Martin Coffeeneuring

Coffeeneurs International: Martin in Ye Olde England

It’s not every day that someone says coffeeneuring has the potential to change his or her life. Coffee and bike riding can be powerful stuff, however, so who’s to say it isn’t these little pleasures that have great impact on us over time?

I will let you ponder that, as I share this post from Martin, who resides across the ocean from my house, and traveled many places in the completion of last year’s challenge.

This Coffeeneuring Challenge is ideal for me. And in a small way might even change my life.

I entered the challenge in absolutely the correct spirit because it came after a year in which I felt I was living on the bike. This is because all through the bitter cold of the winter months I was riding 200 kilometres each month to achieve my small red badge that is the mark of the Randonneur Round The Year.

At the same time I was also training to ride from London to Edinburgh and back in a 1,400 kilometre event. So you see the opportunity to ride just a mile and have a nice day beverage each week was an opportunity not to be missed.

In fact I started to enjoy riding my bike. So I might just make a point of coffeeneuring all year round. It is certainly much more enjoyable than setting an alarm for 3 o’clock in the morning and riding a bike in sub-zero temperatures for 14 hours. And to make matters worse this was a really cold winter in England.

As you can see from the list of coffee shops I visited, I also rode my bike across northern Spain from from Madrid back to France.

This was all good fun and provided some fine opportunities to drink coffee but crossing the Pyrenees in a torrential rainstorm was rather more character building for me than I would have liked…

So here is the list of what I did and where I drank coffee, and many thanks for arranging the challenge. I tweeted about my coffee and sent a photograph with the tweet. (Editor’s note: The text of each Tweet is included below each photo.)

Ride 1
October 9

Saw this: had to stop for #coffeeneuring at the Six Bells pub in the  English village of Chiddingly @coffeeneur

Saw this: had to stop for #coffeeneuring at the Six Bells pub in the English village of Chiddingly @coffeeneur.

A delightful 150 year old small pub called the Six Bells in the small Kent village of Chiddingly.

Distance ridden about 30 miles.

Ride 2
October 14

My "weekend" so time to tell @coffeeneur I am #coffeeneuring - while buying a stove windshield for my next expedition

My “weekend” so time to tell @coffeeneur I am #coffeeneuring – while buying a stove windshield for my next expedition.

The Pret a Manger coffee shop in the centre of my local town.

Distance exactly 2.2 miles.

Ride 3
October 21

Popped on the bike to pick up money before next expedition to Spain on the bike, @coffeeneur is, I hope, jealous

Popped on the bike to pick up money before next expedition to Spain on the bike, @coffeeneur is, I hope, jealous.

A small coffee shop near my bank where I picked up money for my ride across northern Spain.

Distance 2.2 miles.

Ride 4
October 28

My weekly #coffeeneuring ride, this time in Spain. @coffeeneur will be pleased to hear this was part of a 110k day.

My weekly #coffeeneuring ride, this time in Spain. @coffeeneur will be pleased to hear this was part of a 110k day.

A small Spanish town where we were the only customers in a tiny coffee shop.

Distance about 70 miles.

Ride 5
October 30

Hope @coffeeneur is envious I crossed the Pyrenees in a freezing rainstorm yesterday: today #coffeeneuring is this

Hope @coffeeneur is envious I crossed the Pyrenees in a freezing rainstorm yesterday: today #coffeeneuring is this.

A small coffee shop on the border between France and Spain. The sun was shining and it was a real delight – and much nicer than crossing the Pyrenees in a storm the day before.

Distance about 45 miles.

Ride 6
November 4

#coffeeneuring with time for reading. Hoping @coffeeneur would be proud of me. An independent coffee shop, as well.

#coffeeneuring with time for reading. Hoping @coffeeneur would be proud of me. An independent coffee shop, as well.

A newly opened coffee shop in town.

Distance exactly 2.2 miles.

Ride 7
November 11

Enjoying #coffeeneuring cycling challenge so much I might do it every week of the year. @coffeeneur  wouldn't mind...

Enjoying #coffeeneuring cycling challenge so much I might do it every week of the year. @coffeeneur wouldn’t mind…

The closest coffee shop to the bicycle rack in the centre of town. I could see my bike from where I drink coffee.

Distance exactly 2.2 miles.

So that’s it.

Thank you again, Martin, for your delightful summary. This year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge starts October 4!

Sea Gull Century

Flat, Fast, & Camaraderie-Filled: My First Time at the Sea Gull Century

Crowded and flat. Windy. Dangerous. The words often used to describe the Sea Gull Century out of Salisbury, Maryland, did not endear me to it.

For more than 10 years I had avoided the Sea Gull, telling people that I wasn’t sure if it was the ride for me.

Sea Gull Century

This year two registrations fell into Felkerino’s and my laps thanks to our BikeDC friends Ted and Jean, and with a near-perfect forecast on the horizon I cast my reticence aside and made up my mind to see what all the fuss was about.

In the No Surprises Here department, we rode tandem. Recently tuned up, our Co-Motion comes in handy in a headwind, and it’s what we’ve been riding all summer. I actually feel out of practice on my single bike, but that’s another story.

Brompton
Brompton

The Sea Gull Century route covers Maryland’s Eastern Shore, including the towns of Berlin and– the highlight of the ride– Assateague Island. It’s non-undulating, you might say.

Having been quite taken as a child with the story of Misty of Chincoteague, I was also curious to see the wild ponies of Assateague.

I imagined noble elegant ponies with heads held high, like something out of The Man From Snowy River, but friends warned me that the ponies were mangy and crazy. “Don’t look them in the eye!”

Brompton
Brompton

Despite my aversion to flat terrain and deranged wildlife, I found myself looking forward to this century. We’d have plenty of company (this ride draws approximately 8,000 people) and I considered it a nice reward for my legs and my fitness after spending almost all of the last six months doing long rides in the hills.

I was a little worried about the danger aspect, since I was not sure of the skill level of the other riders, and crashing did not appeal to me no matter how much drama it might add to my day.

Andrea and Bones

Flat, fast, and full of camaraderie, the Sea Gull Century exceeded all my expectations. We never rode alone, and the riders around us all held their lines and pace well.

Level terrain made it easier for us as a tandem to be around single bikes, as the differences in our momentum were not nearly as noticeable when compared to a rolling or hilly course.

1974 Raleigh
1974 Raleigh

We saw fatbikes, hand cycles, racey road bikes, velomobiles, folding bikes, and several tandems of varying make and vintage. I even saw a person on a unicycle. It was like being part of RAGBRAI for the day, only on the Eastern Shore. And no kringla. But there was pie and ice cream, apparently a tradition at the 85-mile rest stop.

Time out for pie at mile 85
Time out for pie at mile 85

And ponies! In Assateague (mile 63), I was feeling a little disappointed about not seeing the mean-spirited wild horses, but all my Sea Gull dreams were meant to come true, I guess, because as we left the island we saw at least three of them on the roadside opposite us.

The horses didn’t seem so crazy to me. I didn’t go over and introduce myself, but from what I saw they seemed hungry for green grass and nonplussed by cyclists. The wild ponies of Assateague were not the noble animals of my childhood imaginings, but they had a primal beauty about them.

Wild pony sighting!
Wild pony sighting!

After we finished, I could not believe how quickly the time had flown by. 100 miles, and that was it. Done for the day! It was a feeling only made possible by the big rides done earlier in the season.

I had no regrets about waiting to take on the Sea Gull Century, but I realized that I had overlooked all the ride’s up-sides.

This is probably the largest paid century in our area so you are likely to see at least one person you know, either on the route or at the finishing area. It may not be the most scenic course, but there are wild ponies!

Sea Gull Century

You see cyclists of all abilities. For some, this is their first century ride ever. For others, it’s the only century they do in a given year. And for people like us, it’s a welcome change of pace. I liked being part of this large circle of riders.

I’m not a fast rider, but Felkerino and I were able to maintain an 18.5 miles per hour moving average over the course of the day and take an hour off the bike, without flailing ourselves. This course is good for a person’s ego.

Felkerino and me. Photo by Andrea Matney
Photo by Andrea Matney

I do wish there had been more real food to eat (or maybe if all the rest stops offered pie, ha ha!), but if I ever rode this again I’d probably tuck away a sandwich and potato chips in the Carradice.

The ride organizers totally know what they are doing. It’s easy to park, find the start, grab your cue sheet, and go. Professional photographers are positioned at various spots along the course. The route is clearly marked throughout and course marshals and local police keep riders flowing through the intersections so stops and starts are minimal.

#BikeDC boys at the finish.
#BikeDC boys at the finish.

It was really a great day on the bike. Many thanks to our friends Jean and Ted, who were unable to ride and gave us their Sea Gull Century registrations. Without them, I’d still be wondering what all the fuss was about. Now, we’re seriously considering riding the Sea Gull again next year.

My full set of pics here.

Jason Coffeeneuring 3

Team Coffeeneuring with Jason in Lancaster, PA

October 4 is when it all starts– the 2014 edition of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Yes, it’s less than a week away so I hope you’re getting ready.

There’s no one way to coffeeneur. You can do it by yourself. You can do it with your friends. You can pedal to an actual coffee shop, or you can go to a gas station that sells what is supposedly coffee and call it good. And there’s always the option for a Coffee Shop Without Walls, too.

While you develop your own strategy, I’m sharing Jason‘s Coffeeneuring Challenge summary from last year. Jason was the first person from Lancaster to ever complete one of my challenges. His summary is full of fall riding with bicycling buddies, and tasty coffee beverages. I do hope you enjoy it.

Introduction

I’m a very active bicyclist here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and my passion for biking is well-known within my circle of friends. Upon discussing my plans to complete the challenge, many of those friends expressed interest in joining in as well. I wasn’t sure what to think or how to approach this, as many of them are casual bike riders.

I offered a pre-challenge group ride to a local favorite brunch the weekend before the Coffeeneuring Challenge was to begin. Six of us rode thirteen miles to The Tomato Pie Café in nearby Lititz, Pennsylvania, for brunch & coffee drinks.

I had never led a group ride before let alone plot a route. The ride was great, brunch was great and we laid out plans for the next seven weekends. We would assemble a group of anyone willing to join us, ride somewhere to a café, have a bite and a drink, then head home.

I could not have anticipated just how much these rides would affect the participants. Our group stayed small but grew for each consecutive ride, finishing with twelve riders on my seventh coffeeneuring ride.

Each weekend, my circle of friends looked forward to getting out on bikes and visiting a coffee shop. I took suggestions from the group, one coffee ride devolved into a beer ride, at least the participants had never ridden a “real” bike for any meaningful distance. In the end, our seven coffee rides totaled 23 unique participants, collectively riding a total of 157 miles!

In closing, of just like to thank you again for creating this great event and I can guarantee you a contingent of finishers from Lancaster, PA for the next challenge.

Sincerely,
Jason I.

Jason Coffeeneuring 1

Ride #1
10/6/13, 4:30 pm
With Lauren, Rob, Jessica Tim, Erica, & Kaley
Original destination: Grand Central Bagel
Actual destination: Chestnut Hill Café
Total distance: 14.5 miles
Drink: Frozen Pumpkin Spice Latte

We originally planned to ride 7 miles to Grand Central Bagel but upon arrival, learned that they close early on Sundays. We regrouped and headed back to town for a drink at Chestnut Hill Café. 7 of us rode together, some friends, some strangers.

All together, a very nice ride, despite the unforeseen change of plans.

Jason Coffeeneuring 2

Ride #2
10/12/13, 3:30 pm
With Jessica, Erica, Tim, Nathan, Eddie, Dan, & Zeke
Destination: Prince Street Café
Total distance: 19.4 miles
Drink: Swirly Squirrel Latte (caramel, hazelnut & cinnamon)

Today’s ride took us through some rolling neighborhoods and into Amish farmland before turning for home & ending the ride at the very popular downtown Prince Street Café.

I had a yummy latte and a delicious raspberry coconut muffin and our group of 8 riders had a great time once again.

Jason Coffeeneuring 3

Ride #3
10/13/13, 3 pm
With Lauren, Jessica, Erica, Tim, Dan, Rob, Brett, Erica, Jay, & Holly
Starbucks Lincoln Hwy
Total distance: 19.5 miles
Grande iced caramel macciato

A study of contrast. We headed south today, through neighborhoods & farmland, our destination was the most commercial, the Starbucks at the outlet mall along the very busy Lincoln Highway.

The return trip traveled through other neighborhoods, a quiet business park and more quiet neighborhoods. Most have agreed that this was the best ride to date. Participants have started inviting their friends along!

Jason Coffeeneuring 4

Ride 4
10/19, 11 am
With Lauren, Jessica, Nathan, Zeke & Isaac
Tomato Pie Café, Lititz
Total distance: 25.8 miles
Drink: Caramel Apple Cider

A small group today because of iffy weather. We made the best of it with a return visit to Tomato Pie. The place was packed so we took our food & drinks to go and had a picnic in the park across the street.

Out return trip included hijacking the course of a Zombie Run 5k. Yikes!

Jason Coffeeneuring 5

Ride 5
11/2/13, 10:30 am
With Lauren, Jessica, Erica, Nathan, Zeke, Isaac, Dan, Kaley, Jake & Nancy
Grand Central Bagel Shop
Total distance: 15 miles
Drink: Pumpkin Pie Chai Latte smoothie

This time they were open, and good thing, we had a big group of thirsty bikers! The weather was warm enough to justify frozen drinks for many of us and we further enjoyed the sunshine by relaxing on their patio for nearly an hour.

Good conversation among good friends included plans for our final coffee ride in two weeks.

Jason Coffeeneuring 6

Ride 6
11/9/13, 10:30 am
With Lauren, Jessica, Nathan, Dan, Kaley, Dan, Fran, Heidi & Tim
Higher Grounds, Mount Joy
Total distance: 38 miles
Drink: Dark roast coffee, cinnamon scone

Three beginners joined our caffeinated cyclists for a trip suggested by one of our own. Not a short trip, but not an easy one either.

We were rewarded with yummy drinks & snacks and a chance to return via a portion of rail trail in full fall foliage. Certainly the longest of any of our rides.

Our group finished at Lancaster Brewing Company as it was agreed that we’d earned burgers & beers.

Jason Coffeeneuring 7

Ride 7
11/16/13, 1:00 pm
With Lauren, Jessica, Erica, Nathan,Zeke, Dan, Kaley, Erica, Justin, Jay & Brett
Café Chocolate, Lititz
Total distance: 25 miles
Drink: Frozen Strawberry Chocolate Blast

Even on our last coffee official ride, we managed a new recruit! The ride was an already familiar route to many in the group, with a new destination, a place many of us had hoped to visit for the first time.

We were lucky in the weather once again, with unseasonably warm temps. Again our ride finished say a local watering hole, this time The Fridge, where we were met by four other folks who couldn’t make the ride.

We had a nice little wrap up session and then continued on further with a sushi dinner to close our 2013 coffeeneuring adventure.

Congratulations once again, Jason, and thank you so much for your friend-filled guest post!

AA 1000K Felkerino and me

Talking, Planning, Doing

Anything is possible to achieve on the internet. Talk is the only requirement. I’m thinking about riding insert whole lots of miles here this year. I’m planning to do insert impressive event here. Articulated aspirations can make us heroes in our own minds.

Planning also has its place. I’m planning to do insert impressive event here. These are the steps I’ve planned out to get me to the starting line. I’ll be sharing my journey with whoever will read or listen to me over the next few months.

Doing is another matter. Doing is where the talk means little and planning is put to the test. During the doing, aspects that couldn’t be planned for are thrown in, just to make insert impressive event here even more exciting and unforgettable.

I usually prefer to keep my insert impressive event plans quiet. They are not secret, exactly, but I like to hold them close.

I do that for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to come across like I’m bragging about something I haven’t even done yet. Second, I don’t want anyone disrupting my energy or casting weird vibes about my participation in any planned endeavor.

This year’s Appalachian Adventure 1000K is one of the first events I talked a fair amount about in advance of actually doing it. I thought it would be a good experiment.

Me on the AA1000K

Just as sharing a goal may come across as boastful, it can also make it more real and increase a person’s sense of accountability to it.

By publicly stating that we’d be riding the 1000K, there was an additional impetus for me to commit to finishing it. From a writing standpoint, I liked sharing our rides in the context of the 1000K being our end goal.

Given that we were also pre-riding the Appalachian Adventure 1000K in its inaugural year, I wanted to do some real-time updates and visuals of the route via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I had done similar updates during PBP, but not for a long domestic randonneuring event.

What would an endurance event look like as I was doing it? How would I talk about it as it was happening? How many followers would I lose by posting pics of stinky, sleep-deprived bike riders instead of cleverly captioned photos of kittens?

Talking about the ride as we rode the course was okay, but it took some energy. Whenever we stopped, I had to get into the habit of extricating my phone and snapping a photo. Then I would try to post it, and sometimes reception was sketchy or non-existent.

And then I would find myself wondering if this was really purposeful or if I was just driving myself crazy/showing my narcissistic side/inviting some kind of unknown trouble by sharing our ride progress. (These are long rides, you know, so you have ample time to really delve into these sorts of things.)

AA 1000K Felkerino and me

Talk can be motivating, and the planning for insert impressive event here is usually more than half the fun of the execution of the actual event. The joy of the journey and all that. Talking about and sharing the event as it happens can also be rewarding, especially when somebody sends a shout-out back your way.

However, if there is no movement behind the talk, then what is the point. The doing is the real effort, the culmination of all preparations and plans– a lesson I learned once again as I endured the pain point of our recent ride. Ultimately, doing will outweigh all our talk.

Riders on PBP 2011

All Dressed Up For PBP: The Towns Along the Way

This is the latest in a series of posts I’ve been planning about the incomparable international randonneuring event, Paris-Brest-Paris.

Previously, I wrote about Drew Buck, who completed PBP 2011 on a 1900 Peugeot, a as well as the tandem bicycles (Post 1 and Post 2). Today I’m talking about the towns along the PBP route.

PBP 2011

Mortagne
Mortagne

Until I rode Paris-Brest-Paris, the only other times when I experienced a high level of fanfare around sport in which I was participating was when I ran a marathon. People in the U.S. get excited about people who run 26.2 miles on their own two feet.

Leaving Mortagne, I think
Leaving Mortagne, I think

PBP 2011

People in France get excited about those who ride 1240 kilometers under their own power. It doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow. What matters is that you go the distance.

PBP 2011

Entering Brest
Entering Brest

During our four days of riding this event, we pedaled past many towns. Some were official stops, but others were towns that happen to intersect the route.

On the return. Only 400K to go!
On the return. Only 400K to go!
Somewhere on Day 3
Somewhere on Day 3

Many towns welcomed the riders with signs and bike-centric sculptures. I’d never seen anything like it and, in addition to making me feel welcome, I felt like I was part of something memorable and special.

PBP 2011

Gorron
Gorron

Despite wet weather on both Days 1 and 2 as well as many miles of night riding, I still managed to take some photos of the roadside decor featured all along the route, and that is what I share with you today.

Fougeres
Fougeres
A blurry close-up
A blurry close-up. Santa!

Where possible, I’ve tried to identify the towns, but there are many gaps in my memory so if anyone recalls the town that corresponds to the photo, please let me know in the comments.

3Dan

Family Coffeeneuring: Dan, Owen, and Elaine in Pittsburgh, PA

Coffeeneuring isn’t just for grown-ups, as 5-year-old finisher Sally proved last year. Coffeeneuring can be for kids, too. It can even be fun for the family. Plus, who can resist the great photo ops Family Coffeeneuring provides?!

Many thanks to Dan, Owen, and Elaine for representing the Family Coffeeneuring contingent, as well as the fine city of Pittsburgh, in the previous edition of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Please enjoy their guest post.

Summary

Family coffeeneuring is a great deal of fun. Sure, the mileage is a bit less (okay, an order of magnitude less), but it’s a great excuse to get the kids out even when the weather is less-than-perfect. Eight trips for myself, seven for my eight-year-old Owen, and six for 4-year-old Elaine, for two successful completions and one near-miss.

Trip-by-Trip

Coffeeneuring Count: 1/8 Dan, 1/7 Owen
10/05/2013
16.2 miles
Marty’s Market, Pittsburgh
mocha/cocoa.

1Dan

Riding the Fuji tandem turned into a spur-of-the-moment coffeeneuring trip, with a stop at Marty’s Market in the Strip District. Mocha for me, cocoa for Coffeeneuring Cadet Owen, and some yummy lavender shortbread cookies to be shared.

Coffeeneuring Count: 2/8 Dan, 2/7 Owen, 1/6 Elaine
10/20/2013,
2.5 miles
Crazy Mocha Southside, Pittsburgh
coffee/cocoa/cocoa.

At first it looked like this
At first it looked like this

 

And 30 seconds later it looked like this
30 seconds later it looked like this

Tanzanian Peabody drip for me, cocoa for the kiddos to share, and a Cookie As Big As My Face for all three of us.

A lovely ride. Started at the Swinburne St trailhead, then over Hot Metal to the Crazy Mocha. A jaunt down the trail a bit, then back to see if the new riverside segment below Hofbrauhaus was yet open (it wasn’t). Lunch at Qdoba, then back across the river to the car and home.

Ride highlight: Elaine discovered that she could stand up to put some more oomph into the pedals on the tough climbs…few things cuter than a 4-year-old dancing up the hill out of the saddle on a pink be-streamered bike.

Coffeeneuring Count: 3/8 Dan, 3/7 Own, 2/6 Elaine
10/26/2013
3 miles
Delanie’s Coffee, Pittsburgh
cocoa/cocoa/cocoa.

3Dan

 

Hot chocolate all around, plus homemade oatmeal cream pie and a peanut-butter-and-chocolate brownie aptly dubbed “the brick.”

Chilly day, but pleasant trail riding. A few folks out and about in costume, affording much amusement to the kids. “Look, a ghost!” “Look, a spider!” “Look, a Minion!”

Coffeeneuring Count: 4/8 Dan, 4/7 Owen, 3/6 Elaine
10/27/2013
4.2 miles
La Prima Espresso in the Strip, Pittsburgh
macchiato/cocoa/cocoa.

4Dan

Macchiato for me, another hot chocolate for the kids, plus white chocolate macadamia biscotti. In the expert opinion of my youngest, “Best hot chocolate ever!”

More brisk than the previous day’s ride, but still pleasant. The kids and I initially headed for Klavon’s, but found them closed for undisclosed reasons. Undaunted, we made our way to 21st St and La Prima Espresso to salvage our coffeeneuring plans, then to the river and followed the trail most of the way to the Point.

This was also notable as the first day that either kid did any real street riding when not somehow attached to me; the Strip on a Sunday is so low-traffic as to be ideal for novice road riding.

Coffeeneuring Count: 5/8 Dan, 5/7 Owen, 4/6 Elaine
11/3/2013
5.3 miles
Big Dog Coffee, Pittsburgh
mocha/cocoa/cocoa.

5Dan

Another Oakland->Hot Metal->Southside trail ride, with various and sundry digressions. Hot chocolate for the kids, mocha for myself, and some form of lemony vanilla home-made stuffed cookies which, if there were any justice in the world, would put the Oreo brand out of business in one fell swoop.

Also, Elaine’s longest ride ever! As one local cyclist observed, “I wonder how many kids have ridden more miles than years they’ve been alive.”

Coffeeneuring Count: 6/8 Dan, 5/6 Elaine
11/10/2013
2.2 windy miles
Peet’s Coffee Southside Works, Pittsburgh
dark roast/cocoa.

6Dan

Owen was a bit under the weather, so Elaine and I went coffeeneuring without him. We delayed our departure until late morning, as the skies were a bit ominous; then over to Elaine’s favorite starting point at the Swinburne St trailhead.

While no rain manifested, the headwinds were significant; steady 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 30s. This was Elaine’s first experience with headwinds…she held up well, but was a little dismayed when she stopped pedaling and found herself rolling backwards. I encouraged her to get behind me, and had her “draft” me until we crossed the river and got out of the full force of the wind.

We encountered friends srpit and Vannevar on the Hot Metal Bridge; they, while already done with their formal coffeeneuring, were on their way to Big Dog, site of our coffeeneuring trip last weekend.

We made our way to the Peet’s Coffee (formerly Caribou) on Carson in the SouthSide Works, enjoyed our warm beverages, then meandered back to the trail. After crossing the river again, Elaine discovered that tail winds are lots more fun than headwinds…she was spinning out at a blistering 7-8 mph the whole way back to the car. :-)

Coffeeneuring Count: 7/8 Dan, 6/7 Owen, 6/6 Elaine
11/16/2013
3.2 miles
Lofts Cafe, Pittsburgh
almost-coffee/cocoa/cocoa.

7Dan

Per recommendation from @Vannevar and @srpit, we parked in Millvale and rode down the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to the Heinz Lofts, former manufactory site of world-renowned Heinz 57 Varieties Ketchup.

Unfortunately, they were out of/didn’t carry any hot chocolate; fortunately for the kids’ coffeeneuring ambitions, I had an emergency package of Starbucks cocoa in my bike bag. We enjoyed our beverages, shared a pizza for lunch, then headed back up the trail.

Coffeeneuring Count: 8/8 Dan, 7/7 Owen
11/17/2013
2.1 soaking-wet miles
Coffeeshop Without Walls (Gillot Field, Bellevue), Pittsburgh
powdered ick/instant cocoa.

8Dan

Given the rain, Elaine was not terribly interested in going for a bike ride (demonstrating once more that, even at the age of four, the female of the species possesses significantly more common sense than the male) so Owen and I girded our collective loins and ventured off into the steady rain.

No specific destination…we merely hopped on the tandem and started cruising some of the less-traveled roads in our area, looking for a sheltered spot to set up coffee camp.

After a minimal amount of aimless wandering, we found a shelter at nearby Gillot Field in Bellevue, just across the valley from our house.

This was our inaugural use of the Jetboil stove I just picked up at REI; I was quite pleased with how rapidly it boiled our water, less pleased with how poorly the spark igniter worked. All in all, though, it could have been far worse.

This was Owen’s seventh coffeeneuring trip, so I’m happy to say he’s official. I’m even happier to say that, while riding back home in fairly heavy rain, he asked me “Can we do this again next year?”

Thanks for the inspiration, Dan, Owen, and Elaine! Remember, the Coffeeneuring Challenge kicks off again on October 4.

Mailbox on the 1000K

Chasing Mailboxes: The Pursuit of Something More

Where does your energy go? What do you choose to pursue? Does each day pass in a blur of routine, or do you save a sliver of time to wonder about the existence of something deeper? You don’t know what the something deeper is, exactly, and you are not convinced it is a thing.

You hold onto an optimistic belief that if you go out in the world, if you work out, read more, eat better, if you try and stretch yourself in some way, eventually you will find it. Your personal pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The sense that your something deeper is out there helps you wake up each day.

Photo by Bill Beck
Photo by Bill Beck

Earlier this week, Josie Bike Life featured me as part of her Women Involved series. (Josie’s been doing a great job highlighting women who ride and also write about bicycling.) Rebecca, of VeloVoice, asked me how I came to my blog name, Chasing Mailboxes.

In part, I called it Chasing Mailboxes because of all the times I’ve been out riding, certain I saw another rider or person up ahead, only to realize upon approach that my eyes were playing tricks on me.

Over the years, I have observed people on bikes, cyclists changing tires, a person waiting to be picked up by the school bus, and even deer standing by the side of the road that all turned out to be mailboxes.

However, every time I see what I think is a person up ahead it piques my curiosity, and energizes me to push a little harder on the pedals.

Mailbox on the 1000K

Chasing Mailboxes also serves as a space to explore that something deeper I’m often trying to uncover.

I write about dreams I thought I had that look different in reality, and unexpected sublime moments. Chasing Mailboxes helps me gain a better understanding of myself and my relationship with bicycling. And through writing, I gain perspective.

My pursuit of the something deeper never ends, but through Chasing Mailboxes I creep ever-closer to it. Thanks for reading along.

Illustration 1: My bike by the pretty flowers

A Coffeeneuring Meander with Cindy C. in North Carolina

Cindy C. of North Carolina participated in the Coffeeneuring Challenge for the first time last year. The descriptive recounts of her rides, diverse beverage consumption, and her conclusion that bicycling might be the cure for the common cold make for excellent pre-coffeeneuring reading.

Enjoy, and thank you, Cindy for the guest post!

Trip #1
Date: Sunday, October 6
Where: Starbucks @ Harris Teeter – Hwy 42 & Buffalo Rd. Clayton, North Carolina 
What I had: Iced Chai Latte & Pumpkin Scone
Total Mileage: 22.28 miles

A very nice trip out and back. It was pretty foggy early this morning but it was lifting by the time I headed out around 9:30. All the spider webs and caterpillar nests were still coated in fog/dew and they looked cool in the trees. With some fog still hanging around it was very appropriate for early Oct. – a little Halloweeny even.

Saw lots of morning glories along the road on the way down. The fog had completely lifted and the sun was starting to come out on the way back. Most of the morning glories were closing up for the day by then. Wildlife count included assorted horses and a couple of dogs that stood in the middle of the road and watched me go by.

I notice the rules do not state the coffee or tea beverage must be hot. It is unseasonably warm for early October in NC. My Garmin reported an average temperature of 78 degrees and I rode from 9:30-11:30.

Too hot for a hot beverage so I went with the iced option. And who can resist a scone – especially a pumpkin one? Although, in the interest of not completely wiping out the calories burned on the ride I only ate half.

Illustration 1: My bike by the pretty flowers
Illustration 1: My bike by the pretty flowers

 

Illustration 2: Iced Chai Latte & Pumpkin Scone
Illustration 2: Iced Chai Latte & Pumpkin Scone

Trip #2
Date: Sunday, October 13
Where: Bean & Barrel – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
What I had: Ginger Twist Tea
Total Mileage: 22.64 miles

This turned out to be a very nice ride with one of my cycling buddies and some new friends. It’s been a dreary and rainy week.

This weekend I was fighting off a cold and felt a little off. But, I’d registered for the NC Tour de Cure and my friend Jenny invited me to join her team.

A group of them were getting together to ride today. I said I’d go and meet them so I dragged myself off the couch and over to Chapel Hill. Everyone was very nice and welcoming to the new girl. We had a great ride around Jordan Lake.

While it was overcast and windy there was no rain. Amazingly I ended up with a very fast average speed for me (16.4 mph). I think the wind was really helping the first half of the ride.

After the ride we hung out at the Bean & Barrel and chatted. I felt really good after the ride – I think cycling may be the cure for the common cold!

Illustration 3: Gnger Twist tea after an overcast and windy ride
Illustration 3: Gnger Twist tea after an overcast and windy ride

Trip #3
Date: Saturday, Oct 26
Where: Aubrey & Peedies Grill – 39 N. Main St. Wendell, North Carolina
What I had: Hot Chocolate & Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Total Mileage: 15 miles

A beautiful fall day for a bike ride. Bright and sunny, a little cool so I waited for it to warm up a bit before heading out. A very nice ride over to Zebulon to check out the Ecclectic Intellectual coffee shop.

But, sadness, it was closed when I arrived around 11:30am. It is supposed to open at 10am on Saturday so not sure what the deal was. I headed back to Wendell and stopped at Aubrey & Peedies.

By then I was hungry so I had a grilled cheese and hot chocolate. All in all a great ride even though Wendell and Zebulon were both built at the top of hills so there was quite a bit of climbing involved.

Illustration 4: Hot Chocolate & Grilled Cheese hit the spot on cool fall day
Illustration 4: Hot Chocolate & Grilled Cheese hit the spot on cool fall day

Trip #4
Date: Sunday, Oct 27
Where: BP gas station & convenience store – Hw 96 & Brown’s Pond Rd
What I had: Hot Chocolate & Oatmeal Pie
Total Mileage: 44 miles

It was a beautiful day – perfect weather for cycling. I planned out a nice long route that would pass 4 different locations for a coffeeneuring stop. I was cruising as I passed the first one (Popeyes), didn’t feel the need to stop yet so headed on to the 2nd.

The 2nd opportunity was Shoeheel Grocery. Looks like it is under new management now as Gonzales Taco, Grill & Grocery. Not open on Sunday though (to be fair I don’t know if it was open on Sunday before the change either).

Took a quick stop to get off the bike and stretch a bit. Then headed on to option number 3 – a convenience store at 96 where Brown’s Pond Rd turns into Little Divine Rd. I needed to refill my water bottle by then and they had Hot Chocolate so viola! a coffeeneuring stop.

From there it was a slight change from my original plan. I had planned to head up 96 back to Popeye’s but the road was closed for bridge repair (something I’d noticed earlier as I passed Popeyes). It was down Little Divine and up Buffalo Rd. to the Grocery Bag and it’s Almost Famous Hot Dog.

Not in the mood for hot dogs but I did get some ice cream and took a break before the last 10 miles home. All in all a great ride through the traditional Selma Cyclepaths home turf.

Illustration 5: Hot Chocolate & Oatmeal Creme Pie - Yumm!
Illustration 5: Hot Chocolate & Oatmeal Creme Pie – Yumm!
Illustration 6: Ice Ceam-a-neuring anyone?
Illustration 6: Ice Ceam-a-neuring anyone?

Trip #5
Date: Saturday, November 2
Where: McDonalds – Wendell Boulevard, Wendell, NC
What I had: Pumpkin Spice Latte
Total Mileage: 7.2 miles

Today started off overcast and dreary but the sun started coming out as I was leaving. By the time I arrived at McDonald’s the clouds were gone and it was a bright sunny day. McD’s was the backup destination for today’s ride.

I was going to check out the bakery/cafe in downtown Wendell. But, it doesn’t open unitl 1pm on Saturday. Bummer, because I had to be home by 12 in order to shower, change, and get to my woodwind quintet rehearsal in Cary. I’ll put the bakery on the plan for next weekend.

Today I took the mountain bike out. I don’t ride it much since I got my road bike but it’s great for casual rides through town. In the spirit of coffeeneuring I had a coffee beverage.

A Pumpkin Spice Latte sounded good. I’m not a coffee drinker – love the smell but not the taste. This was OK – almost masked the coffee taste enough but not enough to convert me.

On the way home I stopped briefly to check out the Lake Myra Christmas lights. Looks like they are getting close to having everything set up. The lights sparkle in the sunshine. I tried taking a picture but the sparkle didn’t show up very well.

Illustration 7: Pumpkin spice latte and my mountain bike
Illustration 7: Pumpkin spice latte and my mountain bike
Illustration 8: Lake Myra Christmas Lights
Illustration 8: Lake Myra Christmas Lights

Trip #6
Date: Sunday November 3
Where: The Grocery Bag – Hw 42 & Buffaloe Rd, Clayton, North Carolina
What I had: Hot Chocolate
Total Mileage: 25.3 miles

For this coffeeneuring ride I met up with my friend Jenny. Her coach had given her an assignement to ride some hills so we set off in search of hills. It was bright and sunny although quite windy so she should have gotten extra credit for riding hills into the wind.

We had fun riding along and making up the route as we went. We added a coffeeneuring stop at the Grocery Bag (home of the almost famous hot dog). I had hot chocolate which hit the spot.

Later that afternoon Jenny and I met up again at the BikeMS awards party. Our team, the Selma Cyclepaths, took 1st place in the fundraising competition!!

Illustration 9: Hot Chocolate at the Grocery Bag
Illustration 9: Hot Chocolate at the Grocery Bag

Trip #7
Date: Saturday November 9
Where: Eclectic International – 120 North Arendell Ave, Zebulon, North Carolina
What I had: Lemon Ginger Tea
Total Mileage: 14.5 miles

This ride completes the 2013 coffeeneuring challenge! I repeated an earlier route but this time the coffee shop in Zebulon was open.

I had a lemon ginger tea and a nice chat with the gentleman working at the shop. He was telling me about the open mic and live music they have on Saturday evenings.

I will have to go back sometime and check that out.

Illustration 10: Hot Tea and my helmet
Illustration 10: Hot Tea and my helmet

Congratulations, Cindy, on completing last year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge and thank you again for the lovely coffeeneuring narrative!

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