Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: June 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Charlotte, NC: Drinking the Breweries of NoDa

So here we are in Charlotte, NC, also known as the Queen City.  Neither Jeanine or I have been here before (aside from driving through or a flight connection), so when we heard that the two things that Charlotte did best were food and craft beers, we knew we were in the right place!  While Charlotte has many different areas/neighborhoods, one of the closest ones to Elmore RV Park, is named North Davidson, or NoDa. We felt like a "Sunday Funday", so what better way for us to get out on the town than by sampling a few of the local brews?!

From Wikipedia:
NoDa (short for "North Davidson") is a popular arts district in CharlotteNorth CarolinaUSA. It is located in the North Charlotte neighborhood on and around North Davidson Street and 36th Street, approximately one mile northeast of Uptown. Formerly an area of textile manufacturing and mill workers' residences, the area has also served as a center for the arts. NoDa shares the same geography as Historic North Charlotte which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The name "NoDa" was coined by architect Russell Pound. In addition to historic mill houses, NoDa has seen a boom in residential construction in multifamily housing in recent years. The neighborhood has become an entertainment district focused on bimonthly gallery crawls. In addition to the art galleries, there are several music venues and restaurants in the neighborhood.
...and they have a bunch of breweries, too.  Before coming to Charlotte, neither of us had heard of NoDa, but it seemed to be all the talk amongst the locals.  Formally more of an industrial area, it (NoDa) transitioned into more of an art-based area for a number of years but due to rising costs of rent and decreased interest (so we were told) in art has since been graced by bars, restaurants, and breweries.

NoDa - North Davidson Street

Situated along Davidson Street, you'll find everything from simple, inexpensive dive bars to restaurants featured on national television (Check our story here: Cabo Fish Tacos).  The best part about it all, there are a myriad of locally-brewed beers available at just about every place that serves alcohol.  But there is nothing quite like guzzling down, err, enjoying the flavor, of a freshly brewed beer!

Since planning really isn't our thing, we decided that "winging it" was going to be the way that we experienced NoDa.  After jumping into our  über ride (only 5$!),  our driver was quick to tell us about all the great places to check out in NoDa.  So, instead of trying to figure out where to go, we asked our driver's advice.  After pointing out the pros and cons of each place (considering it was Sunday around lunchtime and not all breweries were open), we decided to go somewhere that had both the option of food as well as take a swill.  While the options were nearly limitless, we wanted to ensure that we were going to the place offering the best blend of craft beer and delicious food.  The only one that was offering a Sunday brunch (we were looking for a future revisit) was Heist Brewery, so that made the choice pretty easy!

The first stop on our brewery walk (crawl), ended up being Heist Brewery.  Taking up residence at 2909 North Davidson Street, Heist offers the feel of an industrial building with its exposed roof beams and ventilation shafts, but still has the warmth and inviting feel that a brewery should have.  Nostalgic to a point, but very modern and comfortable.  Enough of that, let's get to the beers!

Heist Brewery -
Menu at Heist Brewery
" Heist Brewery takes on a Belgian Centric approach when it comes to crafting beer.  Inspired by the monks of old, Heist looks to keep true to traditional styles, such as dubbels, tripels, quads, and saisons while missing up new age ingredients to create a wide variety of ales to suit any palate. Even though Heist focuses on Belgian style, don't be surprised to find your favorite American style hop bomb for the Lupulin lovers and weekly small batches releases for your adventurous side"
Since we usually start out with a flight (5-7 smaller portions of each draft beer style), we opted for the Succession, Ancho Mamma's Beer, Central Express, Cross Variation, and C'est La Vie.   Unfortunately, they were tapped out of the Barrel-aged Cataclysm, which I (Eric) was really looking forward to, so we will probably have to revisit this particular brewery :).  Neither of us is disappointed by this prospect!
Heist Brewery from inside

Jeanine is not particularly into heavy (read: hoppy) beers, so her favorite was the Succession as it was a lightly-hopped farmhouse style ale.  My favorite, by far, was the Cross Variation, which was similar to a Belgian Stout, but they used a saison yeast so the finish was more dry and (as their description states) more drinkable - it most surely was drinkable!

Our first "flight" at Heist Brewery
In addition to the beers, we had one of the brunch items (assuming the menu changes on brunch food as there is no menu on their website)  The dish comprised a (delicious) piece fried chicken, tempura egg both over macaroni and cheese and all topped with a buffalo wing Hollandaise sauce.  If we hadn't just eaten before we got there, we would have had many more foods - it was out-of-this-world delicious!  I am not usually a huge fan of fried chicken as it's usually greasy and over-spiced. This one was different.  Lightly-breaded and extremely crispy with the perfect amount of spice, this may have been the best piece of fried chicken I had to date.  It didn't stop there.  The cheesy mix in the macaroni was deeply flavored with savory goodness - a perfect match to the crispy, crunchy chicken.  Adding to this was the tempura fried egg.  Dipped in tempura batter and flash-fried to crispy perfection, the egg was the perfect compliment to the other items in the dish.  Lastly, tying everything all together, was the hot wing Hollandaise sauce.  Thick, rich, and lightly spicy, it brought the flavors of the dish together in perfect unison - YUM!  We will definitely be visiting again but next time will be for the brunch.

Our fearless bartender!
 The second stop on our brewery walk was Growler's Pourhouse.  Specializing in craft beer and "beer food" (as opposed to regular old greasy bar food), Growler's came to us from the recommendation of our bartender from Heist.
Growler's from the inside

Growler's was not at all like Heist.  Situated at 3120 North Davidson in the livelier section of NoDa bar/restaurant/art gallery area, Smaller, more cozy and much more "historical" looking (read: original brick walls and woodwork).  Not nearly as fancy (or the size) as Heist, but for sure had a great selection of beers.  Again, we started out with a flight of beers as is traditional when we visit a new brewpub.

Growler's flight
Our selection included Growler's Pourhouse Pale Ale (from cask), Dogfish Namaste Witbier, Fullsteam Coffee is for Closers, and a Bells Amber Ale.  Since I am very partial to darker beers, the Fullsteam Coffee is for Closers won me over immediately!  Deep, dark and refreshing with almost zero aftertaste - perfect style of beer for me!

Beer selection at Growler's Pourhouse
Another draw to Growler's is, of course, its food.  Since we just had a sampling of the food from Heist, we weren't hungry... at all.  So, we sat and looked at the menu...and looked...and looked.  Sensing our impatience, the bartender brought us a daily specials menu.  Nonchalantly hanging out on the bottom right corner of the menu "Oyster Shooters $1". Who doesn't love a good bargain - especially when it involves oysters!  Normally, our oysters shooters are taken at bars that serve only beer and wine, so that means that its beer, hot sauce, horseradish,  pepper, beer, and the star of the show, a big fat (raw) oyster.  This is our usual preferred method of doing oyster shooters.  But, at Growler's, its full bar including liquor, so our oyster shooters included Absolut Peppar vodka in lieu of the beer.  Needless to say, they went down easy and were delicious!  We highly recommend trying one... or three!  While they weren't anything special (no crazy ingredients, etc), since Jeanine and I love oysters, they really hit the spot!

Front of NoDa Brewing

Our last and final stop came to us as a recommendation from our bartender at Growler's (this became our go-to way of figuring out where to go next), NoDa Brewing.  NoDa Brewing, located at 2229 North Davidson Street,   is a true brewery. Offering beers to imbibe and only a food truck in the parking lot (or BYOF/order-in) for food choices, come to NoDa Brewing expecting to sample good, fresh beer in an unassuming, industrial-style building.   From the front, the building looks like an entrance to a regular retail store, so it's a little tricky finding the actual entryway (it's along the side of the building) from the front.  No signs or arrows indicating where to enter the building had us walking around the outside for a bit, but it turns out that effort found us the food truck.  While we didn't sample any food (still full!), the menu looked delicious.  We plan to revisit and check it out.

NoDa Brewing's beer menu
NoDa Brewing had significantly more beers to choose from than either Heist Brewery or Growler's Pourhouse.  Since there were so many beers to choose from and it was going to be our last stop on our brewery walk, we decided to go for it and split three flights worth of beers.  This was a sure-fire way to ensure that we would be able to sample all of the offerings from NoDa!

Our triple of flights
Instead of trying to review each of the beer samples out of the twelve that we had,  the favorite for J and the favorite for me is what we'll focus on.  To try to weed out the specifics of each style of each beer would just end of being boring and way too technical for our purposes!
Jeanine with her NoDajito

Jeanine typically likes a white beer or witbeir (german for white beer).  Since they are lighter in flavor and generally not has hopped as many heavier beers, it strikes a happy medium between an American style lager and and German style ale, which are two of her favorite styles of beer.  Although she is not a huge fan of mint, the very light mint and lime flavors of the NoDajito proved to be a light, refreshing beer for the heat of summer - she enjoyed it!

As previously mentioned, I have a taste for heavier, darker beers.  Usually an IPA (Imperial Pale Ale - heavily hopped) or a Stout/Porter are my go-to styles of beer.  This day was no exception.  For my favorite, I went with the CocoLoco Porter.  Characterized as:
"Deep, rich and delicious. This robust porter has a base of Chocolate and Brown malts for a stunningly deep rich color with ruby highlights. The slight bitterness from American chocolate is balanced with the sweet notes of organic coconut we toast onsite at the brewery. It was even awarded the Great American Beer Festival Silver Medal in 2012"
I could not have described this beer any better if I had written it myself!  Deep, complex, but not bitter and doesn't leave the trademark coffee aftertaste like many stouts and porters do.   I am not normally one that likes coconut, but the slightly bitter flavor in the chocolate is balanced with coconut (as the description states) for a great, easy drinking beer.  The CocoLoco was my favorite beer of the day!  Each sip had me waiting for the next one - it just kept getting better with each progressing moment that passed. What a great Sunday Funday!

Did we get it right?  Please post any comments agreeing or disagreeing with anything about our post! We welcome any and all criticism as well as any advice or maybe something we missed.  We certainly aren't experts, but we do strive to give the most accurate information we can from our experiences. Please comment below or let us know if you have something to add!  Thank you - we appreciate everyone following our travels!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Elmore RV Park Review and Charlotte, NC

Charlotte was never a place on our radar of "We simply MUST visit".  We ended up here because my (Jeanine's) Dad is a fan of Nascar.  Not a HUGE fan, he just like to catch the race when he's not out on his boat.  He does like to keep up with the leaders and also reads articles from time to time.  With all the issues with my back these past few years, one article in USAToday particular caught his attention as it could possibly help me.  So began our planning for a trip to Charlotte and a visit to OrthoCarolina.

Reedy Creek Dog Park
Nyx getting ready for a good run session
OrthoCarolina's primary Spine Center is located in downtown Charlotte so we wanted to find an RV park as close as possible, not knowing what the doctors would recommend. For all I knew, I would be going to physical therapy every day of the week!  We also didn't know much about this city other than Eric had a long-time friend from college living in the area.  Being that this is our first out of state trip with the new fifth wheel, and one to an area we'd never been, I relied on internet searches and the giant Good Sam book we purchased earlier this year.  There were several options for us to choose from, but only one that looked to be close to downtown.

Soul Gastrolounge
Elmore Rv Park is a short 10 minutes from downtown via taxi or Über.  Once we got here, we also discovered that also nearby is the Noda district, known for it's craft breweries, the Plaza Midwood neighborhood with many amazing places to eat (and drink) Soul Gastrolounge - (DO NOT miss - it's completely worth the long wait - use the app NoWait to find out what the wait time is AND claim a spot in line!) and Reedy Creek Park, home to a big dog park, 18-hole disc golf (very popular here), 10 miles of hiking, and so much more.

Elmore RV Park
Elmore is a mostly no-frills kind of place, but they do have concrete pads, water, power, sewer hook-ups and a pretty consistent wi-fi, which is important to us workin' folks!  They previously provided cable as well, but Charlotte's cable providers changed their policies recently and are now
requiring a special box to get service.  You can rent one of these for $30 for the month from the front office.  All sizes of dogs are welcome, as long as they are on a leash and you pick up after them.  They are pretty flexible if you have an extra trailer or need extra room to park any additional things that you travel with.  They do have many permeant residence living here full time both in Rv's and in mobile homes, which does make it difficult to get a prime tree'd spot.  Nearly everyone we've met here is friendly and happy to spend a few minutes talking, but mostly everyone keeps to themselves.  The area of Charlotte that Elmore is in does have trains nearby that are easy to hear when the a/c fans are off and in my opinion, I would say it is a migrant worker area (those who travel looking for jobs).  There is a lot of road construction in this area, we believe for a new mass transit rail line going into downtown.  All in all though, it's a quiet park and it's pretty easy to get around from and we didn't find it too difficult to find those above named areas that we really enjoyed spending time at.

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jetty Park Campground Review - Cape Canaveral, FL

Jetty Park Campground
400 Jetty Park Rd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
321-783-7111 (you'll probably have to leave a message - they will call back!)

For starters, Jetty Park is a very popular campground.  It is one of the few, if not only, sites in Brevard County, FL that is both beachside and oceanfront.  There are few things better than being able to walk right out to the beach and enjoying the cool sea breezes!  While there are other campgrounds in the area, there are no others that offer both of these location-based amenities.  For stays during the week, you shouldn't have any issues getting a spot.  However, if you are looking to stay for the weekend, booking as far in advance as possible is highly recommended.

Jetty Park does offer the convenience of online bookings, which is good, because the probability of getting someone on the phone is slim to none, especially during the busier months, which are all the months when the rest of the country is cold!  After talking to a few of the front desk personnel, I found out that they receive so many phone calls and messages that it generally takes until Tuesday or Wednesday just to return all the messages from the weekend!

From Jetty Park's website:
Jetty Park Campground is an oasis by the ocean where guests from all around the world come to share in a one-of-a-kind experience. Because of the campgrounds unique location nestled along the Atlantic Ocean and inside beautiful Port Canaveral, it's not uncommon to see one or all of the following:
  • Cruise ships arriving/departing
  • Submarines arriving/departing
  • Rocket launches from Canaveral Air Force Station  
  • Wildlife and marine life   
 The park offers guests a variety of camping options from tent camping in a rustic site to relaxing in your RV with all the amenities included.  
No matter which site you choose, you're less than a 5 minute walk from the beach - requisite sea breezes included! There are separate entrances to the beach from the RV section of the park and a different one for the general public.  This is very nice since (especially on the weekends) the park gets very busy.  It is one of the most popular beach access areas in the Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral area.

As with most state parks and county parks, Jetty Park is pet-friendly.  One thing to note though, this is only in the main portion of the park.  There are also water only sites directly alongside the jetty that are available. However, these sites do not allow pets.  Keep that in mind when you are booking if they try to put you out "on the jetty".  They are also very thorough in ensuring pets are up to date on rabies certificates, so make sure you have copies for your furry ones.

One of the small cabins also available to rent 
Another (new) feature that Jetty Park just added is the availability of small cabins to rent.  This is very handy if you have friends that you want to visit with that don't have an RV or that are just visiting the area you're in.  It gives them the opportunity to experience living in an RV park without having an RV.

Most sites are lacking shade, but the sea breezes
help cool things down
Sites towards the rear of the park (closest to the beach) are the most difficult to get as they are the easiest walk to the beach. They are also on the smaller side.   Shade is definitely something to be desired if you visit during the summer months.  The sea breezes will cool things off a bit, but the humidity during the summer is very persistent, so look for a spot with shade if possible.  The part of the park towards the front has larger sites and is, in general, more shaded.  These sites have a lot of room compared to the smaller sites near the beach!  If you require a larger area, these are the sites for you.

The camp store has the usual camping friendly items including ice and firewood, should you need it (in Florida, for only about two weeks a year!).  Make sure that when you check in, you ask for the 20% off discount coupon.  This will give you 20% off any item in the camp store.  It's only good for one-time use, so make sure you make it worthwhile!  At check-in, also make sure you get the wifi password.  We found it to be adequate for simple surfing, etc, but not for anything intensive.

Full washer/dryer facilities

Fishing at sunset on the jetty

Convenient fish cleaning station the pier

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our Amazon aStore is now live!

Thank you to everyone for your continued support, comments, and feedback regarding our posts and reviews - we really appreciate it!  In an effort to make it a bit easier to shop for products (or just to browse) we have created categories the match the post name where the review was done.  So, if you are looking for the Big Green Egg products, for instance, you would simply click on the "Store" link on the top navigation bar, then select the "Big Green Egg" category.  This will then list all of the products associated with the Big Green Egg post.   As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about how to use the store or if you notice an issue with the store, please let us know.

We will also be adding some more products to the store that we have used and like to use, but haven't necessarily done a review on them.  Rest assured, if it's in our store, we stand behind it - we would buy it for ourselves!

If you decide to make a purchase of one of the items and that purchase is made through our store, we want to give you a big "Thank you!" in advance.  Each purchase that is made through our store gives us a small commission from Amazon.  It's not much, but it's enough to buy us a couple little things here and there so that we can continue our journey and share our experiences with you.   The more we sell, the more we will continue to test and give our feedback, hopefully saving everyone time and money in the process!

Thanks again!  E, J, M & N

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cape Canaveral to Charlotte, NC - Our first major trip!

Last Sunday, we set out from Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, FL headed for Charlotte, NC.  We had previously gone on multi-day driving RV trips, but that was in our 23ft toy hauler and we had only done the one trip (and with a different truck).  The toy hauler didn't have any slides, and with it being our first one and being more under a time crunch, we ended up sleeping in a few rest stops at night (a little weird at first, until we woke up next to other RVer's).  The drive time (at the speed limit) from Cape Canaveral to Charlotte is 8 hours using the interstates.  We departed around 12pm on Sunday and we didn't have to be in Charlotte until Monday night.  We decided to take our time (and account for any potential issues) but had to make sure we would have time to set up before my (Jeanine's) 8:30am doctor appointment at OrthoCarolina Spine Center on Tuesday morning.

 This was going to be a fun drive!  We didn't have a particular plan on the route so as we were approaching I-95 (the fastest way to get to Charlotte) Eric asked me to pick "A", "B", or "C".  I picked "B".  It wasn't until after that he told me that "A" was to travel I-95, "B" was to take the FL Turnpike to I-75, and "C" was undecided.  So, we ended up a route we have taken many times up the middle of the state.  When we hit Lake City, we decided we were tired of the Interstate and decided to take the road less travelled.  We eventually ended up on US-441 in Georgia that practically sliced the state in half.  On the way,  we made a few stops to include a roadside fruit and vegetable stand and a honey maker.  There weren't many other cars, some semi trucks and a mostly two lane highway (at times it was a four lane highway which was really nice!) with small towns here and there.  About 5 o'clock, we decided we were getting close to being done traveling for the day so we started to look for a place for RV camping.

A few hours later, despite our best intentions (lesson learned!), we ended up sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot (a first!) in Homerville, GA.  We weren't far from a campground, but it turned out that we were having issues with our running lights on the trailer and we didn't want to be driving in the dark without them! We weren't sure what the problem with the lights was or how long it might take to fix it,  so we parked on the perimeter with a few semi trucks, pushed out the dining room and bedroom slides, shut off the rear of the RV and started up the generator so we had our a/c.  Of course we made a few shopping trips into the store... Didn't even know we needed anything until the store was right outside!

Beautiful magnolia tree in Athens, GA
We slept pretty comfortably except that Moose ended up getting a bout of stomach issues so we were up every few hours with him.  It ended up that he must have picked up some kind of bug at one of our stops during the day (Definitely have to keep a close eye on the kids during stops!).  I ended up giving him a combination of yogurt, pumpkin, turkey meat, and rice for a few days to give his tummy a break.  We kept an eye on his temperature and how he was acting (both were normal).  In the long run we did end up taking him to a vet as a precautionary measure.  Although he wasn't running a temperature, wasn't acting any differently, he was still having an issue.  We got him on some antibiotics and it cleared up right away.  Our wonderful breeders suggested that since our kids will be subject to many new places on a regular basis to start doing a fecal test at least once a month.  This is a great piece of advice for anyone that travels often with their pets - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care!

On Monday, we got on the road by about 10am and continued our trip up US-441 to Athens, GA.  A close friend of ours is a Georgia Bulldogs fan (we like him anyways LOL) and he said we just couldn't miss The Varsity for a bite to eat.  It was a little bit of a challenge driving around with the trailer to get there but it was delicious!  We got a chili-dog and a chili-cheeseburger.  Too bad our friend forgot to mention before we got there that we should have also gotten the onion rings.  Guess we'll have to go back sometime if we're passing by!

After our late lunch, we weren't far from our goal of connection with I-85 that would take us into Charlotte.  We came across our first low bridge that we wouldn't fit under and so it was interesting finding our way out of there...  We are now definitely getting an RV-specific GPS that we have heard will base your route on height of your trailer amongst other things.  Please comment if you have any recommendations or suggestions!

We arrived at Elmore RV Park in Charlotte, NC just after 6pm on Monday and had plenty of light (it gets dark much later the further north you go) to get set up on the concrete pad spots they have available.  Their amenities are your own mailbox, free wifi (great speed), full hook-ups including sewer, mostly friendly permanent residents, and your own trash and recycle cans. From what we could find, it is the closest location to downtown Charlotte (about 10-20 minutes from nearly everything).  If you know of any other places in downtown Charlotte, please comment!   Of course, we hurried to get all set up, looked at our calendar and it turns out that my doctor appointment was on Wednesday! Guess we had another day we could have taken to travel...

Since we are both self-proclaimed foodies, job number one was to find a great spot in Charlotte (preferably near us)  for a bite to eat.  I pulled out my trusty TV Food Maps app and quickly found a local taco hot spot that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri on the Food Network.   As luck would have it, we happened to be watching the Food Network that evening and, wouldn't you know it, Cabo Fish Taco was featured!  It was surely a sign!

Cabo Fish Taco painting by David French Originals located in NoDa
Cabo Fish Taco was the top-rated spot that was the closest to Elmore RV Park - less than ten minutes away in the NoDa district of Charlotte also known as the downtown Arts District.  There are still a number of art galleries there, but the area is now filled with trendy bars, restaurants and lounges.  Since Cabo was known for their fish tacos, we knew that we had to try them!  The menu was remarkable and sent us into a whirl of indecision - everything looked so good!   So, naturally we asked the waiter what the most popular dishes were (as we have a habit of doing).  He recommended the Tavarua fish tacos described as:
Blackened lemon rubbed tuna in a kiwi-pineapple fajita sauce, stuffed with lettuce,
tomato, mixed cheeses, & topped with our honey wasabi sauce
In short, this was, by far, the most flavor-packed, well-balanced fish taco we've ever had the pleasure of eating!  Highly recommend!  We also got the side of Mexi-slaw which was delicious.  The only negative (or unremarkable) part of the meal was the guacamole.  The avocado they used seemed as though it wasn't all that fresh.  Maybe we're spoiled being from Florida, but we both really enjoy good guacamole and having fresh avocadoes are a must for great guac!   Lastly, another good reason to visit for dinner or late night, the tequila selection is noteworthy, too.  While they don't have a huge selection, the tequilas they do have are mostly top shelf.

Follow us as we experience all that the Queen City  has to offer!  We will be reviewing restaurants, breweries, and attractions while we spend the next few weeks here for J's physical therapy.  Leave us a comment if you have any suggestions for us!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.