Monday, November 4, 2019

Tri-City Coffeeneuring: 2019 Edition

This year’s coffeeneuring challenge came right on the heels of my break-up with caffeine. Yes, it’s sad, but I’d come to notice more and more that my nighttime sleep patterns were disrupted to the point that I had to take action. I only have coffee in the morning, I told myself (although my “one cup” of coffee probably had as much caffeine as most people have in 2-3 cups), so that couldn’t be affecting my sleep. Reluctant though I was to entertain the idea, I switched to black tea in the morning and, well, it seems to have made a tremendous difference. Yes, I know black tea also has caffeine, but not nearly as much as coffee and, besides, I knew from the past that going “cold turkey” was likely to result in massive headaches. But I wasn’t about to let a break up keep me from coffeeneuring!


Ride 1 – October 12, 2019 – Best Buns – 10 miles

It was a perfect biking day, low 60s with a bit of cloud cover and I was remembering the delicious sticky bun I’d discovered several months ago at Best Buns in Shirlington. This is my general “go-to” ride when it’s a nice day and I don’t have a particular errand to do by bike. It’s an easy 10-miles that can either be almost entirely flat or can incorporate a few hills, since the W&OD and 4-mile Run bike paths run parallel to each other nearly the whole way.

The good news: their decaf espresso was delicious! I brought the sticky bun home under the false pretense that I would keep it for Sunday breakfast. But a little voice kept whispering, it’ll be stale by morning and so much yummier when it’s fresh. No, the sticky bun didn’t last till morning and I have no regrets. It was scrumptious.

Ride 2 – October 15, 2019 – Northside Social (Arlington) – 7 miles

I try to visit only independent shops, and Northside Social is a regular coffeeneuring go-to. Although there now is a location slightly closer to my home, I wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather and ride a bit farther, stopping for a yoga class on the way home. Although the morning was brisk, I managed to overdress and was glad to ditch my outer layer upon arrival at Northside Social.

I had an outstanding decaf espresso, which came with a tiny bite of biscotti – the perfect tiny treat for the tiny coffee.


Ride 3 – October 18, 2019 – Ididos – 5 miles

I was going to drive a friend up to New Jersey in her car and return by train, so I took a bike share to her house. The ride felt rather cumbersome and slow, but I was glad to get a bit of exercise before the long drive. Since driving is not my thing, despite my break-up with caffeine, I decided rules were meant to be broken. My friend had been raving about Idido: the new coffee shop in her neighborhood, conveniently right around the corner from the docking station at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed. I got a delicious espresso that kept me alert the whole way to NJ. I couldn’t resist the multi-grain croissant, which I saved for my lunch.

Bonus Ride  – October 20, 2019 – Zabar’s – 3 miles

This was my week for using bike shares. After spending a night in NJ, I headed into the city, having managed to find a ticket to Hadestown. (Yes, it was great!) That night I stayed in the city with a friend, planning to take a Citibike to Penn Station the next morning. On the way, I stopped at Zabar’s. I love their coffee and decided that, if I’m going to give up caffeine, I should buy a bag of their decaf espresso to take home with me. (I don’t know if buying coffee is still an approved Coffeeneuring activity, so I’m including it as a bonus ride.)

I do wish that Citibike offered what we now have in the Capital Bike Share: the $2 single ride. But no, I had to pay $12 + tax for my 3-mile ride to the train. Subway would have been much cheaper, but it’s always more fun to go by bike. The wonderful bicycle infrastructure in Manhattan meant I could ride in a protected bike lane nearly the entire way down Columbus and 9th Avenues. It started to sprinkle early on my ride, but having paid a premium for the bike, I was not about to bail. Fortunately it remained a light mist and I was able to dock right outside the station.

Ride 4 – October 23, 2019 – Manhattan Deli – 12 miles

Despite the name, this ride was in Arlington/DC, although I stayed with the week’s bike share theme. It was a beautiful day for biking so I took a series of bike shares (so as not to incur excess charges) to my hair appointment at Woodley Park. The normal route would have been to take Rock Creek Parkway but I knew there was NO WAY I would make it up the big hill on a bike share bike. Taking a ride down memory lane, I went through Dupont Circle and rode up 19th Street: still a climb on a heavy bike, but not nearly as challenging. Huffing and puffing, I made it. As a bonus I got to see 3 places I’d lived in DC in the 70s: 19th and S, 18th and Belmont, and 19th and Kalorama. Some of you will not believe this, but when I moved to DC my rooms in group houses in these beautiful neighborhoods went for $35-$65 a month and my apartment on Kalorama first rented for $156 a month. Those were the days!

Well – they were the days for low rent, but not for biking in the city. Riding in DC traffic, having moved here from Madison, WI (where I biked everywhere), freaked me out completely. There were no bike lanes back then and it was years before I got back on a bike – and then rode only on the Rock Creek Park trail.

But back to coffeeneuring. Thirsty when I got to Woodley Park, I went into Manhattan Deli where I saw an interesting kombucha: grapefruit/sage. I also couldn’t resist the adorable little bottle of kefir, so I got both. I was glad I did because I had made a classic kombucha mistake: not reading the fine print of the label. This happened to me once before: the kombucha was polluted by the addition of stevia – something that I think should be outlawed. IMHO kombucha is meant to be tangy but, if it is sweet, the off-taste of stevia makes it an abomination. I know, I know, some people like it.

Fortunately I had poured part of the bottle into a cup. My hairdresser, who does not share my disaffection for stevia, accepted the rest of the bottle, so it wasn’t wasted. The kefir was delicious!

After my hair appointment I took another bike share downtown, where I could catch an orange or silver line train home. It’s one thing to take a bike share into DC and quite another to ride one home, which is significantly more uphill. Riding down 18th Street I noted coffee shops that would have made a good addition to my coffeeneuring pursuits, but perhaps I will visit them on another ride. There’s a reason I didn’t just take my own bike, but I will save that story for another time.


Ride 5 – October 25, 2019 – Bayou Bakery – 8 miles

Just a day to take advantage of the beautiful October weather. I rode to Bayou Bakery, making something of a figure-8 route. And, for once, I didn’t overdress – I wore a skort and short-sleeved top which was just right for a temperature hovering around 60 degrees. I remembered that BayouBakery had good Halloween decorations. I got a decaf espresso which was a little more on the sour side than I consider ideal. But as I sat outside sipping and browsing the City Paper, I had a nice chat with a young girl who stayed outside with her beautiful 2-year-old golden lab while her dad went inside to get their food. She couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old, and already a ski racer, she demonstrated her technique for me and I learned about the family’s old dog that had died and had resembled a mountain lion. All in all, a lovely afternoon diversion.

Ride 6 – October 30, 2019 - Gluten Free Goat Bakery and Commonplace Coffee Company – 5 miles

A visit to Pittsburgh in perfect fall weather was sure to include ample coffeeneuring opportunities. I had checked out the “Healthy Ride” bike share program and downloaded the nextbike app in advance. Then I booked a dog-friendly hotel conveniently located a block from a docking station. In the morning I rode to the Gluten Free Goat Bakery and got a delicious maple-pecan donut. I was disappointed that they had neither decaf nor espresso, so I settled for a lemon-ginger-turmeric tea.

Since the bakery is just over a mile from the hotel, I rode a bit past it to get in a little more of a morning ride. The East Liberty neighborhood has lots of interesting shops, including a bike shop claiming to be among the top 100 in the nation, a coffee/tattoo shop (maybe next time!), a yoga studio, and more.

The locking system of this bike share system is different than what I’ve seen anywhere else. I unlocked the bike easily (single ride costs just $2), but I was perplexed when it came to locking the bike back up. A woman waiting at the bus stop saw my confusion and came over, showing me how to slide the front wheel into a slot so that the locking cable can go through the center of the hub.

After having my tea and donut, I discovered there were no bikes left in the closest station. No worries; a quick look at the app showed three bikes just a couple blocks away. I got back in time to move my car from its 2-hour parking space.

After complementing my donut breakfast with left over Taiwanese food (stinky tofu and spicy green beans), I walked the dog and then headed over to my daughter’s house. She got a new bike, freeing up my old bike that she’d been using, and we rode to Commonplace Coffee Company, where I got a very lovely decaf espresso. It was served with a tiny shortbread cookie and glass of sparking water - just like in Vienna.

Here was the best part of my coffeeneuring day: watching my child speed up the hills way ahead of me. Pittsburgh is hilly (the bike share bikes have 7 gears, as they do in San Francisco) and clearly my daughter has been biking a lot, as the hills didn’t slow her down a bit. I, on the other hand, was slow as a tortoise. It didn’t help that my decrepit old bike can’t shift into its 7 lowest gears. Nevertheless, I made it, and we spent the rest of the morning working at the coffee shop.

From there we biked to Frick Park for a walk, a picnic lunch she’d packed, and then a bike ride back to her house. Total distance: about 5 miles.


Ride 7 – November 4, 2019 – Kung Fu Tea – 7 miles

How better to prepare for a 19-hour plane trip than to go out for a coffeeneuring ride on a perfect 60-degree day? As my flight doesn’t leave till evening, I rode to Kung Fu Tea, opting for something new: green tea/taro milk. It was good, but not quite the rapturous experience I had last year when I got the hot black milk tea. But the distance was right, and it’s located right around the corner from Trader Joe’s, where I wanted to pick up a couple items for my trip.

Now, Arlington, VA folks – many of you have surely experienced the ginormous disruption at the horrible intersection of Wilson and Washington Boulevards. I know they say they’re improving the bikeability of the intersection, but they’ve been working on it for a long time and right now it’s a tremendous mess. It is really not clear how one is supposed to navigate the intersection and I had to go through some wet asphalt, which clung to my tires and required a bit of clean up when I got home. But – the ride was a beautiful finish to my official 2019 coffeeneuring season.

TEASER: There will be bonus coffeeneuring updates from – drumroll – the coffee producing country of Kenya. I’ve read that virtually all the coffee grown in Kenya is exported and I should not expect to find delicious coffee while I’m there. However, I have arranged two bicycle adventures, one of which is through a game park called Hell’s Gate where I may see zebra, antelope, baboons, gazelles, and many birds. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tri-City Errandonnee

It almost felt like "cheating" - an April errandonnee with the weather perfect for riding. Having missed last year's event, downed by the flu, I was primed to make the most of this year's challenge. Looking back at my posts, I discovered that I am repeating the 3 cities in which I errandonneed in 2017, albeit in a different order.

April 12 (5 miles, 2 rides: arts & entertainment and social)

My opening ride found me in New York. Having spent the night in Brooklyn, I took the subway to 63rd and Lexington, where I rented a CitiBike. I could not imagine a more perfect way to start the challenge than riding to the Museum of the City of New York (103rd and 5th Avenue) for their History of Cycling in the City exhibit. Conflicts between cyclists and motorists go way back to the bike's early years, during which they were considered dangerous, and a scandalous form of transportation for women. No surprise - bicycles were embraced by the early feminists as a form of liberation.

I was intrigued by this side-by-side tandem

Bikes old and new were on display

There was a Citibike dock conveniently located right outside the museum, so I picked up another bike and rode through Central Park to the west side of Manhattan to lunch at one of my favorite iconic restaurants: Barney Greengrass. Although it is famous for its smoked fish which, being a vegetarian, I don't eat, I adore their borscht, and ordered a large glass. The cherry blossoms were just beginning in NY, which was nice since they were already past their prime in Washington.

View of New York from across the reservoir

April 13 (2 miles, 1 ride - Arts & Entertainment)

From my friend's apartment on the upper west side I stopped at another favorite food place: Zabar's, where I picked up some goodies to take on the train ride home. Then I took one last CitiBike and rode to Times Square where I had tickets to see Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. (Although I was familiar with the show, they did have subtitles in both English and Russian). It was a wonderful production and I then walked to Penn Station to travel back to DC.

Note the Zabar's bag on the CitiBike

I know you're not supposed to take photos, but this was the stage before the show began
April 16 (18 miles, 5 rides - Personal business, personal care, non-store errand, store, and wild card)

My morning ride was a classic "trip-chaining" ride during which 4 errands were performed for a total of 8 miles. My first stop was to deposit a check at the bank, then I rode to yoga class. From there I returned a book at the library and finally rode on to the Apple store, where I was picking up a computer left for some work. I would have made a circle and taken a different route back home but, alas, I had forgotten to take photos, so I retraced my original route.


Beautiful blossoms near the yoga studio

Selfie outside Arlington Central Library

Lots of construction outside the Clarendon Apple Store

That evening the Cycling Yogi and I rode into DC (10 miles) for an event on election integrity at the National Press Club. Wild card seemed like the only appropriate category for this ride.

Author Jon Simon addresses the audience
April 17 (4 miles - personal care)

I took the Cycling Yogi to the gym for a Pilates class.

The parking garage wasn't very attractive, but the tulips in from of my house were
April 18 (6 miles, 2 trips - "you carried what?" and store)

I decided I was allergic to the down pillows I've been sleeping on, so I attached my trusty bike trailer and headed to Target for new pillows. Then I headed to the grocery store, where I discovered I'd waited too long to pick up Passover matzos. Both Safeway and Harris-Teeter were completely out.

Two pillows with dust mite covers

Note the abundance of historic swag
 April 20 (6 miles - social)

I drove up to Philly to celebrate Passover with the Cycling Yogi. Fortunately the matzo supply was abundant and I got to bring some back home with me for the rest of the week. We spent the morning cooking and preparing for a Seder that evening. We then had the afternoon free to bike to the Wissahickon park where we hiked. So, about 3 miles biking and 3 miles hiking.

I love my Philly bike

It was peaceful in the park

April 22 (11 miles, 3 bonus trips: school, wild card, and personal business)

Although I'd completed my 12 official trips, the day was perfect for biking so I rode to the gym for an aerobics class, swinging by World Market and then the library on my way home.

The club at Skyline
I never enjoy having to lock up in a place like this.

So, a grand total of 52 miles and 15 trips. As someone who enjoys biking for transportation, the errandonnee is just a way to capture what I'm already doing - having fun and staying fit by riding a bike.