A Stuffed Monkey Goes to Norway

To get to Norway, it took flights from Kansas City to Detroit, a flight from Detroit to Amsterdam (with depart time of 4:20pm… heh heh), and a flight from Amsterdam to Bergen.

Bergen welcomed me with a question.

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I certainly hope this is Bergen! Why are you asking?

The question did not make sense at first.  It wasn’t until I was leaving 9 days later that I understood what it was asking.  Bergen? translates to “Why are you leaving? Wouldn’t you rather stay here in Bergen?”

Although I would have a total of 4 days in Bergen, 3 of them would come at the end of the trip. Initially, this was only a quick 1 day stop to get acclimated to the time change before I went on the major hikes of the week.

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A view that was a small walk from my first AirBnB stay.

The next morning after my first night in Bergen was May 17th, which is their national holiday (similar to our July 4th).

Gentlemen were in suits, and ladies were in traditional dresses.  The crowds were hard to deal with as I dragged my luggage to the bus station for my trip to Odda. Everyone was making their way to the city center for parades and celebration from the bus station.

A stuffed monkey going upstream like this was very difficult.

Odda and the Trolltunga

When I first arrived in Odda, I was hypnotized by the beauty.  Since there was a pub and eatery right there at the bus station called the Smeltehuset, I ordered a beer and let myself be mesmerized by my surroundings.

My host at the AirBnB offered to take me for a drive south to see some more of the beauty that Odda had to offer.  On this drive, I was able to take in Buerdalen Valley and Glacier, Eidesfossen, and Låtefossen.  It was a very kind gesture of which I was truly thankful.

 

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The Trolltunga hike was scheduled for the next day.  However, since it was still early (about a month from the regular hiking season), there were no shuttles operating. A taxi would have cost a LOT of money.  Again, my host was gracious enough to carve time out of his day to give me a ride up to the start.

This hike began with nearly 4 km of switchbacks up the mountain.  After another 3 km (about the halfway point), the hike turned to snow that never stopped. As I got closer to the end, passing the 10 km, 11 km, and 12 km marks, it really started to sink in how demanding this hike was.  Every step further was yet another step I would have to make on the way back.  It was very tough.

 

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If you ever plan to do the Trolltunga hike, I would suggest doing it in season, which is June 15 – September 15.

If I ever do the Trolltunga again, I will probably do the following:

  • Backpack a tent and gear in to break up the hike into two parts, allowing a sunset and sunrise photo.
  • Put in extra time hiking beforehand to get those miles up.
  • Bring and inevitably consume some ibuprofen.
  • Borrow or purchase a drone to take some seemingly impossible footage and videos.
  • Make sure the current date is somewhere in the June 15-September 15 range.

This hike will provide anyone who makes it to the end an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Stavanger and Pulpit Rock

Odda was probably my favorite place in Norway that I visited.  The small community with stunning views and hikes all around captured a piece of my soul. I will most definitely return.

The bus ride to Stavanger was full of waterfalls and tunnels.  They were everywhere!  The bus I was on also had to drive onto a ferry at one point, which offered a nice break to let wind blow the stink off of my fur.

In Stavanger, I visited the Norwegian Petroleum Museum (Norsk Oljemuseum) which was much more informative and cooler than I had expected.  Most of the hiking I did there was urban hiking. I spent the most money on a dinner at Skagen Restaurant where I also enjoyed some high quality Aquavit.

Originally, I planned to hike the Preikestolen on a Monday, thinking that I could avoid the crowds.  On the particular Monday I chose, it was the day after Pentecost, which is referred to as Whit Monday.  This is yet another day that many Norwegians take off, so I met many of them on the trail.

To get there, I rode a ferry from Stavanger to a place called Tau, where I then hopped on a bus that took me to the base of the 4 km trail to Pulpit Rock.  Although without snow, and 10 km shorter than the Trolltunga, I would not call the Pulpit Rock trail easy.  You wouldn’t know it from all the people I saw on the trail.

Once again, the reward was gorgeous.  I took along a coaster from Pulpit Rock Brewery in Decorah, IA.  I sent them some of my snapshots which they used on their Instagram feed here and here.

 

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Back to Bergen

To get back to Bergen, I had to get up before 5 am and walk several kilometers to the bus station that would then take me to the ferry. For the first hour on the ferry, I slept on the floor since I was too cheap to purchase a comfortable seat during my journey.  I wasn’t alone.

Although a very beautiful ride, it wasn’t as awe inspiring as I thought it would be after I woke up and took in the views.

For my 3 remaining nights in Bergen, I really fell in love with the city and did not want to leave.  I walked all over the place, including to the high points of Fløyen and Ulriken (on two separate days).

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Bergen is definitely a place to enjoy for at least 4 days and 3 nights, if not many, many more.  Since I am getting really good at traveling, I was able to pack in quite a bit in the 4 days I was there, but I was definitely thirsty for more and would have enjoyed more time to hike the 13 km trail from Fløyen to Ulriken.  That is on my next to-do list.

 

The 7th Michigan Beer Tour

Hi. It’s me… Pleepleus.  I went to Michigan over the MLK weekend and wanted to tell you about it.  The featured photo and the slide show that comes later were photos taken by the amazing photographer Rob O’Connell.

Departing from Topeka around 9:30 am, I was able to make it to the SpringHill Suites in Munster, IN by 7:30 pm.  After checking into the hotel, I walked over to 3 Floyds Brewing Company.

Pro Tip: SpringHill Suites is 0.6 miles from 3 Floyds Brewing Company and is the perfect place to stay while visiting overnight. The walk is short, and you don’t have to worry at all about drinking too much at 3 Floyds.

Warning: 3 Floyds is a very Gothic place and has the potential of making some individuals uncomfortable.  It is quite the opposite of a Ma ‘n Pa kind of place.

While at 3 Floyds, I picked up a case of Zombie Dust to bring home and sat on the neck of an upside down bull while others knelt before me and humbly bowed to my superior awesomeness.

Saturday

Before taking off to Ann Arbor, I ate some hotel breakfast to save money and time.  Ann Arbor was only 3.5 hours away.

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Everyone was watching some Michigan Basketball in here. I just came for the beer.

Wolverine State Brewing Company was on the west side of Ann Arbor, so I stopped here first.  When I arrived, I notice that they specialize in lagers.  I tried a smokey dark lager, and a porter brewed with lager yeast, among a few others.  I had a late lunch here that was quite tasty.

Pro Tip: The Residence Inn by Marriott in Ann Arbor is within walking distance of several amazing breweries, brewpubs, and restaurants and is in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor for a pleasant and safe stay.

After unloading my bags at the Residence Inn,  I drove the 14-15 miles to South Lyon to experience both Witch’s Hat and Third Monk Brewery.  Witch’s Hat was on the recommendation of a fellow Greater Topeka Hall of Foamer.  I recommend Night Fury for the dark beer lover and This Guy for the hoppy beer lover.

Third Monk has some work to do, but it will find its place.

Once the car was parked for good back in Ann Arbor, I had some dinner and a few sour beers at Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery.  I had a delicious South Pacific Pizza which had bacon, pineapple, jalapenos, and a chipotle sauce.  Yummy.

The last beer stop was at Ashley’s, an Irish Pub with around 100 beers on draught. I only called it an early evening since there were several beers in my hotel that I could enjoy.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, I needed a Bloody Mary.  I ate braised oxtail hash & eggs with my Bloody Mary and it was just delightful. The coffee was wonderful too.

The drive to Kalamazoo needed to be broken up, of course.  It is natural to stop in Marshall, MI for some beers at Dark Horse Brewery.

I got the coolest table at Dark Horse, which doubled as an aquarium.  I tasted just about everything they had, and brought some Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the Fifth home with me to age and enjoy over the next few years.

In Kalamazoo, the first stop was Boatyard Brewing Company. This is a place I had never been. Boatyard had a line of Gose on tap, so I tried them all, and enjoyed playing cribbage with a few people who couldn’t count their hand very well.

Pro Tip: The Radisson Plaza Hotel is centrally located and a great place to stay within walking distance of places such as Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, and Ole Peninsula Brewing Company.

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Maru Sushi & Grill was next door to Bell’s where I had an amazing dinner of about 79 pieces of sushi (80 will make me throw up).

I didn’t have enough Bell’s, so I went back for some more after sushi.  This is where I closed out the evening before heading back to the hotel.

Monday

Food Dance is a wonderful place for breakfast which is also close to Bell’s and the hotel.

Then there was a long drive back to Topeka.  Many people would be in a hurry to get home by this point. But why?

I had lunch at Flossmore Station Restaurant & Brewery with a beer and a half in Flossmore, IL.

I had dinner at Mark Twain Brewery Company in Hannibal, MO.

Pro Tip: Don’t be in such a rush to get home. Enjoy the novelty that is available. It is worth a few hours less sleep that you can catch up on later.

Monroe and Brown Counties

Hello. I’m Pleepleus.

From time to time, I hack into The Shaw Show and write stuff about my travels. Even though it is a total hack, the creator of The Shaw Show either

  1. is so dense that he is oblivious to my posts, or
  2. simply doesn’t care that I hack in and write as a guest.

I’m pretty sure that it is 1.

Next week I will travel to Michigan and visit several places along I94. Before I go and report back, I want to write about my travels over the Halloween weekend in 2017.

Here is a map on which I’ve drawn some circles and written the numbers 1 through 4.  I will probably refer to the map at least 4 times.

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Thanks Google! The surrounding area of Bloomington, IN.

Sometime a little before 1am on the morning of Saturday, October 28 (which still very much felt like Friday evening), I arrived at Paynetown State Recreational Area surprised to still find an attendant on duty to provide me with a site on which to place a tent and sleep.  Paynetown is in the area #1 circled above.

In the morning, I made some pour overs on the camp stove using some coffee I had just roasted a few days prior.

Pro Tip: If you don’t own a camper that needs electricity, you can find just about any campsite that you want at the end of October.  I chose one close to the showers and restrooms, which provided me with the electricity I needed to charge my phone.

Prior to any hike, one must have a decent breakfast. If you don’t bring your own food to make at the campsite, then I have some really good suggestions for places to break your fast each morning.

Runcible Spoon on 412 E. Sixth St. in Bloomington is a unique and wonderful experience.  They have a wonderful breakfast menu, decent Bloody Marys (and Mimosas if those are more your style), and Zombie Dust in the bottle.  I really did not care how early it was, a Zombie Dust was a perfect side car to my Bloody.

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This is my happy place.

Pro Tip: Bring a group of 4 so that pitchers of Bloody Marys or Mimosas can be ordered at a more efficient cost.

The daily dose of nature was at the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower, which is the pin in the circled area #2 in the map above.  This was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Pro Tip: Although climbing to the top of Hickory Ridge Fire Tower is worth it just about any time of year, it is most worth it when there are Fall colors to gaze upon.

Hiking up and around the fire tower made me thirsty and hungry.  I recommend Function Brewing for drinks and food and The Wood Shop for some tasty digestifs.

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Later that evening, I enjoyed a Sirloin Steak cooked to perfection along with an amazingly dark, smooth, and decadent Cabernet at The Little Zagreb.

Pro Tip: Make your reservation early at The Little Zagreb, and prepare to spend a lot of money for the amazing experience that is very much worth it.  If you camp like I did, you can save the money that you need to eat there.

On Sunday morning, October 29th, I had a hangover.  Although I wanted to hike in the trails around the campground that morning, it wasn’t happening.  I slept in until it was time to leave for my 11:30 reservations at FARMbloomington. This place had amazing coffee and bacon.  It offers a full bar and a wonderful menu.

I went back to Paynetown State Recreational Area, and hiked the 3.2 miles along the trails that are in circle #1 above.

That worked up an appetite, so I stopped for some appertifs at Oddball Fermentables. Specifically, I tried First Date, Enzy’s Gold, Hopberry Blue, Hopberry Red, and Melody.  These are all cysers, which are mead-cider hybrids that they specialize in.

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Keeping warm by both the fire and the cysers.

Pro Tip: If you visit Oddball Fermentables, it will feel as if you are walking into someone’s house. Embrace the awkwardness and walk right in with confidence.

To combat my sleepiness, I decided that a pour-over was prudent, and visited Hopscotch Coffee. Their pour-over was fantastic, and it was the fuel I needed for an impromptu hike at Leonard Springs Nature Park.  This is in circle #4 on the map above.

Pro Tip: To hike Leonard Springs, I went down the stairs first and did the hike counterclockwise. Convince yourself to pass the staircase and come up it at the end. I believe this hike is better done clockwise.

Although I was hungry enough for dinner before the hike, I wanted to ensure that there would be plenty of hunger when I went to Mother Bear’s Pizza.

If you only go to one place for a meal in Bloomington, get some pizza at Mother Bear’s.

When I asked what they had on tap, the waitress read through a list of beers. She read off “Space Station, and Middle Finger” as if it were two separate beers.  I told her that “Space Station Middle Finger” was just one beer and that I would have a pint.  She looked at me funny and stated that she was pretty sure it was two beers.

Soon she brought my pint of Space Station Middle Finger and apologized for her blunder. How dare she question a stuffed monkey beer connoisseur!

Pro Tip: Be really hungry when you go to Mother Bear’s, and if you can swing it, have a big group. That way, you can order all the different kinds of amazing pizza they have available.  You need to have room in your stomach for at least 4 slices.  I ordered 10 Hot Garlic Wings, a 10 inch Spinnocoli, and a 10 inch Dante’s Inferno.

There were a mere 4 slices left when I was done being a glutton.

I had a fire that night at the campground, slept hard, and got up for some coffee at the campsite. Breakfast: 4 slices of pizza.

My journey on Monday, October 30 would take me to Brown County State Park and Hesitation Point.  This is in the area circled by #4 on the map above.

Brown County State Park is stunning in late October. I hiked Trails 8 and 7 starting at Hesitation Point. This took me around Ogle Lake.

Pro Tip: Visit Brown County State Park and hike anywhere within during the Fall.  It is gorgeous and will capture a piece of your soul.

When one is already this close to Nashville, IN, you might as well stop in and visit this quaint little artsy town.  I went to Big Woods Brewery Company (not to be confused with Big Woods Pizza Company which is very close by) and ordered a Hare Trigger IPA. When I found out that was in the bottle, I purchased some to take home.

There was another cozy fire that night, and in the morning, there were ice crystals on the tent.  For my last breakfast in Bloomington, I ate at The Village Deli. This is a staple breakfast place, and is where you go when you want to get going and you’re not in the mood for a Bloody Mary.