Monday, August 1, 2011

All but done

I wore some of these guidebooks out: West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and parts of a dozen other states.   We covered 9,747 miles and averaged 17.5 mpg.  We saw four great lakes, all but Ontario, and spent the most time on Superior and Michigan. Turned out to be more than a summer's worth of lake viewing. I rank the sand dune shores of eastern Lake Michigan the highest overall, with the allure of the coldness and blueness of Superior a close second.

As I took my last RV park shower, I thought of my next bath in my own home, how there would be absorbent mats to step on, water pressure that was familiar, move around room that was comfortable. My last RV shower wasn't bad. Any RV park shower with a dry floor is pretty high ranking. I thought back over the summer to a perfect 10 bathroom, in Ohio Amish Country, near Berlin, with a private bath setup that rivaled the Houstonian, including fancy rain shower heads. I took a long shower there. In contrast to the Amish country bath, I declined to even go into the bathroom in Hot Springs, NC. And of course, I remembered the Kohler bath showroom, where I wanted to crawl into one of their display tubs but was pretty sure I was supposed to keep my clothes on and look. I am looking forward to my next shower. I'll be able to leave the shampoo in the tub and hang up the towels on a rack and leave them to dry when I am done. And the spongy bath mat is going to be divine.

It has been a summer consumed by thinking about water, from the lakes to the flooding rivers to the drought at home and to the water bill waiting for me there. I'll be fighting with the City, explaining that there is no way my mostly empty house used 35,000 gallons in June. I've been calculating. That would mean leaving a faucet running outside 8 hours a day all month long. Something to look forward to, being greeted by a brown crackling lawn (I left instructions not to try to save it) and that water bill. Traveling in the RV, I am very aware of how much water we use: I fill our 35 gallon tank twice a week. There's another 200 gallons a week in showers outside the RV and maybe 100 gallons on two loads of laundry. Daisy drinks three gallons a week. I cannot get from those numbers to 35,000 gallons in a month. Should be fun negotiating.

What a contrast, between brown blistery Texas, suffering its worst drought since 1925, and the verdant green landscape of the Great Lakes states, with their rolling farms and little lakes everywhere. There's no doubt I had better scenery this summer than my friends in Texas. But soon I'll be joining in the prayers for rain and begging for a hurricane too. It will be good to be home.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Discovering Columbus, Indiana

In every state there are certain town names you can count on finding: Lincoln, Salem, Paris, London, Columbus. But not every Columbus has the claim to fame that Columbus Indiana has.

This town of 40,000 an hour south of Indianapolis is a company town; Cummins Engine is headquartered there. The story of Cummins is unique in itself. Five generations ago a bank founder had a chauffer who loved to tinker with engines. The chauffer, who name was Cummins, invented the first diesel engine for vehicles. His boss bankrolled him, and together they started a fortune 500 company.

Time passed. Cummins grew. Mid 20th century Cummins established a foundation to pay the fee for credentialed architects to design any public building being built in the town. Soon Churches and businesses and people building their homes followed suit.

The result?

World renowned architecture, green spaces, public art. I M Pei designed the library, Don Hisaka the jail, Kevin Roche the Cummins headquarters, Isaac Hodgson the Courthouse. Well known architects are fond of designing a building in Columbus to be part of the scene where multiple buildings have been AIA design award winners.

I love what a forward thinking corporation can do for a town. I'd put this town and Kohler on the list of best towns of the summer trip.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

On leaving Michigan

A week ago we left the upper peninsula of Michigan, and I really thought we'd be done with lower Michigan in two days. Well, I was wrong. We spent a full week peeking at lakes on both sides, Huron and Michigan.
I had always thought the popular western side, along Lake Michigan, was pricey and crowded and overrated. Of course, that was based on one quick drive thirty years ago on a beautiful sunny Sunday. This time, I took my time. And it was crowded, if the day was a sunny weekend, and who could blame all those people for wanting some of that sandy dune shoreline, with water that is at times warm enough to swim?
The towns are quaint and full of flowers. At least ten towns along the shore plant petunia borders along the curbs from one end of town to the other. Then they water and weed all those beds. It seemed worth it to me.

But the most amazing feature of the shoreline are the dunes.  Formed by sand blowing from prevailing southeasterly winds, the dunes shift and mound and grow, advance and retreat, trap inland lakes and then reclaim the lakes back into Lake Michigan.  In Sleeping Bear Dunes, a man named Pierce Stocking, a lumberman who loved the dunes, decided to share them with the world.  He thought if he built a road through the dunes, then we could all stand on top of 200 foot mountains of sand and share in the exhilaration of the blue waters and the wind blowing our faces.  And he did it.  Now a National Seashore, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are accessible to everyone, and Pierce Stocking Drive is the highlight. 

Thank you, Mr. Stocking.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To all my friends back home, from Alpena, MI, where everything is squishy today

We have received your kind shipment of hot and humid air ( Detroit 94/75, Minneapolis 97/80) and it has made us so homesick for Houston (93/78) that we are thinking about turning to the south where a/c is considered a necessity. Besides, we don’t want to miss the tropical storm season.

Taking its cue from the rising outside temps, our frig went on the fritz (50 is the best it gets right now) and tomorrow we will be getting a new circuit board.  Hopefully my watermelon will be cool enough to eat again before we get too far south (where people know watermelons are supposed to be icy cold).  We plan to hug the shore of Lake Michigan as close as we can for a few breezes before hitting the non-peninsula states to the south (Indianapolis (95/78). We might stop at a few places that advertise they are KOOL inside.

As you might gather from my jiggly bicycling movies in my photo albums Mr. Lincoln and I have logged a few bike miles this summer in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. They have glorious long bike paths here. But today, it was too muggy to bike. We ducked inside NOAA's shipwreck museum to watch movies about the Great Lakes storm of November 1913 when twelve ships disappeared to watery graves.  Made me shiver for a moment.

This weekend marked the 108th Chicago to Mackinac sailboat races. The 333-mile race from just off Navy Pier to Mackinac Island is the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world. An estimated 3,500 crewmembers on 355 boats participated.  Last night a storm with 60 mph winds flipped one of the boats, and two crew members died.   To hear this on the news right after visiting the shipwreck museum brought an erie present day reality to history. Just the day before I had peered out into the water hoping to glimpse some of the boats.  It never occurred to me when I heard rain on the roof in the night that someone would die on the Lakes.

Looking at Huron today, who would ever think this pale blue wonder would wreak havoc?

Great Lakes weather is highly unpredictable.  Sailors leaving port in balmy seas can be confronted within hours by swells thirty feet high.  Unlike ocean swells of that size, these are not rolling but crashing swells, as in swamp and smash your boat. (It was a scary movie and even scarier present day reality; I am not going sailing out there, especially not on an off season November special).  

One more Great Lake amazing fact: did you know that if you spread the water of the Great Lakes over the whole US, we would be nine feet under water?  I'd like to do that this summer.  Pour some on the Southwest.  Pour some onTexas.  If we could just tip Superior on edge for about an hour.....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Who painted those rocks?

The simple answer is God did, but I will add a few details.

The cliffs are pre-Cambrian rock that was once the ocean floor of a tropical sea, and the layers are different sediment accumulations on that open floor. Then the oceans dried up and the glaciers came, carving the rock into these 200 foot cliffs and leaving behind Lake Superior.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume and contains more water than all the other Great Lakes. If you emptied the other four Great Lakes into it, you would need three more Lake Eries to fill it up. It is 400 miles long, 160 miles wide, 1400 feet deep. And chilly. 40 degrees on average. Did I mention blue and clear?

Back to the painted rocks. The rocks are porous and small springs seep from them.  Iron, copper, and various other minerals in the water paint the scene.

Water carves the formations. Superior was balmy the day we took our tour, but when the winds shift from the north, watch out for 8 foot seas. In the winter, ice forms a fairy castle display and further erodes the rock as it thaws.

All this geological history led to a landscape so precious that the US made it into a National Park, one of the must-sees on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I want a bath

Kohler Wisconsin is a jewel of a town. It is a company built town and has received awards for community planning. And in the heart of the town is the Kohler showroom, a design piece de resistance. (I don't spell very well in French, but I can pronounce it.)

More art gallery than sales exhibit, it is a salute to the bathroom. Ode to the commode. Fete to the toilet.

Words cannot describe.
I direct you to the photos.

On leaving Wisconsin


Why would anyone want to leave Wisconsin before winter? I cannot think of a single good reason, except that my map is worn to shreds.Minnesota might have gained the same status in my traveling book of records, except that the legislature reached a budgeting impass and shut down the state.  This is unfortunate for travelers, because all the state parks and all the waysides closed down.  Chained, locked, shuttered.  What this means is that all the precious natural wonders that the state so carefully protected by making them into parks are completely inaccessible.  I have the distinction of being among the last people to see the headwaters of the Mississippi the day before the parks closed.  Nobody knows for sure if it is still running, but I guess if shipping dries up in New Orleans, they'll send someone over to check it out.

So, we left Minnesota to keep its natural wonders locked and returned to Wisconsin.  Door County was there for the taking, with its multiple county parks (free) and state parks ($5 pass gives you time to explore and then move on) and Washington Island, out on the tippy tip of the thumb of Wisconsin's mitten shaped land. The name Door County comes from the French traders version of the Indian description of the passage between Washington Island and the peninsula as Death's Door. So many ships were wrecked there that the enterprising Europeans began to use the Indian portage at what is now Sturgeon Bay to access lower Green Bay and its lucrative trading routes.  Eventually it occured to them to dig a canal, and so Northern Door county is technically now an island. 

When I arrived at Death's Door, readying for a ferry ride and biking Washington Island, I suddenly felt as though I was about to step off the end of the earth.  The passage does look a little intimidating when the sun is not shining.  I felt all alone, as though I might never see anyone I knew again.  The feeling went away on the island, a quiet laid back place with its fair share of bars, one of them serving fresh lawyers.  I didn't ask.

 Minnesota and Wisconsin have a lot in common.  Biking trails, for instance.  Miles and miles of paved trails.  Both have more lakes than they can name, especially in the north.  Both have so much foilage that it is difficult to see much of the Great Lakes.  People own the land and build houses on the Great Lakes, and they don't seem to be inclined to clear the thick woods that give them privacy and prevent drivers from peering through their windows to get a peek of blue water.  Contrast this to Hiway 1 along the Pacific and I begin to appreciate California and Oregon's insistence on keeping the ocean in the public domain. 
Today, however, I discovered the stretch between Two Rivers and Manitowoc on Lake Michigan.  There the two cities have put in a hiking biking path along the water with wide open views.  Another reason never to leave Wisconsin. 

SWIP (senior, with iphone)

When I was nineteen I could walk into any convenience store and buy a six-pack of beer.  It was cool back then, looking older than I was. 

This summer, Carl has been routinely buying two senior tickets, one for him, and one for me.  He’s operating under the principle that rules differ from place to place, and maybe I am a senior.  It’s $2 here and $1 there, savings that are supposed to make me feel better about being older.  

But just between you and me, I wish they would card me.  I’m not a senior, I am a with-it, iphone packing chick. And I don’t need those senior discounts, because I am paying my way with the Gas Buddy ap on my iphone.  If I can’t save us a nickel a gallon every fill-up, I’m just not looking hard enough.

Got to go now, time to check today’s Groupon on my iphone to see if there’s half-price bungee-jumping in the area. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

14 Waterfall County

Marinette County, WI, has a 14 waterfall tour. How much better could it get?

I read a little further. "Park in the power line easement." "Take a small dirt road to the east." "Turnoff to parking can be rough." Descriptions not written to warm an RV driver's heart. Well, there's still nine waterfalls to see.

Reading on, I find "Follow some treacherous terrain along a high cliff." "Rocky and hilly terrain make good walking shoes a must." Surely insurance would cover the ER trip, but why risk it? Well, there's still four waterwalls to see.  Let's see which ones.

"Carney Rapids is not a waterfall but an area of rushing water just to the west of the bridge." No need to drive cross country for that. Well, there's still three waterfalls to see, and they are all on the same road.

"Some improvements have been made, but the road remains generally winding with speed limits ranging from 25 to 45 mph." Well, we don't drive that fast anyway.  And it is the longest Rustic Road in the state.  That's an extra bonus.

Uh oh, the road is a washboard. Well, just the first 17 miles are.  Won't take long at 15 mph.  Those jiggling dishes in the cabinet are plastic and they'll be just fine.

Look, here's waterfall number one. Wow, should have put on bug spray.  Well,  I've heard about these northern mosquitoes, and finally, I get to see some.  Yep, they sure are big.  Guess they could not read the NO PEST sign.  I read it and left Daisy in the RV.

* * *

Sometimes it is the destination, sometimes it is the journey.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Terra Cotta Warriors, stand aside

I will go out of my way to see the creations of people with a passion that no one quite understands. Maybe looking at their worlds makes me feel more normal.

First is the House on the Rock, in the same valley as Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked and built his masterpiece Taliesen.

Look then at the creations of a retired Lumberman at the Concrete Park in Wisconsin.

If you are as speechless as I was when I visited, then I feel even more normal. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Superior in so many ways

beautiful lost in fog

and on a clear day
4th largest lake in the world
largest freshwater
touching three states and Canada
40 degree water
partially freezing in the winter
warming a bit in the summer

livelihood of many a shipper and dockworker
transporter of iron ore and coal
home to Great Lakes freighters reaching 1000 feet in length
grave to many like the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald
icy blast in the winter

unbelievably blue

long summer days

My baby loves me!

How do I know? Cause he dropped me off at the start of this fabulous 15 mile all downhill trail from Carlton MN to Duluth. Best bike ride in history.

Meanwhile, he parked at the terminus and biked UPHILL to meet me. That's love, yes it is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lake with a river running through it

That's what Bemidji means, a lake with a river running through it. I asked both the pronunciation and the meaning. It's an Indian word. Indeed there is a Lake Bemidji with a river running through it, namely the Mighty Mississippi. Above, I am standing on a rock in the headwaters where it flows out of Lake Itasca (named after our RV, by the way) on its way to Bemidji Lake and Cass Lake and one I can't spell and then to the Gulf of Mexico, 1,475 feet lower in elevation and 2,275 miles away. When I said our plans for the summer were to visit the Great Lakes, I didn't realize that I would learn so much about rivers. The mighty Mississippi drains the eastern half of the US, and has 93 major and minor tributaries. It is the fourth longest river in the world, surpassed in length only by the Nile, the Amazon and the Yangtze. 

Here's some folks crossing the Mississippi about a quarter mile from the source.  Amazing to think it goes from this little stream to a mile wide at Cairo.
The search for the headwaters of the Mississippi was all consuming to some folks who got towns and counties and trails named after them in these parts.  Why all the bother about the headwaters?  Well, besides being geologically interesting, the Mississippi was politically important, setting boundaries between the US and France. The tip of Minnesota projects up into Canada because at the time of the Treaty of 1783 in Paris, the headwaters were thought to be much farther north. 

But I stray from Bemidji.  Bemidji, also known as the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, is about 50 miles northeast of the Fargo, ND.  However, since Minot ND is 91 degrees and flooded and Bismark ND is flooding and Fargo warns of a heat wave, I don't plan to color in North Dakota this trip. Think I will stay right here in Paul Bunyan country.

(had to use Daisy for scale here.....she's the white spec by the ax)

The biking trails are fabulous here, all paved and fairly flat.  Minnesota is not much on elevation, with the highest point about 2800 feet and the lowest 1400.  That makes for some Texas flatlander type biking.

And guess who I spotted in Nisswa, cute little town on the 112 mile Paul Bunyan bike trail.   I knew no one would believe me, so I took a picture with him.  I wondered about him being here but then I realized we are pretty close to Canada.  Even got Canadian TV tonight. 

I think Justin may have been here counting lakes.  The Minnesota license plates say 10,000 lakes, but in actuality, there's more like 15,000.  There's over a hundred in Itasca State Park.  I don't know how they count the little lakes the RV parks dig to make themselves more scenic, but since the count is so loose anyway, I suppose it doesn't matter.  What does matter is that Minnesota is not running out of water.  All you folks in Arizona and California and Nevada might consider moving up here. Plenty of water to drink here and you probably won't need to water your lawn either.

Course, it is a little nippy here in the winter.  I met a gentleman at a fruit stand in St Cloud who said he moved from Houston, Texas.  First winter he was here it snowed 36 feet on Halloween and the snow didn't melt until May.  Coldest winter he remembers was 54 below.  Don't put your tongue on anything metal in that weather, for sure.  I saw photos back in Nisswa of golf tournaments on the lakes in the winter.  Guess you don't get your balls back after you putt them in the hole.

The natives are enjoying swimming now that it is officially summer.  I put one toe in Sunday night and changed my mind.  I asked the girls in the pool where they were from:  two from Minnesota  and two from Canada.  I understand folks from around here will swim in anything except Lake Superior.  Superior is too nippy even for natives.  But in little lakes like this one, you'll find the locals playing with wild abandon.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Partly cloudy with a chance of flowers

I know where all the rain that is missing Texas has gone: the Great Lakes. So far Fridays have been the only sunny days of the week. When a beautiful Friday happens, the natives go wild. This week on Friday they were all on bikes along the Root River Valley, which has a 60 mile paved bike trail through little towns and along the river, past farms and barns. We found the beginning of the trail in Houston at the Houston Nature Center, complete with bike sculptures on display in the gardens.

Carl started his ride there, headed toward Peterson, about 20 miles upriver, where I drove Daisy and the RV before biking out to meet him.
It seemed fitting to end our day of biking in Austin, home to the Spam Museum and Yogi Bear's Jellystone Campground.  First time I stayed at a Yogi Bear campground. Yogi Bear had a large population of little girls on pink bikes cruising till dark and back at it at sunrise. One of them asked Daisy’s name, twice. Then she asked, “Is Daisy a boy or a girl?” I wondered would a boy dog named Daisy have the same problems as a boy named Sue? Three boys asked permission to pet Daisy as well, and they were pleased at her talking. Then they all thanked me politely. I smiled an approving smile at their mother. She raised them right.
Yogi Bear also had a big bouncy jumping park. Since there was no posted Seniors only time, I stayed off of it.

The weather has been largely unpredictable, changing from sunny to sprinkles at will. The best indicator of beautiful weather is meeting a line of Harleys out for a drive. Harleys are also a great indicator that you have found a scenic route. When you meet Harleys, it is going to be a great day. 

If the Harley's turn out to be wrong, you can always duck inside someplace like the National Eagle Center at Wabasha, an education and preservation institution, to learn some interesting facts from these raptors who have lost their ability to fly and therefore cannot be released into the wild.  Most of them were hit by autos.  This is the closest I have ever been to one of the magnificent birds.  Since they have no survival issues in captivity, they may live as long as 40 years.
This is Angel.  She's 12. A beauty. no?  They found her hopping around on the ground, about age one, with a wounded wing that would have prevented her from ever reaching adulthood.  Lucky Angel to have been rescued.

Angel has a soft imprint on humans. She was raised as a chick by eagles, so she knows she is an eagle. However, humans are her flock. Eagles raised entirely in captivity have a hard human imprint.

Angel is primarily calm, but every once in a while she jumps off and tries to fly into the crowd. We have to give her space. Did you know that the only thing that ever touches an eagle is a mate? No touching Angel, not even by her handler. And that eagles mate till death do us part? If one of the pair dies, the other finds another mate. Just like pioneers, they must go on to propogate. Only 20% reach adulthood, so the urge to propogate is strong and necessary.

One final word about the weather. Be careful what you wish for. It is supposed to stop raining for a while next week, and Minneapolis is going to reach 100. The weather report includes a warning that the mosquito population is about to explode. Clear skies, stay away!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The farmer in the Dells

In some states, cows outnumber humans. But despite being a major dairy state, in Wisconsin there are 5.6 million people to 3.4 million cows. That means that for every person, there is 2/3 of a cow walking around somewhere. That seems fairly manageable until you throw in the number of people that own cows: 1 million. Those farmers are outnumbered 3.4 to 1. If anyone ever organized those cows, it would be all over for the humans. (I don’t know if I believe these figures. Seems like owning 3.4 cows is not much of a dairy.)

Geographically speaking, I think cows control more space than humans. They have valley after valley of verdant green dedicated to their well-being, growing crops for their consumption, storing grain for their winters, harvesting milk from their udders. In my travels, I can’t seem to leave the valleys. They transfix me. What an undulating and gracious terrain. Barn after barn, farmhouse after farmhouse, grain silo after grain silo, rolling road upon rolling road, the landscape tickles my senses. After a week, I finally stopped snapping 50 mph photos of every barn, finally barn-numbed, scenery sated.

From the large bovine population comes cheese and the local preferred snack, fresh curds. Convenience stores have bags of the curds on the counter and sample plates to offer. Hard to describe the tasting experience. A little chewy, about halfway to the chewiness of a gummy bear, dissolving in the mouth faster than cheese does, and they squeek in your mouth as you chew them. I experienced the flavor sensation of eating a Cheetoh. Visually, they have the appearance of a packing peanut, though much less uniform since they are randomly cut with screens before the cheese hardens. I sampled my curds at a family operated cheese factory with the cheese making process on view through glass windows. I suspect that curds are addictive, so after my sampling, I swore them off, less I not be able to stop.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mississippi Two

Today we crossed the Mississippi for the second time this summer, the Upper Mississippi. Like the lower, it is a huge traffic lane, but the prevalence of islands makes it look like Huck Finn and Jim might be alive out there. It seems bloated, based on the submerged trees on islands, some of them toppling over into the river.

On the Iowa side of the big river, we met some fellow geezers from Minnesota on a Model T tour. Their group name was the T Totalers. We talked to them while overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and the Wisconsin (I noticed they did talk a little funny, like maybe they were from Lake Woebegone). Like us, they had chosen Pikes Peak State Park overlook on the Iowa side (no admission) vs. the state park on the Wisconsin side ($10).

They had been touring together for a week in Iowa, and I asked if they had a plan. "Well, Peggy does," the fella said, pointing to Peggy, "but she pretty much keeps it to herself. We just follow her."

I’ve been struggling with a moral dilemma. How much of a state do I have to traverse before I can color in the map on my window? Today we crossed into Iowa to have a look at the Mighty Mississippi but found no roads to travel north beside it. So we had a look from the State Park and came right back into Wisconsin.

Last summer, I declined to take a quick flying u-turn through Delaware so that I could color the state in. I’ve regretted it ever since. Who knows if I will ever get that close again?

Thus I’ve decided to color in Iowa. You never know if you will wake up tomorrow, and I’d hate to have that detail lost forever.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Counting my Weight Watcher points today. 4 points for sampling three fine craft brews is a bargain.  3 oz of each choice and I get to keep the glass too.

New Glaurus Brewing Company, in New Glaurus Wisconsin, has been voted one of the best breweries in the WORLD twice. And a woman owns it. That made two reasons to stop in for a tour and a tasting. They just relocated from a small brewery to a majestic setting on top of a hill overlooking this Little Switzerland town where the banks looks like Chalets. That made three reasons to stop.

I skipped over Totally Naked (like my beers with a little more bite) and started with Spotted Cow, an unfiltered ale, approachable and slightly fruity and soft on the palate. While sampling this one, I took the self guided tour. Carl was interested in all the boilers and pipes, and I found myself drawn to the more fun aspects, such as an industrial staircase that rose at least three floors and was labeled Stairway to Heaven.
I moved on to Moon Man, a session beer with a bright bold blend of five hops that flirted obligingly with the smooth malty backside. Looking around their gift shop while I nursed this one, I decided against any merchandise that said Totally Naked.

While waiting in line for my third, I could not help overhearing the couple ahead. "Why don't you have the Two Women?" she said. "Well, yeah, why not?" he said and looked back at me. "Anybody available?" She was blushing by then.  She asked for the Fat Squirrel. After a quick taste, she said, "Yuck, you can drink this one," and ordered another for herself. As she left the room, someone asked, "What did you get?" "Two men." she quipped.

I took a chance and orderd Fat Squirrel, a Wisconsin malt of six different varieties imparting the natural toasted color and clean hazelnut notes resulting from the carefully chosen barley malts. The first taste was a shocker, but it grew on me. Especially with the million dollar view from a picnic table on the patio. Nice finish, that Fat Squirrel.