Friday, December 30, 2011

Hold the rain in your heart my Moon


     

  The holidays are somewhere between too fast and too full.  I saved my biggest meal for Christmas day at my brothers in Cary.  We had an amazing spread of ham, pomegranate super salad, squash sumpthin, and pirogi's I made with Erin and Julie.  I can't forget my favorite homemade dish from my mom, cheesy potato casserole.  Oh, and my dad's homemade mushroom soup...oh and...the list goes on.  I love eating as much as I love a craft beer, but sometimes with both I tend to take them in fast without "savoring the moment."  Erin's Grandpa told me over Thanksgiving dinner to slow down and appreciate what I'm eating, not to indulge in the quantity.. I've been told this before with lots of things in my life, and if I do settle down and have what city folk call a "formal interview" this will be my comment on things I'm not great at.  I sum it up as how I teach sled dogs to eat.  I put it down, you scarf it up. It's that simple.  After you do this for six years you pick up a few habits.  Some of them teach you to have a sense of urgency, some teach you infinite patience.  It just blows my mind how fast and slow things happen.  If you're careful, you can watch life's mystery dance between your eyes, but lose focus for a split second, and it's gone.  It's thoughts like these that help keep my heart beating.  In search of it all, if for nothing more than to deliver one more powerfully packed red blood cell to management upstairs.
  I am setting sail in just two short weeks and plan on going to Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas before bunkering down in Florida with my brother. I am going to miss the life I've shared with Erin more than anything else, and already am looking forward to our first night away when I get back from Florida.  Something about true love that separates boys from us men.  I never thought love could be so complex, and so simple, like what I was rambling about above.  Anyway, she's the best, and makes me a better person every day, and is becoming a strong woman in my life.
  The farm, the basement, the upstairs room.  I have slept in three different and unique spots for the last two months.  One thing they have in common, a bed.  This is the first thing I will liberate myself from once I hit the road.  Like confinement to the common, I have let myself become used to electricity, running water, and beds once again, making the transition to living out of a car that much more difficult.  It will take a few days in the woods to rekindle and sharpen my skills and passion in that department.  Maybe a bottle of Stroh rum is in order also.
  I look forward to Abita brew co, in Abita springs, LA.  They have awesome beer and I'm sure that state will bring lots of emotion to my writing and eyeing.  I know that this first trip will also be relatively warm, or hot to Alaskans, so camping is essential to securing my spending money.  I know I chose to write a book about expensive beer, so no pity needed, ha.  The prices of gas are down a little, the air is warm, the dogs are ready for new scenery.  I am locked and loaded with new totes, organization skills, and a few extra little goodies to make the drive with.  I am patiently awaiting your recommendations on breweries in the states I'll be headed to  in a couple weeks.  I have researched a rough route, but am always up for an adventure.

p.s.-  You should all look at my mother's birthday present that I got for her!  Click Here to check out her new website for all her arts and crafts!  

 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hold The Sun For Me, Old Friend.



       The words we speak are considered our truth.  Those who listen interpret carefully what we say and then onward it goes, like a game of telephone throughout our community and world.  I have found that as I get older I am defined by my truths by friends, family, and peers.  Yes, that's right, I almost wrote pears, but then I realized that if I'm writing a book about beer, I better double check my spelling, for an innocent passer by might think I'm writing about bears.. What I'm getting at is the root of my problem lately.  We are constantly proving to ourselves that what we are doing is right, or that the decisions made are defining on our lives.  I remember a time where experimentation, curiosity, and imagination were the tools for developing what I will become in the future. Well, that time is now.  And never more in my life do I feel like the power of all I have thought is honing in one an incredible time of my life.
       In two weeks I will embark on the last leg of my trip, 15 states left for me to tackle with a taste-tested tongue in search of the best beers yet.  Like any good traveler, I have researched where I will be heading, but leave the mystery in what I will find very much at the mercy of my "in the moment" way of living.  At times I will be overwhelmed with issues concerning strength of my vehicle, cash in my billfold, and warmth of my sleeping bag.  But at no time will I second guess what I'm doing and why I am doing it.  It's very much a "because it's there" frame of mind.
       I am skeptical that I will return to Alaska to brew beer, for communication has been a weak point in that venture.  Erin and I dream bigger than that now.  The reality of being farmers draws us closer to Virginia, where we both want to raise cattle, crops, and a family.  My wings are tired now, I've polished them for this upcoming journey like never before.  The organization factor and self determination is what will define my near future.  Planning is imperative, and as I sit down today and write as much as I can for my book, I know that when I'm camped out in the mountains of New Mexico, I will be able to soak up the sounds and give in to the beauty of life as it is intended to be.  I won't think about the weight or pressure, quite the opposite thoughts are necessary to cultivate defining ideas.
       The idea of choosing two microbreweries from each state and documenting it is conceivable, but actually getting there and not being just a tourist is what I am seeking.  I want to feel Geronimo's presence as I ride into the dawning of a new day, while He holds the morning light just long enough for me to finish what I've started.  I am hopeful the culture of past civilizations teaches me that what I'm after is what I've been searching for all along, and now that I've found true love, I believe that success and happiness are the keys needed to unlock the doors of a future of family, safety, and security.
       I wish you all the happiest of holidays and safe travels of your loved ones so that you may listen to Christmas songs until you can't stand it, and drink so much eggnog that your hide the belt until after the New Year.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the beginning of my last stand for brewers, beer lovers, and travelers alike.  I have found the reward of a craft beer in the place it is brewed to be sublime, and I encourage you all to drink local, live local, and give local.  Happy Holidays!

Oh, and before I forget!  If you are in Alabama,Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, or surrounding states please check out our new website for sled dog presentations.  I am offering an assembly geared towards teaching children about the joys of dog sledding!  Pass along to teachers and parents please!  Sled Dog Assembly  Thank you so much, this is how I'm hoping to help fund my travels, but as always you can click on that widdle bitty Donate icon and help too!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Creative Farming


     
       We had such a great weekend.  After polishing off the 60 minute IPA from Dogfishhead, it was time to plan out a date with Erin.  We had plans to go to a small acreage farm seminar on Saturday in Asheboro.  Erin has entertained the thought of farming goats for quite some time now, and we thought going to a seminar might turn that spark into a flame.  But before all of that,I had to set up the date of all dates. Friday, after spending a few days with my parents in Cary, I headed towards Burlington with a dress shirt, new haircut, and a clean shaved face.  This was a big step for ol' Joe folks, for the last time I bought a dress shirt, I was applying for CVS/Pharmacy back in high school.  All dressed up, Erin and I hopped in the Ranger and drove to a dog park just south of Greensboro and let the doggies play around with the chuck-it and a frisbee. Tuckered out, the dogs and gang headed to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  Saffron Indian cuisine in Greensboro offered a great menu, including my favorite Palak Paneer.  Erin ordered the thali with some wine, and other than the loud southern gentleman, the experience was exceptional; not to mention a pint of hearty guiness.  Bellies full, we headed to the festival of the lights downtown with a super secret activity in mind.  Street vendors, music, dancing,and cool temperatures set up the ambiance of Christmas, a long awaited feeling that erin and I both love.  Passing through it all quickly, I searched for the ice skating rink, North Carolina's largest outdoor rink, just north of the city park.  Excited and nervous, we laced up and skated the night away.  The perfect date ended tired and sore, awaiting the next days activities in Asheboro.
       The business seminar was fun, educational, and full of idealists.  I got talking to a guy Ron about home brewing and growing hops, and he pointed me to some very helpful local resources.  I am chomping at the bit to start home brewing myself, and need to take advantage of this time that I'm in one spot long enough to brew.  Erin got helpful tips for career paths and farming plans, and off we went after a six hour lecture.  I think that farming is something we both will be good at, and will definitely fit into our lives later down the road.  If any of you have great tips for a beginner, please email me at joepawelek@yahoo.com.
       I want to say thank you to those of you who have emailed me this week with brewery recommendations and your stories about traveling and drinking good beer.  It is  these stories that motivate me and make me feel just plain good about what I'm doing.
       This upcoming Saturday and Sunday Erin and I will be at the Raleigh Flea Market selling our prints from our travels, mostly in Alaska and hawaii.  So come on down and find our booth, we'd love to share stories and try and sell you some of our photography!  Have a great week, and remember to be as active as you can now, because cookie season is just around the corner!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bieber Brews and Macy's Day Clown Shoes



     
       It seems logical to be in one place.  I have found that since "settling down" for the holidays in North Carolina that being in one place is good.  You get the advantage of, if you're lucky and hardworking, to know the feeling of ownership, whether it be property, a house, or in my case, two dogs and a truck.  I think that initially I set out on this journey to see as much as possible, saturate my mind with the great wide open, and become wise with travel.  I'm not sure who said it first, but I think back to a modest mouse line that reads, "the universe is shaped exactly like the Earth, if you go straight long enough you'll end up where you were."  This line has always been in my thoughts, an Eastern philosophy for dreamers.
       After a very warm time in Michigan, I traveled south to find Erin at her family farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  We comforted her grandmother who is grieving the loss of her husband, and also had the opportunity to be with Erin's parents while they signed for their new 24-acre property next to the farm.  It was about a year ago I visited this place, and it felt great to be back.  It's funny to think that I was coincidentally camping just a few miles north before meeting Erin there for Christmas festivities.  Her family has made the small joke about how "random" that was.  Nonetheless, erin and I had so much fun checking for new cattle, going on four wheeler rides, and watching TV with Grandma.  In the back of my mind, I knew that it was time I start thinking about my book.  I have had all the fun, seen the sites, tasted countless brews, but all these notes, pictures, and stories needed to find a home on my computer.  It wasn't until last week that I finally organized the photos, and collected dates and times.  It feels great to have those ducks in a row, but now it is time to write.
       Currently, I have thirty of the 100 short stories written, and couldn't be happier with what is finished.  It comes and goes, as I'm sure it does with most artists.  I'm talking about that spark, whether it's at three in the morning or three in the afternoon, deep inside of your soul that pushes its way to your present thought and escapes loudly.  It's up to you to harness this energy, because like all things, they don't disappear, but change shapes so quick that it's up to in my case my hands to capture their meaning.  It's a song, story, picture, drawing, and thought provoking idea that needs to be procured.  This frame of mind is essential in my life to capture such things, however the difficulty is found in losing these thoughts due to under preparedness, or simply because you're busy with the last spark.  It is important to tend to a mind like this, for if you care for it and aid in its growth, great ideas will consistently grow preventing a clogged up and confused or disappointed end result.  This of course, is why I enjoy drinking beer...haha, well, maybe beer has a bit to do with that last part whether I like to admit it or not:-)
       So onward I write blazing the trail for adventurers alike that dare to dream of a life most fulfilling.  I have successfully traveled to 35 states, and now am getting ready for the last leg of my trip into the unknown.  Actually, it is very well known, but I thought that sentence sounded powerful.  To the Southwest United States I go, searching for the never ending delicious draft, along with two huskies and a thirst for knowledge.  I am beginning to understand beer, what it takes to brew good beer, and what it means to those who brew it. I assure all readers I am in no way a beer taster, I simply enjoy drinking good beer with good people on my journey towards becoming an author.
      I set sail as of now in Early January, and in the mean time can be found at the Raleigh Flea Market on Saturdays and Sundays selling photo prints of my travels, as well as the Flat Iron in Greensboro on Tuesday nights playing guitar.  Sled dog presentations are in the works for the Wake and Alamance County school systems, but if you have kids or relatives that would enjoy a Joey P. sled dog assembly anywhere in the South, feel free to contact me at joepawelek@yahoo.com for further information. Safe travels, cheers to beers, and remain free in all that you see!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fuel the Fire

Mile:5,222
       Waking up early, Erin and I headed down to the eastern part of Yellowstone towards Lamar valley.  Home of the wolves, our eyes and dogs' ears were alert, well, everyone except Ketza, she didn't have had her coffee yet.  A pack of nine wolves streamlined across the river, letting out a group howl, and began their day's travels.  We followed suit, driving out of the park and back on to the highway towards eastern Wyoming.  We set off towards South Dakota and enjoyed Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug, and the Badlands.  As our eyes are bombarded with new every day, I find the time to collect thoughts of the future often, as inspiration tacks on to these new experiences.  The houses we stay in, the grounds we pitch a tent on, and the cheap motels are a reminder that ownership of land is a Great American Dream.  I would love to wake up in the morning to the smell of fresh baked apple pies, and farm raised bacon sizzling, as I watch erin tend to the garden and milk goats. All the while dogs are barking, chickens being chased, winter wheat diffusing the creek's sound.  When you come back home, or leave home, there is a sense of belonging that pulls and pushes.  Like a tide, we enjoy the ride, because we feel alive, and we're living outside. 
       Our hearts go out to Erin's family, who celebrated Grandpa Minnicks life this last week.  He was a true farmer, and obviously a fantastic Father, who's stories will live on throughout our lives.  I am lucky to have met him, and even luckier to know his granddaughter, the love of my life and best friend.
         We enjoyed a great beer from Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City, SD.  Our server Danny was way cool.  He knew a lot, and recommended a very kick ass Reuben with incredible side sauce.  This guy knew his food, but also new some other SD breweries for us to check out.  That was a blast, and the brewery is a must see if you are traveling that way.
       Alan and Adam have been puting me up since erin flew home a few days ago.  It sucks when your best friend leaves, and I know that erin is helping the fam, but I wanted to show her more of where I grew up and all the fun Fall festivities around the Mitten.  Michigan will always be here, and we will come up again when we find the time:-(  It is a great chance for us to look at the winter, and see just how it will all work. We will try and see each other as much as we can, and I will definitely try and get erin to come on as much of the journey as possible, but she too is anxious to find a job on a farm with animals and start learning about all kinds of great skills.  I'm hopeful that this research and final book will help us finance such dreams and ideas.  So it goes, life on the road, making connections, setting your vision in stone. I am gathering a following, of people inspired by life's mysteries and constants.  My music has been knocking on the door asking to come out and play, but for now I will remain focused on writing, writing, writing.  I have 25 of the 100 stories written for my book, and now I brainstorm, collect, and edit stories that are based off of my life experiences, full of sun and stars.  Lately it seems that when you miss someone or something so much, you work harder to get there, maybe not physically, but in your mind work towards making your dreams become realities.  And though at first time spends like molasses, it becomes oil for your...molasses motorcoach..or, you know, metaphorical moped.  Haha, looks like I'm warmed up for writing, thanks for stopping by, and once I get back to Virginia, I will have traveled to a total of 35 states, just in time for the holidays!  See ya next time! 
       

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mile High oh Me oh My!

Mile:2,777
       Camping across the great states brings back so many memories of my childhood.  From a young age I was involved with the Boy Scouts,  learning so many things about nature like the way it works, and the way it seems to not work at all.  The harmony and careful carelessness brings inspiration to me just like it did back in those days, learning that sometimes simplicity is carefully calculated.  Erin, the dogs, and ol' Joe departed almost a month ago from Skagway, after a beautiful tear down of our summer job.  It's odd when you work seasonally and pack up everything each Fall.  For us, it was what propelled our dreams when the going got tough at work, and when we shared moments at Salmon Creek daydreaming and taking photos. 
       Skagway was the first stop where I had a very informal interview with Tom Hall, owner and operator of the Klondike Gold Fields.  It is a large scale touring outfit that has panning, sight-seeing-sled dog demos, a restaurant, and you guessed it...A brewery!  Gold Rush Brewing is a young business dedicated to providing cruise ship tourists with a brew tour tucked in the heart of their restaurant, where they make four or so different beers.  After being awarded Tour Guide of the Season, Tom called me and asked if I would be interested in joining their 2012 summer crew and be the brewer there.  Tom showed us around and we spent a couple days in one of the prettiest cities in Alaska, seeing old friends and making new ones.  This path sounds fantastic, and with this as a possible career change, considering what I have accomplished in the way of "research," has definitely improved the format of my brewery visits.  I am know learning much more in depth information about chemistry, cooking, and history of beer-making.  A very exciting to start to our journey, but thinking back on a month, a lot has been done already...and I am going to tell you all about it!
       Skagway to Vancouver B.C. in a week, camping out along the Al Can underneath powerful stars, and crisp cold winds.  The smell of Fall was fading, but slowly as we drove south, it reversed quickly, and Fall was just beginning in Vancouver.  We sampled beer, attended Farmers markets, and hike along the park on the North-West side of the Island.  We then travelled to Renton, WA to see Jaime, a great friend and amazing host who put us up for a couple of days before heading to Portland, OR. to fly to Hawaii.  Our friend Kyle and his incredible family took care of Erin's truck while we were gone, and even housed us for a night when we returned tired and...cold, haha.  Sarah and the girls over in Silverton watched Tut and Ketza for the week, which was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for us.  We are so appreciative for their help, it was the first time in about three years that I haven't cared for a dog, and knowing that they were in good hands put our minds at ease as we flew across the Pacific to Oahu.
       Hawaii was the first state on the Fall 2011 roster, and what better state to kick off our journey than Hawaii.  We stayed with our friend Liz who lived just a mile or so north of Waikiki, out of the tourist traps and surrounded by great dining and the nations best bus system.  On the plane we met a couple who just moved to Oahu a couple months before, and they shared so much great info for the greenhorns, it was luck that we met them, and even though we didn't get a chance to hang out with them that week, made a lasting impression on our minds as great folks(we didn't get our slippers stolen!) .  Liz and her boyfriend Dan worked most of the time we were there, but we have posted pictures on our FaceBook pages if you want to see all of the fun things we did while we were there. 
       Now when you are in Boy Scouts, and if you're lucky enough to get your Eagle Scout, you are in a network of eternal friendships like most close-knit organizations.  Frat-like, but to me a much deeper connection, Scout contacts and friends have always proven to be top notch.  After about five years, my friend Andrew Sanford, a new resident and full time Ranger at Volcanoes National Park, visited Oahu while we were there.  He was at The Hilton(baller status), and arranged for us to spend the night there with him the night before we left.  What better time to go to Kona Brewing Companies Oahu location, with a long lost friend and Erin under the same roof!  We partied all night, sharing stories from the past, talking about the future, and just like when we were 15, occasionally farting and burping to break up the silence:-)  Thanks Andy, you truly are a hero in my book, it feels good to see your friends becoming successful through happiness, hard work, and passion.
       Back to Portland, away from the heat, back into the clouds, and back to the book.  Erin and I picked up the pooches, and headed into brew city, USA.  Portland has so many breweries, but the Lucky Lab had our name written all over it.  Dog friendly, in an old mill, we sat outside and played Phase ten and drank some great NW IPA's before meeting up wit Aaron and Curtis in Tacoma.  We met at Harmon Brew Co. and ate dinner before going back to Aaron's families house that night.  They took us and our dogs in, and when you are traveling with dogs, dog friendly families make you feel right at home.  After talking all night and the next morning over what I like to call the "Spam Scramble," we all went to the dog park.  Thank you Cauldwell family for the stay, it was very relaxing and fun to be around six dogs and two cats:-)
       Meeting up with Curtis, who has Ketza's mom Harmony, was a much needed session.  The four of us worked together in 2009 on the Mendenhall glacier and haven't all been together since then, pretty awesome stuff.  So we slowly pushed north to Seattle, and stayed with Matt and Jaime(same Jaime as before plus Matt and Alan).  Unfortunately Jaime and Alan left for the weekend to attend their Grandfather's funeral, but we did get to see them for a little bit.  Matt and I played call of Duty....a lot.  Erin starting hating it after a day, which is about three times longer than most, but she still got about 18 zombie kills in on day three, which makes me love her just a little bit more, haha.  We drank bud light, ate a lot of pizza, and had a mini mancation on the couch, watching the League and a new favorite, Raising Hope.  We may have mentioned potential jobs for Matt in between rounds of COD, but we didn't want to lose focus on the task at hand.  Thank you for letting us crash, and before I forget, thank you Aaron for giving me a copy of Mushing Magazine that I recently was published in.  I have posted the article for everyone to view at the end of my entry, enjoy and write info@mushing.com if you want to see more of my articles published in that magazine!
       Know I have said many thank yous, but keep in mind this is my first post in a month, and I do promise to know keep a regularly updated log of our travels every week just like last season.  And I also have that special "donate" link at the bottom of the blog.  They help us out so much, last winter I logged 12,000 miles and it cost roughly $3,000 in gas, $3,000 more in food and beer, and only $200 in hotel stays when I got sick in New England.  We are funding this trip solely on our summer earnings, and though I am playing music live as much as I can and crocheting hats, your help is much appreciated.
       So from Seattle we ventured to Spokane, WA. and then to Post Falls, ID where we visited Bi-Plane Brewing CO., a new nano-brewery that offers incredible beer at a great price.  Nadine shared great history on brewing with us, and was very helpful and kind.  We also met John, who was quite the character to meet at 11:30am in northern Idaho.  He is a tech-geek who we could have talked to for hours if we didn't have somewhere to be.  Thanks to both of you, and good luck in all your endeavors.
Missoula, MT.  was where we went that day and met up with Alyssa, who helped me handle in 2009, when I met Erin.  She took us to Tamarack brewing where we played shuffle board till midnight with her roommate Blake.  We also ran into our friend Sam and his buddy Jon, who are both as unique as the town of Missoula.  Dog park and the Kettle House with them, then it was off to Tamarack with Alyssa and Blake. No better way to end a night in a college town than with Pita Pit, yumm!! 
       This brings us finally to the present.  We drove just north of Helena to Dan and Chris's ranch, located directly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by thirty different gulches, named after the first thing seen there.  We are welcome to stay here for a while, and we think that we just might.  The mountains by the Missouri river here are open and welcoming, just like the couple we are lucky enough to spend time with.  They own mules, horses, three dogs, including the crowd favorite Connor, a three year old Irish Wolfhound.  Tut and Ketza are finally in a perfect spot where they can chase Elk, razz the Mules, and make friends with three very nice dogs.  We are just about to go hiking in the mountains before dinner in town, and when you are surrounded by thousands of acres of National forest and have five dogs, well, that's what you do!  So at 6,000ft., I bid you farewell until next week, where we will be heading into Yellowstone, and slowly moving towards North Carolina for the holidays.  We are both very excited to get home and see our families, and celebrate our first year together with Erin's amazing parents, as well as my amazing parents and brother's family.  So, as posted earlier, enjoy my article in Mushing, and enjoy the pictures posted above!  Happy Trails from the Great Montana!

     

Friday, September 9, 2011

Beasts to Yeasts

       What a wild ride this summer has been.  Currently, the mushers at camp have just topped over 300 tours each as our season winds down.  Our dogs are yearning for colder temperatures and also asking for a break in the weather.  South East AK is known for rain, especially as we push into our Fall months.  The waterfalls around camp dominate the airwaves, accompanied by the low howls of those wiser than their bi-ped counterparts.  It is as if they are so connected with the Earth that moments in time seem to stop and go like Manhattan rush hour.  It is truly a lasting feeling that I will always embrace; the ability to live in the moment for better or for worse, knowing that eventually the tides will rise and lower and the sun will rise and set.  It is this change that us seasonal workers, especially those with sled dogs, become accustomed to.  As we embark on our new endeavours, the time we spend shifts slowly back and forth controlled by a force much greater than us, but at times is merciful when we want that moment to last just a bit longer.
       The Alaskan Bar has been great to me and my guitar.  Erin has taken hundreds of photos and video so hopefully I can post them soon.  It's tough juggling the arts sometimes, I try and do as much as I can, I mean it's the Alaskan way.  The work ethic of people here is incredible.  For me, my music, my sled dogs, my photography, and writing are constantly looming over me like newborn puppies saying "pick me next, pick me next!"  Slowly but surely I tend to each one, trying to make sure no particular one feels "left out."  The importance of now brings the dogs to the top of the list.  I just said goodbye to Mouse and the "brewery" litter this morning, and Babar last week.  8 really good creatures that I may never see again, but will forever have in my mind as great dogs that I given the best care for.  They were a part of the family, and now I begin to realize the power of ownership of huskies.  You become so attached to them, and for me I have to say goodbye at the end of every season.  I chalk it up as bittersweet;  ownership and finance, or freedom and sharing the time with them while they are in your life.  This is why I have Tut and Ketza, they take with me a little piece of every adventure we're on, and pack it up and move on.
       It's tough not to blend all of these passions together.  Music, dogs, and traveling are captured in my writing, and they all influence each others positions, as I think they should.  Too many people focus on the future, which can be great as you try and reach large goals, but I have found that the greatest treasures lay under my nose, or out in front of me, all of the time. 
       So this month brought great wealth to my heart and mind, as I was awarded the highest honor as a tour guide.  I received "Tour Guide of the Season" by Princess cruise lines, our top selling cruise ship.  This means that when I gave a tour, the guests went back to the ship to the excursion office and filled out a tour guide recognition form mentioning my name more than any other in the city of Juneau.  I mean, that is pretty awesome, but I remain humble and believe that it is everyone involved in the experience at our dog camp that guarantees we will get a positive review of the excursion.  So next week Erin and I will attend a luncheon on the ship and have a small reception for others achievements, as well as mine.  It's almost as if when that happened, it rained good luck on the beautiful Sheep Creek Valley.
       After pursuing my first published article for about five months, I finally got confirmation that my very first story will be published in none other than the amazing Mushing magazine.  A story about my life as a tour guide, and all the ins and outs of handling for Iditarod racing mushers, as well as recreational kennels.  It is an honor to have the voice of an apprentice be heard in this magazine.  Usually you read of the up and coming mushers, or those established and dominating the race scene.  Seldom do the voices of those handlers who work for peanuts in the winter get heard, and seldom does a musician dog musher turned beer enthusiast get a shot at the hot press!  An exciting time as we near the end of the season, dogs from our glacier camps are being flown down today, and everyone is getting excited to start their winter endeavours.  For Erin and I, we are somewhere between driving to Fairbanks or flying to Hawaii.  We'll see where the wind takes us, for we are birds who's feathers are too bright to be caged. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Green, oh, its the magic color.



      
      Well, where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday Erin was arriving to Juneau on the ferry with her Mom and we were looking towards a long summer filled with tour guiding and turd wrangling(common musher term).  Now the whole month of July has escaped us once again, and we look towards our Fall and Winter as a time to recollect and not answer what an "Alaskan Husky" is.  I have accomplished lots this summer, and am happy that once again my life is afloat and full of wonder.
       The crew went whale watching a while back, and we spent time watching whale tails, bubble netting, and a few breaches while I tried out my new telephoto lens.  I think that one of the best purchases was my digital SLR, and now with the zoom zoom in full effect, I can capture so much more of the amazing things I experience with the people around me. The fun continued as Erin and I went hiking to a cabin on South Douglas to meet up with a couple great friends, and inevitably spending the night there after finding out the three mile hike was essentially up a mountain and over several creeks.  The 25 guitar in case became a small burden after a bit, but surely payed off as I did my rendition of "cotez the kille" by Neil Young, fireside.  Kayaking, mushing, eagle watching, and music filled July to gills, and we slowly slipped into August with breeze and ease.
       King Tut, however, had quite an encounter the other day.  He met his first porcupine, who left him with 120 quills for dad to pull out, fun.  He is know recuperating in the tent, almost ready to endure the subcutaneous quills that are festering out.  Ketza on the other hand has been dominating lead position, barking and charging when it's wet and cold, and frolicking when it warms up.  I am so thankful to have such great dogs, I tend to be especially modest of Ketza who was trained very well by Trevor, who  I adopted her from almost two years ago.
       The tour season has been very busy, but have successfully finished my mural, which I have posted above for you all to enjoy.  Hopefully you can recognize a few of the dogs in the team, they are all from our camp, except one little Californian cattle dog. I received tour guide of the month for May and June, am awaiting July, and working on August.  Tour guide of the season is the goal, and I will not be able to do this without the help of the guests whom I give tours to.  Thank you all for your help, it is an honor to be recognized for the dedication and hard work we put in to the lifestyle we live so passionately for.  My pack of dogs is holding very strong, and I have a few new editions to the yard.  Piper, from Martin Buser, is 30 days pregnant and very eager to meet all visitors, and also Mouse who has 11 week old pups is now one of my main leaders.  A truly great addition to the kennel, they both have great attitudes and evenly matched appetites.  These are the two best qualities in any sled dog.  Four feet and a thick coat help too.
        So as I approach beer season, I will update once a week, as I travel through the Western United States tackling a most difficult job and journey.  I have 25 states to visit, and about 5 months to do so.  I think I'm up for it, but again will need all the help I can get from folks like you that support a traveling man's dream of seeing the United States of America, her breweries, and her fine population.  I will also ask many of you for a couch to sleep on, and some cold clean water for the pooches.  Happy trails all, and see you soon, I can hardly wait to see what August and September holds for my big happy family!

JWP

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just A Little Star




       What an incredible summer.  I find that hard work pays off, and that sometimes on your day off, it's OK to sit back and relax, stare at a mountain or a picture of one. This type of work is tough.  You get used to the care of your dogs first.  30 dogs, you and a handler.  That to any dog musher is easy, especially when you have help.  Wake up, scoop the poop, feed the huskies, put water in their bowls, scratch 60 ears, and then eat some breakfast.  This schedule has not only trained the dogs and built trust, but has also instilled those things in me, which in turn creates a very low stress environment for my dogs.  Mushers talk about consistency and routine effecting the overall attitude of the dog, and I think it's just as true in them, as it is in us.  Now don't get me wrong, those of you who know me, which most of you should at least a little by now, know that I like to do things on the fly.  I could be cleaning out a dog bowl one minute, then on my way to Skagway for the summer solstice party with Erin the next.  But when it comes to the care of something else, I believe it is only fair that you are consistent and routine-based.  I think that it was those things that helped my mind become creative over the years.  When I knew what was to be done, I found that the time I spent playing music, or doodling, or daydreaming, was perfectly fine.  When I unhook a dog from the team and bring him back to his house, I believe that he owns that little piece of land, and he can do there whatever he pleases, with just a couple stipulations. He jumps up on his house to get a better view, he crawls inside when it rains, he runs around his circle when his friends go for a run without him, and he howls to the mercy of the Gods with 119 of his own kind every day.  This is his life, beating like a drum whose cadence demands hard work and reward.

       Music has been an ongoing hobby for me.  I've played hundreds of shows since my first gig, at lets say "Go Mango" in Rochester Hills about ten years ago.  I must admit I knew I would always play guitar.  As friends of mine grew older, I saw them slowly spend time with other things, like girls, cars, and jobs.  I found a way to work music into my life, or even more thought provoking, music has shaped who I will be for years to come.  In this majestic valley, I find so much inspiration every day.  The garden is blooming, my grass seeds I planted in my dog yard are growing, my dogs are becoming very strong and uniform, and my life in love is exponential.  It feels great finding someone who you love so much, it really makes me appreciate and come to fruition with all the past relationships that led me to this one.  I am blessed, by the love of you.
       The mural.  You know when your buddy does something good, and you hear about until your ears bleed?  That's kind of how I am with this 25' x 30' sepia style painting that I'm currently saturating my brain with.  Now I've never painted anything this big, well maybe if you added up all the dog houses and Carhartt's I've painted white over the years, but I got the opportunity to create and submit an idea to be approved. I am currently 70% done with the mural, and could not be happier with how it is turning out.  I know it might sound like I'm totally into myself, but dammit I do listen to my album while I'm painting.  I mean, how often do you get the chance to listen to songs about the place your at, painting a picture of the mountains surrounding you, while you're being inspired by both at the same time? Haha, that's what I said!
       So onward I go, slowly writing more stories for my book, and beginning the thought process of my travels next winter.  My parents will be moving to North Carolina in about two weeks, and that will become my new holiday destination.  It's funny how that state has become a part of my life.  So many family and friends there, and the winter's are beautiful and for this mountain man, warm and inviting.  I can hardly wait to see what's in store for this little star.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gold Miner's Love




       It's hard to type this morning, with a 95 pound Alaskan Husky cleaning his face of on your right arm, but that's just the life us dog handlers have chosen.  I should feel really luck that I have internet service up here in the Sheep Creek valley of Juneau, Alaska.  I have been here for a month now, and so much has happened, that it seems like it wouldn't be fair to just list it all out with a two sentence explanation.  Erin and I have made our small cabin our summer home, and Tut and Ketza are so happy to be back in the team pulling tourists around the woods.  Thus far I have run about 70 tours, or approaching what I like to call about a quarter of the way through the season, and I couldn't be happier with the huskies I am running.  I have a group of 30 from Willow, Alaska, and they have all been such a pleasure to hang out with all day.  In total there are 120 dogs in the yard, four mushers with 30 each.
       I have taken on a new hobby which started with some sign-making around camp.  I am currently painting a mural that is about 30 feet by 25 feet and is one of the first things tourists see before they enter our summer dog camp.  I am posting its progress at GoldRushdogs.com's facebook page for those who want to see it! 
       The Alaskan Bar has seen me a few times now, and I've even pulled in a few friends from our glacier camp on the Mendenhall glacier here in Juneau to come downtown and enjoy the show.  I'm curious to see how the summer pans out with my music scene, I already feel like I am at the highest level of my guitar playing that I've ever been at, and the inspiration, well, I've got the prettiest girl, the happiest dogs, and live in a cabin in the most beautiful place on Earth.  Happy Man. 
       The upcoming weeks will be busy as our days become longer and as we approach the Summer Solstice here in Juneau.  The salmon will start to run, the eagles will once again be on the hunt sharing their bounty with all the forest dwellers.  In about a week, 8 husky dressed dog mushers will be pulling one of our silver carts downtown for a "only fools run at midnight" gala event in the downtown area.  We all signed up for a one mile race where we will be dressed up to the nines and pulling a tour cart for all to laugh at while we dance and trot along the Gastineau Channel. 
       Because I am working, and also due to a focused mind designed for the moment, I apologize to those who have been following me or checking for a new blog post recently. I know no explanation is needed, for those of you who know me know that if you don't hear from me, I'm busy chopping wood, or maybe sharing a story from my marching band days, but please feel free to follow me on Facebook for pictures of our Summer Camp as the season progresses, as well as photos of our litter of puppies from Mouse, who all got named after......Microbreweries! 
       I hope that everyone is having a great summer, it seems like the winter was busy for everyone, so maybe some much needed time off is in order.  And if you find yourself bored and looking for a tent to stay in, let me know and you can come up the Camp for a bit and relax...maybe I'll even give you a shovel to use:-) 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Home to Me is Reality



Mile:be back next fall

       Wow, it's almost been a month since my last entry.  My focus has shifted from photojournalism and drinking to, well, writing.  Though my blogging has been dormant, the book has been more alive than ever.  As I approach the beginning of my work season here in Juneau, it is my mission to get as many stories published so that one day the "great publisher in the sky" will see that I indeed have been a busy beaver writing up a storm.  As I write, I have found my way to south east Alaska, tucked away in the spring mix of snow and rain.
       The peaks, some 3,000ft. on average, are coated with snow, and they sit still awaiting the warm weather, much like the inhabitants of the State's Capital.  I just got down a couple days ago from Skagway where we worked on several projects for our set-up of our glacier dog camps.  I suppose I should back track a little, I mean, since the last post I was lucky enough to get one last weekend with erin before I left for the north. 
       Parkersburg, West Virginia, was half way for us, and the weekend was really great.  Our stomach's full of ice cream, our minds drenched with budget cable, and our legs worked from walking around civil war relics.  The weather was the warmest I would see again until July, around 60, and the dogs had no problem with that at all.  It's truly a blessing to be able to spend time with someone who supports your dreams, but just as easily welcomes you into their own heart or home.  I suggest everyone search endlessly until they meet someone as encouraging as this, they do exist, I promise;) 
       18 hours of flying later, I arrived to Juneau, then up to Skagway, then a 1,200 mile road trip to Fairbanks to pick up some custom touring sleds for the company with my good buddy Dustin.  The road, arguably the harshest I have ever driven, was muffled by Adam Corrola podcasts and Willie Nelson tunes, a nice change of pace from the frost heaves and powerstroke diesel.  After some bluegrass and a welcoming stay with Thomas and Megan, Dustin and I headed back to Skagway, picking up an ex-boxer turned dog musher along the way.  Only in Alaska. 
       So now my focus has come full circle, as I have had some promising leads on getting stories published, from prominent magazines here in Alaska.  I am thankful as always that this book has gained momentum, and the continued support of you readers motivates me further on this journey towards "beervana."  Now I patiently await the arrival of the tour season, and my girlfriend, all in just three short weeks.  I am happy to be back home in Alaska, where the Alaskan brewery reigns supreme, and those who work hard are living the dream!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Best Brown Ale


Mile:12,222

         Howdy folks, I have been a busy man since I've been back home in the Mitten.  After a much needed week of frisbee golfing at Stoney Creek, and a very green St. Patty's day, I started planning for my next few weeks before Alaska.  This week I gave dog sledding presentations to a few schools in the Oxford school district.  It felt good to talk about dogs again, and though I haven't run Iditarod or many races for that matter, it was fun to answer questions coming from 1st-5th graders.  When the little one's look up to you for what you do, it reminds you of when you were in their shoes, daydreaming of what your future would hold.  We often forget that we were once full of inspiration and boundless possibillities.  It was great to see that fresh view on life, not worrying about where there lives will take them. 
       I gave a day's worth of presentations, all with Tut and Ketza in Harness and booties while they "worked" the crowd for free head scratches.  The school was pleased with the show, so pleased in fact that I am booked for three more schools next week, sweet! I enjoy public speaking, and when it's dog sledding, I feel like there are so many comparrisons between mushing and the rest of life, it's great.
       As the Spring warmth approaches, I know soon I will be back in the great state of Alaska. I just got done with a phone interview for the Oxford newspaper, and telling the journalist my story really made me itchy to get out there and build some more great memories.  It was a year ago that I finished recording my first album, and here I am, a year later, writing a book and being interviewed about my life. It all seems like a dream, but when one is faced with challenge of new experiences, he defines himself in each slow moment.  I have never been more honest with myself and those around me.  I finally have figured out a rythym that works for me, and I'm going to jam this song out for a long time to come.
      Between frisbee golfing, editing beer photos, dog hikes, guitar, and heartworm tests, I have remained focused on my research.  I recently tasted the best beer I have had yet on the tour.  It was right here, in Michigan.  Now why in the heck did I travel 12,000 miles to find the best beer was right under my nose?! Well, those who know me know that even if I tasted that beer right before the trip, I wouldn't have stopped and been satisfied; I would have bought three mini kegs of it and stretched it over a couple laughs and States.  What beer, you ask, has been your favorite after tasting over 60 breweries beers?  Well, you know a few facts;  It is most likely a brown ale, it is in Michigan, and it has to beat Orlando Brew Co.'s nut brown ale by a lot considering it isn't "organic."  Ok, sorry, I got a little beer nerdy there, I apologize, It's just that the person whom this answer is intended for will enjoy the suspense and logical reasoning involved in my final decision.  OK....drum roll please...Out of every brown ale tasted, the most delectabley delicious draught was Bell's Best Brown Ale.  Murky like a stream in the fall decomposing bright orange and red sugar maples, this brew holds malty notes that smooth out almost immediately after swallowing, leaving your palate with a light nut aroma, but no weight.  And wow, it goes good with a late winter ice storm and nothing better to do than enjoy a cold one!
   

Monday, March 14, 2011

The longest lesson ever learned


Mile:11,987

       I feel as though my thoughts that once raced around my mind have slowly churned into a delicious memory sorbet.  The journey, well, the journey is only half over, or maybe it's yet to begin, or maybe it's happening right now.  Florida proved once again to be so fantastic.  The dogs were so excited to play with their doggy in law Bandit, a cattle dog, for a few weeks.  The weather was warm in sunny St. Augustine, upwards of eighty degrees for a bit, which for husky boys and husky dogs proves to be a tad uncomfortable at times.  But as any good dog musher will tell you, it is one's ability to adapt to his environment that defines his success.  Translating that to my situation meant dusting off my shorts from my pre dog sledding days and "furminating" Tut and Ketza under the big hot sun. 
       The deep south has this ability to control your thoughts.  It's just as acceptable for a man to go out and work hard all day, as it is to sunbathe with a cocktail and guitar on the beach down here.  I assure you all, I did plenty of both, but leaned attentively towards those bottomless pina coladas that Erin makes so well.  Combing the beach for shark's teeth, tasting salt from the fresh evaporated sea, and running my hands through the water table brought memories of college beach camping at Nordhouse Dunes back so vividly, I could almost hear the "Tweezer reprise" blasting from the ol' JVC kaboom box.  The oysters fresh and raw, the pelicans coordinating perfect flight paths, and the crisp mint in my mojito brought me towards a friend from the summer, a jack of all trades if you will.  Cape Canaveral for a night with a helicopter friend of mine proved eventful as we challenged Americans to understand a thick Brit-Aussie-Alaskan-Floridian accent.  A day in the life of Doug, which is a day worth a lifetime I assure you.  Thanks for the egg sandwich buddy, and of course for that much needed grill out on the patio.
       Erin came for a visit on the 5th, and after a successful weekend at the farmer's market PJ and Jaime had a barbecue that was more or less incredible.  We ate venison and morel stew, grilled chicken, and a 7 hour pork butt all day, pairing the three with I-10 IPA from Intuition Ale works.  Talk about doing it right, it couldn't have been a better day!  Sharing all of these memories with loved ones and new friends is what my life is about.  I have been so lucky on this trip, eating some of the best food from continental to coastal to international, as well as the hundreds of beers from each state east of the Mississippi.  I hope that I can revisit these wonderful homes in the future, but know that I have filled up my karma cup seeing them all in one short winter.  The strength I have gained from all of this is something I am just starting to see.  I can be all over Facebook, writing blogs, and singing songs, but at the end of the day I am most humble with myself.  I take very little for granted, and on a personal level always push myself to recognize that what I am doing most will never experience.  Through traveling and writing and playing, I am able to document this life of mine for my own mind, and at the end of the day, is important in maintaining my mental health.  So many struggle when they are stuck, and equally when they are set free.  You just have to go with the flow when you live like I do.  I knew I would be fine, no matter what the circumstance, and had the perseverance to trust in what I believed.  Anyone can do what I do, maybe not in a physical sense, but that's not "what I am doing."  I am challenging my readers to take a small step, one after another, no matter what the size.  A lyric that rings in my mind is "you'll never look up unless you start to move forward."  My first experience of this was when I was 13.  I crossed over from Webelos to Boy Scouts, and was on my first backpacking camp out, sometime in January.  I looked at my feet, or the peer's pace in front of mine, never taking in what I was doing.  When I had the opportunity to lead and be in front of the other scouts, I began to move fast.  The world unravelled before me as I stared farther and farther ahead, trusting my body to negotiate the trail as I hustled at a good clip.  My Scoutmaster, a legendary man, stopped me a ways down to share a thought.  He had a way, like mentors do, of letting me know that I had just learned a lot about myself, and that in life some people enjoy taking their time and soak in every second.  He told me that if I moved fast like I had been, I would tire out, and begin to look back at the ground again, losing sight of all I had learned and had yet to see.  It took me until about an hour ago to figure out what he meant.  I have moved fast, letting life pass me by, catching only the brightest butterflies, when all along the tiniest bee held the most beauty.  It took me 13 years to awaken to this ideology, and am thankful again for the support of all of "nets" there to catch me and set me free again. 
       Here I am back in Michigan, home sweet home.  I will be here for three weeks, catching up with my hometown buddies, and of course sampling my fair share of Jolly Pumpkin, Dragon mead, Founders, Bells, MCB, DBC, and several other breweries.  As I tie off the capsule of this winter, I look forward to my summer in Alaska running dogs in the most inspirational place I have ever lived.  I now will position my creative juices westward, awaiting any signs from the several magazines I am trying to get stories published in.  The storyteller in me has again been set free, and I enjoy my new life of love, in unison with the butterfly and the bee.

JWP 

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Juice was worth The Squeeze



Mile: 10,033

       I hoofed it down to St. Augustine to Pj and Jaime's in about nine hours.  The transition from foggy mountain tops of Appalachia to the flatlands of Florida were dramatic, and also breathtaking.  To have made it all the way around the Eastern Untied States and end up where I first bunkered down back in November amazes me.  My brother has been selling Sorbet (SeaCow Confections) at Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville, FL.  What a great combination of what we are both doing.  Though our "sorbet stout" was about 40% good, with improvement should be the next best thing.  The brewery has a good following of mug members, but what I've enjoyed is sipping on a very cold beer in the warm spring sun that beckons me to close the lid on this winter's work, and prepare for my summer season in Alaska.  I will be mushing sled dogs at the historic Sheep Creek in Juneau, where I worked back on 2007.  This is my favorite camp, with an abundance of memories had, but now will be where new memories are formed while overlooking several waterfalls and mountains.  After visiting Intuition, my grand total of breweries visited so far on the trip is right around 50, but that is only a fraction of the beers I have sampled from the East.  Total number of beers from different breweries totals around 250, all recorded neatly in my expandable folder(those who know me, owning a folder is a huge step).  I can say that I have developed a taste for certain hops and as well as a taste for different yeasts used in the brewing process. With 25 more states to go next fall, I will have a much better tongue for the challenging western states.
       I am very thankful for those of you who have read my blog, donated cash, worn one of my crocheted hats, and listened to my album.  I think about you all while I'm driving in the Ford, which has around 140,000 miles on her now, and feel lucky and blessed to have a solid following.
       Back to Florida. Pj and I spent a few days fishing, reeling in Drum and other fish that are tasty.  We also have all been biking and running, as Jaime and I prepare for our 5k today at her park.  I have ran before, and haven't really enjoyed it all that much, but now that my mind is at ease with the first half of my book finished, I felt it necessary to get back into shape after all those pudgy porters I drank up in Maine to stay warm!  The dogs enjoy the Florida sun, though they do tire out quickly.  We are in the NE side of the state, so we have some very mild nights perfect for dog walks and fetching.
       It's only a week now till erin gets into town, and along with all the fun we will have together, I have a busy week ahead.  Tomorrow I will drive down to Orlando to see Alex and Naomi while they treat their children to that amusement park that is nearby.  Then over to Cape Canaveral to see Doug, a buddy who flew helicopter tours in Skagway last summer.  To meet up with someone in Florida that you worked with in Alaska is a true testament to something, maybe friendship, but those who know Doug, know that he is just the guy to drink a couple cold one's with and shoot the breeze.  Then I'll drive back up to Augy just in time to help PJ spin sorbet, and prepare for a weekend of selling at the Brewery and the local Farmer's market.  Though I have acclimated quickly to warm weather, I cannot wait to be in the pocket of South East Alaska, my true home.
       If anyone is interested in sending me artwork for my book, I am now phasing towards the stories of my book, as well as design.  With 50 breweries in my back pocket, I will be trying to get my idea published as well as organized in the next year.  I have several ideas, but encourage all to send me theirs at joepawelek@yahoo.com .  Stay tuned for some great posts in the upcoming weeks, it's gonna get crazy around here as I prepare for Alaska.  But most important, please visit www.Iditarod.com and follow my good friend Matt Hayashida on his 1,000 mile run to Nome, Ak.  All competitors are true athletes, but this race is all about the dogs and one man's destiny, Go Team Rubicon!
  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going To Carolina in My Mind

Mile:9,345      
       I must admit I have been hooked on The Yukon Quest.  The 1,000 miled sled dog race from Whitehorse, YT, to Fairbanks, AK takes place the first Saturday in February.  I'm not interested in following many sports, but as an aspiring dog musher, this year has been the year to follow the YQ.  Last night, Valentines Day, I eagerly and sometimes frantically checked the live tracker radar as well as the Quests Facebook page until three in the morning.  Some craziness went down, as it does when you take a team of 14 dogs into the Yukon in hopes of racing for 12 days.  This evening the winner will pull into Fairbanks, with more stories about survival than any Everest expedition.  This sport keeps blood pumping as it stands as the greatest race on Earth.  To think that the Idiatrod is only a couple of weeks away keeps my blood pumping for sure.
       I have been in Boone, NC since the first of Feb.  Erin and I have been hiking with the dogs, taking lots of pictures, and driving along the Blueridge parkway whenever we get a chance.  I feel like my mind is finally coming into its own as I begin to head down to Florida tomorrow.  I am so fortunate to have great people in my life, it seems that whenever you are high or low, those closest know just what to say to keep you on track.  It's nice too to have self confidence, I learned way back when I started playing live music that you HAVE to be your biggest fan.  You must believe in what you are singing, playing, and feeling.  Without that, you are just another wondering soul.  I get caught up sometimes and this trip had really given me a chance to find who I am and what goals I want to accomplish.  Though I haven't played as much live music lately as I would like to to stay fresh, I have gained all this experience in just living life.  The best songs are those drawn from life's mysteries and realiizations.  I am trying to dance on the mountain where these two ideas meet. 
       I have been planning my next visit to my brother in Florida's, St. Augustine.  I visited them about three months ago, and have gradually basktracked my entire trip down towards them again.  I love that I am able to see family this winter.  My brothers have been spread out, like me, for some years now.  I get a chance to watch my nephews grow, and also see both of my brothers become successful at what they love doing too.  It is a tough time in my life to think about settling down.  There is so much I want to see and experience, and after traveling around half of the United States, I feel no need to stop and bunker down.  I would love to eventually have a house, farm, chickens, pigs, goats, dogs, and watermelons, but I also want to find the perfect spot to have all those things.  It's funny that this book about beer has turned into such a life force in what I am doing.  I am able to promote local growth and sustainability by bringing information about local breweries to the people that live close to them.  I am suggessting so many good beers to people that didn't even know there was something better than Budweiser out there.  The truth is that these huge macrbreweries snuff out the craft brewers, or offer them lucrative deals.  It's just like any business, but when you have tasted the beers that I have, you will agree that there is something special about drinking a frosty beverage that was brewed from local ingredients shipped to your favorite watering hole with very little travel and energy.  That is a good thing!  As the trend for local bought, local grown foods increase, we will see more and more microbreweries becoming successfull.  You should be proud to drink beer in your hometown, it's a very noble and smart thing to do.  It may cost a buck more, but what your spending at the pub your saving in miles the beer travels to get to your lips, which results in a lower environmental impact.  I'm not converting you all to hippies here, I'm telling you that if you want to see our children grow up in a world that is submerged in marketing campaigns and attractive themes, then order your oranges from florida and salmon from Alaska. This book is all about community!
       I am super excited to head to Orlando Brewing Co. again.  Their beer has been on my mind since November, and cannot wait to drink me some of that Brown Ale.  I must admit North Carolina has some great breweries, and I will miss that a lot when I leave.  But as you all know by now, I'll be back in North Carolina soon enough..
The plan after Florida is to drive westward to Alabama, then up to Indiana and Illinois.  These three will put my total at 27 states this winter, a good start on next year's road trip.  I am on the fence on wether I will drive out to Alaska this summer.  It would be nice to say I road tripped for six months and 14,000 miles, but I need to make sure the Ol' Red will make the journey.  The truck has been running great, and I just vaccumed and duck taped about three dogs worth of hair outta her.  It's nice to travel clean, especially when you're headed south into the heat.  I find that Alaskan winters are forgiving in the sense that you layer up so much, you can't smell your armpits.  Now that it's warming up, I am re-learning what it means to be hygenic.  haha, maybe not, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Eternal Optimist



Mile:8,220
      
       Couldn't be happier with the last week.  I have had an outstanding time traveling from New Hampshire through up state New York.  I conquered the sickness, which when it's below zero takes its toll, and pounded down some incredible north east beers.  The journey began when I left the Red Roof Inn, in all of her pet friendly glory, to Burlington, VT.  The drive wasn't more than maybe five hours, and I prepared to visit a most anticipated brewery just south of Burlington, those who enjoy good beer will look it up and agree:-)  I also tried out some Ben and Jerry's, Phish Food, and walked around town for an hour or two.  My plan was to jump on a ferry about twenty miles north and head over to Plattsburgh, NY to stay with a good friend Adam that I ran sled dog tours with in Juneau, Alaska back in 2008.  After walking the dogs around and sampling Magic Hat, we boarded the rig, and off we went.  The 10 minute ride was fast, finding nine dollars and 50 cents after seeing the cash only sign was much longer.  Arriving into overcast Plattsburgh, I met up with Adam for what was going to be a grand four day adventure. 
       After a bottle of #9, we hiked with the dogs on a nice 3 mile hike behind his house.  The dogs were going bonkers in the fresh snow, I hadn't seen that since Virginia, and was happy to have them stretch out.  The next day we drove down to Glens Falls and sampled a brewery called Davidson Brothers.  We talked with the Manager, after he saw us taking pictures, and quickly cleared up the confusion as to why we were doing so.  He thought we were documenting a food problem or something, and I was like, "no man, I'm just taking pictures of the foam of the beer for a book I'm writing."  Probably thought I was being a smart ass, good stuff Micah.  After a talk with the owner, Rick, who claimed that he would "gladly finish any beer that we didn't like, for free," we met the brewer in the big room. Adam and I had a nice tour of a small true microbrewery and even got to see some fresh pressed hops ready for action.  The more I get tours of breweries, the more I understand the different scales that they operate under.  After a couple more pints, we payed an outrageous bill for two guys, then set off back home to eat some grilled cheese and soup. 
       The next morning we headed through the Adirondack mountains towards Lake Placid.  The beer was delicious, and we got some insight into what is being called a "Black IPA."  It curled my lip a little when I heard about a an IPA brewed almost exactly like a porter, but wasn't a porter, but may not be a pale...you get the idea, it's like breeding a rabbit and a cow together so you can get a cold drink after a hoppy run.  Though it sounds awesome, it just doesn't work that way.  So now the actual classification, or so I am told, is American Dark Lager.  This opens up the realm of what actually classifies a certain beer according to the great brew gods in the sky.  Either way, my favorite beer was the Frostbite, or Lake Placid IPA.  Super awesome, delicious, and the sampler was served on a hearty piece of pine with holes cut in it for the glasses.  That's a great way to get a mountain man like me to look at the beer!  Next stop Saranac Lake, the dogs ran around for a bit near a raging river, and we checked out the Ice Castle being built for winter carnival in a few days.  The final destination was South Colton, NY to attend the annual beach party that Adam's parents throw in their pull barn/shop/work area/beach front property.
       The whole vibe was awesome.  Great folks, amazing stories, snow falling, debauchery at its finest, and Busch light.  Though much of my book is about beer, the other half is about stories that define my life.  I could have written two books after this weekend, seriously.  The night of the party, I played two sets, from Bob Marley, to Johnny Cash, to originals, to iinevitably drunken banter.  It was a hoot as loved ones tossed each other into a kiddie pool in front of the stage, and my stomach got a real workout from the pounds of dips, meatballs, lil' smokies, and again, Busch light.  Thanks to The Crosley's for having me for a couple days, I will remember those two nights for the rest of my life!
       So how does a guy like me "one-up" that experience?  I hopped in my car Sunday morning at 7am and drove eight hundred and some miles to Boone, NC.  I must admit I had no real reason to stop seeing as I had driven most of I-81 a month or so before, so after fourteen hours, I made it safely to Erin's for the most legendary surprise visit and girlfriend of mine had ever received.  Making her think I was all alone camping in Pennsylvania farm country, I told her I was about to knock on some one's closed diner to see if they could spare a meal for a white boy, when "knock, knock," there I was.  I don't recommend driving fourteen hours for someone unless you're really trying to tell them something, or you have no other couch to sleep on.  I am a lucky guy, and believe that as an eternal optimist, everything will fall, fall right into place.
       Here I am, in North Carolina once again, but now I have traveled to 23 states, with Indiana and Illinois as my last two for the winter.  I have succeeded in my winter goals, and now will prepare several odds and ends for my book.  Now that I have so much information gathered and recorded into my computer, it is time to start thinking about contacting publishers, quoting self-publishing prices, and getting a few computer nerds together to help me come up with something presentable to investors.  The following weeks before I return to Alaska for the summer I will bring you not only great beer info on Indiana and Illinois and Michigan, but will slowly transition my writing styles as I will not have much to chat about in the way of beer and traveling like I have been.  I will slowly add in more of my Alaskan experiences as I too am a musician at heart, and want to incorporate all angles of my life with listeners, readers, and thinkers.  Talk to you all next week, enjoy the snow, sun, brews, and news!

JWP

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New England, New Angle Man




Mile:7,566

I left New York City about five days ago, and had a very enlightening experience.  In a city full of art, I was challenged with the highs and lows of city life.  Parking proved to be fun, but also the mindsets of the people I came in contact with.  My two friends out there, both successful in their respective fields, were a ray of sunshine in a very unforgiving metropolis.  Not that anything in my mind could ever be perceived as negative, as those who know me know this is my way, but it was like a good painting.  Some people you converse with you enjoy, their canvas bright with color and infinite lines.  Others dark and dismal, faded and shaded.  But who am I to judge either, for they are both great examples of good art.  If it makes you think, become opinionated, and effect you, it has done its job.  To me it was summed up with Central Park.  The dogs and I cruised the majority of the trails in the park, after some fesh snow hit the ground a few days before, and saw so many messages written across the landscape.  Now before I get too weird on you normal folk, keep in mind I have travelled 7,500 miles since October when this journey started, and I encouraged readers to stay tuned while I mold and become more perceptive to my surroundings.  Well, with that said, I am here. 
       The ground of Central park, covered in stone, scattered with select varieties of tree specimen, lay frozen to mother nature's cold way.  There were tunnels, overpasses, ponds, and well landscaped gardens.  But in the middle of the winter, you can see the towering buildings on all sides, closing in what I'm sure is a decent park in the summer.  Those who told me of its beauty stood corrected as my dogs rarely looked up to see the path, only looking up when necessary to find the next scent.  It was metaphoric of the city life.  You work, walk, eat, sleep, repeat.  In New York though, you have everything.  Though much is imported, it can be found everywhere., anytime.  So, needless to say, this Alaska lover started craving fresh snow, fresh air, and a new angle on his mindset.  That's when I decided to pack up, and head north to New England.
       Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts were next on my list, and I spent a day or so in each.  Boston was great, I had a very good brewery tour at Harpoon, they were a very cool bunch and hooked me up with some great swag.  The temperatures dipped slowly into the teens, and as I pulled into York, Maine, I was approaching the negatives with wind chill and all that fun stuff.  Luckily Erin helped me find some great things to do in Boston the night before, so I was eager to stay in and work on the fine details of my book.  Organizing, computing, drinking a few brews that I had stashed away from my brother's own strawberry blonde homebrew(thanks Jeremy, those were the last ones, didnt want 'em to freeze!).  From Maine, I headed just a couple hours west to Loudon, New Hampshire, where I am now.  I am fighting off a cold, which is almost gone, and then I will head to Plattsburgh, New York, to see another pal that I mushed dogs with on the Mendenhall Glacier in 2008.  We will visit Magic Hat Brewing in Burlington, VT, as well as several in upstate NY. 
       I am so lucky to see so much.  As I start heading back towards Michigan, I think of all the people who I've met, chilled with, and fell in love with.  I am also very thankful that I get to share this journey with my dogs, who have grown nice bushy coats to withstand the cold.  I have followed suit without a shave in about four months.  It is now I feel most alive, as I slowly exhaust my summer funds, tighten the reigns, and pack light through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine.  It is now I define my Alaskan teachings to dance with mother nature across the Eastern United States.  It is now, I go to bed...in a Red Roof Inn:-)

JWP   

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Population Porter

 Mile:7,000
       Virginia was my last stop in the south, and was fortunate enough to hang out with a good Navy friend and his wife before his deployment to the East.  I played a show in Norfolk, an incredible time, and then planned my trip north through Delaware towards Pennsylvania.  The Eastern shore of Virginia was a great transition or maybe a final wave  goodbye before the intensity of population overload. I set my compass on Milton,  DE, and those of you who love beer love Dogfishhead Brewery.  They are fun and creative, but stay very true to there recipes.  The 90 minute IPA, the 120 IPA, they blow your mind.  If you are a fan of Pales, this is your brewery.  I stayed the night in Wilmington, trying out Iron Hill BC, and then geared up for Philadelphia the next day.  Philly steak and cheese, you all know me by now, was oozing down my face as I walked the streets looking for the southeast Philly taproom.  That night Ryan was playing a show on the Upper east side, and it was fun to be around friends from way back in the day.  I find that my mind has grown with each step or mile I've moved.  This adventure is a true test of how well I am able to survive in several different elements.  I like to explain to people I meet that this traveling lifestyle is similar to my dog sledding experiences in Alaska.  I am faced with decisions every moment, making sure that I enjoy my present self, but also set myself up to succeed when I get to where I am going.  Knowing that I can camp out at anytime helps, but as my journey has continued to New York City, that option has diminished.
       I called up a friend from college, and was so lucky to stay at her loft in Brooklyn.  I stayed for three days, making dream catchers for an art show, walking the streets photographing graffiti everywhere, and eating some of the best Mexican food I have ever tasted.  The subway system, the live music everywhere, the hustle and bustle, it is all poetry in motion for the encouraged mind.  The dogs enjoyed a dog park under the Brooklyn Bridge several times this week, and for the time being, have been very patient with all the noises, pigeons, and infrastructure.  They are huskies, they are wolves, they survive.  I am human, I am a wolf, I survive.  We are a pack, we are connected, and I depend on my dogs now like they depend on me. 
       I walked Times Square, found on my second attempt 22 varieties of M&M's at M&M World, ate more pizza than Manhattan could throw my way, and drank a few really good German beers @ Heidelberg.  Now I am with Neal, a friend from High School, who is studying to become a doctor.  We people watched, he diagnosed the pool player with thyroid issues, and we traveled about last night from 90th and 1st.    Now I'm off to Central Park, to run with the dogs and take some pictures, and am hopeful that I can spend some more time in the city.  You truly have to be your own out here, much like Alaska life.  Just like Mother Nature, the grind of NYC cares not about your plans, nor your welfare, it simply is.  It is your choices that determine your welfare, whether it be driving recklessly to move 3 miles in two hours in rush hour, or 1,000 miles through Alaska's wilderness on dogsled during the Iditarod. 
       Thanks to all for your donations and helping this trip thrive and stay very much alive.  I am heading to Upstate NY next, then Portland, ME.  I have only 5 states left to visit and it is almost coming to the half way of my total journey.  I am excited, nervous, anxious, and patient for the weeks to come.  But for now I am just anxious, to get another slice of that incredible pizza!

JWP