Nick’s “Babymoon” Post

Well, if you haven’t noticed, I haven’t exactly written as many posts as Sarah. There are lots of reasons for this. First off, I like to write about hiking and beer – two things we haven’t been doing as much (or at all) recently. Secondly, I am not as gifted a writer, nor as succinct a writer, as Sarah. It simply takes me longer to produce a lessor product, so it’s no wonder that I’ve been writing less. I’ve been getting a bit of grief from my beautiful bride about my lack of blog proclivity as of late, so when she asked me this past weekend if I would write about our trip, I said sure! And as I read her last post, I saw that she hadn’t forgotten about my agreement. So on this sleety Friday morning, here it goes.

I had heard the term “babymoon” before, and figured it was something Sarah would be all over. To my surprise, we were months into the pregnancy, and Sarah hadn’t made much of a peep about it. I thought I was in the clear! In early December though, the kitchen paint not even dry, she brought it up. She wanted to go on a babymoon! To my delight, her ideas were modest, just a weekend trip – something close and historical. We quickly settled on Charlottesville. It was a place we’d both only been to very briefly and separately. With Monticello close by (I’d never been, Sarah  went when she was around 8), it seemed like a fun city to explore together, with plenty to keep us busy for a weekend!

While never explicitly spoken, it was clear at the onset of the trip we had three shared goals for the weekend. Below, I’ll share those goals and how we accomplished them!

  1. See some history.

Not only did we get to see a lot of U.S. history, but also some history from Sarah’s family as well. Our first historical stop was in Lexington, VA, the home of Washington & Lee University, as well as the Virginia Military Institute, where Sarah’s dad and uncle both attended school. I’d seen pictures, but couldn’t appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the place until seeing it first hand. Also, I was amazed to see Stonewall Jackson’s horse, Little Sorrel, stuffed and on display, looking as though he just trotted off the Civil War battlefield.

Upon arrival to Charlottesville, we checked into our home for two nights, at the South Street Inn, a downtown Bed & Breakfast, first built as a personal residence in 1856. Over the years the house has served several other purposes as well, including a school, a boarding house, and a brothel. Our room came with a large Jacuzzi tub (guessing this wasn’t original), which made up for the narrow staircases and thin walls.

The highlight of the trip was Monticello. Its free to go on the grounds, but the $25 for a tour inside the house was well worth it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I couldn’t believe how much of the 200 year old house was original – functioning clocks, window glass, furniture, floors, books, various tools & gadgets, silhouettes and even elk antlers acquired from Lewis & Clarks’ famous journey. It was an amazing look into life at the dawn of our nation from a man who was so “ahead of his time” in some ways, while still a prisoner (not to mention an imprison-er) of societal norms of the day. I was amazed at how intact Sarah’s recollection of the place was from her visit 20 years prior, but given Sarah’s affinity for history her whole life, and the wonder of the place itself, it didn’t really come as a surprise.

On our way back home we stopped at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. This is one of those historical sites that requires a lot of imagination, as many of the buildings weren’t original. It was neat in that several miles surrounding the actual site of the surrender has been saved as park land, and thus undeveloped. Driving through the open fields while approaching the actual park helps the imagination go back in time and picture life as the civil war was ending. Our stay was brief, as it was freezing, but we were glad to cross this place off the list!

2. Eat some tasty food (and for me to drink some good beer).

An hour into the trip we stopped for breakfast in Danville, VA at a diner called Heart Line. The “Hillary Lied and Four People Died” and “Keep Working: Millions On Welfare Depend On You” bumper stickers in the parking lot, as well as the sea of camo hats and NRA sweatshirts caused us some slight apprehension at the start, but the delicious food and friendly staff quickly put us at ease. I also think it helped that Sarah dialed up her Southern accent meter to 10.

We also enjoyed some great food around Charlottesville. We enjoyed some delicious won-ton nachos and wings at South Street Brewery during the first half of the Panthers game, and a burger and salad at the highly acclaimed Citizen Burger Bar during the second half. Upon leaving the brewery at the end of the first half, I told our server there wasn’t even much point in watching the rest of the game. WRONG! As tasty as Citizen Burger Bar was, I don’t think we’ll forget our feelings of embarrassment and fear we felt as everyone else in the bar (seemingly) cheered on the ultimately failed, but respectable 2nd half comeback by the Seahawks.

On the way home we stopped at a cafe in South Boston, VA called Southern Plenty. We loved the food, though quite a different atmosphere from our experience a couple days prior at Heart Line. Part grocery store, part cafe, part craft beer store, and filled with collar-shirted retirees, it was clear the target demographic of this place was a bit wealthier than the close-by diner we had stopped at a couple of days prior . Still, being in the rural south, wouldn’t have been surprised to see another anti-Hillary sticker. Maybe something with a little more class, like “Huck Fillary”.

We visited three Charlottesville breweries during our trip – the aforementioned South Street Brewery, as well as Blue Mountain Brewery and Champion Brewery. I must say I wasn’t blown away by any by any of the beer, but it was all decent. (SIDE NOTE: I’ve admittedly been having a hard time finding beer I like ever since having a beer called “Tropicalia” by Creature Comforts while in Atlanta over New Years. It was so good I think it ruined me, and of course I can’t find it for sale anywhere in NC.) Each spot had it charms too. Blue Mountain was a bit out of town with gorgeous scenery and outdoor seating. The place was also a restaurant and was huge, clearly a favorite spot among locals and vacationers alike. Champion Brewery was a quaint little bar spot downtown, and South Street was worth it for the food alone. Probably my favorite new beer I tried during the trip was from a local brewery, Three Notch’d, called “Killer Angel”, a double IPA. My favorite old beer was a 22 ounce Grapefruit Sculpin for only $8.

3. Have some quality time together.

The truth of the matter is that this was a given. We cherish our time together, no matter what we are doing, so it always feels like quality time. Now would be an appropriate time to say “barfola”, as my sister Ellie likes to say, but we don’t care. Our relationship has been through some very trying times over the years, which makes the happiness and contentment we found in ourselves and each other recently (Sarah has alluded to this in prior posts) all the easier to cherish.

In addition to cheering on a Panther victory, seeing some historical sites and eating out together, we also managed to start and finish season 1 of the show “Broad City” and see the movie “The Revenant” at one of those leather-seated swanky theaters. Despite our vacation status, we still got up at 6AM -and breakfast wasn’t until 7:30 – hence all the time to enjoy “Broad City”. Though I was initially skeptical, we both really enjoyed “The Revenant”. I don’t know if I can say the same for the gentlemen sitting next to Sarah, who’s uncomfortable shifting during the movie would seem to suggest he was confusing my hand under Sarah’s pants in order to feel nugget wiggling around, for something a little more raunchy.

The weekend came and went in a blur, but it was nice to do something a little different from our normal weekend routine, and make new memories together. We can’t wait to go back to Monticello someday, nugget in tow, and tell her/him that they actually came to this exact place with mommy and daddy once before.

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Pilot Mountain State Park + Small Batch Brewery

Firstly, I’m writing this post a week and a half after the fact. For purposes of documentation and consistency, I’m dating this post on the day I’m writing about, as I have done in the past in will do in the future. Just wanted to be clear on that -now onto Pilot Mountain!

Sarah and I have both driven past Pilot Mountain on dozens of occasions and have known it to be one of the pillars of the North Carolina State Park system. But, amazingly, neither of us had ever been. For that reason, as we start out on our journey of visiting all of North Carolina’s state parks, we wanted Pilot Mountain to be one of the firsts. A beautiful October weekend seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.

Our initial plan was actually to stay a night at the campground. The day before, we made the decision nix that as the forecast was predicting overnight temperatures below freezing. As it turns out, this wouldn’t be the only change of plans that the day would bring us. When we arrived a Pilot Mountain State Park, we weren’t able to park at the campground like we had hoped (due to large crowds and no more parking spaces according to the ranger), and instead had to park along the road outside the park gates. I pulled up the park map from newly download NC State Parks App (this would prove to be a mistake), and saw that there was a trail right by where we parked that should lead us to the campground where we would begin the 2.5 mile hike to the top of the mountain.

We started the hike, and after a mile or so I got a little weary that we didn’t seem to be anywhere near the campground. I pulled out the GPS and could see exactly where we were, but there didn’t appear to be any trail on the map even though the trail was clearly marked in front of us. I gently broke the news to Sarah that I knew exactly where we were, but wasn’t exactly sure where we were going, though I assumed this trail would eventually lead us to the top in a couple of miles.

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As you can see from Sarah in the picture above at this point we charged ahead. The trail was beautiful and we were feeling great. A mile or so later, a couple passed us and we chatted with them. They let us know that we were on the newly redone Mountain Trail – a trail that encircled the entire mountain before ending back at the campground 4.5 miles later. They weren’t sure, but they assumed it ran into Ledge Spring Trail, which would take you to the top, but would also add a couple more miles to the trip. I did the calculation in my head and realized it was probably going to be at least 6 miles to the top, and at least another 2.5 to get back down.

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The picture above was taken not long after this revelation. Sarah was starting to get a little testy, but I told her if we could make it to the top, that we could hitchhike on the way back down.

So we charged on…

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When we passed the same couple again coming back down the mountain, I knew what they were going to say before they spoke. There wasn’t a way to get to the top, the trail just circled around to the campground, around the mountain. At this point, it was actually somewhat welcome news. We had the genius idea of finishing the hike around the entire mountain, and then driving to the top! At the very end of the hike, we stopped in the park office where they did have freshly printed maps of the new trail locations. When it comes to maps, paper is better.

As it turns out, though the hike was longer than we intended, and we didn’t hike to the top, it was actually a very nice hike. The trail was not crowded at all, unlike the main trail to the top which we saw packed with people.
The fall colors were beautiful – both the leaves on the ground and in
the trees. It wIMG_3251as also just a wonderfully cool day to go for a long hike. Once we drove to the top, it was late enough in the afternoon that the crowds had shrank some, and we didn’t even have to wait to park (we were told the wait earlier in the date IMG_3259was over half an hour). The views at the top were phenomenal and we were so happy we had finally reached our ultimate destination. The sky was completely clear. We could make out all kinds of landmarks  – in addition to Fancy Gap, Hanging Rock, Kings Mountain, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro we even were able to see some buildings in the far distance which had to be Durham.

The trail map of what we hiked is below. For anyone passing through, not looking to hike, but with a half hour to spare, I highly recommend driving to the top. You won’t regret it! Or if you have a couple hours, hiking from the campground to the top would be a nice 4-5 mile out. Alternatively, you could actually do the hike we did and take the Grindstone Trail (you pick it up just outside the campground) to the top, so you would really do the entire park, and it would probably be around 9 miles. Sarah and I will definitely be back to this park, not just to witness the views at the top, but there is another section of the park along the Yadkin River that we want to see.

IMG_3270   Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Entrance to Pilot Mountain State Park Office (1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, PinnacleNC 27043)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 6.5 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

On our way home from Pilot Mountain, exhausted from the hike, we decided to check out a new brewery. I’m thinking this whole hiking and brewery combo might become a bit of a theme… The brewery we selected is called Small Batch, and it is in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem. It’s philosophy, as the name suggests, is making small batch beers, focusing on experimentation, rather than focusing on creating staple beers.

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I got a flight. They also were able to provide (pregnant) Sarah with a ginger beer, IMG_3260which she very much enjoyed. Easily my favorite was the Mr. Lemon Man IPA, and the Cucumber Basil Saison was good too – I think I would have enjoyed it even more were it Spring. A little research led me to discovering that the Mr. Lemon Man IPA used to be called Limonhead, and it is a rare beer that they do make over and over again. We also had some very delicious food. Particularly, the pumpkin bread pudding! Overall, we both really enjoyed the atmosphere of this place and the friendliness of the staff. If you find yourself in Winston-Salem and have already done the foothills thing – this is a great place to catch a game, sample some beer, or grab a bite to eat!

Brewery Info: Small Batch Brewery (241 West 5th Street Winston-Salem, NC 27101)

  • Number of Beers: 8 taps, beers continually rotating
  • Favorites: Mr. Lemonhead IPA
  • Prices: The Flight was $8 which I thought was a little high for only 4 beers. Most pints are $5.
  • Food: Gourmet Bar Food

Hillsborough Day – Occoneechee Mountain and Mystery Brewing

Occoneechee Mountain is a very popular hiking destination in the Triangle. While there are only a few miles of trails in this State Park, it has much to offer, including the mighty waters of the Eno and Occoneechee “Mountain” itself – which at 867 feet, boasts the title of the highest point in Orange County.

On this beautiful Saturday in August, we elected to make a full day out of hiking Occoneechee, by ending the hike at Mystery Brewery Company. We also had the fortune of having our dear friends Patrick and Marissa join us for the adventure.

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Riverwalk Overlooking the Eno. Near the Starting Point

We started the hike in downtown Hillsborough, beginning on the Riverwalk, a paved trail along the Eno River. About 500 feet before the Riverwalk trail hits Eno Mountain Road, it turns to a trail, which is currently marked as “closed”. Don’t worry – we had no issues bushwhacking it through. We took Eno Mountain Road across the Eno River, and quickly made a right onto a gravel trail which led us to Occoneechee Mountain State Park. There are several hiking options once at the park. We elected to start along the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, then take the Brown Elkin Knob Trail to the Cheshnut Oak Trail (with a pit stop atop Occoneechee Mountain), which hits the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail to finish back to where we started. Basically, this enabled us to cover a lot of ground, and still see the top of top of Occconeechee Mountain, which we would have missed had we just done the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail on its own. See the trail map below for specifics.

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Trail Map – Full Map Here

If you haven’t been to Occonneechee yet, you should. The elevation changes make it a truly unique hike in the Triangle, and the view atop Occonneechee isn’t to be missed. If you want to skip the Riverwalk part of the hike, you can make it much shorted, by just starting in the Parking area at the south area of the park.

We exited the park in the same area we started and headed back towards town via Eno Mountain Road, turning on Dimmocks Mill Road, and then Nash Street where Mystery Brewing Company’s “public house” is (you’ll pass the brewery itself on Dimmocks Mill Road, but its not open to the public).

This was probably the 4th time I’d been to Mystery Brewing Company, and each time I’ve been I’ve liked it more than the last. I was unimpressed several years ago when their offerings where limited, and mostly Belgians. They have since grown their offerings, with over a dozen options of continuously changing options available, of all types of beers (though Belgians are still their primary focus). At any given time they have a “Core Four” of four seasonally rotating drafts available, and “Novellas” which continually rotate and are often more experimental in nature. Also a couple of guest taps to boot.

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Mystery Brewing Company’s Draft Offerings

Sarah and I started with a couple of “Cour Four” beers – the Lockwood’s Retreat (IPA), and Evangeline (Summer Saison). Both were quite tasty, but especially the Evangeline – their Saison’s have never let us down. As one of their guest taps they had Wicked Weed’s Pernicious IPA, which we simply couldn’t pass up for our next beer. Patrick was a little more adventurous and tried a Novella – the “Karass”, a Lime Basil Wit. It didn’t hit the mark for any of us, but I do like that they experiment, and I have no doubt someone enjoyed it immensely.

To finish out the hike, we left Mystery Brewing and headed north on Nash until we hit King Street, which we took into town, admiring the historic houses (some dating back to the 18th century) along the way. If you still have time to kill I recommend grabbing some food (and maybe even another beer or two) at The Wooden Nickel, a quaint little beer bar that is my favorite in all of the Triangle. I’ll save a post for that on another day so I have an excuse to go back there!

Hike Info:

  • MapMyFitness Link
  • Starting Point: Parking Deck next to Weaver Street Market (228 S Churton St, Hillsborough, NC 27278)
  • End Point: Same
  • Length: 6.5 Miles
  • Approximate Hiking Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (excluding beer break)

Brewery Info: Mystery Brewing Company (230 S Nash St, Hillsborough, NC 27278)

  • Number of Beers: 14+ – (4 rotating seasonals, 8+ constantly rotating experimental beers, ,2 guest taps)
  • Favorites: Any Saison
  • Prices: Decent ($5 for a pint, $3.50 for a 10 ounce pour).
  • Food: Meat and cheese plates
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Mystery Patio and Euchre Domination

Gibb’s Hundred Brewery

After a lovely visit with my Grammie in Greensboro, Sarah and I decided to check out a relatively new brewery in town we had heard about. While I have been to Greensboro many times in order to visit family, I hadn’t spent much time downtown. Gibbs Hundred opened up last year in what appears to be a quite historic part of the town, with lots of redevelopment in progress.

We didn’t stay too long at the brewery, just long enough to get a feel of the place and sample a flight. All of the beers were decent, I liked the ESB the best, and Sarah particularly enjoyed the Milk Stout. Disappointed that they didn’t have any IPA offerings at the moment, we also split one of the guest taps (Wicked Weed’s Pernicious IPA).

It seems like they are slowly building up their beer offerings and we will most definitely be back to check it out!

Brewery Info: Gibb’s Hundred Brewery (117 W Lewis St Greensboro, North Carolina, 27406)

  • Number of Beers: 5 (The GPA, ESB, and Milk Stout seem like they will be available year round).
  • Favorites: ESB, Milk Stout
  • Prices: Average
  • Food: Some packaged snacks

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D9 Brewery

D9 Brewery is just up the road from where Sarah’s Dad lives in Cornelius, NC. It’s set off the road in a sort of industrial park, and from the outside isn’t much to look at. Once inside; however, they have done a great job with the space, and it’s a very welcoming place to grab a beer.

I was thrilled to see that of their 9 beers, 5 were of the IPA/Pale ale persuasion. We did a flight and tried them all, and unfortunately didn’t really find one that separated itself from the pack. I had particular high hopes for the “Riddler” a grapefruit IPA, hoping it would resemble the Sculpin Grapefruit, but no such luck. If we had to pick, Sarah and I both enjoyed the Twelve the most.

We also had some delicious food from a Food truck on site – called Food Freaks of NC. Stuffed gourmet burgers. Really awesome.

Brewery Info: D9 Brewery (11138-C Treynorth Drive
Cornelius, NC 28031)

  • Number of Beers: 9ish
  • Favorites: Twelve
  • Prices: Most Pints are $5
  • Food: Food Trucks on site

Weasel Boy Brewing – Zanesville, Ohio

A family reunion brought myself, Sarah, and my parents to Cambridge, Ohio for the weekend. This is a place we had been to countless times before, and we typically engage in the same routine, visiting the same favorite spots on each visit. This visit though, we decided to venture off the beaten path a bit and check out what Southeastern Ohio offered in terms of craft beer. We found Weasel Boy Brewing, about a half hour’s drive west of where we were staying. We were quite pleased with our find!

Sarah and I ordered the flight. IMG_2926To our surprise, they didn’t ask us to choose which
beers we wanted, but rather poured all 9 beers they had on tap (Unfortunately, they were out of the Dancing Ferrett IPA). Overall the beer selection was fairly diverse and tasty. Even in the dead of summer, Sarah took to the Brown Stoat Stout. I really enjoyed the Paw Paw Pale ale, which had a distinct banana flavor too it (after a bit of googling I realized this was from the Paw Paw fruit they use in the beer).

We sat outside on the patio overlooking the river, while drinking beer and eating Pizza, enjoying the bluegrass jam session inside and felt right at home.

Brewery Info:

  • Number of Beers: 10 – (5 Year Round, 5 Seasonals)
  • Favorites: Brown Stoat Stout, Paw Paw Pale Ale
  • Prices: Decent ($4 Year Round Beers, $4.75 Seasonals)
  • Food: Yes – Pizza
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River View
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Stout & Paw Paw Pale