‘Beer’ and Back Again – Prologue


This is a story of how I drove from Chicago to the East Coast and back with a case of beer made by my friends, to share with my friends and tales of the ‘stuff what I saw’ along the way.

It was clear that I had underestimated the size of the United States.  I mean, I knew it was big.  I had lived there before and done quite a bit of driving from one place to another there before, but on a map everything looks close together…depending on how far you are zoomed in.  The upshot is I landed in Chicago late on Monday night and early Tuesday morning I found myself on the bus on the way to the car rental place to pick up my car instead of having a day and a half to recover as I had originally planned.

I needed to get from Chicago to Boston and New York and then down to Petersburg, IL, 4 hours south of Chicago by July 3rd, then back up to Chicago.  I realised that if I wanted to do that on my original itinerary, I would be driving all day everyday with barely enough time to sleep.  So I  added a day, took out Toronto and found myself with a much more manageable journey.  (Sorry Toronto, I will be back)

Before I left Chicago, I stopped to say goodbye to some good friends.  These guys are pretty damn cool.  I am incredibly proud of my friends Scott, Gerrit and BJ, with Bobby helping them along the way, for realising their dream and opening their own brewery in January this year.  This is no back-room home brew operation, but a full-on huge stainless steel vats, thousands of bottles a week kind of operation: The Pipeworks Brewing Company

I was chatting with them, telling them about my trip and I remarked how it would be cool if I could get a bottle or two of beer to take to some of the friends I am visiting on my trip.  “We’ll give you a case.”  Said Gerrit.  “Really?”  I remarked.  “Sure,” Gerrit replied, “just buy us lunch when you get back.”

After having heard the guys talk about this brewery for years and seeing some of the blood, sweat and tears go into setting it up I felt bad taking a case of their hard work for free but they insisted and I promised them lunch upon my return.  Taco Bell is cheap right?

They gave me 12 bottles in total. Made up of Ninja Versus Unicorn, Smoked Porter, Hyper Dog and the Froggy Style, which I had seen bottled before my very eyes that day and I went on my way.

Just me, the beer, the open road…and my GPS satellite navigation computer.  Well not mine, my friend Britt’s.  Oh and I had her cooler for my snacks.

On the road out of Chicago, the traffic was terrible as usual, so as I stopped and started along the highway it gave me some time to reflect.  I am pretty lucky.  I don’t mean to be able to be doing this trip.  That goes without saying.  I am grateful everyday for the experiences I get to have.  I mean I am lucky to have friends that want to help me out.

I had been in the United States less than 24 hours and already I had experienced incredible kindness from my friends.  Britt had been kind enough to get me from the airport very late at night and loan me the SatNav and the cooler.  This might not sound like much, but people will tell you that I need to eat…all the time. If I don’t, I get Dangry (dan+hungry=angry) and when driving on your own the last thing you want to deal with are maps so, these items are pretty significant.  Bobby had given me a place to sleep and the guys at Pipeworks put the cherry on the cake by giving me 12 of their babies to share with my friends.

So I feel pretty lucky.

At that point, as if by magic the traffic opened up, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ shuffled onto the stereo and I was on my way to Ann Arbor, MI to experience the next piece of kindness.

p.s. I am not enjoying this beer whilst driving or before I drive…I would like to make that clear!

Chicago – Detroit

By the time I started out from Chicago and actually got on the road, it was nearly 2pm but I wasn’t too worried about my late start as my first stop was only 4 hours away.

When I first thought about this road trip I had decided that I wanted to visit I realised that I had never been to Detroit before and more specifically, to Hitsville, the home of Motown Records.  It just so happens that my friends Drew and Colleen, whom I met when I worked on board the Norwegian Epic, live about an hour away between there and Chicago.

Naturally I emailed them and asked if I could stay to which they immediately replied, “yes… but we won’t be there!”  You see, they are both very talented musicians, they were the dueling piano players on the ship, and it turns out that they were heading to Ireland and the UK to do a tour at the same time I would be heading east.  But, as is usually the case with these two, they were very kind and arranged to have a key left under the mat for me.

Staying at Drew and Colleen’s on my own, however, meant I was not able to fully embark upon my mission of sharing the Pipeworks beer with my friends on the 1st day of my trip. Instead I had to settle for leaving a bottle on their counter as a gift for them the discover when they return.  I hope they like it.

With day 1 behind me I fell into bed, set my alarm for 6.30am and went to sleep.  Tomorrow, I was going to Motown.

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