28 Days Later….

Posted July 4, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

We’re home!  It was so nice to sleep in our bed the last couple nights.  Things around the house were fine, thanks to the help of neighbors and friends.  Though that garden – whew!  Didn’t have to worry about things not growing.  We had our work cut out for us on Saturday, but with two bodies, we actually made pretty light work.

So, some fun stats from our trip!

  • 4,958 = miles traveled
  • 18.5 = average mpg achieved on the Tundra (20.7 Max!)
  • 5 = audiobooks listened to
  • 10 = National Parks visited
  • 1 = Strip of rain gutter trim lost on northern California highway
  • 28 = days of sunshine
  • 0 = rain-outs
  • 2 = People with big smiles and great tans

Of course, with any trip, there are stories to tell.  The entire contents of our truck melting in the Zion heat…polygamists at the pool in Moab…friendly campers in Yosemite bearing freshly-caught trout…being introduced to “bug hail”…Erin suffocating a mouse…tourists stealing the oldest trees in world…that infamous 911 call…why foreign tourists are more likely to injure themselves on trails…  All of these tales are better told in person.  Call us for more details.

Regardless of all that, I don’t know if we can explain just how great this vacation was.  Many people might cringe at the idea of sleeping outdoors for a month, or make excuses on why they can’t make it happen.  I beg to differ.  Not only was this vacation extremely affordable (we’ve probably spent more on week-long vacations), it was relaxing, rewarding, and truly gave us time to unplug from our everyday lives and reconnect with each other.  And a month is just about the right amount of time.  For us, it takes about two weeks to really forget about our routines, giving us another two weeks of total bliss.  You can ask for the time off work – really, it isn’t that big a deal.  Work will go on without you, but you really have to make an effort to make these trips, and the memories that come with them, happen.  You won’t regret it.  In fact, we’re already thinking about next adventure.  After all, a Wild West Extravaganza wouldn’t be complete without…. Alaska.

Final Brewery Update

Posted July 2, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

Back in Oregon, we again had our pick of local breweries.  However, being in Eastern Oregon, they are not quite as accessible.  Our attempts to hit Beer Valley Brewing in Ontario and Barley Brown’s Brew Pub in Baker City were foiled as the breweries had limited hours and were closed during our visit.   Not to be discouraged, we managed to seek out three other breweries on the last two days of our vacation:

  • Terminal Gravity – Enterprise, Or
  • Mutiny – Joseph, Or
  • Prodigal Son – Pendleton, Or (recently voted best brewery by Beer West Magazine!)

We consumed a growler from TG the first night camping at Wallowa Lake, and brought a growler home from Prodigal Son to enjoy on the 4th.  Mutiny only had two beers going, so we decided to only consume on-premise.  It was a beautiful day to enjoy beers and lunch outside with snow-capped mountains in the distance…

Previous:

  • Deschutes – Bend, Or
  • Silver Moon  – Bend, Or (try the pilsner!)
  • Bend Brewing – Bend, Or
  • 10 Barrel – Bend, Or (awesome food, awesome beer!)
  • McMenamin’s – Bend, Or
  • Sierra Nevada – Chico, Ca
  • Moab Brewery Moab, Ut
  • Eddie McStiff’s – Moab, Ut
  • Spanish Valley Vineyards – Moab, Ut
  • Sockeye Brewing – Boise, Id
  • Highlands Hallow – Boise, Id
  • Table Rock – Boise, Id

Wallowa Lake, OR

Posted June 30, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

Our last stop on the Wild West Extravaganza II is Wallowa Lake in eastern Oregon. After several weeks in the dry, hot, bug-ridden climate of southern Utah, Oregon is a great “welcome home”. We’re camping for two days in Wallowa Lake state park, and it’s a real treat.

Snow-capped mountains and waterfalls welcome us back to the northwest. Both of us noticed the difference immediately. No more breathing dust, no more dry eyes, no more gnat rain plastered on the license plate of the truck. It rained on us a little our first evening (the first time our tent has felt rain on this trip), but it was no big deal.

Lake Wallowa is a beautiful place, and the adjoining towns of Joseph and Enterprise have some interesting breweries. Terminal Gravity is in Enterprise and Joseph boasts both a brewery (Mutiny Brewing) and a micro-distillery (Stein Distillery). Mutiny is a small brewery with just two beers on tap. Both were decent. Stein distillery is a new player in town, and thus doesn’t have any barrel-aged alcohol for sale until later this year, but their vodka is sublime, and their rhubarb cordial is quite unique. Erin has promised to come up with drink recipes and to mail the Steins with her ideas.  Joseph is also a beautiful town, with bronze sculptures and wildflower gardens adorning every corner.

We did a small hike this morning and have spent most of the rest of the day bumming around town. Neither of us can quite believe that it’s been a month since we left our driveway in Carnation, but it is so. Tomorrow we leave for home. Homecoming will no doubt be bittersweet. It will be nice to sleep in our own bed, see our friends, and tend to a no-doubt weed-ridden garden. This nomadic existence, however, has its draw. This month has gone too quickly.

Drinking Beer at Noon on Tuesday (or… Brewery Update, Part 3)

Posted June 30, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

Of course, we spent some time in Boise seeking out the local craft breweries:

  • Sockeye Brewing – tasty IPAs and $2.50 Tuesdays!  Not bad for a first stop…
  • Highlands Hallow – nothing to shout about beer-wise, but your first beer was only $1.50 with the Hoppy Meal lunch, and our lunches came with bread “stick”.  Note this is more like a bread “log”.
  • Table Rock – Excellent beer, and at happy hour prices, to boot! Crazy IBUs (maybe inflated a bit much on their end), but great IPA, double IPA and Black IPA, and Erin enjoyed the OBS (Orange Blossom Special – orange and coriander spiced wheat with orange-blossom honey).

Previous:

  • Deschutes – Bend, Or
  • Silver Moon  – Bend, Or (try the pilsner!)
  • Bend Brewing – Bend, Or
  • 10 Barrel – Bend, Or (awesome food, awesome beer!)
  • McMenamin’s – Bend, Or
  • Sierra Nevada – Chico, Ca
  • Moab Brewery – decent, though they were out of  several specialty beers (double black IPA!)
  • Eddie McStiff’s – uninspired beer, but they made a decent mojito (with 2.5 shots of rum, none-the-less)
  • Spanish Valley Vineyards – a surprise!  We went to the winery not expecting much, but were impressed by the 100% estate-grown grapes on their 5 acres.  We came away with a bottle of Gewurztraminer, Merlot, and a Cherry wine.  By the way, the place is for sale – turn-key operation, plus a residence, for $825K!

Boise, ID

Posted June 29, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

After leaving Capitol Reef, we had a long driving day to get to our next stop, Boise. Why Boise?  We had been excited to see Boise, as we’re always on the hunt for cool college towns near the mountains.  Boise did not disappoint. After a couple days in town, it sort of feels like Portland, but less weird and fewer hipsters.

We rolled into town around 5 pm and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Modern.  Turns out this is the second “converted Travelodge” we’ve stayed in, the other being the Jupiter Hotel in Portland.  We tried to figure out for awhile if the two places are related or if there is some trend behind this conversion of crappy motor inns into funky motels, but from what we can find, these are the only two.   The hotel bar also makes some creative, stiff drinks.   Last night Erin tried a “Coquette” – made with beets, vodka, sherry vinegar, rosemary and some bitter Italian apertif.

Downtown Boise gave off a good vibe – very walkable and full of people, shops, art galleries and restaurants.  Boise is keen on the local food scene and our first dinner at the Bitteroot Ale House detailed where every ingredient on the menu came from, as well as how many miles it traveled to get to your plate!  We were also impressed by the cultural offerings of the area.  A park near downtown boasted a rose garden, art museum, zoo and state history museum.  There was also a Shakespeare Festival going on while we were in town, and many places had free live music in the evenings.  The people seemed active, as well, with lots of cyclists utilizing the riverfront bike trail.

Overall, not a bad place to park and rest for a couple days.

Capitol Reef & Diversions

Posted June 27, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

On our way from Moab to Capitol Reef, we stopped for lunch at a Utah State Park called Goblin Valley, recommended to us by several people on our Fiery Furnace tour.  It was a great little diversion, and after a sandwich, we walked around the mushroom-like sandstone formations.  It felt a bit like we were in a Super Mario Brothers game, and I can imagine spending hours playing hide-and-seek in such a place!

Capitol Reef is one of Utah’s lesser-explored National Parks, with only 1/5th as many visitors as Zion.  We definitely found this to be the case, as we showed up at 3 pm on Saturday to the first-come, first-serve campground, and still managed to snag a spot!   After settling in, we decided to explore the historical side of Capitol Reef.  The Fruita Valley was originally cultivated by Mormon farmers, although even they discovered centuries-old irrigation systems still running from ancient Native American settlements.  Our campground is surrounded by acres of fruit orchards, and during certain times of the year, you can even pick the fruit.  A great place in the park is the Gifford Homestead and we enjoyed exploring the farm and gift shop, which was full of canned goods made from the local bounty.  Especially yummy were the individual fruit pies, which we could not pass up!  Brian dug into a mixed berry pie, while Erin savored a peach pie, both with ice cream, of course!

The park also had a great scenic drive and some nice hiking.  We took trails to petroglyphs, a natural bridge, as well as through a wash where we viewed a register of the early pioneers that passed through on their travels west.

We were a little short on things to do on Sunday, but the visitor center recommended a scenic drive up to Fish Lake, about an hour northwest of the park.  It was  a great drive up to 9,000 feet elevation, and we enjoyed a beer lakeside and took some respite from the heat, wind and bugs that seem to have plagued us the last few days.  Had we known more about the area, we would have planned to camp there one night.

Both evenings, we partook in the Ranger presentation at the amphitheater next to the campground.  The first night we learned about the Fremont Indians that once resided in the Fruita valley; the second night was on the transportation development in the park, given by an unintentionally humorous Ranger.  Quick sand!  Devils!  Big Al’s transportation services!  Sorry, you had to be there.

Capitol Reef is definitely worth a quick stop in Utah if you’re already hitting up the Big Three (Zion, Bryce, Arches).

Brewery Update – Part 2

Posted June 26, 2011 by brianlloyd
Categories: Uncategorized

We hit up a couple more breweries while in Moab, plus a winery that deserves mention.  Alcohol is a challenge in Utah, and it’s hard to acquire anything with more than 4% outside of a liquor store, even at the brewery itself.  Tasting notes:

  • Moab Brewery – decent, though they were out of  several specialty beers (double black IPA!)
  • Eddie McStiff’s – uninspired beer, but they made a decent mojito (with 2.5 shots of rum, none-the-less)
  • Spanish Valley Vineyards – a surprise!  We went to the winery not expecting much, but were impressed by the 100% estate-grown grapes on their 5 acres.  We came away with a bottle of Gewurztraminer, Merlot, and a Cherry wine.  By the way, the place is for sale – turn-key operation, plus a residence, for $825K!

Previous:

  • Deschutes – Bend, Or
  • Silver Moon  – Bend, Or (try the pilsner!)
  • Bend Brewing – Bend, Or
  • 10 Barrel – Bend, Or (awesome food, awesome beer!)
  • McMenamin’s – Bend, Or
  • Sierra Nevada – Chico, Ca