Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Day of Beer, Bikes & Bacon – Flight of the Pigs 2011

Some spend the day after Thanksgiving waiting at malls and big box stores and driving around.  I spend it riding, riding some more, having a can of beer on the trail, riding still more, eating bacon, yep still more riding, then at last arriving at Jim and Kim’s house for a tasty keg of Four Peaks beer and some more pork.  What a day.  What exactly am I talking about?  The Flight of the Pigs (FOTP) is a really unique group ride in the Phoenix valley that has been running for 16 years.  Every year for the last five years, this makes number six, I have participated in this ride.

AM rider check in-yep still dark

All riders check in to get the pig tail (pink ribbon) to attach to the back of their bike.  You also weight in with the heaviest rider and bike receiving a rubber pig snout.  At 228 lbs fully ready with bike I was basically dead average.

Flight of the Pigs in South Mountain Park

the riders entering South Mountain Park as the sun rises

The Flight Plan: This is a large part of what makes the ride so great, just riding National or Trail 100 is a bit of an epic, but making a huge loop including even more singletrack at Papago Park and some long stretches on canal paths and roads is a super epic.  For scale, South Mountain Park alone is the largest municipal park in the world at 23,000 acres.  Starting with National Trail in South Mountain Park is perfect, because it’s long, steep and incredibly challenging.

National Trail

We ride as a group to Pima Canyon trailhead, then take the dirt road to National Trail. Ride National Trail all the way to its end at San Juan (using Mormon Trail is allowed). Regroup and ride northwest to the Western Canal. Follow the canal to 7th Ave near Baseline Rd. Go north on 7th Ave. Stop for lunch at Sacks on Thomas and 3rd Ave.

After lunch, continue north on 7th Ave to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve entrance. Ride Trail 100 to its end at Tatum Blvd. People are really tired at this point. The end of trail 100 is known as the grassy knoll. There are at least 75 riders sprawled out on the lawn.

Grassy Knoll

This is where random people, either riders who couldn’t make the whole ride this year or significant others of riders, have provided things like bacon and cans of beer.

Regroup, then go south on Tatum to McDonald Dr, west on McDonald to 44th St, then south on 44th St past Camelback Rd to the Arizona Canal.  Go east along the canal to the Old Crosscut Canal at 48th St.  Follow the canal south to McDowell Rd.  Go east on McDowell to 52nd St, then south on 52nd until you reach the Papago Park entrance.  Ride this road until you can jump onto the trail that goes to the ramada.  Then head east across Galvin Pkwy.  Pass Hole in the Rock on its north side, then ride down to the Phoenix Zoo.  Ride up to and around Hunt’s Tomb (the pyramid).  Regroup, then ride down to the
east and take trails to Curry Rd just east of Mill Ave.  Go to Mill and head south across the bridge.  Go right on University, left on Hardy, right on Guadalupe, left on 48thSt, left on Olney, right and right again onto Pearce back the start.  Here they give out awards and celebrate.

The Vibe:  This is so much fun for all that participate.  Everyone is trying hard to finish and helping each other along the way. There is a lot that can and does go wrong early on along National Trail, this year Chris Gardner suffered a broken frame. He was able to cobble it together and make it home to switch out bikes to finish out the whole ride. The finishers party at Jim’s was especially lively this year as it turned out to be a fast group and it was still light out by the time I started my second beer.  It was Four Peaks Brewery’s Kilt Lifter again if I am not mistaken. Many times I have returned to Jim’s well after dark.

Thanks to Sharon who picks me up and drops me off.


43rd Week in Review: Holiday Season

This week we celebrated Thanksgiving with Jay’s family in Phoenix.  It was a traditional turkey feast.  We enjoyed the chance to gather with family and friends.  Being in Phoenix for Thanksgiving also means plenty of time outside.  Jay enjoyed his epic day after ride and I have been hiking almost every day in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  It is a beautiful time to be in the desert.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

Tomorrow I start a seasonal job with UPS here in Phoenix.  We plan to stay put until the end of the year and earn a little cash before we get back on the road in January.  We hope to keep up the volunteer work, biking, and photography and will keep sharing our stories.

Hours volunteered:  22 hours combined working on the Pima Wash trail and Beverly Canyon trail in South Mountain Park with Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona.

States: 1 – Arizona: Phoenix, Surprise

Budget: Under

People Visited: Kevin Lockart and Mary Halfmann

Nights under the stars: 0

Best meal:  Thanksgiving dinner

Best beer:  Deschutes Mirror Pond Fresh Pale Ale

Photo Review: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Saturday was the Fall Foliage Festival at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona.  I went with Jay’s parents and enjoyed seeing a little bit of fall colors and a lot of amazing cacti and succulents.

Colorado Breweries 2 of 2: Western Slope and Salida

On Tuesday we covered the breweries on the Front Range.  Today we turn our attention to the Western Slope of Colorado and the breweries they have to offer.  There’s isn’t as high of a concentration of people or breweries on the Western Slope, but we still managed to find plenty of great beer.

Amicas Pizza and Microbrewery, Salida

Sampler at Amicas

Sampler at Amicas

I really enjoyed our visit here. It would be very hard to go wrong with pizza and beer and this place gets it right.  Delicious pizza and a nice range of beers.  I was a little sad that they could not fill a growler due to some ongoing trouble with equipment.  I wish I could remember all that we sampled as many of them were not the beers listed on their website.  I do remember having a very good stout, a porter, as well as a good IPA.  If you are going through Salida at lunch time, make time for Amicas.

Horsefly, Montrose

A fairly new brewery, Horsefly is already very popular with the locals.  We joined a couple of guys for drinks after our volunteer work on the pump track and were pleasantly surprised by the flavor of these brews.  Sharon’s favorite was the Agave Brown Ale, in fact, she would rate it in the Top 5 Fall seasonals that we have tried.

Jay preferred the Highland Cycles Scottish Ale and the Extra Stout Ale, both strong flavorful beers that were well balanced and just plain delicious.  Horsefly is a great happy hour spot to grab a drink and catch up with friends.

Palisade, Palisade

Palisade Brewing

Palisade Brewing

Palisade Colorado is known for wine and peaches, but their brewery is notable for having the most well-crafted beers in that part of the state.  While we were there they had a High Desert Imperial Red on tap.  We sat next to the brewmaster and he explained that with that red he was hoping to push the boundaries of what would be considered a red ale.  This beer did exactly that with a great outcome, a very drinkable, strong flavorful ale.

For a beer that everyone can love, I would recommend the Paw Print Porter.  It is a solid porter, well balanced and great for those cooler days.  The brewmaster noted that Dirty Hippie is one of his signature beers.  I though it was unique and appreciated the twist on a lager, but it was not my favorite.  Palisade is primarily a tap room, but they do sell sandwiches which were quite good so it makes for a decent lunch stop.

Sampler at Palisade Brewing

Sampler at Palisade Brewing

Kannah Creek, Grand Junction

Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery

Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery

Kannah Creek is right by the Mesa State college campus and therefore caters to the college crowd with a large patio and big tvs inside to watch the game.  Those students are lucky to have such a great selection of hand crafted beers to choose from.

They have a few seasonals that they rotate.  We really enjoyed the Strong Ale, which was one of the seasonals on tap at the time.  It was red in color, strong, but not boozy, with a geat balance of malt and hops.

Kannah Creek definitely seems to shine more when it comes to showcasing hops.  They are actually starting to grow their own hops on the patio, which is exciting since their Fresh Hopped ESB was very well done.   The Standing Wave Pale Ale is one of their award-winning beers and it deserves the praise.  If you live locally I would recommend their growlers.  They have the german styles that we have, but they have fancier fluted handles.

Ouray, Ouray

sampler at Ouray Brewery

sampler at Ouray Brewery

swings in Ouray Brewery tap room

swings in Ouray Brewery tap room

I wanted to like the Ouray brewery.  They have these amazing swinging bar stools that are meant to look like a chair lift.  Sitting at one in the bar is super fun.  Unfortunately, Ouray is ready for the tourist crowd with overpriced samplers and a very small selection of their own brew.  When we visited they had only four of their own on tap.  However, we did hear that they are expanding production at a facility on the edge of town, so maybe a couple of years from now they would be worth a return visit.

For now, just stick with a pint of the IPA.  It is really well done if you want hop flavor without a bitter aftertaste.

Durango, Durango

Sampler at Durango Brewery

Sampler at Durango Brewery

Durango was one of the best breweries in terms of a welcoming hangout for beer lovers.  To start with, they are right near the urban trail and have plenty of bike parking.  Jay and I felt comfortable riding here and locking our bikes up outside.  It was great to come via bike because I could really enjoy their large selection of brews.  I started with the sampler which comes on a hand carved tray.

It was here I found one of my favorite beers for those cold Durango days, Durango’s Winter Ale.  It reminds me of the Great Divide Hibernation Ale, but with a lower alcohol content.  It has that same dark red color, malty flavor, and warming effect.

Carver, Durango

Carver is the oldest brewery in Durango, open since 1988.  It seems more focused on the restaurant side of their operation and is a popular pub right in the  fun downtown part of Durango.  If you are looking for dinner with a good selection of craft beer to pair with it, I would strongly recommend Carver.

My favorites were the Nut Brown Ale and the Amber Ale.  They had a seasonal beer with coffee in it when we were there.  Usually that is one of my favorites, but this one was not well balanced.

Ska, Durango

Ska was on our short list of breweries to visit on this trip.  They distribute Ska in Virginia so we were already fans of the Steeltoe Stout, Cutthroat Porter, and Milk Stout.  I was excited to see what else we would be able to taste at the taproom.

We were excited to get to taste and take home two beers from their local series, the Hoperation Ivy and the Sethvleteren 8.  Hoperation Ivy is an IPA with fresh local hops.  It is bursting with flavor and is not too bitter.  The Sethvleteren 8 is a Belgian Dubbel that is the opposite of the Hoperation, with much greater emphasis on the malt and the yeast flavors.  It is almost sweet and easy drinking.   Our usual favorites were still great, however the Milk Stout on nitro was too milky.  It literally tasted like someone had poured cream into a normal stout.  A new beer to meet was the Buster Nut Brown, which I liked even more than the porter.

Ska is definitely worth a visit, but there are a few things to know before you go.  First, it is a little hard to find, use a GPS or get really good directions from the brewery.  Also, in the summer they have a taco cart outside, but the rest of the year you need to either bring your own food (which they allow) or eat ahead of time.  The closest food was a tasty Texas barbeque joint where we had lunch afterwards and really enjoyed.  You could pick up a BBQ sandwich to bring with you!  If you are not looking for a meal, they do provide free popcorn to snack on while you sample what’s on tap.  Ska is a fun brewery with great style.  They sponsor the local roller derby team.  You can dress like a roller derby girl with Ska merchandise.

Steamworks, Durango

Our experience at Steamworks wasn’t great.  It was packed to the gills when we arrived and we couldn’t get a server to take our order, much less a bar stool to sit on.  I had been told that all of their servers are Cicerone certified, but we couldn’t even get one to talk to us so I have no first hand knowledge of their qualifications.  When Jay was finally able to order a flight, he came back with the beers with a handwritten list on a napkin of what they were by name.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a menu, so the name didn’t do us much good.  We were drinking blind.  This is how I ended up having the worst beer sampler of my life.  I took one sip and I felt like I had been attacked.  My tongue was in acute pain and I had no idea what had happened.  Well, it turned out this was the Prescribed Burn, a chili beer featuring Habenero, Poblano, and Hatch green chilis.  Oww!  East coast palates be warned!!  Jay of course kind of likes this chili beer which is the hottest he has tried.

After that debacle I went straight to Backside Stout for some relief.  It was nice and smooth but honestly I couldn’t taste much of anything after that chili beer.  Jay liked the Conducter, and Imperial IPA.  The other beer that I remember is the Slam Dunkel.  This was one of the first dunkels we have tried since the McKinney Brewery in Texas.  The McKinney Dunkel was AMAZING, so the fact that Steamwork’s Slam Dunkel didn’t measure up doesn’t say much.  It had too much banana taste.


Photo Review: South Mountain Park, Phoenix

This morning I dropped Jay off near South Mountain Park for his annual post-Thanksgiving tradition, the Flight of the Pigs.  More on that from Jay on Tuesday.  For now I want to share a few photos I took hiking around South Mountain near where Jay started the ride.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we will be spending Thanksgiving with family in Phoenix, Arizona.  We are very thankful for the opportunity to be with immediate family over the holidays.  Tomorrow, Jay will keep his annual tradition of an all day endurance group ride called Flight of the Pigs.  We look forward to sharing photos.

Jay at Flight of the Pigs, 2009

Jay at Flight of the Pigs, 2009

In thinking about Thanksgiving I was reminded of the Thanksgiving stories about pilgrims gathering together with natives to celebrate the harvest with feast and community.  Twice this year we have had the privilege to volunteer in native  communities through the Muskoka Foundation.  This organization connects travelers to the indigenous communities that they travel through.

Starting your Christmas shopping?  You can support the Muskoka programs by buying a 2012 calendar  for only $12.00 featuring photographs that students around the world took during this year’s photography workshops.  We hosted two of those workshops, so there may be photos that we helped the students with.

Wacey, one of the Chinle photography participants

Wacey, one of the Chinle photography participants

42nd Week in Review: Returning Home

We started the week in the Grand Canyon, which feels like a second home.  After hiking out on Friday we headed straight to Grandma Millie’s house in Prescott.  Now as I write this we are preparing for Thanksgiving in Phoenix at Jay’s parent’s house.  I refer to Jay’s parents house as our western headquarters and we have not been back here since April, so it feels good to be home.  We got to open up our boxes and discover the clothes and such that we forgot we owned.  We received mail that my parents had shipped.  We also have a secure place to make modifications to the car, the bikes, and the blog, so hopefully we’ll be ready to finish out our year on the road in good shape.

Jay and Sharon at the South Rim having completed our hike up the South Kaibab Trail

Jay and Sharon at the South Rim having completed our hike up the South Kaibab Trail

Hours volunteered:  16 hours (combined) removing tamarisk in the Grand Canyon

States: 1 – Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park, Prescott Valley, Phoenix

Budget: over – I finally broke down and bought new running shoes

People Visited: Millie Randel and Ken Brack, LinMarie DiCianni, Morgan and Cindi Holt, Nate Holt, Steve Hendrickson

Nights under the stars: 1 – Grand Canyon National Park

Best meal: lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Valle Luna

Best beer:  Ska’s Sethvleteren 8 – an organic belgium dubbel