Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coffeenering: My First Year

For the first time I participated in this fall's Coffeeneuring Challenge. I was encouraged by Rebecca Olds of Velovoice. Established by Mary Gersemalina, of Chasing Mailboxes, the event has been growing in popularity each year. You can read about it's history and basic rules here

What follows is an account of each of my 7 (plus 1) coffeeneuring excursions this fall. I expect to do this again next year, and having gained some perspective on  both the experience and the coffee offerings in our area, I will chart out my "events" a little more closely next year. 


Coffeeneuring # 1

Destination: The Sweet Spot, via tha Appalachien Gap
Miles: 20

My first miles out on my first Coffeeneuring ride I realized with a joyful clarity that I, in fact, enjoy a game; I enjoy the fun of pursuing a goal realized on two wheels. I like the idea that gets me moving on my bike, being a part of something, thinking creatively about where to go and where I'll get a coffee...

These thoughts got me thinking that randonneuring rides themselves are really just a game or a mental construct that fools you into riding distances on a bike that you'd never do otherwise, at least I'd never do otherwise. Its an addictive game. 

With the sun out and the fall foliage in peak display I rode up to the pass of the App Gap with the notion that I'd stop for coffee at the Mad River Glen base lodge, which was open for the leaf season chair-lift rides to the top of the ski area. It was a good idea, but when I arrived at the lodge it was way more of a late afternoon bar scene and just didn't fit the bill of a contemplative mountainside cup of coffee that I'd imagined. I snapped a few photos and rolled off down the rest of the mountain road. 

I found myself back in town and had a great coffee from the ever-generous and friendly Johnny at The Sweet Spot, sipping my coffee and overlooking the Mad River and the adjacent covered bridge. A great start to my Coffeenering season. I was glad I'd found a reason to be out this afternoon.


Coffeeneuring excursion #2
Miles: 7
Date: Columbus Day October, 13, 2014 (Tara Rules)

Tara rules: Despite an active weekend outdoors, I wasn't able to manage time on two wheels, so I was happily saved by the holiday weekend. After two sunny days, Monday turned overcast and I believe I even spotted a few flurries up in the mountains this morning. 

Yes, the Big Picture Theatre serves yummy coffee, but so much more...movies, food, an awesome atmosphere and all around community gathering spot. 

The Coffeeneur's Dilemma: To be naturally drawn to the best of the limited coffee options as each week unfolds, but knowing all the while that there are limited choices in the small town. To maintain the draw of quality, a coffeeneur must ride farther or dig deeper.


Coffeenering #3
Destination: Red Hen Bakery & Cafe, Middlesex, VT
Miles: 18
Date: Sunday, October 19

The Coffeeneur's Paradox: There seems to be an inverse relationship between crappy weather and a really fun ride.

My excursion this morning was not particularly inviting looking out from inside a warm house: the temps were in the upper 30s and there was intermittent rain falling. Undeterred, I got myself ready and rolled out. 

I coffeeneured my way to Red Hen Bakery & Cafe in Middlesex and then continued onwards to pick up our car in Montpelier --about a 18 mile trip altogether.  I added in a brief detour to my sister's home to visit the gang (and have a bonus coffee) en route. This added some lovely back roads and hills, which is just what I wanted. It was an exciting, beautiful, crappy day out on my bike.

Red Hen is a cyclist's haven. Great food, a very cosy atmosphere, and expertly made coffee. Besides that, there are many dedicated cyclists on staff and bikeyness is just part of the place. On this particular day I felt lucky to be the guy who'd been out on his bike in the bad weather rather then one of the cozy folks who were missing out on the fun in all their easy comfort.


As fate would have it we had a vacation planned in the middle of the Coffeeneuring season. Happily this opened up some nice options in contrast to the limited choices at home. We spent almost a week in the Marin County area, just outside of San Francisco.

Coffeeneuring #4

Destination: Cafe VerdeLarkspur/Corda Madera, CA
Distance: 3-4 miles
November 1, 2014

It was a bit of an --um-- adjustment to get into cahoots with a clunky beach cruiser.  Compared to our slick wheels at home this thing was a challenge. But hey,  the thing worked and it's good to be reminded that every bike has a degree of virtue by simply being a bike, especially if it's reasonably functional. I'll even go so far as to say that these tanks are kinda fun.

Anyway, it's great to be in the Bay Area and the best part of today's ride was Coffeeneuring with my sweetness, rather then on my own. We rode down to Corde Madera via bike paths to a lovely coffee place called the Cafe Verde. Latte for Nance and an Americano for me. We enjoyed the warm drinks as the sun was setting and the evening chill was coming on. Great to be riding bikes and sipping coffee in such a beautiful part of the world. Thoughts of chilly Vermont were far away...

(Note: This ride not being submitted for credit, although it might qualify, since we walked the last mile or so there and then walked again for a while upon leaving)

Coffeeneuring #5 version 1 (see version 2 for credit) 
Larkspur to San Francisco multimodal trip
November 2, 2014
Miles on bikes 3-4 ish

We took the ferry over to San Fran and promptly signed up for SF's bike share bikes. I had hopes that we could rent some slightly more interesting bikes along the lines of Public bikes or Civia, but no luck.  Anyway, we made-do quite well on the bike-share bikes and made our way down Market Street towards our destination. Unfortunately the docking stations are not extensively distributed, so we had to dock and then walk for a while (a mile maybe) to actually reach our destination, The Mill. The Mill is a somewhat famous for serving toast baked in conjunction with Josie Baker of Josie Baker Bread. You can be charmed by Josey in this video.

The cafe was packed with a line out the door on this nicely warm Sunday morning and our excitement to be there was rewarded in ambiance, hipness, and yummy food and drinks. The music (Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys) coming over the sound system was in fact from an LP playing on a record player. How cool!


Coffeeneur #5 version 2 (for credit)
Destination: Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club Outer Sunset, San Francisco, CA
Miles: 18, give or take
Date: Novemeber 4, 2014 (vacation rule)

We multi-modaled it from Larkspur on the mighty weighty beach cruisers to the ferry, rolled on...rolled off, and rode to City Rides Bike Rental and rented some nice quality lightweight rides. My bike was a Globe Roll 8; I loved it. 

We made our way out through Golden Gate Park almost to the ocean, where we turned and entered the Outer Sunset neighborhood. Our destination was Trouble, a somewhat famous coffee shop started by a woman, Giulietta Carrelli, who was featured in a Pacific Standard article about how the shop and it’s offerings became a vehicle for bringing balance to her life after years of chemical/emotional struggle.

“Carrelli called the shop Trouble, she says, in honor of all the people who helped her when she was in trouble. She called her drip coffee “guts” and her espresso “honor.” She put coconuts on the menu because of the years she had spent relying on them for easy sustenance, and because they truly did help her strike up conversations with strangers. She put toast on the menu because it reminded her of home: “I had lived so long with no comfort,” she says. And she put “Build Your Own Damn House” on the menu because she felt, with Trouble, that she had finally done so.” –John Gravois

(You can listen to the story on This American Life here.)

Arriving, we found what we knew would be a very small little coffee shop. Great coffee, a punky-hipster atmosphere and an interesting story. We contemplated this as we gazed down the street at the mighty Pacific Ocean, and then headed back into the city.


Coffeeneuring #6
Destination: From home in Waitsfield, VT to Moretown General Store, Moretown, VT
Miles: 12
Sunday, November 9

Today's ride was somewhat unremarkable but fun enough. My challenge lies in the fact that there are a limited number of quality coffee establishments in our small rural locale, so by week 2 or 3 I was through the easy and desirable choices. It's been a little harder since. I contemplated a challenging ride to the to of the Appalachian Gap to do a coffee-in-the-wild but decided on the easier option of riding to a fairly standard roadside general store in the next town over.  On the way there I stopped to use a friends grinder to smooth the ends of spokes I plan to re-thread and build up into a new wheel with a generator hub, thus adding bikeyness to an already bikey event. 

Happily, the store had some Vermont Coffee Company coffee in addition to the more common Green Mountain Coffee Co. offerings. Despite the chilly temps in the low 40's I sat comfortably on the porch chairs and enjoyed my warm drink. I was curious to notice a little box made to be a house with an openable roof. Inside, I found a notebook where you could list you name, town, date, etc, but alas I had no pen so I didn't sign. I wondered who left this there and what the idea is.

The day was grey, chilly, and a bit dreary but I was glad for a reason to be out on my bike. The ride home was fine. I stopped by the covered bridge for a photo.


Coffeeneuring # 7
Destination: Mix Cupcakerie and Farmers Market Bandstand, Waitsfield, VT
Distance: 7 miles
Sunday, November 16

This afternoon I found myself sitting happily alone in a windswept bandstand sipping my coffee. It was late in the day on a cold Sunday in November and I felt grateful to have been a part of the Coffeeneuring community this fall. I simply wouldn't have found myself out at these random places sipping coffee and contemplating life like this otherwise. Hats off to Mary for creating this little game --this structure-- which had me riding my bike more then I would have at this time of year. It's been a fun and engaging challenge.

As previously mentioned, quality coffee options dwindle quickly within a 5-10 mile ride from home, but I managed a nice offering for my finale. Mix, a cupcake shop in town, does single-cup filtered coffee, and it's quite good. So this afternoon I got a cup to go in my travel mug (and a cupcake too) and rode about 400 feet down the road to sit in the lovely gazebo where the farmers market happens in the warm months. This structure was built some years ago by a class at the nearby Yestermorrow Design/Build School (where I also teach periodically) and it made a very suitable abode for my late fall reverie. 

Sitting there I felt content, comfortable, and glad for bikes, shelter, cold fall days, coffee, adventure, and a warm home to pedal back to.

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