Brewery Review: Boathouse Brewpub

Of course when traveling I need to sample the local brewery scene. Ely, MN has a nice little brewery right on the main drag that is also a brewpub. Our first night in town we hit there for supper, and to try the local brews.

Since they had 7 beers on tap, and their flights were 4 beers each, I got two flights so I could try everything. I posted a picture of it on social media, but didn’t realize right away the perspective made it look like I had 8 FULL pint mugs of beer in front of me. It ended up being a funny accident as I then had to clarify that, no, these were flight sized mugs.

In terms of the beer, I was very impressed at the quality. In the flight, I didn’t detect any overt brewing flaws, and almost everything tasted to style. A couple beers of note: The altbier was really well done, and actually nailed the style really well. This isn’t a common style to find in pubs, since it has a slight earthy and peaty character. However, on a cold winter night it tastes really great.

I also really enjoyed the Blueberry Blonde. The aroma nailed the blueberry scent, and that really helped to create the perception of a blueberry flavor in the beer overall. Blueberry is a hard one to put in a beer, but this one was successful. This was all helped along by a scoop of actual blueberries floating in the beer. It was also entertaining to watch them float and sink on the carbonation bubbles.

A couple beers that were just OK for me were the milk stout, which was thinner than I like my stouts. It was bordering on porter territory, but still tasty. The bourbon barrel porter also lacked in the barrel age flavor, but it was still a decent beer.

The food was also decent for pub food, and it was a great way to kick off our trip. Certainly worth a stop if you’re in this neck of thee woods.

International Wolf Center

I’ve always wanted to visit the northern Minnesota town of Ely. As a kid I knew plenty of people who went up north to the BWCA, but I never had a huge interest in camping until later in life. So I had never been to this part of the state. This past weekend the wife and I headed up to experience Ely in a typical Minnesota winter, and it’s been a great trip.

One of the key attractions for Ely is the International Wolf Center. This is an organization that does wolf research, and helps to educate folks on wolves in general. They also try to contribute to the difficult discussion around wolves and agriculture, which are issues that we simply don’t think about that much in the cities.

We visited the center early in the day on Saturday and got to hear a presentation about the ambassador wolves at the center, as well as see a couple of them sleeping in their enclosure. However, we knew that to truly see them we’d want to come back at 7pm for the Saturday evening feeding.

Sure enough, as soon as we arrived on Saturday night all four wolves were running around and getting excited about their upcoming meal, as well as all the people watching them. These wolves have been raised in captivity and so they’re very comfortable around humans. They can see inside the building and would often come up to the glass to look at what we were all doing.

There was a presentation on how wolves hunt and eat, and then the main attraction was the depositing of a road kill deer carcass into the enclosure. Sure enough they started chowing down right away. I managed to get a bunch of cool shots before and during the feeding. I’ve put them together in an album over on SmugMug.

https://swiftphotography.smugmug.com/Exploration/International-Wolf-Center/

If you’re in the Ely area, this is certainly worth a stop. It’s a great facility, and getting to see wolves up close is really cool.

TV Review: The Good Place

A week ago, The Good Place concluded after a 5 season run. My wife had discovered this show a couple of years ago, and much like Parks & Rec (another show by the same creator), this one really worked for me.

I’m going to keep this review spoiler free, because it’s really a show that you need to experience the way it’s presented. However, in brief, this is a show about the afterlife, and how a group of people deal with their situation in the afterlife. There are lots of twists and turns, but that’s the basic premise that begins the show.

When dealing with comedy shows about the afterlife, it’s way to easy to move into campy territory. Making fun of sitting on clouds with harps, or representations of heaven as all-inclusive resorts, only work for very brief moments in time. The Good Place doesn’t go in that direction, and instead uses a solid base of humor to ask questions about the human condition, and the very fundamental meanings of life.

The show is an ensemble cast, and despite the fact that Kristin Bell and Ted Danson are obviously the stars, the entire group works. They’re a bunch of misfits that all end up together, despite having almost nothing to do with one another. Their individual flaws accentuate the good parts of each other, and create a wonderful dynamic that builds a true “group”. I’m probably going to have a hard time watching any of these actors in other settings because of how strongly they are now tied to this world.

Suffice it to say, The Good Place was an amazing piece of television for me. It’s profound, honest, funny, and heartwarming. It’s a wonderful show, and worth the investment to see it through to the end.

An unexpected weekend

For those that follow along with me on social media, this will be a re-hashing, but I wanted to put everything out there in one spot for my own memories. Normally, I don’t share a lot of personal info about myself and my health. I’ve talked about my anxiety in the past, and some of my orthopedic stuff, but in general I don’t go into a lot of medical stuff. However, I decided to make a break with that this time, because of how much this entire event impacted my life, plus I think there’s a couple of interesting nuggets in here about how doctors work with each other.

In my last post I detailed about my unexpected adventure getting home from Nevada. Due to my ear issue, I decided not to fly back, and instead took a multi-day train/bus/shuttle/car journey. When I got back I tried to get back to things as normal, however, my ear still wasn’t back to normal. My plan though was to head up to Arrowhead on Sunday and keep on going as planned.

On Saturday we ran an errand to drop off some things, and on our way back I decided that I needed to call the CareLine because of how my ear didn’t seem to get any better, and it was actually causing me some numbness on my face. Well, as soon as I said numbness on one side of my face, the CareLine nurse insisted I go to an ER. We headed to the hospital near home and they decided to do an MRI to check things out. I ended up being in the MRI tube for about and hour, which killed my back. Those are not comfortable tables to lay on.

The results of the MRI came back and the doctor said that it appeared that I had Mastoidites. Meaning that the ear infection was also in the bones behind my ear. He consulted with an ENT doctor and they sent me to a different hospital to get on some IV antibiotics instead of the oral ones I was taking. Thus began the very first time in my life that I’ve had to sleep in a hospital as the patient.

We got me settled on Saturday night, and waited around for more doctors to visit. Eventually the ENT doc came by and took a look. He felt that it wasn’t too bad, but that I should continue on the antibiotics for another day and that if things weren’t improving they could drain the ear of fluid to help move things along. The next day came and went and went, and it wasn’t until afternoon that we decided that I would be discharged on Monday to head to the ENT clinic to get my ear drained. The infectious disease doc also wanted a culture of the fluid to see what type of infection it was and better target antibiotics if I needed it.

Monday morning we head to the ENT clinic and the doctor there says that my ear actually isn’t that bad and that he doesn’t think there’s any more infection, just a bunch of fluid. He said that medical docs tend to overreact when they see inflamed mastoids and that from the ENT perspective, this is all normal and will heal in time. He did offer to drain the ear though if I wanted, to try and get some relief. I opt’d to try that and the entire procedure took no more than 5 minutes. It probably wouldn’t have even taken that long, but he had a medical student with him and he was showing her everything he was doing.

They suctioned out all the fluid, and we opt’d to just let it heal instead of a tube. I left the clinic, and I could tell right away that the drainage helped a ton, even though my hearing wasn’t quite back to normal. Now, a day later, it’s back to having some fluid built up again, but it’s not quite the same level of pressure. According to the ENT doc it’s going to take weeks to resolve, but since I don’t have a fever or anything like that, I should be fine.

The interesting thing for me was how the different docs viewed this situation. The ER doc went into immediate action mode, wanting to fix the problem. The infectious disease doc was focused on the root cause and identifying the specific infection that started all of this. The ENT’s were the least concerned and felt that no one knew as much about ears as them, and so everyone should just relax and not worry about it. The entire dynamic between the different disciplines was fascinating, and shows that medicine is not a single monolith.

So now, I’m back at home, and going to try to just keep doing life as normal. I’ll have a follow up with the ENT in a few weeks, and hopefully by then everything will have resolved and I’ll be back to 100% normal. I’m ready for normal.

An unexpected adventure

This past week didn’t turn out quite the way that I had planned. After we got done with our race, I got sick. We were supposed to fly out to Vegas on Friday for my wife’s birthday, but I wasn’t sure I’d be up for the trip. Plus, a large snowstorm was moving in, and was threatening to cancel or delay flights.

Friday came and I was on the fence about going, however at the last minute I decided that I wanted to be with my wife on her birthday so I would go. That’s when all the trouble began. Because I had been ‘stuffed up’ I had issues with my left ear upon landing. When we got on the ground it wouldn’t pop, and within a couple of hours it was in excruciating pain. We went to an Emergency Room and they confirmed that I burst blood vessels along my ear drum, but that I didn’t rupture it. It would be sore and damaged for a while.

img_0666At this point I knew that flying back home would be a bad idea because it would put me at high risk of rupture of my eardrum. Thus began the planning for how I would get home without an airplane. At first I thought about just renting a car and driving the whole way in about 3 days. I would want to take the southern route through Albuquerque and Kansas City, since driving through the Colorado Rockies in January didn’t sound like a great idea. It would also mean I’d need to leave pretty early on Sunday morning.

Another option presented itself when I looked at Amtrak. They had a shuttle service that would bring me to Kingman, AZ where I would catch the Southwest Chief to Kansas City. There I would then rent a car and drive the final 6.5 hours home. Because it would involve two overnights, I opted for the more expensive sleeper car. This seemed like the best option as well, because it meant I could stick around until Sunday night before heading out.

img_0675As it turns out, sticking around on Sunday was a good idea. I started feeling a bit worse on Sunday, and when I happened to check my throat it was blazing red and covered in white spots. We headed over to an urgent care, where the nurse practitioner first looked in my damaged ear. She informed me that my ear was infected, and when she looked at my throat she didn’t even bother to take a swab. Since she was giving me an antibiotic for my ear, it would take care of both.

On Sunday night I boarded the van, which took me to the train. The train arrived and I immediately went to bed. I got some fitful sleep, but boarding a train at 2am is never a recipe for a restful night. The next day was spent relaxing and taking it easy. I did some work on a future race idea, and cleaned up some stuff from SC40. I managed a little bit better sleep on the second night, but because the train was heading east I was losing hours to the timezone changes as we went.

img_0691At 6:30am on Tuesday we arrived at Kansas City. I then boarded a bus to take me to the car rental place for the drive home. Thankfully, the drive home from KC is incredibly simple. Within a mile of the car rental agency I was on Interstate 35 heading north. That’s about it. Just keep heading up 35. I listened to a bunch of podcasts, and tried to not eat too much gas station junk food. I arrived at the airport within ten minutes of my wife landing so that we could hop in our own car and finally get home.

The one upside is that I’ve also gotten to see a ton of amazing landscape, from tall mountains to wide open plains. Some areas have snow, while others are bone dry and yellow. This has been a nice perk of traveling this way, as I can simply absorb the landscape. If this had been the plan for how we were going to travel it probably would have been more enjoyable, but I tried to make the best of it all.

Now for some time in my own bed.