My Hopping Beer Adventure Became a Saga

For over five weeks I hitchhiked from Denver to Portland filming the second season of my show, "Hopping: The Backpacking Beer Adventure." As expected, the beer was amazing, the road was generous, and the northwestern scenery heightened the experience.

There were, however, elements of drama I didn't foresee, a strained friendship, and a nearly cataclysmic ending.

Heads up, you can also listen to me talk about this experience on my show. Search for "Freestyle Travel Show" in your podcast app or listen via Sound Cloud.

The show starts in Denver, but this story starts on the road to New York City. I caught a ride with a friend of mine who'd been recently living out of his RV with a new girlfriend; we rode the thing from Mississippi all the way to NYC with just a few stops along the route. Footnote: There are kicks to be had in Shreveport.

My reason for going to New York was to show Nick how to use the new camera equipment that a very generous friend had recently gotten me; I wanted to make sure he had a head start to get familiar with everything before we started filming.

I've known Nick since the fourth grade, and like the first season of the show, he agreed to hitchhike alongside me to film the adventure. I stayed with him for a few nights in the city, showing him the basics of how the new camera operated along with the peripherals. All this between beer and watching old movies.

After more time and more catch-up with friends and family in the city, I got down to Philadelphia where, besides catching up with another old friend, I caught a $40 flight to Denver.

After a couple nights, Nick flew in as well. We spent the first evening bouncing between breweries and then staying with the Trustroots host I'd been staying with the night before. The next day, the true brewery adventure began.

After some time in the park, filming and lounging, we marched on over to Burns Family Ales. It was truly fantastic, a brewery that specialized in high ABV beers ran simply by a husband and wife. We did our typical routine, this being Nick following me and them in a walk-and-talk around the brewery, followed by us setting up a couple more cameras for a sitdown tasting.

By sunset, we were meandering towards downtown, full of delicious beer and unsure where we'd be staying for the night. 

The first chink in the armor came on the walk, as I rather bluntly reminded Nick that he had to make an effort to film more of the travel and between-brewery parts of our trip, the "backpacking" and "adventure" in "The Backpacking Beer Adventure." This lack of footage in the first season had been an issue and one that we'd addressed in a call together with our editor in the weeks leading up to this trip.

He didn't love my delivery, and I made a point of recognizing that and agreeing to soften my critique, but also that it wouldn't be an issue at all as long as he indeed kept filming when needed.

My Trustroots host had left town, which is why we were unsure where we'd be sleeping, so I guided us on my familiar path in this sort of situation: towards a brewery.

I always figure I can get a beer, scan a satellite view of my surroundings for stealth camping spots, search for potential hosts, and leave myself open to travel magic in the form of someone in the brewery offering a couch or yard or otherwise.

After a beer or three I'd scouted out a few stealth camping options, but only one night in and Nick vetoed those options. While I'd been searching for spots, he'd been comparing hotel rooms. I tried to show him my spots and explain how we'd be fine, but he had a tendency to disregard my advice once he'd made up his mind on something. Explaining the nuances would only frustrate him.

I had to learn to let it go. Once the Kickstarter money ran out we'd be going off his money and he wasn't shy about throwing it around or burning it.

After a cushy night in the hotel, it was off to brewery number two: Woods Boss. It wasn't far away, and once again we went through our filming routine of tour and tasting, followed by both of us getting b-roll for an hour or so.

Public transit got us up to Boulder in a hurry. Nick had left his laptop charger in the hotel, so wanted to get a new one at Best Buy on the northern side of town. Knowing this was his first trip to Boulder (and everywhere else we'd be going) I suggested we go a block over to walk up Pearl Street, which is the popular pedestrian street in the city.

"No, the charger is the important thing," he scoffed at me.

"I gotcha," I assured him, "Pearl is kinda the heart of Boulder and it runs parallel to this street. Best Buy doesn't close for a couple hours anyway. It'll be much more interesting and we'll be heading in the same direction, just a block over this way." I explained.

He grumbled something dissenting and picked up his pace the way he'd been going.

"OK, I'll meet you up there," I shouted to him, a bit bewildered and also worried that we were only a couple days in and "Misery Nick" was already making an appearance. While filming the first season the travel wore on him, he was up-and-down the entire trip and increasingly more down by the end. It seemed he was already riding a down. Once he got in these moods, there was no amount of articulate logic to turn him around. I just had to wait it out and not talk to him too much.

I brushed it off and went on over to Pearl Street myself, taking a walk down and back up, people watching, digging the street musicians and fire jugglers before heading on up to Best Buy. When I arrived he was just walking out the door with his new mac charger.

We were filming at Avery on the northeast corner of town the next day. I'd already scoped out a hiking trail on the way where it looked easy to camp. I suggested hitting a brewery on the walk there, half-expecting a "no," but to my surprise, the quieting Nick agreed. We sat in near silence on the patio of the brewery sipping our beers, then marched on up through the streets at sunset, and down the hiking trail until we found a place to tuck away for him to set up his tent and me my bivy.

I'd laugh silently later in the trip when he'd talk about how much he liked Boulder, the city he knew for a few hours at Best Buy, and a drink on a patio.

Adam Avery himself came out to be on the show the next day. He and I powered through our respective hangovers like God damned professionals, touring around his brewery and having a hair-of-the-dog tasting session with their spectacular beers.

Somewhere amid filming b-roll the moment hit me. The beers were epic. I'd met a brewing legend who simply loved beer, adventure, and good vibes. I'd somehow created a show that simply highlighted a part of my normal life — traveling and visiting breweries — yet allowed me extra access and the ability to share the whole adventure to inspire, or at least entertain, countless others who would watch. Times were good.

Our next pair of breweries awaited in Salt Lake City, so with the sun on the way down, we walked on towards the road. We hitched our first ride of the trip together, Nick in the bed of the pickup truck and me in the front with the driver heading to the south side of Longmont.

In-town hitchhiking, particularly with sidewalks (no shoulder to pull over in) and most folks usually just going a few blocks, has typically proven to be fruitless. There have been exceptions, but with the impending subtraction of sunlight, I once again defaulted to a tried-and-true standby: time to find a beer.

I found us a beer bar, and after an hour we indeed got the travel-magic invite I'd put us in position for. The only issue was that the kitchen guy who'd offered us a place to stay didn't get off until midnight or so (a few hours later) and the offer would be contingent on agreement from roommates that he wouldn't get until he got off.

It was tempting to bar-hop around the direct area for a few hours and await the likely positive outcome, rather than walk the hour or two north of town to find a place to camp. On the flip-side, if he wasn't able to host us, then we'd still have to take that walk and be tired as hell doing so, or risk Nick burning more of his dollars on a hotel. He was back to Chipper Nick. I wanted to keep that going.

I pushed us forward, figuring that if we camped, we'd also be directly on the road in the morning, ready to keep moving towards Utah. Walk we did, and even more than expected as I tried to find any kind of suitable hiding spot in the lack of treed areas.

We at last found shelter under the road where it crossed a small river, some two hours of walking up the road. The overpass kept us dry as the rain swept in, but come morning we had to crawl into it to hit the road.

Our first ride of the day got us to the south of Fort Collins, and once again we had a two-hour walk to get through the sidewalked town, but this time in the pouring rain. I kept my thumb out as we walked forward but to no avail.

Once we reached the north of town and found a spot with a shoulder, we got a ride quickly. The friendly woman got us on up into blue-skied Wyoming to Interstate 80 near a truck stop, and within minutes an eighteen-wheeler let us aboard. The driver was all good vibes, blasting James Brown as his pet bunny-rabbit cowered behind a seat until warming up to us.

We rode with him for around five hours until our roads split, then we caught a ride in the back of a pickup truck for the last hour into Salt Lake City. From our vantage point, we saw blue skies, storm clouds, rainbows, fluffy clouds, streaking clouds, and a setting sun streaking through all of it, and all at once.

We walked on over to my buddy Cam's place and let Salt Lake set in. We hiked up to a view of the city the next day and caught up with some more friends. The day after we filmed at Epic Brewing, and Bewilder Brewing the day after that. Everything was clicking.

Cam dropped us off just outside the city, east on Interstate 80 to begin our hitch to Wyoming. I was excited for this, as my mom and sister lived up in the Jackson Hole area where we'd be filming at two more great breweries.

We got a short pickup truck ride, then an aimless road tripper scooped us and decided that he'd just take us to Jackson for lack of a better idea; perhaps he'd continue on to Yellowstone, he pondered aloud.

He got us clear to Evanston where we turned off the interstate, and halfway up he got tired and wanted to sleep. Nick and I got back to the road to keep thumbing and hitched nearly a half-dozen short little jumps to get to Alpine.

My sister was outside on the patio when we arrived, and my mom arrived later. The house was my mom's, but she was spending six nights a week as a campground host for the summer just north of Jackson.

A chill session on the beach before filming at Melvin.

We had dinner at Melvin Brewing and then properly filmed an episode there the next day. The day after, we headed up to the mountain resort where my sister worked. Nick and I spent the afternoon playing disc golf on the mountain, then hitched a ride into Jackson to do some brewery hopping and whatnot.

A day later we joined my mom and her boyfriend up at their campsite to get a magnificent view of the Tetons and see how they'd been living, and in the morning we took my sister's Jeep to town to film our episode with Roadhouse Brewing.

The view of the Tetons from my mom's campsite.

The next morning we hitched back to Jackson and attempted to film an episode with Snake River Brewing, but they were under construction so not all that much other than a small drinking session came of it.

Breweries in Bozeman, Montana were our next destination. Nick claimed to not care about Yellowstone, which was the slower route, but I took us that way anyhow. Sometimes you have to drag people to happiness.

We wound up getting a ride from a medic who lived in a dorm directly at the Old Faithful geyser and even shared the beers in his camper-van fridge with me on the way.

Being that we were at the most famous attraction in the most well-known national park in the United States, it still surprised me I had to do any convincing at all for Nick. I'd seen it several times, I figured he'd enjoy it.

"It's literally right there," I told Nick, whose disinterest in nearly everything was becoming a drag. If it wasn't obscure or contrary, then it wasn't an opinion he wanted as his own or a sight he wanted to see. I talked him into it, and we watched the old geyser blast off along with the hundreds of others who'd traveled for it.

We got rides in the back of pickup trucks the rest of the way through Yellowstone, which couldn't have been better. In the town of West Yellowstone, just outside the park, a philanthropic couple gave us a ride to Big Sky while telling us about the work they'd done getting clean water to parts of Ethiopia. A car full of people gave us another ride to Bozeman, dropping us about seven miles from downtown where we were headed.

Being so close, yet two hours walking, I decided to try to hitch one last ride, and it couldn't have worked out better.

Rodrigo was the laid-back guy who picked us up, and upon telling him about our beer-adventure filming, he let us know he knew just about every brewer in town.

"My girlfriend is following behind me, we just spent the day by the water and are going to stop at Nordic Brewing for dinner and a beer," he told us a couple minutes into the ride, "You're welcome to join us and I'll give you a ride downtown after, or you can just take my truck downtown now and park it somewhere and I'll grab it later," he offered.

As long as I've been on the road and experienced such trust and generosity, I'm still taken aback at times like these. I appreciate the road.

We joined him with his girlfriend for dinner, which turned out to be the better move. We all became friendly and after dinner, we hit the store for beer and firewood, then drove a little out of town to have a big bonfire while sharing stories and laughs. Somewhere after midnight, we headed back to town.

My uncle has a rental property near downtown with a barn in the back of the lot that I'd stayed in the summer prior. Rodrigo dropped us off there and we carved out a couple of spots to crash for the night. There's no running water there, but a roof and electricity were all we needed.

Rodrigo's girlfriend took us around on bicycles to some breweries the next day, and by the evening we went to Bozeman Brewing where Rodrigo was helping with a 5K beer run. More beers, a dinner together, and back to the barn to pass out.

We filmed at Mountains Walking the following day, another great brewery along the trip. Earlier in the day, my cousin had spotted me at a coffee shop. She was traveling from Missoula with a friend, so we met up with her and my uncle (her dad) for some beers. Afterward, Nick and I found a dive bar near the barn and had a late night playing shuffleboard.

I grabbed a much-needed shower over at Rodrigo's place to aid my hangover and powered on over to Map Brewing for another episode. The filming went well and, like many other breweries, they sent us off with plenty of to-go beer and even some shirts.

We dipped back to Mountains Walking so I could get some drone footage that I couldn't have gotten on the previous windy day, then bopped around downtown to enjoy the last night in Bozeman.

Nick was digging the town, and his wheels were continuing to spin. The trip was forcing him to reassess his New York life and contemplate other paths he could take. The more he talked about his job in the film industry, the more I realized how little it had to do with the creative or technical side of filming. It didn't sound all that rewarding, and our travel was working its medicinal magic to expose a plethora of opportunities outside his bubble.

Our next brewery was in Missoula, but I found out a friend of mine was living halfway in Helena, so we pointed our thumbs that way and spent a night catching up with him. We easily hitched to Missoula the next day, and our last ride came from a guy who offered to let us camp in his backyard.

Nick dropped his backpack off in the house. Then we headed to town to check out some breweries. After a couple beers at our third brewery, Nick was ready to tap out and head back to the guy's place. He went off without me, as I was looking to try one more pint. I'd met a local brewer who was hanging out with another brewer from Kansas City and getting along with the bartender as well.

On the walk back to the house there was a KettleHouse taproom, which was an offshoot of the bigger brewery just outside of town we'd be filming at the next day. I popped in there for a beer and found my new brewer friends had done the same. While I was sharing some pints and laughs with them, I got a text from my cousin offering to let me crash at her place for the night.

This worked out for Nick as well, as he got upgraded from the guy's backyard to his couch while I was some ten blocks away, catching up with my cousin and then crashing in her living room. If possible, I try to have my backpack on me at all times for pivots like this, which is another reason I make an effort to keep it as light as possible.

I wandered around Missoula in the morning, strolling along the river, watching people surfing a standing wave, and taking in the little city. I got word from Nick that he'd hitchhiked to the brewery, five hours early for some reason, so I imagined he was sitting around or getting some footage until they opened.

There was a free bus that headed over there. I'm guessing he didn't know about it, but I was taking my time to enjoy the city some more. I headed on over to Cranky Sam Brewery, as this was where the brewer I'd met the night before was working. He was there and quick to pour me samples of just about everything. After a couple pints, I wandered to the bus stop, and twenty minutes later I was hopping out near the remote KettleHouse brewery location.

Nick was at a table in the corner, proud of his hitchhiking endeavor. He'd hitched two quick rides from near downtown, and albeit short, it was his first solo-hitching experience. I'd thought he was pretty silly for getting there so early with nothing else around, but now I was pretty stoked for him.

Once again, I toured around with a brewer, had our tasting session, and got to filming b-roll. It was a great spot for the drone, as they had a big beautiful music venue next to the brewery that people kept telling me was the premiere venue in all of Montana. The river ran right below us and was easily one of the most scenic breweries of the trip.

We hitched a good ride from a woman who took us to the south side of Missoula where we met up with Ed, a guy I'd met the previous summer on Trustroots. We went to his beautiful property south of the city and I stayed up for an hour or so catching up with him before passing out.

We got an early start the next day, catching a ride with Ed south on his way to work. Boise was our destination, a seven-hour drive away. It was a solid day of hitchhiking, ignited with a good long first ride from a woman heading south to pick up a new puppy. Ride after ride kept coming, and the scenery kept improving, right through the Sawtooths as we got dropped off and picked up again in Stanley.

A river guide gave us our last ride to downtown Boise, and after a snack, we headed to my friend's house. She was a girl who'd picked me up hitchhiking several years earlier, we'd stayed in touch and would usually hook up whenever I was back in town.

We filmed at Barbarian Brewery the next day, another success. Nick caught a ride from one of the owners to go film at their old location they were shutting down, and I stuck around to try some more beers. My friend we were staying with met me there, and we went down to the river to meet up with some of her friends.

Later we were jumping around town to different bars and Nick came and met back up with us. Eventually, we headed back to the house, and a new friend had offered us a ride out of town in the morning.

He dropped us off the next day at Mill 95, which was a great ride as it not only got us out of the city but the full forty-five minutes to this hop processor we were filming. They took us on a brief tour and we got our b-roll footage, then started walking down the country road with Bend on the mind.

A hop grower gave us a ride, then another couple of decent rides got us well on our way. We waited at one particular junction for several hours, our longest wait of the trip, but just before the sunset we scored a ride from a guy going right through Bend.

We sat at a bar when we got there, sipping a beer and contemplating where we'd stay for the night. I had a friend in town I'd stayed with before, but he had a habit of disappearing from contact when I arrived, and this time was no different.

Once again, while I was searching the satellite map view for camping spots, Nick was searching for hotel rooms. I'd found a good remote wooded area close to the brewery we were filming in the morning, but Nick was set on a hotel.

He had a common prejudice against homeless people and assumed they all wanted to rob us. Rather than argue against that notion, I explained that the spot I'd found was far from downtown and away from the "sketchy folk." I always predicated my stealth camp spots on being hidden from absolutely everybody.

He didn't care for my advice, and in fact, he used it as fuel to settle into his stubborn persona. I knew how to handle this side of him by now, but it didn't mean I enjoyed or even always executed the proper handling. The situation soon became comical, but I did my best to restrain my smiles and offering of advice.

We walked to a budget motel he'd found. He rang the buzzer, and the hotel clerk told him it was full. Nick started arguing with the guy, pointing to a half-full parking lot and insisting there must be a room available. He went back and forth with the guy several times. The guy stayed calm and matter-of-fact while I slowly distanced myself from the embarrassing display.

Nick turned back up the dark sidewalk in a haste, picking up his pace as he pecked at his phone with determined frustration. Several blocks later we reached another hotel. The guy was outside smoking a cigarette and was quick to tell us that they too were booked up for the night.

Nick kept walking up the street with his phone in hand, stewing. He eventually halted in a clump to sit and focus on his phone.

"We're actually getting closer to the camp spot I'd found," I threw out there. He ignored me. Having already gone into his stubborn mode, and after a couple failures, there was no way in hell he'd "admit defeat."

In fact, he went all-in and booked not one, but two nights at a fancy downtown hotel that set him back five-hundred dollars. Two nights, unbelievable. He left no room for travel magic or the odd opportunity that may have arisen the next day. No hope that my friend would get in touch or we'd make another friend. It was at this point that I fully understood how willing he was to spite himself, even if to just "win" an intangible or inconsequential argument that he himself had manufactured.

I followed his march to the downtown hotel in a silence that would continue through the night, as he would even let the elevator close between us while I asked the clerk for the WiFi password, forcing me to rush up the stairs to follow him to the room and watch as he crawled under the covers in an aggressive pout. 

I awoke to an email from the brewery we were supposed to film at in just a couple hours; they'd canceled. The day was a federal holiday, but they'd waited until now to realize and relay that to me. Truth be told, I'd already been having second thoughts about this brewery that was owned by a conglomerate and widely distrusted in the craft beer community. It's also worth noting that my "friend," the one who stopped responding to my messages when we arrived in Bend, was also a brewer at this brewery. The universe was sending me a message.

When Nick stirred awake, I told him the news. He seemed relieved, yet still maintained his grumpiness from the night before, and wandered to the bathroom before crawling back into bed.

I decided I'd spend the day going to as many breweries as I could, seeing as Bend is a bit of a legendary brewery town. I left Nick to his luxurious zero-day and stepped into the daylight to begin my tour.

I did just what I set out to, hitting eight breweries throughout the day, having a beer or two at each before stumbling back to the hotel that night.

We filmed at Bevel Brewing the next day in the early afternoon. The place was owned by some disc golf champions and was one of my favorite stops of the trip. The beer was great, and the people were all exceptional.

One of our wireless mic transmitters had busted a week or two earlier, and I'd suggested getting a temporary replacement from Best Buy. There was one on the north side of Bend, which was the direction we had to head at this point onto our next brewery in Yakima, Washington. To walk there would take about ninety minutes, but we were close to the highway where I suggested we could more quickly hitch from.

I took one last video of the brewery from the parking lot and turned to see Nick walking the wrong way. I shouted this to him and he ignored me and just started walking faster. I texted him at that point to discover that he was walking there despite my suggestion that we could hitch quicker.

Knowing it would take him ninety minutes just to get there, I figured I had time to stop at another brewery by the highway, grab a beer, and hitch a ride on up to him as he was finishing. Seeing that he was acting kinda flighty, I made sure he knew exactly where we were going around Yakima in case we got split up — which is exactly what happened.

I swallowed down a great beer and hitched a ride as fast as I figured and got dropped off in the north of Bend. I texted Nick to let him know I'd gotten a ride, but Nick sent me a middle finger emoji and then stopped responding to my texts altogether. It wasn't clear why he was pissed off, if he was intentionally not responding to me, or if he'd lost phone service.

I waited around for an hour or so continuing to text him, then decided I may as well just start hitching north before dark, and assumed Nick had done the same. I got one ride just a little way before having to find a place to camp for the night.

I woke up around 5am knowing that I had three hours of road to travel and only about six hours to hitch there if I wanted to be on time for the brewery. Still no word from Nick. I hitched a fast first ride, then got a great second ride to Biggs Junction, only an hour from the brewery.

I finally got a response from Nick. After much of his vitriol, I discovered that he'd misunderstood my messages and thought I'd gotten a ride up out of Bend and "ditched" him. I went back and reread my messages, including the last one which read "You may have lost service, if you don't get this until tomorrow then meet me at the brewery, if you get this right away and haven't gotten a ride I'll meet you near Best Buy."

Seemed pretty clear to me. He hadn't lost service, he'd just chosen to ghost me. I'd felt bad at first, but after rereading the messages I couldn't help but wonder why he was portraying such misery towards me and dragging himself down in the process.

He wouldn't tell me where he was despite my asking, just that he was on the way to the brewery. Later I'd find out he was at the exact same junction I was at while we were texting, just inside the truck stop. Some people can't be helped.

I caught another couple of rides to the brewery and met the owner, who arrived just after me, but was once again not getting any updates from Nick. After a little while, I decided I would just film the walk-around and tasting on my own so the owner could get back to his Father's day plans, but just as I got my makeshift setup together, Nick arrived.

We filmed the typical routine, and all went well. The brewery was Wandering Hop, inspired by great travels, and even had a cartoon hop logo similar to the Hopping logo. The owner was fun times, and the beers were all happy. After the initial filming, I could actually talk to Nick and further clear up the mishap, and luckily he was in good spirits after having caught a pleasant ride from a generous preacher who'd gone out of his way to drop him directly at this brewery in the countryside. I think he'd realized he'd fucked up and his happy vibes indeed did well to smooth things over.

Our next brewery destination was DogHaus in Leavenworth, a two-hour drive away. We hitched a couple rides to the south of Yakima, and that's where we got tripped up for a bit. The sun was beating down hard, so after waiting fruitlessly at an on-ramp, we took a walk to get some shade and water. I decided we might as well walk clear to the north of town to a better on-ramp.

A short ride got us out of Yakima, but we waited another couple of hours on the side of the highway until finally getting a ride to the junction heading north to Leavenworth. We were now just an hour's drive from town, but the sun had gone down, and only fading residual light remained for us while the stars started to pierce through one by one.

My eyes defaulted to scanning the distance for potential camp spots, but as one might predict by now, Nick's eyes scanned his phone for hotel deals. He lit up when he saw the price for an Econo Lodge, something around seventy bucks or thereabouts. After dropping five hundred in Bend, this price made him absolutely giddy.

"If we don't get a ride by 10pm, we're staying at the Econo Lodge," he announced with glee.

In the wake of his fancy hotel misery and the Bend-to-Yakima disconnect, there was no way I was gonna blow his buzz with suggestions of camping or walking or anything else. His morale was fragile, a bi-polar sort of thing that I needed to keep positive when possible.

From time to time, he'd bring up that we were eventually spending his money (once the Kickstarter funds I gave him ran out) as a way of putting me down in a sense. Being that he ignored much of my advice — advice that would have saved him around a thousand dollars — I couldn't let that get to me. He also had no idea how much money I'd personally spent on equipment and other things, as I kept those details to myself — it wasn't about that.

I'd organized the trip, corresponded with the breweries, had most of the friends and family we stayed with, done the research for the equipment, and countless other factors from the fundraising to simply having the travel and beer savvy to make it all work. All I wanted from him was to stay happy and keep the camera rolling.

He soaked in his glorious Econo Lodge, and I was pleased to have Happy Nick by my side again. We parlayed those good vibes into good rides on up to Leavenworth the next day, arriving with time to spare.

While Nick got coffee, I grabbed a pre-game pint at a different brewery in town and ran into the owner of Wandering Hop I'd interviewed the day before. We'd run into him again later.

The filming at DogHaus went well; it was a tiny place and even claimed to be the "smallest bar in Washington." Afterwards we went to a bar nearby and met up with a friend I'd made in town nearly a decade earlier when I'd first traveled to this Bavarian-themed town.

At another bar, we ran into the Wandering Hop owner again who got us a round of beers, and by this point, my friend had offered to let us crash at the house she was watching in town.

I got coffee and breakfast with her in town in the morning, then she dropped Nick and me off on the far side to hitch a ride. We got a lift from a friendly couple visiting for the weekend from Seattle. They went out of their way to get us just north of the junction on Interstate 5.

We got an excellent ride from there from a real estate guy who was heading to Bellingham, just south of Ferndale. He knew many brewery owners and good spots around the city. He offered to take us to his office in Bellingham and hang out for an hour or so until he was done working, and then give us a lift to Ferndale. We gladly accepted, had a beer at his office, and then another at a nearby brewery while we waited for him.

He dropped us off, as promised, directly at my friend Scot's brewery "Fringe" up in Ferndale, where we'd be filming next. I was stoked to see Scot; I'd first met him at Sierra Nevada Beer Camp in 2013 when he was just home-brewing. Now he had a full-fledged brewery of his own.

We barbequed at his house for the night, then headed back to the brewery in the morning. A friend of his, who also owned a brewery, was using his keg washer when we arrived. Suddenly we decided to do an episode with him as well, so caught a ride to his farm just a mile and a half from the Canadian border. His brewery was Atwood, and while he didn't have a taproom, he happily showed us his brewery, the family farm, and we filmed a tasting of his excellent brews.

On his way to the farmer's market to sell his beers, he dropped us off at Fringe where we filmed the episode with Scot. We wound up spending a couple more days in town, as we reached out to a Bellingham brewery called Stemma and filmed an episode with them as well.

At last, we began our southern descent, aiming for a brewery just north of Seattle called 5 Rights. Coincidentally, a couple we'd met a few days earlier saw us on the road and gave us a ride. They were some beer bloggers that focused on Washington breweries and events. Really, it was the perfect ride.

The filming at 5 Rights went perfectly, and a friend of mine who lived nearby (and had suggested it) turned up with his family while we were filming. We wound up staying with him for the night, which turned out to be a great hang all around.

Seattle was our goal the next day, and while we wouldn't be featuring any breweries there, I wanted to check out a couple spots and Nick had a friend living there who was apparently down to grab a beer. We hitched just one easy ride to the city and rendezvoused with that friend at a brewery.

By the time we were at the second brewery and a few beers in, his friend offered to put us up for the night, so we hit yet another brewery before getting down to his house to meet his wife and kid.

Portland is where the show would end. We had three breweries lined up, a record-setting brewery-hopping tour, and one of those breweries had designed a beer and label to feature the show along with a release party scheduled to cap off the Hopping season.

Nick's friend gave us a ride to the highway in the morning, but rather than hitch directly to Portland, I guided us towards the coast. We were a couple days ahead of schedule, and Portland was also experiencing a record high of 115 degrees. Going to the (hopefully) cooler coast for a night or so seemed like a decent plan.

We got rides at a decent pace in between sun-baking waits. As we got closer to the coast, the traffic was thinning out and the sun was beating extra heavy. I looked at the map to see there was a river crossing just a mile up the road. I figured a dip in the water and a change of location could do us well.

We walked on up to the spot and waded through the cool water in the shade of the big bridge. A guy and his girlfriend had done the same, briefly, and as he was driving out, he paused and said he had some beer in the bed of his pickup truck if we wanted one. I grabbed myself one and took the opportunity to ask if he happened to be driving down to Raymond. He was, and let us hop in the back for the ride.

There was a brewery called Wild Man Brewing in Raymond, which, besides being on the way to the coast, seemed like a good enough excuse to me as something to check out on the way. We walked on over, and although they were just about to close, the bartender said we could hang out as long as we wanted while she cleaned up. Nick chugged water while I sipped a few beers in between waters myself.

As we walked from the brewery to the main road, there was no definitive plan. I'd dotted a couple potential brewery stops on the map, eyeballed a few interesting towns and potential cool places to camp, but it's often great to just let the road do what it does best.

We got a quick ride from an interesting guy who used to hop trains all around the country. He was living up in Seattle doing construction now, but they got a couple days off because of the record heatwave so he'd hopped in his van for a ramble. I told him we were basically on a similar ramble so we just started driving south and chatting it up, both unsure of our precise path.

After a while, he suggested he may just aim for Portland that night, and without any real convictions on the route, I decided we might as well just take the ride we had and roll all the way to the city now ourselves.

Knowing hitchhiking himself, he knew the value of dropping us directly at my friend's house once we hit the city, which was greatly appreciated.

We stayed at my friend Stephanie's house, also someone I'd met at Sierra Nevada Beer Camp. The next day was also 115 degrees, mostly a good day to stay air-conditioned inside. Stephanie and I motivated outward eventually anyhow, making a beer run, going to a beer bar to catch up some more, then hit the grocery store before heading back to Nick at the house to have a good taco night and sample some beers together.

A friend of mine flew into Portland the next day. I went and met her at the park and grabbed a beer with her, and Stephanie offered to host her as well. Stephanie and Nick picked us up and dropped us off at Breakside, the first brewery in Portland we were to film at.

Yet again, things went extremely well and I was blown away by all the beers they poured. My friend John met up with us there by the end. He's another guy I'd met at Beer Camp. I'd joined him once on a mission to hit sixty-one Portland breweries in a single day (he'd once been to seventy-seven himself), and he'd also connected me with all the breweries we'd film at in town now.

We all headed back to Stephanie's after filming and started sipping some more beers, as Breakside had set me off with a whole crate of greatness. It was in this session that things took an unredeemable turn.

After Stephanie had gone to bed, and Liz had faded into the couch, John was asking me about the show and the trip and how the filming had been going. I told him how everything had gone so far, and mentioned that Nick hadn't been filming much of the travel and between-brewery action as I'd expected, so we'd be filming a sitdown recap in order to give our editor some more ammunition to give each episode some narrative context.

I'd expressed this to Nick several times throughout the trip, encouraging him to film more and criticized him when he didn't. At this moment, he snapped, attempting to defend himself while feeling offended, embarrassed, or both. His explanation wasn't much of one, and even John teased in a joke or two, pointing to several outlets when Nick mentioned something about not being able to charge batteries.

Frustrated and certainly embarrassed by this point in an un-winnable argument, he stormed outside, returning after several minutes to grab his sleeping bag, then rushed out to the backyard again. John and I kept chatting for another beer or so before he took off.

I'd seen Stubborn Nick and Misery Nick, but I hadn't seen him completely storm off like that yet. It actually crossed my mind to stash the camera equipment somewhere in case he did something rash, but I didn't actually believe things would go that far. I was wrong.

I woke up in the morning and came out of the office room I'd been sleeping in and immediately noticed his backpack and the camera equipment bag were gone. I peeked out to the backyard and saw no sign of him.

"Did Nick leave?" I asked my sleepy friend on the couch. She'd seen him leave, but he hadn't said anything and for all she knew he'd gone to grab coffee. But he wouldn't have brought all that gear with him.

I texted him and tried calling, then texted a mutual friend to discover he was catching a flight to his sister's in Chicago. Finally, he responded, refusing to even meet me to return my camera gear. Instead, he inexplicably said he'd mail it to my friend who'd gotten it for me and made a sarcastic comment about leaving me high-and-dry to film with a selfie stick.

I messaged that friend, who was unsure why Nick was putting him in an awkward spot, and wanted nothing to do with being in the middle of it. He agreed to tell Nick to mail the gear to my brother, where I'd be in a week, as Nick had stopped responding to me altogether. This didn't help the current situation, that of still being scheduled to film the walking brewery tour, two more breweries, and the release party with our specially labeled beer for the season finale.

It was hard to believe. Nick had joined me to film a documentary about beer and travel, so my continued suggestion that he actually film the travel was obvious. I surely didn't go about it gently at all times, but when he dropped the ball early, often, and increasingly so, it was tricky to be anything other than blunt.

More shocking was that there were a great deal more people other than myself involved in the show. I didn't realize he was capable of such a brazenly selfish maneuver. Over thirty people had contributed money to our Kickstarter to fund it. Our editor was already paid and ready to roll. Twenty-odd breweries had carved out time to film with us and share their beer. Two of those breweries still hadn't been filmed, and one had even gone out of their way to make a beer with Hopping labels and organize a release party.

I was caught up between confusion, a hint of anger, a sense of sadness watching a twenty-year friendship be cast aside, and running through the logistics of how to finish up the season above the needed quality threshold. Thankfully, the next brewery feature wasn't until the next day.

I headed to downtown Portland with my other friend who'd never been. I figured it would be good to clear my head, sort things out, and simply have a good day. Funnily enough, she was excited about filming, so we captured some moments throughout the day for the show to explain what had happened and what was about to happen — the type of footage I'd been wanting Nick to get more of.

I powered through the day and worked out how I'd film the breweries. The cinema camera Nick had stolen was the primary loss, but I still had a couple lav mics on my own, the B and C phone cams we'd been using for the tastings, and I had a GoPro that would have to take the place of the cinema camera for the tour and primary tasting angle.

The next day my friend took Nick's place, following me around for the tour at Gigantic Brewing and helping during the tasting. I got the b-roll on my own, and by that point, I was in great spirits. I got word that Nick was actually going to return the gear to my brother's address, and I felt good knowing that the brewery filming went as smooth as ever despite the loss.

The next day was jam-packed. I met John in the city early, when the first brewery was set to open. The goal was to set an unofficial record of visiting the most breweries in one day without a vehicle, just walking.

Off we went brewery after brewery, having at least a sample at each and sometimes more. We walked, and walked, and drank, and walked until we'd totaled twenty-eight breweries in the end. I filmed the whole way, primarily with the GoPro, which actually seemed pretty fitting. It seemed like the kind of day of filming Nick would have hated anyhow, but John and I reveled in it.

The next day was the final day of filming, starting with labeling the collaboration beer at Pono Brewing. It felt great to see the label in person and read the blurb about my Hopping show on the can, and it felt even better to crack one open to enjoy a fantastic summer IPA.

After the labeling, John played the role of camera operator to do the typical tour and tasting with Pono Brewing, then we had to rush on over to another venue for the release party. The same beer was on tap, and the release had been written about in some of Oregon's biggest beer blogs and social media pages.

I sipped pint after pint as beer geeks trickled in, sharing stories and glass clinks for several hours taking it all in. John had to leave, but I stayed a while longer, eventually meeting a beer podcaster who gave me a lift back to Stephanie's.

And with that, the show was over. The blemish with Nick's departure, and the sinking feeling that I may have actually lost a friend, was certainly a sad ending, but there was enough positivity that came in those final days as well to not be an absolute bummer. And in the end, as far as the show is concerned, I believe the season will be a winner.

Without a chance to take a breath, very early the next morning I had to fly on out of Portland. My brother was set to have his retirement ceremony from the Marine Corps in less than a week in North Carolina, and that 4th of July morning ticket was the cheapest I could find.

With a multi-week hazy hangover and very little sleep, I powered through onto the plane, up and away to the next adventure. Always going, always Hopping.


  1. Nice stomping and I have to say that I'm jealous somebody did it with a camera and a friend. The read was awesome. I hitched in one or two states, next thing to remember bring a camera for recording the adventure. Upcoming Appalachian trail for me and now i'm thinking of enjoying beer along the way.


Post a Comment