I’ve been on the road for most of January and February, thanks to an annual furlough from work that left me with a lot of time on my hands. The U.S. southwest is magical. I went on some good hikes, drank some good mead, met some good people, and had a chance to hit the reset button. Heading into this summer, I’m very glad I got the chance to do that.
I have a ton of photos that I need to go through, and will be posting some of them up here with a few trip reports soon.
But for now, if you’re in the boozy state of Washington, today is officially Craft Beer Day. In the glass here is Oak Barrel Mead from Oppegaard meadery, because I was in a mead mood and not a beer one today. I do have a bottle of Dogfish Head worldwide stout, which will absolutely knock you on your ass at 15%, and is not the thing I want to drink the night before I go back to work. That bottle is being saved for later.
Go hoist a cold one, and don’t worry. Nobody’s going to judge you if it’s craft mead instead of beer.
A few months ago, I packed up the dogs, the mead, and various fish and houseplants for a work move to western Washington. Instead of snow six months a year… well, who am I kidding? There’s some places out here that have snow year-round. But we moved from 8,000 feet to near sea level, so I drive to see snow now instead of living in it.
This area has some choice hiking.
Some seriously choice hiking. I can get to mountains, beaches, forests with a couple hours of driving. The Pacific Northwest is a friggin fantastic area of the country to live in. Both the dogs think so too.
This is also one of the best areas for berries. I’ve got plans to shift over to some berry meads: blackberries (my house is full of them), huckleberries, salmonberries, raspberries. Apples are everywhere too, and it’s proving easy to barter for them. Some of the brewers and brew shops will rent cider presses, so it might be time to branch out a little.
And now, it’s time to get some mead started. I have an empty 5 gallon from the hibiscus mead, and four more batches that are ready to bottle. It turns out moving, with all the associated shenanigans that go with it, is good for your home brewing. My batch of coffee mead benefited from being left to sit for three months, and so did the blueberry and killer bee honey batches.
Six weeks of unpaid furlough is one of the deals that came with my job. It’s not terrible, because other than the not getting paid part, I can pretty much use the time to do whatever I want. I do split the time up so I don’t have all six weeks at once. It’s a nice break after what happens here in the summer, too.
The other downside is having all that work waiting for me when I get back.
Screw it, I’m on (unpaid) vacation. Not thinking about work for 4 weeks, damnit. Booze and being lazy.
Another bonus to furloughs? Road trips. Griffin and I did around 5300 miles in 2014, before he retired. We hit 17 states, both coasts, a bunch of National Parks, and got to hang with some cool people. I also had to replace two windshields on the Jeep, but hey. Thank you State Farm? Yes. Thank you, State Farm.
2015 was occupied with a new puppy. This fall, I’m flying back east to visit family instead of driving because Griffin isn’t able to travel in my Jeep. Old dogs don’t mix well with narrow spaces in cars. I’m kicking around the idea of getting a beater van in the spring to head out to Olympic National Park and Highway 101.
That’s one of the reasons why. Also, Oregon’s beaches are 100% public access. None of that bullshit with the private beaches… you can go anywhere. And you can drink on the beach. There’s just no way this could go wrong. I’d throw a futon mattress in the van, for Griffin to stretch out on, and hook Viking’s crate up too. He’s a jerk, because 9 month old puppies tend to be jerks, and would probably see how car seats tasted if I left him loose.
If I can have Griffin be comfortable in the car, then another trip out to the coast might be possible. It’s not as far as driving back east. He wouldn’t have to jump into a van the way he would into the Jeep. Still, he calls the shots. If he can handle it and wants to go, then we’ll do it. His unofficial birthday is April 14th and he’ll be 11+ at that point. The 14th was his shelter intake date and 11 is his estimated age. Old man dog gets to choose, though. He loved the beach, as long as his feet didn’t get too close to the ocean. I’d like to do one more trip for him to enjoy, if he’s up to it.
Shit I’m doing on furlough, other than crashing on my sister’s couch for a week-
I’m putting in 5 gallons of mead today and another 5 when I find more honey that I like. Also doing a 1-2 gallon repeat batch of hibiscus mead and aging it. We liked it this summer and it was drinkable after 8 weeks. A bit on the sweet side and could probably use some aging, so I’m going to experiment. Oh, and possibly have 1-2 gallons of mead to take on a road trip in the spring.
Doctors. Shopping for winter. Errands. All that jazz. Since our roads close in about a month and my only way out during the winter is one of these:
Assuming we get snow. There would usually be snow on the ground by now, but a combo of climate change and a second El Nino year means we’re getting punched in the junk twice this year. I kid you not, I live at 8,000 feet and it’s 55 degrees out today. At the end of October.
WTF is this? I like winter.
Anyway, time to go get started on 5 gallons of mead. It should be ready to go by June.