Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Emerging from the South, we hit Atlanta next. Which is more city, than South. Though I did notice more gals in high-heels and hairsprayed do's than I'm used to.

Atlanta has by far and away the best breweries made for hanging out. A few days a week both the Red Brick Brewing Company and Sweetwater Brewery hold open houses. For $7 and $8 respectively we got a glass and several drink tickets. Plenty enough to get you buzzed. Red Brick also had entertainment and Sweetwater had a nice outdoor patio. And to boot, the beer was great!

We used our daytimes as real vacation time. We swam, read books, generally lazed about. Didn't do lick of sight-seeing in the city. But it was nice to relax, drink good beer and catch up with my sister. Overall I really did like the city a lot and despite being far from the ocean, I think I wouldn't mind living there.

But soon we were off to our next stop: the Great Smoky Mountains.

Honky Tonk!

We were lucky enough to be hosted by a couple I hosted from couchsurfing not too long ago. Tim and Theresa did an amazing job showing us around town in their cool, new mini cooper. First stop was the Parthenon. Yes, that's right, the Parthenon. Nashville made it for their 1897 Centennial Expedition and they liked it so much, they kept it.

Today is houses a small art collection and a giant statue of Athena. We strolled the Centennial gardens, zoomed around the city to see the skyline view, and 'shopped' the museum of Dolly Parton.

We landed in a great honky-tonk bar that would be exactly what you'd picture Nashville to be like. Somehow it managed to retain an air of authenticity, despite being on what I'm sure was the tourist strip. Cowboyhat-clad old men sat at the bar next to tattooed young punks with faux-hawks. Some girls in daisy-dukes and some men with popped collars. It was hard to stereotype the crowd.

So we didn't. We drank our local, Yazoo Beer, listened to the music and enjoyed the fried food and company.

Huge Caves

As you might imagine, internet connection on the road is splotchy. Especially when you're in the Great Smokies. Here's an update from Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah.

After two days of driving, beering and boating, we reached Mammoth Cave. Less beautiful than other caverns I've seen, but far more abuzz with history and stories. Its also, of course, mammoth. We got the tip off to buy our tickets early. Surprisingly, you can only enter with a guide, and tours cost $10-$45 a pop. We picked the Violet City lantern tour. For some reason, hicks like to name places 'City' even if its just a general store and a bar at a crossroads (Bryson City, Cave City, etc...)

Our ranger guide was an old local Kentuckian. Who liked to make you think about your place on the planet. My favorite spot was the ceiling that looked like you were looking at a night sky from inside a gorge. The fires that folks that lived in the cave years ago blackened the ceiling, leaving just small flecks of the original sparkly white stone. Ralph Waldo Emmerson, a Concordian, wrote a poem about it; he was so inspired.

That night as the real stars were coming out, we arrived in Nashville.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Beer, More Driving

First stop was Ellicotville Brewing Company in Fredonia, NY. Next stop Barley's Smokehouse in Columbus, OH. Good ribs, according to Chris and I ate the macaroni salad and beer for breakfast.

Third brewery was Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus in a historic old building downtown. We were wowed by the building, the bar and my favorite brew of the week - Mogabi. Amazing. Its a cross between an IPA and a hefeweizen. (!)

Last drive by brewery is Brownings in Louisvile at Slugger Field. Nothing too special, but they do have shiny gold tanks and a sharp Pale Ale called 'She-Devil.'

Still driving . . .

I'm on a BOAT!

I freaked out a bit when the GPS led us right to a ferry! We tried to steer around Lake Champlain and I finally got the GPS to take us over Bridge Road.

Well, turn out Bridge Road doesn't exist - its a ferry. Turns out the ferry is free and 'leaving right now.' We drive on and sail out. Chris is a bit skeptical at first.

But we ended up loving the ride. We were off in New York, back on the back-roads on to the next stop.

Beer and Driving

We've attempted to space apart our driving and beer as much as possible and take turns. Our first day of vacation was actually a lot of work - four hours of driving followed by 6 hours of volunteering. Chris spent most of it in the sun, lifting heavy kegs for the brewers. Comparatively my job was easy - filling tasting glasses with stacks of drink tickets and handing them to festival-goers. Not only did the hard labor earn us a free tickets to the last session of the festival, but we also got free pint glasses and a t-shirt.

The weather was beautiful for our session - crazy clouds, gorgeous sunset over the lake and mountains. Two rainbows appeared in the sky as we turned away from the Dieu du Ciel and everyone oohed at the same time. Somehow the beer tastes better when the sky is beautiful.

Unfortunately the weather turned on us. Just as I was about to trade in my last ticket for a beer, the show closed down as lightening shot across the skies. We ran back to the car just in time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Month of Travel

I love travel. Everytime I step into a bus station, train depot or out of my car at a gas station in the middle of nowhere I get a thrill.

So I'm lucky that work not only makes me travel, but allows me to. This month I'm on the road for two weeks helping out in canvass offices -- Amherst, Cambridge and New Haven. No where super exciting, but pleasant breaks from the routine.

Tomorrow is when the excitement starts! Chris and my two week National Park (& Beer) road trip starts tomorrow.

First up - Burlington, Vermont for the VT Brewers Festival. We'll be volunteering during the morning shift to earn our free beer in the evening. Follow along at my beer tracking site to see what beers we drink here and along the whole way.

Next stop is somewhere in the middle of Ohio where we'll likely sleep in our car. But then comes Mammoth Caves and Nashville.

The whole itinerary is here. Perhaps I'll see you along the way?

View Nation Parks Summer Tour in a larger map