July 27, 28, 29, 2017
Thursday, July 27 was a “free” day for me — for the Convention-goers, it was for seminars, Room-To-Room trading/buying/selling, and catching up with old friends at the Hospitality room.
Jack and I headed out to discover what the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail was all about — a friend we spoke with at the Brewmaster’s dinner the night before warned that the trail out our way (east of town) was not terribly pleasant, as it was right beside a traffic-filled road that was under construction, complete with new asphalt.
So we drove our bikes to Comstock and parked at the South Wenke Park lot, and headed from there toward Kazoo. It was fine, even though it was along the road (business 94), but from Comstock toward Kazoo, it was not under construction.
The layout was quite dicey, however, when the trail went under the bridge on the east side of town, and we passed a popular homeless hang-out, which was creepy enough. But then we went just north of town, and the scenery got very industrial and we rode (quickly) past several individuals who were staggering about to a significant degree.
Shortly, however, we left the dingiest part of North Kalamazoo, and, while it was still urban, it wasn’t quite so filthy and decrepit. Eventually we crossed some rail road tracks, left the river proper, and headed into suburbia, which was quite nice. We made it to the northern terminus of the trail, and the best bit was encircling the nature preserve, although we did not go into the Nature Center itself. The way along that final 3 miles of the northern leg of the trail was shady, cool, green, and hilly, believe it or not. It was quite nice all along there.
Once we reached the end (about the 13-mile marker, although since we carved some of the mileage off by starting at Wenke Park, our cyclometers read 10.5 mi.) we turned around and headed back. The return timing proved to be beneficial, because the North Kazoo and Under-Bridge activity seemed to have abated with the rising of the sun (not that we had been there all that early on the outbound trip). Still, because of the urban-ness of the ride, we elected not to pedal into Kazoo proper to have lunch, but instead returned to Comstock, loaded up the bikes and went back to Roomba for a lunch of chicken salad and chips. Unfortunately, the trail was relatively uninspiring, so I took exactly zero photos.
I had discovered, through Facebook, that a long-ago High School good friend lived near Kazoo, and he got into touch and suggested we get together. We arranged to meet at Hop Cat in downtown, and so we headed out around 6:30P to link up. What a grand time we had. I don’t think Leroy’s changed a bit since High School, although we’ve all gotten heavier and older. He’s doing great, though, and that was excellent to hear and share with him what’s been going on with me in the intervening 42 years. I’m so glad we were able to make it work out to share a meal together.
When we drove back to the campground, Jack drove us out to the Eagle Lake area, where he had ridden his bike on Wednesday. It was quite lovely as the sun set behind us and the shadows lengthened on the water. Took a few pix of the day-use folks who were down there with us.
Friday was a very early day for me, as I was expected to attend a 7AM Board of Directors’ meeting. I was into the car and headed into the Radisson by about 6:15. Parked at the $9.75/day lot near the rear entrance of the hotel, as I’d done each day so far (on Water Street), but the rear entrance didn’t open to the public until 7. Eventually I got to the front doors and found a cup of coffee, and headed down to the meeting.
The President managed to keep the entire event (which included breakfast) to 2 hours, so everyone was able to get ready for the Big Event of the day, the members-only auction. I took some photos there, chatting with members and watching the action until I just had to head out for lunch. It was also freezing cold in the room, so it was good to be outside for a bit to find lunch.
I stayed for the Full Bottle Swap, for which I’d brought my fave (nearly) hometown brew, Parkway Brewery’s Get Bent Mountain IPA (Salem, VA). I came home with 6 IPAs from other parts of the world, including one from our own Virginia Beach.
Raced home to pick up Jack and turn around and get back so we both could participate in the “Taste of Michigan” display of breweriana and the Bell’s Brewery sampling of an enormous variety of their brews that we never see in Virginia. Then we had the Friday Banquet, at which Larry Bell (founder of Bell’s) was the guest speaker. It was, as usual, a pretty fun event with excellent food.
Saturday, July 29 was slightly more leisurely, since the Public Trade Show (where members display their wares on tables in the show room and the public is invited to buy, ask questions, etc.) doesn’t officially start until 9AM. I got there just as the members had finished setting up and the public began perusing tables full of all types of beer memorabilia. I took photos of the action for a while, and then returned (meter-free parking on Saturday!) to our campsite, which Jack had begun packing up in prep for an early departure on Sunday. When he got to a stopping place, we headed about a half-hour’s drive down to Portage, where my brewery buddy, Dave lives.
Dave and I have known each other for years, but only virtually. He has another buddy, George, with whom he’s written several articles for the magazine I edit, and Dave has written one or two solo contributions to the oeuvre. He has been unable to attend many of the Conventions in person, but a couple of years ago, I met George face to face, and this Kazoo Convention was our opportunity to introduce ourselves.
We had a lovely visit with Dave, and met his pup, Smiley. Dena, Dave’s wife, was away for a bit, but she arrived later, and I was so glad to have the chance to meet her also. We talked beer and told stories and shared a beer together, and overall had a grand old time. Dave has led an interesting life, and I was very happy to meet him for real.
The final event of the Convention was the Saturday banquet. It was very low-key and involved not only a 50/50 raffle, but also a free chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Virginia’s own Blue and Gray show, which one of the NABA board members has been running for years and years. Everyone had a grand time, and said goodbye for another year.
Upon arrival back at camp, Jack and I hitched up the car and readied for an early departure.