Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The Sweden House Lodge is a place to avoid
If you happen to be passing through Rockville Illinois
Upon our arrival there was no way to know
Just how bad this place would blow
Not even to our room we pass a guy in the hall
who was without question tripin balls
Orange Juice he claimed was what he be needin
What is wrong in this fake lodge from Sveedin
Upon entering our room “what is that smell?”
we should have know right there it was gonna be hell
My bro thought cleaners, myself I thought piss
Either way there was something amiss
The place was dated and kind of old,
Wondering if under the sheets lurked some kind of mold.
Well good news for us no mold was found
but the stains on the sheets, well they were brown
Perhaps not brown but more of a tan
The frightening result of a strange woman and man
Upon further inspection the place was a disaster
Stains on the toilet seat and no toilet paper
Not wanting to find anything else that was vile
We went and had excellent beers at the Carlyle
We drank our beers even played connect four
Soon it was time to head for the door
Back to the sveedish house to get some sleeps
there is no F'in way I'm sleeping on those sheets
So on top of the wool blanket I go
pulling half over myself like a giant burrito
Over my fears and settling in
That’s when the sirens started to begin
A door slams and the siren stops
Uh-oh Mr. Orange Juice is meeting the cops
Thinking that’s funny and drifting off to my slumber
What else could happen tomorrow I wonder
I forgot to mention upon check-in Dan was mad
from 6am to 7am there was no water to be had
We tried to understand how could this be
dont people get up and have to shower and pee
By morning water was not the only thing in doubt
During the night the power went out
Its a very good thing we don’t sleep in
Cause the fun of the morning was about to begin
The water was back but still no power
Andy went in to take a shower
Within a minute he came out with a bellow
He says “Dude the water is coming out is yellow!”
I jumped out of bed, this I couldn’t miss
Yep, it looked like the tub was filling with piss.
With pictures of proof taken it began to clear out
I took the fastest shower of my life without a doubt
All packed up and ready to be leavin
Ready to get out of the shitty lodge from Sveedin
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
We were greeted by Matt our tour guide and surprised that he said “So you’re here for the VIP tour? Let’s get you guys some safety glasses and we'll get on our way.” Right then and there I knew this wasn’t going to be a ho-hum run of the mill tour. We grab our glasses and we get on our way.
Matt tells us about the history and informs us that New Belgium was started by a college graduate who was going to take a tour of Europe on his mountain bike and he was starting in Belgium. Well to make a long story short he never left Belgium and came back here with a new fondness for beer with flavor. Matt takes us over and shows us the first mash tun and kettle along with this crazy heating element he designed. Matt shared with us how they used to shove 29 cases into their car and would hand deliver the beers to those who were in my opinion were smart enough to purchase this beer. We go over to the newer areas and up some stairs to what I would say is probably the most beautiful mash tun, and kettle area there is in the brewing industry. It was a huge area with beautiful stainless steel kettles with polished concrete floors. Around each kettle is a mosaic that tells a story and the one that hits me was an interpretation of an employee’s first day. After Matt decided that was have been at this for about 15 minutes and asks us if we were in need of a brew, well we’re on Beer Trip and of course we said a resounding YES. Matt handed us a wonderful Abby Grand Cru and I believe the 4 of us were all blown away of how buttery smooth that beer is. We marched on through a few rooms and then up some dark stairs then Matt opens a door and suddenly we’re on the first level of the roof. We then take a few more steps up and we’re on the very top of New Belgium’s fermenters. What a treat, we were where the group that inspired this trip was standing in the film American Beer. This was an epic moment for me. It was simply amazing and I would say at that point and time I was officially hooked on the concept of Beer Trip. As we were standing up there Matt points out to us off in the distance that was New Belgium’s very own waste water treatment center. Apparently, the City of Ft. Collins wanted a ton of money from the local breweries since they are using and disposing so much water from all the brewing that was being done. NB had a employee meeting and asked if anybody wanted to go to school to learn about waste water management. A couple dudes thought that would be something new and different, so they gave it a go. Now NB is a very, very green company and these guys were following along that same path. They came up with an incredibly brilliant idea. Yes, I might bore some of you to tears describing this, but I’m going to do it anyway. The waste water goes into a collection pond, where enzymes eat away at the bacteria in this water. When this happens there is methane released into the air. Well instead of letting this methane gas slip into the atmosphere it is collected into a “balloon”. When the kettles need to heat the water, this gas is used to do just that. To me, that is simply brilliant, but these guys decided to go full circle with their brilliance. The steam coming off the kettle is collected and used in the radiant flooring. Simply amazing. Now the city of Ft. Collins must have been strapped for cash because they came back to NB and says you sure do use a ton of electri………Well, I’m just going to stop right there because you should know what happens next. NB decides I’m not writing these clowns a check, we’ll figure this out on our own. So they purchase a wind farm in a town nearby in Wyoming. Every bit of electricity used at the brewery is wind powered, and as I understood it, Ft. Collins writes NB a check since they put electricity back onto the grid. If that’s the case, way to stick it to the man, NB!
We then start to go into what I would call the warehouse, we’re getting to leave to go into the employee only area where we suddenly see these huge wooden casks and Matt tells us that this is where they ferment their La Folie. I noticed there were these little chalk boards next to the taps and asked Matt what was up with them. He told us that when somebody want to check out some, they have a taste, and they write down what they think about it. So we kind of ask Matt if we can take a little sip from the taps….He looked around and gave us the OK. I’m thinking to myself, “ Holy crap, is this really freaking happening?” We each get our turn and we move on to what I would call the employee area. They have this gourmet kitchen where employees can fix themselves a freshly cooked meal instead of nuking a left over, which I thought was an extremely novel concept. We now are heading into a very interesting area, where the employees are to come in and grab a wireless tablet and head over to a personal booth where a door slides up and they are given a tray with samples to rate. There are very specific instructions while sampling these beers and when they’re done they head off back to work. How freaking cool is that!!!! On our way over to a large meeting area Dan and Jerry can’t resist the spiral slide, so they go at it.
We head into their meeting room where Matt explains to us their philosophies and what it means to work at this brewery. This is where the story hits me, and it hits me hard. Matt proceeds to inform us that on your first day you are handed a key to the shop and are welcome to a case of beer a week. After a year of employment you are given a bike, and you are then a part owner of New Belgium, but not until you stand in front of every other employee and explain to them why you should become apart of this family. He explained that there is rarely somebody who doesn’t break down after this explanation. Next you continue to stand there and give each and every employee a big hug. He then told us that the CEO, the founders wife, hand makes you a piece of “mojo”. So I’m hearing this and I’m thinking to myself, people are breaking down in front of their co-workers because they enjoy what they do, who they work with, and what they create, not to mention they are treated so well at their workplace that expressing their gratitude is bringing these people to tears. Matt tells us that people don’t quit, they either pass away, or get fired. Something tells me he wasn’t joking. After 5 years of what I can only assume would be, fabulous, fun filled employment, you get an all expense paid week long trip to Belgium where, oh you guessed it, they drink delicious Belgian Beers. From what I can remember after 10 years, they just kind of ask you what you want and get it for you. For instance back where the La Folie fermenters were located there was a full blown climbing wall. Why? Well one the guys who works for them said that he loved climbing, but since he works full time and now has family that he loves to be around, it just doesn’t leave very much time for climbing. So they hooked dude up, so that on his breaks, he climbs. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! Where are we at? Fantasy Island? Now the thing to ask for from what I remember, is to have a tree planted, which is awesomely unselfish to me. Matt finishes up by telling the four of us that he enjoyed taking us around and that it would be their pleasure to fix us up some samplers and a six pack each to take along on our journey, along with a major discount on anything we purchased. I was simply blown away by their gesture.
As I wrote this I’m not afraid to say that yes, my eyes welled up tears just like they did while I was there hearing the passion and excitement coming from our tour guide Matt, and we took this tour in 2005. So yes, four years later I still get teary eyed thinking about it.
If you are reading this and happen to be an employee of New Belgium, we are jealous of you. From what I can tell your are part of a family not a corporation, we should all be so lucky. The kindness you all showed us is something I will never forget and for that kindness I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I will always have your product in my home. So please know that for the past 4 years I have kept my promise.
If you happen to be the CEO of New Belgium, I can’t explain to you the how lucky we were that Scott Poore happened to strike up a conversation with Dan and offered us this opportunity. You run an amazing company, with from what I saw, you have amazing employees. I promise you that if you ever needed four more employees, I’m pretty sure we would be there before you finished asking. Thank you once again for an amazing time and one that we will surely never forget because you truly treated us all like like VIP's.
Dan, Timmy, Matt, Jerry, & Andy
Thursday, July 23, 2009
OK so day one of BT IV was a little weak on the beer exploration. Just 3 breweries/pubs checked off unless you want to count the veterans' stop at Rock Bottom in the
We kind of got a late start on the day due to some over indulging the night before but on the way to the game we stopped at a couple of places that were quite memorable. The first stop was in
Well it had been a while since I have been to a MLB game as I kind of lost interest during the strike era but what a great stadium to rekindle some interest. OK the interest was not really in the MLB but in the excellent selections offered by the concession vendors. I've never seen a selection like that at a stadium without having to retreat to my tailgate. There were many micro brews represented such as Red Hook, Alaskan, New Belgium and of course Pyramid. The food selection was also outstanding. There were all of the standard ball park fare but just about anything you could have a craving for was represented from garlic fries and deep fried Twinkies to Asian stir fry or sushi just a short stroll along the concourse. However, beer and baseball were what we were there for and we were not disappointed. The variety of beers being hawked by the vendors walking the stands brought back vague memories from my childhood of an uncle from
I woke the next morning with great anxiety because the plan was for another long travel day. I was feeling mislead by the maps promising 43 breweries or pubs in
On the way out to the coast we stopped in
We got to
Well the day almost ended, some of us were pretty wound up and decided to head down to the hotel pool and hot tub to soak our aching bones from the long ride and crowded benches of the tasting room. It was a nice relaxing end to the day albeit with a similar distraction to that of BT IV day one. It turned out that there was a bachelorette party in one of the suites and the bride and 4 of her friends came down and joined us in the hot tub. We did our best to play it cool and ignore them. Eventually they initiated a little innocent flirting. They were impressed by the fact that the sole purpose of our trip to the area was Beer Trip IV and that we all could find the vacation time to dedicate to this endeavor. The red head seemed to be interested in something more than conversation but alas most of us were happily married. So we congratulated the bride for her upcoming nuptials and bid the group farewell as they decided to head to the local maid of honor's house to find some more liquor. The bride graciously invited us to attend the wedding the next day but we declined because we were planning on having breakfast up the coast in
Well as nice as the
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The next day we set out early for our first destination of the day, Arbor Brewing in Ann Arbor, MI. College towns are always cool and Ann Arbor didn’t disappoint. Arbor had some great brews and a nice bar and restaurant in an area not far from campus. From there it was on to Kuhnhenn Brewing in Warren, MI. This is the closest I’ve ever been to Detroit, and it was close enough. All I know about Detroit is what I saw in RoboCop as a kid, and that’s some scary shit! Kuhnhenn was located in what looked like an industrial area and I wasn’t expecting much. We were all pleasantly surprised though and they had some fantastic beers and had some cool people there.
Next on the tour was Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, MI. It felt like this place was out in the middle of nowhere. The building itself was really impressive with a big entrance into a reception area. Off to one side were offices and the other a huge tasting room. The brewery was through some doors on the backside of the building. We met our tour guide and went through some doors into the lab type area where they handle the yeast strains and the sort. They gave us leis w/ Michigan Brewing Co logo tags on them. We did our brewery tour and headed to the tasting room. They had several beers on tap and the place, to sound douchey, was hoppin’. There was this hippie-type couple singing songs with an acoustic guitar. They were really fun though and we hung out there for quite awhile. At one point I was talking to the brewer and telling him how amazing their Pumpkin Ale is, and he said to hold on, he’d be right back. He came back with a case of low/high fills for us. Surprisingly I didn’t hug him in my drunken state. That was way cool of him, but he knew who we are.
From there on to Founders in Grand Rapids, MI, the cultural center of America (inside joke, sorry). We were all feeling pretty good with the exception of our DD, Jerry. Founders has fantastic beers, and the Kentucky Breakfast is probably in my top 10 beers. We tried to get growlers of it, but they wanted like $70 for one so that was a no-go. Oh well, it was still great to have it there. Founders is also where we first met Mr. and Mrs. Cock-knocker. The name will be explained shortly. They were locals and enjoyed having a good time to say the least. They said they’d meet us at out next stop; we kinda laughed it off and went on to New Holland, MI. This is where the “incident” occurred we blogged about earlier.
We started the day a little later this time and headed to Kalamazoo, MI to visit one of my favorite breweries, Bell’s. Kalamazoo is an eccentric town, so Bell’s Eccentric Café is a fitting name for their bar. I was bummed they didn’t have beers on tap unique to the brewery, but you can’t complain when you’re getting Two Hearted and Expedition on tap. The brewery was a trip, and had some crazy art and sculptures around. Very cool place and definitely worth the stop.
From there we went to Benton Harbor, MI to try out the Livery. Benton Harbor is, to be PC, “economically depressed.” It was sad. Talking to the people there most of the population reads at a 4th grade level and unemployment is rampant. This is before the current recession, btw. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from the Livery, but their beers were really good. Definitely stop by there if you’re in the greater Benton Harbor area. As a funny side note, I’m sitting there drinking and some dude at the bar keeps looking over at me. I’m pretty hot, so I’m used to this, but this was different. He comes over and goes “Did you go to Olathe North?” And it hit me. This was a dude I graduated from high school with! Who now lives and works in Benton Harbor. Small-ass world out there, luckily this was a rare friend from high school and I enjoyed getting to see him. We left the paradise of Benton Harbor and drove on to Munster, IN and the famous (at least to beer dorks) Three Floyd’s Brewing. We ate dinner there and bought an obscene amount of their beers to take home since we can’t get them in the KC metro. It was really crowded there so we honestly didn’t stick around too long. We bought a lot and left after we ate. From there was our last stop of the day, Flossmoor Station in Flossmoor, IL. This was in the Chicago ‘burbs and was more restaurant than brewery. Really good beers though, and they didn’t kick us out when Dan grabbed the microphone when the band was on break and started talking and I believe singing. Yeah, we’re that cool.
We set out on our final day of BT III. There always seems to be a cloud over day five. Most of us ‘cuz we’re upset it’s almost over, some ‘cuz they’ve been away from their families too long, generally not the best day of the Trip. Our first stop was a few hours down the road at Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House in Iowa City, IA. Located not far from the famous John’s Grocery Store it too was in an old building in a college town. Decent beers, but samplers were in plastic cups which was odd to me.
Next stop was the Amana Colonies, IA and Millstream Brewing, the oldest brewery in Iowa. It’s located in an Amish village and looks almost like an old school house. Beers were good, and they had a great set up where you could get your beer and sit out on a front porch or in a gazebo. Our last stop was kind of a downer. It was the chain brewery/restaurant Rock Bottom in West Des Moines, IA. They’re ok, but you don’t go there for great beers. But a brewery is a brewery, and it added a stop before going home. Nothing stood out there really, pretty much all middle of the road stuff. We headed back home to KC, and pulled into town just as a huge storm hit our convertible EM-50. Luckily Dan has huge oak trees over his drive and we were somewhat covered while Kelly re-patched what had blown off on the highway. We were all soaked trying to get our hauls sorted and into our respective cars. We wrapped it up and another Beer Trip was in the books.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 28th
- 11:45 AM –Mattingly Brewing Company in St. Louis, MO.
- 4:00 PM – Illinois Brewing Company in Bloomington, IL.
- 5:15 PM – Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works in Normal, IL.
- 9:15 PM – Carlyle Brewing Company in Rockford, IL.
Wednesday, July 29th
- 10:00 AM – New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI.
- 11:45 AM – Great Dane Brewing Company in Madison, WI.
- 2:00 PM – Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, WI.
- 4:00 PM – Sprecher Brewing Company in Glendale, WI.
- 5:45 PM – Miller Park for Brewers game.
Thursday, July 30th
- 11:00 AM – Milwaukee Ale House in Milwaukee, WI.
- 1:45 PM – Hops Haven Brew Haus in Sheboygan, WI.
- 4:00 PM – The Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, WI.
- 6:00 PM – Titletown Brewing Company in Green Bay, WI.
- 8:15 PM – Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton, WI.
Friday, July 31st
- 9:00 AM – O’so Brewing Company in Plover, WI.
- 11:00 AM – Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau, WI.
- 2:45 PM – Das Bierhaus in Menomonie, WI.
- 5:30 PM – Surly Brewing Company in Brooklyn Center, MN.
- 8:15 PM – Barley John’s Brewpub in New Brighton, MN.
Saturday, August 1st
- 10:30 AM – Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul, MN.
- 12:00 PM – Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis, MN.
- 3:30 PM – Worth Brewing Company in Northwood, IA.
- 7:00 PM – Raccoon River Brewing Company in Des Moines, IA.
- Horny Goat Brewing Company in Milwaukee, WI on Thursday morning.
- Flat Earth Brewing Company in St. Paul, MN on Friday afternoon.
- Rush River Brewing Company in River Falls, WI on Friday afternoon.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Our first stop was across Missouri to O’Fallon Brewing Company in, you guessed, O’Fallon, MO. We arrived a little before 11AM for our tour and tasting. Our tour guide was Fran Caradonna, co-owner with her husband Tony, and she could not have treated us better. Small, but definitely growing operation.
From there it was on to Schlafly’s Taproom in St. Louis. Great food and great beers as expected. Dan had a sickness spell, but being a trooper, he soldiered on. No tour there as it’s their brewpub as opposed to the brewery itself. We enjoyed several great brews before heading out to Evansville, IN to Turoni’s Pizzery and Brewery for dinner. We arrived about 5PM and Dan immediately went to use the facilities. The rest of us sat around feeling horrible that he was so sick. We ate and tried a few beers and decided to get going on to our final destination of the day, Louisville, KY.
We arrived in Louisville pretty late due to the time change from Central Time to Eastern Time. We checked into our hotel which was way nicer than expected, a high rise in downtown Louisville. We decided to just hit Bluegrass Brewing Company since it was late. The cab ride there was terrifying on the way there. I’d expect that in Chicago or another huge city, but we were flying through Louisville like we were being chased by cops. We managed to safely arrive despite the ride over. We were split into two cabs, and the other half had a similar experience. Have to say BBC was an awesome place. I wasn’t expecting much, but it blew me away. The beers lived up to the reputation and were great. But the atmosphere itself made it all the better. Basically they had open jam sessions where people bring their guitars and jam out on the patio. The crowds were crazy as well, and that just added to the fun. After that we cabbed it back to downtown and crashed to rest up for the next day.
The next morning we were up early and ready to start heading north into Ohio. Our first stop was Cincinnati and BarrelHouse Brewing. The brewer treated us great and took us all through the operation. We all know the process very well, but it’s always fun to see at the same time. We all bought a case of bombers, and loaded up for the traditional Brewers game over at Great American Ball Park. The game was a loss, so we’ll move on, except to say they did offer some beers besides Bud/Miller/Coors at the stadium.
Next was Columbus and Barley’s Brewing. This is the point Dan seemed to be at his sickest. He looked awful and spent most of the time in the restroom. Surprisingly good brews and food, although Dan still being sick was a huge bummer. We headed on out for Cleveland, hoping for a leader that felt better and good times. Like all things though, it must get worse before it can better.
We arrived in Cleveland after dark and headed to the downtown Holiday Inn. We passed an exit for Parma en route, and I being drunk had spent the whole time singing “Moon Over Parma” from the Drew Carey Show. Surprised no one punched me. There were huge crowds in the lobby, and something felt off. I go to check in as the rooms were under my name. I stood in line for probably a half hour before getting to the counter. I give her my confirmation info and found out they had overbooked the hotel and we had no rooms. They had a Postal Service convention in town, and they took all the rooms. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we were sent a half hour south to another Holiday Inn out in the suburbs. No apologies and acted like we should be grateful they did that for us. We decided to hit Great Lakes Brewery before going to the hotel since they were on the way. Great Lakes was in a great area of Cleveland and had a cool set up. The manager couldn’t have treated us better, as he took Dan (who finally was feeling better) and Andy to the already-closed-for-the-night gift shop and gave them a GLBC banner and some free schwag. They let us hang out for a bit even after they closed, giving us a couple of pitchers of whatever we wanted. Ed was cool enough to drive for us so I could drink away my frustration with Holiday Inn and the rest could live it up. We drove out to the ‘burbs and checked in to the hotel and passed out, not suspecting the next day would be one of the most memorable in Beer Trip history….
Monday, July 13, 2009
Well, Diamond Bear ended up being one of my favorite brewery stops in my life. Our tour guide was Russ Melton, the president and owner of Diamond Bear. When we arrived, he gave each of us a pint glass to keep, and he filled them up with some of their tasty brews while he just chatted with us. Russ was one of the friendliest and entertaining people I have ever met. He treated us so well, and even did his Bill Clinton impression (the best I had ever heard, including Phil Hartman). He took the six of us all around the brewery, chatting away and really just acting like one of the crew. I am really glad that Ed was driving, because the beers kept coming, and I wasn’t refusing them. Eventually, we had to leave because we had another stop before heading home. I got some nice quotes for my article, but more importantly, we all got to hang out with Russ, have some awesome beers, and have a tour that we’d never forget.
Normally, the Diamond Bear tour would have been the most memorable part of a Beer Trip, yet it ended up not even being the most memorably part of the day. Our next and final stop would be in Fayetteville, where we were meeting our good pals, Brett and Hannah, at Hog Haus for dinner and beers. We got to town, and it was a Saturday with a home University of Arkansas basketball game, so the town seemed to be jumping a little. We had to park in a lot pretty far away, and then we made the way towards the brewpub. Tim and I both have small bladders (although mine not as bad as his), so we were leading the pack. The other four were all behind us. As we walked around a building, some dude (known here on out as “Dude”) ran past us like he was being chased. Sure enough, he was, as two cops were running after him. We turned and laughed, and I jokingly said to Tim, “Don’t tase me bro!” Within two seconds, dude had two red dots on his back as one of the cops yells, “Freeze!” like in a 1970s cop show. Dude should have stopped. POW! He got tased, and dropped like a rock. Fittingly, he fell face first into a rock and was out cold. The ambulance came to take him away, but Jerry made sure to go around the area and take some good pics.
After that, we met Brett and Hannah, and I remember having a good time and some tasty beers with them. I love Brett and Hannah, two of the best people I’ve met. I only wish I would have remembered more, but the combination of Vino’s and Diamond Bear before we met them made the rest of the night a little foggy. But I’m sure it was fun for all. We left Fayetteville, and I promptly fell asleep in the back of Ed’s van while Ed drove. That pretty much sums up why Ed is the most popular guy among the Beer Trip crew.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The 27th of July started out pretty average. The night before had been a pain due to hotel issues, but I was looking forward to a fresh day. We were hitting some cool places, so I was ready to get going. Jerry had gotten destroyed the night before since that day would be his day to be sober and drive us around. Never the best day for that person, but it has to be done. Unfortunately for Jerry, he was going to have the worst designated driver day in BT history.
The day of beer touring went as usual, and we were on schedule.
Day Three of Beer Trip III was pretty typical. We woke up in Cleveland, had lunch and samples at Arbor Brewing, more samples at Kuhnhenn, even more samples, some peanuts, and a mini-tour at the Michigan Brewing Company, and then more beer at Founders in Grand Rapids. So far, so good (especially after spending the first two days as sick as I have ever felt in a long time, and not even because of beer), and the designated driver that day was the guy who knows and cares more about cars than anyone I know, Jerry.
So as a second year veteran of navigating the RV, I was feeling cocky. All the fellas appreciated the grace-like skills I had with the beast, and at this point I felt like a rock star. That is...until the "mishap".
For me the memory starts with our fearless leader (let’s call him Dan) climbing up the ladder to the top of our rolling oasis – his parents’ RV. Seeing his ascension to the top, I grew concerned that something may be wrong with the RV. Once on the roof, he quickly started goofing around…. Surfing and the like. Soon Andy was rooting “Go Teen Wolf!!” This joyous occasion, turned quite different the next time Dan climbed those stairs.
The EM-50 only a few short hours before the "incident"
We had a great day, we had been to four really great breweries, we were on a roll, and couldn’t wait to “hit” New Holland. Jerry, who prides himself on being a fantastic driver, as he should, chose to be the DD that day. We decided we’re going to check into the hotel before we head to New Holland Brewing Company.
We made it through most of the day without any incidents. We were having a blast at Michigan Brewing Company that afternoon. They had a great tasting room and there was a crazy hippie couple playing music. We then drove over to Founders and had even more amazing beers. Met some funny/insane people, and from there we were going 30 minutes down the road to Holland, MI.
Just so you know, when I am not driving during Beer Trip, I am in the front passenger seat because I get motion sickness. Doctors won’t prescribe Dramamine for Beer Trips, those jerks! So I am sitting in the front of the car, and our best driver is leading us in to the Country Inn in Holland.
Dan had brought the Garmin this year and it was working like a charm....everyone was laughing, being silly, and ready to drop the luggage off and hit up the local bars with our new beer friends we had just met. When I pulled around to the front of the hotel, I noticed the "home feel" it had with a front porch and a few people sitting in rocking chairs enjoying the beautiful evening. I set my eyes on the front door of the hotel to properly line up the RV door with it for easy access for the fellas, and then it happened. The sound of the hotel awning ripping into our beloved RV sounded like the Hiroshima bomb had went off. Slow-motion ensued, and as I hit the brakes I look over at Dan, and we are both ducking and looking up. Before we could get stopped, I feel the RV suspension load up from the pressure of the hotel roof. The sky light explodes, I see daylight out the top, and finally, as icing on the cake, when I do completely stop, I finally hear the AC unit drop off the back of the rig.
Keep in mind, we had just left Founders, and they had their Kentucky Breakfast Stout on tap, one of the best beers you will ever have. Also, it tips in at over 11% ABV. So Jerry pulls up to the overhang, I realize what is about to happen, yet I am speechless. I have no idea why, but everything is in slow motion as the top of the EM-50 smashes into the hotel and I don’t make a sound.
I know I’m sitting in the middle of the bench behind Dan. We’re just bullshitting with each other when out of nowhere this very loud cracking/popping sound erupts, and then plastic pieces begin to rain down. The cracking and popping continues for all of milliseconds. I think we all realize at the exact same time what had just happened.
Things get fuzzy for me at this point. It went from all of us talking and being happy as hell to a loud noise, stuff falling on us, and then silence. I was sitting in back on the passenger side on the bench facing the driver’s side. I remember the vent in the center had fallen to the floor, and I got up and thought picking it up and holding it to the ceiling would fix it or make what just happened not so bad. Jerry and Dan were up front and the only memory I have is both of them sitting in silence looking straight ahead.
I was in the rear with the gear, and did not see the hotel, nor the low overhanging “A” frame entrance. It started with an unusual sound – that of bending and snapping metal. Then a small snap, and then the sound of air pressure being released simultaneously with a few more plastic snaps. To this point, there was only the sound of a collision, yet no feeling of impact or even stopping… it took several seconds for the catlike ninja reaction time of our driver to stop our traveling beer bus. Now remember, that most of us were not driving, therefore sobriety after four brewery stops was not possible. I looked up and found a new skylight where the rooftop air conditioning unit was.
I was the first one out of the back of the now damaged EM-50, and what I noticed first was Dan’s face in the rearview mirror. He was staring straight ahead, his eyes were open but I’m sure he couldn’t tell you what he was seeing. It was the most deer-in-the-headlights look I have ever seen on another human being.
All thoughts come back to our leader – you remember Dan right?? -- We just wrecked his father’s pride and joy. His face showed no emotion. This seemed like a poker game, and we just met the master of the table.
I get out, and there’s a loud hissing noise, a weird smell, and some giggly girls hanging out of one window of the hotel pointing. I finally see what had happened. Behind us lay the A/C unit, hoses spraying air, liquid...I don’t remember exactly. I was numb. Those little awnings are amazingly strong. It scraped the top off pretty cleanly. I turn towards the front, and I see in the rearview mirror, Dan still sitting, staring straight ahead wide-eyed. I went over, opened the door, and got a “Just leave me alone.” I understood, shut the door, and walked back to help pick up the debris.
Typically when you look at a road-side hotel, you see shades covering the windows of every room. This time, all I could see were faces peering out to see what just happened. Still peering out above the RV deck, I turned toward the back of the RV and saw that almost the entire vehicle had passed under the A-frame before stopping, and there was about ¼ inch of room between the top deck of the RV and the frame of the overhang. Everything on the top deck was missing. The antenna, the A/C, the skylights that bubble up about one-inch from the deck, the ladder…all were gone. It was as if a giant Tiger Woods swung a big stick and cleared everything off the RV.
Cursing starts to ensue on the fact of "Did this REALLY just happen?!?!?" We all get out and assess the damage. It's not good! As stated, the skylight and AC are no longer. The upper luggage rack and ladder to the roof are in shambles, and I am pretty sure the RV roof leaks. There were some young teenage girls in their room a couple flights up that opened the window and laughed (loudly I might add) for the next ten minutes.....and I could have slowly killed each of them for that!
We all empty out of the EM-50, and an old geezer says something like, “Gonna have to let the air out of the tires to back that out.” I looked at him and promptly ignored his advice. There were enough fatties to jump on the back bumper and have Jerry back out. What I remember seeing next was shear and unbelievable amazement. We could literally fix the damage done to the hotel with a thimble full of grey paint!!! We couldn’t have been more lucky, and the MOD of the hotel couldn’t have been cooler. He was all of 20, and he looks at me and says, “As far as I’m concerned, this didn’t happen. And there is a janitor’s closet at the end of the hall where your room is at, so help yourself to whatever you need to fix your RV.”
The manager at the Country Inn was very cool and got us trash bags to help clean it up. Not much damage to the awning except some scrape marks. I honestly have no memory of what everyone was doing. I remember Jerry walking out to the middle of the huge parking lot by himself. Dan had to call and tell his parents we just crashed their RV into a hotel awning. We loaded the A/C unit into the storage compartment on the side, taped up the gaping hole in the roof, and locked it up.
Calling my dad up was odd. I mean, they lent us their RV for the trip, and we (the Beer Trip crew, not just Jerry) had damaged it. I told my dad what happened, and all he said was, “Is everyone okay? Good. Well, patch it up as you need to, have fun the rest of the trip, and we’ll take care of it when you get back. That’s why we have insurance.” Once I heard that, there was relief. And honestly, I should have expected that to be his response, but I still needed to hear it. Especially after two days of being every kind of sick possible and not being able to keep anything in my body, I didn’t want a damaged RV to keep me from having more than a half a day of fun on Beer Trip.
As Jerry and Dan drive off to park the RV, Ed and I proceed to die laughing because we had been holding it in for Dan’s sake. But holy crap was that some extremely funny stuff!
After Dan talked with his dad to let him know what just happened, the teamwork and camaraderie of the Beer Trip fellas kicked in. Everyone pitched in to patch up the RV, put the broken pieces in the RV, and try to comfort my busted ego.
I jumped into problem solver mode – trying to take care of the RV for the night – hoping that Dan would play his card, and let us in to his thoughts. We grabbed tape and plastic and covered all the holes in case it rained for the night, threw the A/C into the storage compartment. Dan climbed the stairs to look at the damage.
Kelly fixing 'er up
At some point, Dan came out of his understandable stupor, and he was soon chasing Jerry around the parking lot trying to hug him to show no hard feelings.
I don’t remember Dan’s words, but the message heard was – “It happened – no reason to stop now.”
The show must go on.
We actually had a great night of continued beer consumption.
We went on to New Holland Brewing after all of that and drowned our sorrows. We had some fun with our now convertible roof the rest of the trip. And of course, it’s given us a story that everyone, except Jerry, gets a great laugh out of.
We really needed some beers at the end of that day, and New Holland was just the place to get them!
Ed sticking his head out of our new sun roof