In the great city of Portland, there is a person who has coffeeneured more than anyone I know. His name is Bill, and in the course of 94 weekends he visited 110 distinct coffee shops.
That accomplishment is a testament not only to the preponderance of Portland-area coffee shops (yay, alliteration!), as well as Bill’s passion for coffeeneuring and his determination to seek out new shops.
In honor of the final weekend of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, I share with you this interview with the Ultimate Coffeeneur.
Can’t believe only 12 of us coffeeneured the first year! (Editor’s note: It’s true!)
Two things attracted me to coffeeneuring.
The first is best described by this picture:
This was taken in Versailles in 2011 the day after PBP, on a ride from Saint-Cyr-l’École to Paris proper. It had taken me 93 hours to ‘finish’ 1200k the day before, which wasn’t quite my plan.
A broken derailer cable outside of Brest, plus a 2-hour wrong turn during the nocturnal return approach to Villaines-la-Juhel sabotaged a more timely finish.
I needed a recovery activity. So when you and Joe Platzner came up with “coffeeneuring,” that was just the ticket.
Secondly, this ‘recovery activity’ (of enjoying a relaxed-ride-to-a-fine-beverage) was something I was pretty sure I could excel at! I was already “coffeeneuring” before the term even existed, having made weekend cycling excursions to many of Portland’s coffeehouses prior to going to France. There’s even documentation to prove it!
The basic change in doing “official” Coffeeneuring was the increased amount of attention to photo documentation. Initially, I had no clue how much practice I would get with the iPhone and its photo apps.
Over time, coffeeneuring became routine, and lent itself well to my weekly weekend bike commutes to the Sunday Afternoon Argentine Tango Practice (that I host).
You took up your own personal challenge of extreme coffeeneuring and ultimately coffeeneured to 110 DIFFERENT shops over 94 weekends.
How did you keep up that kind of coffeeneuring pace for so long, and how does the Portland area sustain that many different coffee shops? It’s quite remarkable!
The fact that I could continue for well over a year and a half just speaks to Portland’s obsessive coffee culture, and the large number of skilled baristas it supports.
In 92 weekends, I had become a huge fan of latte art. But also in that amount of time, coffeeneuring started becoming a bit of a “job” rather than an enjoyable extra-curricular activity.
I could have still continued, but the increasing mileage radius would have overly challenged the “liesurely ride to an enjoyable hot beverage” concept. Also, a few coffeehouses had become favorites, and warranted repeat visits!
In addition to well over 100 bike shops in Greater Portland, there are at least that many coffee shops and houses. (Evidently, cyclists crave their brewed beverages.) I hate to think how many commercial espresso machines exist in this town, but it must be a formidable number!
What ingredients do I think make up a good coffeeneuring experience?
As a cyclist visiting a coffee shop, I look for three things.
- Do they have seating?
- Do they serve their coffee in ceramic cups?
- Do they have a place to park the bike within view of the beverage I’m consuming?
Of course there are exceptions.
Two of my favorite places to coffeeneur are coffee carts (one at a local farmer’s market, the other in a food cart village in downtown PDX). But even one of those establishments has available ceramic cups. And lastly, good latte art is always a bonus!
What’s the secret to my coffeeneuring photos?
Interesting question, because I don’t consider them ‘that’ good (in that they’re limited to being taken with a mobile phone device).
The short answer is: Practice. Practice. Practice.
That’s the benefit of photographing 110 different coffeeneuring trips. It refines the documentation process to a certain degree. (And I think the pictures showed improvement toward the end of the 94 weeks.)
The longer answer is: I run every picture I post on social media through a photo-editing program or application. In the case of the iPhone, I’m a big fan of Snapseed.
Do you have an absolute favorite coffee destination (or two)?
Yes. But as is the case with almost any business (bike shop, restaurant, etc.), the best place is one where they know you!
Out of the 110 coffee shops I visited, I’d say a third of them (over 30) probably deserve a five star rating. There is that much coffee excellence in Portland! Of those 30, I’d say about 10 warrant repeat visits (because of more intangible reasons that just great coffee).
And yes, I do have some absolute favorites. Three of them are in downtown Portland: Barista, Public Domain, and Ole Latte (the latter a coffee pod in a block of food carts).
But I’d have to say my favorite is Water Avenue Coffee is close-in SE Portland. That’s where they know me. The barista trainer there, and her husband, bicycled from New York to Portland when they moved out here to Oregon.
What keeps me coming back each year?
I dunno! It’s probably similar to what keeps some cyclists doing a 200K every month in pursuit of an R-12. It’s like you establish a pattern, one that seems worth continuing.