Portland to Portland: Part 1

Captain Renault might pretend to be shocked to learn this coast-to-coast beer tour was conceived in a bar, but I’m not going to pretend I am—or that you should be. In our case, ’twas Belgians at The Cheeky Monk. I don’t remember who served us that night. It could have been my favorite member of the Capitol the staff, Bingley (Bingley served me my first beer at the Colfax establishment – avec fib), or it could have been Hugh Jackman; I just don’t recall.

Anyhoo, the wife and I started drinking our way through a small portion of The Cheeky’s selection of imported drafts, and talking about beer and my work in the beer business . . . and how it was a practical and pleasant necessity that I embark on a journey across the United States drinking beer, learning about beer, and making friends with people in the beer business. In fact, I had neglected such undertakings—to my professional detriment.

Well, when you start talking about traveling across America to drink beer, Portland, Oregon, often starts that conversation. Then there’s Portland, Maine. I have a former client there, a valuation-profession ninja lives there, and, importantly, a friend of my wife lives in the like-named city on the North Atlantic. Portland to Portland—sounds awesome doesn’t it? [Btw, I’ll be over-using awesome. It’s an inside joke from the vacation and the idea of substituting it for expletives amuses me].

As you might expect, it all was exceedingly compelling, initially—in that location . . . at that time . . . under those circumstances.

Back then—in that location, at that time, and under those circumstances—it was, for me, just a conceptual discussion about how, at some point, I should attempt to find a reasonable means by which to mix some personal visits to distributorships with the acquisition of craft-industry knowledge and various other forms of professional development. That’s where I was mentally. The wife, well, she was far beyond initial concept. It had been a leap year since our last vacation grande. As such the wife was long past the contemplation phase. We were going Portland to Portland. There was, shall we say, a slight disconnect between our two perspectives.

In retrospect, it was obvious I was going to the canvas. It was only a question of when. My defense, of course, was pathetic. It is hard to get one’s heart into the anti-travel America whilst drinking beer argument. And, in lack of fairness to my wife, let me suggest that she also took advantage of my need to present insights into The Cheeky’s awesomeness. She feigned listening to me while simultaneously using the sonic “Tim-block” devices she has cultivated since first making my acquaintance. Damn, the lady can multitask!

Writing this now (and assigning blame from the rearview mirror), I’d like to suggest that my wife was plotting points along this country’s northern latitudes while barraging me with compelling “you shoulds” and pummeling me with tough-to-answer “why can’t yous.” Seconds in, and I’m wobbling up against the ropes looking at the exceedingly obvious and notoriously awesome Portland, Oregon, to start the tour and seeing the exceptional Allagash in Portland, Maine, at its end. And, of course, it was all exceedingly compelling in that location . . . at that time . . . under those circumstances.

Portland to Portland—why not? It’s got a nice ring to it and it’s conceptually enticing when abstracted from time, distance, and various other elements of the practical reality. In fact, my wife decided that going from Portland to Portland sounded SO awesome that we need not discuss the continent lying between the Pacific Portland and the Atlantic Portland. Nor should we talk about duration or mode of transit. We’re just enjoying some beers and talking—so I thought; all the while she fixated and plotted. Eventually I caught on to where she was, and decided I needed to corral the conversation with some practicalities.

There is no exceedingly compelling argument for choosing that strategy—in that location . . . at that time . . . under those circumstances. I already had totally “awesomed-up” my wife-proximity mouth-retardant coefficient, and now I was going to pay.

I love vacation travel. Work travel is fine, but not awesome. I’ve done the on-site, “distributor has all you need” no-worries thing (distributors all know of their cities’ finest amenities). Working like that can involve extended and odd hours, but generally it is not chock-full of uncertainty or lacking in pleasantries. I hadn’t worked on the road, hopping from place to place over any meaningful duration. We were going to be crossing some of our country’s vast emptiness, and I wasn’t savoring the idea of struggling to find Internet access in the Northern Rockies. Nor was I excited about playing the “Where is the awesome Kinko’s?” game and being told that it was two awesome hours away, except that the awesome bridge is out. So, motivated by foolish pride coupled with personal and profession away-from-home trepidations, I decided to mount a reason-based argument against taking the trip this year.

My wife doesn’t know everything about my business, but she knows enough to kick my butt in an argument my heart really isn’t in.

“I can’t be out of the office that long.”

“Why not, millions of other people do it every day?”

“I’m not comfortable being away from the extended family for that long right now. I feel like sticking close to home at the moment.”

“It’s really not that long; you have brothers and sisters in Denver and if there’s an emergency you hop on a plane and head home.”

My lackluster defense thus aikido-ed, the wife went immediately to the professional nag and closed with the sentimental kill shot. Think of how good it could be for you professionally and what a great experience it would be for our kids.

It went like that. Flailing jab, flowed by a round house to the ear. In the end she took pity and indicated we could continue the conversation later. That was code for “I’ll inform you as my plans progress.” And so we ate and our night out ended. My wife left the premises thinking how fun our coast-to-coast summer vacation was going to be. I left The Cheeky Monk staggered by the sober reality of the Continental sized folly I had just prattled my way into. Three weeks to travel 3,200 miles while attempting to drink a diversity of beers? When you consider travel, packing and unpacking, there’s beer mitigation at every stop. This thing is going to be more than a conceptual debacle. It’s going to be a logistic nightmare. Even as a team Charlie Sheen and Keith Richards could barely put a dent in Portland, OR’s craft seen with a mere three weeks. So, we’re going to add kids and a second Portland. I thought to myself, this whole damn vacation is going to be nothing but malted mulligans.

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