If you’re a kid who lives in New Jersey, you know that a nirvana of finger-popping fireworks lies just across the Pennsylvania border. But if you’re a beer nerd who lives in New Jersey, you hardly notice all of the FIREWORKS signs as you cross the Delaware, because you’re not looking for bottle rockets, you’re looking for Bells. You see, Pennsylvania sells a host of great craft beers that aren’t distributed in the Garden State, so a trip to PA represents an opportunity to load up the car with excellent brews you can’t get back home. That is, if your wife will stop the minivan…
My family and I took the 90 minute trip to Pennsylvania this past weekend to celebrate my daughter’s sixth birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park in the Poconos. I like to call the place “Petri Park,” as it’s basically 380,000 gallons of recirculating human bio-matter. But what I think doesn’t matter – my kids were excited to be there, and I was there to help them have the most fun possible. It was their weekend, not mine.
We stayed over Sunday night into Monday, and on the way to a gourmet dinner at Friendly’s (the kid’s call), I spotted a sketchy-looking liquor store in a strip mall. We were all starving, so I didn’t even consider stopping. Maybe on the way back. But then I totally pigged out on cheese and bacon covered waffle fries (who wouldn’t?!), and by the time the meal was over I was in no mood to go beer shopping at a place that didn’t look too promising to begin with. Besides, there’s always tomorrow.
The next day came, and I was a pretty crappy dad, as work stuff was blowing up and I had to keep a hand in at the office to ensure things were moving in the right direction over there. My wife took our daughter to the water park, and my son and I stayed high and dry, hitting the arcade and mini bowling, with my nose in my phone most of the time.
When mid-afternoon rolled around, my wife had had it. She was hungry, tired from chasing our daredevil daughter around the drowning hazards without my help, and her skin was screaming from all the chemicals in the water. I lured our daughter out of the water with the promise of a building a stuffed animal at Great Wolf’s Build-a-Bear ripoff station, and we headed away from the water and the crowds to hit up Friendly’s once more (did I mention we let the kids call the shots this weekend?).
On the way there, I see a vision – an enormous red barn that looked to be some kind of beer distributor. I could see long coolers lining the walls of the huge retail area as we drove past, and I figured if they had that much space, they must have an awesome selection. But the crew was hungry and we were past the building before I realized what I was looking at, so I let it go. Maybe on the return trip.
But something happened at Friendly’s – everyone was “done.” We were all tired, I was still preoccupied with work, and we all just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. But I still wanted to stop for beer, and the barn from heaven was between us and the on ramp home.
What happened next was mostly my fault, but I’ll blame my wife (who was driving) anyway. I was distracted as we left Friendly’s, and I didn’t realize how close we were to the beer store until it was too late. I looked up and saw it 50 yards down the road, which left little time for negotiation. I was only able to fire a single opening salvo of “Hey, I wanna stop for…” to which she replied, “nope” and pressed the accelerator. Beer nirvana blurred past, and the kids started to chirp that I didn’t need any more beers at home – they may be correct – and that they just wanted to get on the road. Outvoted three to one and wanting to get home myself, I didn’t press the issue. Had I planned better and pitched the idea of stopping over lunch, I probably could have made it happen, but my mind was mostly on work stuff so I didn’t think that far ahead. My fault, I guess.
So now I’m back in New Jersey with no new and interesting beers in the fridge, just an interesting new rash on my belly. Gotta love Petri Park.