trek to the water with all the gear and laughed about the big deck umbrella they brought along.  One afternoon a dark line of thunderstorms moved along the coast as we watched and debated when to pack up.  That decision was made quickly when the wind rack kicked up and umbrellas started to go inside-out.  Jackie grabbed and shut ours down just as we watched Judy’s umbrella go airborne in a slow-motion tumble that pierced itself on a pole, then lifted and tumbled further over the dune.  Ok, time to go.

Tut, tut looks like rain!

Tut, tut looks like rain!

Back at camp we got a phone call that our niece lost her glasses in the scramble.  Could we come help look for them?  Tracing our steps back from the parking lot, down the long boardwalk, up and over the sand dunes and down the beach to the scene of the crime, we looked earnestly for the purple frames.  Not much luck, but I brought a small fan rake and began to skim the area where we were sitting.  Probably useless, but just maybe … wait, what’s that?  Something popped up out of the sand as I scraped along and Presto! there were the glasses.  Great save.

20160608_214449  20160608_214522

Another vacation goal was to seek out local craft breweries and compare the samplings.  We found Nivol Brewery in a strip shopping center and were pleasantly surprised by their operation.  Had some samples of wheat, porter and red ales – they have only been open a month, but have a good selection of local beers on tap.  With their full license pending, we had to buy a souvenir pint glass but could then have a fill of our choice of beer.  We chatted up the brewmaster, who already knew about and carried Burnt Hickory brand and had been visited by Dry County (they have the same tank system), but of course we talked up Southern Sky Brewing, too.

Maybe the strangest craft beer sampling came the next day.  An internet search listed “Screw and Brew” locally, so I just HAD to see what that was all about.  A definite pint glass purchase, I figured.  Jackie helped navigate the location, “wait, you just passed it” … well, according to the online maps, but we didn’t see anything.  U-turn and try again.  “Turn here,” as we drove past a small hardware store and through their side parking lot into a pretty gnarly back lot.  Hmm, that wasn’t right.  Back out front we noticed a small sign in the window “home brewing supplies” and thought what-the-heck.  I left Jackie in the car (this was doubtful) and I ventured in.

Hmm, inside it was pretty much a hardware store, with a wall of home-brew supplies.  “Can I help you?”  Uhh, well, I guess I got the wrong spot.  We are on a hunt for local craft breweries.  A smiling clerk said he could recommend several spots (Fishale, Nivol) and I said those were already on our list.  “Ok, well thanks, I guess I got the information wrong.”

“Hang on, I do have some wheat beer if you’d like a sample” he said, and I cautiously nodded okay. “Just follow me out back.”  Ok, this was speakeasy creepy and I was wondering if I would have to know a secret password or handshake.  Out through the stockroom to that gnarly section of the back room and garage … a rusty fridge had a tap installed and an off-kilter kegerator was nearby.  “Don’t have any fancy glassware, (oh darn, the whole point of the visit), but if you are ok with Styrofoam…”  Next thing I know I have a cup of foamy beer in my hand.  “What do you think?  It’s better this week.”  Well, here goes nothing – lot of head but it’s actually not bad.  We walk back into the store and he says he just can’t keep the beer cold enough in the kegerator, it keeps tripping the circuit breaker…

I thank him for the beer, wish him well, take the rest of the cup back out to the car for Jackie to finish (I mean, seriously, am I supposed to just drive off with this beer?  No DUI for me, thank you).  So chalk that one up to the weirdest sampling ever.

2016-06-16 15.16.47

Local samplings at Fishale

Just down the road we stopped in at Fishale, which was a real pub that featured a lot of real craft brews on tap.  Spent time sampling all sorts of Florida brews and decided to visit Grayton Beer on our way west later in the month, since we liked their 30A Beach Blonde.

Best Grouper Sandwich!

Best Grouper Sandwich!

Caught up with one of our fellow teachers from school when we learned she was staying in PC Beach with a friend, too.  Our suggestion was to meet up for the best grouper sandwich in town at Sharky’s on the beach – which lived up to expectations.  Still the best sandwich in town!  We shared stories and encouraged her to join the ranks of the retired (just maybe one more year of teaching she thinks!).  Good fun all around.

Good Friends

Good Friends

So as I wrap up this posting, I should probably share one last story that just goes to prove that you really do need to check and double check your vacation plans no matter how careful a person you are.  We came back from the beach on our last day in camp and sat out to enjoy an adult beverage and the nice breeze.  We had been talking about what we needed to pack up so we could roll out easily the next day, Monday.  Our plans from 11 months ago were to stay Monday to Monday (2 weeks) and then move to Topsail Hill State Park for 10 days.

A golf cart with two park rangers pulls up … “You know that checkout is 1:00 pm.”  Yes we do, we plan to be out tomorrow by noon for sure.  “You were supposed to be out TODAY by 1:00 (it was now about 6:00).  Yikes, no way, we had a Monday check out.  We scrambled to pull up the reservation info on our phone as he explained that they found another site for the folks who DID have the next reservation and we didn’t have to leave until the morning.  But would we please settle up with the Camp Office in the morning?

So what was the story?  Turns out we had a Sunday to Sunday reservation but put it into our Google calendar as Monday to Monday. The reservation at Topsail Hill was fine, but we got the one at St. Andrews goofed up by one day.  Kept wanting to say, “that’s not us, we aren’t those kind of people… we are rule followers and are well-planned… we are retired teachers (and are always right) …we went out West for 6 weeks… “

Ah well, (sigh), honest mistake.

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Happy Birthday drink for Jackie!

 

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Jackie’s birthday celebration at Dewey Destin’s Harborfront restaurant.

Next stop is Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.  Probably won’t get to post until we are back home.

Check out lots of great photos of the parks here.

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Happy Start to 2016

Christmas Martini

Trying to fix the perfect Christmas martini.

Ok, my son was overheard to say that he doesn’t know what happened to his parents.  Someone replaced them with these crazy college kids.  I guess I don’t blame him, since we have been acting more like college students than retirees … but that’s a good thing, right?  If you aren’t much into the craft brewery scene, maybe you should just skip this post.

Winter Adventures

Noonday Creek Trail

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Noonday Trail Hike

Walked and then biked part of the Noonday Creek Trail from Hwy 41 (KFC) to Bell’s Ferry Road trailhead and back.  Great trail, but easy access parking along the way is just not available.  Nice to see rental bikes, though.  Great project for the Town Center Community Improvement District — keep it coming!

Silver Comet Trail

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Bike helmets are not flattering!

We went for a 10 mile bike trip with our granddaughter from about Florence Road south.  This is such an easy and fun trail to bike, but like all rail trails, it is an out-and-back trek rather than a loop.  Still, I am so glad the County and State have worked on this rails to trails project to provide a great recreational opportunity.

Woodstock

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Reformation crowd

Did you notice the warm, wet Christmas holiday?  That’s probably to blame for the start of our winter adventures that seem to be more about visiting craft breweries and drinking flights rather than taking flights somewhere else.  Continuing our mission to visit local craft breweries, we met up with friends in Woodstock in December to check out Reformation Brewery and loved it.  Great vibe and some beers that suit our tastes.  Our favorite is Cadence, a Belgian-style Ale, but Union was a refreshing one with notes of citrus and coriander.

Marietta

Red Hare

Red Hare Brewing

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Cheers at Red Hare

New Year’s weekend, with Alex and Bethany along, we found Red Hare Brewing in Marietta and took a tour with samplings.  Again, a nice vibe, some live music and several samplings that we liked.  Watership Brown is one they are known for and we also liked Long Day Lager.  Sticky Stout, an oatmeal stout, was their seasonal, but I don’t care as much for stouts and porters beyond a sampling.

Bluffton, SC

Fat Patties

A flight at Fat Patties

Word about our youthful behavior gets around, so when I was visiting my parents this past week outside Hilton Head Island, my brother said “Let’s get together at Fat Patties in Old Town Bluffton tonight”  Sure thing.  What I heard was “Fat Patty’s” and was expecting some country cooking and fried chicken from an oversized woman named Patricia who would welcome you in with “Come on in, boys, and have yourself some fatback and greens.”  No, it was a great burger joint with fat hamburger patties.  Adam, Vickie and Jeff were great sports to join in the flight beer samplings … well, maybe it wasn’t that difficult to convince them (although I think Vickie had her eye on a grapefruit shandy).  They are now convinced I can’t drink beer unless it is in small glasses on a fraternity paddle.

Yummy, thick burgers (I had a blue cheese one) with a flight of beer all around.  If I recall, I had a wheat beer, Red Hare Watership Brown, a red ale and a Belgian Dubbel.  The twist on burgers is you can order beef, turkey, shrimp, chicken or black bean as the pattie.   If you are down that way, I recommend it.  They are just starting up their Salt Marsh Brewery upstairs, so local brews are on tap along with regionals.  Unlike Georgia, they can sell directly to consumers.

Chattanooga, TN

Gallery

“Meet the Artist” Judy Klich

My sister-in-law Judy had a “Meet the Artist” night featuring her work in the River Gallery in Chattanooga this past Friday, so we met up with her for the reception.  We were wondering if she was going to be considered goldfish cracker or crudite/cheese and cracker level artist (our informal scale).  She was crudite-worthy and the Chardonnay was crisp.  Judy is an amazing artist who works in Encaustic (beeswax) to create some gorgeous realistic and abstract pieces and commissions.  You should check out her work.  Anyway, Alex was on tap to suggest dinner afterwards, so off we went to Beast and Barrel Gastro Smokehouse in North Shore (other side of the river), Chattanooga.  We got an odd response when we said we didn’t have a reservation, but seeing as how the bar was hardly full, we finally convinced the manager we could indeed be seated at the bar-top table for six.

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Cheers to the Artist!

Beast and Brew 2

A flight of Eastern TN brews

Beast and Brew

Pastrami on Rye

A round of flights for us all – we did an East Tennessee flight that featured local brews (Terminal White Shadow Belgian Wit, Chattanooga Brewery Chick Bock, McHale’s Scottish Pride, Mayday Velvet Hustle Pale Ale, Fat Bottom Knockout IPA, Hutton & Smith Vanilla Stout Nitro).  My favorite was Chick Bock.  To eat, I had the Big Katz, a pastrami sandwich that had thick slices of meat, marinated, smoked and grilled topped with house-made kraut on Neidlov’s marble rye.  Hands down the best pastrami sandwich I have ever had.

Woodstock Return

Reformation

Jackie, Barb and 6 Cadence

Got a text on Saturday that two friends were at Reformation in the afternoon, so we hustled up to join them for a bit.  Teri, husband Dan and Barb have upcoming play dates at Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw, so look for Blind Fate to show up there or off the square in Marietta from time to time.  Cousins Maine Lobster Truck was serving up lobster rolls outside — you might recognize them from Shark Tank.  Another fun afternoon.

So now the treadmill is our latest best friend.  That, along with some brisk fitness walks around the neighborhood, is going to get us back in shape so we can be ready for some of the more active adventures we have planned for 2016.  A Christmas present book “Hiking Georgia” will be the start of some hiking and biking adventures around the state.  These craft brews are great, but they don’t burn off the way they used to when we were in college.  So maybe we are more like retirees after all … NAH!

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Hometown Tourists

Isn’t it funny how most of us don’t play tourist in our own town? There are so many places and events around us that we always mean to stop and visit, but somehow never do. Well this weekend we checked out a few of those places with my son Alex and his girlfriend Bethany.

It all started with something that is all too familiar, however: spending time at Lowe’s and Home Depot to search out stuff for his new house. We looked at bath fixtures, lighting, cabinets and countertops, power tools and … well, you know how it goes when you are fixing up your first house. But heck, we got lunch out of the deal: hot dogs from the AC reps at each store. Actually, the only thing we bought was some shelving at Aldi’s (our favorite place to shop) that was a great deal.

Taking a selfie at Kennesaw Craft Beer Fest. “Is this thing on?”

Back to playing tourists. This past May, Jackie and I went to our first beer festival, the Kennesaw Craft Beer Fest. Great day, hot as heck but lots of great sampling of local craft beer (did you even know we HAD local craft and micro breweries?). Represented was the Kennesaw Burnt Hickory Brewery, among others, and I found out that Ale Yeah! was a new shop that had opened in town that featured local brews. So that lingering curiosity finally got us in the door of Ale Yeah!. Little old house that now sports 16 craft beers on tap. If you have kept up with changes in Georgia law and craft brewers, you will know that you can now buy a container (called a growler) of your choice of draft, craft beer and take it home for consumption.

Since we couldn’t decide which we would like, we opted for a flight of 4 pours each (little 4 oz. brandy snifter type glasses). We spent the next half hour or so trying to match up the flavors with the names and share our thoughts (peach flavors were a hit, as was pumpkin ale, raspberry was pretty sweet, some of the IPA’s very hoppy). I am by no means an expert, nor a big beer person anyway, but it made for a lot of discussion.

Lazy Guy Distillery

Lazy Guy Distillery

Not finished with our day about town, we drove about a block away and joined a tour of the Lazy Guy Distillery. This is a great little whiskey distillery, right in town.  Very informative tour was followed by a sampling of some of their whiskey and bourbon. Yikes, some of them had a definite kick of proof, but several were very smooth and others were infused with coffee, vanilla, cinnamon. How fun. Saturday tours are free, but if you pay for the tour you can take home a souvenir bottle of whiskey.

Anyway, we had a good time playing tourists. Still need to go back and visit the Burnt Hickory Brewery and check out the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (home of “The General”). How funny that you sometimes never check out what is right there in your own home town.

Monday's Blueberry Peach Pie adventure

Blueberry Peach Pie

And now it is Monday and I am NOT back at work (retirement is cool), just staring at a bowl of peaches that are in need of peeling and slicing. Hmm. There is a package of pie crusts in the fridge along with some fresh blueberries, so today’s adventure is making a peach and blueberry pie. It was five cups of fresh peaches and blueberries with some flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and stevia inside two refrigerated pie crusts.  The result was amazing for my first effort, and it was OK to have a piece at lunch, since I did my 4 mile walk already this morning.  Too bad the picture isn’t scratch and sniff, cause it was good.

Until the next adventure …

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