Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Confessions of a Coffeeneur

Sometimes, despite the best intentions, all does not go as planned. I was looking forward to starting the 2018 coffeeneuring challenge in Lisbon, where I was arriving right on the kick-off date of October 12th. I’d already scoped out the bikeshare system and found a docking station just a block from my Airbnb. Alas, it had to be accessed through the GIRA app which would not let me set up an account, despite repeated attempts. 

Inside Pasteis de Belem

  Lisbon abounds in coffee and pastry shops, of which my cousin and I availed ourselves on a regular basis – but always on foot or using public transit. We went everywhere by metro and tram and walked miles and miles. The coffeeneuring highlight was to have been Pasteis de Belem – reputedly the city’s premier conveyer of the pastel de nata – Portugal’s prized sweet egg tart. In fact, theirs were the best I sampled anywhere on the trip, and my cappuccino came with a mountain of whipped cream (sorry - I'd consumed it before I thought to take a photo). But I am not counting this as an official ride, as – alas – no biking was included.

You can still see one pastel de nata in the background

Beautiful tile work in the restaurant

Returning home to weather more than 30 degrees colder than what I’d left was a shock and, sadly, I became sick almost immediately. Once I started feeling better the weather turned downright nasty and I wondered whether I’d be able to get back in the saddle in enough time to complete the challenge.

Fortunately, both the weather and my health cooperated and here is a catalog of my rides:

#1 – October 29, 2018 – Kung Fu Tea – 9 miles total

Anxious about the mid-term elections, I decided to vote early to avoid what I hoped would be long lines on election day. I rode to the courthouse and cast my vote, stopping on the return at Kung Fu Tea in Clarendon. I’d never seen it before so decided to start off with the classic sweet hot milk tea. It was So delicious with a good strong flavor of black tea and sweet enough to feel like a dessert. True confession #1 – I really like sweet tea. I never sweeten coffee, but always do tea. Go figure.

Note the voting sticker

Still life with bicycle, tea and backpack

#2 – October 31, 2018 – Livin’ the Pie Life – 6 miles total

Another lovely day. I biked to the gym for my Body Pump weightlifting class and then to Pie, making a triangular circuit for the trip. Although the total mileage was modest, I figured any biking on top of weightlifting was bonus and so, in addition to my espresso (on the sour side – just how I like it) I had a pumpkin pecan pie because, well, you don’t go to Pie just for the coffee. Their pies truly are outrageously delicious – albeit pricy.

They had some very cute Halloween treats

Always good bike parking

 Bonus – November 1, 2018 – weather so nice – Amma’s – 14 miles total

The weather was just so beautiful I had to go for a long ride – despite having fulfilled my coffeeneuring quota for the week. I decided to ride out the W&OD trail toward Vienna to pick up a couple items from the Whole Foods. Suddenly I remembered Amma’s vegetarian kitchen which I hadn’t been to in quite a while – low key South Indian food. I wasn’t ready for lunch, so I got my food to go, but sat and drank a mango lassi whilst I waited. Although the food was fabulous, the lassi was too sweet for me.

Vegetable uttapam with sambar and coconut chutney

#3 – November 4, 2018 – Bakeshop – 7 miles total

I teach yoga on Sunday mornings and thought it would be too chilly to bike at 8:30, but at the last minute decided it was just right. I was so glad I did, especially since the temperature was perfect when I finished teaching at noon. So I rode toward Bakeshop in Clarendon choosing a peanut butter cookie and a soy “London Fog” – an Early Gray latte. They initially made the tea with dairy milk, which I was going to just go ahead an drink – but it appeared that the owner was there and insisted not only that they make what I’d requested, but offered me a second cookie on the house as an apology. Who was I to refuse? And it smells so good I didn’t mind the extra wait.

 #4 – November 7, 2018 – Baked and Wired – 12 miles total

No coffeeneuring challenge is complete for me without a stop at Baked and Wired. Here’s another true confession: I’m really more of a “cookieneur” and Baked and Wired, in my opinion, has the best cookies short of homemade. They’re delicious and you also can get chocolate chip with NUTS which I consider essential to a truly satisfactory experience. I took along my own favorite drink from home: half ginger tea/half homebrewed kombucha.

View of the Potomac

Made a stop on M St and found a new bike rack - yay!

This kitty must have been sleeping off an election night hangover

 #5 – November 12, 2018 – Northside Social (Falls Church) – 5 miles total

Pressure was building to get enough rides before the end of the season and the weather had been erratic. The day had started out too cold for me to ride, but by afternoon had warmed up nicely. I always like a visit to Northside Social and this is the first year their Falls Church location was open. Again I took along my own brew, and got a delicious scone. Usually I avoid Northside Social on weekends because it's so popular. It was Veterans Day holiday, so it was still crowded, but not a long wait for the scone.

Bike parking definitely beats car parking

It was nice enough to eat outside

#6 – November 17, 2018 – Rare Bird – 5 miles total

Pulling toward the finish line I knew I had to made a trip on days that weather was accommodating. I rode to the Falls Church library to stock up on some books and DVDs for the holiday week, stopping at Rare Bird on the way home. This is a low key coffee roaster and nice place to hang out. I almost never order hot chocolate, but somehow it called to me that day. It was very rich and delicious.

Bike and rack were perfectly matched

 #7 – November 19, 2018 – Trader Joe’s – 8 miles total

My last official ride of the season started with a ride out to the Apple store in Clarendon to look at the Iphone 8. My old 5S was becoming obsolete and AT&T was offering a 2-for-1 deal on the 8. I like to hold something in my hand before making a decision and was satisfied that it was time for the upgrade. I had to pick up a few last Thanksgiving items, so I stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way back and had a nice little cup of their free coffee. I also bought a pomegranate tea, which proved to be a bit disappointing when I later brewed it at home…not as strong as I like. Nevertheless, I had a bunch of flowers sticking out the top of my pannier which always gives me a happy feeling. Then, just under a mile from home I spotted a group of deer grazing in a most relaxed manner right along the side of the bike path. I stopped to photograph the 3 does and a stag – none of whom seemed the least bit disturbed by my presence.

 After missing the challenge last year, I felt glad to be able to complete this year’s rides – despite, or perhaps because of – the obstacles. When the weather turns iffy, Mary, our inspirational leader, knows that a fun motivation to get out and ride regardless will end up boosting spirits. Besides, I realized that my bike trailer and backpack both have coffeeneuring swag – but not my pannier. Now I’ll be able to rectify that situation.

I hope everyone has something to be thankful for this year – no matter how small.