Sunday, November 8, 2020

Covid Coffeeneuring

The theme of this year's coffeeneuring challenge is "one good thing." Eight months into the pandemic, it is clear that riding a bike is the one good thing that has enabled me to keep some sense of normalcy and joy. Through social isolation, canceled travel plans, and a tense, nail-biting election cycle, hopping on a bike remained a path to both mental and physical well-being.

Looking back at my blog history I see that 2020 is the 8th time I've completed the challenge - not missing a single year since I first coffeeneured in 2013. That's a record to be proud of! So here is a description of what I hope will be the only covid-plagued coffeeneuring season.

Ride #1: October 10, 2020 - 5.5 miles

Given the pandemic, I prepared my own beverage: a combination of my home-brewed kombucha and a lovely herbal tea called "tranquilitea." I rode a somewhat circuitous route to the Bon Air rose garden, where there still were plenty of beautiful blossoms.

Ride #2: October 13, 2020 - 17 miles

What better way to celebrate my 68th birthday than a 17-mile ride that included a decaf espresso and my favorite sticky bun from Best Buns. I love riding the Arlington "loop," especially when I stop 12 miles into the ride for a treat from Best Buns.

Ride #3: October 17, 2020 - 7 miles

For my weekend rides I decided to bring my own brew - avoiding coffee shops when they're likely to be more crowded. Fortunately I'm within a short ride to many lovely wooded settings and I rode to the grounds of the Long Branch Nature Center where the autumn leaves put on a nice show. In my thermos I had some of the lovely black Kenyan tea I brought back from my trip last November. It was hard to believe that a year ago I coffeeneured in Kenya. The world feels so different now.

Ride #4: October 21, 2020 - 7 miles

Being a mid-week ride I headed to the Arlington location of Northside Social, where I got an espresso and a ginger scone. When I emerged with my order - a plate in one hand and a saucer in the other - there were no free tables on the patio. As I was carefully stepping over the chain to head toward a bench, a youngish man came up and pleasantly offered me the table he was vacating. As I headed toward his table he smilingly said, "I was literally just writing about my grandma." From his demeanor he clearly didn't mean it as an insult, but - having just turned 68 - it stung a bit to think I look more like 80. But, hey, I can still get around by bike so looks aren't everything.

Ride #5: November 1, 202 - 9 miles

The morning was a bit chilly and I waited a bit too long for it to warm up some, given the strong prediction for rain. But I was itching to get out for a ride, despite knowing there was a good chance I'd get caught in the rain. I have a hilly ride I enjoy that goes past the Gulf Branch Nature Center and thought it would be nice to have both of Arlington's nature centers in my "coffeeneuring without walls" portfolio. No sooner did I get to the grounds of the nature center than the first sprinkles started. I had brewed a lovely soy chai and took a few big gulps of it before heading back toward home.

The rain came down in earnest but when you're at the farthest point from home there's nothing to do but soldier on. Fortunately I'd dressed in my Underarmour leggings and a wool sweater underneath a somewhat water-repellant jacket. Although I wouldn't have gone out if it had already been raining, getting caught in the rain really wasn't at all bad. That said, I stripped off my sodden clothes as soon as I entered home and a hot shower felt quite lovely. I also finished the nice chai, which was still warm in the thermos.

Ride #6: November 3, 2020 - 7.5 miles

This was largely an election-day jitters ride. I headed to Kung Fu Tea for a hot Thai milk tea. I sat on the bench and drank part of it and then walked around the corner to pick up a few items from Trader Joe's, where an adorable dog was waiting patiently outside for its human. I put the rest of the tea in my water bottle and headed home to anxiously await election results.

Ride #7: November 7, 2020 - 8.5 miles

With unseasonably warm November weather I headed out with a thermos of soy chai, stopping at a nice spot on the Custis Trail for some refreshment. For many months I avoided riding on the trails as they were more crowded than the streets during the early months of the pandemic. But I've started using the trails again as there appear to be fewer bikers, walkers, and runners than there were a few months ago. I stopped at Mom's Organic Market and bought some ginger tea. As I was nearing home I could hear my phone exploding with text messages. At first I wondered what was going on and then it hit me: the election must have been called. Sure enough - when I got home I pulled out the phone to see the happy news: a perfect end to a crazy coffeeneuring season.