Beer Here! Craft Breweries in Harrisonburg, VA

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is known for both the beauty of the mountains and its many wineries.

Fans of hops don’t despair, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail runs along nearly the same route and offers a variety of craft breweries for any palate. One spot along the way with a concentration of stops is the city of Harrisonburg, VA. There are four breweries within walking distance of each other, allowing for a full day of touring the tastes in the historic downtown area. The big bonus for my visit was that all of these options had outdoor dog-friendly patios!

Three Notch’d Brewingone of three tap room locations of the Charlottesville based brewery. The Minute Man IPA was smooth and citrusy and the Watermelon Gose was refreshing, salty, and sweet. They also had dog biscuits available for purchase made from the grain left after the brewing process!

Brothers Craft Brewing – probably the most well known brewery in the area. The seasonal Hallelujah IPA has a mid-level bitterness and citrus note, but my personal favorite is the Hoptimization. If you can’t make it to the tap room, a number of local restaurants offer their brews on draft.

Pale Fire Brewing Co. – known for their IPAs, they also have a good variety of other styles. I personally loved the Salad Days Saison and the Electric Sheep Belgian Amber.

Wolfe Street Brewing – located in an old garage, this is the smallest and most intimate tap room location. They tend toward more ambers and stouts, but definitely try the Citra Tonic Pale.


If you’re more of a cider person, try nearby Old Hill Hard Cider in Timberville. Located at the Showalter Orchard, Old Hill offers tastings made from 10 varieties of apples grown specifically for cider making. Try their special mead blend and whisky barrel aged options for unique flavors (I bought a bottle for home).


Riding in Cars with Dogs

There’s nothing like a good road trip. Add a dog and you’ve got a recipe for a great weekend escape.  I travel with my dog Hondo as often as I’m able to, now 6 different US states in our 4 years together.  I feel that its easier to travel with him by car than airplane and always try to bring him along. While it does add more prep work (and planning stress) it’s totally worth it.

5 Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

Safety First – When you’re driving down the road, your little beast should be as safely secured as you are. Keep your dog in a crate or seat belted in. Hondo’s harness is attached to a seatbelt in a car, assuring that he doesn’t go sliding if I need to hit the brakes fast. You can find a seatbelt attachment at pet stores.

Take Breaks – When you’re on a good stretch it can be tempting to keep driving for hour after hour. Try and break that habit and make regular stops along your route for rest breaks, snacks, and a little walk. everyone will be much happier (trust me)

Keep to a Routine – Dogs like routines. They seem to instinctively know when dinner time rolls around. While it’s not always 100% possible, I try to stay to our established routines on the road. It makes the change in scenery a little less stressful for Hondo.

Be Aware of Temperature – The heat and sun are amplified inside of a car and can easily become dangerous to all living beings. When you’re road tripping make every attempt to NOT leave your dog unattended in the car.  If you absolutely have to leave them, make sure to limit the time and take steps to regulate the temperate and airflow. On solo trips in the summer when I need to make an emergency relief stop where dogs aren’t allowed, I’ll  leave the car running with the air conditioner on and doors locked.

Be Well Supplied – There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to buy what you need for your dog when you’re away from home. Make sure that you being everything you might need with you

  • food & treats
  • dog poo bags
  • leash, harness, etc
  • crate & blanket
  • favorite toys
  • bowls for food & water


Do you have a tip for car trips with Dogs? Tell us in the comments!


Sensory Overload in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia introduces herself with a blast of intense hot, humid air the second you step off the plane.

After that, the sensory onslaught never lets up. Leaving the airport there’s a crowd of people waiting for family and Tuk Tuk drivers barking for clients. Mixed with the sound of motorcycle engines, the overwhelming noise was disorienting after the quiet inside the airport.  As you continue into the city, the smells begin to collect: gasoline, banana, dust, urine, and durian. The smells and sounds ebb and flow, but never dissipate completely. Thankfully my friend S was there to guide me when I arrived; the collection of sights, sounds, and smells was overwhelming and disorienting after two days of traveling.

Phnom Penh isn’t large, but its growing thanks to construction and modernization projects which seem to be around every corner.  Old structures are being retrofitted with luxury condos and tall modern office complexes are on the rise in every direction. Concrete roads are being built to replace the dirt ones leading into the city and much needed stoplights are going in at major intersections.

The traffic was one of the things that was difficult for this westerner to get used to. The moped or motorcycle is the vehicle of juice and drivers take full advantage of their ability to sneak along side or through small openings in traffic. Rules and right of ways are suggestions, dividing lines and roundabouts are routinely ignored. The brave can rent a moto or bicycle and join the throng… but I’m not that brave. I walked around the city, crossing intersections when I dared or took a Tuk Tuk, a covered cart pulled by a motorcycle.

building B at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

On my one day to walk around on my own, I went to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Also known as S-21, Tuol Sleng was a prison and torture center under the Khmer Rouge.  My friend S was working with the testimony from the Khmer Rouge trail and had told me a little about the atrocities committed under the regime, but being physically surrounded by the evidence was intensely emotional. I spent nearly four hours walking through the buildings and taking in the stories on the audio tour.

wooden cells in Building B

There are graphic images and stories of the torture throughout and a quiet uneasiness followed me around the grounds. Photographs of some of the 17,000 victims to go through this prison stare at you, somehow both pleading and resigned. The personal stories and testimony from survivors made me sick to my stomach. Before you leave the grounds, you can speak with two of the only seven survivors. Both gentlemen have written books about their experiences and are happy to sign a copy for you. I walked out of the quiet grounds into the noise and smells of Phnom Penh a solemn and emotional wreck, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.


overheated? coconut water is nature’s gatorade







yellow brick road to the Royal Palace


A few minutes north is the Royal Palace and Wat Preach Keo. These two sites are open to the public for a small entrance fee, but closed for lunch from 11am-2pm.

Unfortunately, this was exactly when I reached them, so I was only able to view from the outside. They are quite beautiful traditional structures, adorned with gold. The streets immediately facing have been blocked off to traffic and tourists walk freely along the sidewalks. The afternoon sun has an intense direct heat, with the shade feeling ten degrees cooler.


Shortly after I gave up and took a Tuk Tuk away from the heat and tourists, through the cacophony and smells, to S’s place and collapsed on a bed. Phnom Penh is both amazing and exhausting.


Experiment: Going Car-less to Save Money

There are hundreds of blogs with lists of “Ways to Save Money for Travel.”  These include having garage sales, cutting cable, and limited the amount of times you go out for dinner.  One of suggestions that would make a more intense impact on many people’s day to day life is to get rid of your car.  Imagine: no car payments, no insurance payments, no petrol, no maintenance, and no parking costs!  After my car was totaled, I decided to take the opportunity and give it a go for a year.

img_3039First thing, his option isn’t for everyone. Many communities, especially in the United States, are impossible to navigate without access to a car. I live in a big city with a decent public transit system. Luckily for me there is a train stop within walking distance of both my home and my workplace. Buses could get me to my doctors and to shopping.

ZipCar and similar car sharing services are another option for when you need to go somewhere off the public transit grid.  There’s a yearly subscription rate with the option to rent a variety of vehicles by the hour or by the day. Again, this can be limited based on where you live and isn’t available everywhere. Standard car rentals from one of the major nationwide companies like Enterprise or Budget are another option, but as you don’t have car insurance you really do need to go for the top add-on rate.

Taxis, Uber, or Lyft can help to make up the balance of transit needs.  The ease of just being able to push a few buttons on your smart phone and instantly have a ride somewhere can’t be underestimated. Anyone who’s used one of these knows the big thing to watch out for is “peak” rates where cost is adjusted up based on demand.

hondocarSo after a year without owning  a car, what do I think?  Did it work? Did I save money? Was it worth it? Yes and no.  The lack of a car payment, insurance payment, and monthly parking fee did save me a decent chunk of change. However, as I have no family local I found myself in need of renting a car every other month, which really added up.  I sometimes work night shifts and riding public transit at midnight wasn’t very fun, nor was returning home on a crowded train and having to stumble home half asleep in the rain.  I also greatly missed the option to take a last minute weekend road trip or go hiking at one of the various state parks with my dog. In the end I decided that being car-less wasn’t for me.  I bought another car and we’ve already enjoyed visits to the mountains, Charleston, and a great girls’ weekend in Memphis.


Walking in Memphis

When your a friend calls and says “Want to meet me in Memphis for a weekend?” you, of course,  say “yes” which can only mean that there will be a lot of laughter during and a good deal of exhaustion after.

Memphis, TN  is a little more than 5hrs drive time from home, so I decided to do it as a road trip, maybe stopping at interesting small towns along the way. While the drive happened, the stopping didn’t.  If you take US22 through Alabama and Mississippi you’ll quickly learn that there is very little along the way. So road trip ended up being about the destination while the journey was non-stop and keeping fingers crossed that a gas station would magically appear before the petrol gauge went to E.

Memphis is a nice little town. The city is smaller than you’d think, and nothing is too far away, especially in the center/downtown/tourist area. Its easy to park (lots of street and lot options) and walk to many of the museums, shops, and restaurants.  Our agenda took us little wider than Beale Street because after all, Memphis is all about its history and music, which was why we were there.

BB King's Guitar at Sun Studios
BB King’s Guitar at Sun Studios

Every day started with a song, and with Paul Simon’s tune of the same name, we were off to Graceland. Elvis’s last home and museum to The King is something you have to do once.  The house tour was thick with tourists and facts from the interactive iPad tour, but engaging and enjoyable. The home is nearly exactly as it was in the 1970s, with only the outbuildings altered to display tour costumes and awards.   A real portrait of the time and of a man.

Music day continued with Sun Studio and Johnny Rivers’s “Memphis, TN” The tour runs once an hour on the half hour and is totally worth the wait. Our guide was passionate, animated, and also works there as a sound engineer at night (they still do live recordings) and spins a good chocolate malted from the counter in the gift shop.  Of course the tour includes a good deal of Elvis talk, but they are very eager to talk about the past and future of the Blues, real Memphis soul.

National Civil Rights Museum
sit in sculpture and film at National Civil Rights Museum

History day in the city began with Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” and was focused mostly on the National Civil Rights Museum.  Built into the former Lorraine Motel, the museum is a powerful and intense look at the fight for equality in the US. Artifacts, films, and audio recordings of the experiences of individuals are arranged on a chronological journey from colonial slave trade to modern human trafficking.  We happened to be there on the anniversary of the march on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech. In one room they had this playing on small television in the wall. Every person who entered the room froze to listen to the words and voice from 1968, barely breathing until the end. As my friend and I drove away U2’s  “Pride” began to play.

By the time I dropped my friend at the airport and drove the 5+ hours home, i only had enough energy left to pick up my dog from camp and pour a glass of wine. Memphis, you’re alright.



It Rains Rocks in Costa Rica

Note:  Autos in Costa Rica are toy-sized, with manual transmissions.

Advice:  Practice at home because you will find yourself immediately driving uphill to merge onto the San Jose Interstate.

Warning:  The massive truck behind your Matchbox car will be six inches from your bumper when you stall on the semi-vertical ramp on which you were forced to stop.

Alas, once my feet, the clutch and gas pedal were speaking the same language, we were safely on the road to Jaco Beach. So it seemed. Because, speaking of language, we Screen shot 2016-04-30 at 12.07.18 PMcontinued to debate the English meaning of the verbiage on each road sign.

Brake lights ahead. Uh-oh, in the light rain, small rocks tumble down the side of the mountain. We inch along aside orange cones. Once free from the jam and clipping along at the speed limit, the ambulance in front of us swerves into the oncoming lane. I slow, but find that I, too, was destined to choose between the oncoming lane and the boulders rolling like tumbleweeds down the side of the mountain. As tourists do, Li is capturing amusing photos to prove that we’d driven through a bona-fide rock slide. While she plays photographer, I hold my breath in the oncoming lane, observing that the steep pitch of the mountain side leads to oblivion.

The following day hotel guests buzzed that, “the main highway was closed last night because of a major rock slide.”