Oklahoma or bust!
My wife, our son Chris and I recently embarked on a motorcar odyssey to Kansas and Oklahoma to investigate rumors regarding folks who are operating small distilleries.
Yes, these small distilleries are legal. They are part of a "micro" movement sweeping the land, shrinking everything from our cell phones to our 401(k) accounts.
We decided to "live off the land" during this voyage in an attempt to relive the struggles of the pioneers. As such, we set out upon our journey equipped with only a few rudimentary tools such as credit cards, cell phones, a laptop computer, and a GPS gizmo we c all Mrs. Garmin.
Speaking whom, Mrs. Garmin got us into trouble early on. We had an appointment to meet with Seth Fox, who operates a micro-distillery near Atchison, Kansas. Mrs. Garmin tried to tell us that the quickest way to his farm was via a route that would take us down The Worst Dirt Road In Kansas.
Common sense told us to ignore Mrs. Garmin and find an alternate route. But our son was driving, and he is young and male. What he lacks in common sense he makes up for with testosterone.
"We can do this," he announced as he pulled onto The Worst Dirt Road In Kansas.
We crept along, the car straddling ruts that had been made by covered wagons and had since eroded to the dimension of graves. We bounced over small boulders as our tires clung to the edges of deep washouts.
My wife clutched her armrest in a death grip and growled "What have you gotten us into?!" After making half a mile in half an hour, we came upon an unclimbable hill. We knew the hill was unclimbable due to the numerous mountain goat skeletons that lay at its foot.
We eventually got turned around and made it to the Fox farm. Mrs. Garmin was banished to her room, a place also known as the glove compartment.
Seth is 40-something, kind and affable, and a shrewd businessman. He produces a variety of spirits, including a top-shelf vodka and an award-winning bourbon. The most striking comment he made during our visit was, "The funny thing is, I really don't like drinking all that much."
The next day we pointed the car toward Oklahoma City. As is our wont, we eschewed the superhighway for the back roads.
We passed through several small towns that had fallen on hard times due to the advent of the superhighway. But then, incongruously, we came upon a showroom that held several showroom-quality muscle cars. These cars were the kind that put the "muscle" into "muscle car," including a 1970 Challenger R/T and a 1969 GTO "The Judge."
We pulled over to get a closer look. Chris and I both left nose prints and drool marks on the showroom glass.
In Oklahoma City we met with Marc Spain, who runs Old Russia Distillery. His still is housed in an old warehouse that my wife aptly described as "icky". As we entered said warehouse she asked, "What have you gotten us into?!"
Marc was quite gregarious and welcoming. He explained that he came up the Old Russia name thanks to his wife, who is from Latvia. The most unique comment Marc made was that he attended the same school as Toby Keith.