Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery & Grille
600 East Superior Street
Duluth, Minnesota 55802
GPS coordinates–N 46º47.558′ W092º05.455′
By Kevin Wynn
This has been, without a doubt, the worst year for riding time I’ve had in the past ten years. If not for the excuse to get out of the house that writing for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly provides, I might as well pack it up and take some hateful activity like knitting, golf or watching football. Or maybe I should buy a cruiser and spend my time festooning it with chrome geegaws. I’ve averaged about 10,000 miles a year since I stepped into the world of the Long Distance Rider and events like the Minnesota 1000 and Buttlite Rally. Certainly most of those miles came in short, intense and highly entertaining bursts, but it meant that I could plan on being on the road for several weekends per year and maybe for a weeklong trip somewhere in the course of the summer. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only ridden about 1400 miles this summer. Hell, my new 2003 FJB hasn’t even been in for its 1000-mile service check yet, and likely won’t until next spring. The old ratty Concours is still exactly where I parked it in 2002 when it was time to rearrange the garage for winter; still has bugs on it from the trip to Ohio I took earlier that summer. It deserved a proper bath, some cleaning and tuning, and to be sold to someone in need a of a cheap, dependable long distance mount.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has let a summer get away from them, or maybe had it stolen, in a manner of speaking. There are a bunch of reasons I could point to, but all of them sound like lame excuses when spoken out loud, so I pretty much keep them to myself. The truth is harder to escape. I’ve forgotten how to just go ride. I let a personal dispute with a motorcycling friend become a wall between me and the sport I love. So, without a scheduled rally event on my calendar to plan, practice and prepare my bike for, I didn’t have any place to go. So I stayed home and claimed family or domestic responsibilities to attend to. It sounds like crap now, now that it’s too late. What should have been one of the most exciting riding seasons of my life with my first new motorcycle slipped away. Get out there and ride. That’s what I’ll be trying to do.
About a month ago, I happened to bump into John H., another mileage impaired friend of mine. I would say he has more legitimate reasons for leaving his bike parked for most of the summer. We’d been talking about making a day trip somewhere for most of the summer. This time it worked out. A free Saturday and a mutual desire to go spend some money visiting Aerostitch Riderwearhouse created a chance to spend some semi-quality time with my bike. Sure, I’ve been outside the Twin Cities about four times all year and two of them are to Duluth, but what the heck. At least I was on the road for a day. The general plan was to sprint up 35W to Aerostich, empty our wallets buying cool stuff from the greatest supplier of bike stuff on the planet, find some lunch and sprint home again. Life was good for a day.
I’d eaten at Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery and Grille after attending the Very Boring Rally festivities in August, so I knew it’d be a winner to take John there after our shopping spree. Although someone has been making beer at this location (with a couple of interruptions) since 1857, the Fitger’s complex (www.fitgers.com) has been converted into a fancy hotel and shopping mall. Don’t let that stop you from eating here. The food is quite good and though the brewing production is only about 850 barrels per year now, it includes 40 different brews in a rotation throughout the year. On my visits I only sampled Fitger’s own very tasty Driftwood Draft Root Beer. I was tempted though, by the Big Boat Oatmeal Stout.
Notable menu items I have personally sampled to bring you, the reader, the most accurate and up to date info available are: Lake Superior Smoked Fish Wrap – not bad but skip it. Head up the north shore and just bring home some smoked fish from one of the fine local purveyors. Pub Burger – darn fine, huge burger loaded with ‘shrooms, onions, Swiss and chipotle sauce. Ultimate Nachos – topped with vegetarian chili (I don’t understand it either) and all manner of typical good nacho toppins’, it’s a serious winner, even without meat. Grilled Tuna Steak Sandwich – my favorite, a big slab of tuna steak with tomato, sprouts and red pepper lemon mayo. Excellent.
There’s a wide variety on the menu and plenty of reasons to spend time riding the North Shore so if you try it, you’ll certainly find something to like.
Leaving Duluth, we initially tried to stay off the freeway for a while but road construction lead us through Jay Cooke State Park. I let John ride the FJR while I rode his ST1100. If they ever repave this cow path it could be seriously entertaining, but in the condition it’s in now, I think we were both happy to get back to the slab.
Back in NE Minneapolis, as I rolled down the parkway a few blocks from home, I could feel the end of my riding season weighing on me. I’d best get out next year’s calendar now and start setting aside some time to ride. I can’t let another year go by like this one did. Life is too short.
Eat well. Ride well. Just Go Ride.
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