30 December 2012

The Northern Brewery Tour

When we set out on our Alaska trip, we had no idea we would wind up at the number of breweries and hot springs we actually did. The mountains of British Columbia and The Yukon have lots of hot springs, spread around pretty well making it easy to end long (or short) days of riding sitting in a hot pool of healing waters. Combine that with good beer from the local brewery and you also get an awesome night's sleep.

In the order we hit 'em.

Columbia Brewery--Creston, B.C.--Long before we left, during the planning stages of the trip, it was decided we would be making a breakfast stop at the Columbia Brewery in Creston, B.C. our fifth day out. Three years ago when Josh and Ian did the Mustache Ride up to B.C. and spent time in Revelstoke, they passed through Creston but didn't stop because the brewery was closed. Like the bakery I heard about for three years, I heard about this brewery for three years, and happily said we could stop by whatever time we got to town. Here in the states, the beer you would know best from them is Kokanee. But only if you're a hockey player.... Technically, the brewery was purchased a number of years ago by Pabst and is now owned by Anheuser-Busch. I don't hold that against them, though. I had the Kootenay True Ale--most of their other choices are lagers and I'm just not a lager girl. Sasquatch is their mascot, and we ran into him out in the parking lot.

This was the first sticker I got on the trip. It was all downhill from there for my luggage.
There are no tours until later in the summer, but we sat in the tasting room and watched a video on the history of the brewery. By which I mean we drank beer while a video played somewhere.
Bad Sasquatch! If you look closely, that's a case of beer in his hand (paw?) so technically he bought me a drink first.
Jasper Brewing Company--right on AB-16A when you get into town. We stopped here for lunch. The food was decent and I had the Honey Bear Golden Ale. I think I wanted the stout, but they were out of it. Oh well.

Yukon Brewing--This was one of my favorites. Mostly because 1: They gave me free stickers 2: They use local artists to design their labels (I had to buy a t-shirt because the art was so great--most expensive t-shirt ever, it's probably why they just gave me the stickers) 3: Going here means I can say I have been to every brewery in the Yukon. Uh huh, there's only one. They pour small tastings of everything they brew for you, and if there's anything you like, they'll pour you more. They are also the only brewery in Canada that is distilling. They are located in Whitehorse, and we spent a couple of days there at the hot springs. We grabbed a six pack of the Yukon Gold (English Pale Ale) and the Yukon Red (amber ale). I loved the artwork on the Red so much, that I bought four pieces of artwork by that artist the next day in town at a gallery and had it shipped home. The t-shirt has the artwork from the Yukon Gold.

The back of the t-shirt says "Beer Worth Freezing For."
This is the first batch of their spirits. It finished aging just last month--we were too early!
Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company--off the Steese Highway (leading from Fairbanks up to the start of the Dalton Highway) across from the Howling Dog Saloon. Tom and Melissa took us here for dinner when we stayed with them the second time. We had just gotten down off the Dalton, and we enjoyed the art walk in Fairbanks with Melissa early in the evening, then picked up Tom and headed out. It holds the distinction of being America's most northern brewery. Along with the good food, I had a Pick Axe Porter and a Copper Creek Amber Ale. The gear store was closed by the time we left, so no sticker. Sad.

49th State Brewing Company--we stopped by here, about ten miles north of Denali Naional Park, on our way down from Fairbanks. We hadn't seen any tv in several weeks, and though that is just fine with me, it was great to sit at the bar and watch a hockey game. It was the Kings/Devils in the conference finals, and I w really happy to see some playoff action. I had the blonde ale, and soup made with one of their beers and loads of cheese. They have a fire pit outside to sit around with your beer (for those not glued to the hockey game) and they also have the "Into The Wild" bus which was made for the movie--the original is still in Denali National Park where it broke down.


Denali Brewing Company--Talkeetna, AK--right in the heart of Talkeetna on the main street. They pour tasters, glasses and growlers. I had four tasters, my fave being the Single Engine Red--I like my red beers. They have a pretty extensive food menu too, but other than the beer, I just got a sticker. I know, you're shocked.

I think this may be where I left my Turtle Fur neck gaiter. I am really sad about that as I have not been able to replace it. They don't seem to make them anymore.
Haines Brewing Company--at the fairgrounds in Haines. I know, weird, right? Wait, it gets stranger. It is in the set built for the "White Fang" film with Ethan Hawk from the early 90s. It's kind of great though. At the end of the set is a pizza place with GREAT pizza. Stop at the visitor's center in town before heading out--I got a coupon for each place. So we went to the tiny brewery and tasted each of their beers. They were all pretty stellar, no lie. My two favorites were the Spruce Tip Ale and the Imperial Stout, and as it turns out they make a Black and Tan style mix using each of them. They call it The Giggler, because that is all you do after you have one and move on to your second. The brew master kindly poured me an 8oz size Giggler, so I wouldn't be completely trashed. It seems like most of the customers who showed up were locals looking to fill their growlers, and they seem to be well supported in the community. After we closed the brewery down, we wandered to the end of the set and had a pizza. It was really delicious, and if you don't get your fill of beer at the brewery, the pizza place stocks it.

There was also a yarn shop and massage studio in these buildings. Along with the brewery and pizza place, I could happily live in that set.
Baranof Island Brewing Company--Sitka, AK--besides having good beer, they are directly across the street from a fish smoker. Once you get your beer, go across the street and load up on some smoked salmon bellies to take along with you. I had their Baranof Brown when we first rolled into town at the Larkspur Restaurant for lunch. It was yummy, so we hit up the brewery that night. And the next. And we had lunch there the next day because they also have a decent little menu. I had the Redoubt Red and the Medvejie Stout, and at lunch I tried their root beer as well, and one of the girls behind the bar asked if I was a local. Yup, we were there that much.

Red Hook Brewery--near Seattle, WA. We went one day for the tour with Laura and Sophia, and then back the next day with Holly, Bobby, Sean, Laura, Sophia, and Lilly to have lunch in their restaurant. The food is super good. The brewery tour is fun--the guys who lead it a funny, and you don't have to walk all over just to taste their beer! Brilliant! You can also send wiity, irreverent postcards to anyone you want from their gear shop--just fill out the address and a message and drop it in their mailbox. They pick up the postage.

Cousin Laura, Sophia, and I on the brewery tour. The tour guys are loads of fun!
While in the Seattle area, we visited the Chateau St. Michelle Winery, the Columbia Winery, Elevation Cellars (my favorite of these three), and the Woodinville Whiskey Company which created whiskeys and vodka. I don't do whiskey, but the vodka was super smooth straight up.
We also stopped at the Sokol Blosser winery in Oregon, because it seemed wrong to not stop while in such a gorgeous wine area. The scenery was beautiful, the wine super pricey but nice.
There were several other breweries I would have like to have gotten to. That's okay, it gives me something to go back for. Writing these last two posts has really got me wanting to go back already. I would happily do it again, and I have a long list of things I would do and see that I didn't get to the first time around.

27 December 2012

The camping post--aka, this is harder than I thought it would be!

**Just a quick note about this post. It took a lot longer to write than I thought it would--holy crap! I am posting without proof-reading, so please forgive that. If you want more information, I will happily give you all I can. Email me or post a comment, and I will respond.

Day one: Denver to Flaming Gorge, UT--323 miles Skull Creek Campground on Hwy 44--$18/single site--paved road, potable water, pit toilets. (We were refunded half of the camping fee because they had not yet turned on the water--call first if going before Memorial Day)

Skull Creek Campground--our first night out.
Day two: Palisades Rervoir, ID--252 miles--I totally can't find the info on this campsite. It was at the north end of the reservoir, just above the dam. Nice site--that's it below with me and my giant Molson. There were mosquitoes, but not too bad. Don't buy tortillas in the nearby town. I don't know how you screw up flour and water, but they managed to.

Yeah...me and my Molson tallboy!
Day three: Darby, MT--308 miles Lake Como Campground--4 miles north of Darby turn left and follow signs to campground. $16 per site (we called and they were not officially open yet, but said we could camp if we wanted to for free--they told us there would be no water so we got it in Darby before leaving the area. We rode around the barrier into the group campground and cooked and put the bikes under the shelter)

Day four: Sagle, ID--255 miles (stayed with a friend's aunt)

My friend Justin built the outdoor shower and waterwheel behind me for his aunt and uncle. I may need one of each in my backyard....
Day five: Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada--291 miles--There is one campground in Lake Louise. We were too early in the season and only hard sided camping was allowed as they had not put up the electrical fence for tent camping. We stayed with Hostelling International at their Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center. Rates start at $26.50/person.

Day six: Radium Hot Springs--83 miles--Redstreak Campground--I remember thinking it was expensive, and we are in Canadian money now. But, bathrooms with showers, cooking huts, 6k round trip hike to the hot springs pools. Something like 250 sites in this campground.

Many of the provincial park campgrounds have cooking huts like this. Brilliant, I say!
Day seven: Just shy of Grand Cache, AB--Pierre Grey's Lakes Provincial Park--has 4 campgrounds(83 sites). A site is $20--water and pit toilets, firewood $7/bag. (This was the first site after we changed our route to take the one that had the enormous sign saying "Scenic Route to Alaska". Left Radium and rode N. to Jasper, turned E. at 16 then turned N. at 40)

Day eight: Fort St. John, B.C.--274 miles--solid rain the whole time. Stopped at visitors center and talked to an awesome girl who found us a reasonable hotel (about $85/night) and told us how to get to the grocery and a liquor store on the way. Also recommended good B.C. wine.

Please note my gloves on top of the lampshade, trying to dry out. Everything was soaked!
Day nine: Fort Nelson, B.C.--238 miles--another solid day of rain. Historic Fort Nelson Hotel. About $120/night. Good bar next door. Belly up to the bar and chat with the bartender, Debbie--she's a cool chick and will tell you all about the area. She has been there for about 30 years, but is originally from Vancouver.

All the rooms in the "historic" section of the hotel had been renovated. More recently than this decor suggests....
Day ten: Watson Lake, YT--319 miles--Watson Lake Government Campground--55 sites, right on the lake with pit toilets and free firewood. I think it was inexpensive, maybe $12/site. It's about a mile north of town, and then another mile off the road--just follow signs. Stop in and see Button at the visitor's center first, though. It's in the middle of the signpost forest, which is a kick in itself. Take a sign!!!

Look out for the whacko ptarmigan
...and bears....
Day eleven/twelve: Whitehorse, YT--288 miles--Takhini Hot Springs--about ten tent on,y sites, but it looked as if they were expanding while we were there. Hot springs with showers, outhouses, firewood available. Did I mention hot springs? Don't miss the coffee house down the road. They have great coffee, fresh pastries, and wi-if.

Takhini had recently had problems with bears. We hung the bear box about 100 yards from the tent campsites. There were hot springs here, can you tell? I'm so happy!
Day thirteen: Dawson City, YT--312 miles--Klondike River Campground--Another Yukon government campground, so about $12/site. Water, pit toilets, firewood, and places to hang bear bags. When you get to town, drive through to the end of the road and get on the ferry. Cross the ferry and it is on the right side of the road once you're off. Bonus with this campground--there is a resident black fox who quietly checks each campsite for leftover tidbits. Twice. If you're quiet he pays no attention to you and just goes on his way, and he's beautiful. Drawback--you learn how dependent wild animals become on sloppy campers.

I'm guessing I was a little tired.....
The Yukon River--Dawson City is in the background.
Day fourteen: Tok, AK (via Top of the World Hwy if open)--193 miles--Thompson's Eagle's Claw Campground--This place was AWESOME!!! Owned by Vanessa (I think that's right...), there are a bunch of tent sites, as well as a teepee, a walled tent, a small bunkhouse, a cabin and an ambulance converted into sleeping quarters. Prices range from $10-40 depending on what you take. She has a full shop available to use for maintenance (you can ship stuff to her if you know you want to change tires, oil, etc and do it there) and a SAUNA!!!

Ovi, not satisfied with his sleeping bag temp rating, slept in the ambulance.
Dog took the walled tent.
Day fifteen: Fairbanks, AK (couch surfing)--236 miles--However, during the summer months when there are no classes at the university, they offer the dorm rooms to rent if you want to visit. I have no idea about the camping situation IN Fairbanks. We liked staying with Tom, Melissa, Elka, Wader, and the chickens!

Elka and Wader--Alaskan Huskies
Day sixteen: Marion Creek campground--264 miles--On the Dalton Highway, 5 miles north of Coldfoot. Water and vault toilets. And mosquitoes. They are free. If you are one of two people camping here, you can well bet that the family in the RV will pull up and camp right next to you. No joke. But, the camp hosts are great people, so chat them up a bit if you get the chance. There is a fee (I swear I kept ALL the info from this trip, but I have NO idea where it is now)

Yeah, that view didn't suck.
Day seventeen: Chena Hot Springs--270 miles--this is a resort, so prices vary depending on accommodations and what you choose to participate in. We camped, which gave us use of the RV water station to clean the mud and calcium chloride off the bikes. We also enjoyed the grown-ups only hot pool, relaxing and watching moose come down to eat the vegetable gardens. This was BRILLIANT after the drive down the haul road in the rain and mud.

Day eighteen: Fairbanks with Tom, Melissa, dogs and the chickens again!

Day nineteen/twenty/twenty-one: Denali National Park, AK--123 miles--Savage River Campground--$10 per person fee to enter park (good for 7 days) unless you have a year long national park pass. The campground itself is $22/night for a site. There are campground hosts, flush toilets and sinks w/running water in the bathrooms, and free-standing bear proof closets for food.

Loved the park! Saw Mt. Denali several times, which is actually somewhat rare from the park.
Day twenty-two/three: Talkeetna, AK (staying w/our friend Robin!)--154 miles

Robin, Dog, and Bailey. It stopped raining!
Day twenty-four: Portage Valley, AK--172 miles--Black Bear Campground--6 miles down the Portage Glacier Highway. Pit toilets, water, bear proof containers, all the firewood you can collect. There ARE bears. Also, great hiking in the area to small glaciers.

Exit Glacier in Seward.
Day twenty-five/six: Seward, AK--89 miles--Exit Glacier Campground--about 9 miles out Exit Glacier Highway in Kenai Fjords National Park. (Although it is a national park, there is no entrance fee) Free 12 site walk-in only. Central food storage/cooking/eating area with water and pit toilets. THERE ARE BEARS HERE! But, it's a really nice campground with an easy hike of just a couple miles to Exit Glacier. There is also a campground downtown on the beach, but I think this one was much better.

The bear chewed my helmet, just missing my Sena wires, and leaving a dirty bear nose print in the padding. He also chewed on my seat a bit.
Day twenty-seven: Gakona, AK--323 miles--The Historic Gakona Roadhouse--There is a sign out front that says camping. We went into the bar, found the owner, had a drink and asked about camping. He said to throw the tent wherever we wanted to. We did, and then went back for more drinks. There is a restaurant, and the owner left the restaurant open all night so we could go in and use the bathrooms.

Day twenty-eight: Tok, AK--100ish miles--Young's Hotel (behind Fast Eddy's Restaurant)--here's the great thing about this place: There was a fan in the room which meant we could blast the baseboard heaters to dry our gear, but keep the room cool enough to sleep in. We meant to ride all the way to Kluane Lake, but the rain was brutal, the temps in the 30s, and I couldn't feel my feet anymore.

The line-up outside Fast Eddy's Restaurant. Loads of GSs and one Wee.
Day twenty-nine: Kluane Lake, British Columbia, Canada--245 miles--Cottonwood Park Campground--$16/site with real bathrooms that have flush toilets, loads of hot running water, showers, laundry, a small store, hot tub, and a mini-golf course. Oh yeah, wi-fi too!

Mini golf and sunshine at Cottonwood Park on Kluane Lake
OMG! Sunshine!
Day thirty: Haines, AK--214 miles--Chilkat State Park--8 miles south of Haines, access is a dirt/gravel road with a short section of 14% grade. $10/night with water and pit toilets. We had to hang the bear box ourselves--nowhere to store that stuff.

Day thirty-one: Juneau, AK--Auke Bay Recreation Area--ok, we got on the Alaska Marine Highway System in Haines and had to get off in Juneau for an 8 hour layover--from about midnight to 8 am. We didn't want to seek out a hotel for a couple hours (we were told to check in at 6 for the leg to Sitka), and as we were untying our bikes, one of the guys on the boat told us about Auke Bay. When leaving the parking lot of the ferry terminal, turn left onto the highway. Go about a mile or so, and take the left fork onto Point Louisa Rd. (Oh yeah, they named that after me too) A little ways down that road will be metal staircases that go down to the beach and lead to picnic tables under pagoda style roofs. This was great because it was 1: free 2: on the beach 3: (shocker) raining. So, we popped the tent up and crawled in to sleep for a couple of hours. No one bothered us and there were no signs saying we couldn't camp there....

Day thirty-two: Sitka, AK--Starrigavan Campground and Ann's Gavan Hill B & B--The campground has about 30 sites, some are walk-in only. $14/night for walk-in site. There is water available--amazing water from an artesian well in the main campground--pit toilets, fire rings, and separate covered picnic tables if its raining. The walk-in sites are the best, and definitely try for one of the three on the bay. Despite the bears knocking over the bikes at that campground, it was gorgeous! A humpback whale was breaching off the coast when we woke up. Amazing. After the bear issues, and the constant downpour, we moved to the bed and breakfast and loved it, also. $75-95 night including laundry/kitchen facilities, hot tub, amazing breakfast, and all the history of the area you want to know.

Stupid bears! Then again, my friend Chas would say the bear thought, "Stupid humans!" I guess it's all relative.
Days thirty-three to thirty-six--Alaska Marine Highway System--for rates and schedule, look them up online. It changes each year. Cabins available--sleeping in lounge chairs or pitching tents on deck costs nothing extra. Showers and laundry also available.

Days thirty-seven to thirty-nine spent with family and friends in Washington and Oregon.

Day forty--Eastern Oregon--Dixie Campground, Malheur National Forest--right off highway 26 with 9 sites. $8/site with pit toilets. NO WATER.

We shared this site with a bicyclist named Ralph from Brighton England.
Day forty-one--Craters of the Moon National Monument--Park entrance fee is $4/person on motorcycle or included if you have an annual national parks pass. Camping is $10/site with 51 available sites. Water, bathrooms with flush toilets and running water in sinks. Cool place to visit. Went spelunking but was disappointed as I didn't get to see any bats.

Don't forget a headlamp. The caves are fun--100 degrees above ground, ice on the floor below. Supposedly, there are bats too....
Day forty-two--Lava Hot Springs, ID--KOA Lava Hot Springs--ridiculously overpriced, and freight trains go by less than 100 yards away at least four times an hour, 24 hours a day. Renting tubes and floating down the river is cheap good fun. That's the best I can say about it.

Day forty-three--Dinosaur National Monument--outside Vernal, UT. About the same rates as Craters of the Moon. There are a number of campgrounds, we stayed at Green River Campground. Water, flush toilets, and running water in bathrooms. $12/site with access to the river to swim and cool down. The site came complete with a four foot long snake that I walked over four times before realizing I had. Then, I screamed. Like a little girl. **plus side of things--my wallet fell off my bike in the middle of a huge street in Vernal UT and I didn't realize it. A SUPER nice family rescued it and returned it to me. Really nice people there.

Day forty-four--Home Sweet Home--and the withdrawal set in almost immediately.

I missed a couple of days in there somewhere, but I don't think I missed any campsites. Please contact me if you want anymore info!


23 December 2012

May Santa bring you all you desire! (In his under-powered sleigh)

Happy holidays from my moveable home to yours!
With the first of winter upon us in Denver (not to mention being in California for a bit), my sweet bike is plugged in to the trickle charger and hanging out in the garage. I actually had to drive my truck to work three days last week. It's ok, you can feel sad for me; I do.

I did actually ride the bike to the bottom of this mountain. A 4 mile hike straight up (ok, maybe not straight up, but it felt like it!) brought me to this spot.

The holidays have brought on some serious pondering. My bike produces about 50 horsepower. What is the conversion of that to reindeer power. Well, after doing some research tonight, it appears that reindeer are about 15% of the power of a draft horse. My 2002 BMW F650GS engine produces about 333 reindeer power. Suck it Santa! My bike is SO much faster than your crappy sleigh with 8 (or is it 9--I really think Rudolph might be fictional) reindeer!

Anyway, as the year comes to a close, I want to give a shout-out to my favorite local vendors. Motogear Outlet in Arvada has kept me warm and dry in my Olympia gear. Mike, Debbie, and Chris at Supertune in Lakewood have kept my bike running beautifully, and helped me prove that I can, in fact, u-turn my bike. It was not operator error, but notched steering parts--I u-turn like a champ now, thanks! And most of all--HUGE THANKS to Rob, Dave, Jen, and CoCo at Let It Ride in Lakewood! They have kept me in everything else, and I mean everything else, I could possibly need, and Rob and Davey are always happy to listen to my stupid stories, and share good tips for changing tires on my own. I love you guys!

This picture was taken in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada. Oh yeah, I took you guys with me!
May 2013 find all riders having fun and staying safe, and may Santa bring you all the motorbike STUFF you could possibly want this Christmas!