Norge

Today, my wife and I are traveling to Norway.  Getting to this point has been quite a long process.

It began with my decision to begin learning Norwegian using Duolingo about a year ago. I have been fascinated with the Scandinavian culture for quite a long time.  Decorah, IA, one of Erin and my favorite places to visit, is steeped in Norwegian culture and is home to the Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American Museum.  Since Duolingo offered Norwegian as an option, I dived in.

An eventual trip to Norway was in the back of my mind. After all, if I’m going to spend my time and effort learning the language, I would like my eventual reward. The reward came much sooner than I expected!

Our trip is centered around two hikes: the Trolltunga (featured photo) and Pulpit Rock (below).

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Photo by Samuel Killworth on Unsplash

After we spend Wednesday in Bergen, we will use Thursday to get ourselves inland to a place called Odda, where we will stay two nights at an AirBnB (all of our stays in Norway will be at AirBnB’s).  We will spend all day Thursday hiking to the Trolltunga.  It will take us approximately 6 hours to hike to it, at which point we will probably enjoy the scenery and take pictures for an hour or two, and then a 4 hour hike back.  We will need to pack in our water and food for the day using my trusty backpack. If it isn’t too windy, maybe I can snap a picture like the one featured.

On Saturday, we will spend much of the day traveling to Stavenger, where we will stay three nights. We plan to enjoy the weekend in Stavenger, and then hike Pulpit Rock on Monday so that we can avoid the weekend crowds. Pulpit Rock is much less technical and much more tourist friendly (as you can tell by the picture above).

On Tuesday, we will make our way back to Bergen. Hopefully, this return trip will be by ferry, so that we can enjoy the beautiful fjords of Norway.  We will enjoy three nights in Bergen before we travel home on Friday, May 25.

During our stay in Bergen, I plan to check out the Sentrum Ju Jitsu Klubb and roll with some Norwegians.  By that time, I will be itching to roll!

Upon my return to the states on Friday, May 25th, I will get in late and need a good night’s rest, as I will be riding the Cottonwood 200 over the next three days.  What better way to get acclimated to the time-zone and weather here in Kansas?  Jet lag be damned!

Featured Photo of this post by GEORGE ALEXANDRU NOVAC on Unsplash

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.

PAC it Northwest: Part III

Looking down at our campsite while hiking along the Red Beds Trail. The Tower is behind us.

Days 9 and 10: On the road to Devils Tower

We said goodbye to Joe and Sara Jo on the morning of Day 9 after breakfast at Heydey, which was a walk to the top of the hill from their house in Seattle.  Our destination that evening was the KOA campground in Missoula, the same one we camped at on our trip out. 
First stop was in Ellensburg, WA to visit Jason White and to eat lunch at Iron Horse Brewery

Break from the road at Wild Horse Monument looking down at the Columbia River/Wanapum Lake

Completing our Idaho experience at the Crafted Tap House + Kitchen in Coeur d’Alene

I convinced Erin that I can’t really say I have visited a state until I have had both a coffee and a beer there.  We had already had coffee in Idaho Falls, ID on the drive out, but we had yet to have a beer. So, we stopped for an early dinner and some beer at the Crafted Tap House + Kitchen in beautiful Coeur d’Alene where the Ironman was about to take place the next day.

By doing so, we had to forfeit any more fun time in Missoula. 
We had a quick breakfast at the KOA campground before our long drive to Devils Tower the next day. There were two major stops. The first was for lunch at Bridger Brewery in Bozeman, MT.
Oooooh! Rooftop seating? Count us in!

You may have to click on this picture to get the full size so you can best enjoy the mountains in the background.

The second major stop was in Sheridan, WY at the Wyoming Rib and Chop House. I ordered and ate the best pork chop I’ve ever had.

The best pork chop I have ever eaten.

With the long stops, we knew we would be arriving at Devils Tower in the dark to set up camp. Indeed, the KOA office was already closed, but an envelope with my name on it was hanging outside with all the information we needed.

Dusk photo of the moon and Devils Tower

As we set up camp, other campers were watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the outdoor theater. They play the movie there every night since it is the campground where it was filmed. 

Day 11: The Tower

I awoke before sunrise and enjoyed some pretty views and a cup of coffee before Erin got up. After experiencing Devils Tower, I believe we did everything right and couldn’t have asked for a better time. Here are some of the things we both did and recommend: 
  • Stay at the KOA campground where Close Encounters was filmed.
  • Get up at the crack of dawn to begin hiking, and hike from the campground along the road. You will walk past the entry station where people in vehicles will pay a fee to enter the park.
  • Just a little ways beyond the bridge, turn right onto the first trail you come upon. This will take you up to the Red Beds Trail loop. 
  • Hike the Red Beds Trail in a clockwise fashion until you reach the Visitor Center up at the top. You will see a LOT of deer. 
  • Now switch to the Tower Loop and hike that in any direction you would like. You will see plenty more deer and several breathtaking views of the tower and the land beyond. 
  • Get back on the Red Beds Trail and continue in a clockwise fashion. The deer will start to disappear since it is getting to those peak hours of foot and vehicle traffic. 
  • Return to the campground and be sure and wave at all the cars that are lining up and waiting at the gate, which you so intelligently bypassed. 
  • Get into your car that was parked at the campground (because you camped there or because you parked their strategically) and travel home.
Devils Tower gave us plenty of opportunity for pictures. Please enjoy the several pictures and captions that follow. 
Sunrise at the KOA campground. Our new Base Camp 6 and the rental car we drove over 4000 miles.

The sun is so high for it being so early!!

There are so many different perspectives of this behemoth. 

The steep decline from the trail away from the tower.
Just off the Red Beds Trail, and now on the Tower Loop
Coming down the back side along the Red Beds Trail. 
In the shade of the Tower not to much after Sunrise.

We had breakfast after our hike, and I sent out several postcards from this place. It was magical.

Then began our 11-12 hour ride home. Although it was sometime past 1:00 AM when we finally got home, we were very much ready to be there. The beds and air conditioning were appreciated on a much higher level.

PAC it Northwest: Part II

Front Street in Leavenworth, WA

Day 7: Leavenworth

Jessica, Erin, and I had breakfast at the Mason Jar in Cheney before heading out. We had a tentative “drive by hugging” planned on our drive home, but (spoiler alert) we had left our shaker and a few other things at their house when we left, so the tentative became a solid plan. 
Driving from eastern to western Washington is a tease. Especially if you travel along State Highway 2 through Wenatchee National Forest (and most likely 20 through North Cascades National Park, although I haven’t gone that route yet). I could spend several months in the parks that run on the east side of Interstate 5. Especially if one were to hike the Pacific Coast Trail as Cheryl Strayed did.  
Leavenworth is right in the heart of this beauty, and we found Icicle Brewing Company in this quaint little town. Leavenworth is a great destination city that has something for almost everyone. 
Our destination that evening was the Smolden’s house in Everett. Jeremy went to school with Erin in Alaska and they have stayed very good friends. Jeremy and Sarah have three amazing children, Jayden, Lucy, and Kate.  When I asked Jayden how old he was he responded with “seven and ten twelfths.” Sarah told him that could be reduced, and after a moment of thought, he corrected himself by answering “seven and five sixths.”  
Lucy had fun with my watch. I was supposed to find it in a game of hide the watch and seek it out. It may have been more fun on her end than mine. 
Kate is two and one of the most adorable children I have ever encountered. She is very affectionate and can melt your heart. For example, as we were preparing to leave the next day, I came back from loading something in the car and I opened the door to Kate standing there. She looked up at me and said, “I’m giving you hug goodbye.”  We were foolish and didn’t get any pictures, so here is one of her and me in January of 2016. 
Try and add a year and a half of cuteness.

Day 8: Deception Pass State Park

We met Tiffany (Erin’s good friend and bridesmaid who lives in Everett) at the Rusty Pelican Cafe for breakfast and met her little girl, Aria, for the first time. Since Erin and I are the best role models, we ordered bloody Marys to show Aria what was up. 

Since there was some time to kill before we were to hike at Deception Pass, we drove up to Bellingham for some lunch and beers at Aslan Brewing Company. The Simcoe Slice was delicious enough that I had two, an anomaly for me.

We met Bob Keough at Deception Pass State Park for a 5 mile hike. He made sure to get a long run in that morning.

The bridge connecting Fidalgo Island with Whidbey Island in Deception Pass State Park
Jason, Erin, and Bob 
View from Lighthouse Point
Deception Island

During our hike in Deception Pass State Park, we spotted what we thought were dolphins (we definitely identified fins). The weather could not have been more perfect for this hike. 
Bob suggested the Union Tavern in Anacortes for a bite to eat, so we followed him there. I kept pronouncing Anacortes as the proper name “Anna Cortez” instead of the correct way (anna-CORE-tis).

Leave yourself time enough to hike all 5 miles. Park in the “Upper” parking lot and do each of the three loops. We saved the Maiden of Deception Pass for last (but the order doesn’t matter).  There were some great sites, but the phone died after the first two loops. 

Breakfast at Joe’s with a view of Mt. Rainier

Day 8: Seattle

Joe Pietraszewski (petra-chef-ski) had a delicious breakfast for us on the morning of our 8th day. We graduated from Ottumwa High back in 1995 together. We try and connect with him more often than our class reunions now. 
From his flat, he took us for a walk along Lake Washington in Colman and Mt. Baker Parks. 
One of Joe’s new year’s resolutions was to not drink any alcohol for the entire year. He has been very diligent in sticking with his resolution, and the results are noticeable. Hanging out with us, however, posed quite the challenge. He took us to several beer places that we wanted to visit, yet still was able to stay true to his goal. It was quite the impressive feat.  

Prior to lunch, we drove over to the West Seattle area where there were pretty views of Elliot Bay, the Seattle Skyline, and a few fighting seals in the water.

One of our postcard views of Seattle while walking along Harbor Ave. SW
Beer Junction was a place all beer nerds should visit while in Seattle. It allows you to bring food in since they only sell beer. We stopped at the Mercantile Market for some fine foods to take over to Beer Junction so that we could enjoy amazing beers in front of Joe. Strong willed, our tempting libations didn’t seem to phase him. 
Some fine salami and chocolate (?) while Joe drinks his water. 
Post lunch beers were enjoyed at Seapine Brewing Company and Two Beers Brewing Co & Seattle Cider Company (located in same venue). 
Erin and I very much enjoy having so many connections in Washington. It is bittersweet, however, because it is too difficult to squeeze everyone in. We do make an effort, however, and I hear that counts for something. 
View from top deck at Joe’s. Left to right: Mt. Baker (requires zoom in), Bellevue, Mercer Island, and Mt. Rainier