Monday, July 27, 2009

Do you measure up?

Lately I've been finding myself measuring things in odd ways.

How do I measure the technical difficulty of a single track? When mountain biking this season I've been counting the number of bike bits that have fallen off other people's bikes on the trail. Lots of debris, and I know its a hard trail. "Yeah, nice woods, but the 8 miler was a 6-reflector loop!" (I've also encountered a pedal, a fender, and several t-shirts on the trails)

How do I know that it has been an unusually cool summer? Well, one bag of ice from Friday night lasted in the cheap cooler for an entire weekend of camping.

How do I know we are in the depths of summer? I haven't worn my hair down for over a month.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hop Wobble

A high-point of summer in Ypsi is Beer Fest. Michigan has an abundance of amazing craft brewers and tasting a good number of their offerings in the park by the river on a summer evening is just lovely.

So here is the run down from this year...

The drinkers: me, Biscodo, brother, sister-in-law, Stacey, Brooke, Shawn, Julie, KK, the injector, and a few others who I ran into and clinked plastic cups with along the way.

The overall beer scene: seemed pretty balanced this year. The fruit beer and sour beer trends seemed to have been reined in this year (yay! that silliness was going too far). People brought summer wheats and ales, but folks also brought porters and stouts (good). Since we went on Friday night, only a few beers had run out, so most of what we wanted to try was there for us.

The beer: I'm grouping into three categories. Beers in the top category did exactly what they were supposed to do -- solid beers in all ways, no mistakes in nose, taste, texture. The middling sort includes both novelty beers (interesting but not something I would ever buy in a bottle or even drink a full glass of) and more traditional beers that did well, but didn't stand out from the crowd. The last category is for bad beers -- experiments that went wrong (or were never right to begin with) or beers that could not do half of what their name called for. My notes from the night are in quotation marks after the brewery.

Top Beers:

Crooked Tree IPA, Dark Horse ("hey, big boy..." "excellent")
Smells Like Weed IPA, Dark Horse
Hoprocket Imperial IPA, Arcadia
Hopmouth Double IPA, Arcadia ("lovely")
Golden Rule Organic IPA, Shorts ("crisp, good, dry English hopped)
Honey Ginger IPA, Original Gravity ("fun, sweet near the front")

The Middling Sort

Boffo Brown, Dark Horse ("fine")
Wheat and Rye ESB, Liberty St ("weird combo")
Kolsch, Round Barn
Full Garde, Copper Canyon
RyePA Double IPA, Copper Canyon ("good, sweet end")
Simcoe Silly, Kuhnhenn ("nice")
Confusion Double IPA, Kuhnhenn
Screw the Hop Crisis IPA, Rochester Mills ("sweet")
Hopopotomus, HopCat
Sage Against the Machine Pale Ale, Hopcat ("smell only")
Wood Butcher's Ale, Lily's Seafood ("nice")
Barnacle Bob's Boatyard Ale, Lily's Seafood ("fine")
Little Italy Honey Basil, Right Brain ("Pale, novelty, good smell")

The Bad

Michigan Malted Red Ale, Kuhnhenn ("blech")
Organic Wit, Rochester Mills ("not very witty")
Solar Eclipse Imperial Stout ("ridiculous")
Oops-a-Hefe Imperial Hefeweizen, Big Rock Chop ("strange")
World Wheat, Black Lotus ("cloudy, watery, forgettable")
Ancho Chile Dutch Double Chocolate Porter, Right Brain
Rye Hatter, New Holland, ("liquor smell and taste, bitter and then nothing')

A few other awards: best "what this beer is" conversation came with the brewer at Shorts in reference to the Soft Parade and the Golden Rule IPA. (He even talked me into trying a fruit beer -- but it was a fruit RYE beer...). Best 'novelty' beer (and there were plenty to choose from in this category) was OG's honey ginger IPA. Best unknown brewery in Michigan is Lily's, which offers pretty straight forward beer, well-crafted, no hype. The most over-hyped brewery title (a title Jolly Pumpkin has claimed ALL other years) goes to Right Brain -- all novelty without having gotten down the basics of basic beers.

And what you've all been waiting for... the worst beer of the evening? I'm going with Kuhnhenn's Malted Red -- part of that may be that the description was sooooo lovely and the beer just couldn't come close to the promises made.

So... that was a whole lot of beer I tasted, eh? Yes, yes it was. But, once I settled in, I enjoyed it enormously. Okay, I maybe could have done with one or two fewer beers, but a lazy Saturday turned out to be just fine.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Kid's-Eye View

O has been very into using the camera over the last few months. It has served as great tonic several times when restlessness seized him. Once the camera is in his hand he tends to focus on something fairly intently. I have a nice cloud series, lots close-up blades of grass, flower shots, etc. from our trip to Wheatland, for example. He also seems fond of doing face studies.

When we were at Blissfest, he hit on a new theme:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finding Bliss

Spent ALL of Thursday packing and headed out early on Friday morning with the kids, bound for Blissfest in Bliss, MI. Way, way up there in the finger tips of the lower peninsula. There are many people who love this festival. There are kids who have grown up on it. People who have gotten married there. Etc. Etc. But then there are also just the summer festival people -- the ones who hit all the traditional music festivals and the young adults who spend their summer going from one festival to another, volunteering to get a free ticket. I don't think that I fit in any of these categories.... I kept forgetting where I was and calling it Dunegrass. It is older than Dunegrasss and does a few things better, but I think I like Dunegrass' musical offerings better (at least what they've had in the last two years, not going this year).

The kids loved the Lake Michigan was near by and happily played away Friday's late afternoon into early evening at a rocky and sandy beach outside Cross Village after a fabulous lunch at Legs Inn. On Saturday, we let the shuttle bus drop us further up the shore along the dunes for more beach frolicking. We caught some music, but that was obviously secondary for the kids. E again spent lots of time reading and O played hard in the kid space. Both enjoyed the rockin' craft-making booth set up for the kids and the real juggle sticks I bought them at one of the booths. I got them to check out some music, but mostly I had to listen from the edges as I kept my eye on them. I wish that festivals would set the kid areas up near one stage. I realize that I might miss lots of music on the other stages, but at least I'd get to better engage with what happened on the one stage. As it was at Bliss, I could hear bits of all the stages, which means that I could hear none of them well.

Of the music, Kathy Mattea was quite good, even the kids got into a bit of her set. The winner was a Canadian band, however, The McDades. Three siblings up front with a guitarist and drummer thrown in for good measure. I'd call them sort of urban traditional with a touch of jazz. I caught all of both their sets, amazingly enough.

Of the festival, my favorite part was the members party that happened in a garden behind the stage. There were shaded and pleasant places to sit, lots of food and free beer from Founders and New Holland, and one could still hear the bands.

From Bliss we hit Legs Inn for another meal (kids like Polish food and the excellent garden!) and then drove down to North Higgins State Park to meet Stacey and the boys for more camping. The three smaller people delighted in seeing each other and had great adventures on the hiking trails, at the beach, on the volleyball court, etc. etc.

As we packed things up for the last time, the kids worked out their own 'secret' three-way handshake, captured in this final image. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stupid People

I had a wonderful day. Got things done around the house. Rode some great trails with Stacey. Rode up to catch last call at the Corner for a tasty beer and a bit of reading.

But on the ride home... oh, I love the bike and the zippy feeling I have after rolling around town.... But tonight. I would give tonight's ride back in moment, if I could. I was too close, yet too far away. I could see it happening. There was nothing I could do to stop it. It happened. I saw it. And there was still nothing I could do. So I sat at that stupid, stupid light at Grove and Spring that can't sense a bike and cursed at the stupid, stupid people who let their dog wander without a leash on a busy road and stupid, stupid cars driven by stupid, stupid people who don't slow down when they see stupid, stupid people wandering around in the road so that they are going too fast to see the dog who was faithfully following the stupid, stupid people out into the middle of the road. The tweener kid is crying, the man is yelling, the woman is hurrying back to the curb, the car does not stop, the dog is down and not moving. And I finally run the fucking light and ride home cursing at all of it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

End of an Era

I realized tonight as we finally settled in for some reading time, that the era of picture books has come to an end for us.

Emma moved on to her world of thick fantasy books long, long ago and a few months ago, I lured O into letting me read some chapter books to him. I liked the meatier stories and I liked not having to search through fifty books to choose two or three each evening. We read The Wizard of Oz, to much acclaim from both kids, and have been making our way through the Star Wars stories (I know, but they aren't terrible and they use some big words that -- when included in a section about a blaster fight -- prompt the boy to ask what they mean... he does listen intently!). These have been fun, but I realized tonight how much I will miss the art in and the art of a good picture book.

When we were at the library recently, I was enchanted by the art in the Russell the Sheep books and grabbed two. Since the chapter book we have been reading was not handy tonight, we read the Russell books. We enjoyed it, but it was more nostalgia enjoyment than anything. I think O felt it too... a kind of quaintness.

Before I lose the memories entirely, I thought I would note some of our favorites... books I have read aloud dozens and dozens of times... books whose art and stories are deeply set in our psyches...


While I've been looking forward to plenty of adventuring this summer, the postcards that have been arriving at my house make me realize what small potatoes we have planned. Don't get me wrong, Michigan is a most excellent place to adventure when one treasures woods and water and music as much as we do, but... cards from South Carolina, Alaska, Vancouver, and Norway have me hankering to travel more widely. The postcard from Greece that will surely come next should pretty much send me over the edge. Good thing I ordered my new passport last week!