Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two Facts Of Life

Yesterday's road trip was a chance to learn two of life's important lessons. Read on.......

With a day off and and plans for the evening hours from home, it was decided to mosey our way west along Michigan Avenue. Someday, maybe, we can take it all the way to Chicago, but not today. Casual driving until dinner time. That was the plan.

Needing some munchies, we bumbled towards the dainty little "town" of Brooklyn. After turning north at Michigan International Speedway, my co-pilot spied a huge white bird sitting on a post. Given the lighting and my speed (not all influenced by the speedway, I'll have you know!), the first thought that crossed our minds this time of year was "Snowy Owl". After a double u-turn, we found ourselves not 50 yards from the bird. Immediately, we ruled out the owl. The head was too noticeable; a snowy owl head is rounded and seems like it is truly part of the body. While preposterously rare, a white Gyrfalcon needed to be considered. Our bird was big and certainly falcon/buteo in shape. (Hey! Cut me some slack! If undeserving kids can have sugar-plums dancing in their heads, we can dream about finding a white Gyr!)

Sure enough, the bird was patient enough for us to glass it and confirm it's identity: adult partial albino Red-tailed Hawk. Unfortunately, the camera gear was in the back seat. After grabbing it, getting the lens cap off, setting some dials, and swinging the camera into position (after an elapsed time of 27 years), the bird took off. Oh, hell no, he couldn't just fly when we stopped the car. No way. He had to wait for me to be a split second shy of "ready" and then take off. I managed a few shots as it flew, but as you would expect, it went the wrong way. Finally landing a few hundred yards out, I managed the shot you see here. Had the bird cooperated, I think I may have been able to get some pics comparable to this one from Belle Isle a few weeks back.

In case you are wondering why it is considered a partial albino with all that white present, it is simple - it must be completely white (no pigment anywhere). A bird with even one normal feather would be considered a partial albino. This bird had some red tail feathers as well as a scattering of colored primaries, secondaries, and coverts. Any way you look at it, it was an awesome sight!

By 4pm, we found ourselves in Marshall. While small, but huge compared to Brooklyn, the town is older than dirt. It was established in 1830. With an awesome, historic downtown jammed with cool art galleries and antique shops, we really did not do ourselves a service by allowing less than 90 minutes to look around. That said, I did find a dandy little coffee book published in 1932. Neat stuff. I could easily have dropped over 200 buckos on any number of cool antique mills, but that wasn't going to happen. That $325 coffee crate was so tempting, too.

At this point, I am sure you're wondering "Why in the world Marshall?" Did I really drive almost 2 hours to find a $3.50 coffee pamphlet? Of course not. What often beckons me? Yup, beer and friends.

The Dark Horse Brewery was a fine meeting to catch up with my friends Josh, and his wife, Kara. My first impression (of the place, not Josh and Kara!) was "small". The quarters were very tight and had the feel of a garage-turned-bar. The table that was a door helped to set that mood! Very cozy. Shame on the person who does not shower and comes to a place like this! All in all, it was actually very cool! Thousands of ceramic mugs (I mean it - thousands!) were hanging from every square inch of usable space. It was all a part of the beer club, apparently. No two mugs were the same. As we were told from a friend of Josh's who showed later, most of the mugs are made by some guy in the Upper Peninsula who has no electricity. How a guy in the U.P. becomes the go-to guy for ceramic mugs needed by a brewery less than one hour from Indiana is anybody's guess!

So how were the beers, you ask? Both were great. The Boffo Brown Ale (#684) was awesome. As someone who is getting a better appreciation of brown ales, I can tell you this one is tops. Carmelly (is there such a word?), smooth, and creamy, this scored a "5" hands down. The Too Cream Stout (#686) was every bit as good. Chocolaty , smooth like liquid silk , and with well balanced roasted tones, it was incredible. Having two great beers with another one of the basic food groups - pizza - made for a great meal. At least 10 other brews were available, but obviously, I couldn't try them all! With an alcohol level pushing the limits of aviation fuel, the "Plead the Fifth Imperial Stout" will have to wait. I do, however, have a four-pack of the "4 Elf Winter Ale" in the fridge. I'll keep you posted.

By the end of the evening, we confirmed a few important facts of life: Red-tailed Hawks are stunning regardless of colors but annoyingly uncooperative, and the Dark Horse Brewery is a must for anybody within a two-hour drive.

(Oh yeah, we also decided iPhones rule and Big Wheels are cool.)

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