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8 Remaining Sub-3-hour States

8 Remaining Sub-3-hour States
The following are redos: WY, VT, ME, SD, NM

Sunday, November 4, 2018

47/50 - Marshall University Marathon

We Are Marshall!

It took me 3 attempts to get to this marathon: in 2016, I was too exhausted from hosting LRC's Run of the Dead event the week before and in 2017, my car died 1 hour from arriving at Marshall University (that story HERE). This year almost didn't happen; injuries plagued me for much of 2018 and shortly after my worst marathon in 9 years at the Sandia Crest Marathon, I was low on confidence. I then stopped running for 2 weeks because of TFL pain in my hip. That left me with 3 weeks to train for this race.

Thirteen friends from Libertyville Running Club joined me on this trip. A few of us planned to fly into Columbus, OH, stay a night in the Brew Dog hotel and brewery, then drive down to Huntington, WV where the university is located. By the time I committed to running this race, the flight had risen to $600 and so I drove.

This brewery with onsite hotel opened this summer and I had to go. They have a punk rock credo in their anti-business business model that appeals to me. We enjoyed a night of beers, perused the brewery museum, had dinner in the brewery, then a rousing game of doubles ping pong. They have a great outdoor space that connects to a trail system we used the following morning for our shakeout run. Board games were disbursed all over the hotel lobby and their European-style breakfast buffet was better than most hotel breakfast buffets.

Brew Dog's outdoor drinking field with fire pits, Jenga, and a dog park

The interior view from our hotel room; beer and art everywhere!
Each room has a kegerator, a mini-bar, and a shower beer fridge stocked with beer. Their gift shop had a great flannel that I bought without hesitation; if you read my Fargo Marathon post (HERE), you'll understand the joke about why I can't say no to a brewery flannel anymore.

#bartusching - an aerial pic coined for a friend who perfected this art form

Jason, Michael, Laurie, and I shared a room and got ourselves psyched for the race by watching We Are Marshall, a movie about the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people - most of the Marshall University football team, friends, and flight crew - and how the university and community rose from the tragedy.

Jason, Michael, Laurie, and me

The 2.5-hour drive to Huntington is beautiful and thrilling. We drove 2-lane highways meandering through the countryside. At multiple points, we approached hills, blind to what was on the other side, and lost our stomachs as we crested them. We leaned into turns a little too fast. We stole glimpses of autumn foliage and dwellings that reveal an America beyond the cities and privilege so many of us are accustomed to.

This is the 15th anniversary of the Marshall University Marathon and the retirement of its race director. His passion for this small marathon with a big heart is apparent. He asked that we bring canned goods for a food drive so we stopped at Kroger before the expo. This race provides so much swag that you wonder how they make any money: a beanie, jacket, and duffel bag were all included in the marathon registration. I bought the long sleeve race shirt just to feel like I could support their efforts.

We also made shirts depicting our running buddy Marshall (Laurie's dog)

The LRC's separate travel groups planned to convene for dinner at La Famiglia at 6:30pm but that didn't stop our band of 4 from eating at Butter It Up at 4pm. Call it carb-loading. Runner problems, you know? Before dinner, we visited the memorial for the plane crash victims located in a cemetery that overlooks the university.

A somber memorial visit

Dinner was good, all-be-it slooooowwww. Though we didn't get out of there until about 9pm, we had the benefit of Daylight Savings Time the next morning. It was nice to have almost all of us together, enjoying a pre-race dinner.

The LRC Famiglia

This course, one loop for the half marathon run twice for the marathon, is fast. I love these 2-loop marathons; you get a good sense of the terrain and are able to strategize for the second loop. The weather was a near perfect 40 degrees and sunny at the start. I approached the start line feeling better than I should considering what little I put into this race.

Bib #46 but 47th state marathon... that's bananas!

The start cannon went off without a countdown, taking us all by surprise. Startled as we were, we ran a reasonable 6:42/min first mile then picked it up a bit. We noticed Michael was no longer in site on an out-and-back section at mile 6. "He'll catch up," we assured one another.

Jason and I had a rhythm: we walked every aid station (about a mile apart) and we ran together and alone, pushing each other. The first loop went by with relative ease. Never did I doubt this would be a sub-3-hour marathon. Kudos to Jason for driving most of the second loop. Around mile 18, I told myself to hang with Jason until mile 20, then mile 22, then mile 24. He looked back often to make sure I hung on until mile 26. Laurie - who just finished her half marathon - came out to cheer us in from about mile 21 on.

We entered the stadium for an out-and-back on the football field. At the entrance, you can accept a football to run with... I fumbled it. I had spoken of my plan to throw myself the ball and jump catch it over the finish line so Laurie picked up my fumble and handed it to me as I came back to approach the finish. It was epic... then I fumbled it, again. Regardless, a 4th place finish (1st in age group) in 2:54:14 (my 15th fastest of 66 marathons - not bad, considering the poor training) with a silly finish photo made for a successful 42nd sub-3-hour state marathon.

My dramatic end zone finish, GO SPORTS!

Incomplete pass, no touchdown! 

With 2:58 on the clock, Michael entered the stadium to sneak in a sub-3-hour marathon. With all of our half marathoners finished, we lingered to watch Carolyn finish her marathon. Five of us won age group and overall awards - our choice of locally blown glass bowls, pitchers, and vases. Beers, food, and cake were all waiting at the finish line.

I had one more race for the day; my favorite punk band in high school, the recently reunited Jawbreaker, was playing at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. A sub-3-hour marathon in West Virginia, then an 8-hour drive to Chicago for 2 hours of nostalgia with old and new friends capped off a great weekend. Oh, and Jill caught the drumstick and gave it to me! Perfect weekend.

Still rockin' and I'm still standing after a long day

Saturday, September 15, 2018

46/50 - Sandia Crest Marathon

Ooh look, a camera!

This wouldn't be fun if it were easy, right? That's what I keep telling myself. I've been after this goal of running a sub-3-hour marathon in every state since my first in 2009 at the Boston Marathon (1st blog entry linked). This recent 3:14:55 at the Sandia Crest Marathon in New Mexico didn't meet the mark. In fact, it was my worst since that Boston race. But setbacks are inevitable. Tenacity is what will get me to another start line, and 9 of those start lines remain.

In 2018, I've run my best and worst marathons. Shortly after running a personal best at the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Maryland in March, I got injured and lost my mojo. With continued training and racing since then, I was mentally and physically exhausted going into this race. On the plus side: Michael was with me for another state, our 7th together. He's a great training and travel partner!

I was excited for this trip because I had never been to New Mexico. We flew into Albuquerque on Friday afternoon for the Saturday race. Modeled after the successful Revel Race Series downhill marathons, Merit Race Series created the first downhill option in New Mexico and this was its inaugural year. It's difficult to run a sub-3-hour marathon in this state if you live at sea level and don't like heat - factors I tend to ignore... until they affect me.

We landed and I directed Michael to the closest brewery for lunch - surprising, right? Green Jeans Farmery is a collective of eateries, brewery, and shops constructed entirely of shipping containers. We grabbed pizza then a beer flight from Santa Fe Brewing Co., New Mexico's oldest brewery. Nativo Lodge, a Native American-styled hotel featuring a series of rooms displaying murals by Native American artists, made our stay in Albuquerque unique and authentic.

See, pre-race beers make you happy

After packet pickup, we rode the Sandia Peak Tramway - a 2.7-mile ride up the mountain yielding breathtaking views of Albuquerque and the mountainside's flora and fauna. You know what the state animal of New Mexico is? The black bear! Though we didn't spot one, the mountain is home to many. Once on top of the 10,378ft Sandia Crest Peak, we hiked for a couple miles aiming for the Kiwanis Cabin (a stone cabin overlooking the Rio Grande Valley built in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps), but took a wrong turn, and to our surprise ended up at the start line of the next day's marathon.

The Tramway down at sunset is spectacular

That 3:15am alarm came quickly. We were on a 1-hour bus ride to the top of the mountain at 4:45am. We've learned to be early after my bus never made it to the start of the 2015 Revel Rockies Marathon, and our bus to the start of 2016 St. George Marathon was late, delaying the start time.

There were about 250 runners at the start of the marathon. Compared to the Revel Rockies Marathon, the descent was aggressively faster, hotter, and with more uphill stretches. At mile 4, there was a mile-long uphill. It was too early in the race for me to have doubts, but they were creeping around in the back of my head nonetheless. The next uphill, also about a mile long, came at mile 12. I still wasn't exactly feeling it, but I told myself to get to mile 18 and reassess before the last long uphill at mile 20. When I got to mile 18, I walked.

I just wasn't having fun. The sun was hot and I felt so out of shape. I walked and ran my way to the finish and I wasn't alone - it was oddly reassuring to see folks in this pace range walking at this point. With less than a mile to go, I heard Michael approach and I started running again so we could cross the finish line together, and we did. I've been hoping for that experience at one of these races!

FINALLY, a finish pic together! 

In the finish chute we found donuts and chocolate milk, Chris Brown (a friend from the Libertyville Running Club who now lives in San Diego), and an ice bath. It's a party now!

Michael doesn't drink but I kept sneaking in brewery visits, this time, for lunch at Nexus Brewery with Chris and his wife, Moira. It was good catching up and getting to know Moira. We took a private van tour of Albuquerque which helped us make sense of this seemingly sprawling metropolis. There is something unique about New Mexico: the art, architecture, turquoise jewelry, culture, atomic bomb history (inspired by a discussion at Bosque Brewing Co., I'm now reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb and it's dense AF!).

I promised Michael a post-race milkshake and 66 Diner didn't disappoint

Albuquerque is the ONLY place where Route 66 intersects itself. Strange, right?

If you didn't know already, Albuquerque is where Breaking Bad was filmed and when you're here, you will be reminded of it constantly - it seems to be one of their top tourist attractions. The Candy Lady candy shop in Old Town made the crystal meth prop for the show and you can buy it - it's rock candy.

Meth or candy? 

Look familiar? It's Jesse Pinkman's home from Breaking Bad

Albuquerque is having a renaissance. It's becoming hip and trendy with new restaurants, breweries, and construction everywhere. This will be the next Portland or Austin or at least, it'll try to be.

On Sunday, we had enough time for breakfast at Frontier (an old Albuquerque staple), a hike through Petroglyphs National Monument (fake, totally fake!), and Rude Boy Cookies, which, for a ska-themed cookie bar, really needed to have a black and white cookie.

The first text The Wife sent to me after she saw the race results was "I can't wait to bring the whole family back to New Mexico!" Not hitting my goal and having to go back is made a little bit easier with a bit of light-heartedness and the knowledge that I'll be coming back to a true gem of a state. See you again soon, New Mexico!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

45/50 - Missoula Marathon

A cirque - formed by glacial erosion or a giant ice cream scoop

And then there were 9... Montana just became my 41st sub-3-hour state (2:59:38) and 45th state marathon. Close one, eh? With 21 seconds to spare - and not intentionally - this race was nothing short of suspenseful.

I grew up watching The Price Is Right. Who didn't? At around mile 20 of each of these races, it's as if Bob Barker calls upon me to, "Come on down!" to join Contestants' Row to see how close can I get to 2:59:59 without going over. My strategy of late is this: 2:14:00 or better at mile 20 allows me to slow the pace to about 7:15/mile for the final 10K. In this case, Montana was set to be my 8th sub-3-hour marathon in the last 10 months and I'm beginning to feel worn out.

But enough about running for a bit...

I had been looking forward to this trip since I pulled out of it last year because of a skateboarding injury during my taper (I know, I'm a dummy. It wasn't even during a cool trick or anything). I flew into Missoula on Thursday and found myself sitting creekside at Highlander Brewing Co. a few minutes later. It's a 5-hour drive to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn on the east side of Glacier National Park, most of which is breathtaking. While Going-to-the-Sun Road is the star roadway in the area, driving along the coast of Flathead Lake is also quite pleasing; you'll see plenty of cottages, cherry farms, and a smattering of cute towns.

Found it!

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the main artery crossing the Glacier National Park. Its 50-miles of winding white-knuckle turns, idyllic overlooks, glacier lakes, wildflowers, waterfalls, trailheads, and wildlife give you a great introduction to such a magnificent area.

With so many hiking options and so little time, I opted for a 10-mile guided hike to Iceberg Lake that left Friday (the 13th) morning from the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. This hike took us through bear country, and presented sweeping views of glacier cutouts and, finally, a glacier lake. Having a National Park ranger as a guide really enhanced the hike.

Iceberg Lake - the water is about a degree above freezing, touch it!

Without a room booked for Friday night, I leisurely made my way back to the west entrance, stopping here and there to admire how glaciers sculpted the land, and the pristine waters of Lake McDonald at its impressive namesake lodge. But at $300 a night, I drove on in search of a brewery and cheaper accommodations.

Ooh, bear claws... Oh, not the pastry.

In driving toward Whitefish, I happened upon Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls. With 30 minutes before last call (Montana state law prohibits breweries from serving past 8pm), I realized I probably wasn't going to make it to a brewery in Whitefish and pulled on over. Priorities, ya know?

I sat next to a woman from Palatine. She saw my IL driver's license and we struck up a conversation. She left IL a few years ago for the scenery of Montana. Every time I travel west, I wonder why I don't live there. I admire those that take the chance and move. I've suggested it more than once to The Wife, and hopefully one of these days I'll finally convince her...

For now, I found a room at the Glacier Inn Motel down the road from the recently opened Gunsight Bar & Grill, where I caught a band in their beer garden. And with that, the day ended pretty abruptly; I was tired.

Blues band, beer, and mountain air

A local recommendation led me to Buffalo Cafe in Whitefish for breakfast. Huckleberries, a top food source for bears in the area, pop up on nearly every human menu as well (in beers, pancakes, coffees, and milkshakes). Seeing as I am A Bear On The Run and have two bears tattooed on my arm sleeve, I ordered the huckleberry pancakes and wasn't disappointed.

It's 3 hours back to Missoula, and by timing it right, I was able to stop at Flathead Lake Brewing Co., to grab some roadside Flathead cherries, and then arrive at packet pickup with 30 minutes to spare. The view from the brewery's patio overlooking the lake is worth the stop.

And then I settled into Imagine Nation Brewing with Thai takeout from Pagoda across town - well worth the long wait. This brewery is everything I find many breweries to lack: a focus on community over profit. Their story tells it best, read it HERE. So while their beers followed the same old New England IPA trend du jour, the names of their beers (including No Human Being is Illegal! and Freedom Fighter) and a community calendar supporting education and activism (even hosting free HIV testing events), leave an impression far greater than most breweries I've visited across the country.

And then I remembered I was here to race.

I had to be on a bus at 4:30am to make the 6am race start. It's a point A to point B course running west to east. The first half of this race is great: I loved the sunrise, temperature in the 50s, and peaceful two-lane road that runs along a mountain range and river at 3,300ft above sea level. The second half is where it gets a bit challenging. There's a nice hill at mile 14 then not much shade along an undulating road from about mile 18 - 22. The day was forecasted to be 90F and the sun really began to take its toll at 8am.

At mile 20 I hit my 2:14:00 strategy goal. Unfortunately, my legs couldn't stay under 7:15/mile from there on: mile 21 - 7:25, mile 22 - 7:28, mile 23 - 7:26, mile 24 - 7:22... Sure, a few seconds here and there doesn't sound like the end of the world, but with a margin of error already calculated down to the very last second, it can be catastrophic. At mile 24, the 3-hour pacer passed me and I knew I was in real trouble. Then my mind started to focus on the financial and training cost of doing this trip again, and that became a big motivator. I gave it everything I had, grunting and all, to catch that pacer, and at mile 26.1, I did! You know what's more exhilarating than Deena Kastor putting a finisher medal around your neck at this finish? Not having to come back to try it again!

You see that 3:00 pacer behind me? 

This race ends on the Clark Fork River and there's nothing more refreshing than a post-race river bath. I settled in to Missoula Club, a dive bar that serves milkshakes and cheeseburgers with pickles, PBR mustard, onions and that's all. What more do you need? The rest of the day was a blur of breweries (Kettle House, Draught Works - I'll never forget your Tomatillo Sour!, Bayern, and Imagine Nation again), and The Big Dipper for an unnecessary amount of ice cream - 6 scoops (including a huckleberry flavor, of course) with all the fixings.

I mean, it WAS National Ice Cream Day

Weird, yet it worked

Before flying out Monday afternoon, I had to visit Big Sky Brewing for their Moose Drool Brown Ale (more for the memory of first drinking it on a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming years ago) and others (which are mostly better). It's a worthy stop so close to the airport, and a nice way to wrap up another great Western Experience.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

40th Sub-3-hour Marathon State: The Oregon Redo

Libertyville Running Club invades Oregon

This was one of those rare trips that I booked far in advance, a redo of Oregon after narrowly missing my sub-3-hour goal at the Bend Marathon 2 years ago. A surge within the Libertyville Running Club, including Melissa, was planning to run the race, which offers a half and full marathon distance. Due to a painful Coffee Milk Marathon 3 weeks prior, I supplemented much of my training runs with walks, and even sought the help of a doctor to work on the resulting hamstring injury. I was resigned to not run this race.

Chapter 1: Not About Running (Tue/Wed/Thurs)

Melissa and I flew into Oregon Tuesday morning to spend time in Willamette Valley rekindling our love of wine - we married in Napa and honeymooned in Burgundy and Champagne. Of course, we had to go through Portland first and I've been there enough to know I will ingest beer, food, donuts, ice cream, and coffee in excess.

Within hours of landing we sampled all 16 beers on tap at Burnside Brewing Company (try Sweet Heat - an apricot wheat beer with hot peppers), walked a few miles to Powell's Book Store, Blue Star Donuts (the best Portland donuts, I'll happily debate with you about the unwarranted acclaim for Voodoo Doughnuts), ice cream at Ruby Jewel, and coffee at Stumptown before the scenic drive to McMinnville via US-26/OR-47, stopping at Montinore Winery along the way. With an impending DNF (did not finish), I was off the wagon this week with regard to all that nutrition work I had been doing this year... it was marvelous!

We set up camp in McMinnville at McMenamins Hotel Oregon for a couple of nights. Unique to Oregon, McMenamins is the proprietor of several historic buildings turned hotel, restaurant, brewery, and/or winery throughout the state. We enjoy staying at their properties and basking in the local lore each exhibit. Their Kennedy School, a grade school converted into a hotel and entertainment property in Portland, is the best place to start.

One of many peculiar paintings adorning the hallways of Hotel Oregon

Hotel Oregon highlights the varied business owners once operating within this old, stately building and also pays homage to one of the most credible UFO sightings in America - a series of 1950 photos shot by a farmer near McMinnville (you may recognize one from the opening credits of the X-Files t.v. series).

Real UFO or photoshopped? You decide.

After a Wednesday morning trail run in Miller Woods reminding us we're not in Illinois anymore, we were ready for a day of wineries. McMinnville is the Heart of Oregon Wine Country, a wine region established by The Eyrie Vineyards when its founder brought French winemaking to an area peers thought unconducive to viticulture. It's a great place to start for crisp white wines and a history lesson.

A short drive into the farmland outside of town is Beaux Frerés. Willamette Valley stands in contrast to Napa Valley in that you get the sense these are farmers before investors. Tasting rooms are less extravagant, and since they're not the primary focus, several require reservations. As the only visitors this afternoon, Melissa and I had a private tour of Beaux Frerés and a tasting that felt more like sharing wines at a good friend's house. Their Pinot Noirs are superb.

Bud break on the vines and a winery dog at Beaux Frerés

Symmetry in wine

Next stop: Domaine Drouhin - a French wine house that set up shop here after Eyrie proved successful, has both a great patio view overlooking vineyards and a solid Chardonnay. Our 4th and final destination was White Rose Estate. I should tell you now that Melissa really likes wine. You know what a jeraboam is? Come back in a few days for a picture of her hugging it after it shows up on our doorstep. EDIT: As promised.

Bottle / Magnum / JERABOAM!

We were back to Hotel Oregon for dinner at their Rooftop Bar in unseasonably warm weather with a 360 degree view of the Valley. Third Street is McMinnville's Main Street and is lined with wine tasting rooms and restaurants. I'm not sure you can find a bad place to eat in this town. It was a short walk over to Grain Station Brew Works for a nightcap.

Before driving to the coast, we had another run then breakfast at Crescent Cafe. We didn't have a destination booked as we drove up coastal highway US-101, stopping to walk beaches, eat ice cream and cheese at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, and enjoy a crossword puzzle at Source for oysters and wine.

Unattended children will be given a Beetle Bus and ice cream

In Cannon Beach, we had clam chowder with seaside views at Mo's, booked a room at the Inn at Cannon Beach, then walked the length of the beach, 4.5 miles round trip, with a bottle of rosé from Domaine Drouhin.


Haystack Rock is located along this beach. April thru July, it is the nesting place for puffins (we saw them!) and accordingly, a protected wildlife refuge. Employees of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program are on site to ensure no one climbs on the rock. Why? In part because THIS is THE Goonies rock! We didn't realize that until after our walk. Similar rocks protrude all along the Oregon coast so who could tell?

Goonies! Puffins! Long walks on the beach! 

The Inn is a great stay for the price with an above average continental breakfast, fresh baked cookies all day, and ground zero for wild bunnies. Seriously, I've never seen so many bunnies in one place: black, brown, white, grey, spotted, big and little. Since I was off the nutrition wagon, I left Friday morning with a cookie-eaten-to-bunny-sighting ratio of 1:1.

That's 6 cookies right there!

Chapter 2: Race Weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun)

Let the LRC weekend begin. We rendezvoused in McMinnville on Friday. We ate, we drank, we drove to Eugene, making a few stops along the way (notably 2 Towns Ciderhouse and Block 15 Brewpub - that PB&J burger was killer!). I've set up several LRC trips to align with my 50-states goal but this was the largest gathering with 41 of us registered to run. Melissa and I settled into Excelsior Inn, a bed & breakfast near the race start for the weekend.

Eugene is TrackTown USA - a Mecca for runners. I'm not one to idolize professional athletes or famous people - I rather find inspiration in regular people doing remarkable things - but there was something extraordinary about Steve Prefontaine. I admire his go-your-own-way style. Jared Leto's portrayal of him in the 1997 biography, Prefontaine, helped. Watching this movie on the eve of a marathon was my only ritual for my first 20 or so marathons.

LRC met for a shakeout run on Pre's Trail, a 4-mile soft, wood chip trail near the University of Oregon campus. We were quite the presence in our STOP LRC shirts. We visited Pre's Rock, then humored ourselves with beers and pickled eggs at Max's Tavern, the bar that inspired Moe's Tavern in the Simpsons. Our B&B had an Italian restaurant which made for a convenient dinner the night before the race.

Who ordered the pre-run beers?!
Pickled eggs, as good as pre-race nutrition gets

Melissa and I walked to the race Sunday morning. We anticipated a rainy day but it turned out to be ideal running weather: mostly cloudy in the 50s with light rain holding off until late morning. I was apprehensive yet slightly optimistic when the race started. I planned to assess the pain at mile 8, then mile 16. Both checkpoints were close to the start/finish area where I could walk off course. I didn't take a pain reliever; I wanted to be honest to myself and not aggravate the injury.

This is a fast field of runners. By mile 2, an impromptu sub-3-hour pace group formed. It was a good distraction and mile 8 came and went with the same dull ache in my hamstring and tendon that I started with. I could work with that, eventually clocking a half marathon time of 1:28:08. I was feeling comfortable at this pace and succeeded with a nearly even split (second half was 1:28:36) and a total time of 2:56:44. Thankfully, the injury never worsened.

What the hell is THAT GUY doing with his hands?!

This is a great course for those of us that like rolling hills. The variety and scenery is nice and the finish into legendary Hayward Stadium is remarkable. As impressive as the finish is, seeing all the LRC cheering wildly at mile 26, the field entrance, and along the track as I closed in on my 40th sub-3-hour marathon state is something I will never forget. I'm thankful for them, my wife, and excited for all of their race accomplishments and camaraderie they exhibited in staying to cheer for the friends made from a club I started just 4.5 years ago.

The entrance to the final 200 meters onto the iconic field

And that deserves a celebration worthy of not one, but two post-race breweries. Ninkasi Brewing was a good kickoff to the festivities before heading over to Elk Horn Brewery for a free beer they offered all LRC race participants the previous day. They figured us out and they surely benefitted as we lingered for dinner and more drinks.

The 2nd to Last Supper at Ninkasi Brewing

The Last Supper at Elk Horn Brewery

The drive back to Portland is about 2 hours. Two years ago, Melissa and I stumbled into one of my favorite breweries and made it a point to finish our night there. Great Notion Brewing has doubled in size since our last visit and it's obvious why: the beer is good. If you go to one brewery in Portland, make it this one.

Beautiful beer

Ok, I lied. We finished our night at Salt n' Straw for more ice cream. See ya in Missoula!