Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parking For My Long Rig

"Miracles happen to those who believe in them." ~Bernard Berenson

I thought I'd post a photo of my van-camper combo because people have to visualize what I will need parking space for. The total length is about 32 feet.

The camper is slightly longer than the van, although it doesn't look like it in this photo. The scooter is off the back-end so you can't see it here. I can commute at speeds up to 45 mph, preferably on city streets with my 125cc scooter - handy if your parking is down the road from your brewery.

The lengths are:

Chevy Astro Van: 13.5 feet
"Big Buddy" camper: 15 feet
Scooter Rack: 3 feet
= about 31.5 feet, rounded up to 32 feet total

Additionally, access to a hot shower would be fabulous and most appreciated. An outside electrical outlet for my extension cord, and a computer wireless (or ethernet) connection would add to my amazement. (Think positive!)

A big Thank You to all the brewers who responded to my post and have invited me to visit them. I will be working to fit you in. If you don't hear from me soon, feel free to email me again. I plan to email everyone a reply, but I'd hate for your email to fall through the cracks. Cheers!

Trip Planning Continues

"My favorite thing is to go where I have never gone." ~Diane Arbus

I have still white-out on my left index knuckle from yesterday. It doesn't wash off fast. Planning four months on a day-by-day basis doesn't happen fast either. I've got a basic plan started and it brings me out to July 23. There are certain appointments and time constraints I have for the first half of this trip, so I had to plan that much. Plus, I have to tell people when I plan to visit them - so I'd better know when it is! If they're off on their own vacation, I'll have to reroute.

So far, the schedule looks like this. It is still a work in progress because I'll need to get confirmations from people. Some people don't even know I'm coming yet, so this schedule is sort of my "wish list."

Mon June 4 - Start trip: Drive to Bend, OR
Tue June 5 - Brew at Deschutes and visit Bend Brewing.
Wed June 6 - Drive to Chico, CA
Thur June 7 - Attend MBAA District Northern California June Technical Meeting.
Fri June 8 - Brew at Sierra Nevada
Sat June 9 - Drive to Berkeley, CA. From 1:30 pm till 4:30 pm - sit at Triple Rock Brewing Co. and enjoy the beer and any Bay Area brewer friends who visit me there.
Sun June 10 - Visit old friends in San Leandro and Foster City, CA.
Mon June 11 - Hang out with Celebrator Beer News staff.
Tues June 12 - Drive to Gilroy (visit Farmhouse/Coast Range) then to Paso Robles.
Wed June 13 - Brew at Firestone-Walker Brewing Co.
Thur June 14 - Drive to San Marcos, CA
Fri June 15 & Sat June 16 - Brew at Stone and at Port Brewing Companies.
Sun June 17 - Drive to Tempe, AZ.
Mon June 18 - Brew at Four Peaks Brewing Co.
Tues June 19 - Drive to Sedona, AZ. Visit Oak Creek Brewing Co.
Wed June 20 - Drive to Durango, CO.
Thur June 21 - Brew at SKA Brewing Co.
Fri June 22 - Drive to Colorado Springs and visit family.
Sat June 23 - Drive to Denver, CO.
Sun June 24 - Visit family in Denver. Husband Jon Graber joins me.
Mon June 25 - Visit breweries in Boulder (Avery), Longmont (Left Hand), and Lyons (Oskar Blues). Stay with friends in Estes Park.
Tues June 26 - Visit Odell and Coopersmith Breweries in Fort Collins.
Wed June 27 - Brew at New Belgium Brewing Co.
Thur June 28 - Drive to Crazy Horse, Mt Rushmore, and Rapid City, SD. Visit Firehouse Brewing.
Fri June 29 - Drive to Sioux Falls, SD. Visit Granite City Food & Brewery.
Sat June 30 - Drive to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Visit Herkimer and Summit breweries. Then drive to Chippewa Falls, WI.
Sun July 1 - Drive to Munising, MI.
July 2-6 - Visit family in Munising.
Sat July 7 - Drive to West Bend, WI.
Sun July 8 - Husband Jon flies home to Eugene.
July 8-14 - Visit family in West Bend.
Sun July 15 - Drive to Mundelein, IL and visit family.
Mon July 16 - Drive to Sleepy Hollow, IL and visit college roommate.
Tues July 17 - Drag college buddy to Siebel Institute, and Chicago-area breweries.
Wed July 18 - Drive to Flossmoor, then see more Chicago-area breweries.
Thur July 19 - Brew at Flossmoor Station Brewery.
Fri July 20 - Drive to New Holland, MI.
Sat July 21 - Brew at New Holland Brewing Co.
Sun July 22 - Drive to Kalamazoo.
Mon July 23 - Brew at Bell's Brewing Co.
Tues July 24 - Drive to... ?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Same Stream, Different Horse

"Never change horses in midstream." ~Abraham Lincoln

Wow! We got a new trailer and I won't be taking my teardrop after all. Luckily I changed horses before I started on the trip.

I've been thinking hard about the logistics of this trip. Teardrops are great for camping in the woods, because if you've got to pee in the middle of the night, you're already in the woods. That's not too practical for city camping: parking in front of friends' houses or in brewery parking lots. I'm depending on the kindness of strangers (all future friends), but their kindness may stop short of handing me the keys so I can relieve myself at 1:00 am, and again at 4:00 am.

This little guy is only 1 foot 9 inches longer than our teardrop, but it has so many features that make it the ideal portable hotel room for city camping: A toilet, a 2-burner gas stove, a fridge (no more buying ice every other day, plus the mayonnaise jar gets to keep its label on), an indoor table that turns into a bed, and a fold-down bunk above that. It sleeps four people if two of them are children. We pick it up tonight.

It's called a Fun Finder X139. It comes with an awning, CD/DVD player, clock, microwave and gas BBQ grill. It has more storage than the teardrop, and weighs more, but in such a small package it has more than I need, but everything I want (like a toilet and a hot cup of tea). I'll still need access to hot showers, so I'm hoping my hosts will share theirs. We named it "Big Buddy." (As opposed to "Little Buddy," our teardrop camper.)

I still plan to leave in about a week... see you soon!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Route To Maine

"Vacations shake up our blunted senses and freshen our dulled lives." ~Robert W. Harris

Above is a rough approximation of the first half of my trip - the route from Oregon to Maine. I don't know what the return trip will look like yet. If there's a job I need to start, it could be a fairly straight line across the top of the country. If it's autumn and the weather is getting cold, I may head for a southerly route and aim for Denver to judge the GABF October 8-13.

Yesterday I went through all the emails I received when I emailed the BA Forum back in March and asked - who wants me to visit them on my journey? I copied everybody’s info (or as much as I was given in the emails) onto 3 x 5 cards. That’s a handy trick so that I can rearrange the cards as I rearrange my route. I ended up with 67 brewer or brewery industry 3 x 5 cards. Very cool! That doesn’t even count the close relatives’ 3 x 5 cards that I’ll be writing up tomorrow.

I’ll fit as many brewers and breweries into my trip as I can. It all depends when the gas money runs out. If you need my brewery consulting services while I am on the road, let me know as I’m available.

Wondering how high the price of gas will go this summer? It's already at $3.44 per gallon this week in California, so I'll use $4.00/gallon as my estimate for this trip. You can keep your eye on gas prices at the Energy Information Administration website.

If you cook or buy me lunch or dinner when I visit you, you’ll earn my everlasting gratitude and save me from the drudgery of another peanutbutter & jelly sandwich. Plus I'll put a plug on this blog about you. Any savings you help me incur may enable me to extend my trip and visit more breweries!

It's a sunny 75o in Eugene today, and heading into the 80's next week. Even with the windows open it feels hot and stuffy in the house. There's nothing like planning a trip inside on a hot summery day to make me want to get on the road!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Road Trips Are Different Now

"The most important part of vehicle maintenance is clear windows, so if you are broken down you will enjoy the beauty of the view." ~Dan Eldon

Road trips are different – now that I actually have an agenda. When I was younger and my girlfriend and I took a road trip, we didn’t care where we went. We just wanted to be driving a car and moving. If the AM radio didn’t work, we sang songs. In our case from the 1981 “Beatles Songbook” with made up words to the songs.

We barely knew how to read road maps, so we stuck to “the big red lines” to avoid getting lost. (I think our parents planted that idea in our heads.) We preferred a station wagon because you could leave your sleeping bags rolled out and put your junk on top, then move your junk to the front seat when you wanted to sleep in the back. Tin foil over the side windows and a towel hanging from the rear window gave us enough privacy. A gallon jug of water on the floor and we could brush our teeth, spit out the window, and be ready for sleep on some side-street in Anytown, USA in about 10 minutes.

The longest road trip I’ve taken so far was 4,500 miles when I was 21 years old. The trip went one way from Tempe, Arizona to Wisconsin. We drove through Tijuana, Mexico and then up the entire west coast up through Oregon, including a stop in Eugene.

Then we headed east from Portland on Hwy 84, and we did what lots of young road trippers do: We missed all the sights. Yup, we drove right past the amazing Columbia River Gorge. We did spot a tall waterfall from afar as we zipped by – Multnomah Falls, which is much more impressive when you are standing next to it, getting spray on your face, watching the rainbows at the bottom, and listening to the pounding water.

We didn’t know about Multnomah, or any of the other nine waterfalls along the Gorge, or any other scenic sites except Yellowstone Park. We also didn’t know how big everything is. We thought we could take in Yellowstone in a day. After all, any other park we’d ever been to could be seen in one day!

Before we’d left Portland, some nice folks we met in a bar (and we met lots of nice folks in bars) introduced us to the little "gray line" highways on the map. What a concept! (We only had one map – an AAA United States map. Who knew you might need more than one map?) Those kind folks in the bar recommended we take Hwy 12 across Idaho instead of Hwy 84. They said it was a more scenic drive. So we took it, and it was a fabulous drive.

Then a funny thing happened on our way toward Wyoming: a summer snowstorm blocked the mountain pass into Yellowstone Park. We were from Wisconsin. There are no mountains in Wisconsin (except Rib Mountain, which is about 40 feet high). Whoever heard of snow in June? So we rerouted onto a nice gray-lined highway toward another entrance. But nobody told us about gravel highways. What the…? And being under-financed, we bought retread tires for our 1971 Ford Torino station wagon. Needless to say we got a flat tire. On a hill. At sunset. And no jack stand base in our old used car. (See photo above.) Luckily somehow, some local folks were rolling home and they helped us out.

I've learned a lot since then. Now, I’ll be driving the smallest gray or blue line roads I can safely drive, and I’ll have a plan and an agenda. I have to navigate a Chevy Astro van with a 250 lb scooter strapped to the front, and a 1,300 lb teardrop camper strapped to the rear. My husband wants me to be safe, which means no accidents, so therefore the GPS software on my laptop which will be mounted between the front seats.

None of this comes easy. Especially learning the bloody GPS and trip routing software. I tried plotting my trip on the Delorme 2007 Street Atlas software and did not find it user intuitive. I’m writing this post as the 216-page User Manual prints out. Just to give you a hint of what I’m grappling with, I glanced at the document as it printed, and it was on the Glossary page: Azimuth, Bearing, Bread Crumb Trail… What?

Hopefully I’ll be following more than just a Bread Crumb Trail as I head east. Here’s a link that has been most helpful as I plan my trip to visit breweries far and wide,