Temporary Canadians: Camper Life Goes International in Month #23

We’re just a month away from our two-year (!) nomadic anniversary, and we’re kicking things off in a foreign country. Okay, so Canada doesn’t really feel all that foreign. But we did have a bit of a sketchy border crossing and I’m hearing more languages around the campground than anywhere I’ve stayed in the U.S.

Although I’ve been to Canada several times before this, here are some first impressions of after living here for a more extended time in an RV:

  • Don’t bring pepper spray across the border – it’s considered a weapon and will be confiscated
  • However, border control doesn’t care much about dogs
  • Gas is expensive
  • But medical care (vision exams, new contacts, dental surgery) is considerably cheaper than in the U.S. if you don’t have good insurance
  • Finding kilometers instead of miles on the dashboard is hard to do while driving
  • Everyone here camps in RV rentals made by Canadream
  • The internet connection kind of sucks, even in cities/suburbs
  • But the campgrounds have surprisingly great free Wi-Fi
  • Canadian news is funny to watch, but my favorite new show is “Canada’s Worst Driver”
  • Food, household, and toiletry products you buy have labels printed in dual English/French languages
  • Late-May weather is pretty spectacular
  • But some places have snow in June?!
  • Ordering online from Amazon in Canada is expensive and the selection is crap
  • This place is just riddled with parks
  • The Canada-U.S. money conversion works in our favor
  • The Canadian dollar is called a “Loonie” – hilarious!

Here’s a quick recap of this past month’s batch of homes on the road.

San Juan Islands, Washington: Home on the Road #70 (continued)

We kicked off Month #23 still back in Washington with our anniversary celebration in the San Juan Islands. It was an awesome time involving a ferry ride from Anacortes to Orcas Island, backpacking with tent gear to overnight in a remote place, and renting an adorable log cabin along the sea.

  • HighlightsDog-friendly ferry ride, getting back to our camping roots again with tenting, living in a cabin for a day and wanting to keep it, finally finding a great place to kayak and SUP with calm water and a beach to pull over onto for lunch, perfect weather in the 70s
  • Lowlights: Discovering how vague and unhelpful the information about where to kayak in this region was and actually having to ask a real person (gross), having to leave the island life behind (sad)

Vancouver/Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #71

After crossing the Canadian border at Blaine, Washington, we headed to the Vancouver area because we really enjoyed this part of Canada when we visited six years ago. Like many cities, there were no good camping options actually in Vancouver, so we settled for the nearby suburb of Burnaby, which we will forever refer to as “Burnbaby.”

  • HighlightsTaking care of our vision exams and contact ordering for way less money than in the U.S., revisiting old touristy haunts like Granville Island and the Stanley Park area, discovering a gnome trail, great Belgian beer at Dagaraad, getting caught up with a ton of work, pleasant weather in the 60s-70s
  • Lowlights: Crowded campground with Canadians being just as annoying as Americans, the husband got his wisdom teeth removed so much of our stay here was committed to recovery rather than exploration

Lake Country, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #72

We actually never intended to camp in Lake Country, BC and had booked a site in the nearby area of Vernon instead. But about a week before our reservation, the campground sent me an email that they were at a serious flood risk due to the massive amounts of snow from last winter now melting and flooding the nearby lake. Fortunately, they refunded my non-refundable deposit so we could seek shelter elsewhere. Lake Country, near the city of Kelowna, is where we ended up to check out another part of BC and still get in some paddling.

  • HighlightsCamping right next to a marina so we didn’t have to pump inflate and deflate the boats with each use, quiet campground with good Wi-Fi, the most scenic winery I can ever remember being at, finding a great self-serve dog wash station
  • Lowlights: Rain, feeling old age creep up on me with post-paddling and post-hiking soreness and struggling to keep up with the pace

Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada: Home on the Road #73

We spent a week in this Canadian mountain town with a badass name and badass scenery to match. If it wasn’t for the average 150 inches of snow this place gets each year, paired with lot of rain and not lots of sunshine, I think Revelstoke would make it onto our wall of “places to possibly plop down in someday” post-it notes.

  • HighlightsHiking in Canada’s Glacier National Park and Mt. Revelstoke National Park, checking out at the least the 5th railroad museum during camper life so far and deciding that this is now a “thing,” good campground Wi-Fi for working, everything you’d want in a little mountain town
  • Lowlights: Snow and 42-degrees in June, way too much rain, mud, very unpredictable weather, only having a week here

This is my “why the hell am I hiking in snow in June” look

This Month’s Ramblings from the Road

As soon as we arrived in BC, it looked like it was snowing. However, it was May and 70 degrees outside. What the heck was it? Thanks to a well-marked hiking trail, I learned that tiny pieces of cotton were floating through the air courtesy of Black Cottonwood trees. I love learning about which trees are what. More trails need to teach me things.

I’m finally feeling ahead of the game with work. Woo hoo! At least something good came out of spending more time at home playing nurse for a recovering “less wise” husband with fewer teeth.

Something else I did with this magical extra time was break out my sewing machine again. Been awhile! Check out these recovery PJ pants covered in crazy dogs, posed next to our crazy dog.

Speaking of crazy dog, this new toy (a stuffed Canadian goose) didn’t stand a chance.

Month #23 required me to take on some new responsibilities during the wisdom teeth recovery period, such as grocery shopping. While I’ve certainly picked up a couple items here and there as needed, I haven’t done a full-blown weekly grocery shopping outing for literally years. In our division of labor, that’s the husband’s job.

Of course, being out of practice, my grocery endeavor didn’t go exactly as planned. Of course, I chose the one grocery store in the Vancouver suburbs that was going out of business in a month and had half the shelves empty. Of course one of the pre-packaged salads I bought gave me horrific abdominal cramps to the point of googling “symptoms of e-coli.” Fortunately, I was back to normal by the next day. But on the plus side, it was kind of nice getting to stock up on all of the vegan stuff that I like but that doesn’t necessarily get bought without me behind the shopping cart. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime soon. Or not.

Looking Ahead to Next Month

Next month is a big month because we’ll hit year #2 on the road on July 14! I wish we could stay in Canada longer and get further north, away from the main east-west highway and to the more remote areas that no one visits. However, internet reception for work is a major concern, and we have a Midwestern wedding to go to in late-July. Alas, Canada will always be here (or so we assume) for a later trip with perhaps a bit more time and advance planning.

We’ll be in Revelstoke for a bit longer and are then heading towards Banff National Park, the epicenter for Canadian outdoor tourism. Banff is insanely popular, so we couldn’t find a place to camp even months in advance. So, we’ll be staying at a provincial park about 40 minutes away. And since we hate crowds and traffic, we’ll definitely be visiting the national park on a weekday and swapping that workday out for a weekend. From there, our last Canadian home on the road will be camping on a farm near Lethbridge in Alberta. Thanks for making it this far down the page, and as the Canadians say “bye.”

Catch up with the journey:

Where To Drink Belgian Beer in an Old Funeral Chapel

I’ve tasted tasty brews in many odd places in my day, but a recent trip to Michigan revealed a new brew stop that I was just dying to try out.

Brewery Vivant, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is located in what used to be a funeral chapel. Too morbid? I think not.
1Jason Spaulding is the President of Brewery Vivant and he opened the super-popular New Holland Brewing Company in 1997. He later attended the Doemens Brewing Academy in Munich, Germany and traveled around Southern Belgium learning from other breweries along the way.

After returning to Michigan, a funeral chapel seemed like the perfect spot for a new brewery. This particular part of Grand Rapids is nicely walkable/bikeable with easy parking on side streets nearby.

2Brewery Vivant was designed to remain small and specialized. It has a Belgian beer theme, which is what drew me here in the first place. Well that, and the possibility of chatting up the haunting spirits of wise Belgian brewing monks.

3I stopped by early on a Friday evening and the place was already packed. There was a wait for a table, but since I just wanted to sample some brews, I made my way back to the less-crowded tasting room. Standing up to sip at the barrel tables was just what I needed after a long car ride.

4Brewery Vivant has a 20-barrel brew kettle, several 20, 40, and 60-barrel fermentation tanks, and a couple maturation tanks. The brewers have been producing between 1,600 and 2,000 barrels in recent years.

As typical, I ordered a flight to sample what these monkish types had to offer. Flights were a bit pricey in my opinion – $10 for 4 of their standard brews or $12 for your choice of 4. The standard brews included a French-style Farmhouse Ale, a Belgian-style IPA, a Hoppy Belgo-American Red Ale, and a Belgian-style Dark Ale.

Triomphe, the IPA, and Undertaker, the Dark Ale, got my top two votes. To switch it up, I tried the Smoky Wheat, however, it really didn’t have the smokiness I was looking for at all. Pepper in the Rye was also drinkable, but not too memorable.

Slow jams played softly on the radio and lured me into filling a growler to accompany me back to the hotel. My growler fill of choice was the Triomphe Belgian IPA – refreshing with just enough full-bodied, hoppy flavor.

The main bar eerily resembled an alter, with a stained glass window as the centerpiece and a total church-like vibe. Although it was admittedly an intriguing use of space, I failed to encounter a single haunting experience. Perhaps it wasn’t the right cycle of the moon.


Funeral accommodations are turning into some of the most interesting food and drink establishments lately it seems. My family actually celebrated Easter a couple years ago by making lunch reservations at a funeral-home-turned-restaurant. Needless to say, some family members of younger years were more comfortable with the arrangement than others!

A couple people on Yelp raved about the bathroom sinks, which I found a bit odd. They’re the kind of sinks that look like a long slab of marble – or virtually no sink at all. A little unique, but I wouldn’t show up for the sink if you’re not a beer fan to begin with.

Grand Rapids is actually an awesome place to visit for craft beer fans – there’s Founders, HopCat , Harmony, Elk, Mitten, Hideout, B.O.B., the Grand Rapids Brewing Company in town as well. I’ve hit up a couple of these while passing through the area over the years, and I can’t recall much in the way of disappointment. And actually, in the last couple years it’s won a bunch of awards for being a top American beer town.

ale-trail-map-imageHere’s an ale trail map to guide you. Who needs GPS when you have cartoon pints in all directions?

An Introduction to Beer Tourism in Portland

The city of Portland, Oregon has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in America. That makes this West Coast city a required destination for beer lovers from across the country and beyond. According to local beer magazine, Oregon Craft Beer, there are at least 56 breweries in the city of Portland, 76 in the Portland metro area, 30 in Central Oregon, 21 in the nearby city of Bend, and 12 in nearby Eugene.

To help you find a starting point in your craft beer tour, these are a few of the best craft breweries to visit in Portland. I’ve made it to a several of these already, and plan to hit up the rest when I return in the near future!

Lucky Labrador Brewing

Dogs are prevalent and welcome all over the city of Portland, and the Lucky Labrador celebrates the city’s love for canine pals. Lucky Labrador Brewing has been around since 1994 and the one in Hawthorne is the original of its four expanded locations. This is a great place to sit outside with a sampler flight on a nice day and to grab a bite to eat. The pulled pork sandwich is a local favorite!


Bridgeport Brew Pub

The Bridgeport Brew Pub is the oldest craft brewery in Oregon, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated or losing popularity at all. You can find this brewery in an old industrial building that’s covered in ivy in the Pearl District. This is a popular place to grab a drink and dinner after the city’s First Thursday Art Walk. Try one of the wood-fired pizzas or pick one of the vegan options on the menu to accompany your brew of choice.

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Just as Portland enjoys its dogs, the city also has a strong biking culture. Not only does Hopworks Urban Brewery encourage patrons to bike instead of drive to its pub, but it even has a stationary bike on site! Hop on and help power the brewery’s electricity and you’ll earn yourself a free pint! Hopworks is located in the Williams neighborhood in Southeast Portland, and it’s also a great place to eat if you’re a vegetarian.


Storm Breaker Brewing

Storm Breaker Brewing is located in the historic and trendy Mississippi Avenue District of Portland, and it has a very chill atmosphere, both inside and in outside seating area. Feel free to bring your dog with you on the patio! Storm Breaker is a nickname for Mount Hood, which towers in the distance of Portland and is known to break storms coming off of the Pacific Ocean. And if you’re not into beer, you can also order a specialty house cocktail, a uniquely-designed burger, or the daily grilled cheese special.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House

Although the actual brewing facility for Deschutes is located Bend, Oregon, this brewery is so popular that it has multiple locations. The Portland pub is located in the posh Pearl District and has 19 Deschutes beers on tap. This pub gets very busy on evenings and weekends, but unfortunately, reservations are not accepted. Even non-beer-drinkers flock here because of the food, which is focused on all-natural, seasonal, sustainable, locally-sourced, and homemade ingredients.


Rogue Distillery and Public House

Another famous must-drink location for brew lovers visiting Oregon is Rogue. The actual Rogue Brewery is located in Ashland, Oregon but if you don’t have time to make it out that way, stop by the Rogue Public House in Portland. Rogue is a huge institution in the Pacific Northwest, and the brewery has locations in Newport, Astoria, Eugene, San Francisco, and Issaquah, Washington. Portland’s Rogue Distillery and Public House is open 365 days a year, has 38 beers on tap, and allows dogs on the patio.

Occidental Brewing Co.

The Occidental Brewing Company is located in North Portland and is well-known for its German-style beers. Soak up the historic vibe of the St. John’s neighborhood and the nearby bridges of the city. The atmosphere is friendly, and although the brewery doesn’t serve food, you’re welcome to bring in something from home or a nearby restaurant. If you’re not yet familiar with Occidental brews, consider trying a 4-ounce sampler of the beers they have on tap to decide which one’s your favorite.

Cascade Brewing Barrel House

You can visit the Cascade Brewing Barrel House in the Southeast section of Portland and enjoy the large, friendly patio. If you’ve never tried a sour beer before, this is the place to do so because the brewers have become somewhat famous for their sour creations. As the name suggests, Cascade also specializes in barrel aged beers, which tend to be stronger and a little more expensive. You can find some very unique brews at Cascade and order some food while you’re at it too.


Upright Brewing

Located in North Portland, Upright Brewing has a no-frills tasting room in the basement of a business building. Although it’s small, it’s incredibly friendly and a must for beer geeks. The brewmasters here are knowledgeable about their craft and love what they do. You can usually find about a dozen beers on tap, and the prices are very reasonable. But remember to bring cash, because Upright doesn’t accept credit cards!

Oregon Public House

Although the Oregon Public House doesn’t actually brew its own beer, it makes our list because it’s the first nonprofit pub in the world – with 100% of the profits going to charity. This pub partners with a variety of charities that work to improve social justice, community and environmental needs. The charities are responsible for bringing in volunteers to work at the pub when the organization is being featured, meet fundraising goals, and handle promotions. Recently supported charities include Braking Cycles, a local youth outreach program, and the Red Sweater Project, a nonprofit that assists children in Tanzania.


It’s easy to get overwhelmed in Portland’s craft beer scene, but fortunately, there are lots of local experts who are willing to be your guide. And with so many breweries to tour and taste in town, some obvious safety concerns come to mind.

Hop on a guided BrewCycle to pedal off some of those empty calories while getting from Point A to Z a little safer. Current BrewCycle stops are the Lucky Labrador, Lompoc Brewing, Bridgeport, Pints, and Old Town Brewing Company. And while you’re in town, try to catch one of the city’s huge beer festivals, like the Oregon Brewers Festival, North American Organic Brewers Festival and the Portland International Beerfest.


*A version of this article was published in an online travel magazine I write for, Trips to Discover

Brewing for the Thirsty People of Lafayette Indiana

After an afternoon of aiming at airborne pieces of clay at the Oakwood Gun Club, I found myself craving something cold and refreshing. Since the Gun Club is located in the middle of nowhere, I had to travel an hour and twenty minutes south to find the sort of satisfaction I was looking for. Fortunately, I was headed that way anyway to camp for the night.

Located in an obscure industrial park in Lafayette, Indiana lies a magical place called People’s Brewing Company. By and large, some of the best breweries I’ve ever stumbled upon have been tucked away in shady warehouse districts that practically beg you not to step foot in them.

You’d better but the address in your GPS because People’s doesn’t really have a legit sign – just a plastic banner, which reads “Making Beer for the People.”

Peoples 1

Saunter up the stairs like you know what you’re doing and make your way to the small bar in the back. A big friendly guy will greet you and quickly pour out whatever you’re thirsting for. When I visited on a late Saturday afternoon, this Vermont native was the only bartender on staff, but he was quick, efficient, and full of no-nonsense.

After some not-so-strategic pondering, I tried a small sample of everything People’s had on tap. A sampler of six beers runs you $6, and additional samples are just  a buck each.

Peoples 2

After a not-so-scientific evaluation, I settled on People’s coffee-esque Irish Rover Stout (5.5 IBU @ 6.5%) to fill up the lonely growler rolling around in the back of my Jeep. Honorable mentions go out to The Abbott Belgian Dark Strong (IBU 2.0 @ 8.2%) and Agent Oats Oatmeal Stout (3.0 IBU @ 5.2%).

Nothing was so unique that I instantly had to write home about, but what was done was done well. Filling a growler was a no-brainer, the cost of most growler fills is just $8 and $11 for strongs. As a frame of reference, Revolution Brewing, the closest brewery to my apartment back home in Chicago, charges between $14 and $22 for a growler fill. Peoples 3

This place has a total local vibe to it, with plenty of regulars coming and going to fill their growlers or grab an afternoon pint. Everyone seemed to kinda know everyone else, yet I never felt out of place. Although this is a college town, the crowd seemed to be mostly 30s and 40s. Unfortunately, there’s no outdoor seating, but it’s not too difficult to inch your way up to the open garage door to take in the aromatic waves of tractor-trailer fumes wafting by.

Inside its 6,000-square-foot facility, the brewery has offered tours and a 1,000-square-foot tasting room since 2010. The brewers here specialize in small batch recipes and have about six beers on tap at any given time.

Peoples 4If you find yourself passing through Indiana for whatever weird reason someday, do yourself a favor and stop by People’s Brewing. It’s unpretentious enough to show up in whatever you’re wearing, yet friendly enough to make you remember it each time you’re passing through the “Crossroads of America.”

People’s Brewing is open from 2 pm to 8 pm on weekdays and noon to 8 pm on weekends.

Whip In: Austin’s One-Stop Brewery/Indian Restaurant/Concert Venue/Grocery Store

I can’t think of another single place in the world that combines the best aspects of craft beer, Indian food, live music, and grocery shopping. Whip In does exactly that, and does it pretty well.

Roadside sign

Roadside sign

My boyfriend, who happens to be Indian, and I came across Whip In’s website while searching for breweries to sample in the Austin area. We were intrigued at the unlikely combination of Texas comfort food, traditional Indian food, and craft beer. From what I understand, Indians aren’t exactly known for their breweries.

The Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern even did a little piece on the place, however, I don’t feel he does it justice. Sorry to call you out, buddy, it’s going to take more than footage of your chewing to convince me of Whip In’s awesomeness.

Scoping out the menu

Scoping out the menu

Back in 1986, the owners, Amrit and Chandan Topiwala, bought a convenience store in the Travis Heights Neighborhood and made a living off the gas pumps and B-movie selection.

For whatever reason, beer sales began to outweigh gas sales and priorities were shifted.

Texan-Indian Cuisine and Brews

Texan-Indian Cuisine and Brews


The convenience store was transformed into a dhaba (traditional Indian/Pakistani roadside restaurant) pub with a full kitchen and homemade brew house. The menu features a mind-boggling fusion of Texan comfort food and authentic Gujarati cuisine. And since it’s in Austin, Whip In practically had no choice but to service local and organic fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Whip In is big on brunch and it has a big section for it on the menu. We settled on a combo dhaba bowl with chana masala, masoor dal, and Zambian corn. We also got an appetizer of samosas and a follow-up entree of dal sliders. With their warm naan, spinach, and mushrooms, the dal sliders were definitely my favorite pick.

Namaste Brewing

Namaste Brewing

Appropriately, Whip In calls its in-house brew house, Namaste Brewing. They had a surprisingly number of beers, although several of the taps had run dry before we showed up.

You can order a sampler of four beers for $10, and we did exactly that. Our picks were the Brahmale, Sitas Revenge, Austinerveisse, and Vishnavi Triple.


Outside seating space

Outside seating space

  • Brahmale = postcolonial IPA made w/goodflow honey, grapefruit peel & lemongrass 9.5%abv
  • Sitas = french saison made w/striselspalt&aramis hops 6.5%abv
  • Austinerveisse = berlinerveisse style german sour wheat made w/peaches 4.5%abv
  • Vishnavi = strong triple brew I seem to have misplaced my notes on
Feast time!

Feast time!

Nearly all the beers on tap were high in alcohol content, with 8% and 9% being totally common. I must admit, the combination of strong beer and strong flavors did do a number on my unsuspecting stomach after awhile.

Rambler Rose

Rambler Rose




For a Saturday night, Whip In was busy, crowded, and a little chaotic. As a first timer, I was a little overwhelmed trying to wrap my head around this place. Fortunately, we found a seat at the bar, so there was no wait time. If you aren’t so fortunate, you can push your way to the back and browse the couple aisles of groceries that seem wonderfully out-of-place. The owners have traded in their convenience store snacks for hippie fair like tofu-turkey and Tom’s Natural Toothpaste.

Namaste, ya'll!

Namaste, ya’ll!

Whip In has indoor and outdoor seating, and each space has its own stage. Rambler Rose, featuring a 8 1/2 month pregnant lead singer/percussionist, took the stage while we were finishing up our dinner.

Whip In definitely offers a unique dining/drinking/listening/shopping experience you can’t find anywhere else. Upon first impression, the spot seems to be a bit all over the board, and unable to decide what it is and what it wants to be when it grows up. But whatever it is, I like it. And I hope to visit another place like it some day.

How to Drink Your Way Through Iowa

How do you top off a trip to visit the world’s largest gnome in Ames, Iowa? By celebrating with lots of drinks…of course!

There are six long, grueling hours between Ames, Iowa and Chicago. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to stop along the way.

Without further ado, here’s a road map (in photos) of how you too can drink your way through Iowa. Don’t mind the monkeys and gnomes…they’re of legal age and they can probably handle their liquor better than you can.

1. Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company, Des Moines, IA.



2. Exile Brewing Company, Des Moines, Iowa


3. John Ernest Vineyard and Winery, Tama, IA


4. Third Base Brewing Company, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


5. Ackerman Winery, Amana Colonies, Iowa




6. Millstream Brewing Company, Amana Colonies, Iowa



7. Backpocket Brewing Company, Coralville, Iowa


IMG_1477We all knew that a lot of booze was consumed in Iowa, but who knew that so much of it was made within its borders? Not I, said the drunkard.