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

What better way to head into the weekend than with some good coffeeneuring tales? SR’s guest post continues with the lively summaries of her final four coffeeneuring rides around Pittsburgh. 

Week 3 Event 4

18 Oct 2013
27+ miles (GPS issues so it didn’t register part of the ride)
Delanie’s Coffee
1737 East Carson St
Pittsburgh, Pa 15203 (Southside)
Hot Apple Cider with a Cinnamon Stick

SR signature shot

SR signature shot

Got a little bit of a late start today because I needed to go pick up a birthday present for someone in the morning. We met at the usual trailhead and decided to detour over to see a mural that wasn’t quite finished the last time we saw it. It has a civil rights theme and the finish mural was worth the detour to Perry South to see.

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From there we worked our way over to the Humane Society so I could get a photo of a “place to volunteer at ” for Bike-Pgh’s Wheelset of Fortune game.

Then on to our first planned destination: The National Aviary. We sometimes see colorful birds on our rides, but colorful in Western Pennsylvania is generally limited to cardinals, blue birds, blue jays, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, and the occasional oriole. We LOVE it when we see those. It’s just a treat.

Recently we somehow got onto the subject and I discovered that my friend and primary riding partner had never fed lorikeets. As I happen to think this is great fun, we decided to go to the National Aviary so he could experience it.

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No, you can’t ride your bikes inside so the photos aren’t really a part of the ride, but I’ve decided to share them here anyway.

They’ve done some remodeling in the aviary since the last time I was there. Most of the birds are now in habitat rooms instead of wire or glass enclosures. Seeing all the small birds in the “Grasslands” room was really nice!

And the lorikeets:

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Wearing brightly colored bike clothes was a good draw for the birds. Once the nectar cups were empty we were ready to head for our fourth coffeeneuring locale of the season.

We decided to try the place that RC showed us yesterday in the Southside, so we crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, cut across Point State Park and up the ramp for the Ft. Pitt bridge. Crossing on the Ft. Pitt bridge can get interesting. It’s a relatively narrow sidewalk that you’re on for a good way as you continue down the long approach on on the other side of the river.

Lately Pendot (or some city agency) has decided that it’s better to block the sidewalk with road construction signs than to put them on the side of the actual road. There were two new signs half blocking the route yesterday.

This is a sidewalk bordered with a railing on one side and a jersey barrier on the other. It’s so narrow that someone normally has to stop when there’s opposite direction traffic. Often the pedestrians will also stop and turn sideways when they encounter a bike.

The signs are really more than inconvenient. The one large sign near the Duquesne Incline is positioned so dangerously that I will usually get down into the VERY busy, fast moving vehicle traffic on the road in order to get around it. By that point at least you’re beyond the jersey barriers so that you’re able to get onto the road. Good thing I did that on this particular ride because where the sidewalk/trail takes a 90 degree right turn there was a truck parked on it. Nice. NOT.

Continued another half a mile when we encountered a cyclist that appeared lost. She was. In town for a wedding, she had rented a bike to see the city for the day. Somehow she found herself on the Southside and couldn’t figure out how to get to the Giant Rubber Duck (of course!).

We started to tell her how to get up on the bridge that we had just come across, but considering the obstacles (and normal level of “unfriendly” that that bridge offers), we decided to just take her there another way. So, we showed our latest “lost kitten” (as we’ve come to call the many riders we’ve found wandering around lost over the past two years) the way to the duck and the way back to where she had rented the bike. When we returned from that we were finally able to make it to Delanie’s Coffee Shop for coffeeneuring number 4.

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I was going to try a smoothie since something cold sounded pretty good and it was “happy hour” for their smoothies, but a little investigation told me that I wasn’t going to like the sugar-loaded option they were offering. They said the apple cider was from the nearby farmer’s market, so I opted for that. It was a good choice.

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From there we were ready for a late lunch/early dinner before joining the Flock O’Cycles monthly ride, so we decided we’d patronize Conflict Kitchen one more time before they moved on from the Cuban menu to North and South Korean food that they’ll start offering sometime next month.

We headed back toward the trail, crossed the Hot Metal Bridge and joined the Junction Hollow Trail up through Panther Hollow. At the bottom of Schenley Park, we passed this cyclist who had abandoned his bike by a tree while he practiced tight rope walking.

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V said he bet that guy didn’t fall off his bike much.

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The ride to Conflict Kitchen includes a nasty-steep cobblestone road, which we generally climb via the sidewalk. It doesn’t help with the climbing part, but at least it eliminates the jolting part.

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Not being an adventurous eater, I had my “usual” here. This is the third time we’ve been here and the third time I’ve had the “Lechon Asado”. A slow roasted pork with “Congri” (black beans and rice) and Ensalada Cubana (Cabbage, carrot, cucumber & tomato with a lemon-garlic dressing). Being picky, I passed on the cucumber, tomato and dressing:

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V had the “Picadillo”, ground beef with olives, peppers, raisins and tomatos, which also comes with the Congri and Ensalada Cubana:

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Conflict Kitchen is located across the street from where the Flock meets, so we had a very quick trip over to the meeting point. A lot of the usual folks were not able to make this month’s bike party, but some of the ones that did show up were in a festive mood.

My apologies to “PBeaves”, although I’ve seen him in this outfit before, it was just crying to be photographed. This is one variation on the theme of high-visibility, or getting drivers to notice you:

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I suspect that there aren’t many drivers that don’t notice him in this outfit. I’m sure they admire what all the biking has done for his legs!

By the time the ride actually started, it was getting close to dark. 30-some riders with a wide variety of blinkies and wheel lights make a pretty good spectacle. It was a fairly warm evening for this time of year and a lot of people were out for Friday night activities so we fielded a lot of questions from onlookers as we rode by.

When the group got to Market Square they started an impromptu rotation around the guy with the sound trailer, who stopped in the middle of the area. As thirty plus bikes swirled counter clockwise around the guy blasting the tunes, we got a lot of spectators wondering what was going on.

Most of the onlookers seemed to like the display of silliness and blinking lights. Two officers happened to be there and they stood nearby watching. My impression was that they weren’t so sure about this group initially, but all they did was observe. I think they realized quickly that we were essentially harmless and thankfully we didn’t stay long enough to make a nuisance of ourselves.

From there we departed the group and headed back to the trailhead. We stopped on the Northshore to send the Flock organizer a text to say that we had left, and I stopped to see what my new back light wand looked like in the dark.

I’d seen some really nice flashing, traffic wands in use at Longwood Gardens a few weeks ago. I decided I needed one for the bike, but before I ordered it, V gave me something similar that he had sitting in his garage. We strapped it to the back of the bike and gave it a test run. It has different colored lenses, but we went with yellow for this ride.

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I like that it’s unusual and much wider than the standard blinkies on the back. Next ride I may try the red or blue lens and see how that looks.

Week 4 Event 5

24 Oct 2013
42.6 miles
Taza D’Oro
1125 North Highland Ave
Pittsburgh, Pa 15206 (Highland Park)
Organic Citrus Green Tea with Lemon (and an apple dumpling)

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Our first seasonally cold coffeeneuring event this year. I don’t think I really believed it was still in the 30′s when I first arrived at the trailhead. Until I stepped out of the car that is. I became a believer very fast. I was afraid I hadn’t dressed warmly enough, but once I started riding I figured I’d do OK. It was supposed to get into the mid 40′s, so it had to improve.

I made a trip over to REI on the Southside before I returned to the trailhead to meet the guys. We headed out to Highland Park because RC really wanted to try Taza D’Oro. They have a very good reputation for their coffee and the shop is known to be popular with cyclists as well.

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On the way there I saw my first snow of the season. It was not an especially welcome sight to me. It pretty much signaled the end to all things warm and comfortable for the next five months as far as I’m concerned.

Even though the climb up the hill warmed me up some, the cozy, inviting coffee shop and hot tea felt great. I will say that as much as I prefer the wonderfully mild temperatures we’ve had for the past few weeks, coffeeneuring actually felt more appropriate in the cold today.

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I opted to try their Organic Citrus Green Tea with an apple dumpling. It was OK. The dumpling was pretty good. I think my preference is blood orange, cherry or berry flavored tea, but the citrus was fine.

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The atmosphere was very nice and the staff was great. They seemed to stay busy the whole time we were there – all the tables and bike racks were full. We ended up parking on the side of the building.

Before we left there I had a lesson in chain repair. I recently acquired a new and improved bike multi-tool, realizing my original purchase was a bit too basic. I’ve never needed to repair a chain, but now that I actually could it seemed like a good idea to know how. R brought along an old chain and we proceeded to remove and reattach links.

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Last Friday we had seen someone using a piece of chain to secure her seat to the bike and thought it was very clever. Both R and V left with pieces of chain and a plan to use them for similar things on their own bikes.

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V was interested in a detour over to Thick Bikes for some new socks with their store cyclops-monster design. I asked to detour over to Pro Bikes so I could check out a potential Christmas present for someone, so we ended up leaving Taza D’Oro and making the loop across the plateau through Squirrel Hill, Schenley Park and down the Junction Hollow trail and Hot Metal Bridge to the Southside.

By the time we finished shopping (and no, we didn’t escape with just socks) we found ourselves arriving back at the trailhead right when the sun was setting. Perfect timing. I didn’t realize how perfect until the cold, moderate rain began when I was about two or three miles into my drive home. Whew.

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Week 5 Event 6

15.33 miles
25 Oct 2013
Cafe Cravings
402 Bigham St
Pittsburgh, Pa 15211 (Mt Washington)
Hot Chocolate

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Another cool, brisk morning in the 30′s with a mix of clouds and sun. One of our group woke up to snow on his deck. (Double Bleh!!)

We decided that warming up was called for so we chose a coffee shop on Mt Washington. We long ago figured out that locations with the words “Mt” , “Hill”, or “High” in them were going to involve more effort. Mt Washington is no exception.

There was a brief moment of temptation as we passed by the Duquesne Incline.

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We could take the bikes on this wonderful conveyance and magically arrive at the top of the hill without breaking a sweat. While oh, so tempting, that would be too much like cheating. Half the enjoyment of torturing ourselves with this climb is the feeling of how much we deserve to see the incredible view from the top when we arrive.

So we pressed on and did our penance – slowly peddling up 18th St and through Allentown to the scenic spot of Grandview Park. Look at this un-edited photo and tell me Pittsburgh isn’t one of the most beautiful cities out there! (Yeah, I’m bragging a bit, but I get tired of people still thinking this city looks like it did in 1950.)

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When we arrived there two things happened.

  1. We noticed a sign declaring that this spot was now being called “Emerald View” park. While the sign might be new (or we just never noticed it??) apparently the name isn’t. This made absolutely no sense to us though, as Pittsburgh is known as the “Golden Triangle”. I don’t know where they came up with emerald.
  2. V’s chain snapped. OH!! Our chain repair lesson from yesterday was turning into a practical exercise!!! Once in the Air Force when we had briefed an emergency procedure for the day, one of the pilots went out and actually had to declare an emergency for that problem. We all told him it wasn’t necessary to follow up a briefing with a live demonstration.

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At least when the chain broke the sun was peaking out and we were off the street in a park. It wasn’t raining or snowing and we had the tools needed. We handled this repair like PENDOT does. V did the work while R and I watched, directed, and commented on the process. Chain repair complete, we left the incredible view of the city for yet another incredible view as we rode up Grandview Ave.

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Turned down Bigham St and pulled up to Cafe Cravings on the corner of Virginia Ave. The minute we stepped inside it felt wonderful. A warm and inviting interior greeted us and we found good stuff made with real food.

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I went for the hot chocolate, which they said was made with milk and two kinds of chocolate. It was very, very good. My ham, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich had real ham on it. Not lunch meat, not Canadian bacon — an actual (thick) slice of baked ham. It was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in a while. I’d rate it on par with the Braddock Cafe – and I give them pretty high ratings.

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This was a great find. I’m going to enjoy stopping in here the next time we decide to abuse ourselves with that climb.

We rode back up Bigham to rejoin Grandview Ave and started to work our way toward the West End Circle. One more stop for yet another great view of the city before we started the decent.

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Riding down the hill makes we want to yell “Weeeeeeee” like the Geico pig. It’s steep and long and a very fast ride, and very brisk on a cool day like today was. This route brings us out at the much dreaded West End Circle. This spot is what you find in Wikipedia under “traffic nightmare”.

We picked our way through the Friday afternoon logjam, discovering some road construction that worked to our advantage. You see the only way to cross the West End bridge on the sidewalk (a far safer option than using the traffic lane) – without carrying your bike up/down a long flight of steps – is to use the downstream sidewalk across the river and then transition to the upstream sidewalk using a crossover sidewalk that runs underneath the bridge structure. Yeah, it’s hard to explain and I’ve never taken photos of this setup.

Anyway – with a lane closure right where we wanted to access the sidewalk we were able to get through this tangle of an intersection unscathed. We ducked between the orange barrels and slipped through the curb cut and proceeded across the bridge. “Like socks on a rooster” as one of our friends would say.

Made it back to the trailhead in time to beat most of Friday rush hour traffic home.

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Week 5 Event 7

2.2 miles
31 Oct 2013
OTB
10301 Pearce Mill Rd
Allison Park, Pa 15101 (North Park)
Hot Water/Orange Spice Tea

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A bittersweet event: our final coffeeneuring excursion of the season. We wanted to support the newly opened, second location of OTB (Over The Bar) Bicycle Cafe, so we headed out to North Park. OTB leased the old, historic North Park Boathouse and opened the first cafe here a couple of weeks ago.

The building is something special, but for decades it’s been left empty. It’s primary purpose has been the rest rooms – and for limited hours during the past two summers Venture Outdoors has been renting kayaks from here.

I neglected to get a photo of the whole building today, but I took this one six years ago:

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We slipped through the side gate (which I don’t believe we were supposed to do) so we could get a photo of the bikes at the back patio. It faces the lake, and it’s a very peaceful setting. The bike/walking trail goes around the lake, making a five mile circle, and you often see deer and lots of birds (including blue heron) while you make the loop.P1030692

We didn’t do the loop today. The threat of rain along with scheduling issues made this coffeeneuring a ride that just met the minimums. We rode a whopping 2.2 miles and arrived at OTB shortly after they opened. That made it much easier for us to walk around admiring the renovations they had made to the old boathouse without disturbing other customers.

After our tour, where the employees proudly showed us the stained glass work and light fixtures made out of gear cassettes, we settled out on the patio. We decided to take the risk that the rain might start before we were done because we wanted the view of the lake and to enjoy the unseasonably warm day.

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The whole objective of coffeeneuring was almost blown for me. It turns out that the only hot beverage they offer are coffee drinks, which have absolutely no appeal to me.

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I was going to go with an iced tea since the cold drink option was already questioned and approved this year, but Vannevar came up with a Plan B. He explained the coffeeneuring challenge and asked them to sell us the hot water, then produced an assortment of tea bags for me to choose from. I think they thought we were a touch crazy and didn’t want to set us off because they readily agreed. No one asked why we were photographing our drinks either. :)

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No pastries or sweet temptations to go with the tea and latte, but we did indulge in a light lunch. I had their loaded potato soup and V enjoyed his black bean cakes.

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Thus ends another season of coffeeneuring. (Sigh.) We hope to do a little bonus coffeeneuring when Van returns from his Chesapeake Bay ride experience though. While soupaneuring and breakaneuring will be coming up (our local, Pittsburgh sequels to coffeeneuring) there’s just nothing like the original.

Thank you so much, SR, for coffeeneuring again this year and for giving us an inside look at your city! 

One response to “If It Quacks Like a Duck: Coffeeneuring in Pittsburgh with SR. Part 2 of 2

  1. Thank you thank you for this wonderful account and inside look at Pittsburgh. I loved downtown, spied the funicular, and can well imagine all the wonderful coffee shops. Her companion, Vannevar, was instrumental in helping us decide where to stay in the city, how to safely get to Point State Park, and going so far as to offer bike or van escort, that I praise him for being a wonderful Pittsburgh bike ambassador and fellow coffeeneur.

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