NearandFarAZ

When it comes to life’s simple pleasures, I believe there are few things that can top a walk through beautiful scenery, capped off with a bite to eat or a frosty brew (or both!) in an out-of-the-way café or brewery.

With that in mind, I am kicking off two new blog series, “A Hike and a Bite” and “A Hike and a Brew.”

Along the way, I plan to feature treks through the stunning, rugged terrain so common in the U.S. Southwest, as well as strolls through the fascinating city centers that I love to explore all over the U.S. and around the world.

Every now and then, the two converge for an extra-special adventure of gorgeous hiking and charming city sidewalks. (Sedona, AZ; Durango, CO; and San Francisco, CA come to mind).

For my introductory “A Hike and a Brew,” I am heading to a city that is virtually synonymous with beer – Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Brew Town

Although Milwaukee has a number of nicknames – MKE, Cream City, City of Festivals – I like the simple “Brew Town.” After all, it WAS beer that made Milwaukee famous all those years ago.

These days, the city has transformed from the heyday of its massive beer industry into a hub of fun craft breweries and scenic riverside trails.

IMG_1944On my recent trip I set out to see the city from the Riverwalk, a wide concrete path that follows the Milwaukee River through the downtown area.DSC00353I started from the cozy Uber Tap Room & Cheese Bar located in the Old Third World Third Street area, just steps from the Riverwalk.

I must say that it came in very handy that, along with a great selection of local beers, the taproom also served Wisconsin’s other specialty – cheese. A flight of beers and a cheese board were definitely in order!DSC08007 (1)IMG_1902Once on the Riverwalk, I loved the springtime flowers that were just starting to bloom, the rowing teams that were gliding across the shining river surface, and the quirky public art dispersed along the trail.DSC08042DSC00362IMG_1922Serious beer

Not far from the downtown, the Riverwalk passes by the popular Lakefront Brewery, a cavernous old coal-fired power plant that was converted into a brewery in the late 1990s. The brewery does a brisk business in draft and bottled beers, with names like Riverwest Stein Amber Lager, Happy Glamper Ale, and Eazy Teazy Tea-Infused Ale. Lakefront’s bottled beers are sold all over town, but sometimes you just have to go to the source.DSC08141DSC09929DSC09927Situated right along the Milwaukee River, the brewery’s outdoor patio seating offers a sweeping view of the Holton Street Viaduct Bridge, with the impressive Marsupial footbridge below it.DSC09909DSC08183DSC08192Changing landscape

After the Lakefront Brewery, the scenery transitions once again to a quiet, leafy refuge, where frequent bridges offer unobstructed views of the river and skyline.DSC00084DSC09953DSC00104Beerline

Keep going on the Riverwalk, and the trail soon turns into the Beerline, a relatively new biking and walking path that preserves a bit of Milwaukee’s industrial-brewery past. The 3.7-mile stretch of trail follows the old brewery freight line that became known as the Milwaukee Road.DSC00013DSC00008DSC00046The railroad shut down in the mid-1980s, and the abandoned old rail line was later converted into a multi-use trail. The unique murals and public art along the route make it an interesting and fun trail to walk.DSC00043DSC00066DSC00063And rest assured, you won’t go thirsty along the Beerline. The trail passes closely by Cafe Corazon, a neighborhood Mexican restaurant that serves tasty, authentic food in a historic building. Many other breweries, bars, and restaurants are also clustered nearby.DSC00003DSC09997Lakefront

A walk through Milwaukee would not be complete without a visit to the the city’s greatest natural feature – Lake Michigan. And dominating the lakefront is the stunning Milwaukee Art Museum. Whether sunny or cloudy, the sight of the graceful, white-winged building is breath-taking.DSC00346DSC00242DSC08257DSC08229Don’t stop with the museum, though. I also recommend a walk along the Oak Leaf Trail on the waterfront for great views of the harbor and the city skyline.DSC00297DSC00284DSC00180

 

Although Milwaukee is a large city of nearly 600,000 people, its center is compact, and it’s a great place for a stroll. Oh yes, and a brew!

Getting there is surprisingly easy, as is getting around once you’re there. I didn’t rent a car, and I was able to see everything I set out to see in a few days. Milwaukee’s main airport, General Mitchell International Airport, is served by most major U.S. airlines (American, Delta, Southwest, Frontier, Alaska, and United). The GO Riteway Shuttle booth at the airport offers quick rides to many downtown hotels, while taxi companies and Uber and Lyft also offer service to and from the airport, as well as around the city. To guide foot traffic downtown, dozens of informative street signs point the way.

 

 

You know that feeling you get when you return to a place you love? You know exactly what you want to do, and you’re excited to get started? That’s how I felt on my most recent trip to San Francisco.

I arrived on the day before my birthday, and I couldn’t wait to hit the streets. Just one little problem, however: Rain. The online forecast for the weekend was all clouds, umbrellas, and raindrops.

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View from under the umbrella

Still, as I checked into my hotel on that slightly dreary Friday morning, I was encouraged by the attitude of the hotel concierge. “We’ve had worse,” he said when I asked him about the weather. With that, I tucked an umbrella into my tote and headed off.

Although I’ve visited San Francisco a number of times over the past eight years and experienced all types of weather, this trip was unique in one way: It was the first time I was completely on my own. When none of my friends or family members could get away to join me, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to come up a personalized agenda of favorites.

So here goes – my very own list of San Francisco treats:

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The third Monday of January – it’s that blue time of the year when I come to terms with a few things: the Christmas tree MUST come down; the sun doesn’t ALWAYS shine in Arizona; and I NEED to plan some adventures.

Last year at this time, I took advantage of mid-January – officially the bluest time of the year – to set some travel goals. Not only did it get me through my least favorite month, but it served as a springboard for some truly awesome trips.

At the time, I was about eight months into my travel and hiking blog, and I had some big plans for the coming year.

Now, it’s time to see how I did on my list of travel resolutions of 2016, and to set some new ones for 2017.

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Have you heard the bit about the rock and the moss, and how they’re “lichen” their relationship?

“Jammer” Carl has, and he rocked that joke (pardon the pun, but I think Carl would be proud) and a whole lot of others all the way over the Going to the Sun Road.

The jokes and puns were nonstop on my recent Red Bus Tour through Glacier National Park in Montana. I found it charming – just one sweet aspect of the Western Alpine tour I took from Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald Valley to Logan Pass, and back again.

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For the past decade or so, it seems, each time I’ve mentioned my home state of North Dakota, I’ve gotten the same response, “Ah, oilfield country.”

An improvement, perhaps, over the previous “Oh, don’t you just love that movie, ‘Fargo?’” but still. It made me wonder if oil activity is what truly characterizes western North Dakota these days.

So, as I was planning my recent road trip to North Dakota, I decided to find out for myself. I hadn’t been back to the western half of the state in years, and I was curious about whether the oil industry had taken a toll on the spectacular scenery I remembered.

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Growing up in North Dakota, I can’t say that I truly appreciated the beauty of the prairie.

Oh, I loved being outdoors, and I regularly explored the acreage of my family’s farm. But to say it was beautiful? I’m afraid I didn’t go there. “So flat.” “No forests.” “Hardly any rivers.” “How far is the nearest beach?” – These were among the laments of my growing-up years.

As I matured, of course, I came to realize the truth of that old adage: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And when it comes to the prairie, I can now say that I – the beholder – find a wealth of things to appreciate.

It’s been 30 years since I have lived in North Dakota, and although I’ve visited from time to time, those trips were usually more about seeing family than exploring the countryside.

So, as my 40th high school reunion was approaching this summer, I decided to make my return a road trip, with plenty of time to revel in the things I so blithely overlooked as a child and young adult.

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I’ve road-tripped all over the left side of U.S. map. Any state west of the Mississippi? Yep, I’ve put rubber to the road there.

But until recently, Montana sadly was not on the list. For some reason, I had missed the Big Sky state on my trips up the West Coast, through the Southwest, and down the Midwest.

That all changed this summer, when I took the ultimate American road trip – heading straight north from Arizona to Glacier Country in Montana.

And as it turns out, it seems that I saved the best for last. Yes, I’ll say it: Montana is tops for road-tripping in the western U.S, and here’s why:

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Canada was never part of the plan. As I was plotting my summer 2016 road trip, I had one major destination in mind: Glacier National Park in Montana. I spent the winter and spring dreaming of hiking the Iceberg Lake and Highline trails and taking a boat ride on the dazzling Swiftcurrent Lake.

But, as I tend to do while planning a big trip, I began researching online for top things to do in the Glacier region.

What can I say? Canada had me at my first glimpse of the Prince of Wales Hotel.

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My trip by the numbers

Days on the road: 15

Total miles: 5,275

Traveled through: 9 U.S. states, 1 Canadian province

Temperature range: 46° F (East Glacier, Montana) to 101° F (Cheyenne, Wyoming; Williston, North Dakota; Pueblo, Colorado)

Thunderstorms: 3 (Spiritwood, North Dakota; La Junta, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico)

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Driving into an intense thunderstorm on I-94 east of Jamestown, ND

Speeding tickets: 1 (Glendive, Montana, Highway 16)

Construction zones: 1 billion 🙂

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I’ve spent my entire life land-locked – first on the Great Plains, and later in the mountains of Northern Arizona. While I’ve loved them both, I have a secret confession: I’m an ocean girl at heart.

 

In my opinion, there is nothing more refreshing and rejuvenating than a visit to the coast. I get giddy just thinking about the foamy surf, the salty breeze, and the screeching gulls.

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So when I planned a recent trip from my Arizona home to Irvine, California for a conference, there was no way I was going to pass up a visit to the Southern California coast.

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