We Love Coffeeneuring: A Talk with Original Coffeeneurs Tara and Simon in Maryland

Today Chasing Mailboxes talks with the coffeeneuring duo of Tara and Simon. You may recognize this pair from previous guest posts, or perhaps Tara’s name rings familiar to you because of the “Tara Rule” (This year it’s Rule #16).

Tara’s suggestion that people be allowed to coffeeneur on Columbus Day sparked not only the creation of this rule, but also the approach that rules can be subject to modification (or added!) based on participants’ input and well-reasoned arguments.

Tara and Simon are the original team coffeeneurs, and have successfully reached the Coffeeneuring Challenge finish line every year that it has been offered. I’m pleased to feature them in this post.

Itsy Bitsy Bakery. What a great name!
Itsy Bitsy Bakery. What a great name!

1. You were 2 of only 12 people who completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge in its first year. What attracted you to it, and why do you think coffeeneuring has caught on like it has?

It appealed to us (and continues to appeal to us) because coffeeneuring is very much how we normally ride. We like to ride, together, around where we live and we almost always include a stop for coffee and a snack somewhere in our bike rides.

When we participated in the first Challenge in 2011, we were beginning to get “serious” (I use that term very loosely!) about cycling, so the challenge seemed like an achievable way to earn some cycling cred.

We assume that coffeeneuring has caught on like it has due to Mary’s very excellent use of social media! (Editor’s note: Why thank you!)

Coffeeneuring likely appeals to so many because it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure. You get to choose your distance and your destination, and there’s a reward (coffee!) thrown in the middle.

Although there are a lot of rules, there is still a lot of freedom to design your own coffeeneuring experience in a way that is eminently achievable.

It’s fun to be part of a bigger something, watching Twitter and blogs to see what others have been doing and seeing and drinking, drooling over some of the landscapes (and coffee shops!) that others get to visit.

2. What is the coffeeneuring landscape like where you live? How has it changed since the first year of the Coffeeneuring Challenge in 2011?

Not too much has changed in our coffeeneuring atmosphere since we started. We live in the Maryland suburbs, so getting to a coffee shop (particularly one that’s not Starbucks) requires some work and creativity.

A few coffee shops in the area have disappeared, a few more have popped up. Although we’ve had a few repeats, over the past 4 years, we have visited at least one or two new-to-us coffee shops for each year’s Challenge. We are, however, still in desperate need of a good coffee shop close to our house.

Zed's Cafe. Best coffee shop coffee mugs!
Zed’s Cafe. Best coffee shop coffee mugs!

3. What ingredients do you think make up a good coffeeneuring experience?

For us, a ride of about 20 miles makes the trip feel like a real ride, without taking all day. Crisp air, a warm sun, and fall foliage adds to the coffeeneuring ambience. For that third element, we like to ride through Rock Creek Park and Sligo Creek Parkway (although we do have to be mindful of slippery fallen leaves on bike paths and roads).

Because we don’t bring bike locks and therefore like to keep watchful eyes on our bikes while we enjoy our coffee, a coffee shop location with outdoor seating is key. Good coffee, with the possibility of a good snack or pastry. And, as a coffeeneuring couple, we think that the best coffeeneuring experience is one done together. I don’t know that either of us would take on the Challenge by ourselves.

4. Do you have an absolute favorite coffee shop? What is it and why?

If we had to choose one, our favorite place (and one which we go regularly, even when it’s not coffeeneuring season) would be Fenton Café in downtown Silver Spring.

The owners make fantastic crêpes, which we always partake of. The service is friendly and quick, the coffee is always good, the small shop feels like a real neighborhood place, and there is always an outdoor table where we can sit with our bikes.

For a completely different reason, the Starbucks in Potomac Village has, hands-down, the best people- (and bike-) watching of anywhere we’ve been. (Editor’s note: This is a very popular stopping spot for local group rides, as well as people riding from the D.C.-area out to Potomac, Maryland, and beyond.)

Capital City Cheesecakes (Cheesecake and Coffee? Yes, please)
Capital City Cheesecakes (Cheesecake and Coffee? Yes, please)

5. You are 2 of only 7 people who have completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge every year. What keeps you coming back? Is it all the rules?

It has become a fall tradition for us. It did not occur to us this year not to accept the Challenge. (Also, when there is a rule named after you, you feel obligated to participate!)

It’s also a nice way to end the cycling season. We are fair weather cyclists of the first order, so knowing that we have to complete the challenge gets us out of the house and on our bikes, particularly on colder and windier days where we might otherwise be tempted to stay inside.

6. Tell me about your coffeeneuring bikes!

Our coffeeneuring bikes are our current road bikes. Tara rides a Bianchi Vigorelli, Simon rides a Scott Solace.

7. What did I forget to ask you that I should have?

Q: Have you had any coffeeneuring disasters?

A: In our extraordinarily luck-filled cycling life, we have each had only one flat tire. Both of them have been on coffeeneuring trips!

I’d say that’s still pretty good luck, especially considering you’ve been coffeeneuring for four straight years. Thank you, again, Tara and Simon!

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