Thursday, October 20, 2011

eyedahoe

Idaho

Okay, so leaving Montana from Glacier, going through Butte (Don't ever go to Butte, MT), was beautiful... once I got through Butte. Butte was ugly. Ugh. Anyways, I kept south on I-15 South. Everything was pretty sparse, there were some cool mountain ranges off in the distance, it was a nice drive, but as soon as you hit Idaho, all beauty fades. Everything is dead again, almost zero greenery, few mountains, and, well, not a lot to look at. Kind of a bummer. It was that way all the way to Boise, which was a little prettier.

First stop in Idaho was in Idaho Falls, which had a small little downtown area, and a whole lot of nothing else. There was a nice river bridge with a scenic little waterfall, but that's it. I went to the Idaho Brewing Company here and tried their barleywine. I'd have tried more of their beers, but it was cash only and I only had a 5. They also didn't have an ATM. Hey, cash only business owners, here's a tip: Get an ATM in your store if you don't take cards. You're just pissing business away. Oh well, the barleywine was very flavorful, pretty heavy in ABV, I could taste it. It was no Bigfoot (sierra nevada's barleywine, my barleywine gold standard, as it's complex, bitter, and smooth). It was okay, the people here were a bunch of 40 – 60 year olds that seemed to know each other. That scared me. That tells me people do not leave this town. It tells me that they've probably known each other their entire lives. I want nothing to do with that. I high tailed it outta there and headed for Pocatello.

I arrived in Pocatello after sunset, and found my way to port neuf brewing company as per the request of one of my uncles who lived in Pocatello for a while. I went, tried 3 or 4 of their beers and was impressed. The bartender was a new guy, and he was awesome. Very friendly, on top of his shit, excellent service. At the bar were three colleagues who were in Pocatello on business. They were funny people, we joked around a bit and had a pretty good time. They were all from the east coast, so was the bar tender. Small world. I left the brewery and went to a KOA campground and slept in my car.

The next day, I had another location in Pocatello I was told to check out. It's a place called Buddy's. It's an Italian joint which has the best Italian Dressing I've ever consumed. I don't know what they put in that thing, but it's probably crack-cocaine. I would highly recommend going here just to get a salad with Buddy's dressing on it.

I then went back to Port Neuf Brewing Company to finish off their beer menu, as their beers were very good. I did just that without making haste and proceeded to Boise. I was originally going to stop in Twin Falls, ID, but people keep telling me that it's more boring than Idaho Falls, so I skipped it. I went straight to Boise.

Boise was pretty sweet. Little bit of a college scene there, some nice little college kid neighborhoods as you arrive into town. The city is pretty full of things to do. I used my phone's map app and looked up a brewery in town, as I so often do. I found the Sockeye Grill and Brewery and set sail. It was fantastic. Their stout was very thick bodied with a really intense malty finish. I ordered chicken fingers and they were, while just simple chicken fingers, some of the most fantastic chicken fingers I've ever consumed. Seriously. The bartender was some kid who clearly didn't want to be there, which was kind of annoying. Oh well. I was unable to locate a place that seemed suitable for car sleeping, so I made my way to a wal-mart supercenter and slept in the parking lot. Womp.

That's really all for Idaho. I guess one other notable thing is that the water there is a very strange shade of blue. I don't know if it's the contrast against all the dead grass, or if it's just... different? I don't know, but this is what bodies of water look like in Idaho:



I was sort of disappointed. I had heard great things from my uncles about Pocatello, which I'm sure had credence to them, just not today. I had heard that Boise was a small, really happening little city. This was not the case, it was sort of bigger than I had imagined. It did seem pretty happening, I guess, but I just wasn't feeling it. I just didn't feel at home in that neck of the woods, which had me very, very excited to make my way to Portland, OR. The Pacific northwest holds promises of beauty, fun, and some of the best beer in the country.

See you out there, on the road, somewhere.
-Skwar

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mountaina

Montana

As I left Yellowstone National Park, I entered the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. It was a small little town that gets money because people like me leave Yellowstone park. They had an IMAX there. Crazy! Wasn't expecting to see one of those in Montana.

I was headed for Big Sky, which isn't far from West Yellowstone. The road from West Yellowstone to Big Sky was amazing. It was this two way traffic road with a 70 mph speed limit with a very steep grade the whole way to Big Sky. I could have easily done that road at like 150 mph. It was insane. It goes down through the Spanish Mountain chain. It was beautiful.



I got to Big Sky, it was very quaint. The architecture was pretty unique there, and pretty much the same throughout the town which sort of gave it a development planned neighborhood kind of feel... I don't know. It was pretty cool though. Hot some waves from friendly townspeople, probably for my VT plate. There's a view of a mountain from Big Sky, called lone peak. There was a brewery in Big Sky called Lone Peak Brewery, it was okay. Nothing incredibly memorable, but a good brewpub, they served food. It was also average. Not bad, not great.

I left Big Sky, it being the case that there wasn't much to do there. I was headed for Bozeman. The drive from Big Sky to Bozeman was short and different. Large bluff between me and some HUGE mountains. It was pretty cool.

I eventually arrived in Bozeman. It was another one of those Burlington-y cities. It was pretty small, predominant college population surrounding the downtown area. It was pretty.

I got advice from an old high school friend, Pat, he told me to find the Molly Brown. Great call, Pat. The Molly Brown was awesomely cheap, and they had a lot of beer there. A lot of good beer. I gave the bartender my card to start a tab and she told me there was a $10 minimum. I though “no big deal, couple of good beers and I'm out.” Wrong. Craft drafts $2.75. Amazing. I had to get 4, so I was there a bit longer than I thought I would be. Some cool people and some sketchballs there. Some guy drinking next to me was telling me all about his gang tattoos. Impressive :rolleyes:, he had some compensatory issues, but I'm sure I would too if I were raised by a gang in MONTANA. Sigh. Oh well, some of the other people there were a little less ridiculous. I had a good time.

After a few hours there slowly trudging through my 4 craft beers at an amazingly low price, I headed to The Bozeman Brewing Company. They were good, but a little overpriced for the area. Normal beer prices in a town where most beers are about $3. Their website is under construction, and their old site has the three beers I didn't try. One of the beers I did try was heavy, a 6 oz pour, it was delicious, but the bartender have me a bad pour, which colored my experience here negatively. They had a band playing, they were pretty good. I don't know. You can only get 3 beers there (which was fine for my situation), but I'd still recommend going. It was pretty good.

I found my way to a Montana State rest area just outside town and slept a bit, and made my way to Missoula. Missoula was okay. I went to a couple breweries. One of which was Big Sky (not in big sky) Brewing company. They brew Moose Drool, which is a really head retentive brown. Very thick body, very good beer. Someone told me to try this beer in Savannah, GA. Good call, random dude who is totally not reading this blog!

The city of Missoula was kind of unflattering. I didn't spend a lot of time there. I had just slept in my car and it was early, I wasn't in any mood to waste time in a city that wasn't seeming all that sweet. Maybe if I end up in the area I'll give it a better shot, but as far as the trip's been, it wasn't that cool. Neither was Butte, I only stopped there for like 5 minutes. City was ugly and gross.

I headed north to Kalispell, which was also kind of boring. I was told it was a very scenic city, but that wasn't true, so I was sort of let down. I got outta there and headed for a little city called Whitefish.

The drive from Kalispell to Whitefish was mostly boring, but out of nowhere I turned a corner and was approaching the town of Polson, MT. It was beautiful to drive through. It was on a lake and on the other side (not too far away) was Glacier national park, basically just a huge chain of massive mountains.




Whitefish was awesome. Whitefish was another ski town full of ski bums, good folk, great for bar conversing, I'm coming to realize. I was looking for the Black Star brewing company/Great Northern brewing company (one place). Funny, there is a bar on the same street as the brewery called Great Northern, the bar was sweet. They had a lot of good beer, and I drank a couple of them and met a man and woman and talked to them about my travels. They informed me of the location of the brewery I was looking for, and they told me a few places to try to check out in Glacier National Park for the following day. They took off, and I went across the street to the brewery. It was fantastic. They had an EXCELLENT pale ale. Very complex hop character. They use very, very fresh hops for it, and they use different hops all the time. The bartender was very friendly and knowledgeable. It was good talking to him. He asked about my travels, and was happy to hear I had so much fun in Georgia, as he was from there. He reminded me of the bartender at one of the bars I went to in Athens, GA. Cool guy.

I went to a local wal-mart supercenter to sleep, as there was no legitimate campsites or rest areas were near. No big deal.

I woke up early and headed into Glacier. The roads into glacier were unpaved. Pretty pot-holey. It was unpleasent. There were some beautiful sites, despite very, very shitty weather. So shitty, in fact, that I had to cancel my sightseeing in Montana. I couldn't get through the park, and went around it, headed through butte down to Idaho Falls, ID, and then over to Pocatello. Here's the pics I got while inside glacier:







The drive from Glacier to Idaho was kind of crazy. Huge, Montana craziness. I drank a (ONE) beer behind the wheel of this drive. I did this solely because it is legal in the state of Montana (seriously, look it up). The people I talked to in whitefish also told me that the whole area is one big county the size of Connecticut, and anyplace that isn't a settled area is only policed by the one sheriff of the whole county, who, according to these people, wouldn't be anywhere near glacier. People drive VERY fast on these roads that hug the southern part of Glacier. It was a 70 mph zone and I had a truck pushing me to accelerate when I was going 85 mph (This was before the beer, for the record). It was kind interesting. There were also areas that were beautiful on this route:









Oh Montana, where you can crank beers in your car, leave the empties laying around, get pulled over and not have a problem. As long as you're not drunk. You can't drive drunk, but you can drink and drive. Makes sense to me!



Anyways, that was neat. I made my way through butte, and left quickly. I headed for Idaho, and it was sweet. I was pretty much driving into a postcard for about 1 hour.

Idaho's next! Check back, see you on the road and all that.
-Skwar

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wyoming and National Parks [Picture Heavy]

Wyoming

I left Custer state park, SD, for Devil's Tower national monument. It was HUGE. People CLIMB that thing. I have an excess of pictures of it, here are a few:






There's a path all the way around it, it was a nice walk. On one side it was pretty surreal and relaxing, and on the other side it was just brutally windy. Oh well. That's what happens with a giant rock that big sticking up in the middle of nowhere.
One really cool thing about getting to Devil's tower – the roads have no speed limits until you reach the park that the monument is in. I'm pretty sure it's on an Indian reservation, but I can't imagine the reservation was encompassing the entire area where I saw no speed limit signs. My GPS didn't give me anything for a speed limit, either. Kinda neat. I kept it at 80, because I didn't want to get pulled over by some crazy tribal police or something.

Anyways, that was a nice break on my way to... Gilette? Okay. Gillette, WY, was boring. I went to a place for a quite delicious buffalo chicken sandwich and a couple beers. Their beers were 25 oz! Sweet deal. It was called Humphrey's. I'd recommend it, I'm sure there are some other places in Gillette worth mentioning, but overall it was a pretty boring city. I didn't do much here but eat, drink, and sleep.

The beer I had at Humphrey's was from a brewery not too far out of my way, called Blacktooth. Their IPA was great, but everyone's got a great IPA nowadays. The rest of their beers kinda sucked. The porter was rich and malty, but the pale ale and amber were weak. Get it on draft somewhere, don't bother going to the brewery.

Blacktooth was in Sheridan, WY, which required about an hour of backtracking to get to U.S. Rte 16. I took 16 southwestish to U.S. Rte 20, to U.S. Rte 26 west. It was so goddamn amazing. First there was nothing, and then a big ole mountain just popped up outta nowhere


Slowly the pine trees grew evermore snowcovered




until I reach the peak of Cloud Peak at almost 10,000 ft!


I then descended the mountain through rigorous switchbacks that you'd see sports cars driving on Top Gear. They were crazy.
As the descent continued I broke onto what I though was an even ground, a plain.



Nope. It was the top of more, smaller mountains, and in between them there was a canyon with a big river in it. It was beautiful





The canyon ended with a dam, and three rock tunnels on my side, one on the other side (for a train! Trains run here! Wild.)



Followed by a lake.



The sun started to set, which is a bummer, because the next stretch of road was even more badass than what I got pictures of. Maybe it was the fact that I saw two moose hanging out with two pronghorns, maybe it was the fact that I saw a bear, maybe it was the fact that it was a frequently unpaved mountain pass during snow and freezing rain, but that drive was INSANE. I kept thinking “man I was I have a rally car,” and then I realized “oh, wait, I sort of do.” Well, not really. A Subaru Outback is barely a rally car, but whatever, my point is I would have probably hit a moose, gotten mauled by a bear, and bled to death by my firey wreck of a vehicle in a snowstorm if it weren't for AWD, snow tires, and 5 years experience with snow/mountain driving in Vermont.

Anyways, after the craziness ended, I arrived at the junction right between Tetons nation park and Yellowstone. I went to Tetons, stayed at Signal Mountain. It was fantastic. It was cloudy most of the time, but here's some of the views from the area:






It was gorgeous.

I spent two nights here. I drank at the Lodge's bar and met a guy named Joe from Kansas City, MO. Nice guy, drank with him at the bar both nights I was there. Hope the drive home went well, Joe! The bar had some good beers. The Zonker Stout, and the Pako Eye-P-A, both from Snake River Brewing Company, were amazing. The other Zonker, I forget, maybe an amber? It wasn't very memorable, clearly. It wasn't that great. Get the stout, or Pako's Eye-P-A. The Pako Eye-P-A won best IPA in the U.S., someone told me. I'm not sure if it's true, but I could see it. It was damn good.

Signal Mountain Lodge was amazing, and I'll certainly return at some point in my life. Hopefully sooner than later.

While in the area, I went to Jackson Hole a couple times. I went to a breakfast place called Shade's. It was sweet. A little housey nook, they serve coffee and breakfast foods. I got a breakfast burrito with potatoes and I was full all night. It was incredible.

Jackson is a cool town. The people I met there reminded me of Burlington people. No surprise, a happening town in a ski area is a happening town in a ski area, I guess. Anyways, spotted some Vermonters there:

802 represent! Who am I kidding, I have a Boston area code...

So Jackson, if you don't know, is a very prized ski area in the U.S., and the town sits right at the foot of it. It's pretty awesome. Here's a view from Jackson:

From the edge of town


The back is a crazy, crazy ride. Look up some pictures on the internet. I didn't go and take any.

Now, before I set out on this journey of mine, I had become a bit of a beer fanatic (can you tell? I've been to like 40 breweries on this trip.) I got a beer from The Rare Beer Club (an awesome Christmas present from my family,) call Sheepeater, a 2 year old scotch ale from a brewery called Grand Teton Brewing Company. I was determined to go to the brewery, and did. The drive was on one of the sickest moutain passes ever. Drive from Jackson, WY, to Victor, ID sometime. I didn't have my camera, or my guitars. Would have LOVED to do a shred vid here. Especially since my weather ever since has been pretty bad. I have no vids since CO. Bummer. Oh well, sweet drive over the mountain there, into Victor, ID. I stopped at a gas station really close to the brewery and saw this gem:


Oh, Idaho.


Anyways, I went to the brewery, met one of the brewers, he was a cool guy. Knew his shit.
The woman serving me, I really hope I remember her name right because I gave her the address to this blog, Katie, was from Essex, VT! Crazy small world. We talked for a bit, then her boyfriend, also hope I remembered this right, Tucker, came in, and we all hung out until the brewery closed. It was cool. They were awesome people, had a great time hanging out. I tried their Pursuit of Hoppiness imperial red ale. It was fantastic. Very balanced hop profile, nice smooth body. Didn't taste as boozy as it was. I then moved on to the Wake Up Call, imperial coffee porter, which was very tasty. Very roasty malty delicious. Lastly I had the Black Cauldron Imperial stout, which was also phenomenal. This placed killed it. They also had a cask conditioned version of their stout which I got a sample of. Fantastic. This brewery is probably has the best beers out of everyplace I've visited so far. If they made food at all, and it was as good as Bobcat's in Bristol, VT, Bobcat would be in jeopardy in its position as my number one brewery.

I crossed back over the beautiful mountain pass, did I mention it was like 16 miles of 10% grades, both ways? It was silly. Lots of fun though.

I stopped in Jackson and grabbed dinner at Thai Me Up, a thai restaurant that was also a brewery. I can't find their menu online, so I can't remember the name of the thai dish I ate was, but it was great. Coconut based curry with a bit of kick to it, with chicken, broccoli, and rice. It was really good. On the beverage hand, however, I have found their menu. I drank the Gnucastle 2.0, a heavy brown ale carbonated with nitrogen. It was awesome. Future beer is great, go nitro. I also got a sample of the Hopium, a double IPA that I would compare to Bobcat's Brickwall. Well done, guys.

Aside from all that, I hiked some of signal mountain, there was a trail right by the place I was sleeping. I went with my camera, but the battery and SPARE battery were super dead. Damn. It was a good hike, but it was cloudy out, the pictures would have sucked anyways.

Finally, after two days in Tetons/Jackson, I went north for Montana, through Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was a bit underwhelming. I say that, because it's nothing compared to what it must have been 50 years ago. Forest fires, and those crazy invasive japanese beetles have really fucked up a good chunk of yellowstones greenery. After Tetons? It just wasn't that “pretty,” it was pretty surreal and beautiful in a different way, though. Here's a pretty overlook I found, with not that many dead pines:



Old faithful isn't all that faithful anymore. It was cold out, and it's a hot spring, so it was basically a steam explosion. It wasn't all that huge, either. Here's the shitty pictures I got:




Sweet, right? Yeah, not really. I'm sure on the right day, if you get the right gysersplosion, it's really cool... but that just makes it not “old faithful,” you know? Whatever. The other hot springs nearby were WAY cooler, here's some of the sweet pictures I got (note super deadness in background) :





That steam was like a sauna. It was cool. The water was really blue, too.




and that was pretty much the coolest stuff I found in Yellowstone. I kept headed north and eventually emptied out in West Yellowstone, MT. Montana's next!

See you on the road,
Skwar

Friday, October 7, 2011

Souf Dakota

South Dakota

So I left Colorado headed for the Badlands. Things to do before you camp at the badlands: Check the weather. My stay here was cut short by brutal thunderstorms. The badlands is notorious for absurdly windy, harsh climates, with severe weather changes between night and day.

Anyways, the drive starts off leaving what is known as “The gateway to the Rockies,” so it was pretty mountainous. I headed up into Southeastern Wyoming, crossed over a state boarder and headed north to South Dakota through Nebraska. The area around Nebraska and Wyoming's borders isn't as dull as Nebraska has been alleged to be. I'm sure it gets more boring eastward... Anyways, it was basically very dead looking grass, crazy amounts of hills (not steep, really, just up and down nonsense), and even more amounts of nothingness. Every now and then on the drive I would see a pretty sick looking geological feature. Sometimes it was just a small hill closer to me than expected, and a few times, it was a huge jutting rock formation sprouting from the bland hills. Some of it was kinda cool, to be honest. A lot better than areas of Texas... ugh.

I took a bunch of pictures of the drive, here are some:

leaving Boulder


Things!

I think this was called Bear Mountain. Doubt it.

echoes of the Badlands



I eventually got to an area where these jutting rock formations were becoming commonplace. I was approaching the badlands.




I got to the campsite at about 7 p.m. Right around sunset. Horribly unfortunate, because the winds were gusting between 60 and 80 mph. I don't know if you ever tried to set up a tent in severe winds in the dark by yourself before, but it's not picnic. It took me about an hour and a half before I got down what would be my sleeping arrangement for a couple nights.

Good times.


It would have been a longer stay, but while the badlands are always windy, they're not always THAT windy. And while it's a pretty dry place, when it rains it pours. A thunderstorm incoming got me out there, sent me packing to go see Mt Rushmore, but before I did, I did some hiking in the badlands:

Snakes!

I'll go forwards despite snakes, look at that shit!




seemingly endless labyrinth of rocky craziness







After hiking, I set out west for Rapid City, a cool little city in South Dakota not far from Mt. Rushmore. On my way, I saw a million billboards for Drug Wall, South Dakota. It was just a drug store, in Wall, South Dakota. It was a big drug store, like... a large CVS, only shittier. Don't stop here. I kept west to Rapid City. I went to a place called the Firehouse Brewery, No one there must like good beer, because that was the only brewery for miles and it was bland as could be. Don't waste your time.

I then got to Mt. Rushmore, not far from Rapid City. Very bland tourist attraction. You go in, walk up, look, walk back. It was cool, because we got 1.5” thick hail from the thunderstorm I evaded at badlands (phew...) Upon hearing this warning, I parked in a garage at rushmore, saved my vehicle a bit, I'm sure. Anyways, here's the obligatory Rushmore pic (I have a bonus one of it after the rain hit, George Washington was crying. It came out shitty because of the fog, and poor lighting. Bummer.) :





Anyways, from there, I got a cabin outside of rushmore at Custer state park in South Dakota, not any more than an hour from Mt. Rushmore on the badassest road yet: Iron mountain road. It was so badass I took a video. These little 360° turns happen a bunch, and there were plenty of other switchbacks, hairpin turns, and rock tunnels. It was damn awesome, here's the vid:


video

The campground host was not present when I arrived, so that didn't happen. It was pouring, there was nice hotel with some cheap options right by the South Game Lodge capsite in Custer state park, so I did that. Bummer. Oh well, It was treacherous out there...

They had a hotel bar with some pretty solid Bison Burgers, which I enjoyed. I ate that, drank a bit, and got to writing up that Colorado post I made before this.

In the morning, I decided to get lost in Custer state park, what an excellent idea that was. Custer state park is part of the Black Hills national forest. After today, I must say that I will try hard to return to that park and camp sometime when it's nicer out. It was a pretty glorious place. Here's some photos for the get-lost-in-the-park drive I took:

Yes, that's snow on the road.

Oh hey there

Buddy!

This dirt road is serious. I also hit 80 mph on it somewhere.

That is one buffalo buffalo. He didn't even look up in the way of my presence. Too busy being huge and eating grass.

More buddies!


Sweet view from a wooden bridge on a dirt road in a state park. Just before the steepest and tallest dirt road I've ever tackled.

It was so windy here. I was legitimately afraid of having my car flipped over. 

Badass, huh?

Well, after meandering, I made my way up through Wyoming, making this post from a rest stop on I-90 west with my phone's 3G connection. Sick.

Next stop from here is... Sheridan WY to go to a brewery that I've heard excellent things about (Blacktooth). Then I'm gonna figure out whether there's any camping/touristy things in the Billings, Montana area. If there are and weather permits, I'll do that. If not, it's over to yellowstone, grand teton national park, and jackson, WY, where I hope to be for 4 days to a week. Here's hoping the weather doesn't destroy me like it did in SD.

See you on the road,
Skwar