From Randonneur to Coffeeneur: Putting South Carolina on the Coffeeneuring Map

Last year’s edition of the Coffeeneuring Challenge welcomed the first finisher ever from the state of South Carolina. Very exciting!

The triumphant coffeeneur is Tom, a randonneur turned coffeeneur for at least seven weeks, who used both his Soma Grand Randonneur (affectionately nicknamed the Grand Coffeeneur) and a 1970s Raleigh Olympian, to help him cross the finish line.

Thank you, Tom for taking on the challenge (despite the non-coffeeneuring-related injury you suffered early on during your rides), and I hope you can join in again this year.

Coffeeneuring in SC 1

#1: 10/5/14
Where: Waffle House, I-95 and US-76, Florence, SC
What: Special Dark Roast Coffee and a single waffle
Which bike: Soma Grand Randonneur (AKA Grand Coffeeneur)
How far: No odometer on this bike yet, but I’m guessing somewhere around 13 miles

This was the maiden voyage of my brand-spankin’ new Soma Grand Randonneur, my first ever 650B with wide tires. I still have to add some of the essentials, such as water bottle cages, a rack and bag, lights, etc., and I need to get a longer stem, but, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Coffeeneuring in SC 2

Mom’s out of town for the week, so I had to swing by her place to bring in the mail and check on the plants. Then, off to find coffee. Our small southern town has several ‘fancy’ coffee shops, but I decided to start this challenge with my favorite southern classic, The Waffle House. Usually, my preferred time to go to the Waffle House is 2:00 AM, when all the A-List celebrities and supermodels congregate. At noon, in the harsh light of day, the crowd loses some of its glamour. On the other hand, the waitress had more teeth than tattoos, which isn’t always the case on the night shift.

#2: 10/17/14
Where: Taki’s Diner, Darlington, SC
What: Coffee; two pancakes, two eggs over easy, country ham
Which bike: Soma Grand Coffeeneur
How far: No odometer on this bike yet, ~25 miles according to the Google

The Grand Coffeeneur is starting to take shape. I installed bottle cages, a longer stem, a front rack and a bag. Starting to really like this bike.

Coffeeneuring in SC 3

I’ve ridden past Taki’s Family Diner in Darlington, SC hundreds of times, but never stopped in. Thanks to this Coffeeneuring Challenge, I finally had a good reason. It’s a truly wonderful place, full of old-time Americana, including the decorations, waitresses and customers. I’m guessing that everyone in there knew each other by name, but they made me feel welcome as well.

Not exactly a place for coffee snobs looking for an Italian-sounding something-or-other-acchiato, but they have great country ham.

No bike rack in front, but it’s not the kind of place where you worry about an unlocked bike. Took the scenic route home.

#3: 10/19/14
Where: Starbucks in the Target at Magnolia Mall, Florence, SC
What: Double Espresso
Which bike: 1970s Raleigh Olympian, AKA My Randobeering Brewvet Bike
How far: No odometer on this bike, estimating 9 miles

Refereed a U18 Boys soccer match this morning. Needed a quick burst of caffeine to start the game, so I swung by Target, which has a Starbucks inside, for a “Dopio”. Why can’t they just call it a double?

I miss the days when I was faster than most of the players. Keeping up with the testosterone-fueled teenage boys is getting tougher every year.

Coffeeneuring in SC 4

First 70 minutes of the soccer match went well, but then, on a full sprint to keep up with the players chasing a long through-ball, I felt a very sharp pain in my left calf. I subtly reached down, and felt a knot the size of my fist in my calf muscle. The last 20 minutes were brutal. I limped through it, but it was not pretty. The ride home was very, very slow.

Update (4 days later): It took 4 days for my calf muscle to stop hurting. Unfortunately, now the pain in my left knee feels identical to the pain when I tore the meniscus in my right knee 2 years ago. I’ll make an appointment with my surgeon next week. Unless this gets better on its own, it looks like my coffeeneuring will be limited to very short rides for the remaining part of the challenge.

#4: 10/24/14
Where: Starbucks in the McLeod Hospital Food Court, Florence, SC
What: Starbucks Double Espresso and a chicken pesto crepe from Freshens
Which bike: Fixed Gear
How far: 8 miles

The knee is feeling a little better. Not good, but better. I had to ride to the mechanic’s shop to pick up my wife’s car, so I figured I would test the knee and swing downtown for some fancy coffee on the way. And since I was going downtown, I might as well join the other hipsters and ride the fixed gear.

As luck would have it, the fancy coffee place (The Clay Pot) was closed. The next closest coffee shop is in the hospital just down the street. So, I had another Starbucks double, along with a really good chicken pesto and spinach crepe.

Coffeeneuring in SC 5

I feel funny hanging out in a hospital, but it actually is a very pleasant place for a meal. Soothing waterfall, hushed tones, soft music, no hipsters.

Rode to the auto shop, where I made a huge contribution to the mechanic’s retirement fund, loaded the fixie in the trunk and drove home.

#5: 10/26/14
Where: Dunkin’ Donuts, Evans St, Florence, SC
What: Two large dark roasts to go
Which bike: Raleigh Olympian
How far: 3 miles

Pre-sunrise ride to Dunkin’ Donuts so that I could supply coffee in bed for my lovely bride. I even remembered to bring along scissors to cut the cardboard carrier to size so that it fit snugly in my rack trunk bag.

Coffee in bed may not meet the strictest definition of coffeeneuring, but it did involve a bike ride to get it, so I’m counting it.

P.S. The knee is still very tender.

Coffeeneuring in SC 6

#6: 10/31/14
Where: Clay Pot, Dargan St, Florence, SC
What: Double espresso and a pumpkin bagel with cream cheese
Which bike: Fixie
How far: 8 miles

Rode downtown, had a coupla beers at the 1031 Grill, then an espresso and a pumpkin bagel at the Clay Pot.

The beers and coffee were excellent. Adding pumpkin to everything this time of year is unnecessary, so in hindsight, I might have been better off with a regular bagel.

There was a novel on the table with a sticky that it was free for the taking, but I only read the first three chapters and left it for the next person.

Coffeeneuring in SC 7

I hate to sound whiny on such a beautiful day, but I’m really unhappy about the condition of my knee. I have an MRI scheduled for Tuesday, and hopefully surgery to follow soon, so I’m trying to survive a few more short rides to finish off this challenge and the ‘randobeering’ challenge that is running in parallel.

#7: 11/02/14
Where: Coffee Shop Without Walls – Jeffries Creek Overlook on the Rails to Trails
What: Coffee from Sonic
Which bike: Grand Coffeeneur
How far: ~5 miles

It was a very windy day, so I elected to hit the local trail through the woods. There is a nice overlook over the Jeffries Creek flood plain.

Because it was so cold (by Dixie standards), I had the trail to myself. I had every intention of digging my backpacking stove and espresso maker out of the deep recesses of the shed, and making my own coffee in style.

However, after an evening of randobeering, I was too lazy. So, I filled the travel mug at the local Sonic Drive-In. Due to DHEC regulations, they cannot fill a travel mug directly. By law, they have to give it to me in a disposable cup, and then I can pour it into my travel mug and dispose of the cup. Good thing I’m not a staunch environmentalist…

Coffeeneuring in SC 8

Sipping coffee in solitude in the woods was a great way to complete this challenge, which really wasn’t that challenging. Thanks, MG, for providing the incentive.

Hopefully next year I won’t be dealing with a bum knee, and I can travel further afield in rural South Carolina in search of a good cuppa.



  1. When I saw the Waffle house picture I was almost ready to weigh in with my coffee elitest attitude. The location and the coffee choice set me on edge (I am a police officer and well acquainted with the waffle house) However, as I read further on I loved what he had to say. Very witty and subtle. Both great skills for blogging. Thanks for sharing.


    • As a randonneur who rides frequently in Virginia, I know it well, too! Can’t say the coffee ever struck me as drinkable, BUT one of the many reasons I like this post (as you note, Tom is a witty writer) is that it shows off the versatility of the challenge. You can coffeeneur almost anywhere, even if the “coffee” is questionable at best.


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