Another autumn means another of Mary G’s Coffeeneuring Challenges! I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike in search of a cup of joe. Or an espresso. Possibly a flat white. Or maybe a cortado…
Regardless, it’s always fun. This year, I once again couldn’t come up with a “theme within a theme.” Rather, I decided to do my coffeeneuring at places where I hadn’t previously done the challenge. So while a couple of these might be coffeehouses where I’d been before, none had previously seen me for some good old-fashioned coffeeneuring!
Read Mary’s intro piece for the rules (and they are rules in this portmanteau of “coffee” and “randonneuring,” the latter of these words being a form of cycling so laden with rules as to make me wonder why I’d want to lug around a control card… yet I kinda want to), then read along as I go on this year’s journey. As with last year’s post, clicking on the mileage will take you to the Strava record of each journey.
Stop the First:
Date: 13 October
Distance Ridden: 5.7 miles
Location: Qualia Coffee (Eckington location), Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 7/10 (one block from a major east-west bike lane and the Metropolitan Branch Trail, but no real bike parking out front – Joel, the owner, invited me to bring the bike inside the shop)
Drink: cortado (beans roasted at the other Qualia location)
Lesson Learned: Qualia’s original location is in Petworth, run out of a converted house with a laid-back, homespun vibe. So when I’d seen signs advertising their new location in Eckington, a block from the Metropolitan Branch Trail and thus on my daily commute route (more or less), I thought I should drop in. The new space is airy and light, even though it’s not too huge. It’s part of the new Gale at Eckington apartment complex, and is still developing a local clientele. But the coffee is still the excellent quality stuff offered in Petworth – they just need a bike rack or two out front to make it a bit more cycling-friendly.
Stop the Second:
Date: 15 October
Distance Ridden: 5.7 miles
Location: Sugar Shack Donuts (Shaw location), Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 6/10 (not a lot of space for bikes to park, but enough signposts for locking that keep bikes out of the narrow sidewalk right-of-way)
Drink: latté (Zeke’s Coffee)
Lesson Learned: sprite is also taking on the Coffeeneuring Challenge, and I’ve been happy to join her on some of her exploits. The coffee at Sugar Shack is made with beans from Zeke’s, a favorite local roaster, and was quite good. The donuts are also superb, and two of these we acquired by singing “The Hogwarts Song” from the Harry Potter series. I sang it to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” while sprite made up the tune as she went along (there is no proper music to this song, so why not make something up?). We also visited the Northwest One branch of DC’s Public Library, which was a really lovely library that replaced the kiosk-style Sursum Corda branch a few years ago. Read sprite’s account here.
Stop the Third:
Date: 19 October
Distance Ridden: 35.6 miles
Location: Bread & Water Company, Alexandria, VA
Bike Friendliness: 7/10 (in a strip mall, easy to park bikes in front and sit next to them, and strip mall is on a bike-friendly road with a bike shop around the corner)
Drink: flat white (Caffe Lavazza)
Lesson Learned: Over the past year this stop has become a favorite one for coffee and awesome baked goods, so I make a point of going there whenever I ride south of Alexandria. I rode with my good friend, Ed, and we had a lovely ride with a tasty break. I bought one of the fresh baguettes as my snack and ate half of it at the bakery, packing the other half for the ride home. In a not-so-nice turn of events, I crashed my bike on the return to DC along the Mount Vernon Trail by DCA, suffering some contusions on my knee, partially separating my shoulder, ripping a favorite pair of cycling shorts, and doing in my favorite Kask helmet (it took a very solid hedge branch for the team). Luckily, #hip2point0 was just fine, as was my bike, and I rode the rest of the way home without any further incident (and I rode the 5.5 miles into work the next morning).
Stop the Fourth:
Date: 21 October
Distance Ridden: 4.7 miles
Location: Made in DC Pop-Up Shop (Dupont Circle), Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 8/10 (staple racks and street signs outside, plenty of space to park the bikes without blocking the sidewalk)
Drink: double espresso (Small Planes Coffee)
Lesson Learned: another adventure with sprite, this time to the cool pop-up shop in our neighborhood that features only made-in-DC wares. Thus, the coffee is from a new local micro-roaster – it was tasty! The shop had a lot of great things for sale: food, drinks (I also had a local cider from Anxo), clothing, art (unsurprisingly, the Dupont Circle map prints were sold out), and jewelry. And the outdoor seating was perfect on this warm autumn day.
Stop the Fifth:
Date: 28 October
Distance Ridden: 69.5 miles
Location: The Little Country Store, Etlan, VA
Bike Friendliness: 8/10 (it’s a country store, so parking isn’t a big deal, the proprietors are friendly, there’s a great view of Old Rag Mountain, and there’s a store cat – what’s not to like?)
Drink: drip coffee (nothing special)
Lesson Learned: I’ve been here many times before, as this little oasis is a welcome respite when riding along the foot of Shenandoah National Park. It’s a typical locals place: basic groceries, a deli, pit BBQ, and a few neighbors discussing the local news. The coffee there is nothing special (probably Folgers or Maxwell House), but it was a warm beverage on a crisp fall day. And the store’s elderly cat (some Siamese mix, I think) is always game for some lap time – and happily posed for pictures. The ride was one that had over 40 miles of gravel roads, and while I wasn’t on an ideal whip for the task (a road bike with 26mm tires), I held my own.
Stop the Sixth:
Date: 1 November
Distance Ridden: 5.5 miles
Location: Chuck Brown Memorial Park (Langdon Park), Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 8/10 (nice park, hilly to get there but the roads are quiet, bike racks in the park though not near the memorial area)
Drink: French press (Starbucks Pike Place beans)
Lesson Learned: Ever since I started my new job with JUMP Mobility, my commute has taken me past Langdon Park, where the Chuck Brown Memorial was built a couple years ago to celebrate DC’s “godfather of go-go.” So I decided to make a “coffeeneuring in the wild” stop at this memorial – very cool! It’s a dynamic sculpture that captures the essence of the celebrations that were his concerts (full disclosure: never had a chance to see Chuck perform live). I love Chuck’s music – give his “The Party Roll” a listen!
Stop the Seventh:
Date: 4 November
Distance Ridden: 61.2 miles
Location: Extra Perks, Alexandria, VA
Bike Friendliness: 7/10 (only a couple blocks from the Mount Vernon Trail, OK street parking tho sadly without bike racks, outdoor seating is nice, and a bike shop around the corner)
Drink: espresso (beans unknown but fairly good)
Lesson Learned: I’d already been to Vigilante Coffee in Hyattsville on this ride, but I’ve coffeeneured there before. So when we passed this place, I had to stop and get a quick espresso! Despite the name, Extra Perks is a British-themed eatery: full tea, English fry-ups, bangers and mash. But the espresso was a winner: tasty, not bitter, the size of a triple shot, and under $2.
Stop the Eighth
Date: 5 November
Distance Ridden: 2.4 miles (this is two separate Strava rides – the decimal is the divider!)
Location: Pear Plum Café (Mt. Pleasant), Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 8/10 (we rode Capital Bikeshare for this one, and the nearest stops are a few blocks away. Otherwise, it’s not difficult to find racks or signposts for locking a bike, and Mt. Pleasant Street has a sharrow going each way.)
Drink: dirty chai (Oregon Chai and Counter Culture)
Lesson Learned: another ride with sprite, with a stop at the Mt. Pleasant branch of DC’s Public Library system, a lovely Carnegie-funded building dating back to 1925. This branch was devastated by a large neighborhood fire in 2008 and remained closed for repairs and renovations until 2012. The restored library is lovely, with bright, open spaces that invite a patron into the stacks. There are also lovely murals by Aurelius Battaglia, a DC native whose work is best known in the Little Golden Books series. After spending some time in the library (which also had a photo exhibit focused on Michelle Obama), we went to Pear Plum Café, which succeeded Flying Fish Coffee on Mt. Pleasant Street. Our drinks and pie were most excellent!
Stop the Ninth:
Date: 13 November
Distance Ridden: 9.6 miles
Location: Chinatown Coffee Company (Chinatown), Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 8/10 (there is a single staple rack about 20 feet from the front door, though the owners will let you bring your bike inside if it’s not too busy. Located on a busy street in downtown DC.)
Drink: cappuccino (Intelligentsia… maybe?)
Lesson Learned: I was en route to a work meeting with the Metropolitan Police Department and wanted some coffee and a snack, so Chinatown Coffee was the place to go. I’ve been here before, though never while coffeeneuring. My cappuccino was perfectly executed, and the chocolate biscotti was a perfect contrast and was tasty when dunked into my frothy beverage. The meeting with MPD went well, and I made some important contacts within the department. Above all: they liked JUMP’s business model and our commitment to responsible parking of the bikes (JUMP bicycles are meant to be locked to a bike rack, signpost, or other out-of-the-right-of-way object).
Total Miles: 199.9
Cover image is from the fifth coffeeneuring adventure, taken in Stone Hollow, Virginia.