Sunday, June 24, 2007

1st Annual (?) Pilgrimage of Beer

Recently, I stumbled upon a vital new piece of knowledge -- Surly Brewing sells growlers. This is a big deal and when I found out, I immediately thought it would be cool to bike out to the brewery and get a couple. Digging further (which meant going to the Surly Brewing website -- you should go there too: ) I compiled the particulars. Due to regulations and staffing issues the growlers are only available on Saturdays from noon until 2pm. So, a couple new wheels starting spinning in my mind about how I could get two spoked wheels turning toward the brewery in Brooklyn Center.

I mentioned the idea to a few like-minded coworkers known for having a perpetual thirst. Pretty soon it became apparent that I should just email an invitation to a bunch of people. A name was assigned -- the Pilgrimage of Beer; a date was set -- Sat, June 16; a time and meeting place were decided -- 11am CRC Coffee Bar and Cykel Garage. All that was left to do was to wait and see who might show up. Here are a couple of photos of the crowd assembling in front of Hurl's shop, a bonafide Uptown icon, the CRC:

I was pleased. By the time we were ready to roll out at 11:20 we had 16 pilgrims. Amy C slid in at the last possible moment to make it 17. We pedaled down Bryant (BTW Panorama Video usually has good sales on all the titles you WANT to see), north to the Midtown Greenway, and headed west. Then we cut north on the Cedar Lake Trail to Wirth and eventually Victory Parkway. It was a pleasant enough ride with no problems aside from a troublesome pannier strap. Amy C lives near the brewery, so she led the group most of the way.A paltry 11 miles later, our force of 17 stormed into the Surly building and began placing our orders. Even with a few non-drinkers in our group we managed to snatch up at least 35 growlers. (Perhaps our numbers were so impressive because the rest of us are over achievers.) Surly's offerings of the day were CynicAle, Bender and Furious (a strong IPA -- my personal favorite).

Locked and ready to get loaded, we didn't exactly have a destination planned. Rude Dawg had a great suggestion -- head east to the riverfront in Camden. I had never spent time there, but it sounded as if it could fulfill all our requirements -- a relatively low key (and low brow) setting with bike access, a picnic table and a grill. A quick stop by the "Bunny store" provided the necessary grub (slim on vegan pickin's however). On the way there, the group moved fast. I think everyone was getting thirsty. I had to stop and secure a wayward bag of Doritos perched on my BOB trailer. The group kept on going. Fortunately, a few people waited for me and we set out to track down the group. I had no idea where we were going, but was a little ashamed to admit it. After one wrong turn we did manage to spot some fellow pilgrims who led us to our penitent camp on the west bank of the Mighty Mississippi. The only other souls around were a few people fishing a hundred yards away. Bikes down ...and growlers up! We packed two grills with briquettes and prepared to sacrifice our offerings.

Trevor prepping some vegan repast.

The Park Police rolled by once and kept on going. I thought for sure we would be moving our camp after barely getting settled, but we got lucky. Growlers aren't exactly the receptacles cops are planning to spot. Maybe they thought we were drinking jugs of iced tea? Matt, our resident legal counsel, had to take off to attend his high school graduation. He left us with the sage advice to answer "Yes, Sir/Ma'm" should the cops return. Shenanigans ensued. Three local kids even scammed 4 brats off of us. Dave Lee and Reid "Short-shorts" Gosmire started riding hot laps around the bike path loop. We began serenading Dave (using the chorus to the Police "Everything She Does is Magic") and booing Reid. Ah, good times. Then, Amy C passed out. When somebody passes out and you don't know why, that's scary. When somebody passes out because they have had 1+ growlers of strong beer and are currently busy horking off your growler (even though you're trying to get 'em to drink water), it's not too confusing why they are no longer conscious. Amy looked comfortable with her head on the table and the rest of us were having fun, so we kept partying. I remember mentioning something along the line of "Too bad we don't have a Sharpie." Well, Anthony Kamstra packs a Sharpie at all times. Insisting that it be tastefully done, we all watched as Reid gave Amy a very nice Sharpie tattoo on the base of the neck. Paul Rude was throwing another party and the crew was restless. But, we needed to make sure Amy got home. I was happy a portion of the group rallied for the task. We rolled out. I brought up the rear. My BOB trailer felt really unstable (the beer had nothing to do with it) and 30 seconds into the ride I took a good fall directly onto my ride side on the grass lining the trail. It was a hard hit but I hopped up and, of course, checked to make sure no one had seen my idiot maneuver. (Editor's note: Is it okay that it hurts to breathe and I just discovered that I broke my helmet?) I got underway again, popped out to the road and promptly discovered the group gathered around Amy C, being pulled up from the pavement. She'd steered directly into a parked classic Cadillac and had really smashed her shoulder good.

It's all fun and games until you have to try and sober up and act all responsible. Amy's front wheel was tacoed. We contemplated straightening it, but it was really bad. We checked her shoulders and head. Nothing looked broken; there was no blood. The real challenge that lay ahead was how to get her home. No real choice but to walk. And walk we did for about 20 minutes. A little mental math and I figured out we must be at least 3, if not 4-5, miles from her house. This was not going to be fun or easy because Amy was beginning to fade again and could no longer walk on her own.

Right about that time April called me to see when I'd be home. (Yeah, imagine that conversation.) I said things did not look good and if it were at all possible, she should come up and get Amy with the car. She agreed and we camped out in the shade to play the waiting game.

Everyone chilled out. Amy slumped over onto my shoulder for another beer nap. Reid and Pierre were fixing a tire, but it took so long I thought they must be repacking the hub, too. Pretty soon I began to wonder whether my foggy directions to a strange part of town were adequate for April to find us. But she pulled up and we loaded two bikes, the BOB trailer and a barely conscious Amy into the wagon. The saddest part for me was abandoning the ride and watching everyone else pedal away, but was definitely for a good cause. After one big-ass loop, a lot of contradictory directions and some second-guessing, we found Amy's street. We left her with instructions to keep icing the shoulder and take some Vitamin I.

It was more action than I was looking for on the pilgrimage, but I was happy it wasn't worse. I still feel pretty bad that Amy went down on "my ride," because it's hard not to feel responsible in some way. Amy's collarbone was indeed cracked and she'll be on the DL for a while. The rest of us didn't learn our lessons -- we're planning a growler refill ride for the afternoon of B-Rose's party! Check it out here:

And, thanks, honey, for saving the day.

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