Drunken Beaver Tour Part I

image_1The whiskey had not yet fully set in.  The storm over the lakeshore, however, had.  As I laid in my tent I thought about the journey we had just embarked upon.  I thought back to day one of Matt and I drinking a couple of beers and downloading some Tom Waits songs before we even took the first “official” pedal strokes.  It felt like months ago.  We discussed this phenomenon many times only to draw the conclusion that the sheer amount of memories made it seem as though the timeline stretches much farther than one realizes.

We set out from my doorstep bound for my in-laws place on Cobb lake a mere 27 miles away.  Jeremy would joins us later in the evening as he was taking part in a game called “gulf or golf”.  Something involving sticks and balls without bikes.  At the Cobb Lake Luxury Resort we enjoyed a steak dinner, fine local wine, many beers and far too much bourbon.image_2The proprietor (my mother in-law) was kind enough to make us a delicious breakfast the following morning, of which I was only able to eat a few bites.  Something in my belly was not agreeing with the mix of spirits from the evening prior.  A quick refreshing dip in the lake had me feeling like a new man and we were off to Paw Paw.  Along the way we decided upon a brief layover in the “island town” of Plainwell.  Our first stop was a surprisingly good gastropub called the Lost Raven.image_3
We ate, we drank, we discovered that our waitress had a twin sister that worked down the road at The Old Mill Brew Pub down the road whom had just applied for a midget scholarship.  Naturally we had to investigate.
Upon arrival at The Old Mill Brew Pub we were greeted by the owner, Scott Zylstra, with a huge smile telling us to get our bikes up on the porch.  He then bought the 3 of us a pint of Crazy Beaver and took us on a private tour of the amazing building, a 150 year old flour mill.imageNever have I met a more energetic person.  Scott constantly wiped the sweat from his brow as he led us on a whirl wind tour, up to the expansive banquet hall, further up to the old grain bins and finally down to the basement where we were introduced to the ghost of William.

Back at the bar we enjoyed another pint before setting off for Paw Paw, the town so nice they named it twice.
The moment we arrived at Paw Paw brewing company, the locals welcomed us with slurred speech and glazed over smiles (Apparently they get the party started early down here).image_4 image_5 image_6We gulped down a few pints, shoveled some food in our face holes while listening to a decent string band and settled in for our first night of “camping”.  This evenings accommodations would be in a friends backyard complete with a pool, hot tub and multiple feline friends, some of whom tried getting very friendly with Matt at the wee hours of the morning.
The dawn would bring the first of many greasy spoon diners for breakfast followed by some incredibly beautiful gravel filled miles.  Rolling hills, small lakes, tunnels of trees, no traffic…heaven.image_7image_10 image_8 Then it happened.  This was our third long trip together and never did we have a breakdown or mechanical that I can think of.  Well, our fortune ended quicker than a Kim Kardashian marriage.  Matt ran over a piece of glass which I failed to point out and flatted.  No big deal…right?  Well, turns out that a valve stem can be incredibly difficult to remove.  Nothing that 4 guys, 3 pliers, a screwdriver, a hammer and a Dewalt drill can’t fix.

image_9An hour later (longest flat fix of my damn life) and we were on a beeline course for Sawyer, home of Greenbush Brewery.
The pace quickened as we turned onto Sawyer road.  We were all a bit excited, for Greenbush was a key destination.  The place was packed. Yet we managed to find a table against the back wall and immediately ordered a round of Brother Benjamin’s (a delicious imperial IPA brewed with honey).  One more round of beers (which we did not have to pay for) and we were out. image_11 image_12We would set up camp a couple miles north at Weko Beach in Brigdeman.  Fortunately they had one “site” available.  A tiny wedge of sand at the entrance of the campground.  Over the years we have camped in back yards, farms, side yards, behind bars and front yards.  This was the most piss poor excuse of a campsite we have ever had to utilize.  But as we always remind ourselves, nothing makes for a comfy night of sleep like a steady intake of beer.  So off to Tapistry Brewing we went.  After a half dozen very respectable beers, a brief brewery tour and a nightcap stop on the beach we settled in for the evening on our 150 sq ft sandbox.

The following morning we had the “pleasure” of meeting our new neighbor Dirty Larry.  This 70ish Veteran was kind enough to allow us use of what would be his piss poor sight well past the checkout time.  In exchange we were to endure stories of ‘Nam punctuated by seemingly endless ramblings of what was wrong with grownups then and what is even more wrong with the youth of today.  Turns out that Larry had a surprisingly colorful military experience which was cut short due to what he bluntly described as a “gay love affair”.  The next hour passed  in a blur of tent folding, gear stuffing and increasingly awkward stories of the legend of Dirty Larry.

Rob Meendering

Stay tuned for Part II of the Drunken Beaver Tour