Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beyond The Blue Sky









       What a time, what a time.  Erin and I have been busy with our new jobs. I am so happy to announce my new job as a brewer at Natty Greene's Brewing Company in Greensboro, NC.  I truly feel the flow of the full circle.  I have dedicated the last two years of my life to beer, brewing, and well, drinking well brewed beer!  I had a two week training period and as of two weeks ago I was sent out on my own to brew on our 20 hectoliter system.  That's roughly 18 brewers barrels, or for everyone else, a little over 500 gallons a batch.  I typically handle three or four brews when I come in for my shift, five are usually made in one day.  To see the process from start to finish is astounding, for there is so much in the way of timing that makes this science a true art.  I am not quite to the art stage yet, though I am slowly learning how to become efficient and be a better troubleshooter.  I must say this is no job, but like dog sledding, a rugged lifestyle.  I am wet and hot most of the time, juggling Plato readings and ph levels in my short term memory, all while keeping the flow of several batches consistent.  As far as North Carolina goes, there are no breweries like ours that produce as much beer with such few employees.  A great resume builder, and a great opportunity to learn everything along the brew to bottle cycle.  I have learned too that unlike home-brewing, many hands are involved in the making of Natty's beer.  The brewers extract the wort and send it to fermenters, the cellarmen pitch the yeast, take readings, filter, and carbonate, and the warehouse employees bottle and keg.  It is then distributed all across NC for you to enjoy.  It is a very big operation, and I'm lucky to be working with so many talented individuals who truly care for the well being of our product.
       Erin had started at TS Designs, a screen printing company that focuses on two things;  making NC organic cotton apparel, grown sewn, and dyed within the state's borders, and modeling a sustainable business plan.  They have lots of green ideas implemented, including recycling water, energy efficiency through solar and wind power, as well as a garden out back full of delicious food.  The chickens that eat compost from the co-op I worked at provide eggs, and the bees in the two hives made honey for the Mead that erin and I have fermenting at our house.  I love the idea of this business, you should check out their interactive website here.
       So as far as the book, I am peppered with free time to get the final drafts done.  I am trying a new angle on the book.  I decided that now I have the ability to look back on the journey and see where it has taken me, that I am re-writing the book in just that way.  I was originally hesitant to do that because if I wrote it as I went along, it would lack that sense of plans coming full circle.  I am excited to be writing the book this way, and am still planning in the release to be around Christmas this year.  Though I have hardly any money, I'm hoping I can either get it published, or self publish and order a few hundred copies to get the ball rolling.
       My best friend and his fiance are getting married next week in Aspen, CO.  Brad has been my good friend for 13 years, and he is that friend that everyone should have.  He is hard working, loyal, funny, and able to take the conversation to the bottom floor real quick.  He is grounding and uplifting all in one, and I am so happy to be able to fly out and celebrate his big day.  It will be awesome seeing old college and high school friends, I'm sure we will all try to act like adults as long as we can, that is until we've had a few drinks:-)
       I thank you all for following me on my journey from mushing dogs in Alaska to brewing beer in North Carolina, it has been and continues to be such a positive force in our lives.  I am proof that hard work pays off, and that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith to see the world clearly.  I want to motivate those around me and help them meet their potential.  Dreams do come true, and theirs nothing you can't do as long you don't have no in your heart!

Happy Fall everyone!!!!

JWP

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hard Cider!!!




   
    The competition was a success!  The two beers I entered ranked between 21-27 out of 50.  Beers in between 20-30 are ranked as "good" but I knew that what I was going to get out of the competition was some advice.  Due to warm temperatures, I can keep my house at around 74F on a good day.  This is the higher end of fermenting temps for what I make, and after talking to some judges, I learned that a lower mash temp and fermenting temp will give my beer more body.  This was the case with some of the beers entered, so it was a great opportunity for me to learn something!  Like most things in life, you think you have figured it out, and then several doors open.  This is what the beer world is to me.
       I think back on my beerventures and wish that I had been brewing so that I could get more of the technical side out of the breweries.  I would be able to understand yeast strains, hop varieties, and malt combinations much more.  But that's the way it goes.  I guarantee I wouldn't have homebrewed like I do know had it not been for those travels.  I look at my brewing sessions very methodically.  I get excited to sterilize and control my experiment the best I can.  The power of my knowledge increases, but I want to remain a sponge as I interact with professional brewers and amateur brewers so that I can  have unbiased approach to learning.  Because it's beer, it generally is at least acceptable if it has alcohol content.  I mean, people drink Budweiser and Coors all day and I hesitate to have them try an Oberon or an Old Scratch Lager.  I want to appreciate the process in which these larger breweries brew.  I have to hand it to the big boys because they are consistent all across the country, and that's what the people want.  I know that I can't make the same batch twice with my current set up, there are too many variables like controlled temp and dog hair.  I strive for this though, I want to be able to work on a system that produces identical results time after time.  I am on the cusp of this however, but I'll remain cryptic until my next post, which should bring all of my blog posts together in harmony.
       Erin and I brewed hard cider yesterday.  We took the approach of bottled additive free apple juice, naturally it was organic.  We made two gallons, and heated it up to 155F and added 2lbs. of brown sugar to up the ABV.  We also added clove, star anise, and ginger to give it a nice fall feel.  Before adding sugar, the specific grvity was 1.04, and right before we sealed it up to ferment we got it up to a powerful 1.10!  This means that our final ABV will be between 10-12%.  This is the highest gravity blend I have made yet, but I'm hopeful it will be a nice sipping cider that we can have well into the holidays...if it lasts!
       SO the projected book release date will still be around Christmas, though I have vigorously been procrastinating the new direction I am taking with it.  I think that writing it travel log style will accent my personality much more, as well as make for a fun read to beer and travel enthusiasts.  I have really enjoyed recounting my past two years, it really makes me laugh when I put myself in that curious state of mind as I left Alaska and was yet to meet Erin and travel up the east coast.  I have been lucky, but I must admit it's really hard not having the money I made in Alaska.  I'm glad I learned how to be resourceful long ago, otherwise I'd be up a creek right now.  I have been very hard working and patient while I wait for the future to unfold.  I am in the midst of something great though, whatever it may lead to.  I have been writing, singing, canning lots of veggies, and brewing up a storm with the woman I love, and to me there is no greater feeling.
       My parents have settled into their new home south of Cary, NC, and it's only a matter of time until we all go down for a housewarming party.  My Aunt and Uncle will soon be visiting and I look forward to the company, as I'm sure my parents do too.  I'm glad I got to see y relatives while I was traveling across the United States, it'll be a shock to us all when they see me living a somewhat stationary lifestyle.  It has been six years since I've been in one place for this long, but I think I've done a pretty good job making Burlington my new home.  Erin and I have made a lot of new friends that are solid characters.  They have helped us network and find our groove in North Carolina, and for that we are grateful.
       I leave you today with the lyrics of my newest creation, the Homebrew Song, enjoy!


Grab the barley, grab the grains,
pick your hops and a good yeast strain.
Heat that mash, turn it into wort,
ferment that beer for a week or more.

Listen to the bubbles peculate,
it's time to bottle, let me demonstrate;
pour twelve ounces and cap it off tight,
hide it far away and outta the light cuz,

We're homebrewing tonight,
we're homebrewing tonight.

It can be light, bitter, dark, or sweet,
pilsner, porter, lager, brown ale, and wheat.
It comes from the fruits of the vines from across the country,
noble, nugget, fuggles, tomahawk, and victory.

yeah, we're homebrewing tonight,
we're homebrewing tonight!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grandpa Brown's Ale





       In preparation for my book, I have took the necessary steps to control as much in my life as possible, so that I might procure that certain spark that ignites my left.  I have focused so hard at work, genuinely making sense of new things and ideas, as well as establishing my skill sets to management.  I look at life simply, but for everyone that is a different notion.  My goals are giant, I set them up so that I dream big and keep the passion flower growing deep down inside.  I have switched gears several times in the last two years, driving trucks, driving dogs, and driving my dreams.
       The book has been fun, about as fun as fun can get.  I traveled so much and took in a lifetime's worth of experiences.  I feel as though I catapulted myself into the unknown on purpose.  I wasn't stuck, I loved my job in Alaska.  I knew I would return after that first winter traveling around the East coast, but I had no idea that I would meet my future Wife, move to the South, and completely change my thermostat.  I really can't function that well in the heat, so I've retreated to my produce cooler in hopes of daydreaming about Alaska while I organize the fruit shelf.  It was during one of these sessions that I came up with a new way to look at the book I am writing.  I have literally logged more hours than I care to think about because it was all out of love.  I never have recorded memories in time, only the emotional attachment associated with the experiences I've had.
       I have looked closely at the pages I've created on Photoshop and printed out at work for me to scan over every so often.  I think that what I'm trying to do is the wrong thing right now.  The book is never finished, no matter how I try to wrap it up in my mind.  I haven't found a publisher, I haven't had anyone give me lots of money to publish the book I want to see on a coffee table.  Why?  I wonder and wonder as I send another manuscript to another publisher why it hasn't caught on.  I grab the Avocados and open the fridge,  heading back onto the showroom floor, where life is once again happening.
       It's now day three after that particular event.  I am three days from my very first homebrew competition.  I have started on the second Chapter of my book.  I have decided that I won't go with the reference/travel angle I have pursued thus far.  I have great photos, great stories, and lots of beer knowledge.  But the one thing that the book is lacking is character.  I can tell lots of "remember when" stories, but that has been and always will be for campfire sessions.  My best friend told me when we were young that my music was best when written about the people around me in my circle.  So as I generally do in life, I take the leap of faith on a phrase Brad told me 12 years ago.  I have chosen to write out the book travel log style, documenting it from the moment I had the idea atop the Denver glacier in Skagway, Alaska.  It was in that cold canvas tent that one of the 200 howling dogs sang in such a tone that it clicked in my mind that I should travel and write a book about fifty States' breweries.
       It's so easy to me to write and write and write when I'm motivated.  I can go all day, like a sixty mile run across the swamps and hills of Willow, Alaska.  I will finish the book, the way it was intended to be written, the way I want it written.
       So as I go from beer enthusiast to beer competitor, I change hats focusing on what it will take to learn all I can from the upcoming event.  Though I don't have lots of experience racing sled dogs, I have helped countless teams cross the finish line in one way or another.  I was younger then, but I knew that with time I would understand a great deal more than when I had entered.  I am proud of me today, finally brewing good beer, and surrounded my people who respect my passion for living the life I set out to live when I was 19.
Just entering Mystery Brewing's beer comp. is a win in my book, for as they say in dog mushing, " getting the starting line is half the race."

Thursday, July 19, 2012






Welcome!

       Some of you will be seeing this blog for the first time today, which is a very lucky adventure in itself.  If you've seen my link on the front page of the Burlington Times, thanks for following through and visiting me here!
       The project started out last Monday, after lots of preparation and planning.  We power washed the brick on the North side of Company Shops Market, Burlington's food co-op, on Sunday and Monday night.  Tuesday was a big job.  After purchasing supplies from Home Depot, Priming was next on the agenda.  Just shy of five hours, three of us painted the brick wall, which soaked up six gallons of green primer.  After seeing just how big the project was, we were ready to initiate phase two of the project;outlining.
       Wednesday at 5pm, Leila who is CSM's operations Manager, and the produce departments Glenn, laid down the grid so we could start painting the outline.  We chose a flat light brown color to map up the "shady grove," and that is where the mural is currently sitting.
       A lot of employees volunteered time with this phase, which is very important in reaching our deadline of this upcoming Sunday.  Tonight, Thursday the nineteenth, you are invited to CSM to help paint the mural.  It is fun, easy, and a great way to meet other Burlington residents!

       I thank you all in advance for your support!  This has been a dream of mine and Leila's for a while now, and after all the behind the scenes planning, it feels good to put our ideas on the wall.  If you are at all interested in future projects, please email me at musherjoey@gmail.com.  I will gladly help you make your business or home full of color, as well as help out along the way.  If you read back into my blog, you will find that community is the basis of the creation of my writing.
        I have self funded every mile of my travels, and now am hopeful that I will raise enough money to publish my first book, which is set to be published my this December.  You can help by donating at the bottom of this page and also by contacting me with leads on North Carolina publishers that might be interested in publishing a book about the craft of brewing locally.  Thank you again for visiting and I encourage you to scan the several posts of the last two years of my life.  Have a great day, and we'll see you down at the Co-Op Thursday and Saturday night around six pm!

JP

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Home is where the beer is.





 
        So I must admit it took some time to really settle in, but isn't that how it works?

        Since gardening I have had to transplant herbs, flowers, and vegetable plants into bigger pots as they grew.  Each time they were introduced to fresh, new soil, there was a period of adaptation. Consuming all available space, they reach their new home within new dirt, where they must thrive to stay alive.  Plants have no fear, they accept all that is around, in part by choice, in part by imprisonment. I have found my roots slowly exploring, soaking up the nutrients of information, making them stronger, wiser, and exposed constantly to new Earth.
       It's great having a potted garden at the house, I can control much more in the way of growth, light exposure, and water levels.  I have found an immediate connection between gardening and dog sledding.  I am caring for something that needs my attention, and also requires an infinite amount of patience for a successful outcome.  Like plants, dogs tell you when they need something, it's up to you to diagnose and procure the very best results with what you have.  The garden at our neighbor Randy's is in six raised beds, equipped with a 10'x10' trellis for our hops to soar.  Needless to say, but because I started with that phrase I must indeed say, I love gardening.
       Pj, Jaime, and Bandit came up from Florida a week or so ago for the weekend.  Phoebe, who is Erin's dog, stayed the weekend while her family went to see William graduate in Nashville. We visited Asheville, Saxapahaw, Raleigh, and Hillsborough, while braving the 100 degree heat.  We scooped up lots of homebrewing supplies at the Nash Street Homebrew shop with the goal of brewing that night.  Mystery Brewing Company is holding a competition for a southern brown ale.  Pj and I made a killer batch, adding fennel and popcorn near the end for aroma.  I think it will be entered into the innovative category, depending on the final products aroma.  I also brewed a batch with Stephen, CSM's front end Manager. I should have prefaced that acronym with a little sentence on my place of employment.  Company Shops Market, Burlington's CO-OP, has been my home for 40 hours a week.  I dabble in bulk foods, meats, and grocery, but my heart lies in Produce.  Caring for veggies and fruits, I have become attuned to the seasonal availability of sustenance. I have learned a lot from Dave and Glenn, both produce junkies, and I'm thankful they've taught me so much so fast! Back to the beer.... Both brews checked out, brewed and they are a week and three days apart in age.  Home brewing my third brown ale, I had the foreshadowment of it all.  This is my new passion, gardening and homebrewing.  I am so lucky to share all of this with erin.
           As I read "On Writing" by Stephen King, I am reminded of the hardships of life, writing, and finding your voice.  In the "Rum Diaries" Hunter talks about a veterans journal of poems and writings that far exceeded the Authors' mind's age.  Hunter complained of not being able to find his own voice, and King found difficulty in continuing without a voice.  Both writers kept writing, and kept writing...and kept..until they began the momentum of a rolling stone pouring pigs blood all over the prom party floor. (Two references, maybe a stretch for some.)  I am a slow reader, but I listen, and that's what counts.
        So as I've taken a little siesta from writing, I am once again hopping on the creative horse of the great white page, to bring back the subtle flame that ignites my ideas.  Music, brewing, loving, gardening, and producing produce sit comfortable in my new pot, and I can't wait to see where my roots travel next, as I make this patch of Earth my home, and stretch out to new soil's prospective opportunities.
       
     

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taking Root


Erin hard at work in her gardening clothes;-)

Enemies meet eye to eye

Company Shops Market

Golden Hops

      Luckily the last few weeks have been temperate.  The rain has helped water our crops, and our hops are finally starting to take root and explore the sky.  We have already enjoyed some lettuce from Erin's garden plot in Gibsonville, as well as the mescalin(sp) in ours.  After sitting in a few pounds of strawberries from Julie, Erin's mom,  I decided to get creative.  I dehydrated most of them, making a great addition to tea Erin made last night from our mint plant outside.  I let them dry out a little bit too much, so snacking on them isn't the best, but mixed in a tea releases that sweetness and aroma you look for in a summer drink.  The other 11 strawberries were used in my second home brew, an Autumn Amber Ale.  It was impulsive, but I boiled the strawberries for  the last ten minutes of the brewing process, and then steeped them for another fifteen before pulling out what I could with a sanitized spoon.
       I can smell the sweetness in my fermentation tank, a promise that there's not only good balance between bitter hops and sweet berries, but also plenty of sugar for the yeast to consume.  My air-lock, which is a one way valve letting CO2 out and keeps oxygen from getting in, was dismal at first, compared to my first brew.  After research, I've decided I will implement some chemistry skills and follow the process using my hydrometer instead of watching for bubbles.  My OG, or original gravity reading is the cornerstone for this experiment.  It is essential to record the initial amount of dissolved solids in your wort, so you can track the decline in consumed sugars as the yeast goes to work.  Water has a specific gravity of 1, and the closer you get to secondary fermentation or bottling, the closer you want that reading to be to 1.  Generally you are between 1.080 and 1.020 with beer, and with wine you should be a bit closer to one due to higher ABV, or alcohol by volume.  Spirits may read below one, because of alcohols buoyancy being less than water.  Think of a boat in the water. If its salt water, it'll float higher than fresh water.  The amount of dissolved solids prop the boat up higher, thus letting me know there is a higher specific gravity.
       My goal is to brew 100% from non extracted malts like a real brewer when my brother and his wife come up to visit.  The addition of the second home brew was that I crushed my own grains, which I did with a pint glass.  This releases the nutrient rich endosperm, but also leaves the husks of the grain behind to help filter during the boiling process.  It was an important step to learning the process just a little bit better.  I learned how to read a hydrometer correctly, and became more familiar with the equipment I'm using.  Sterility is so important, it eases your mind for the next three weeks while your beer brews.  You never want to doubt cleanliness, because a brewer's mind tends to wonder with the eminent "what went wrong" frame of mind.
       All this has been my free time.  I have gotten close to forty hours a week of work at the co-op now, after busting my ass for a month, in hopes of moving my way up their local ladder.  I am passionate about whatever I do, and am beginning to see the big picture at the store.  In the produce department, where I spend the majority of my time, I am building relationships with the local farmers that bring in our vegetables, as well as our fruits.  I also dabble in the meat department and have met a few folks from Braeburn farm, where we buy lots of really good meat.  They are located 25 miles from the store.  The importance of this local movement is our future.  I am beginning to change the way I think and eat.  Do I get a dollar cheeseburger at mcdonalds, or do I buy a two dollar samosa made 5 miles from where I purchased it?  The result is that one I don't feel like shit from eating garbage, but I've also put money back into my community, not some corporate monster that I'll never have the pleasure of meeting.  This job goes right along with my new found passion of farming, gardening, and brewing.  I am so lucky to have a beautiful fiancee that knows so much about local sustainability as well as gardening and farming.  Erin is an invaluable resource while I experiment with all this earth work.  Erin got accepted into a yoga instructor school in Greensboro, which I think is such a step in the right direction for her.  She is meant to make peoples lives better, and I can't think of a better way for her to start off doing that.  When we had a partner yoga session many moons ago, I felt the power of Yoga, and how important the connection with yourself is,as well as your partners, while you prop her up with your legs while on your back.  This summer will be great, and we're looking forward to getting the ball rolling on our wedding plans, which have seemed difficult due to our own lives needing planning.  We are both ready to get married, but we want to do it right, and we want it to be at a location where we can have our friends and family from out of state visit without long flights and road trips!
       So as it is now, I have set up the new place and it is finally becoming a home.  I have plenty of space for dogs and friends, so let me know when you want to come crash for a while, the doors are always open!  Have the best week of your life, and always extend a helping hand to a stranger in need :-)
       
     

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lands End->Fire on the Mountain




 
     Sometimes you gotta grab life by the hand and shake the hell out of it.  The first time I felt the power of a fourteen dog team in the woods of Northern Michigan, I understood that power and strength are no match for the greater forces at work.  With the snow hook planted deep, a hitch fashioned for quick release, and a steady mind,I prepared myself for the future and its consequences.  Lunging forward towards wild, these beasts "pop" the first brake, pulling myself and the sled tightly against my fastened hitch.  I found myself too far in to go back, so I sprung out at the hitch undoing her safety loop ready to two-step back to the wooden sled. I would not be on time for departure though, even though I was completely focused and present.  Maple the lead dog led his running partner Oz clear into the known.  I chased, jumped, grabbed on, slipped, let go.  I learned two things that day; you can't catch fourteen dogs that are working as one, and you can never let go of leading life with your hands on the wheel.
       So I decided to apply at the Co-Op in Burlington.  Red Oak was a myth, I did enjoy interviewing though.  The guys that worked there were very nice, but I guess that type of brewery is not where I'm meant to be.  The day I found out Red Oak was out, I was one week into my first home brew.  I've since drank and shared just about all of that batch.  I think it came out so good for my first time brewing beers!  Three important qualities I was searching for in "Burlington Brown" were 1. Head Retention 2.  Carbonation(natural) 3.  Taste(bitterness).  They passed, and though top of the keg versus bottom are somewhat distinguishable, I enjoyed making it the whole way through.  I can only drink two, I tried three but fell asleep.  Pretty powerful at 7.5%ABV, It's gonna be sad to see her go!
       Those beers and a 3 lb.box of fresh picked strawberries from my future mother-in-law, are all that reside in my new home's fridge.  Well, there is some out of date dairy from work that I'm experimenting with.  Tut and Ketza have found their favorite corners, squirrel outposts, and puke spots in the house and have settled in nicely.  I've painted, caulked, touched up, patched, and cleaned this rental home.  All the skills I learned working for Sedona Homes LLC in Michigan got my engines revved for some grout work and window blind cleaning.
       I'm close to my job, got a bike from my bro, and got a great beer review from my Dad, who tried his one of two beers for the year last night.
  Music, Family, Love. Three most important folks.  Love is blind, Love is distant, love is close, love is divine.  When ever possible you should love someone.  At the simplest level you should treat everyone with as much respect as you think you deserve.  When I meet close minded people I am intrigued by their commitment.  I myself lack that commitment in some areas of my life, and wish I could use an expression to analyze, evaluate, and regurgitate the appropriate response.  I feel it is time for us home brewers, beer lovers, hopsters, and us self proclaimed adults to be that change.  I'm gonna start by hooking Tut and Ketza up and running them around the block on my neeewwww bike.  The weather for now holds low in humidity and lows in the high 50's. It's the perfect temperature to ferment some water- logged wort.
       Erin has met some great new people, our garden is blooming, our love is strengthening.  On this day I don't miss Alaska, for Alaska is right here in my heart, and has taught me how to be a man of the new interior's frontier. I end with a poem, the first of many I promised in earlier posts.  Wait, that wasn't the poem, neither is this, I'll just end with a toast.  Toast!

Summer delivered us a pardon,
A tree branch lends a hand.
The roots beneath begin to harden,
We have the mountains, oceans, and sand.
But nothing will beat our first garden.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hops in the ground!



     
        Last week Erin planted all three of our hop rhizomes at our neighbor's garden here in Burlington.  We selected Cascade, Centennial, and Golden hops for our very first hop experience!  Our neighbor Randy has let us use his garden for our seasonal session, and we couldn't be more appreciative of the space.  Erin has gone to the ground in efforts of cultivating several different plants.  The list is long of what she and I planted, but I'll be sure to post pictures on Facebook and my blog so you can see the process.
       My beer has exactly 8 more days until it is ready.  I am now starting to see just how hard it is not to tap one  open!  Julie and I bottled it last Wednesday, and yesterday I got the labels in the mail, we're calling it Burlington Brown Ale.  I still see some sediment in the bottles, but it's starting to look like real beer as the yeast eats away at my last addition of sugar for carbonation.  I am excited to share my first batch with everyone in the area, and also am hopeful it doesn't taste flat!
       The house hunt is coming to an end, we've narrowed it down to a couple houses close by that are real finds. The first is a house with about a half acre that's fenced in.  Though the home doesn't have much character, it is definitely nice to have some space to garden, play with dogs, and unwind after a long day of work.  The second is actually a duplex a bit closer to Erin and her family.  The house is probably a hundred years old, and the upstairs apartment is what's for rent.  This rental has SO much style, with built in cabinets and a fire place, along with a walk out patio that's shaded by huge oak trees.  It feels very safe, and even though there isn't much of a yard, it is close to dog parks, and also closer to my work.  I put in an application this morning for the second, and am hopeful it will pass all tests.  I chuckled while filling out information on past landlords.  For the last six years, I have lived in a tent on a glacier or in the woods in the summer time, and lived in handler cabins in the woods of Alaska training sled dogs in exchange for rent!  It's tough to convey this in a one page document, but I'm sure it will all work out!
       Red Oak is coming along, I just got done with a week waiting period to mull it all over in my head.  I know that we'll be here in Burlington for a long time, but it's tough for an employer to look at my resume and see that to be true.  My wings are tired, I tell them, and I've found a good perch to start a life from.  Though my hours are inconsistent right now, I'm hoping that once they get the ball rolling on my job, I'll have more kegs to lift and beers to bottle.  I'm super excited to build relationships with the folks I'll be selling beer to, but I'm not quite sure if Red Oak knows what kind of employee they hired.  Basically I have been doing this job for the last two years, except I've been on the consumer side of things, as well as trying to sell an idea of a book about beer!  Once I get working, I'm sure they'll see me in clear light and realize how lucky they are to have someone as dedicated as me in their system.
       SO as I wait for the owner to call me, I'm training Tut to do a couple new tricks.  This weekend, I tough him the "bang" trick.  I point a "hand" gun at him and he barks, then lays on his back, then flips over and gets back up!  It's pretty awesome to see your pup do new tricks.  The second is more time consuming, but with lots of work and practice, Tut will hopefully learn the famous back flip.  Usually I see border collies and small dogs do this trick, so in my mind it's hard to visualize Tut's long legs making a full rotation.  I am using, as suggested by YouTube, a Frisbee to train him.  I create an imaginary box over his head, and try different approaches to see where his body wants to go.  Then I throw...and throw...and throw... to get Tut practice in twisting his body.  After playing tug of war to get him stoked on the Frisbee, he pays for attention to it as it flies through the air.  Maybe in two weeks he'll have it down, but for now I'm just appreciative of all the time I get to spend with my favorite pooch.  Ketza could care less about all of this, she's just content laying down in the clovers chewing on her stuffed pig hoof.  She humbles all of us at times, knowing what she's accomplished in her life.  Her transition from husky to "houseky" is complete.  She doesn't stress out about hardly anything, and because of that her appetite has improved greatly.
       This week and last I have talked with publishers, and have dedicated myself to one in particular.  Though it will cost ME money, I think having this guy as an agent along the way is worth it.  I can slowly take things step by step to ensure the finished product is exactly what I want.  So until next time; keep your beer fresh, your dogs tired, and your future Mother-in-law happy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The First Batch




   

  Well it comes to no surprise that after visiting 100 breweries I'd try making the stuff myself.  My big brother bought me a full on beer kit last week, and the next day I brewed my very first batch.  It was what I'm sure is a very typical first timer beer recipe, and the kit came with my choice of several beer recipes.  I chose my favorite, brown ale, to kick off my new hobby.  I filled Erin's parents house with all kinds of malted goodness, and though the process took me well over two hours, I didn't hear any complaints of banging and splashing the next day.  I sanitized everything super good, like any Pawelek does, and put the wort into the fermenter for one week.  Yesterday marked the one week period, and on Wednesday I'll bottle it for four weeks until it's ready.  I'm kind of amazed I haven't brewed beer sooner, but really I haven't been in one spot long enough to enjoy the brewing process.
       Last week I started my training at Red Oak Brewery, in Whitsett, NC.  I drove around for three days with different drivers learning how they sold and distributed beer, and got to know them fairly well.  I was really happy with how they loved their jobs, I mean, selling quality and talking to customers about how unique the product is is something I'm used to, but I really think I found my new home here.  The guys are really nice, hard working, and fun to be around.  I didn't think in a million years I'd be slinging kegs in North Carolina, and I also didn't think I'd be so damn lucky to find such a cool place to work.  They are all about fresh.  The beer is not pasteurized or filtered, and according to a purity law in the early 1500's that they adhere to, no additives are allowed in the beer.  There are over 400 additives allowed in US beer, but they only use the four main ingredients in beer; water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. They self distribute, which is at times difficult when trying to expand, but they remain focused on their quality and it shows pint after pint...after pint :-)
       This week Bill the owner wants me to think long and hard if this is the job for me, and trust me I've thought about it.  Life has lead me all over creation, and for once I'd like to work on my life as a Fiancee, husband, and eventually Father.  I know I don't want to lift kegs for the rest of my life, but my story has so much to offer to a company like this that holds its employees up high.  They are growing and changing and I think starting out in this position will only give me more of an idea of  what this industry is about, and help me grow as a career oriented individual in one of the biggest and oldest industries around.  Red Oak is NC's second oldest brewery, and with the operation they have, will be around for a very long time.  I highly suggest checking out their website at www.redoakbrewery.com, and seeing the pics of the actual brewery.  It is nuts how high end everything is.  It is clean, fresh, and consistent.
       So as I wait till next week, I have a lot to get finished and even more to get started.  I have talked with a couple publishers, and will make my decision soon as to which one I'll go with so I can get started with the next phase of the book.  It's a lot to do, but most of the work on my end is done as far as writing goes.  I have about 20 more stories to write, and then I'm done.  I'm really happy with how it's all turned out, and am thankful for all of the support I've had while making this transition.
       The house hunt has been going, and right now Erin and I have our eye on a house in Gibsonville, only a few miles from our work.  There will be a lot of rentals opening up, but it's been tough choosing because I want the dogs to have a place that works for them too.  I also am hopeful that I can stay afloat with the money I have until I get rolling with work.  Luckily, I've been able to stay at my parents house, as well as Erin's, which is so nice until I choose a new home.  Tonight I'll stay with Jeremy and I look forward to winding up my nephews a little bit while I'm in Cary.  The weather is heating up, but we've been lucky with sunshine, and even more so the A/C.
       I got a check in the mail the other day from Mushing magazine for the story I wrote in the October issue, and to my surprise it was a good chunk of change!  It inspired me to send a couple more stories their way, as well as a couple other magazines.  I love writing, but sometimes it's tough to have everything align for the optimum writing session.  As is the life of an artist, we seek so much in hopes of tapping into our creative side, that we occasionally lose sight of the big picture.  I was in Nashville, TN for Easter and the house Erin's family rented was owned by a singer/songwriter who has had such a great ride writing songs for famous artists.  I thought about what it would be like to do that for a living.  Lots of highs and lows in the music industry, as I've seen, but she reminded me that you'll always have that passion, but it's up to you to stay sharp or become dull in an industry that's ever-changing.  We played songs of hers and mine, and shared our insights into the world of music, which always humbles me especially in the music capital.
       The biggest thing this week for Erin and me is setting a date for our wedding.  We are looking at March 2013, and have made the first steps into deciding location, guests, and food.  I know we are soul mates because we want the same things in life.  We get stressed out at the same stuff, and all around react to situations the same.  It's difficult for independent couples like us to plan out big things like our future and our wedding, and sometimes we forget there's another person in the relationship.  We are so eager to start the next chapter in our life that we let the short term get us down too much.  We have done so much together since we started dating, and that helps us remember how strong our love is, and that no matter how much we have done before committing to one another, our future is what we will both have forever.  We are both very lucky to have each other, and I'm so happy to be with her in North Carolina while we figure out what's next.  For now we will work on making save the dates and invitations, and start calling our culinary family members to plan cakes and pig roasts.  We are pretty sure Virginia is where the wedding and reception will be, on her families farm, and  that's a really good start.  So you will just have to get used to me talking like a adult, and occasionally clicking on wedding ideas I've pinned on Pinterest, because this the life of a man who walked out of the woods and into his life, ready to live it, with his two dogs and beautiful wife :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The first rough Draught!





Mile:25,000

      The research for my book is officially finished!  I have grown into a new person, as my cocoon has unveiled and dropped in the new spring light.  I am happy to announce I also have two publishers currently interested in my idea, and as soon as I find me a job, I will begin the final stages of publishing my book!  It's in no way sad to me that the traveling has come to an end.  I feel like I've been driving for something for some time now, in a way in search of a new home.  Much like any nomad, we seek a place where our minds can grow, but have trouble staying in one place too long due to resources.  I have everything and more where I am now, and have all of you to thank for helping me get to where I am at.
       Sadly my visit with Brad in Colorado was cut short due to the passing of Erin's grandfather, Bill Myers.  This Man battled cancer for quite some time, and his body was simply exhausted.  His service was yesterday near Burlington, NC and the turn out was nothing short of astounding.  He influenced so many people in his life, and for a humble Lutheran, his accomplishments at the service did not go unnoticed.  Bill was a giver, and a role model for all that he met.  I'm very thankful I had the chance to get to know him, and the support of the family through this hard time was very admirable.  It was an honor to be included in the weeks events celebrating the life of Mr. William Myers.
       Now that I am back home, reality is setting in more and more each day.  My Fiancee has been working for a logistics company north of Burlington, and I'm on the hunt for a solid J.O.B myself.  I'm very hopeful that  one of the three jobs I have interviews for will pan out.  They are very exciting, however I'm going to keep it on the down low until I decide which one will work best with mine and Erin's life.  It is a tough transition for me to go from being employed six months out of the year guaranteed in AK, but the benefits of being with Erin erases any doubt in my mind that I'm doing the right thing.  I am so excited to start working so we can plan our future together.  I'm so happy to be in such a great spot in life, and know that in just a few short weeks I'll be back in the swing of things with my eye on all kinds of new goals and ambitions.  Basically that means camping, going to the beach, and catching a few Phish shows this summer.
       From California I made it to Nevada, Utah, then Colorado.  Brad(bff) and Tina got a new pet dog who I spent some time training, and I think she made some ground while I was there.  His bro and bud came out for the bachelor weekend, and by the lack of sound of it, I assume it was a blast.  The weather was great, warm, and sunny, and I know that the time I spend with Brad is always time well spent.  We partied at Woody Creek Tavern, and as always Aspen Brew co's pub house.  I love how Aspen is so expensive, but it's filled with just as many snow bums as any other mountain town.  After a long winded long board ride into town, we took the bus back and Ol' Joe sacked out on the couch with all three dogs, cementing my whispering skills to code Orange.
       After the news of Erin's Grandfather, I hopped in the truck early Friday and started the 1,800 mile ride back, making it in Sunday afternoon. I visited Nebraska breweries, as well as the last two in Iowa.  I had a long ride back, but the second I saw Erin, I knew every mile was well worth it!

       This weekend I'm going to start shifting gears with my blog.  I will walk you all through the publishing process and keep you updated on what is involved in getting your dreams on a page.  On Saturday I'll post a rough draft of my Introduction to the book.  I find that when you get your thoughts out there for everyone to see, you can revise and edit much more productively.  Okeedokee everyone, I'm off to walk the dogs and go check out my parents new house in Apex, NC.  Thank you all again for the support and couches, and meals, and poop bags, and some of the best laughs I've ever had!

Monday, March 12, 2012

How Free We Fly!

Mile: Chicago->San Fran in six days


      Back on the road..but in a much awaited style that only a rugged ginger like myself can call home.  I am thankful right now for my amazing truck.  She has been my home, my transportation, my safety net, and a delightfully expensive date.  I have taken good care and in return have driven an astonishing 160,000 miles since January 2002. 24,000 of those miles were in last 2 years, and 7,000 of those 24k in the last 2 months. It's great how life works, even for the robots that help us get done what we need to do, in the name of exploration and a good libation.
       I left Chicago and followed the northern rim of several tornadoes south west towards Missouri.  I had a blast with Tyler and Rachelle in Chi town, I got to see some old old friends that rekindled the spirit of what I am doing, but more importantly, why.  Tyler home brews on the reg, and we sampled his coffee stout that I thought was perfect.  But I've never home brewed, so you apparently hold a lot to the standards in which you brew.  The beer is your meal you've prepared, your baby, your good friend.  The passion Tyler had for brewing sparked something in me that I had been waiting for since I catapulted myself into this lifestyle of beer drinking across the USA; the desire to brew myself.
       I entertained the thought, but with the coming months being spent finding work and a place in NC so Erin and I can continue our life together, what better opportunity to have some space and start brewing some small batches myself!  Thanks Tyler, you did your job boy!
       On down the road I met up with Karl in kankakee, IL for some fat boy breakfast.  We worked together all of SE Alaska, and his comedic nature and good heart hinted to me that what I had been up to was nothing short of a great chance to see old friends, and especially when your two dogs tramp on in the house looking for His dogs' chew toys.  Haha, within minutes Ketza was in the corner, gums bleeding from chomping on a raw hide.  Thanks Karl!
       That night I stayed in a cabin north west of Missouri, a $30 night in a cabin with a toilet, not bad at all!  Erin helped choreograph a lot during this out west trip, and even though she's miles away, it was situations like this that it feels good to have someone so special in your life.  Not only has she found me breweries along the way, but all kinds of cool stuff to do.  I usually don't take her up on the really cool things though, and that's because one day our family will be back here, and we can all share it together(mostly true statement)haha.
       Oklahoma was next, and I had a super time talking with the brewer of Marshall Brewing Company in Tulsa.  I asked lots of important questions and took as professional photos as possible, but Eric knew I was just one lucky dude doing what is is I'm doing.  After talking for a while, the sound of the jackhammer extending the length of the drain became distracting, so we both shook hands, and I hopped back in the car, heading for Choc Brewery on my way to Dallas, TX.
       Eric had told me that if there was one brewery to hit up on my way, it was Oklahoma's oldest brewery, Choc Beers, located in Krebs.  You have to check out there story, I visited and and enjoyed it, but the history is exceptional.  SO on down to Dallas I went, and stayed with Rachelle's cousin Keith, a friend of mine I've know since high school.  We caught up, but he had work early the next day hanging out over Dallas in a high rise crane picking building materials while communicating with two other cranes below him.  I left early, still full from legit mexican food and a real coca cola the night before, and headed to two more breweries in Texas.  I was heading to Albuquerque, NM, and had long drive ahead, so I picked up several six packs of different Texas beers to try in the hotel that night.  I awoke from my room after arriving into Albe to a crazy news story about a hijacked school bus on the highway.  I slammed coffee, got an oil change, and hopped on the highway to see several, like 50, cop vehicles surrounding a school bus with no tires, and a hood smashed into the median.  No kids were in the bus, the driver was detained, I think they shot him though.
       Westward we were bound towards Arizona to stay with friends from the glacier dog camp in Alaska, who live in Tempe.  I loved this drive, it was super beautiful, and very spiritual.  I loved all the cheesy indian stores selling me route 66 tshirts and tweed blankets, and also the cactus growing all around me.  That night we ate at Mellow Mushroom, and graced Four peaks brewing with our presence, though none was needed, it was packed to the gills with people.  The night was early, and I was super tired from the road, and ready to get to California!
       California is huge, I mean in lots of different ways.  The people, culture, geography, it's all across the board.  I drove to El Segundo to meet up with Marc and Ashley, a couple who I took on a tour last summer in Juneau.  We hit it off in the summer, and stayed in touch for a very long time in the hopes that we'd meet up.  Well, we did, and it was nothing short of rock star status.  After a moo cluck oink burger and a pint of blue moon, we headed to El Segundo Brewery's "Blue Ale House."  We got a solid tour from Rob, who I think was way cool.  I tried making jokes, some of which were funny, but I think he too had a good time with us.   His weekly beer was sage hopped, giving it a local front of the house garden aroma.  We talked beer for a long time and I got some leads on other breweries to check out in NoCal. We went back to the house and jammed out on the guitar, piano, and even harmonica until we lost our voices.  Truly a hole in one on this trip.  My first time to southern California was matched with a great time, and on top of it all, I was headed to San Francisco the next morning.
       That's where I am now, downtown hanging out with Adam, who is truly one of the best. He greeted me with jumbo shrimp, cocktail style, which anyone who has heard my Wrestlemania story knows this was unbeatable.  I just got back from Lafayette park with the dogs, and met a cool couple who promised to get me in touch with a friend in North Carolina, and one in LA who might be good future connections.  Our dogs played for a while, and then I headed back to the apartment to write to you!  Tonight hopefully we'll Skype again with Erin and Katie, it is entertaining.  SO until next week, drink fresh, drink local, and please, drink with a friend.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Goodbye Mitten!





      Mile: 23,000

        I had a great time in Michigan!  I rocked out six sled dog assemblies, and was lucky enough to have CJ at the local paper write an article about it.  You can find that HERE if you want to read more.  I spent about two weeks in Michigan, which was long enough for me to record the song I sang to Erin when I asked her to marry me.  The song, "I'm wishing" was recorded in Ann Arbor, MI by my very good friend Dave Menzo.  To give you an idea of how perfect this session was, the last time we recorded was 2001.  We have both come a long way since then, but there are only a few people on this earth that I can connect with on the musical level, and Dave is at the very top of that list.  Being a singer/songwriter that usually doesn't have a band playing with him, I find that my tempo and time can go all over the place, so when I record I need someone who gets my music to harness it in it's purest form.  Dave did just that, and even helped me with several harmonies throughout the song.  You can download "I'm wishing" at my STORE.
       I spent several nights with my old Moosejaw buddies, who are also my canoe trip buddies, down in Royal Oak.  I sampled lots of Michigan brews, and I have to say, even though it IS biased, that Michigan beer far exceeds several of the states I have been to.  It's just the perfect state to brew beer, I guess.  The taste, the selection, and the culture all flow into one river and create a following as devoted as a Lion's fan.  I visited the Beer Baron in Livonia on my way out to Ann Arbor, and I highly recommend this store if you need any and all information on Michigan brewing.
      Yesterday I visited my new niece Claire at my Cousin's house in White Lake, MI.  They are great parents, and I always enjoy stopping in for a little bit and seeing my Michigan family.  We went for a walk with the dogs and Audrey, who's 2nd Birthday is today, and then I got in the truck and headed to sweet home Chicago.
       Lake effect snow is the perfect start to my last leg of the trip.  I have 5,000 miles to go until I'm in Nashville, TN for Easter.  The weather will be everything I'm sure, but I made the decision to leave Michigan a bit later than planned due to all these tornado's spinning around the midwest.  The cold front now has pushed south, and clear blue skies awoken me this morning, as the sun peeked through the cityscape of Northern Illinois.    I'm staying with Tyler and Rachelle, friends from High school, that I haven't seen in probably six years.  Tyler has a home brew on tap in his apartment, and even though he is his biggest critic, I think that it is a killer coffee stout.  He ground up the coffee this time instead of steeping whole beans, and the taste is blunt up front, and the finish is smooth as silk.  I am most envious of his kegerator, but soon enough I will be settled down and have the space to brew my own beer too.
       Today I am a writing machine.  I have lots of work to do with planning my trip out west.  I will be just south of St. Louis, MO tomorrow, about a 7 hour drive, and the next day push through to Texas, the 1st of only eight states left on my journey.  I am trying to get to Brad's in Aspen by the 20th, so I have lots of road to cover between now and then.  Today I will hopefully finish content for the breweries I have visited thus far.  I am trying to suggest good camping spots, and must sees for the breweries, as well as a short write up of what they have to offer.  So far I have eighty-four breweries chosen for the book, and about 50 of them are completely done as far as book content and writing go.  So today I will finish what I have done so far, so that I can focus on traveling!
       Well that sums up where I am at.  Erin and I are excited to be living in North Carolina this summer, she has been working full time for about a week now.  When I get back I'll hopefully have an idea of where I'll get a job, and then rent an apartment until Erin and I move in together.  I've got a few leads for work, but once Erin and I decide where we want to be after we get married, it will be easier to gain residency and go back to school to finish my Bachelor's degree.  I'm excited as ever to start a new chapter in life, and the momentum I've created from my dog sledding days has refined my mind and established a strong sense of self.
       For now I have made a promise to get Tut and Ketza out west as soon as possible so they can say they've been to every State in the Country!  We were born to be, born to breathe, strong as the wind, wild and free!  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Skipping Stones





       It's all simmering now, waiting for the Marsala to become gravy like before dinner.  Sienna the toddler has invited me to three tea parties, put stickers all over Tut and Ketza, and even helped feed them after!  I have arrived in Michigan, a week ago to be exact, and have had a very home-style session.  I spent the week at Krieger's, which was really relaxing and motivating.  I got a of work done with the book, and finally feel like it's coming together.  It was tough to fund motivation for writing and the book in general while I was down south.  I worked on it a lot in short bursts, but now it seems like an even flow.  I've been able to write for a bit, then take the time to focus on my next story.  I want the stories to be so rich and connecting, I want the reader to feel as if I'm telling them the story over a fresh pint.
       Now I haven't been able to come back to Michigan since October, which was much earlier than I thought, but I have been able to give six sled dog assemblies up in Oxford, and hopefully get another good review from the Oxford Leader.  They were as fun as ever, and Tut and Ketza did such a good job.
       Michigan beer, Michigan beer, Michigan beer.  I love it.  I have been doing all this traveling in other people's hometowns, and to have the chance to visit mine and pour back a few local brews means a lot to this journey.  It's so much more about the journey than the destination.  I'm super excited to get settled in to North Carolina after I get back in April.   I'll get a place with a yard for the dogs, or close by park, and then a job working anywhere.  It'll be so nice to spend a summer  set in a sower pace.  Erin and I will be able to plan our wedding, and set a date.  It's been life on the road for me, but I'm excited to start living life a bit differently.
       So as I once again leap into the unknown, I have faith that my path will bring a reward sweeter than Ephemere, and that my truck won't break down in the middle of Death Valley.  OK, the remaining states in order are: Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa.  If you are interested in helping out with gas or beer money, feel free to hit the donate button at the bottom of the screen. I am in the works of planning a fundraiser for the book this summer, but every bit helps me out so much.  If you are located in one of these states, expect a phone call and a couple muddy paws on your carpet, because we're staying the night!  Take care everyone, I'll talk to you after my recording session with Dave menzo at www.davemenzo.com. Peace!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Love



Mile:over the hump

       So here I am, ready to embark on my last leg of the trip, sitting down in the now famous Burlington North Carolina.  I have taken the last week and a half off of the beers, in part because of all f the fun of hanging out with PJ, but also to cleanse my pallet.  I must say this week has been great.  I am finally caught up on everything in the book.  It's tough when you're behind, but when you have motivation and great people around, it makes closing in on your goals seem like a breeze...well, maybe not a breeze, but you get where I'm going with it.
       On Valentine's day, I planned out a nice dinner with Erin, at our new favorite Indian restaurant in Greensboro.  We ate a hearty dinner, and after erin gave me my little presents, I told her I'd be right back with hers, because they were unwrapped and in my truck.  I took a deep breath, opened the door to the restaurant, and in I went awaiting my future.  I walked towards erin and as she looked up she said, "are you going to play me a song on your guitar?"  I asked if that was OK, and set down a few other presents in front of her.  I sang a song I wrote for her, talking about growing old, falling in love, sewing our seeds, and lastly, would she marry me.  I looked in her eyes and told her confidently that I asked for her Father's approval, and called her brother in Nashville to ask for his blessing.  Crying what at the time I hoped were tears of joy, she said YES and excitedly I stood up to the clapping audience and said, "She said yes!"  A nice group of older folks offered to pay for our dinner, and off we went to the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra to see the Valentine's day performance.  At halftime, I walked up to the sound engineers on the balcony and asked if they'd somehow mention this new engagement to the vocalist, and maybe he'd give us a shout out.  So the second set opened and to Erin's surprise,  John the singer told the audience that "Joe from Alaska asked Erin from Burlington if she would marry him, and Erin said Yes!" The crowd clapped, Erin cried again, and we kissed knowing that this was the beginning of the rest of our live's together.  So that is the story, the happiest day of my life, and now that Erin's told her Grandparents, I am excited to tell the rest of the world the hottest news in our life.  Thank you to all the people and dogs involved in getting us together, I am now ready to head west to celebrate the breweries out there, knowing my soul mate is with me wherever I go.  I love you Erin.
       First stop is Michigan to present my sled dog assemblies to various schools around Oakland County.  I have booked many, but still am looking to book more.  After a $3,000 transmission rebuild, I am anxious to work for some cash to help get me across the country, the Alaska nest egg gets smaller by the day this time of year.  I'm luckily great at camping and finding friends along the way, it wouldn't even be financially possible if it weren't for those two things.  I'll post again once I get to Michigan and let you know what states and when. I will be in Colorado by the 22nd of March, that much is certain.  Until next time, Go Wings and your 22 at home victories, and remember, keep your stick on the ice.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There are bears, in the distance.




Mile:20,363

       It's a cold day here in North Carolina, maybe fifty or so.  I just completed the third tour for the book, and am eagerly awaiting the final chapter.  I started out a month ago traveling west towards Nashville, then down to see my brother in Florida, and am now back where I started.  It was about three thousand miles in total, but the driving was easy.  Erin blessed me with her presence half way through my Florida visit, and we did a lot together.  We went canoeing at Jaime's work, an estuarian (sp) research center north of St. Augustine, and saw so many birds.  The ride back in reminded us of paddling in Juneau battling the tide working double time to make progress.  No alligators this time around, but we were ok with that.  We then spent a day with Pj and Jaime searching for the elusive manatee in a river fed by a natural spring.  In the winter, the manatee's and other fish swim inland to enjoy 78 degree water, but due to the warm winter, we only saw one or two.  The state park was delightful, and we got lots of good shots of all kinds of critters.  We then ate philly cheese steak sandwiches and headed home. Pj surprised me with Dogfishhead Olde School barley wine, that sent is both to the moon and back.  This stuff was more powerful than a week old fruit cake that sat in the sun.  After playing several games of darts, we turned in.
       Erin visited her friend in Orlando, and brought back one of my favorite breweries, Orlando Brewing, beer!  All of there beers are USDA organic, and they all dominate Florida's craft brews.  I must admit after sampling hundreds of beers, OBC is at the top five for sure, not that I have any right to judge beer, I mean, it's beer, right?  haha, I'm learning more and more about what I'm doing, and am super excited to move on to the next phase of the book, publishing.
       Erin and I drove north two days ago, leaving behind the Pawelek's, and heading back to NC.  My mind seems to be spinning, as there is a lot going on.  I'm about to embark on a 6-10,000 mile journey, have enough money for gas, and have to say bye to my girl for two months!  But this is the life I desire right now.  Leaving loved ones behind isn't at all how I look at it.  I'm in part doing this so our bonds become stronger, and building trust is essential to those who I love.  I am super excited to go out to California to see Adam, and just as excited to share my time with Brad in Colorado.  I look at this like I look at everything.  My mind works like a chainsaw; it burns best when it's almost out of gas.  It's a combo of the starving artist with the drive of a husky.  I know that I might run into the storm, but the chase is all I see, whether it presents me with a perfect trail to run on, or labyrinth of loose leaves.  These experiences will better my life, and give my kids something to dream of when they find themselves at a crossroads.
       I have locked in only one sled dog presentation at St. Johns technical high school, at it was a blast.  Erin brought the dogs in and tut immediately thought he had died and gone to heaven, I mean seriously.  The chairs' legs had tennis balls on them to prevent tearing the carpeted floor, so Tut came into a room full of literally a hundred tennis balls, and he tried getting each one as fast as possible!  It made the kids laugh, and the Ketza and Tut ran free during the assembly, which set an incredible tone.  I can't thank the teachers who helped set this up enough, it means a lot to me to bring my life's experiences to guys and girls on the brink of starting their lives.  Simply wonderful!
       So as I engage full throttle light speed here we go Mush!, I am nervous as hell as to what awaits me around the next bend.  I know that if my truck breaks down I have Tut and Ketza to pull the truck to safety, and enough twinkies from Uncle Joe to last a winter, so why should I worry?!  I thank all that have helped get me this far, and I am truly blessed to have all of this love in my life.  When I return from the trip I will be looking for work in NC while I finish the book, which will hopefully out by next December.   Self publishing is expensive, but like Walt Disney said, "We don't make movies to make money, we make money to make movies."  Talk to you guys and girls in a week! Stay tuned for a video of something....beer or music, probably both!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beerocracy!



   

        I can't believe that it's been just over a year since I started blogging about my travels.  Since then, I've had 5,000 hits on my page.  Now, I know that's not the most bad ass thing in the world, but it feels good to know I'm finally getting my name out there.  I have been carefully considering self-publishing my book for the last three weeks now, and am looking forward to getting to that point.  I have been down in Florida visiting my brother and his wife and their dog Bandit for a little over a week now.  It is cold here, for Florida, and my dogs couldn't be more content with the cool nights we've had.
       I recently have talked to a school who is excited to have an Alaskan dog handler come visit their school, and I look forward to promoting the greatest sport on Earth.  I am lucky to have good public speaking skills, it seems that whatever I end up doing down the road, talking will be the backbone of it.  As for the near future, Erin and I plan on being in North Carolina next summer, and we're both on the job hunt to make that happen.  I have talked with a company that gives bus guided brewery tours in the Triangle area.  I'm hopeful that I can work with them to get both our ventures more exposure, and am excited to promote Carolina brews.  I have to say NC has some of the best beer on the east coast, and more and more breweries seem to pop up out of nowhere!  So the goal is to shoot out west for a couple months after I leave the eastern United States.  Brad is having his bachelor party sooner than we thought, which is awesome.  I'll be able to drive out there and hang for a while because Colorado is going to be as tough as Oregon to conquer.  The mountain towns all have breweries, and I'm going to give it my best shot to go to a bunch of 'em.  I haven't quite planned the exact route for the remaining states, but I do know that North Dakota is gonna come back to haunt me.  We drove through South Dakota in the fall, and after searching online for breweries, I couldn't find anything solid and true to what I'm writing about.  Maybe by the summer they'll have a little more in the microbrew department!
       One story a day is my new goal. If I write one a day, then I'll be well on my way to the finish line in April.  I'm hoping to have everything written and documented by then, so that I can start shaping the book and have it ready to sell by Christmas 2012.  We'll see how that goes!  I'm definitely going to need support  to help pay for the cost of the printing, and am always trying to figure out how to come up with the $15,000 needed to make that happen.  I want to try Kickstarter.com, or put on an event to help raise money.  Up to this point, I have spent money out of my pocket for everything. I have been blessed to have great friends and family help me along the way, but now is the time I need to start focusing on the big picture.  I will spend the remaining time in Florida working on what it's going to cost to print and release a copy of APWATW, and go from there.
       If anyone has any ideas on how to make publishing a reality, drop me a line. I want to learn as much as possible before I climb the mountain of beerocracy and become a part of the Author's circuit.  I have spent a few days fishing and it's the best time to come up with ideas while you wait for a bite.  SO I'll be fishing in Florida while you come up with a brilliant plan to get fifteen grand as I sink my toes into the sand!  Later y'all, and if you're in Florida, give me a call!

 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Southern Stampede





Mile:17,120  
       Five or six days ago I left North Carolina to her visit her sister state, Tennessee, where erin's brother lives.  Music City, and a little bit of rain, the perfect excuse for us to eat dinner and check out some live music.  The band was rocking, two guys, harmony.  I held the tam"bear"ine for a couple songs, and then we talked to the percussionist and acoustic player.  Nashville is a musician mecca, and I was impressed with his "30 seconds or less" life story to catch my eye.  He was really nice, so you should check them out here.  After a killer burger at Loco Cocoa's, we walked through the honkey tonk on our way to the Flying Saucer.  This draught house is a franchise with maybe twenty locations nationwide.  It fits right in with what I'm doing.  I have learned to do more research, drinking, in search of where I want to go next.  It isn't common for most to follow their palate, but right now in life I have the opportunity to do just that.  We drank North Coast Red Seal Amber, and enjoyed Highlands Gaelic ale.  I'm happy I've been writing all this down, too.  I have every new beer I've drank recorded and the date I visited each brewery, so when I go to make a website, folks will be able to see all that info.  Back to Williams after the Irish Pub, then a good nights sleep!
        The dog park is always fun, I've posted before about how I love people watching there.  Judging, profiling, talking dogs, it has literally everything a dog socialite needs.  I met up with Blaire, who erin and I worked with on the glacier in Alaska in 2009 with.  She was with her boyfriend and Brutus, a retired sled dog from Matt Hayashida, Iditarod racer.  After the dog park, a chinese buffet to set the coma, and then I left Nashville!
       I drove down to Chattanooga, Tennessee and visited my good old friend Joe.  Him and his friend Shane are fresh off an AT hike.  They hiked the whole thing in just over five months, and had as many stories about it as I do dogsledding stories.  Needless to say, we had an absolute blast.  Him and his roommate Danny were so cool, they put me and the dogs up for three days.  Not that I won't camp in thunderstorms, it's just the whole roof over my head thing that kept me in the South.  We played darts, and drank some awesome beers.  We sampled Lazy Magnolia pecan Brown ale, LA 31 smoked wheat, Abita Turbo Dog, and a couple brews I brought down with me from NC.  After literally seventy games of darts, I helped Joe's neighbor make a website for her self bound books.  She had a bunch, but what caught my eye were the recycled six pack books, with a bunch of different breweries in the arsenal.  Her site can be found HERE, but it is not yet published, so you'll have to check back!  My payment was three beer bound books, broccoli greens, brussell greens, and rosemary.  A very hippy move, even for me!  The beers listed above were purchased at Beer World, right on the border in Georgia.  Dave was wicked, and helped me out a lot with my research, thanks a bunch man!  Onward I travel, south again.
       Right now I'm outside of Atlanta in Macon, and today I will make the trek to PJ and Jaime's in Florida.  I am hopeful that my florida readers will help me find a couple opportunities while I'm there.  I will be working with PJ at the Back Forty Urban Cafe, and I'm looking to do sled dog presentations while I'm there too!  If any of you know teacher's or principles, send them the link to my website above please!
       As for the book, I have finally met my New Year quota of fifty stories, half way there.  I want to work on  about 25 more while I'm in Florida, but as is the life of a writer, I must wait for the stars to align!  I have about 10 more states to cover, and am super excited to be in the home stretch, and am missing erin like crazy.
       Erin is up in Montana house sitting for a while, and I'm really happy she can be somewhere where she has access to creativity.  Though we both don't want to have a long distance relationship, it will only be temporary until we finalize our summer plans and I finish traveling for the book.  It's tough living like this, but the pay off is a million stories to tell my kids and grand kids when I get old.  Life has given me so much, and as I begin to put this book together, I know it will soon be time for me to give back as much as I can to the communities that have helped me get this far in life!

Here's the video of me posting the impossible!