Coffeeneuring with Sally: She’s Five. She Rides a Pedal Bike. She Coffeeneurs.

Welcome back from the holiday weekend, coffeeneurs and blog readers. I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I’m homologating coffeeneuring results like a madwoman and will have many exciting updates for you about the Coffeeneuring Challenge results later this week.

To celebrate this final month of the calendar year as well as coffeeneuring accomplishments, I will be dedicating much of this first part of the month (it’s a blog so these timeframes are estimates) to the stories and photos submitted by coffeeneuring participants. To kick off these December posts I am featuring one of the youngest coffeeneurs to complete the challenge.

Sally completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge with her dad Paul, who is the Regional Brevet Administrator for the Central Florida Randonneurs. He is also the ghost writer of her coffeeneuring submission.

Sally and Paul did patronize one coffeeneuring locale more than once, but as it was due to her father’s lack of reading the rules with greater scrutiny the Coffeeneuring Challenge Committee agreed to invoke the “Dad Read the Rules Wrong Exception” and award Sally an official finish.

Congratulations to Sally and without further ado, here is her Coffeeneuring Challenge report.


Sally’s only been riding a pedal bike since August, having graduated directly from a Strider balance bike, so the Coffeeneuring Challenge was a late add-on to her 2013 cycling season.

I got the idea that coffeeneuring could be a fun father-daughter adventure when I did my first coffeeneuring ride on October 14. I was in the middle of working the Central Florida Randonneurs 1000K finish control and had about 4 hours’ down-time between the rider who had just come in and the next group of riders.

I wanted to take a little ride in that time and I’d been seeing all the coffeeneuring Tweets from the weekend. “This looks like fun,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll do one of these.”

I researched an eclectic coffee shop/local market in Melbourne Beach, hopped on the bike, and an hour later was enjoying a cup of brew and contemplating how Sally and I might manage something like this.

Sally's first day on the pedal bike
Sally’s first day on a pedal bike, August 4, 2013.

We had a few challenges to overcome, mainly that we don’t live anywhere near a place you can buy coffee. Although we’re in Florida’s 4th largest city and in its most densely populated county, our neighborhood is uniformly residential.

The nearest commercial area is on US 19, which is a major 6-lane highway. Downtown St. Petersburg has many delightful, unique coffee shops and it’s only 5 miles away, but for a five-year-old who has been riding bikes for only two months, it might as well be on the dark side of the Moon. Or so I thought.

Like all things cycling (and in life, in general), combine enough desire, planning, enthusiasm, dedication, patience with incremental progress, and expectation management, and you can accomplish nearly anything.

Prior to the Challenge, we’d ridden to Sally’s preschool and back, a total of five miles, managing a variety of neighborhood challenges successfully.

If we could get her range up to about 8 miles, that would get her over to the businesses on US 19. Leave at day-break so the sidewalks are clear of people and the intersections are empty, chart a round-about course through a quiet golf-course community, and this might just be doable.

Ride No. 1

October 19, 2013
Dunkin Donuts
3850 34th St S, St Petersburg, FL ‎
9.03 miles

Creative routing and the promise of hot chocolate resulted in this initial outing. On the way home, Sally announced she wanted to swing by her school. This was “off route,” but she was insistent nonetheless, so we cautiously began adding bonus miles with bailout options constantly in mind.

A rest at the playground and another snack provided the boost necessary to make it home and enthusiastically declare the ride a success.

Sally's Coffeeneuring Ride Report-2

That yellow water bottle was given to me by a French rider on PBP ’07 as a finish-line souvenir. It’s my favorite one.

Ride No. 2

October 27, 2013
Dunkin Donuts
3850 34th St S, St Petersburg, FL ‎
11.12 miles

The first ride was a smashing success and a repeat performance was requested. I was thinking at this point about how to increase Sally’s range to where we might attempt a ride into downtown St. Petersburg to a “real” coffee shop. Of course, our riding was first and foremost focused on being safe, learning and consistently following the rules of the road, and having a good time.

Sally's Coffeeneuring Ride Report-4
Trip No. 2 to Dunkin Donuts.

Sally knew the Dunkin Donuts, and keeping the destination the same while increasing the mileage seemed to be the way to go. I didn’t think there was any possibility that we’d bag all 7 rides so repeating this trip didn’t register at the time as a bad idea for our Challenge.

After the DD stop we explored the Broadwater neighborhood, including its geodesic dome house, and once again stopped at school for some playground time and additional snacks.

Sally’s coffeeneuring bike.
Sally’s coffeeneuring bike.

After this ride, I removed the handbrake (cheap, tough for small hands to actuate) and added seat post-mounted bottle cages.

Ride No. 3

November 2, 2013
4595 34th St S, St Petersburg, FL
11.60 miles

According to Sally, “Old McDonald’s” had the best hot chocolate of the places we would coffeeneur to. The whipped cream on top AND chocolate syrup seal the deal.


After the stop, Sally wanted to keep riding rather than return directly home, so we cautiously tacked on additional miles, exploring a new multi-use path along 37th St S.

She was handling the miles like a champ, and we continued to focus on making good stops and riding defensively all while having a good time. It was looking good, from a safety and mileage perspective, to give downtown St. Pete a shot the next time out.

Ride No. 4

November 10, 2013
Kahwa Coffee
204 2nd Ave S, St Petersburg, FL ‎
16.57 miles

All randonneurs at some point have had a ride that was “accidentally” way longer than intended. This was one of those rides.

We had an auspicious start when Sally garnered a salute from a group of female triathletes who were out training. As they saw us approach from the opposite direction, one of them sat up and shouted for all her companions to hear, “Can I just say that THAT,” pointing toward our little father-daughter sidewalk-riding duo, “is AWESOME!”

Fortified by good cheer, we traveled on until we came to the infamous Thrill Hill, named not for its hors catagorie vertical, but rather because the scarred pavement bore witness to generations of teenagers who have launched street bikes and muscle cars, Dukes of Hazard-style, over its sharp, sudden incline.

It was equally fun to hit at speed on a bicycle, but if you’re five and riding a bike that weighs half what you do, it might as well be some 5000-foot Pyrenean col. Sally managed half of it and then dismounted and walked the rest. The descent met with full approval, but Sally vehemently declared that she didn’t want to ride that hill again.

After a brief stop at the University of South Florida-St. Pete to play around the fountain, we made it to Kahwa coffee, which would rate even in the most coffee-centric environs. Note the hot chocolate complete with barista-added milk-foam heart. My latte was phenomenal, but the hot chocolate – despite the heart — lacked “stuff in it,” and was only tepidly approved-of.

I’m not riding that hill again. Period.
I’m not riding that hill again. Period.

Chief on my mind was that Sally announced that she wanted to ride home “without riding that hill again.” There really was no reasonable alternative. We needed to get south and doing so without adding lots of miles or using a route that would have unpleasant if not unsafe traffic volume meant seeing Thrill Hill again.

I could have taken us back over Thrill Hill, invoking Velominati’s Rule 5, but that violated my own Rule 1: this is all about fun.

I decided to put the choice in her hands. We could repeat Thrill Hill and get home quickly or she could do a really long ride and do an even bigger hill, although it wouldn’t be as steep as Thrill Hill.

I made this latter option sound as distasteful as possible, hoping she’d face her nemesis and elect the shorter option. Nope. Every presentation yielded the same result: Long ride. Big hill.

The “big hill” was a pedestrian bridge over a major road, which probably had 20 feet of elevation gain. The climb wasn’t the concern; it was descending it safely. As we approached the bridge, we discussed how to climb the thing (ride ‘til you can’t go any more; hop off; walk) and how to go down (look straight ahead; use the coaster brake to slow without skidding).

We took a few practice, check-out runs (complete with video to show Mom), proceeded to the top, and uneventfully made it to the other side. We then picked our way down quiet streets, sidewalks and bike paths all the way home with the obligatory playground/snack stop at school for an epic 16.57-mile day. No tears and no whining, which is a lot more than I can say for my own longest-ride ever.

Ride No. 5

November 11, 2013
Bay Vista Park
Pinellas Point Dr. & 4th St. S, St. Petersburg, FL
(Coffee Shop Without Walls)
2.1 miles

We opted for a Veteran’s Day treat: a night ride! And, best of all, 3-year-old brother Joe came along on the balance bike. I boiled water and filled a Thermos and grabbed the instant hot chocolate and we made for the neighborhood park after dinner– all with a full set of lights and reflective gear, of course. At this hour, we had it all to ourselves.

Sally's Coffeeneuring Ride Report-7
Bay Vista Park, with Tampa Bay and the lights of the Port of Manatee in the background.

It was at this point that I reviewed the rules and realized that I’d screwed up right out of the gate with the Dunkin Donuts repeat and that there was no time left in the challenge to make it up.

Ride No. 6

November 16, 2013
3920 6th St S, St Petersburg, FL
8.46 miles

Munch’s is a St. Pete institution and one of our favorite places. We’ve developed enough riding experience to handle a slightly busier road and a parking lot.

Sally insisted on “more hills” so we took a post-Munch’s tour of Coquina Key – an island neighborhood — so she could ride over the canals.

Sally's Coffeeneuring Ride Report-8

The bacon and eggs for “second breakfast” were equally popular.

Ride No. 7

November 17, 2013
Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
(Coffee Shop Without Walls)
8.89 miles

We set out with the Thermos and hot chocolate mix to head to school for a quick post-nap trip but that plan went out the window when we saw our neighbors out riding. They were headed to the Skyway Fishing Pier – the longest fishing pier in the world, or so I’ve heard – and Sally announced that she wanted to “ride where Dr. Bruce and Ms. Valerie were going.”

Where they were going was a multi-use path along a huge causeway across the mouth of Tampa Bay, spanned by one of the largest cable-stay bridge in the world.

We weren’t going to ride the Skyway itself (that’s illegal), but there are two intermediate bridges one passes over, each with a height of about 60 feet. What’s life without a little adventure?

Sally walked about half of the first bridge and descended it flawlessly and then we found a nice spot to have our snack and hot chocolate.

Only thing better than the view was the company. Skyway Bridge in the background.
Only thing better than the view was the company. Skyway Bridge in the background.

We rode on a bit into the Bay to digest and then turned around. Sally proudly announced that she was going to ride the whole bridge without walking. I admired the spirit and spunk, but I’ve seen plenty of adults walk that bridge.

She hit the base of it with a nice, even cadence. I rode behind her offering words of encouragement as she pressed on. As she neared the top she beamed with excitement, “I rode the whole thing without stopping!” Yes, you sure did.


67.77 miles in 7 rides. Not bad for Age 5.

What will we do differently next year? Read the rules more carefully, Dad.

How do you measure success on a cycling event? This weekend Sally asked where we were riding to. Munch’s again, it turned out.

Thanks, MG, for putting together the Coffeeneuring Challenge. May you treasure the Tweets, blogs, photos, and reports for years as a reminder of the joy your event gave to cyclists the world over.

And many thanks to you, Sally and Paul. Great job, both with the riding AND the writing!


  1. Brilliant! Best coffeeneuring post yet. I’ve already been planning my participation next year, and how I’ll write it up. But that’s an impossible act to follow.


  2. OMG. Reading this account put me in tears of joy. It’s sweet and involves dad and daughter camaraderie. I’m jealous. It would take bribes to get my teenage boys to do this…but hey, maybe bribes are okay, huh?


  3. My hero! Careful dad, I hear that coffeeneuring is a gateway drug. You should put the NYC Five Boro Bike Tour on your horizon. With 42 miles of car-free streets and 35,000 people, its the largest group ride in the nation. My son and I rode when he was nine. I think Sally will be ready much earlier.


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