Thursday, March 28, 2019

Experiencing Nebraska's Largest Lake - Lake McConaughy

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the state of Nebraska usually isn't lakes or boating or even water.  Considering that it's a triple landlocked state, water just isn't what springs to mind. Maybe beef or Cornhuskers. But there are lakes and rivers to be found and we found it's largest lake, Lake McConaughy, last summer. 

We've gone boating on visits to Colorado in the past but often times those lakes have no swimming or boating rules or they are just too darned cold to enjoy. Researching some summer boating options we found Lake McConaughy or Lake Mac, as it's sometimes called, located in the Southwestern corner of Nebraska. It's the largest reservoir in Nebraska and it offers boating, fishing, swimming, camping and even parasailing. Beach camping is one of the most unique features of Lake Mac. You can pull your camper on the beach or pitch a tent in designated areas.( Just be aware that there is the possibility of getting stuck and having to be towed. There are several private towing services to help if that happens) Curiosity got the better of me and I just had to experience it. So off we went to Ogallala, Nebraska over the July 4th holiday weekend.
Notice the tractors available to pull campers out of the sand

It's about a 3 hour easy drive up I-76 East from Denver to Lake Mac.( In fact, there were many Coloradans here boating and enjoying the lake as we were) We arrived on Friday night, stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, went out for dinner - I highly recommend The Urban Farmer (though to be honest there aren't many choices) and got ready for an all day boating extravaganza on Saturday.

The view from our hotel - I like the one little sunflower in the bottom right corner

We reserved our boat in advance from Big Mac Marina. They have boat rentals, jet ski rentals, ice, gas and other sundry items you might need for a day on the lake. We woke up to an incredibly windy day, with white caps on the lake, and weren't sure if we would still be able to rent the boat. The good people at Big Mac Marina told us that our ride across the lake would be really rough but once we arrived on the eastern shore, all would be well. And they were correct. 

I've been boating in four foot waves on Lake Erie - we once even rescued a father and son off of their capsized boat in a storm - but these were some of the roughest waves I've been in. Luckily, Mr. UR is a very experienced boat captain and knew what he was doing (the marina hand asked him if he wanted a job after docking the boat with ease in the waves) We were all completely soaked with the water splashing the entire pontoon boat - I have never been on a boat where waves splashed in my ear before but I guess there's a first time for everything. On a bright note, it was a great day for sailing or windsurfing.

And then upon arrival at the beach some twenty minutes later, there was perfect calm. Peaceful clear water that you could float or sit in, a white sandy beach and no one around. Maybe 2 or 3 other boats went by or pulled up for awhile. 

So if you are ever in Denver or Nebraska and feel the need to get yourself in some cool, clear water, then give Lake McConaughy a try. It's a bit off the beaten path but well worth it for water lovers.

How about you? Have you heard of Lake Mac? Or do you have any recommendations for boating in Colorado or Nebraska?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!

Friday, March 22, 2019

8 Unique Breweries to Visit in the US

The United States has had a long love affair with beer. Supposedly, Native Americans had their own recipe to brew beer. And the first brewery in America opened in 1632 on the island of Manhattan at the Dutch West India Company. As of last year, there are some 7,000 breweries in the US. Here are a few unique ones that you can visit - and enjoy a beverage at.

 Pelican Brewing Company, Pacific City, Oregon
Pelican Brewing Company brews beer "Born at the Beach" Started in 1996 in Pacific City, Oregon, Pelican now has 3 locations along the coast of Oregon. The original location, often found on "Best Breweries" lists, is right on the beach and you can enjoy sipping your beer with your toes in the sand looking at a haystack rock.  I think it ranks right up there with one of my favorite all-time breweries I've visited. You just can't beat that view.

Yuengling, Pottsville, Pennsylvania
D.G. Yuengling and Son is America's Oldest Brewery. It has been continuously family owned and operated since 1829. You can visit either of their locations - Pottsville, PA or Tampa, Fl - and tours are free for all ages. The tours last about an hour and you may receive, with proof of age, a free sample in their Yuengling pub. On the tour you will learn the history of the brewery including how they survived Prohibition and see some of the bottling operations.

Brew Dog - Dog Tap, Columbus, Ohio
Brew Dog Brewing was started in 2007 in Northeast Scotland and now includes breweries and beer pubs worldwide including Australia,England and the US. This Columbus, Ohio location (Canal Winchester, Ohio actually) is the world's first craft beer hotel, where you can wake up inside a brewery. (I know, I know - a dream come true for some) From your room you can "see, hear and smell" beer being made. And your room has it's very own BrewDog tap. Not only that, but there is a shower beer fridge, locally made craft beer soaps and some rooms are dog friendly! (And there is a dog park on property for your fur pal to get some exercise) So if that is your dream come true, then book now and get thee to Columbus.

Ska Brewing, Durango, Colorado
Ska Brewing is one of five breweries in the Durango area but what makes it unique is that you can drink beer in a shipping container with framed views of the San Juan Mountains. It's a "modern day tasting room experience with a casual food truck culture." Not all breweries have restaurants but this one does and it's beer and food receive high marks.

Fredericksburg Brewing Company, Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg Brewing Company, located in the small town it's named after, includes the unique qualification of being a "Bed and Brew". Located above the brewing company and restaurant are 11 rooms with private baths and central air. You can park for your entire stay while enjoying Main Street and the brewery.Then when you're ready to turn in for the night, just walk upstairs. No driving necessary. And each guest receives one pint of beer per stay - hence the "Beer and Brew" moniker. 

Skagway Brewing Company, Skagway, Alaska
Skagway Brewing, "the little Alaskan Brewery & Restaurant with the big green heart" is located in that far north state, Alaska. It's open year-round which is unique enough, but it's open in the winter in a town of only about 1000 residents. So it's there to serve locals and tourists. It prides itself on it's sustainability - their boiler runs on bio-diesel fuel that they converted themselves from used vegetable oil which heats their building and their water - and being around since the Stampede Days of 1898. I personally spent an incredibly rainy afternoon perched on a stool here and can attest to the friendliness of the staff - and locals.

Hunter-Gatherer Hangar, Columbia, South Carolina
In 1929 the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service built an airplane hangar at Owens Field, a municipal airport 3 miles from the city (at the time) The airport was dedicated in 1930 with an airshow with some 15,000 spectators. Today the Columbia airport is located elsewhere but small planes still use Owens Field. And that airport hangar is now half of the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery (the other half is located downtown) You can enjoy beer, a small menu of pizza and apps while sitting in the hangar or sit on the rooftop deck to watch planes take off. 

New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado
New Belgium, located in Ft. Collins, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina, was started by Jeff Lebesch after a stint riding his fat tire bike around Belgium visiting various breweries in 1988. Upon his return to the States, he married Kim Jordan and they collaborated in creating Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing. It's quite the success story. Ownership in the company is now awarded after one year of employment - and you get a brand new fat tire bike, too. You can tour New Belgium by appointment - it usually fills up weeks in advance - with beers that you taste picked by your tour guide. The tours last 90 minutes and you can slide down the twisty slide from the second floor to the first and learn about their "minister of fun" position. If you'd like to try their seasonal ales, sours or the classic Fat Tire, there is a bar if you don't want to take the tour. Be sure you find the postcards to mail to your loved ones at home for free in the lobby

And a bonus brewery.... Grumpy Old Men Brewing, Blue Ridge, Georgia
I'm including this brewery just because I love the name. Grumpy Old Men is a micr0-brewery in Blue Ridge, Georgia started by - you got it - two retired beer enthusiasts who first brewed in an outdoor shower. Moving on to an actual brewery, they then decided it was too much work and sold to "a grumpy old man and his crabby old lady." It's located in an old gas station and includes outdoor space with giant jenga and other games. Dog friendly.

How about you? What's the most interesting brewery you've been to?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!