If It Walks Like a Duck: Coffeeneuring in Pittsburgh with SR. Part 1 of 2

SR in Pittsburgh recently completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge. While you will find some of her posts on As Seen From My Bike, I enjoyed her submission so much that I asked if she would be willing to guest post her full adventure here.

I also like that SR is a tea drinker which puts a nice twist on the places visited. Lucky for me she said yes to my request, and over the next two days I’ll be featuring her coffeeneuring.

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Week 1 Event 1

4 Oct 2013
31.6 miles
Coffee Shop without Walls
Point State Park
Pittsburgh, PA
Twinings Honeybush, Mandarin & Orange tea

Only one coffeeneuring this week since the start of coffeeneuring season was a Friday and our designated weekend is Thursday/Friday. We decided to apply the new rule for Coffeeneuring Without Walls since

  1. the weather for the beginning of Oct in Pittsburgh had been superb; and
  2. we happened to have a giant rubber duck moored at Point State Park and couldn’t resist the idea of having a bit of a coffee klatch with the ducky.

We started at our favorite trail head outside the city (about three miles down the Ohio River) and rode into town, crossing the Ft Duquesne Bridge into Point State Park. Arriving before the crowds started forming around the duck (as they had been doing since his arrival a week previously) we were able to set up the camp stove heater and commence brewing and taking our photographs without disturbing all the Giant Rubber Duck fans.

I kind of wish they had named the duck so we could refer to it as something other than “Giant Rubber Duck”, but sadly that’s the monicker he’s been stuck with.

Three of us parked on the steps across from the duck and settled in before the daily crowd started to gather. Using a “Jetboil” to heat the water, RC made instant coffee while Vannevar and I brewed some tea.

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I opted for some Twinings herbal “Honeybush, Mandarin & Orange” tea, and added some orange juice (which is how I normally make my tea at home). I use fruit juice for the sweetener and it adds a bit of extra flavor that I enjoy.

As we enjoyed our hot beverages, the first of the duck’s admirers started to show up. We took some time to help some of them by taking their photos in front of the duck before we left to continue our ride. We crossed the Ft Pitt Bridge to the Station Square trail and rode out to the Hot Metal Bridge.

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Another group of friends were making their way over from the north shore to join the trail out to the Waterfront, so we crossed the Monongahela River again to ride back and meet up with them at Golden Triangle Bikes. From there we resumed riding east and joined the Great Allegheny Passage out to the pump house in Homestead.

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RC and the other group needed to return about then, but Vannevar and I opted to stop for lunch at the Eat N Park that backs up to the trail. We sat out on the patio where we could keep an eye on the bikes while we refueled. From there we rode west back to the trailhead for a total of 31.6 miles on an amazingly nice October afternoon. A very nice way to kick off the start of Coffeeneuring.

Week 2 Event 2

10 Oct 2013
25.86 miles
61B Cafe
1110 S. Braddock Ave
Pittsburgh (Regent Square), PA
Steamed Hot Chocolate

An SR signature shot

An SR signature shot

This time we had our sights set on trying out the new 61B Cafe in Regent Square. Last year we coffeeneured at the 61C (named for the bus line it’s located along) and we really liked that cafe. They recently opened a sister-cafe along the 61B bus line and we had been waiting to check it out.

We started out at our favorite trailhead on the north shore of the Allegheny River and headed through downtown Pittsburgh, departing the city eastbound on the Eliza Furnace trail. Up the hill via the Junction Hollow Trail and we surfaced on 5th Ave near the border between Oakland and Squirrel Hill.

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We didn’t have any murals in the area to search for today, but we did want to find a sculpture to add to our public art database and we weren’t disappointed when we located “The Menorah” by Daniel Kafri in front of the Jewish Community Center.

We also found this cool bike rack there:

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We stopped inside to ask for some more information on the sculpture and stumbled onto a bake sale. I’m not one to pass up homemade baked goods easily, so we indulged in fresh, kosher pastries and then continued down Forbes Ave to Braddock Ave and past Frick Park. We thought the coffee shop was on the left so we passed right by it looking the wrong way.

When we didn’t see it where we were expecting it to be we stopped to ask someone, and were very pleased to find ourselves talking to Rick Sebak. Mr Sebak has produced some of the best shows about Pittsburgh. If you ever really want to get to know this city, look on YouTube for his “Pittsburgh History Series”.

I can (and have) watched them over and over again. I never get tired of hearing the things he digs up. He narrates all the shows himself also, and he has a great voice for these stories. If you watch PBS at all, you may have seen some of his national shows too.

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Anyway, after a brief discussion about the local show schedule we followed his directions to look behind us and there was the 61B. Nice, small shop with a walk up window and a couple of tables outside. It did not, however, have bike racks. :(

Nice day though, so we just stayed outside with the bikes and suggested they contact Bike-Pgh to see about getting some bike racks. I was a little disappointed to find that they didn’t have the apple cider with an orange slice that I had gotten last fall at 61C. I had my taste buds all set up for that, so I had to regroup. I decided to try their steamed hot chocolate and I was no longer disappointed at all. It was really good.

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We left there on some side roads to join the trails in Frick Park that lead down to the Monongahela River. By then it was in the 70′s and sunny and seeing the Halloween decorations out seemed wrong.

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Riding down Nine Mile Run, I realized it had been a long time since I’d ridden there and I’d forgotten that it wasn’t all downhill. In fact there was one or two significant uphill portions and I got caught in the wrong gear on one of them.

It was a struggle getting up that one, and at the top we saw a pack of large dogs coming up the other side unleashed. Luckily their humans were just around the bend behind them and they were all friendly, well behaved animals. Continuing down the trail we almost literally ran into a black, iron, bar gate that was across the trail.

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This view is looking back up the trail, but you can see how the black blended in with the dark green backdrop. Coming down the trail this is at a ‘T’ and there’s a hill straight ahead so it was really difficult to see.

We found something to flag it when we couldn’t find a way to get it to stay clear of the trail. It was actually a gate to a parallel road that had swung down 180 degrees to set someone on the trail up for a potentially serious injury.

We continued on to the Duck Hollow Trail, which unfortunately dead ends without an easy transition to anywhere. Carried the bikes across four sets of railroad tracks to access Second Ave and headed back toward the city.

I stopped off in Market Square to check out the Farmer’s Market and then went around the corner to get a crepe from the “Creped Cruisaders”, This was the last photo I took before my camera bit the schnitzel.

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The lens malfunctioned – everything locked up – black screen of death. No amount of recycling the power on and off or removing the battery and reinserting it did any good. I almost conducted a burial at the nearest trash can, but reconsidered. It’s small, but it’s still electronic and can probably be recycled.

After that I just had a leisurely ride back to the trailhead. Being without the pocket camera felt wrong. I’m used to it being close at hand to snap off quick pics at a moment’s notice.

Event 3: Take 1

11 Oct 2013
0 miles, invalid coffeeneuring
Java House
3619 California Ave
Pittsburgh (Brighton Heights), Pa 15212

First attempt failed.

We set out on Friday morning planning a short ride just so we could coffeeneur before Vannevar left for a weekend bike trip that I had to cancel on due to home maintenance requirements. In other words I absolutely had to try to get part of my deck primered and painted before the next rain hit.

The forecast had been good, which is why I forced myself to skip the ride in order to paint. I didn’t check the weather that morning though, so I was a little bit shocked when I got about 1/4 mile from the house and noticed a few, tiny droplets of water hitting the windshield.

ARRRGgggghhhh. Couldn’t believe it. OK, well, it was only a misting. Maybe that was all we were going to get. As I continued to drive to our meeting point my disappointment escalated until I was just laughing as it absolutely poured. I pulled over to call Vannevar and see if he still wanted to try and ride. It wasn’t cold out and I generally don’t mind a little wet on the bike as long as I’m not freezing and shivering. We decided to meet at our destination coffee shop and see if we wanted to ride then.

We arrived to a light drizzle, but Vannevar was inclined to defer our third coffeeneuring event to the next week, so we just walked into the coffee shop instead. They had a small selection of tea, and none that sounded good to me at all. No other hot options besides coffee (which I don’t drink) and I didn’t really want a cold drink.

Since we weren’t coffeeneuring, I didn’t bother forcing the issue and just sat with Vannevar while he indulged in some caffeine before driving on to Cumberland. I had already cancelled my hotel reservations and wasn’t packed for the bike trip, so I returned home to see how wet the wood had gotten. I kept hoping that I had been on the northern edge of the cell and that it really hadn’t soaked the deck.

Boy, was I surprised to get home and discover that my wish had been granted. It had only lightly misted at my house! I gave it a few hours and then commenced painting. While our coffeeneuring was a fail, the reason I skipped a bike trip turned out successful.

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The following three days work resulted in one finished painting job for the staircase to the back side of my deck. Too bad I still need to strip and paint the rest of the deck railing in the spring!
Week 3 Event 3: Take 2

17 Oct 2013
13.67 miles
River City Java
1919 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh (Uptown or The Bluff), Pa 15714
Raspberry Tea

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Another recently opened coffee shop that we had been wanting to try was River City Java. It’s only been open for a couple of weeks now, and it’s in a bit of a struggling section of the city where we like to support businesses when we can.

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When we first saw this sign I was sure it must be the work of artist James Simon, who has a studio just around the corner from here. It is not! Another neighbor did this for them. Perhaps she learned the artistry from Mr Simon since they’re neighbors, but I don’t know that. She did a beautiful job on it and I understand that she did it in one day!

We had started our ride at the usual trailhead along the Ohio River and rode toward town. Through Point State Park and past the giant duck, whose days are numbered unless the new campaign to extend his stay is successful.

We continued through Downtown and headed for Uptown (also known as The Bluff). Uptown has an artsy side to it thanks primarily to the aforementioned James Simon. We swung past his studio to see if he had placed any new artwork on Gist Street, but didn’t find any.

Around the corner to River City Java and we received a very warm welcome. The building owner was there and the Australian barista both seemed pleased to see cyclists arrive.

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Although they didn’t have a bike rack, they did have a perfectly good railing on the small, front patio that we could have locked to. Since they had the large door up though, we didn’t see a need to lock up. We just sat on the patio next to the bikes.

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They have a small courtyard in back also, and told us that if we had a group ride or get-together they would open for us on weekends or stay late weekdays. Very nice of them.

I tried their Raspberry Tea and liked it a lot. It had a lot of flavor and required no sweetener.

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We lingered there for a while, discussing Australia with Steve, the barista, and enjoying our drinks. Rain was threatening though, so we took off with a plan to ride out on the Great Allegheny Passage for a bit.

About a block from River City Java we detoured slightly to check on “Sir Samelot,” a large, privately owned, metal statue on the corner of Tustin and Seneca Streets.

Sir Samelot

Sir Samelot

We hit the jackpot! Not only was Sir Samelot getting his Halloween on, but his owner was there and we were able to talk with him and his friend for quite a while.

We gathered more information on the sculpture and they shared their theories on the artwork. We try to ride past this sculpture on a fairly regular basis in order to get photos as it’s decorated for each holiday. If you’re interested, go here for the scoop.

By the time we finished there the weather was getting a bit iffy and we decided to start working our way back toward the trailhead. We crossed the Monongahela River on the Birmingham Bridge and dropped into the Southside. We took a few minutes to scout out another relatively new coffee shop for another day, and then turned towards the trail. That’s when we saw the sign…

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…and had to stop by St. Vladimir’s Ukranian Orthodox Church for their fresh perohi (or perogi, or pirogi) to go.

From there we swung over to Thick Bikes (recently voted Pittsburgh’s number one bike shop by readers of the City Paper) so RC could look at some new pedals. Took this photo of one of their really cool custom bikes.

Custom at Thick Bikes

Custom at Thick Bikes

Last time we were there I told them they should have painted it the same yellow as most of our Downtown bridges are. It would have made a great ‘Burgh Bike sort of theme with the bridge-like architecture of the design. By the time we left there it was starting to drizzle and we knew it wasn’t going to get any better so we continued to the trailhead without further detours. Made it back to the cars just before the rain started.

There you have it for “Part 1: If It Walks Like a Duck. Coffeeneuring in Pittsburgh with SR.” Stay tuned to this station for Part 2, coming your way soon!

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