Travel | Milwaukee Trip – Part 1

Travel | Milwaukee Trip – Part 1

We had planned a trip up to Milwaukee for a while now. There is an annual Bead & Button show there, with classes and a lot of vendors, so with my wife being a beader, it provided a great excuse to head out to the midwest. We lucked out and were grateful that we had family come into town to watch our little guy and dog for the week. Our first leg of the trip was to Cleveland, which would be the halfway point for us on the way up to Milwaukee. This was a pretty uneventful ride, and we left at a decent time so traffic wasn’t that bad and we had smooth sailing. We only stopped for gas and hit up a Hardees for lunch. We apparently were a bit excited to get this trip going, and actually forgot that we were supposed to make a stop on the way. We made it to Cleveland around dinner time on Sunday. The hotel mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of stuff open at this time, but pointed us to a couple of areas where we may find dinner. Being in the truck all day, we decided to walk down to the water front and check out a few of the sites. The road outside of our hotel ended at Lake Erie and the water front area, so off we went. The lake front was undergoing some renovations, so we imagine there will be more activity there in the future, but we did manage to climb these rather large steps to see the skyline. It’s a pretty cool view, even with the overcast weather. On the way to the water front, you pass the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was closed at the time. Truth be told, we actually weren’t really that gung ho to go in anyway.

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Cleveland skyline from Lake Erie

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View across the tracks to a train station.

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Birthplace of Rock & Roll with the Hall of Fame Museum in the background.

We headed back downtown. The majority of the city was pretty quiet. The Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were playing in the NBA finals, though in California. However, the Quicken Loans Arena was hosting a viewing party, so we started to see the trickle of fans in their Cleveland gear. We headed to the Historic Gateway District. The main road leads to the Arena, so it was loaded with people. The Gateway is a pretty cool area, a portion of it is only open to foot traffic and there is a lot of activity happening. There were a bunch of restaurants and bars in this area that were actually open. Many bars were getting ready for the game. We saw Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro, though we weren’t in that state of mind, so we ended up eating at Zocalo. It’s a Mexican Restaurant & Tequila bar, and an empty outdoor seating area. With all the people walking through, we wanted to maximize our people watching. They age Tequila onsite, so when I ordered a margarita, I had to try their Zocalo. To be honest, I think this may have been a waste. The margarita tasted like many others, and thinking back, no need to use the good liquor in a mix drink. We ended up ordering way more food than we needed. We had some confusion on sizes, as we thought the menu was indicating one of each (Tacos, Empanadas, etc), yet they came out in groups. So we essentially had three of everything. The food was decent, but the location was all that was necessary.

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Zocalo – The entrance is through an ally.

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Margarita, salsa, & gaucamole.

After stuffing ourselves, we meandered back to the hotel to call it a night. We had been on the road all day, and needed to plan our next day. At this point, we had realized that we missed a stop, and wanted to make sure we coordinated the rest of the trip better. During this coordination we realized that we wouldn’t be able to hit up Great Lakes Brewing during this trip. This was high on the list, however they were not a walkable distance for dinner, and they opened later on Monday than we wanted to delay getting on the road again. Especially since we had to backtrack to stop in at our previously missed site. So after a good nights rest and solid breakfast, we got back on the road to head to this missed site, which is Smucker’s.

The beauty of going on trips and traveling through America is you learn so much. We had never realized that Smucker’s was in the heart of Ohio, that they owned a lot of other products other than Jelly (the biggest shocker being Jif Peanut Butter), and that they would have a place for you to visit. We stopped in at the headquarters first, which is located at 1 Strawberry Lane in Orrville, Ohio. I love it when business brand like that, and continue to get a kick out of the street name. Must say though, the store was a bit of a bust. We were hoping for unique items or even lower pricing, however this is not the case. The store itself is pretty cool, and there is a cafe. In the middle, there is a sampling station, where they will provide samples of some of the products. But the majority of the items available are stuff you can buy at your local grocery store for the same price. The other let down was on the designer side, as we thought the colored glass in the back of the store was going to be jelly, alas its just colored glass. We made sure to grab some JIF socks and Smucker’s t-shirts though as well as pick up a few jars due to convenience.

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Smucker’s Company Store & Cafe

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Smucker’s Company Store & Cafe Interior

We got back on the road and pushed on. Most of this leg of the trip was through America’s heartland, and mainly farms. We did stop at an Arby’s for lunch, but not much else big happened until we got to South Bend Indiana. We had to stop in at Notre Dame and see the Football Jesus, as well as get our stadium picture (here is a link to the stadium picture). We were a bit surprised at Notre Dame, granted we didn’t drive through the whole campus, but a lot of it looked fairly new. I was expecting a more historic look I guess. And for some reason, I thought the Football Jesus was right next to the stadium, it is across a lawn near the stadium. Amazing how distorted things can look on TV sometimes. After driving around and trying to secure the best angle, we got back on the highway. We got bogged down once we hit Chicago. Not sure if the expressway would have been better, but we were right in rush hour, so we got to enjoy the skyline for a bit. We finally made it to Milwaukee. After settling in the hotel, we ventured out to grab dinner. We were pretty tired at this point, and didn’t do a lot of research on where to grab a meal. We also knew we would be there for the majority of the week and had time. Rock Bottom Brewery was right around the corner and looked over the river. Rockbottom may be mainstream now, but it holds a special place to us. When we first met during a school trip, the first place we officially had dinner at was a Rock Bottom. When we moved to the DC area, we frequented the Rock Bottom in Arlington, and we have hit many others in other cities. They have a great location, with plenty of out door seating, bar, and grill space. This wasn’t open at the time, and it started raining when we were seated, but we were still able to look out at the sites. It was nice to just chill after a long two days of travel, and so we hit the sack after dinner to relax.

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University of Notre Dame – Football Jesus

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Rock Bottom Milwaukee – Our View

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Rock Bottom Milwaukee – Entry & Signage


Zocalo Mexican Grill & Tequileria
2071 E 4th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115

JM Smucker Company Store & Cafe
333 Wadsworth Road
Orrville, OH 44667
Smucker Company Store Website

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
740 N Plankinton Ave #1
Milwaukee, WI 53203

College Stadiums | Ohio State University

College Stadiums | Ohio State University

Breweries | New Glarus Brewing Company

Breweries | New Glarus Brewing Company

During our stay in Milwaukee, my wife had an all day class to attend. So I decided to take the opportunity to head further west and stop in at a few breweries. One of which was New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin. New Glarus is widely known in the brew world, and has very limited distribution. By very limited, I mean nothing out of Wisconsin. So this stop was very important and a must. My journey started late morning and I arrived around lunch time. I figured there may be food at the tasting room, so with my stomach growling I pushed on, deeper into the farming country. Heading south on State Highway 69, I saw an old building resembling something from the Alps on the left side of the road. It had New Glarus Brewing written on the side, yet my GPS told me to keep going.

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The original New Glarus Brewing location.

I would later find out that this was the original location. Currently still producing beer, mainly the fruit varieties, and though there is still an ample parking lot, I was told that beer tours are not possible here anymore. On my way out of the area, I did stop to snap a photo though. As you drive deeper into town, more of the Swiss Alp decorations pop up. Not surprising as the name is from Glarus Switzerland. It is even home to the Swiss Center of America. Fun fact, they make Jack Links beef jerky in the area as well.

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New Glarus Brewing road sign.

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Small Hop yard.

Taking a left off of State Highway 69 again, a multi-faceted Wisconsin Thumbprint for New Glarus welcomes you. Once you turn in, a small hop yard is located on the left. The driveway was longer than expected, so best to keep going straight. I got side tracked with excitement and pulled into the first right thinking that was the parking lot. After a few bends there is an opening in the trees, and a Swiss Chalet appears, with a clock tower and decent parking lot. For those coming in to pick up some beer, there is a beer depot adjacent to the parking lot. It even has a convenient loading zone if you end up picking up more than expected. Due to the cooler weather and being the middle of a week day, the tasting room wasn’t open at the moment. So I continued up the stone stairs to the Gift Shop. They have taps inside the Gift Shop and access to the brewery, so you can order a flight and take the self guided tour while sipping. They provided bracelets to keep track of how many samples you ordered, which was something I hadn’t run into at any other brewery. The flights come with a taster glass, a nice memento, and a coupon for a free pint from one of the local bars.

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Parking lot

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Sampling bracelets, three beers each.

During my first sample, I decided to check out more of the gift shop. It had a lot of Wisconsin related items, such as cow decorations, cheese, kid’s books and toys, snacks, and other items. There was also plenty of beer related items, like the Beermap, New Glarus swag, and a decent amount of clothing. With my second, I headed into the brewery. You first past the Micro Lab and Quality Assurance rooms before the corridor ends in a medal and display room. I’ve seen many other breweries display their medals, but this was one of the nicest set ups I have seen. After the display, there is a door that enters into the brewery. After a brief corridor, you enter a room with four large copper mash tuns. They don’t let you get to close, though it seems a private tour may allow for closer access. Side note, trying to take a good photo while sipping a taster can prove difficult.

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Beer Medal display.

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Mash Tuns

The tuns span the width of the building, and at each end are long corridors. The beginning of one corridor starts at the yeast propagation room, and runs down past a pilot/small batch system adjacent to stairs with a sign declaring “The Stairway to Heaven”. Heading up the stairs gives you a great view of stainless steel fermenters, however continuing higher to heaven was roped off. Continuing further down this corridor there are many other smaller rooms to each side, demonstrating various phases and processes integral to brewing. At the end of the corridor, it opens up to the bottling line. This is blocked by glass, but allows for plenty of video opportunities. The corridor begins to loop at this point and head back to the tun room. The corridors are simply decorated, some areas with glass windows, others with painted walls. There is floor tile throughout, and in one area, a cool stone etched with the New Glarus logo. The beauty of these corridors is the amount of stainless steel plumbing you see throughout. These lines are the true veins of the brewery, and it’s amazing to see the vast amount of them.

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Pilot/Small Batch system.

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More plumbing, glass wall viewing area.

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Bottling line

During the course of the tour, I made sure to head back and move on to the next sample. Figured it would work best that way. However, I still had a couple of samples to finish outside of the brewery itself. The gift shop also has access to the beer garden. There is a large patio area with what look to be castle or church ruins and trellis’ covered in hops. Plenty of picnic style seating and an awesome view of farm land. There are a few other levels, and a lot of room to spread out. They even used an old brewing station to act as a water dispenser and glass cleaning station. It was pretty empty while I was there, however I could see how it would be packed during nicer days. If I visit again, I’ll make sure to bring some snacks to grab a table to hang out for sure.

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Beer Garden area.

The weather may not have been delightful, but this was a great visit. The beer is top notch (the Serendipity was phenomenal), and the brewery itself is definitely worth a visit. On my list of favorites for sure out of the many tours/breweries I have visited. For some, being self guided may be tough, but if you understand the process, its nice to be able to wander through at your own pace. I was also surprised at the size of the facility considering the limited distribution, was expecting something much smaller, and more like the original location. I made sure on my way out to head to the beer depot to stock up. The beer depot allows for make your own six packs, and since the samples didn’t cover all of the beers available, I made a few sixers to go. I also picked up a few bombers of the specialty beers, such as the Serendipity, Raspberry Tart, and Belgian Red. Seems I may have gone overboard a bit, as I had to pull up in the loading lane.

Beers Sampled: Totally Naked, Spotted Cow, Two Women Lager, Moon Man, Coffee Stout, Serendipity

New Glarus Brewing
2400 State Highway 69
New Glarus, WI 53574

College Stadiums | University of Wisconsin

College Stadiums | University of Wisconsin

College Stadiums | University of Notre Dame

College Stadiums | University of Notre Dame

Fests | New Belgium DC Tour de Fat

Fests | New Belgium DC Tour de Fat

New Belgium has been hosting Tour de Fat now for over 16 years, and since I’ve heard about it coming to DC, I’ve wanted to attend. DC seems to be their first stop, meaning it’s at the beginning of summer. Every year I’ve wanted to go, it was on a weekend where we had a trip planned. This year however, we had nothing that conflicted, so became high priority. Sadly, DC has been having a record wet spring, including a rain storm passing through the day of the event. Watching the weather closely, I noticed the dark green radar cloud quickly moving away. So I got all my gear together and took the little guy out to see the sights. Events were listed as starting around 10am, so I wanted to get there early, so we could make a day out of it without impacting nap time. We apparently were really early though. Add in the uncertainty of the rain, and it was like a ghost town. A lot of vendors and displays were being set up, while others were being taken down. With the past rain, a lot of events and attractions were canceled, including the bike parade. Seemed most of which were for the kids.

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Photo of Eli in a frame with the main stage and band in the background.

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VIP drinking area, never really got packed.

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Beer lines. Not open yet.

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Beer tokens. $5 per each.

We pushed forward though, and checked out a few of the sights. With no one there, it was great for Eli to be able to toddle around. After checking out the band for a bit, we headed over to Le Tigre to see the yo-yo show. Sadly, this show was canceled and they recommended we head back to the main stage for the fashion show. Figured if we were going to be here for a little bit, it was safe to buy a couple of beers. Seems we were early on that front as well, since beers weren’t being sold till noon. Was able to grab one though, and we started following a group of clowns on a trike back to the main stage for the fashion show. One of the clowns stripped down to his speedos and did some slip and sliding.

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Fashion show with clown slip & slide.

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Cupid on portable karaoke stage.

It was back to Le Tigre at this point. The main stage and Le Tigre were on opposite ends of the venue and required crossing the Yards Park bridge. Didn’t realize I was going to be getting a nice little work out in. We made it to the next show, which was Adam Kuchler. It was a fun little show and had some juggling involved, so the little guy was definitely being entertained. Definitely worth the trip. We saw that there was a puppetry show starting a little later, so we quickly headed to the BBQ Bus for lunch. We grabbed a plate full of BBQ pork, baked beans, and mashed potatoes and headed back to Le Tigre. The puppetry show by Vanessa Valliere wasn’t what we were expecting, not sure a lot of the kids who came into the show understood what was going on. It was a cool concept though, and had some good laughs for the older crowd.

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Adam Kuchler with a juggling act.

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Puppet Show with Vanessa Valliere

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BBQ Bus – Pulled pork, baked beans, & mashed potatoes.

At this point, it was getting close to nap time. So we decided to head out. We missed the slow bike ride and never saw who one the New Belgium bike. By this point, the crowd had grown, and there was a long line for beer. I was out of tokens and realized that they had Carnie Blood on tap, so missed out on that one. Though the rain literally put a damper on things, it was a great event regardless. Now that we know what to expect, we are definitely looking forward to next year, hopefully the weather holds up then.

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More of a crowd and lines for Carnie Blood.

Tour de Fat –
Adam Kuchler –
BBQ Bus –
Vanessa Valliere –

4Runner | 4XInnovations Rock Sliders

4Runner | 4XInnovations Rock Sliders

When I first got the 4Runner, it had running boards on it. Now these are great to be used as steps, but they don’t do well to protect much of anything. In fact, during one of the offroad trips, part of the running board was ripped off and left somewhere in the woods. I saw an image afterwards of a 4Runner that had some tough looking bumper and sliders, and always figured it would happen at some point. I had something similar on my Jeep Wrangler back in the day and always knew they were effective and useful. However, other modifications became priority in my mind before the sliders. After a trip to Rausch for the GPAX Shocker Run over a year ago, one of the FORCE members mentioned I should get some and that he would help make a pair. His truck had some nice tube bending and welding, so I was game. This was in fact the second time someone had made this offer to me. Wanting the sliders was also escalated after another trip where I got to see some put to good use. Life can get in the way sometimes, and so it went from building them from scratch to ordering a pair and installing them. So after a ton of research, I decided to order a pair of the DOM with a kickout from 4XInnovations. They had a great price and plenty of people vouching for them. Order was placed after Christmas, and happily they did not take as long as expected to arrive (I’ve seen some estimates in the 5 month range for other manufacturers, whereas these showed up in less than 2 months). Timing was again not in my favor, and so they sat for a while in the garage. I checked a few off-road/overland shops in the area, and received pricing ranging from $400 to $800. I was a bit surprised. Wanting to get them on before Summer started, as trips and scheduling would become even harder, I called up the other friend of mine who offered, Matt. Now, luck was on my side, and everything worked out perfectly.

I woke up early to head out to his house, and along the way, ran into a bunch of heavy rain. I was starting to become concerned that this would not happen. Upon my arrival, the rain stopped and though a little windy, the sun would eventually peak out. We picked up some welding gas and started putting a plan together.

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Rock Slider mock up

First step was to place the jack stands and mock up the fitment. This allowed us to see the mounting points, final angle, and figure out the next steps. At first we were going to measure out a bunch of stuff, but once we had the mock up set up, we realized that there were only a few natural locations for the connections. The sliders came with three tubes for connection to the frame. One would go in the center, and the other two as far to each end as possible. Due to some body mounts, these were located inward a bit.

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Modding the Mod

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Brackets to Plates

Not sure why, but two of the brackets were longer than the others. I’m assuming this was because it is somewhat of a universal kit (fits 1990-2013 4Runners. So we cut them down. After some grinding along the edges and the mounting plates, it was time to weld the bracket tube to the plate. The plates had 4 holes in them, assuming for people who want to bolt to the frame. The tube was close to the bottom of the plate, based to the alignment we noticed during the mock up. We also attached the gusset on the top. Since the force will be pushing upward toward your vehicle, this is a must.

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Angle mock up

We then did another mock up. Again, we were being very technical in our approach. In reality, we had a lot of luck I think. We had some angle steel sitting around that provided just enough lift to the brackets for the right amount of angle. I’ve seen some guys angle it a lot, however I only wanted a few degrees. I can’t tell you the final angle, but it fit exactly as desired, in fact, couldn’t be tilted higher. As previously mentioned, the mock up showed us the best location for attachment, so we did another mock up with the jack stands and marked the locations. These were then welded. Only two are shown in the pic, but the final center one was added the same way. At this point, we had to make another trip to the store for welding gas. We made it back to the house only to realize that they had given us the wrong bottle. So this warranted another trip. Somewhere in there, we also decided to grab lunch.

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Grind the frame

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With the brackets attached, we grind down the frame to expose fresh metal. There was a moment of pride to see nice shiny metal hidden under the aging point. It also reminded me that I needed to strip down the frame and refinish at some point, since old 4Runners are prone to rusty frames. We used a series of jack stands, clamps, and man power to hold the sliders in place as they were tacked down. Once tacked, Matt went to work welding the plates to the body, and then rosetting the 4 mounting holes. We thought this part would go pretty quickly, but it took a little longer than expected. Not sure if it was the wind or the angle of welding, but we had a lot of sputtering and the welds weren’t coming along as nicely as the previous jobs.

I know this may not be the best method, and we discussed another, of welding out from the frame. Though our method had some issues along the way, we felt there would have been more room for error doing the other method. The notched tubes to the slider for instance.

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We finished much earlier than I was expecting. So I stopped by the auto store on my way home to pick up paint. I wanted the matte finish, and found some “nerf” bar spray paint. Family was still out and about, so I decided to try and tackle the painting. I used some old drawings that were about to be recycled and taped off the side panels and laid some protection for the driveway. I was able to apply 3 coats on each, and was even able to get the sliders and frames completely. Figured there would be touch up down the road, as they will be sliding at some point.

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Finished Product

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Final overall

The painting went well, and everything came out better than expected. I’m still getting used to having them there. Another reason I removed the running boards was I didn’t use them as step and so my leg would always rub against it (getting my pants dirty). These rub my leg as well. Guess I’ll just have to raise the 4Runner up so that I have to use the step…

Big shout out to my friend Matt for all his help. You can always throw some support his way, by picking up some

For more info about sliders (these were the 1990-2013 4Runner DOM Rock Sliders w/ kick out) and other great products that 4XInnovations have, check out their site:


Fests | 2nd Annual Bluegrass, Brew, & BBQ

Fests | 2nd Annual Bluegrass, Brew, & BBQ

It’s been a while since we had gone to a brew fest, we have become a bit particular about them, and try to avoid some of the massive mainstream ones that result in overcrowding rush sampling. We decided to give this one a shot, as my sister-in-law had been there the previous year and gave it a good recommendation. The first good sign of a brew fest is the hours that it runs. There are a lot of them out there that last only three hours. I’m not sure how you are expected to sample 100 different types of beer in that time frame. This one had seven hours of sampling, and with 15 breweries on hand, that becomes very manageable. In fact, we were even able to drink a couple full glasses of the beers we really enjoyed. The second good sign is the pricing. It’s a good deal when you get a sampling glass (13 oz) and ten 3 oz sampling tokens for $22.50 online. Since Red Shedman Farm Brewery is also part of Lingnore Wines, they threw in some free wine sampling as well. They also had wine to purchase, which makes the family battles of beer versus wine fall to the wayside. If you wanted to upgrade, they did offer VIP for $35, which got you double the tokens and a three oz bigger souvenir glass. Honestly, I find that the upgrade typically isn’t really worth it. Especially when you can get five more tokens for $4.

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13 oz Souvenir Glass

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Pork Authority BBQ Truck

Pulling in through the rolling hills, you are quickly reminded that you are on a farm. We lucked out, and our parking spot ended up being right by the entry. There was only one entry point, which resulted in quite the long line wrapping around the fence. This line didn’t seem to die down till we left and they were closing the entry down. Once inside, there was a pavilion area with all the breweries and wine to the left. Beyond the pavilion was a steady sloping hill covered in festival goers and another pavilion for the bands at the bottom. Directly ahead was a barn house, which had wine sampling and other vendors inside. To the right was the food, as well as other odds and ends vendors. After claiming our spot, we grabbed a couple of samples and headed for the BBQ. We got to the fest early, around opening time, but it seems there was a lack of BBQ at this point. Some of our group did recon missions to figure out what others were up and running while one of us staked a spot in the Pork Authority line. There were a couple of other vendors that had pulled pork, such as the Jerk Chicken place, but by the time I had considered moving over there, that line had increased as well. By then, the Falafel line had also become dreadfully long. I waited it out, and after about 30 mins or so, I received my BBQ. It was tasty, but my overall disappointment that a festival have the letters BBQ in it, seemed to be lacking said article continued.

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Blue Octane Bluegrass Band

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Covered hill of festival goers

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Pano from the bottom of the hill

The music was great, and there were plenty of areas for families to play. The beer tasting lines tended to be long, but moved pretty quickly. It was nice that there were a bunch of different styles represented, as I’ve been to plenty of festivals that are overloaded on IPA. So other than being a bit packed and desire for more BBQ, this was a nice festival. It was made even better by the awesome weather we had that day, and the fun atmosphere that the crowd helped create. A couple of days later, we saw notes that the festival planners are going to try and take care of some of the lines and lack of BBQ for next years event. So will definitely add this to our list of festivals worth visiting.

Red Shedman Farm Brewery
13601 Glissans Mill Road
Mt. Airy, MD 21771
301.831.5889 or 410.795.6432

Participating Breweries
Red Shedman
Frey’s Brewing
Manor Hill
Peabody Heights
Ruhlman Brewery
Barley & Hops
Mad Science
Brewer’s Alley
Full Tilt
Smoketown Brewing
Ocean City
Monocacy Brewing
Jailbreak Brewing
Antietam Brewery

Live Music
Man About A Horse
Letitia VanSant
Haint Blue
Blue Octane
Ampersand Stringband

Hike | Redwood Regional Park

Hike | Redwood Regional Park

Whenever we visit California, we try and get a hike or at least some good walking in. During our last trip, we headed up to the San Francisco area, so before we even landed, we knew we wanted to hit some Redwoods. We met up with Linda’s friend Alexis from the area, and she knew a perfect little spot to head to. She does a lot of hiking in the area with her dog Bastian, an Australian Shepherd. So somewhat early morning, we headed out of the city and went over to East Bay. After a nice curvy ascent in the car, we pulled into the Chabot Space and Science Center, which is connected to Redwood Regional Park (you can see a map and info below). There is apparently some great science and astrological stuff to do here, as well as a nearby Archery range. Both were closed at the time. I think the Archery was due to some of the sprinkler the current micro-climate was dishing out. We had heard on the news that there was some rain sprinkles expected, but in San Fran, it seems that every mile has it’s own weather forecast. We figured a little rain, no biggie, onward.

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Redwood Regional Park – Alexis & Bastian

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Redwood Regional Park – Madrone or Redwood Peak Trails

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Redwood Regional Park – Trail Intersection

After parking we walked through the Redwood Bowl and started on what I believe may have been the Redwood Peak Trail. I know we started heading downhill for sure and eventually made it to the Stream Trail. It continued to sprinkle, but when we were down the mountain and in the deep canopy, we hardly noticed the rain. We continued along the Stream Trail, which has some cool spots with great trees and moss covered ground, the type of forest that we don’t see much of, and when we do, it’s mainly on TV. We were coming to the end of the Stream Trail, and the rain started picking up. We had to make this one clearing, and try and pick up the West Ridge Trail to head back up the mountain. At this point, the rain was coming. After a quarter to half mile, we came to the junction for West Ridge Trail. Just our luck, it was closed at this point. We started heading back down the Stream Trail to find another connection, and eventually went back up the mountain on Chown Trail. It was a steep climb up, but was the shortest path. The rain was really coming down now, to the point where we had mini water falls cascading over our feet as we continued trudging upward. We were all completely soaked. I had forgotten my coat, which would have been nicely suited for this to some degree, so my newly purchased Russian River Brewing jacket was clinging to me. Alexis, who was somewhat prepared, was also soaked to the bone, so not sure it would have really helped at this point. The Chown Trail brought us out onto the West Ridge Trail finally, everyone pretty exhausted in addition to the wetness (though Bastian seemed ready to keep going, minus the occasional annoying shake off). The West Ridge Trail is basically a fire road, so we still had a climb, but not the switchbacks we had just a little earlier. We made it back to the car, and the girls changed into something dry. None of us expected to run into a monsoon during this hike. So we headed to Drake’s Brewing Company afterwards, and you can read about that and Russian River Brewing here.

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Redwood Regional Park – Damp Redwood branch

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Redwood Regional Park – Crossing the stream along Stream Trail

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Redwood Regional Park – Stream Trail

This is a great park. The parking we chose was covered, and it was a great area to access a lot of the trails, though on the upper ridge portion of these trails. The park was a dog friendly park, and Bastian was allowed to be off leash for most of the time. Apparently this is more common place in these parks. We ran into a couple of dog hikers, literally vans full of dogs, heading out. It’s a well maintained park, and with the many trail heads, presents a lot of variety lengthwise and scenery. We enjoyed the Redwoods and some of the little stops along the way, such as the Fern Dell and Old Church. There are several areas that you can picnic and even restroom stops along the easier gentler routes. We went during the weekday, so wasn’t too busy, but was told that the weekend would be packed. If you are ever in this area, and want to get away to nature for a bit, this park is worthwhile.

Redwood Regional Park Map

Redwood Regional Park – Map

Redwood Regional Park
7867 Redwood Road
Oakland, CA 94619

Breweries | Russian River & Drake’s

Breweries | Russian River & Drake’s

We were recently in California for my cousin’s wedding, so we took the opportunity to piggy back a few activities onto this trip. Our little guy was going to be able to stay with his grandparents, allowing some free time for us to head up to San Francisco to spend time with one of Linda’s friends, Alexis. Alexis had a huge list of breweries and hikes planned, however when we arrived we were able to surprise her with the news that we were expecting another little guy. This was made even more ironic, as the last time Linda visited, she was pregnant with Eli. So we whittled the list down. We loaded in the car and headed north to Santa Rosa, it was our opportunity to hit Russian River Brewing. There is a lot of hype surrounding their IPA Pliny the Elder, and they are considered to be one of the early stalwarts of the craft beer industry.

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Russian River – Sign

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Russian River – Packed bar area

We arrived with a little bit of a line, but it didn’t take us long before we were inside. Wanting to grab something to eat, but figured we would grab a Pliny as we waited for our names to be called. Wasn’t long, and we had a table.  The pub serves the standard fare for brewpubs, salads, pizza, sandwiches, and wings. We started off with a spinach salad and beer bites. Beer Bites are definitely a great idea and I could easily find myself eating these all the time if I was a regular. Go great with a flight or a few pints. Along with ordering our flight, we added a pizza. I’m thinking it was the Omni, but honestly, I can’t recall which one we had. I think the Beer Bites overshadowed the pizza somewhat in my memory.

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Russian River – Flight

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Russian River – Beer Lists

When the flight arrived, I must say, it was one of the largest I have ever had delivered. I’ve been at plenty of breweries that will have a cap of samples in the flight, with the option of returning for a second flight. This is not an issue at Russian River, as 21 tasters were dropped off in front of us. One side was as they call it “traditional aggressively hopped California Style Ales” while the other side were the Belgian inspired and barrel aged. I think the latter side became the more appealing to me, though I’m sure some would disagree. We of course hit the shop on the way out, grabbed a couple of Plinys to bring to the east coast, and some cool swag (opportune due to my forgetting my jackets further south in warmer climates).

Beers Sampled: Pliny the Elder, Aud Blonde, OVL Stout, STS Pils, Dribble Belt, Hop 2 It, Segal Select, Row 2 Hill 56, Blind Pig IPA, Porter, Redemption, Perdition, Damnation, Defenestration, Rejection, Salvation, Sanctification, Compunction, Supplication, Consecration

The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we met up with Alexis again to go hiking. We headed to Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, and you can read about the hike here. All that hiking made us thirsty. So our next stop would be Drake’s Brewing Company. I feel like I’ve heard of Drake’s and their logo looked familiar, but not sure. As it was continuing to rain, we decided sitting in the outdoor area was not an option, eventhough we were already soaked.

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Drake’s Brewing – Brewing

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Drake’s Brewing – Brewhouse

Once in the barrel house, I ordered a flight as we reviewed the menu. They have a food truck outside that was very capable. The fries and club sandwich really hit the spot. We ran into the flight limit here, with only eight allowed at a time. I had grand plans of trying all of their offerings, however ended up calling it quits sooner. I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of the Hop-U-Rye, the roastiness of the Black Robusto, and the punch of the Wheatwine.

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Drake’s Brewing – Outdoor seating & Brew Kitchen

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Drake’s Brewing – Tasting Bar

It was nice to be able to relax and chill out in the barrel house. We must have been there around the time the staff get off work, as a lot of them headed inside for a beer before heading home. Near the food menu resides a couple jars of pickled eggs. Not sure why, but they are there. Wasn’t crazy about jumping into the Habanero, instead opted for the Jalepeno. May have needed more pickling time, as it tasted like a normal egg with Jalepeno taste to it. Oh well, the reason for stopping in didn’t disappoint, so no worries.

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Drake’s Brewing – Beer List

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Drake’s Brewing – Barrels

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Drake’s Brewing – Flight

Beers Sampled: Winning Lager, 4×40, Quasar Imperial IPA, Hop-U-Rye, Black Robusto Porter, 1500 Pale Ale, Foraging Raccoon, Denogginizer, Drake’s Grisette, Hefeweizen, Ludwig’s Scorn Wheatwine, Black & Orange Robusto, Hopocalypse (Green Label)

We did stop by another brewery earlier in the week while in San Diego, we didn’t actually sit down and order a beer, but I figured I would still share a couple of the pics. We had been to Stone Brewing’s Bistro & Beer Garden in Escondido, but I believe their Liberty Station location may be bigger. Felt like there were rooms heading in every direction. Lots of big granite and metal of course.

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Stone Brewing Liberty Station – Dining Area

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Stone Brewing Liberty Station – Main Bar

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Stone Brewing Liberty Station – Water feature table

Russian River Brewing Company
725 4th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Drake’s Brewing Company
1933 Davis Street #177
San Leandro, CA 94577

Stone Brewing – Liberty Station
2816 Historic Decatur Road
San Diego, CA 92106