If you’ve never gone on a road trip by yourself before, I’ll just say this – if you get the opportunity, do it. I just got back from 9 days on the road with no companion besides my music and my thoughts, and not once during the week did I feel lonely or wish I had someone with me. Sure, I would have had fun if others had gone too, but there’s something to be said for not answering to anyone but yourself for an entire week.
I kept track of the trip mainly through Twitter, which you can find either through the feed to the right or directly at twitter.com/angraor, if you want a recap that way. I don’t want to just rehash the entire journey so here’s my trip exclusively by the numbers.
Miles Traveled – 2458
This is probably the most impressive number of the trip, or at least the one with the most digits. My journey left KC and headed to Madison, WI, then to Green Bay, followed by the Michigan cities of Manistique, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Mears, Holland and the metro Detroit area. Several quick stops along the way, but those are the big ones.
Breweries Visited – 6 (Beers Sampled – 16)
Unintentionally, this ended up a pseudo-beer trip.
Vintage Brewing Company – Madison, WI. Black Mirror (Double Black IPA) and Woodshed IPA. Both tasty, but the double black IPA was outstanding.
Titletown Brewing Company – Green Bay, WI. Hopasaurus Rex (IPA), Loose Caboose (Belgo-American IPA) and One Hop Wonder Sterling (Pale Ale). The favorite here was definitely the Hopasaurus Rex.
Right Brain Brewery – Traverse City, MI. I only had the cask-conditioned Dead Kettle IPA at this stop because I didn’t realize until I got there that they didn’t serve food. Oh well, the beer was tasty and I bought a growler of the regular Dead Kettle IPA mainly because I really liked the growlers.
Founders Brewing Company – Grand Rapids, MI. Centennial IPA, Devil Dancer (triple IPA) and Blushing Monk (cherry beer, almost a lambic). This place was probably my favorite physical location of all the brewpubs. Great indoor and outdoor space, excellent food and great service. The Devil Dancer was my favorite beer on the trip that I hadn’t already had prior to visiting the brewery, and I bought a bottle of that to bring home.
New Holland Brewing Company – Holland, MI. Imperial Hatter (imperial IPA), Smoked Hatter (smoked IPA), Dragon’s Milk (strong ale), El Mole Ocho (Mexican spiced beer) and regular old Mad Hatter (IPA). I’d been here before, but it’s another great space in downtown Holland, which is a very walkable and friendly area. I didn’t care for the Mexican beer, but it was worth trying. The Imperial Hatter was excellent, and I bought a bottle before I hit the road again.
Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo, MI. Two Hearted Ale (IPA). I met a friend for lunch at the Eccentric Cafe and just stuck with an old standby on this visit. I did purchase a couple bottles of the Double Cream Stout to bring with me. The beer garden, which was a new addition since the last time I had visited, was delightful and spacious – highly recommended! I had the pulled pork sandwich for lunch which just further proved to me that no one compares to Oklahoma Joe’s. 🙂
Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery – Ann Arbor, MI. This opened after I moved out of Michigan and I hadn’t had the chance to make it over yet, so I jumped on the opportunity this time around. I had a great dinner with the family and had their Wanderer IPA. It was tasty, but the iO Saison that I purchased a bottle of and brought back was incredible – brewed with rose hips, rose petals and hibiscus, I wasn’t sure I’d like it but it was fantastic.
States Visited – 5
Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois. Pretty straightforward.
Interesting People Met – Lots
Traveling by yourself, you end up talking to people with whom you might never strike up a conversation if you had travel companions. You can collect stories like…
…the guy from Louisville who had flown to Seattle to ride his bike across the country – more about his journey on his blog.
…the couple at Right Brain who were heading back to Indianapolis the next day but were just as regretful that they had to leave the lake as I was.
…the couple from Omaha at the campsite next to me in Holland who used to live in Michigan, and the guy used to haul Clearly Canadian (remember that stuff? I didn’t until he mentioned it, and then it all started flooding back! And they still make it!).
…the bartenders at each of the breweries who had their own interesting stories, like the one at New Holland who was killing time after returning from the service while waiting on jobs at various police departments around the country.
…or the couple traveling across the country from Ontario in their modified pickup truck who I met at a scenic overlook. They told me I sounded Canadian, which told me it was time to leave the UP.
Everyone has a story, and it was great to be able to have a schedule flexible enough to stay and chat!
Fuel Mileage Average – 26.5 mpg
I wasn’t sure how this would turn out given I was traveling with a bike on the roof, but I’m pleased with the mpg. There was enough city driving in there to bring the average down a bit, especially with an accident in Iowa on the way back and tons of tourist traffic through places like Traverse City and Petoskey. For a 9 year old domestic vehicle, my little Ford Focus served me pretty well on this trip.
Most Extended Visit at a Planned Stop – 1 hour anticipated, 5 hours actual
(National Railroad Museum)
Seriously one of the coolest museums I’ve been to. Lots of old trains available for climbing on, photographing, reading about and generally being impressed by. It was right near my hotel in Green Bay and was my first stop when I got into town.
Hours Spent on the Beach in a Single Day – 9
On Wednesday, I went for a dune ride in the morning and spent from around 2:30pm until sunset (around 9:30pm) at the beach in Holland. It was one of the most glorious days of the trip.
I won’t wax poetic about the introspective opportunities a solo trip gives a person, but they are well worth the time spent on the road. Thanks to everyone who followed along with me and commented on my tweets and photos I uploaded when service was available – I appreciated every one, and it helped to know there was some kind of audience for them!