Exploring Ecuador Slowly…But It’s Almost Over.

The weeks have zipped by in Ecuador, full of exploration and fun – so much so that I’ve neglected the blog without a moment of guilt…til now, as we see our three months in South America coming to an end.

Let’s rush back to Otavalo for a few minutes, which we enjoyed following the difficult overland trip from Popayan (see previous blog). Otavalo was the place in Ecuador we’d first thought might appeal as a place to “ex-patriate” ourselves for a while in the coming years. It isn’t as prominent on the overseas retirement list as its nearby sister city, Cotopaxi, or its far away kin, Cuenca, but we thought it might work for us, and spent a week there to see if we were right.

Otavalo Market Gossip

Otavalo Market Gossip

Summing it up, some of the reasons we liked Otavalo were because of its scale – smaller, walkable, and no high rise buildings. The climate in March was lovely, at 8500’ high in the Andes, with even higher areas to explore, including volcanic peaks and hot springs, and of course, the well-known craft market.  Not sure whether it’s the ginko we’ve been taking or not, but we’ve had NO altitude issues…yay!

Much as we enjoyed Otavalo though, we probably won’t return for a long-term stay – for some of the same reasons. At about 90,000 local residents, and a very small international community, there wasn’t as much variety in nightlife (restaurants) as we had imagined. Also, not yet an international bookstore or book exchange. And, surprisingly, the craft market itself was a little bit disappointing (see more below.)

All in all, Otavalo didn’t “feel” right, the way we later discovered Cuenca did. Someday it will – when more expats discover it, and have the energy and interest in building small businesses (like the great little coffee shop, The Daily Grind) – we’re just not the ones who want to create those enterprises.

The famed Otavalo market is overwhelming, in the way that you can have too much of a good thing. Dozens upon dozens of small stalls fill the Plaza des Ponchos, every day of the week in a maze of indigenous entrepreneurship. Except on Saturday, when the market expands from the Plaza and fills many surrounding streets as well. Many of those stalls are filled with the same items – from ponchos, sweaters, pants and pullovers to blankets, table runners and bags of many kinds. There are wood carvings, paintings and jewelry, wooden bowls and maracas. Some of it is beautiful, but there’s so much of everything that it’s mind-boggling. And brings to mind doubts of how much could possibly be “handmade.” It was truly staggering how much of everything there was, and how one stall resembled another. How to decide what to buy and who to buy it from? How could each of these merchants be making a living? And what about the actual storefronts we saw, where huge plastic bags were filled with the same trinkets, shawls and hats that we’d just seen in the market?

Many Many Many Crafts

Many Many Many Crafts

So I was pleased to see, from time to time, people (usually women) actually making something by hand – crocheting a bag, knitting a hat, weaving a bracelet. Even more rewarding was going on a day long trip with Runa Tupari, a tour operator in Otavalo (www.runatupari.com/index.php/en) during which we visited traditional craftspeople in their homes. Those were the moments I’ll remember.

82 Year Old Weaver

82 Year Old Weaver

Thus it was that after a week exploring, talking to people, and avoiding much shopping, Otavalo dropped from the list of potential residences; and nearby Cotopaxi never made the list at all – many of the local people had mentioned with bemusement that there was a neighborhood full of Norte Americanos there, and that it was like a little America – not what we’d be looking for if we live overseas again.

But, go to Otavalo, do.  And we’ll go back too.   It’s a charming small Ecuadorian town, and there’s a lot to do from there, from hiking to boating to exploring the traditional crafts refined over generations. There are a couple of great little coffee shops and a fantastic pie shop – yes, American style pies with thick fillings of amazing tasting Ecuadorian fruits. We went three times in the week we were there.

Food Adventures

Food Adventures

And the market, despite my concerns, is a visual extravaganza, which is why I spent more time taking pictures, and less time shopping. Next time, a bit more about Otavalo.

New Friends...

New Friends…

Overland from Colombia to Ecuador/Adventures in Travel!

The "Salsa" Bus to Popayan

The “Salsa” Bus to Popayan

Who needs to fly when you can just “take the bus?” And so we did! From Popayan to Otavalo, overland.

We knew it was going to take 12-14 hours to get to Otavalo from lovely Popayan by bus, and wisely decided to take it in two parts, broken by a brief overnight in the small city of Pasto, the last major town before the border with Ecuador. “Beautiful, dangerous, loud,” are just some of the adjectives that people had used to describe the route from Popayan to the border. And so we thought we were prepared…

A Greener Green

A Greener Green

There is a Road...

There is a Road…

If you look very carefully at the photo with the rushing river in the center, and then gaze up to the left, and the right, you can just see the road cut into the side of the mountain. Getting from one side to the other of the canyons required traveling to the end of each ravine, making a treacherous hairpin turn, driving to the end of the next ravine and doing the same again, and again. Dozens of times. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, greens of every hue, waterfalls and rivers rushing downwards towards the amazon. It was enjoyable, if only I could stop thinking about the bus driver seeking every opportunity to pass other cars, trucks and buses…on a narrow two-lane road through the mountains, with vertiginous muddy cliffs on one side, an unprotected plunge into the river on the other, and the impossibility of seeing what might be coming the other way. Double-yellow no passing lines? Yep, but who cares? Thrilling!

Six hours of this, interrupted by a 30 minute bathroom/rest/restaurant stop and merciful break from the continuous high decibel salsa music. Salsa? Fun…when it occasionally stops. Torture when it renders earplugs useless and never ceases. About 2/3rds of the way to Pasto, we achieved a high plateau where there were beautiful homes; remnants of the Escobar era perhaps? I didn’t care, it was just a relief to have about 15” of simple, straight roadway!

We arrived in Pasto midafternoon, and took a taxi to the Hotel Koala. Yay, towels. No soap. After a bit of exploring (church around the corner, Plaza de Bolivar (another one!) a block or two away) we had dinner and went to bed, wondering about what the next part of the journey would bring.

The Bridge to Ecuador

The Bridge to Ecuador

By the end of the next day, it had brought the following modes of transportation: taxi, bus, taxi, walk over border bridge, taxi, bus, and finally a taxi, for a total of about 300 miles over 14 hours from Popayan to Otavalo. The Pasto bus dropped us at the terminal in Ipiales, Colombia. We then took a taxi 15” to the border station, where there was one disorganized line for both entering and departing the country – it was chaos. And just for fun, mixed in with backpackers, elder tourists, and locals transiting, was a drunken and/or drugged bus load of soccer fans returning to Ecuador. (An observation of the security guards.) The concept of “wait your turn in line” was incomprehensible to many of them, as they ignored the two hapless security guards asking them to go to the end of the line. So many things were simply wrong with the situation that we had to laugh – while we waited an hour or so in a queue that was more like a flashmob than a line.

After appropriate stamps in the passports, we hauled our bags down a flight of stairs, and then proceeded on foot, pulling the suitcases, across the hundred foot long bridge into Ecuador. A bit smoother passage at Ecuador immigration, mostly because the soccer fans still seemed to be on the other side of the bridge, and we were off in a taxi to Tulcan, to catch a bus to Otavalo.

Enough Food to Feed a Country!

Enough Food to Feed a Country!

The scenery changed dramatically from untamed mountains to rugged agricultural fields as we neared Otavalo, and our good mood lasted until it dawned on us that the bus was NOT going into the center of the city, and we either had to get off on the side of the highway, or continue on to Quito…

Off we trudged, the bus lumbered noisily on its way, and there on the side of the busy highway began our explorations of the country we hope will prove as appealing as we’ve thought at a distance!

For those of you traveling overland from Colombia to Ecuador…here are a few travel tips:

  • Bring earplugs
  • Don’t sit where you can see the turns/the road ahead
  • Be patient at the Colombia border
  • Don’t be surprised if your “Otavalo” ticket entitles you to a roadside dropoff
  • Enjoy the scenery!

There were many high/low points, but the best (worst!)? Definitely, being left on the side of the Pan American highway, in the descending evening light, in Otavalo, without a clue where we were and why we weren’t at the Otavalo bus terminal as we thought we’d purchased with our tickets.   We hefted our small backpacks and dragged our combination backpack/wheeled bags across the highway, and reconnoitered for a few minutes. Just as we’d decided that CW would head for the next corner to look for a taxi, we spotted one coming our direction, and the cheerful cabbie took us to our lovely stay at Hotel Riviera Sucre. Ecuador, at last…

Canine Welcoming Committee

Canine Welcoming Committee

May I Change My Mind? Part 2 of 2, in which I do!

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”

― Hans Christian Andersen

Part 1 of this “Colombia cities” blog offered a few hints as to how I learned to travel calmly in Colombia, where there was much that could have been difficult. With a week’s perspective, the challenges have faded a bit, and the beauty, newness and awe come forward.

I browsed the hundreds of photos that I took during our six weeks in Colombia, and offer the following gallery of favorites; hoping they summarize better than words the many things in which I found true delight during the journey.

Joyful Colors...

Joyful Colors…

Cartagena Mural...

Cartagena Mural…

Beach Beauty in Tayrona

Beach Beauty in Tayrona

Bliss...near Tayrona

Bliss…near Tayrona

Coffee Culture, Hacienda Venecia

Coffee Culture, Hacienda Venecia

Vista in Salento

Vista in Salento

Popayan Silouette

Popayan Silhouette

Guambino Gentlemen, Silvia

Guambino Gentlemen, Silvia

Just Look Up!  Gamboling Statues...

Just Look Up! Gamboling Statues…

Locks...

Locks…

Lusciousness Everywhere

Lusciousness Everywhere

People, colors, food, nature, art…you can find them everywhere; and everywhere different. So much to learn!

Bogota, Medillin, Cali…A City is a City is a ? Part 1 of 2

#blogguilt? Yep, six fascinating, challenging weeks exploring Colombia and we’re already across the border in Ecuador (more on that “interesting” experience in Part 2!).

We spent a lot of time in Colombia’s large cities, learning that as beautiful as the surrounding mountains might be, the cities themselves leave a bit to be desired. To be fair, Bogota (8mil), Medillin (4mil), & Cali (4mil) are just rougher versions of many other million plus population cities around the world – traffic is horrendous and diesel/gas fumes reek – walking is not a lot of fun. Until we get city transit issues sorted out and move away from private cars to public, shared & more environmentally sustainable transportation, the world’s largest cities will continue to be increasingly difficult places to live as they grow. (And that’s my quasi-political/social statement for this blog.)

But Colombia’s big cities offer a good look at the country’s history, its art (fantastic), and a peek at how a tourist industry (while not quite in its infancy – hello, Cuba?) is developing. If you’re planning a visit to Colombia and want to do it without a glossy tour company, be aware -you’ll need the following:

Patience – you’ll be taking buses much of the time, and there are generally not set hours for departure. You will go the terminal, search for a suitable bus line (vendors stand about calling destinations), and either find yourself among the first or last to board…and then, only when the bus is FULL will it depart! Along the route, the bus will stop to let passengers off any old place…despite having told you the bus is “direct” (this does NOT mean “non-stop”.) As seats are emptied, the bus will stop along the route to allow others to board, including vendors who offer drinks, fruits, banana chips…and yes, these impromptu snacks can be delicious.

Earplugs – ah, those buses again. Usually, the music will be turned on, loudly, immediately, and constantly throughout the trip, whether 1 hour or 6. Be prepared.

Toilet paper – if you like more than a couple of squares, you’ll be happier if you put a packet of tissues in your pocket before you venture out. You’ll usually pay for the use of the toilet at bus terminals. And, if you’re female, be prepared for lidless toilets…great for the thigh muscles as you attempt to pee without touching the ceramic.

Ok, tips on how to “journeywise” out of the way.

We loved visiting the main plazas in Colombia’s cities – many are named for Simon Bolivar, the “Liberator.” Statues varied from a soldierly and solemn Bolivar to a “Bolivar as Condor” in Manizales, and naked Bolivar on a horse in Pereira…along with your run-of-the-mill busts. The gentleman was everywhere doing good deeds, until he ran into political and financial difficulties and ended his life in exile.

Bolivar Nude - Pereira

Bolivar Nude – Pereira

Museums and outdoor art were also a complete pleasure. From Botero sculptures to murals and graffiti, Colombia (whether on purpose or not) has encouraged a public sharing of exuberant art – it’s everywhere, splashing color along highways, streets, alleys and parks. While most is “art” for art’s sake, there is also plenty of politically motivated art relating to both indigenous peoples and the FARC guerrilla movement. More photos are available on Instagram @tojourneywise and commentary about traveling, organic agriculture and random thoughts on the journey on Twitter @tojourneywise. Enjoy!

Botero Sculpture

Botero Sculpture

Wall Mural Medillin

Wall Mural Medillin

Part 2 coming soon, more on Colombia’s big cities next time…then on to Ecuador!

Chiva Bus - Colombia

Chiva Bus – Colombia

Truly Seeing…

I didn’t think I’d enjoy reading on my Kindle during this trip, but necessity has forced, if not a conversion, then at least acceptance, that this is a good way to carry along the dozens of books I will read during a 3 month journey. Among the many books I’ve got, I didn’t realize that reading Dan Barber’s “The Third Plate,” would be so meaningful. It contributed the following quote:

“See what you’re looking at.”
Dr. William Albrecht
(1888-1974)
Soil Scientist, Univ. of Missouri

It’s the United Nations Year of the Soil, so I’m delighted that the desire to truly see what I’m looking at is echoed by one of the pioneers of organic agriculture…

Here’s some of what we’ve been seeing on our South American sojourn:

Wisps and Clock...

Wisps and Clock…

Faded Beauty

Faded Beauty

Soaked in color...

Soaked in color…


Oasis

Oasis

Reflection, Lake Near the Sea

Reflection, Lake Near the Sea


See what you're looking at...

See what you’re looking at…

A harmony of sand & sea...

A harmony of sand & sea…

Perched at the edge of the sea...

Perched at the edge of the sea…

Next, some big cities and coffee farms!

Cartagena, Caliente!

Pegasus Before Port

Pegasus Before Port


The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower

Well, amigos y amigas, Cartagena was by far the warmest part of the trip so far (reminding us very much of Singapore’s heat and humidity); I quickly remembered that a wrung-out, wet bandana tightly twisted and tied loosely around the neck makes for an impromptu and successful personal air conditioner…that, plus multiple trips to La Palleteria for popsicle after popsicle made from fresh, incredibly flavorful local fruits, and yes, the occasional Swiss chocolate cream. Two key themes emerged from this most “vacation-like” part of the trip: Food & Art – and by “Food” I mean: food carts and stalls, restaurants, coffee shops, farms and even grocery stores. By “Art”: museums, street vendor crafts, the colors of the buildings, the sky, the sea; and the amazing graffiti and murals …

We’re well “medicated” with gingko – supposed to help with altitude (and so far, no problems with Bogota’s 8000’), yellow fever shots, and malaria pills. Drinking tap water and eating pretty much anything that looks appetizing, and so much does!

Fruit Carts Tempt

Fruit Carts Tempt

Watermelon to Order

Watermelon to Order

Citrus and More

Citrus and More

Treats at La Palleteria

Treats at La Palleteria

My blog subtitle includes “Learn it all, over again.” All of life is an education, but sometimes you can put yourself directly in its path – and that’s what’s happened in Colombia. The tiny Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena is in a fabulous centuries old building just off the “Reloj” (Clock Tower) Square. Its exquisite tiny collection of modern Colombian masters was immersion in an artistic culture that I haven’t known enough about. Botero, yes. Enrique Grau? No, but he was prolific, astounding, totally engrossing. And so many others.

Museo de Arte Moderno

Museo de Arte Moderno

Grau's View of Cartagena

Grau’s View of Cartagena

We stayed in the Getsemani neighborhood outside of the more well-known walled city in an Airbnb family casa, where we were also able to continue the Spanish lessons we’d started in Bogota. Cartagena is small enough that we walked everywhere, exploring tiny streets and alleys, sitting in the Plaza de la Trinidad at night with locals & tourists letting the cooler evening air waft aromas of grilled chicken, skewers of meat, and arepas (flat corn cakes cooked on a griddle and sometimes filled with cheese or vegetables.) Getsemani, particularly, is known for its vibrant and noisy nightlife – too bad we couldn’t stay up late enough to really appreciate it!

Airbnb Doorway Getsemani

Airbnb Doorway Getsemani

Airbnb Courtyard

Airbnb Courtyard

We’d anticipated a little time by some beautiful Caribbean sea while in Cartagena, but that wasn’t the case. The shoreline is not particularly pretty near the city, and not easily accessible by foot, so cooling off by the water wasn’t to be. Instead, we enjoyed wonderful walks through streets filled with color in every direction – whether the fruits, buildings, hats, hand-woven bags, or tshirts on sale everywhere, Cartagena is saturated with vibrant color. Thank goodness, the fact that we’re still in the early days of a 3-month journey makes it very very easy to say “no” to any purchases that can’t be consumed on the spot!

Color, Hot

Color, Hot

Color, Cool

Color, Cool

Color, Colombian

Color, Colombian

Color, Carnival

Color, Carnival

I’m reviewing many of the restaurants and activities at TripAdvisor as “tojourneywise” so you may find more information there about specific places I mention, or feel free to send a question or comment directly via the blog and I’ll be happy to reply.

Next up, truly off the beaten track…Tayrona National Park and another “secret spot.”

IMG_2775

Bogota – Bewildering, Enchanting

We’re travelling for three months in Colombia and Ecuador, putting cities here through the same filter as some of our top home prospects in the U.S. Will we end up falling in love with Popayan or Manizales, Cuenca or Ibarra? Come along for the journey and see!

AirBnB View Bogota

AirBnB View Bogota

It now seems a good idea that I’ve let a few days pass by since we were in Bogota, as I’d drafted a rather negative post – it started:

Bogota feels in some ways like a third world city; why is that? Let me count the ways:
1) dog “popo” (yep, that’s what they say) everywhere; 2) gigundo (no that is not a Spanish word) holes in the sidewalks and streets; and 3)trash.

Pity the Taxi Drivers

Pity the Taxi Drivers

The State of the Sidewalks

The State of the Sidewalks

But Bogata is compelling in many ways, so let me count those too:

1. El Museo Botero – you know, the guy who paints and sculpts those wonderfully voluptuous people and objects. He donated a massive amount of his personal collection to the museum, which is set in an old colonial palacio with a lovely courtyard. Fantastic. Free. Culture.

Museo de Botero

Museo de Botero


2. El Museo de Oro – gold, gold and more gold. Antique, ancient gold, and plenty of English-translations so it’s easy to learn what the displays are all about. One section involves entering a circular, darkened room and listening to the chants of early Colombian religious ceremonies. During the chants soft lighting illuminates a 360 degree display of thousands of tiny gold objects, arranged in swooping arcs of flight and clouds.
Room of Chants and Gold

Room of Chants and Gold

3. Food – interesting and often tasty! Hot chocolate with cheese cubes (Chocolade SantaFerena.) Very sweet pastries and very dry pastries. Some amazingly good Peruvian food at “Pasion Peruana.” Incredible vegetarian lunch at “Quinua y Amaranto,” in La Candelaria neighborhood.

Hmm, Hot Chocolate with Cheese?

Hmm, Hot Chocolate with Cheese?

Vegetarian Lunch with Quinoa

Vegetarian Lunch with Quinoa

4. Architecture – from the tiny casas in La Candelaria to the palacios of the colonial era and through the early/mid 20th century, Bogota offers up some glorious buildings. The only risk is that by looking up, you may step in a nasty hole in the sidewalk hole while admiring the grimy but otherwise charming buildings.

Plaza Bolivar

Plaza Bolivar

Colorful Candelaria Street

Colorful Candelaria Street


Apartments in the Round

Apartments in the Round

Faenza Theater

Faenza Theater

5. Art – murals everywhere. If you follow me on Instagram (cnewmanwise) you’ll see more examples of the incredible art that’s on most available surfaces.

Sombrero Hombre Azul

Sombrero Hombre Azul

Beauty...

Beauty…

Where Are You Going, Bicycle Boy?

Where Are You Going, Bicycle Boy?

A few days in Bogota was a great introduction to Colombia and adding 10 hours of intensive Spanish lessons kickstarted our ability to get around. Angie, our teacher, can be reached at (spanish1.english1@gmail.com). She was a good instructor, understood that we wanted a crash course in survival Spanish, and that’s what we got, with smiles.

We’re off to Cartagena and the Caribbean coast next…flipflops at the ready!
City, 8000', Mountains Higher

And We’re Off….Vamanos!

The next stop on our quest for finding “our spot” is South America – specifically Colombia and Ecuador, where many expats have already found wonderful homes. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that last year we spent 4 months traversing the U.S. on the same quest.

We’ll be travelling for three months, trying to stay a minimum of a week in each of a number of different cities, including Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and Popayan (in Colombia), and Quito and Cuenca, at a minimum (in Ecuador). Along the way we’ll be visiting a number of organic and/or fairtrade agricultural communities; volunteering when we can.

So, logistics? Three months, altitudes ranging from sea level and a Caribbean climate to roughly 9000’ and rather chilly at night. We’ve got one rolling bag (High Sierra) and one small backpack (mine, Patagonia) apiece, which we hope will get lighter as we go along, giving up old paperbacks, some small gifts we brought along, and discarding clothing along the way. It’s said “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and though I’m not convinced, here are a couple of pics of the packing process:

All I'm taking, except the raincoat.

All I’m taking, except the raincoat.


It Fit, with lots of rolling!

It Fit, with lots of rolling!


Moments from Departure

Moments from Departure

I’ve worked hard at recalling Spanish from a long ago stint as an exchange student in Ecuador (yay, AFS!) courtesy of an app called “Duolingo.” And, we have 4 days of 2-3 hour Spanish lessons beginning the morning of our arrival. Don’t expect any blogging in Spanish though I may toss in the occasional “palabra” so you know I’m working on it!

The first two nights we’ll be at a small B&B called Churro de Queveda, and then we move to an airbnb in the same neighborhood of Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota. Nope, Bogota is not a candidate for our spot, but it is a great place to acclimate, learn a bit of Spanish, and enjoy some good food and culture before we move on. And with that, Buenos Noches de Colombia…

View from Churro de Queveda

View from Churro de Queveda

2015 and On the Road Again…

In 2014, we embarked on a journey to explore the world through the lens of organic agriculture, fair trade, small & local businesses (primarily food, beverage & books!). The ultimate goal is to find a spot that seems right for the next chapter, whether in the U.S. or abroad. And so, we’re about to set off again, this time for South America. Stay tuned…

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.          Jawaharlal Nehru

Indian Umbrellas

Indian Umbrellas

What’s Brewing? So Very Much!

Old Bust Head Brewery

Old Bust Head Brewery

This 13,000 mile 100 day plus journey has prompted one question more than any other – how are CW and I managing to spend so much time together, and still be together?  After 32 years of marriage when we rarely spent more than two full weeks together, we’re still smiling (at each other!) after four months of travel, in a car (…talk about close quarters!) If you’re contemplating anything like what we’ve just accomplished, it’s worth considering how you really prefer to spend your time, and agreeing on some simple ways to make sure you get enough “me” time – however you define it.  (This blog eventually comes round to lots of fun info about beer, brewing and beverages, so bear with me!)

Cooking with Spent Grain - Pizza Crust!

Cooking with Spent Grain – Pizza Crust!

We’re not oblivious to the pitfalls of travelling.  In fact, we think one of the greatest indicators of a potentially successful partnership is surviving the challenges of travelling together.  Those challenges are many and I’ll address those in a dedicated blog – but for now, I want to explore one of the most important ones for me:

Constant togetherness…

 

The Roasterie - So Good!

The Roasterie – So Good!

Boulevard Brewing - Around the Corner

Boulevard Brewing – Around the Corner

On this journeywise adventure, we knew from experience that a key strategy would be to find ways to have some occasional hours (ok, frequent hours) apart, to be on our own or at our separate pursuits.  And since we’re both very comfortable in new places (and really, nowhere in the U.S. was going to feel as strange as some of the other places we’ve been) we knew it would just take a little planning to engineer a few hours on our own every other day or so.

Evans Bros. Coffee - Idaho

Evans Bros. Coffee – Idaho

What helps immensely is that we’ve both created portable businesses: CW as what one of his brewery friends so aptly calls “an itinerant malt peddler,” and me, as a consultant and advisor to food and beverage startups in the organic, fair trade and natural sphere.  Charley does best with in-person calls on breweries, while I can manage primarily with phone, Skype, and email, though personal meetings are great when they can happen.  Our work means engaging with fun and interesting people who are working to nourish the world!

We didn’t consciously start our four-month long journey with a plan for how to incorporate independent time – but we learned quickly that CW’s most successful brewery visits would often take an hour or more, and if I could find a local coffee shop, farm market, or natural grocery to explore for at the very least an hour (and two hours was not at all a bad thing, I came to learn) then we’d both have a better time, with no anxiety for me over “when is he going to get back?!” nor CW worrying that I was getting antsy just when he was about to present the malts and whiskies, and getting to taste stellar beers, all with the point of actually leaving a sample of Copper Fox malt behind!

Tasting Brews Across the USA

Tasting Brews Across the USA

It’s far past time to give CW credit for a lot of the fun and exploring we’ve had on this journey.  Charley’s work with Copper Fox Distillery  http://www.copperfox.biz/index/ in Sperryville, Virginia has taken us (well, him) to over 60 craft breweries in 22 states and 4 Canadian provinces over the past 4 months, as he introduced brewers to the Distillery’s hand crafted, Virginia-grown barley malts.

We started the trip with about 100 pounds of the specialty smoked malts in the back of the car (along with our suitcases and camping gear), and picked up another 30 pounds (plus fresh bottles of the two whiskies) on the West Coast.  Although I’m now used to the slightly yeasty, warm-bread smell of sacks of the specialty malts wafting about in the car, I was happy that we left Boston for home having completely depleted the malt inventory!  CW’s pretty excited about that as well, as it means that across the U.S. and Canada, small and mid-sized craft breweries—now well over 30–are experimenting and creating new beers with Copper Fox’s apple and cherry wood smoked malt, and mesquite smoked malt.   Results of this summer’s visits already include brews on tap or soon on tap at Old Bust Head Brewing, in Warrenton, VA  http://www.oldbusthead.com/  Firehouse Brewing, in Rapid City, SD  http://www.firehousebrewing.com/  Sawtooth Brewing, in Ketchum, ID  http://sawtoothbrewery.com/         The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, in Canmore, Alberta (near Banff)  http://www.thegrizzlypaw.com/      and The Raw Deal/Real Deal Brewing, in Menomanie, WI  http://www.rawdeal-wi.com/  .   If you happen to be nearby any of these, you can enjoy a brew with a Copper Fox smoked malt as a key ingredient, and vicariously join our  “journeywise!”

Mural in Detroit

Mural in Detroit

There’s a bit more of the trip to catch up on, but we’ve now arrived back in Philadelphia, and midst the unpacking, sorting, and oh yes, planning the next trip, I’m behind my optimistic blogging schedule.  Soon to come – what did we learn and what’s next?  Stay tuned!