Paying it forward

Hoo-hoo-hoo Hoosiers!!!
Hoo-hoo-hoo Hoosiers!!!

I spend quite a bit of time searching for good travel spots with my pup Norbert.  After all, I purchased a Cricket trailer for him (okay, for both of us, but really for the ease of traveling with my BFF along).  With the trailer, I can easily find places to stay, but I can’t always find the best dog friendly stops.

I often want to find a town where I can stop, go to stores (usually some sort of Outfitters), a restaurant or brew pub.  Trying to find places that are “dog friendly” is not as easy as one would expect in this day and age of split second Google searches.  Big cities usually have listings but not every moderately populated town does.

So, as I search through areas for my next trip, I realize I happen to live in a place that is often a destination for travelers. Bloomington is a college town in southcentral Indiana with a population of 80K.  The 46K students turn this town from a busting mid-sized city to a smaller town during the summer.  In addition to all the many IU attractions, Bloomington is also a summer mecca for many who travel to spend time on our large Monroe Lake or one of the many smaller lakes in the area, camp at nearby campgrounds, or visit Bloomington for all its many attractions.

I’m lucky to live in a very dog friendly community.  We have several hiking/running trails where one can bring their dog along for a day hike or several days of backpacking; a number of forests and recreational areas for camping; lakes for paddleboarding, kayaking, and motorboating; and restaurants and breweries that have plenty of outdoor seating where your canine companions are welcome.

As a consumer, it is time for me to give back to the dog-loving community and list out some of my favorite venues in the Bloomington, Indiana vicinity.  Below is the start of my list which I have no doubt will be updated as friends will remind me of places I forget to mention.  If you find this list useful, please pay it forward by posting (on your own blog or in a comment below) your favorite local dog friendly places or findings in areas you’ve traveled.

Pate Hollow trail (Paynetown)
Pate Hollow trail (Paynetown)

Restaurants/Brew Pubs (dogs welcome in outdoor seating and indoor at non-food serving locales; notes include Norbert’s favorite meals):

  • Scenic View http://scenicviewbloomington.com/ (outdoor patio with a view overlooking Lake Monroe; Norbert always looks forward to an order of the thick cut bacon; humans love the Sunday half-priced Bacon Bloody Mary)
  • Upland http://www.uplandbeer.com/
    • Upland Brew Pub (outdoor garden area; Norbert loves the local Fischer farms hamburger, plain and cooked rare; humans are fans of their sours, but there is a brew for all tastes here; if the pooch isn’t with you, stop by the Wood Shop next door for a sours extravaganza)
    • Upland West (great dog locale! No food, but you can bring your own. Dogs are welcome inside or out on the patio; humans say you can’t beat their $2 Sunday pints)
  • Big Woods http://quaffon.com/
    • Big Woods Bloomington – formerly Quaff On! in the heart of Bloomington has a small outdoor deck and a new garden area (Norbert has been known to coerce a few bites of the Soft Pretzel sticks w/ Beer Cheese; humans swear by the pulled pork bbq nachos)
    • Big Woods The Original – this one is again, in nearby Brown County (Nashville, IN) and has a small deck where you can bring your pup; there is also a Big Woods Pizza a couple blocks over though I’m not sure about outdoor seating for your dog
  • Oddball Fermentables http://www.oddballcyser.com/ (a unique drinking experience open on the weekends that is a labor of love between some local friends who created a variety of cysers (cider-mead hybrids) that you can taste individually or in a homemade concoction. This house turned into a cysery has a small outdoor seating area in the back and a food truck that brings some extraordinary tastes for the foodie in you. Like Big Woods West, Oddball Fermentables is not a restaurant so I believe you can bring your pup inside as well – call first to make sure though!)
  • The Tap Bloomington http://www.thetapbeerbar.com/ (yet one more craft brewery in Btown along with a plethora of other rotating craft brews on tap with a small strip of outdoor seating where your Fido can accompany you)
  • Function Brewing http://www.functionbrewing.com/ (another local craft brewery with a small outdoor seating area where Norbert has been welcomed that is worth a stop)
  • Laughing Planet Cafe http://www.thelaughingplanetcafe.com/ (restaurant that features locally-farmed foods in burritos of the week with a large outdoor deck where you can dine with your buddy)
  • Story Inn http://www.storyinn.com/ (a bit off the beaten path in our neighboring Brown County, but if you are visiting Brown County State Park, it is well worth the trip; check and make sure the outdoor area is open; Norbert still hasn’t made a visit there, but his older brother Tucker swore by the bacon and eggs)
  • Bruster’s Real Ice Cream https://www.facebook.com/BloomingtonIndianaBrustersRealIceCream/ (this is entirely outside but I mention it because when you get your treat, you can also get a free Pup Cup that is a small vanilla scoop with a dog biscuit in the middle for your pal)
  • There are many other restaurants in Bloomington that have outdoor seating so I imagine many/most/maybe all, allow you to have your pooch alongside.

Stores where my pups have been welcome:

Outdoor activities:

Vacationing at home!
Vacationing at home!

2016 Travels with Norbert

With the temperatures warming, the urge to hook up The Doghouse to the Outback and head down the road with my favorite traveling partner in toe, grows.  While prepping for some new adventures, here’s a pictorial year in review of my travels with Norbert!

 

April – HDI (Help Desk Institute) Annual Conference, Orlando, Florida with a stop in Central, South Carolina:

Norbert and I trekked down to Orlando for one of my work conferences where he landed us a free upgrade to a business suite that included a full bar and lounge.  Along the way we made a stop in South Carolina where we stayed with a friend’s friend and were treated to some great food, conversation, drink, and a beautiful day hike.

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The Norbert Upgrade – a business suite I was able to share with some of my HDI colleagues

 

May – Bonnieville, KY for Speleofest weekend

This rookie RV’er learned some good lessons during this first trek out with The Doghouse which included knowing ahead of time where you are heading in a campground and not taking 1600 lb trailer up a muddy hill even if you have all-wheel drive, accepting help from strangers when needed, and understanding that a place in Kentucky called Lonestar has nothing to do with Texas and everything to do with its abundance of ticks. The best part of the trip was hanging out in The Doghouse during a rainy night, drinking cold brews and exchanging laughs with friends.

 

June – SUP with your Pup class and Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

All of my travels have had their significance, but this trip east was a decision I made unlike any other. It was the result of a culmination of events in my life and in the world around me that tipped the scales (we’ll save that for another blog post though).

Perhaps it was a mid-life crisis, but call it what you will. I came to the realization that I had spent too many years trying to live up to others’ expectations or waiting for abc to happen, or for xyz to come along… When another trip with friends changed too many times, I decided it was time to walk away and do something for me. I had read a book the year before to teach Norbert how to standup paddle board with me and had found a class back east that the author taught. I hopped online, found an upcoming class, and before I knew it, I had signed up for a class in Virgina.

I searched for places to stay with Norbert and nothing was appealing or particularly cheap (I paid an extra $50/night in Orlando during my conference to have Norbert in the hotel with me). Long story short, I bought a Taxa Outdoors’ Cricket Trek, now dubbed The Doghouse, so my boy and I could travel with ease.  My second trip with it would be a cross country trip to this class as well as a campground in Shenandoah National Park where I met up with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in about 20yrs (NOTE: This IS the year the Cubs won the World Series)

 

July-August – Copper Harbor, MI

We traveled north to Copper Harbor with some friends where the boy and I paddled everyday in walking distance from our campground while my pals took a mountain bike class. The waters of Lake Superior (north of the Lake Fanny Hooe, where we paddled) was crystal clear (and cold!)  It definitely made me think more about what we do to our environment and the abundance of potable water that Americans take for granted.

 

September – Colorado

Longest road trip to date. I went to Colorado for several reasons. I had been thinking of joining a Cricket Rally in Eagle in mid-September. Then, I received a wedding invitation from a friend who I wasn’t particularly close to but felt a strong kindred spirit connection. Maybe it was the mountains, but something drew me, and I knew I needed to go and be present. It was a long drive, but I was able to keep Norbert entertained with my singing.

Norbert and I made our way to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Steamboat Lake State Park, Carbondale (where I took a day trip to the Maroon Bells and another to Delta where I saw another dear friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years), and then to Sylvan Lake State Park. After my two-week trip, I can say with certainty that I’m in love with Colorado.

Trips in the Great Sand Dunes, Carbondale, and Sylvan Lake State Park (Norbert w/ Taxa Outdoors’ Cricket founder and architect, Garrett Finney)

Trip to beautiful Maroon Bells and to Delta to see and old friend and one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known.

 

My first planned trip in 2017 had to be cancelled due to some unexpected events, but I worry not.  As I get more comfortable going off the beaten path and off grid with Norbert, I know new adventures await.

Perhaps it’s time to pull out a map and toss some darts…

 

Speleofest 2016

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Norbert and I are back home after taking The Doghouse on its maiden voyage!  We trekked three hours south to the Lonestar Preserve in Bonnieville, KY where Speleofest 2016 took place this weekend. Arriving just before sunset on Friday night, the 77-acre campground was already in full motion with a live band playing beside a carefully architectured giant stack of wood, awaiting nightfall to be lit ablaze. After checking in, we started our way on the gravel road to find a quiet area to setup camp. Being in an unfamiliar place and with dusk falling, it was hard to see which paths were the best ones to take to find an open space. The rains earlier in the week had made for a muddy traverse which is where the adventure (and early lessons for a green RV owner) began.

Long story, short, with the help of a number of fellow campers and a man with a large tractor (Lee, I believe, was his name), the Subaru and Cricket were both successfully pulled out of the mud and into the most perfectly private little space in the campground. Though we weren’t there to cave, the trip gave me the opportunity to drive a few hours with the camper, experience the setup in both rain and shine, and see how Norbert did at a campground (he was a natural and did 100x better than I could have ever imagined!).  Though the trailer is small, it offered plenty of space, especially when hooking up the fridge/freezer outside to allow for more floor room.  In our final evening, we were able to comfortably sit six of us plus Norbert in the trailer, enjoying a few brews and and plenty of laughs.

The caving community truly lives up to its reputation of being filled with great people. Not only did they jump in to help in our mudfest when we arrived (not to mention helping maneuver the Cricket back around and down the hill on Sunday – shout out to Lynn Marona!), but after spending just a small amount of time with them, one can see they are a close-knit family. Everyone we met were friendly, passionate about their exploration of caves, and all-around good folks.

 

Some lessons learned:

  • Review the map of the campground before searching for a space. If the grounds are wet and you are hauling an 1800lb trailer, DON’T opt for the campground named “Hilltop” (AWD or not…)
  • When the man in charge of the tractor is hooking up a chain under your vehicle and saying, “I won’t hook it on Blah nor hook it on Blah. Instead, I’ll hook it on Blah-Blah so if it breaks you’ll still be able to drive”, just go along with it.  You have no other choice.
  • When off grid, conserve your batteries. Turn off the water heater and water pump until you need to use them so you don’t lose power in a day.
  • Thankful I made the decision to purchase the compatible solar panels. It was easy to get power back and the portable panels made it easy to move them around to the sunniest spots.  Plus, it is so cool to run things off of the sun!!!
  • When it does rain, enjoy the spacious room of the Cricket to relax and read with a precious pup snoozing at your side.
  • Black rat snakes may very well be good to have around, but they do not appreciate your dog taking a dump near their tree. When they hiss at you, you may only note their unhappy face, only to later realize just how large they are when looking back at photos.
  • There is a reason the Lonestar Preserve is named Lonestar. It is NOT because it is in Texas. See http://www.tickinfo.com/lonestartick.htm
  • The portable toilet was a nice convenience and the clean-up wasn’t too terrible; however, if I had a campsite near a stall, I’d likely opt for that (or, if it wasn’t a tick-infested area, would have no problem going in the woods).
  • The caving community is truly the best!!!

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