Friday, May 23, 2014

Saison-centric Road Trip

I just finished driving from Kansas to Utah (1110.2 miles @ 40.4 per). John's parents Judy and Dave have a farm in KS, so he kindly came out and road-tripped with me.

Sure, western Kansas can be a little bleak, especially its rest areas,

but, thanks to Judy, we were fueled by espressos, homemade scones, and homegrown lettuce (which of course we shared at the above rest stop picnic tables, with an appropriate French vinaigrette). And Monument Rocks -- in the absolute middle of nowhere in Jim's enormous First District -- in Gove County, which I had formerly known only as the spot of a particularly egregious parking ticket -- is spectacular. It's officially one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas, and I highly recommend the hour detour from the Interstate, especially if you can't make it to southern Utah any time soon.

John got pretty irked when I took his beer so I could double-fist KS products (a Tallgrass 8-Bit and an old-school Boulevard Pale Ale).

The Monument Rocks detour put us behind schedule, so from there it was a race all afternoon to make our first destination in Fort Collins before its 8pm closing (see below). It's good John's from a farm -- he kicked the ^%$# out of Siri on the dirt roads.

On the way to Fort Collins we dodged a major bullet in some serious storms. They had passed just to the east of us, and the hail was piled up on the side of the road (no way to get a picture of that).

Luckily Funkwerks Brewery -- saison specialists! -- is on the edge of Fort Collins, so we made it with a half hour to spare. Look, the beer craze has become a parody of itself, but that doesn't mean that the below flight of brewed-on-site saisons in a tiny out-of-the-way taphouse in an industrial area next to a parking lot for dump trucks was not a way station to paradise. I especially recommend Tropic King, their imperial saison. Dear friends in Germany -- this is the beer culture I'm always talking about ...

Having not yet seen enough 37- to 44-year-olds with either a) a high-end outdoor jacket or b) a beard, a surly attitude, and a faux working-class shirt, we landed at Black Bottle Brewery, one of Fort Collins's newest (and yes, dear reader, taxi cabs were involved). Nothing to complain about here (and they offer an excellent Laugenbrezel), but after Funkwerks the place felt downright corporate. I Love it When You Call me Big Poppa, their 13 percenter with 135 IBUs, was delicious, but enough already with the stupid beer names (plus Homebrewers do it in the Garage, Mother Should I trust the Government, Bugger Off, etc.).

John insisted on walking to our hotel along crappy College Avenue to avoid another cab ride -- we miss you living in Fort Collins, Liia and Jaak! --  but at least I got this picture, which summed up the entire day prior to the walk home.

The next morning, 135 IBUs was no match for the most pretentious espresso in downtown FoCo, and hope sprung eternal for another epic day. At least until I learned that there really aren't any casinos on the I-80 corridor in Wyoming. But the (non-Interstate) stretch from FoCo to Laramie has to be one of the coolest roads in the U.S., complete with ethereal, almost Irish-esque views and a belly-up post office turned belly-up cafe.

I-80, a notoriously boring road, was a little more interesting that I remember from the last time I did this drive. The passes still had plenty of snow.

We were worried it would be hard to find a suitable espresso this day. Perhaps we're relentless snobs, but, then again, this sign as we pulled into Rawlins, WY, wasn't entirely convincing.

Final destination coming into view ...


  1. Great photographs! Saw High Plains storms in the raw, eh? Intense. Monuments in Kansas, who would have thought?

  2. Oh yes, local brewed beer in Colorado Springs, amazing. Guess it's not all Coors anymore.

  3. Agreed. The back road from Fort Collins to Laramie is a treat. We did it a few years back, but the other way round - Laramie to Fort Collins.

  4. A hint, Derek, for these cross-country trips: try a college student center, such as the one at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, for a coffee and/or bathroom break. Since you're a Prof, you'll feel right at home (and won't feel intimidated walking on a college campus).
    The stormy skies look positively awesome, and no wonder there was a truck stop next to the brewery - you were in "no man's land", not civilized Ft. C. So sorry we were no longer there to guide you .... Liia

  5. Thanks Liia. I have another tip, especially for those who live in Utah. The best feature of Rock Springs is not the bathrooms but the large liquor store!