From an activity standpoint, 2016 didn’t turn out anywhere close to plan. Though I did ride Big Bend Ranch State Park early in the year, it turned out to be my only multi day ride of the year. A short but poorly timed battle with a campylobacter infection landed me in the hospital just prior to the planned GDMBR trip. Though I recovered just fine, the threat of reoccurrence killed the trip, at least for this year. This, combined with basically no riding after October, really tanked my ride numbers for the year.

Stats for the year:

  • 68 rides (-27/-28%) for 1,258 miles (-1,164/-48%), an average of 18.5 mi/ride (-7/-27%).
  • 168 walks (+10/+6.3%) for 418 miles (+8/+2%), an average of 2.5 mi/walk (-0.1/-3.8%)
  • 0 paddles (0/0%) for 0 (0/0%) miles

As much as I’d love to ride the GDMBR this year, it is quite the logistical challenge. The window to make the ride is rather short, particularly for someone like me intending to ride it at a tourist’s pace. Then getting the green light from both the family and the employer to disappear for two months…well, we’ll see. Additionally, I’ve moved further from work, making bike commuting highly impractical, so I have the added challenge of finding time and routes to get my miles in this year.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Doubt by C.E. Tobisman Exhume by Danielle Girard The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood The Whistler by John Grisham Witness to a Trial by John Grisham Grunt by Mary Roach Shoe Dog by Phil Knight Learning Spark by Mark Hamstra Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt Memory Man by David Baldacci The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman Missoula by Jon Krakauer The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham The Brewers Association's Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery by Dick Cantwell Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn Ten Points by Bill Strickland Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer

My ratings distribution:

  • 2 - 5 stars
  • 13 - 4 stars
  • 9 - 3 stars

Again the 5 stars are fairly rare, but I’m more than a bit surprised to find no 1 or 2 stars and the bulk of the books at 4 stars. Either I’m self-selecting for books I already know I’ll like or I’m getting extremely lenient with my ratings. It’s also possible that the books that would get the lowest scores from me are abandoned and/or still unfinished on my shelf.

I was much more active in 2015 than I have been in previous years. Although I didn’t get onto the water much (read: at all), I rode quite frequently and walked the dogs regularly. Here are my stats for the year:

  • Rides: 95 total for 2,422 miles or 25.5 mi/ride, (-27/-22%, +134/+6%, +6/+35%)
  • Walks: 158 for 410 miles, or 2.6 mi/walk

Since I’m planning to ride the GDMBR this July/August, I expect the ride numbers for this year to be significantly inflated and the walk numbers to diminish.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Gray Mountain The Burning Room (Harry Bosch, #19) Confessions of the World's Best Father The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon Station Eleven As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think The Martian The Escape (John Puller, #3) Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide Marooned in Aggieland: A Bumbling Brit Discovers College Football, Guns N' Waffles Fetching Raymond: A Ford County Story The Soul of a New Machine Landline Basic Illustrated Bike Touring and Bikepacking (Basic Illustrated Series) Funny Girl Cycling the Great Divide, 2nd Edition: From Canada to Mexico on North America's Premier Long-Distance Mountain Bike Route The Water Knife Ready Player One Goodnight Brew: A Parody for Beer People A Brewer's Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)

According to goodreads:

  • 25 books
  • 7,494 pages
  • 300 pages per book, average
  • 3.8 average rating

How I rated them:

  • 5 stars: 4
  • 4 stars: 15
  • 3 stars: 4
  • 2 stars: 2

Again with the selection bias, weighted heavily towards 4+ stars. Probably a given since I’m unlikely to finish a 1 or 2 star book and most of my reading list comes from recommendations or known authors.

To celebrate a friend’s birthday, we went on a mini-tour of Texas distilleries. It seemed logical to start with Texas’ oldest legal operation, Garrison Brothers, so we drove out to the big city of Hye (population 103), just west of Johnson City. Unfortunately our arrival was delayed by about 45 minutes due to some road construction and we missed our originally scheduled tour time. Fortunately the nice people at Garrison were understanding and squeezed us into the next tour time slot, even though it was already fully booked.

Visitors that are waiting for their tours to begin can relax on a scenic patio under the cover of beautful oak trees. Wine, beer, and bottled water are available on the honor system, donations appreciated.

The first stop on the tour is the grain silos where the guide explains the grain bill used in the making of their bourbons. I was caught up in the explanations and missed getting any good pictures at this stop.

Soon we were in the fermentation room, where yeast converts the sugars in the mash to alcohol. I found it interesting that the fermentation is open air rather than the closed containers I am familiar with from breweries. If I remember correctly, the mixture is about 14% alcohol when this process is complete.

After the yeast has done its work, the stills are used to separate the alcohol from the rest of the mix. This picture is of their first pot still, originally at Buffalo Trace, that was used before the operation grew and upgraded to two 500 gallon stills. The “white dog” that is produced from the distillation process is between 120 and 140 proof. It is diluted to 124 proof before barreling.

These are some of the barrels being used to age the bourbon. Because of the Texas heat, they were having problems with standard barrels “popping” and now they have thicker barrels custom made for them from white oak. They have 80,000 of them in the operation. At $350 each, that’s quite an investment.

More barrels, just waiting.

This is where the labels and the wax seal are applied, just after bottling. A completely manual process and handled by volunteers for the bigger batches. You can sign up to volunteer on their web site. In return for two days of labor, they feed you, let you have “quality assurance” drinks every half hour or so, a goody bag and a bottle of bourbon. Count me in!

Not related to the distilling process, I just thought this was an interesting piece of art with a nice view.

Overall, the visit was quite enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend it to any whisky enthusiasts.