It’s autumn, so it’s time for another round of Coffeeneuring. Still being underemployed (seriously, folks: somebody hire me!), I didn’t really jump on the challenge like I did last year. Perhaps it’s the general malaise of being extremely constricted financially, perhaps it’s that my hip is being pesky (let’s just say that, once ski season is done, that hip replacement can’t come soon enough), or just exhaustion from a contentious political season that left me emotionally spent.
Let’s face it: it’s been a tough 2016. I’ve had some great highs and some awful lows. As the year nears its end, my level of optimism isn’t particularly high. But there are bit of hope. Ski season is nigh, and I’m enjoying the challenge of being Head Coach for Liberty Mountain Race Team. The holidays always bring friends and family together – and these connections matter more than ever during low times.
And without fail, the bike provides escape to a more carefree world – a needed batch of smiles and freedom, if only for a while. Get your escape where you can, right?
Following in last year’s footsteps, I didn’t choose a secondary theme. This is likely because of my general “meh” feeling of late – I just couldn’t be bothered to think up some funky way to bind all of these rides together other than “well, they all have a coffee break in the itinerary.” So that will have to do for another year.
As with last year, if you click on the mileage numbers you can see the Strava recordings of each ride. These contain additional photos from each adventure and are worth the click!
Adventure the First:
Date: 10 October
Distance Ridden: 67.5 miles
Location: Middle Ground Cafe, Stafford Springs, CT
Bike Friendliness: 6/10 (on a main drag through the center of a New England mill town, so not a lot of bike parking adjacent to the shop, though the town is sleepy enough that leaning your bike outside the shop is fairly safe; lots of great food options here)
Drink: double espresso (Counter Culture… I think?)
Lesson Learned: My first coffeeneuring outing for 2016 happened over Columbus Day weekend while sprite and I were in Connecticut. My initial plan for this day was to ride a full 100 mile century visiting Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts with three or four stops for coffee. However, the day started out a bit more chilly than planned, so I got off to a later start and had to scrap the three state itinerary. I decided to improvise my route instead, while still making at least two coffee stops. This was the first stop, and one I’d been meaning to visit for some time. It was worth it: fun staff and a really great pull of espresso. I also stopped at Coriander Café in Eastford, one of my stops in 2015, and enjoyed lunch in the sun. The new route introduced me to some lovely gravel roads through scenic and peaceful woods, as well as a country store that offered many kinds of candies for 2¢ per piece – score! I arrived home just before sunset. Tara Rule invoked.
Adventure the Second:
Date: 22 October
Distance Ridden: 14.5 miles
Location: Armed Forces Retirement Home grounds, Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 5/10 (not a place you can ride outside of DCCX, but the roads are fun and winding, and it’s a splendid venue for cyclocross, roads to access the AFRH have bike lanes and nice pavement)
Drink: drip coffee (Ceremony Coffee from La Mano Coffee)
Lesson Learned: The plan for this coffeeneuring day was to do some on-the-spot brewing for The Bluemont Connection and District Cycle Works at their DCCX tent. However, the weather was very windy, so any hope of running a camp stove to heat water was quickly quashed. Luckily, Idit was able to stop at La Mano Coffee and brought hot coffee and chai for folks to enjoy. The racing was spectacular – so cool to have a UCI cyclocross race within the District of Columbia! I also got to cheer on many friends in their races, catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and take in a place in DC that I’d only seen from the windows of National Rehabilitation Hospital back in January 2014. Coffeehouse in the wild.
Adventure the Third:
Date: 5 November
Distance Ridden: 48.4 miles
Location: Spokes Etc., Belle View (Alexandria), VA
Bike Friendliness: 8/10 (it’s a bike shop, so it’s bike friendly by design, though the road it’s on has a decent amount of traffic; there’s also another good coffee shop in the same shopping plaza)
Drink: drip coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts)
Lesson Learned: I was at Spokes to help teach a bicycle maintenance clinic for Potomac Pedalers. The coffee and donuts were procured from the Dunkin’ next door to the bike shop. The class was held in the basement of the store, where Park Tool classes are typically conducted. There’s also a large storage area down here, where Spokes keeps hundreds of bikes at the ready to sell. I rode to and from the clinic, and after the class concluded I went on a ride around the Fort Hunt area with my friend Ed, who was fresh off a multi-week trip to the Canadian maritimes. It was a great day for riding a bike, and the foliage at Fort Hunt Park was spectacular!
Adventure the Fourth:
Date: 6 November
Distance Ridden: 5.6 miles
Location: Grace Street Coffee, Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 6/10 (easy to get to and has lots of tasty food with its fellow co-location businesses, but there’s a lack of good places to lock a bike in front of the store, and a narrow sidewalk preventing the installation of racks – though there is a bike rack at a plaza adjacent to the C&O Canal Towpath approximately 200 feet west of the shop entrance)
Drink: latté (Grace Street Coffee Roasters)
Lesson Learned: The new coffee house in Georgetown is a funky little place, and opened just before this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge commenced – splendid timing. The space is shared with a juice bar and a brick-and-mortar location of SUNdeVICH, a well-known food truck. It’s also on the same street as the awesome Dog Tag Bakery (another solid coffee stop) and Chaia (vegetarian tacos!). The crew in there is always in motion, which is good, as they became backlogged with orders due to a lack of barista manpower. The space seems like a good place to hang out or even get some work done. There’s a cute little patio in the back of the space that gets sun at some points in the day. sprite and I ended up enjoying our beverages and edibles (the latter from Dog Tag) in the little plaza outside of HOK Design, next to the C&O Canal.
Adventure the Whateverth:
Date: 12 November
Distance Ridden: 78.1 miles
Location: Zaglio’s Bakery, Poolesville, MD
Bike Friendliness: 7/10 (tasty treats, friendly staff, and a good bathroom here, though no bike parking in the strip mall location)
Drink: drip coffee (roaster unknown)
Lesson Learned: This coffeeneuring stop was the main rest stop on a lovely weekend ride with Ted. We rolled out to Poolesville via both well-traveled and less-well-known roads, making Zaglio’s our primary coffee and snack stop. My donut there was awesome: light and fluffy, with chocolate, caramel, and coconut flake toppings. The foliage on this ride had some spectacular flourishes (see the headline image for this post as an example), though it was definitely heading into a past-peak state along many parts of our route. We made quite a few stops for pictures, as the weather and the light were ideal for this. Early in the ride, we saw Dru Ryan at the Starbucks in Potomac Village Shopping Center – great to finally meet him in person. He was rocking some excellent A Tribe Called Quest socks, appropriate given their new album dropped the previous day.
Adventure the Whateverth-plus-two:
Date: 13 November
Distance Ridden: 5.1 miles
Location: Kristina’s Cafe and Pastries, Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: 7/10 (on a side street off of the lower end of MacArthur Boulevard, no bike racks but plenty of deck space for parking a bike, clean bathroom inside, and decent food options)
Drink: latté machiatto (Illy Coffee)
Lesson Learned: sprite and I spent some Sunday afternoon time on this coffeeneuring outing to the new café in Foxhall Village. Our route involved a couple of sidewalk stretches to avoid cresting the hill at the intersection of Reservoir and Foxhall Roads, taking us instead through the lovely British pastiche of Foxhall Village. The café wasn’t busy – it was late in the afternoon – but the one outside table in full sun was taken by another patron. We managed to move another table into the sun, which was nice. Our cupcakes were underwhelming: small and nondescript. My latté was better than the cupcake by far, though I wish this place used coffee from a local roaster – nothing against Illy, but given the wealth of local options in coffee roasting, it seems odd to go with “the Starbucks of Italy.”
Adventure the Whateverth-plus-a-few:
Date: 19 November
Distance Ridden: 66.8 miles
Location: Cafe Kindred, Falls Church, VA
Bike Friendliness: 7/10 (1.5 blocks from the W&OD Trail, 1 block from Bikenetic, )
Drink: double espresso (Vigilante Coffee)
Lesson Learned: This day was the last one predicted to be really warm for a while (likely for the rest of the year), and my available days for riding on weekends are coming to a close with the approach of ski season. So I gathered some friends and went on a lovely bike ride in northern Virginia, all the while logging my final coffeeneuring stop for the season. The ride spent a lot of its outbound leg on the W&OD Trail, and it was great to see the new segment of trail in Vienna: wide, smooth, with good sight lines. There were a lot of people on the trail, but nothing like the density of mid summer. Once in Reston, we ventured north off the trail toward Great Falls. The sunny, pleasant weather was perfect for riding, and a bit of die-hard foliage greeted us along Beach Mill Drive. Ed led us down an unpaved, slightly rough trail to Great Falls Park. We had a snack stop at Yas Bakery in Vienna, a favorite Persian market, where sour cherry nectar was the drink of choice. On the way back to DC, Marc and I had a lunch, espresso, and beer break at Cafe Kindred – so good! As we left, a dark wall of clouds approached from the west. The air grew colder, the wind started to gust. By the time I reached Georgetown, gingko berries hit me like rocks due to the stiff, gusting wind. I sought shelter at District Cycle Works, then made the rest of the ride home just before the rain began to fall. Winter definitely rolled in with fury.
Total Mileage: 286 miles