Road Trip 2010: An update

It hasn’t been the best road trip, I’m afraid. Inadequate planning and bad weather have tested our road-trip mettle, and we’ve fared poorly so far. But tomorrow’s another day, and we’re going to keep going.

However, I’ve been learning a lot on this road trip.

  • CruiseAmerica rental RVs are kind of junky.
  • Do not buy meat at Wal-Mart.
  • The cats don’t care about the millions of years it took to form the magnificent formations of Arches National Park. They have no sense of history or scale.
  • When someone in the vehicle is cold, discussions about the distinction between freezing and brisk might not be appropriate.
  • Utah’s liquor and beer laws are shockingly stupid.
  • It’s possible that not everyone in the vehicle appreciates your unique rendition of Johnny Horton’s “North (to Alaska).”
  • When she asks if you want to change your shirt, it’s not really a question. She’s telling you to change your shirt.

At any rate, we’ve somehow managed to not kill each other or destroy the RV. And we’ve also somehow managed to end up in Moab, Utah, with a bunch of off-roaders in the rain.

Stay tuned!

Road Trip 2010

When she asks if you think you might like to change your shirt, what she really means is: Christ, you look ridiculous. Change your shirt.

Road Trip 2010, Rifle, Colorado

Fishing in Rifle, Colorado.

Road Trip 2010, mystery meat from Wal-Mart

What the hell is this meat? The package said "flatiron steak," but this is clearly not flatiron steak. It tasted like pork. It was very difficult to cook.

Road Trip 2010, Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado

The "falls" part of Rifle Falls State Park in Colorado.

Road Trip 2010.

PJ the cat is only slightly interested in travel.

Road Trip 2010, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

The vapor caves in Glenwood Springs. Totally worth it. You descend into this cavern naturally steam-heated by hot springs.

Road Trip 2010, morning, Day 1

McDonald's breakfast. I know McDonald's isn't the best food in the world, but it's iconic American road-trip food.

Road Trip 2010, chicken

Adrienne prepared some amazing chicken for us to take with us on the trip.

Vintages Wine and Spirits

Vintages Wine and Spirits is a great little shop on Tejon in downtown Colorado Springs. Next door to Il Vicino. The place with all the flags out front.  They have lots of interesting wines and spirits as well as beers. They also host wine events in conjunction with some of the restaurants in town.

But what I like is their free in-store wine tastings. They have them between two and three times a month on Friday and Saturday afternoons. They usually offer six wines and you can choose four to taste. You know how much I’ve missed the wine tastings at Colorado Wine Company in L.A. since I’ve been in Colorado Springs, and these aren’t nearly the raucous events as those, but they’re still nice. Vintages is run all by women and they really know about wine.

Wine tasting at Vintages, Colorado Springs, CO

Wine tasting at Vintages, Colorado Springs, CO

Linda tasting a nice Barbera at Vintages in Colorado Springs, CO

Linda tasting a nice Barbera at Vintages in Colorado Springs, CO

Robin and Janel tasting a cabernet, Vintages, Colorado Springs, CO

Robin and Janel tasting a Cabernet, Vintages, Colorado Springs, CO

Yesterday they were tasting a white, a rosé, a tempranillo, a malbec, and two cabernets. I went in fully intending to buy the malbec but when I did the tasting I loved the tempranillo so much I got it instead.

The next tasting is next Friday and Saturday October 22 and 23 and then there’s ANOTHER one the following weekend the 29th and 30th. How fun! You should go!

Be sure to get on their mailing list so you can be kept up-to-date on all their free tastings and other events.

Colorado Springs breweries

Colorado, in general, and Colorado Springs specifically is home to some pretty good beer. The Indy has a list of the area’s breweries.

I’m learning to like craft beers. It hasn’t always been this way. I used to resent what I called “college beers,” beers for pretentious college kids. I drank whatever beer came in a can and was inexpensive. I enjoyed Old Milwaukee Light for a long time. Then when I moved to Colorado I switched to Coors Light because, well, it’s Colorado. I tried some imported beer (because that’s not pretentious), and it was a mixed bag. When I was in Russia in 2000, I had some Baltika and fell in love with it. But Baltika wasn’t imported to the U.S. till years later. And for some reason, most of the smaller breweries don’t brew lagers. Why is that, I wonder. Are ales easier to make? Is the process of making a lager prohibitive for smaller breweries? Or are ales just a better, more sophisticated beer? I don’t know. But for a while, ales triggered migraines, so I just stuck to bourbon and Coors Light. (Side note: I’ve been talking a lot about health problems. I really am not an 80-year-old man, despite sounding like one.)

Lately, though, I’m really enjoying the local brews. My favorite daily drinker has been Beehive, from Bristol. I’m also a fan of their Laughing Lab flagship beer (I was sad when I learned that the inspiration Lab had died).

There’s more about beer here than I could possibly write, and there’s so many tasty ones I’ve had in the last few months that the only advice I can give you is to go ahead and get a second job so you can afford to try everything without going broke and eating out of dumpsters (Burger King has excellent “throwaway” items, by the way).

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., downtown Colorado Springs, Co.

Phantom Canyon is a favorite because it's close to home and has great food. And you can play pool upstairs.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., downtown Colorado Springs, Co.

Sampling a selection on a flight at Phantom Canyon.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., downtown Colorado Springs, Co.

Phantom Canyon has excellent food. Here, we're eating the hummus plate.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., downtown Colorado Springs, Co.

At the bar, Phantom Canyon has a prominent list of the available beers.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., downtown Colorado Springs, Co.

A flight of nine beers at Phantom Canyon. I'm not much of a dark drinker, but the Dark Side was awfully tasty. Adrienne likes the hefeweizen.

Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

Trying a six-beer flight at Bristol.

Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

It's helpful that each beer on the flight at Bristol comes with a little explainer paragraph. I don't know a lot about beer, and it's good to at least try to be educated.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

Adrienne and my mom at Trinity. My mom doesn't even drink beer. Won't even try it. I'm not entirely convinced we're related.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

Appetizers at Trinity. Notice the table, which is made from broken glass and lighted from beneath. Very cool.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

The hummus plate at Trinity.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

My mom had some kind of warm cheese dip in an edible bread bowl.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

The drink selection at Trinity is pretty healthy. And the people behind the bar seemed to really enjoy talking about beer, which helps the uninformed like me.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

Me and mom.

Trinity Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, Co.

At the bar at Trinity.

Rocky Mountain Brewery, Colorado Springs, Co.

Didn't care too much for Rocky Mountain Brewery. Felt like an outsider there. And it felt a little too much like someone's basement. Also, their website is a MySpace page. No good.

Rocky Mountain Brewery, Colorado Springs, Co.

An eight-beer flight at Rocky Mountain Brewery. We had a hard time knowing what we were drinking because the beers were written down on a small chalkboard behind the crowded counter.

Rocky Mountain Brewery, Colorado Springs, Co.

On the plus side, Rocky Mountain Brewery has a barbecue truck parked outside, B'z BBQ.

Rocky Mountain Brewery, Colorado Springs, Co.

The best part about Rocky Mountain Brewery: The barbecue truck's quesadilla. Delicious.

Charlie’s Pit Bar-B-Que: B-plus

It’s important when eating barbecue to eat as much as you possibly can. Stuff as much food into your dumb gullet as you can without rupturing your stomach. Only when you’re bloated and nearly rolling off the chair and onto the floor can you truly appreciate the subtleties of good barbecue. When you think you’ve had enough, and you push your plate away slightly, go ahead and have one more bite.

As you might recall, I’ve been skewered here for my thoughts on Rudy’s, so there’s clearly some pretty passionate opinions about barbecue. And I might be losing the battle on high-fructose corn syrup. Rudy’s lists it as the main ingredient in its sauce, which I criticized. Fact is, it’s hard to find a sauce that doesn’t have HFCS. It’s a shame because sugar is better. I don’t know what’s in Charlie’s sauce.

One thing Charlie’s gets right is the laid-back and casual atmosphere. A genuine one. And excellent service.

Couple small things, though. No website, Charlie’s? What gives? I know you have one for the Manitou location, but is that one even still open? The Charlie’s we went to is on Fillmore a few blocks east of Nevada. So you need a more robust web presence and some info about your location(s).

Also, we used a Restaurant.com coupon, and the Charlie’s people automatically included an 18 percent tip. We’re pretty good tippers, and we would have probably tipped at least 18 percent if not more (in fact, we did leave a few bucks extra even beyond the 18 percent). Automatically including the tip is tacky, and restaurants shouldn’t do it. At the same time, you’re getting a pretty decent deal with these kinds of coupons, so customers should realize this and be just as generous. If only the world worked that way.

At any rate, the food? Well, we ate a lot of it, so that ought to say something.

Charlie's Pit Bar-B-Que, Colorado Springs, Co.

Generous portions at Charlie's.

Chicken dinner at Charlie's Pit Bar-B-Que, Colorado Springs, Co.

The chicken dinner at Charlie's.

Chicken dinner at Charlie's Pit Bar-B-Que, Colorado Springs, Co.

Look how happy Adrienne is. No matter what's going on in her world, put a plate of barbecue in front of her, and she's a happy girl.