Saturday, July 23, 2016


Old Orchard Beach Pier
Old Orchard Beach, Maine, known to New England locals as The OOB was a bit of a funny place with its strong hick American vibe blended with a strong influence from French Canada. Being just a few house drive away, the Canadian vibe is not surprising, although it was. We stayed in a very pricey campground for two nights, but it was kitted out,  with pool, table tennis and a fair bit of peace and serenity for a pack spot. The beach was just a 10 minute walk away, along with the amusement rides, right on the side of the beach, with a rickety pier and its shack style buildings all over. The water was deadly cold, seriously, but its was truly just beautiful, with some nice little swells rolling in. Perfect for body surfing, just had to let your head defrost after every few dunks underwater.

Portsmouth, NH

We left early Friday morning after I was done with night shift. Was a bit of a tough day running for 24+ hours with no sleep, but it gave us a super long weekend. We took the interstates direct to the New Hampshire boarder, where we stopped at the town of Portsmouth for a picnic lunch and a look around. Followed by following the Post roads Route 1 North making a few stops along the route at Kittery Fort and the beach town of Ogunquit, which we both noticed were incredibly clean and pristine. The water at the beach in Oqunquit was blue as could be, but the amount of people littering the beach is always a bit of a downer. On route to Portland we also stopped in at the most photographed lighthouse in the country, the Portland Head Lighthouse and yeah its pretty photogenic.

Portland Head Lighthouse
We made The OOB our base for a bit of exploration. We were particularly excited to head to Portland, Maine. After the recommendation by one of the brewers we contract brew for, we embarked on a brewery adventure in the ultra hipster/alternative city of the north. Six brewery's to speak of on our visit, we started at Foulmouthed Brewpub in South Portland. We met the brewer of the brand new facility, enjoyed a flight and some extremely flavorsome bites to eat. Shipyard Brewing Company next, with their ingenious chalk board flights, filled us with good quality beer. Rising Tide Brewing operating out of large roller doors was a chilled location with a great pale ale with rye. Its was a shame we didn't get time to visit the craft distillery next door, because up next was Bunker Brewing Co. Now this place is what a true craft brewery should look like. As if it was put together by a bunch of madmen with welding equipment inside a building that looked like it survive a nuclear holocaust. The beer was great, the prices were as fair as they come and sitting in the industrial wasteland setting on the warm July Saturday afternoon a few beers in, it was just good news.

Bunker Brewing Co.
 A short walk further found us at the Urban Farm Fermentory, which just sets the bar of hipster alternative-ness. Fermenting liquid only of the non-hopped variety and I don't just mean few hops, they mean no hops, e.g not beer. Cider, Mead, Cambucha as well as herbed liquid (beer basically) is their thing. A bold move, far away from the big selling profit making pale ales and pilsners, these guys are going a different route. For what their beverages were, they were good, but I would have loved a pale ale is all. Last brewery of our tour was the oddly named Liquid Riot Bottling Company. Alternative in the general American sense, though for this part of the woods, I guess it was just coming across by the book. Good beer, bistro pub food and right in the heart of the tourist trap of downtown seaport Portland.
Ending off the trip we ventured west into New Hampshire aiming for Lake Winnipesaukee. With no expectations, we were blown away with how beautiful this place was. The large clear evergreen lake was set within the tree covered rolling hills. You could nearly even justify some as mountains. We stopped at the lakeside Wolfsboro. A quaint New England holiday spot, perfect for a huge ice cream with your toes in the water, motor boats cruising, flower baskets hanging from shop eves and a relaxed air. We circumnavigated the northern lakeside, driving right waterside some of the time and other times climbing over hills past cabins and mansions alike. At Meridith there was more boat parking than car parking. A huge lakeside bar and restaurant was the attraction. A nice lakeside path which wound into a boardwalk jetty, I was surprised to see no 'No Swimming' signs so I took the opportunity to take a last dip, 'Thomas Style'. The water was absolute perfection. New Hampshire and Maine have a reputation for being green, and they certainly seem to make an effort to protect their waterways, at least in this instance. To cap of the weekend, I headed straight back into work at 10pm after a 30 min nap. 

Thomas and Amy at Lake Winnipesaukee

Friday, July 8, 2016

Rhode Island

Narragansett Beach
Making the most of a four day long weekend, we joined my workmate Steve and his misses Barbara who had booked a holiday house for the weekend in Narragansett, Rhode Island. There were about eight people there, with some more coming and going over the weekend. We had a bed one night and then a couple nights out in the tent in the back yard as well. On the mild nights, it was just perfect, "glamping" like we always do. Sleeping in the outdoors but with all the comforts of a house otherwise, theres not much better than that. Being the 4th of July, it was an all American affair. We grilled, lit off mad fireworks, baked our asses off on the beach along with heaps of glutinous eating and drinking.

RIP ripped shorts

Playing games with the beach officials, we ventured early to the beach to ensure we didn't have to pay a entrance fee. A few got into trouble when they were deemed to have jumped over the wall after the free admittance time of 8:30am. They seemed to turn a blind eye to me and Amy though, not sure they wanted to swim out and get us as  we headed straight for the open ocean on the stand up paddle board and surfboard. Other than having to pay, it is a really nice golden sand beach and we have enjoyed visiting over the years. Unfortunately, the waves were micro at best, and the crowds were unbelievable. But we always enjoy the crystal clear, cool water though.

Fireworks galore, it seemed like it was nearly a contest. As you would let a few off, more would erupt off around you from each and every direction. Which neighbor had the biggest fireworks, I'm not sure. But none would have been legal anywhere other than America I'd assume. Seeking out a real display we went for a bike around the wealthy headlands to catch a glimpse of Jamestown R.I. letting some big explosions off in the distance. Our last morning we even ventured out at some ungodly hour to watch the sunrise back at that same spot, its was pretty beautiful.

With Barbara and Steve

Friday, July 1, 2016

Work, Life and Summer

With the come of summer meant the biggest relief for Amy, that her daily commute to Stamford working at her school was over. The short term position she had taken turned into a full time position throughout the school year. A great addition to her building list of experience working in schools, she was sad to have to finish up after making friends and relationships with teachers and students. But, the 5 minute bike ride around the corner to Knapp's Landing, a local seafood restaurant over looking the inlet, is more her style of a commute. Working events and festivals at the brewery as well she is a busy girl, but that's nothing compared to sitting in your car 10+ hours a week before your work hours even begin.

At the Road Jam festival at Two Roads

Thomas showing Ted the Hopnick, for dry hopping
For myself, as I rotate through my two monthly shift rotations each comes with its own positives and negatives. Morning shifts were busy action packed 6am starts where the day just flew by. We were short staffed and I have never been in a situation when I have managed to multi-task so much at one time and coordinate so seamlessly with my fellow cellarmen. Running the cellar meant 8 hours of controlled mayhem sending and switching over beer to packaging, running the centrifuge, cleaning tanks, assisting the brewers, dry hopping, and basically dealing with anybody's mess ups and problems. By 2:30pm we were deserved of a beer and most days we would head up to the bar or into the beer garden for a fresh pint or two. Second shift and the later start coming at 2pm started off in a similar manor of a shit show as the morning shift however, the evening would slowly progress where all the damage and mayhem of the day was dealt with and taken care of. With the over night shift being much quieter and the most productive in terms of knocking beers out, CIPing tanks and processing beers for the following days packaging.

This rotation creates a varied sleeping pattern and has meant Amy and I would often see a lot of each other at times but then go for a good while where it seemed we were living two separate lives. Once the spring weather finally kicked into gear, we have tried to make the most of the spare time we have had. Wedding planing has been Amy's main past time, but that's another story, literally another whole blog. We have found two local-ish Frisbee Golf courses that are challenging and entertaining. I have played regular golf right across the road from our house. We have taken trips to New Haven to visit my workmates and were left in awe at the super hipster bar scene in the Yale University town. There are also two large rock outcrop parks overlooking the city, good for a drive and a walk. I enjoy stretching the RX7s legs on the stretch of road up the Housatonic River, that also leads to lakes and state parks.

A few other events including a joint Australian themed birthday party for Stevo, Ryo and Tomo on a very unsummery day at the beach. Zinc on the nose still, because we all know the sun still burns through the clouds. We have had a couple good play sessions with the wee man Brady. I try give him a bite of the adventurous life, he has free range with uncle Thomas. 

Aussie mate
We have had two special trips into NYC. The 5 Borough Bike Tour, again on a disappointing spring day, however the 40 mile ride through the five Boroughs of NYC was still incredible. Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten from the Battery to the top of Manhatten. All on closed roads, it gave a perspective unattainable in any other way than cycling. Riding on the motorways and over bridges at our leisure, with 32 thousand others, it was pretty epic. We are also lucky to be among the few to see the hottest show on Broadway, "Hamilton." I felt a bit bad for those that are so desperate to see this show as I was just going along with the flow. It was amazing though and we very much appreciated the quality of performance and writing of Lin Manuel Miranda's masterpiece. Good work Diane for having the connections, beats waiting a year for tickets and paying over a grand each. I guess we are lucky to be right on the door step of the Big Apple.

The end, with the Verrazano Bridge behind

And thank the lord baby Jesus for ESPNs on-demand coverage of the rugby, keeping me connected with home and a good way to disconnect from this part of the world where every person thinks they are the most important and whatever they have going on is priority, and don't get me started on how they drive. Stop signs, traffic lights and the speed limit, I'm sure they have a super legit reason for their complete and utter ignorance of the fact. This just had to be said.
Atop West Rock looking out to New Haven