11.18.2017

Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 3 days

A big shout out to the Little Sister for organizing a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  We went over Veteran’s Day weekend, flew in on a Thursday and flew out on a Monday.  Friday - Sunday were the Bourbon Trail days.  I was the designated driver for the trip and our group total was six people.  You pick up a “passport” at your first distillery and get a stamp at the ten distilleries listed. Tours / tasting cost money at the distilleries that are on the “Bourbon Trail”. Here is the itinerary my sister put together and some lessons we learned.


We were staying in Louisville, KY and here is the itinerary we followed:

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday:

Monday:
  • BREAKFAST - Gralehaus
  • Louisville Visitors center to claim our Bourbon Trail t-shirts!
  • Leave Louisville

We are from California and go wine tasting a lot in our state.  When you wine taste in California you walk into a tasting room and get to taste right away.  There are usually multiple groups and the tasting room staff are taking care of multiple groups at multiple times.  Some wineries offer tours, but the experience is usually about tasting wine.

I think I had a subconscious idea that bourbon tasting would be like this too.  It wasn’t.  As we quickly learned on our trip.  Bourbon tastings were usually done on a tour only or if you booked a tasting package. And sometimes they are on the half-hour or in two hours. What this meant is that there were a few distilleries we didn’t taste or tour and got a stamp because waiting for them would of meant we missed a distillery that someone in our group really wanted to taste at. There were a few we toured and a few we tasted.  Overall I think we lucked out on the trip, but I was surprised at how ridged some of the tasting “rules” seemed to be.  I did overhear someone say that the “Trail Distilleries” had different rules than some of the other distilleries and we noticed that when we went “off trail”.

I mentioned the Little Sister organized the trip and she grouped our distilleries based on what was close to each other and when things were open.  I think some of these choice created happy accidents.  For example, we did the “urban distilleries” on Sunday and parking was free that day!  There was also a parade on Saturday in downtown and that would have made it really hard to find parking and to get to taste at the distilleries downtown. We also ended up going to the Louisville Slugger Museum on Sunday because the distilleries didn’t open until 1pm and we made it to Churchill Downs for some races that day also!
 
On Friday we started early and went to Woodford Reserve where we booked the first tour of the day.  When we finished the place was packed and we seemed to catch a tasting or tour at each place that day.  Even the lunch place (The Sage Rabbit) stayed open a little later for us to have lunch.  A member of our party really wanted to try Buffalo Trace.  When we went to Town Branch they told us the tour and tasting had to happen together and it would be 1.5 hours.  We all thought it was a sign to skip it and go to Buffalo Trace.  Where we joined the last tour of the day!

Saturday we woke up to find our rental car had a flat tire.  That delayed us a bit and because Maker’s Mark closed at 3pm that day we decided to make it the first tour of the day.  That was also a happy accident because Maker’s Mark was pretty far away!  But it was awesome and worth the trip. We ended the day with Jim Beam and that was a circus.  I am glad we didn’t start there.


I was the designated driver on this trip but still learned a lot about Bourbon.  The tours were very informative.  For example Bourbon is America’s only native spirit. Bourbon is governed by a law that states:
  1. Bourbon must be made in the United States (95% is made in Kentucky)
  2. Barrel has to be new, charred, oak
  3. Has to be at least 51% corn
  4. Can’t add any colors or flavors
  5. Has to be aged for at least one year in Kentucky to be called “Kentucky Bourbon”
  6. When distilled it has to be at least 160 proof and can’t be more than 125 proof going into the barrel
  7. Has to be aged for at least two years to be Bourbon
Another thing I learned is how to drink bourbon.  Well, I didn’t drink it, but multiple places told us about the “Three sip method”.  First you smell the bourbon with your mouth open and breath in through your nose.  You can also breath in through your mouth to “smell” the bourbon too.  This creates an interesting experience.  I did try this step. The first sip is called “the chew”.  In this sip you swirl the contents around your mouth and wake up your taste buds.  The taters were encouraged to let the contents roll around their tongue.  The next sip was called the “hug”.  In this taste the bourbon starts to warm you up and gives you a hug.  The third sip was called “the finish”.  This is when you get the full experience of the bourbon.  At Angel's Envy, the tasters went through all of these steps and then a second round was poured over one big cube of ice.  This ice opened up the aroma of the bourbon and helped to improve its flavor (according to the tasters).  So much so that members of our group started ordering bourbon with “one rock”.  


I had a great time on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  I had great food and learned a lot about bourbon. It was a fun filled weekend with family and I look forward to making some Bourbon Balls for the holidays!



10.18.2017

Total eclipse in a canoe on a river

Icing on my summer cake. Total eclipse. Idaho and a canoe.

I had an epic summer.  

Starting with a five day Mammoth trip right after Memorial Day with Mo where I hiked Parker Lake and then McGee Creek.

After that T and I booked a photo tour in Antelope Canyon before spending a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell. That was an AMAZING trip!

Then the Little Sister and I visited our Uncle in South Lake Tahoe for a few days and hiked and biked all over.  It was fun and I made sure to bring my hammock!

I was accepted into a program at Harvard for a week and headed out right after returning from South Lake Tahoe.

The final trip this summer was to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho in the Airstream.  It was broken up into three sections.  The first section T, Samson (the cat) and I went to the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival.  Then T took me to Ennis, MT, one of his favorite fishing towns.

The third part of the trip was going to be to Driggs, Idaho and a few weeks before our trip we realized we were scheduled to head home two days before the solar eclipse.  Driggs was in the “line of totality” so it seems silly to leave before seeing a total solar eclipse. We modified our trip and ended up staying in Tetonia, Idaho which was near Driggs. I am SO GLAD we did.  This was my favorite part of our trip.

There was a bit of madness in the areas that had “totality” for the eclipse.  Totality means the sun was completely covered by the moon and humans can view it with the naked eye for a minute or so.  The area we stayed in was no exception.  We ended up camping in a farmer’s field that he had sectioned off into camping spots.  The restaurants had modified “eclipse menu’s” because of all the tourist and we were told to make sure we had gas and groceries as the town was going to run out.  There were a lot less people then the town's expected, but probably more than they are used to.  Ironically, camping in a farmer's field was the most expensive camping spot we had of the trip. But it was cool and he had a band come and play.
Airstream and truck in field

beach chairs and bbq

filed and hot air balloon

Torii and Samson the cat in the field

band stage

watching the band

sunset

Our first day in town we got the lay of the land and scouted the Teton River to see if we could drift it in the canoe. The river meandered in such a way that we decided to have me be our shuttle service and bike back to get the truck when we were finished “drifting the river”.

The next morning we drifted the Teton River and it was awesome.  First it was a lot deeper than the Madison River so we never had to get out and walk the canoe.  Next, the water was so clear we could see TONS of fish.  Not that they were feeding or interested in being caught….. but it was really cool to see so many fish.  The Teton River didn’t seem to take itself as seriously as the Madison River.  There were people drifting in inner tubes or on Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP).  Lots of kayaks and even a few more canoes.  And a lot of people. For a river.

But the coolest thing we saw on the river the first day were three bull moose.  They were huge.  We were in a narrow part of the river where it had forked and a canoe was ahead of us with three guys.  They whispered back that a bull moose was around the bend feeding.  It was standing in the water and about 15 feet away.  All of a sudden the canoe in front of us that had been hugging the right bank frantically tried to get to the center of the river because another bull moose was in the water on the right side!  It was so cool, and a little scary as we threaded the river with bull moose on either side.  After we had passed and gave them some space T took a few photos.  As we joined the main river another bull moose, this one was younger, was eating on the bank.  It was really cool.


The next day was the solar eclipse and T and I decided it would be cool to watch it from the canoe in the river.  The biking shuttle service had worked but we decided to leave the truck at the end of the trip and I biked to the put-in in the morning.  I made short videos that day of our adventure for my family.  Here they all are stitched together.



The solar eclipse is one of the top ten things I have seen in my life.  It was amazing.  The light got so strange and then everything got really cold.  The fish stopped jumping and all the animals were silent. T said it was like being in outer space.  

And we were so happy we decided to see it on the river in the canoe.  Two other groups were out on the river so it was almost like we had it to ourselves.  It was AMAZING.


The next day we started our two day drive home.  We stayed the night at a truck stop and made it home the next day.  T took this photo in Utah that he calls the “Brochure Shot”.  This is what we travel with for two weeks.

Summer 2017 was packed with some many memories and adventures it has taken me until October to finish blogging about them!  I have had moments in my life where I considered myself a homebody.  When I have nested because maybe other parts of my life were not as positive as I wanted them to be.  But something has changed.  Or maybe the long days of summer encouraged me to go out, make plans, try new things, and to live my life.  Whatever it was I feel like the ball has started rolling and I am excited to see where it takes me!  So far my the fall season has had some pretty cool things happen and I can’t wait to share those with you!


Until then, here is my final photo from our trip.  Somewhere in Utah, the sun was setting and I took this picture of T as he walked by......
x


9.25.2017

Ennis, Montana and pink hair

My husband wants to move to Ennis, Montana. At least he tells me that once in awhile. Usually after a fishing trip where he went to Ennis, Montana. When he asks if I will move there I always ask if there is an ocean in Montana. I know there is not. We currently live three miles from the ocean in Southern California. I like it for a variety of reasons but my top two are the weather and how the ocean air REALLY helps my allergies. But I want to be open to possibilities and when he started mentioning I hadn’t even been there I would counter that I hadn’t been invited. And trust me, I don’t want to be invited on a fishing trip, but if he really wanted us to consider moving to Montana he should take me there. I think the words I used were “Try to woo me with Montana”.

And when the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival trip became a reality phase two of the trip was to Ennis, Montana.

T (the husband) kind of planned the trip and we brought bikes and his canoe. He booked a campsite he had stayed in before and we drove through a pretty epic summer storm to Ennis. We arrived later in the evening and everyone was hunkered down in the rain. The campground had nice showers and laundry.

The next morning was dry and clear and T started showing me the town he loved. We had breakfast at “The Pharmacy” where he ran into a guy he had fished with. Then we walked the main street looking in the different stores. When T would stop at a fly shop I would stay for a bit and then continue my exploration. From town we drove to look at the Madison River to see where we wanted to put the canoe in.

I learned a lot of things about fly fishing in Ennis during this trip. Things that T had mentioned before, but the visuals helped me understand. For example, there are “drift boats” and fly fishermen “drift the river”. This means that there are boats that have oars and an anchor that fishermen (we saw up to eight people on a different river but they were having a party and not fishing) float down a river and use the anchor to stop the boat when they see fish they want to “cast to”. The Madison River was filled with these boats and a lot of the times a fly fishing guide was taking out a paying customer.


Because you are drifting down river in a boat, you need to figure out how to get your car to where you take the boat out of the water. There are “car shuttle services” that you can call to do this. You get them a copy of your keys and tell them where and about when you are taking the boat out of the water and they drop off your car for you for a fee.


Our first full day in Ennis we scouted out where we wanted to “drift the river” in T’s canoe. Some locals had given us some suggestions and we drove some different routes to see if I could be the bike “shuttle service”. It turned out not as it was a pretty long bike ride and on the highway. But on our scouting adventure T kept saying it was so cool that he got to explore Ennis and see things he had never seen before. He explained that when he goes fishing with my uncle all they do is fish from sun up to sundown. There were a lot of things he had never seen before. Like the backside of the lake. Or Bear Trap Canyon where he ended up fishing on our trip. And places he had never eaten before like at McAllister for dinner (we ate in the bar) or the Gravel Bar. Places I might add that were really good! So even though T had been to Ennis, Montana numerous times, it was kind of an adventure for him too as he got to explore a different side of the town he already loved.

The next morning we were up early and took his canoe down to the Madison River. We used the canoe on our Lake Powell trip and T passed on his canoe knowledge in preparation for the trip down the river. A lot of it was about how to get back in a canoe if it tipped over. Actually almost all of this information was about that and I really thought we were going to be on a river where the canoe had a strong likelihood of tipping and I was going to be in deep water and use all these techniques to flip the canoe back over. He also kept calling the Madison River the “40 mile Ripple”. And when you looked at the river you could see how it had these really tiny rapids in it. That was the “ripple”.

Between all the talk of the canoe tipping and the “40 Mile Ripple” I was pretty paranoid about the canoe trip. So much so that even though I am a really strong swimmer, I always had my life vest on. Even when I realized how shallow the Madison River was. As in hardly past my ankles in some places. And other places so shallow that T got out of the canoe to move us. Or the time both of us had to get out of the canoe and walk it down the middle of the river.



So…. A lot of things were lost in translation when T was talking about the river and tipping canoes and the “40 Mile Ripple”. But the drifting part was fun and T got to fish so that was nice for him. I even got to take a nap in the canoe at one point during his fishing and brought a book for the other stops.


Ennis was pretty cool but by the time we had been there a day I was starting to have some allergy issues. Itchy eyes and sneezing had started in Wyoming at the Bluegrass festival and got much worse in Ennis. It was a bummer and made me miss the ocean air of California.

Another thing I noticed in Ennis was that T said he was from Washington (state) and that I was from California. I had noticed he said that when we were at the Bluegrass Festival but I really noticed it in Montana. It was more like “he was from Washington but we lived in California. And that I was a native Californian”. Almost (almost) like it was a bad thing. When I noticed this I said something to him and he apologized. I told him it was weird and that I felt like I needed to defend California. That I loved the state and would defend it. He stopped after we talked but I wonder if I was hyper sensitive about it because I had pink hair at the time and felt like I was that “weird girl from California”.

Yes. Pink hair. Actually a pink streak in my hair.

My hair guy had suggested it and it was this fun (temporary) thing I did before our trip. But I didn’t realize that having pink hair said a lot about me that I never intended it to. Before our trip people at work had made comments that made me realize I was making all sorts of statements I didn’t realize I was making. Like pink hair for feminism, for breast cancer survival, or for punk rock. Not anything I was going for. And when we were on our trip and T would make the comment about me being a “native Californian” I got self-conscious about my pink hair and what that was saying about me. In California I saw lots of people with pink hair, but not so much on our trip. So I wonder if I was extra sensitive to the comments T made about this topic or extra sensitive about pink hair. It might of been the hair even though you can’t see it very well in any of our photos.



Ennis, Montana.


Nice town. Short summer. Long, cold winter. A place I will never call home. Thanks for your hospitality and a chance to get to know you. You have captured a piece of my husbands heart and he shared your charms with me for a couple of days.

Unfortunately our next stop in Tetonia, Idaho eclipsed (literally) my time in Ennis… =)

9.08.2017

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival



How did I find myself at a Bluegrass Festival in Wyoming this summer? The short answer is T asked me to go. His long answer is that he heard a bluegrass band he liked on the radio and looked up to see the places they were playing. They weren't playing in California but they were playing in Wyoming, and T likes Wyoming. So he looked up the concert and it was at the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival. I light bulb went off and he remembered a friend from Idaho (he likes Idaho too) telling him about the Grand Targhee Bluegrass festival and he felt like all of this was a sign and asked me to go.

And that is how I found myself at the 30th Annual Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival this summer. There wasn’t a lot of information online about it but we learned you could camp there and we bought the airstream. We made a bigger trip out of it and the Bluegrass Festival was the first third of the trip. After that we went to Ennis Montana and then Tetonia and Driggs Idaho to see the eclipse.



This was my first festival and I learned some things for next time. I was glad we had the airstream. We camped in a meadow with a ton of other people. We arrived the day before the festival started and found a place for the airstream. T leveled and secured it the best he could and then sat back and watched as other people found places to stay. It was entertaining and kind of amazing how many people eventually filled in the meadow. I don’t have a photo to do it justice, but here a few I have.










The band that T came to see, the band that got us to the Bluegrass Festival in the first place was Mandolin Orange and they were the first band to perform. They went on at 3pm but the gates opened at 1pm and earlier that day we heard people were lining up. We lined up about 11:30 and after going through bag checks we waited with about a hundred other people to get our seats. T and I had decided being by the sound booth was a good idea and I was surprised when the people took off running to get their spots. They had tarps that they staked down. We had just brought chairs and were a little caught off guard. But we ended up getting pretty good seats and I went back to the airstream and grabbed a big tablecloth that we ended up using as our “tarp”.





A lot of people tarped their spots and left but we stayed and started the Bluegrass Festival with Mandolin Orange.

They were AMAZING.

I didn’t mention this yet but T has been playing Bluegrass non-stop. Over and over and over. Six hour drive to Mammoth - bluegrass. Ten minute drive - bluegrass. So much bluegrass. I was kind of getting over it. And his favorite bluegrass group was Mandolin Orange so I had heard them over and over and over again. So when they were about to play and he asked me if I wanted to go down to the stage with him I said no. But then they started playing and they were awesome and I thought it would be cool to be at the stage with T. And that was how the rest of the festival went.



There were seventeen bands over three days and all of them were amazing. We went to the stage for some of them or hung out in our chairs. During the evening everyone would get up and dance. And the shows would go late. So late one night that I was sleeping in my chair and T woke me up to walk back.



All of the people were nice and the people who were sitting in front of us had been going to the festival for twenty years. They kind of adopted us and were fun to be with. They were staying in the condos and it was cool to see the inside of those.






We brought some food with us each day but also bought some food from the vendors. No outside alcohol is allowed in, but they will sell it to you inside. I wasn’t thinking when I packed and didn’t realize Grand Targhee is a mountain resort which means there was some COLD nights. Layers are the name of the game for these kinds of events. I was really glad to have my beanie and wool socks! It did rain a little during a few shows and that was something else I wasn’t ready for. But it was just short showers during the day.







On the last day of the festival we got up early and hiked to the top of the ski hill to look at the backside of the Grand Tetons. It was cold hiking that day and really cold at the top of the mountain. The good thing was that we took the ski lift down so we only had to hike up!









The festival was supposed to end around 5pm on Sunday but multiple bands had problems getting to the venue that day. It was amazing to see the bands play extra long sets and even a local band that wasn’t scheduled on Sunday played again to keep the festival going. Good vibes kind of things. But all the bands eventually made it and the festival wrapped up about 8pm. It was an amazing festival and we will go back.

That night it poured rain and I was once again thankful for the airstream. In the morning we had breakfast at the resort and got on our way a little before lunch. We stopped in Driggs, Idaho and then start our trip to Ennis, Montana through a pretty big storm. T keeps telling me he wants to move to Ennis and I keep asking if there was an ocean there. Our next stop was Ennis, Montana and I will report on that soon. Spoiler alert, I am not moving there….