The Adventure Begins, a Final Good Bye to the Sea Otters, and I Quickly Find Out that Wally World is Closed

My final good bye to Monterey did not come at the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf or Cannery Row’s aquarium, but at the water’s edge. On cold gray, foggy morning I drove down to one of the many coves of Asilomar State Beach, parked, and walked down to the waiting tide pools. The sea was calm. It was dawn. A few yards out harbor seals lazily lounged on rocks and stared at me. The smell of salt permeated the air. I quietly said my good bye to the sea, to Monterey, and this chapter of my life. Now on to home…the long way of course.

The first stop on my epic trail running journey was an hour down the road at Pinnacles National Park outside of Soledad. This particular morning the fog hung low and deep in the Central Valley. Obscured were the many farm fields which litter both sides of Highway 101 as it runs like a backbone down the valley. This is Steinbeck country: the fields, the farmers, and the foundations for so many of his stories. (The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas is a must for anyone, healed from the scars of The Grapes of Wrath in high school, to visit). Finding my exit, I wound my way up nine miles of twisting roads, much of it still shrouded in the morning’s fog. Though I passed areas recently decimated by fire, the fog hid these deep wounds. My plan though for Pinnacles would be simple: a 7 mile loop hitting the best of the park in the process. All my readings indicated to get there early as the temperatures quickly rose as the sun ascended the sky. I had plenty of water to carry. I knew the route. Everything was set. I rounded the last curve of the road to entrance to the park and was slapped in the face by the following sign:

Instantly thoughts of disbelief and near shock filled me: how? Why? What? It was the iconic moment from the original National Lampoon’s Vacation with Chevy Chase as they pull into the Wally World parking only to hear from the smiling moose: “Sorry kids, parks closed!” Talk about a face palm to the head. Now the sign made reference to the park’s other entrance on the east side, but that was easily a good three hours away. Nothing to do but cut my losses, take a quick bathroom break, and get back on the road. I still had seven hours of driving through the Mojave Desert in late summer until I reached Las Vegas. Oh this would be fun! (note the sarcasm).

I’ll spare you the details of the seven hours. I had food, coffee, and plenty of audiobooks to keep me entertained most of the way. I stopped for gas or the bathroom. I kept to myself, wore my mask everywhere, and used hand sanitizer like it was going out of style. These were the times. Finally, though I made it to Las Vegas a little before 5pm, checked into my hotel and got to my room. As an added precaution, I used disinfectant wipes on the room’s major surfaces. I wasn’t going to take any chances. Mostly I was tired so I opted not to run or stretch my legs. I had no desire to hit the Strip in Vegas either. I just wanted a beer, some dinner, and some sleep.

Beer and dinner came easy. Before arriving I scoped out one of the many breweries in the Vegas area: Bad Beat Brewing. Located just 15 minutes away in neighboring Henderson, Nevada, Bad Beat is just your local, run of the mill brewery, located in an industrial park. More importantly, on a Monday night it was open, with a total of four other customers in it. While the food menu was slim (this was a brewery after all), I eagerly devoured a hot dog and soft pretzel. In the background, the NFL’s newest team, the Las Vegas Raiders played one of the first football games of the season on Monday Night Football. I couldn’t ask for anything more. The atmosphere was perfect, not to mention safe with the few people in the brewery. It was exactly what I needed after a day on the road. And then there were the beers. Bad Beat’s beer lineup is quite diverse for a smaller brewery. I opted for my usual 4 beer tasting flight. Here’s the lowdown:

Bluffing isn’t weisse: Bad Beat’s hefeweizen, this beer had hints of bananas and citrus flavors in its hazy orange glow. It was refreshing and mellow. Just what I needed after the day’s drive.

The Ringer: Their pilsner which was crisp, clean and right to the point. Definitely the perfect beer for a hot day.

Hoppin’ Around the Globe South Africa:  one of their delicious hazy IPAs on the menu, this beer brought together a variety of citrus flavors, using South African hops for the base. This was a great beer!

Wheel, Snipe, and Celly Boys: Another great hazy IPA (what can I say I was on a hazy IPA kick this trip), that overflowed with tropical fruity flavors. It left a great taste on my palate.

After all of those and still feeling pretty good, I closed out by trying their Oktoberfest beer, a just released seasonal. This beer did not disappoint: it held true to the classic Märzen flavor: clean, fresh, and to the point. While I only had a taster, I easily could have seen myself having a stein.

My beers & food finished, I headed back. While I enjoyed the beers, I didn’t have the space to bring some with me. This trip was all about sampling. Although the trail run had been a bust, the great beers I discovered comforted me. The next day I’d find the adventure and trails I longed for.

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