An important part of this journey by van is visiting my scattered network of friends and loved ones along the trail. I had the pleasure of visiting my Grandpa Brian and Grandma Cindy at their recently constructed home in Chico, California. It was a great visit and a pleasant retreat after my many exhausting adventures in the backcountry.
Our activities featured a tour of Sierra Nevada brewery, a hike in the upper Bidwell Park in Chico, and a longer hike to Feather Falls. I’ve included a short video of the Feather Falls hike at the bottom of this post. In general, our days were very relaxing. We spent lots of time talking about family, politics, and watching home videos from years past.
The brewery tour of Sierra Nevada was particularly impressive. I was amazed to learn what a great company they are, and I really can’t say enough positive things about what they do – in addition to providing great beer :). Sierra Nevada produces about 80% of the electricity they consume on site. About half is accomplished through solar panels and the other half fuel cells. Sadly, the fuel cells run on natural gas, so they are not renewable energy sources, but they are a better alternative than electricity from the grid. On the upside, they capture waste heat from the fuel cells and use it in their brewing process. They were also an early adopter of fuel cells, helping to promote the new technology by installing their system eight years ago. In addition, they treat all their waste water on site in a very impressive sounding process that includes a biogas digester from which they capture waste methane and, once again, re-use it in their brewing process. Since they produce their own electricity and treat their own water, they have gone to great lengths to conserve both water and energy throughout their entire operation. They have been chosen as the US EPA green business of the year 2 years in a row. They also treat their employees extremely well. Employee benefits include on-site day care, company medical office, company masseuse, land provided for employee gardens, pet insurance, and a case of beer with every pay check. As a person who likes to vote with my dollar, I’m planning to buy much more Sierra Nevada after learning of these commendable values. Surprisingly, this free tour included samples of 9 beers, including 2 quads, a barleywine, and an imperial stout. Clearly they enjoy experimenting with new recipes, and they produce limited releases regularly that won’t ever be seen again. They had a new quad made with prunes, and another that was aged in brandy barrels. They also had a beer made with shiitake mushrooms and a hint of rice. So rad!!!
My Grandpa Brian is a really interesting character, and I would like to say a few words about him. Although he’s turning 75 this year, he’s in better health than most Americans. Both GB and GC have gone to great lengths to live healthy lives, and he said he doesn’t feel any different mentally or physically than he did in his 30s. He’s very interested in politics, and we spent hours debating and discussing global issues. His wise conservative perspective often clashes with my educated liberal view, but as open individuals we were able to dive into a broad range of issues and see eye to eye. It was enlightening discussion, leaving us both with food for thought.
Grandma Cindy made wonderful meals, both healthy and delicious. We enjoyed talking about food and exchanging recipes. I also got to make them a meal one night, Thai coconut curry. Their new house is very comfortable, and I felt right at home. They have a nice plot of land with vibrant landscaping and a surprising amount of wildlife. I was delighted one morning to see my first bobcat in the wild – the wild being their back patio, lol. It strutted across like it owned the place. In additions they commonly spot coyotes, rattlesnakes, a variety of birds, and even mountain lions in their yard. How cool is that?