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!