It's been a few months since Carson and I wrapped up our year-long road trip. Nearly 65,000 miles and 48 states (plus Canada!) later, I can say I learned a lot from living in a travel trailer.Read More
In every hike, there is a paradigm shift, a moment when the exhilaration of your solitude fades and the open trail becomes not a symbol of freedom, but the enemy standing in the way. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there too, though perhaps you haven’t admitted it yet.
In late September, Mel and I (and Costello, too) hiked a beautiful trail through the Upper Beehive Basin near Montana’s Big Sky Resort. We purchased our bear spray and hit the trail, ready for a day of fresh air and that big Montana sky, of physical activity, of the scent of pine and scat, of mirror lakes and frigid streams and the kind of views you stand still and whisper for, animal clouds and mountain silhouettes and the weight of distance, that inkling of insignificance one feels staring at a faraway horizon.
The day was growing short, and eventually, after five or six miles of a steep, uphill climb, we decided to turn around, unsure if or when the trail looped back around. We’d filled our water bottles and packed a few snacks, and before heading back down the trail, we replenished ourselves. Costello jumped in the lake and rolled in the dirt. The hike was more beautiful than we could have hoped for, both of us noticing details on the way back we hadn’t noticed on the way up. But then it hit us, with four or fives miles still to go before reaching the trailhead and climbing back inside our vehicle.
We were thirsty, and not for water. We needed beer. We needed it now.
Suddenly, all those things we stared in wonder at became terrible burdens, a litany of obstacles between us and an ice-cold farmhouse ale. The pine trees blocked us from walking a straight line to our destination. The switchbacks now struck us not as architectural highlights – we’re often amazed by the ingenuity of trail designs – but cavalier and gratuitous, adding whole minutes onto our departure from the mountain. The views were no longer revelatory features, but guilt-inducing distractions. We would stop but damnit, we didn’t want to. There was beer waiting down there! Kolsches! Lagers! IPAs! Saisons! Beer! Beer! Beer!
This shift in perspective during our hike was not novel to Montana. Time and again – from Nebraska to Arizona, New Hampshire to North Dakota – we’ve both secretly pivoted, keeping our longings for beer to ourselves, trying our best not to spoil the splendor of our surroundings, to appear disinterested in nature. And it is not that beer trumps nature. It is that nature compliments beer, places it on a pedestal above all other terrestrial concerns. A cold beer after a good hike is, simply, nirvana.
And the very thought of that moment – that first sip of High Life after a sweaty 10 miles – well, it’s enough to change the game. So here’s to beer, and here’s to nature, and here’s to their long and happy marriage.
Everybody has their “thing” when it comes to travel. For some, it’s sampling local brews at the best bar in town or biking the thoroughfares and trails. For others, like Carson, it’s standing atop the tallest building the city or devouring the best doughnut. Mine? Frozen yogurt shops. But the one penchant we share is visiting fancy old hotels. Here’s six that have made our list so far; we’re hoping to at least double this number by the time our trip is over!
Penn Wells, Wellsboro, PA
This hotel may look unassuming from the outset, but you’ll appreciate the history of the place once you waltz through the formal dining room, admiring black and white framed photos of Wellsboro more than 100 years ago. The hotel has kept its original charm, including some furniture and fixtures that were probably there when it first opened. Order a beer at the bar and appreciate that some things never change.
Jerome Grand Hotel, Jerome, AZ
The promise of panoramic views overlooking the Verde Valley drew us to the Jerome Grand Hotel; its elevation is just shy of a mile high. But its architecture, towering second story balcony and haunted history compelled us to stay a bit longer. Turns out the hotel was once a hospital and sanitarium and offers year-round ghost tours for those who love the paranormal.
The Jefferson, Richmond, VA
The gem of the South, the Jefferson Hotel is the epitome of class. Its towering marble columns, ornate carpet and grandiose staircase (which is host to many a prom photo, I’m sure) will make you feel like one fancy lady. Get a drink at the bar and enjoy the complimentary smoky peanuts and olives. And if you’re like us, just take your paper coaster with you. You know, to remind you of the finer things in life.
The Peabody, Memphis, TN
Another fancy old hotel in the heart of the Dixieland, the Peabody checks all the boxes on our old hotel list: fancy lobby, comfy chairs, signature cocktails, and … ducks. Yep, stick around the for duck march as the live mallards in the lobby’s fountain line up and follow their duck master into the hotel elevator and up to their duck mansion on the roof. And check out Carson’s story on the Peabody Duck Master for audubon.com!
The Balsams, Dixville Notch, NH
To be fair, we did not step foot inside the historic Balsams Hotel. And for good reason: it’s undergoing massive renovations by ski mogul Les Otten and his industrious team. But we did get to visit a few of the “houses” on the property, including where they host the famous Dixville Notch midnight voting each presidential primary. We’re looking forward to seeing what the new Balsams looks like when it opens sometime in 2017!
The Giacomo, Niagara Falls, NY
While lots of people stay at one of the casino hotels or on the more developed Canadian side, we strolled past the Giacomo on a whim the night we visited the falls. We saw a cool old building and walked toward it, that simple. What we didn’t anticipate was meeting two very friendly staff who let us up to the lounge for night views of the falls and shared some history with us, like the fact that Marilyn Monroe stayed there while filming Niagara. Cool.
The Belvedere, Baltimore, MD
This Beaux arts building in the heart of Baltimore truthfully made our list because of The Owl bar, a bar that epitomizes industrial chic style with all the hints of history and class that comes with an establishment that has slung drinks to Andrew Carnegie, Clark Gable and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC
Simply one of our favorite places in all of America, this stone clad historic hotel has stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and downtown Asheville. Step out onto the Veranda and sip a gin and tonic and take in the breathtaking views. And if you get chilly, head inside and grab a rocking chair by one of the grand fireplaces.
We’ve kept tabs on some of the best cuisine the U.S. has to offer a couple of cheap twenty-somethings. Budget friendly and mouth-watering — that’s our sweet spot. And if that tickles your taste buds, too, then we think you’ll really enjoy this list.Read More
I realize now that we haven’t answered a lot of questions about just how, exactly, we manage the “operations” side of life on the road. There’s an underlying theme to our trip that if you haven’t caught on to yet already, let me spell it out for you: we didn’t really think this through.Read More
June was a busy, busy month. As we rang in July 1 yesterday with a drop-dead gorgeous hike in Acadia National Park, it occurred to me that we skipped over a pretty huge milestone: we're halfway done!Read More
Hello and welcome to our second installment of Entertainment To-Go. I wish I could tell you that we've kept up the reading streak. We are still reading a lot, but not as frequently. You can thank our friends Chrissy & Nathan for that. They were so kind to ship us DVDs of the first and second seasons of HBO's The Wire.Read More
After hitting our halfway point, we've realized there are a few things we've really come to rely on while traveling across the country. So we thought we'd compile a list of a few of those must-haves we just can't live without.Read More
You know that old saying working to live, not living to work? Well, I think it applies to eating, too. Sure, Carson and I love an extraordinary meal from time-to-time. But foodies we are not. I like a cold sandwich as much as I like spaghetti. Or a $30 hamburger.Read More
Welcome to our second installment of State Park Stays, where we review park-by-park where we've stayed during our cross country road trip. We hope you'll find these reviews helpful as you plan your next adventure in our nation's great state parks.Read More
Summer camping season is officially here! The parks are starting to fill up with weekend hikers and kayakers and campers galore. As you prepare to dust off the old camping tote or clean up the RV for summer, we've got some advice to help you make the most of your time in the great outdoors.Read More