Coffeeneuring Rewind: Rediscovering a Passion for Bicycling with Marya and Bret

Perhaps I’m a bit biased, being an Iowan and all, but the simple beauty of cycling expressed by Marya and Bret pulled at my heart when I read it last year.

I think many of us can relate to growing up with bikes, and then setting them aside in favor of other pasttimes and transportation modes when we reach our teenage years. Rediscovering a bicycle can truly be transformative. Many thanks to Marya and Bret for their recap of last year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Bret and Marya’s Coffeeneuring Challenge

We are a husband and wife team from Sioux City, Iowa. We’ve been married for nearly 24 years, but have only been cycling together for the past 3 years. As with most members of our generation we both loved riding bikes as kids, but stopped riding around the same time we learned to drive.

The renewal of our bike passion began when Marya decided that a bicycle was a much more sensible option for her daily commute to work. While a very strong case could be made for Sioux City being one of the least bike-friendly cities in America, her commute was only 3.5 miles and there actually is a small portion of recreational/biking trail that she could incorporate into her commute.

Upon seeing Marya riding every day, becoming more fit, and researching for a more suitable commuter bike, Bret caught the cycling bug and a passion was born. Today we’re grateful to have this wonderful activity that we both love and that contributes to a healthier and happier life.

Most importantly it is an activity that we love doing more than anything else and that we would rather do together than alone or with anyone else. And doesn’t every good marriage need and activity like that?

Coffeeneuring Ride #1:
10/3/15 (Saturday)
Starbucks, 4735 Sergeant Road, Sioux City, Iowa
31.5 miles

For our first Coffeeneuring ride, we chose our least anticipated shop: Starbucks. Sioux City is not exactly oversaturated with coffee shops and we actually had a difficult time selecting 7 shops to go to. There’s only one other true “coffee shop” (excluding drive-through-only coffee shops, the Barnes & Noble café, short-order restaurants, and other miscellaneous food service establishments that happen to serve coffee) that we didn’t hit during this year’s challenge and we only skipped that one because it’s not open on weekends.

We selected Starbucks because it was farthest from home and would involve the most on street riding since there are no trails on that side of town, and we wanted to do this ride when the weather was most likely to be warmest.

Photo via Google earth
Photo via Google Maps street view

We rode directly from home to the coffee shop, which is about 10.5 miles from home. As the Google street view shows, this is clearly a coffee shop which assumes its customers will arrive by car. There is a drive-through lane surrounding the shop on three sides like a moat, and the massive shopping center parking lot forms the fourth side.

We would not be a bit surprised if we were told that we were the only people ever to ride bikes to get there. There were no bike racks, but there was a fenced-in seating patio that we were able to chain our bikes to. The coffee and food was exactly what you expect when you go to Starbucks: nothing extraordinary, but at least consistent. We each had a cup of the daily dark roast and a breakfast sandwich.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

After finishing our coffee and doing some reading, we set off to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day. We decided to explore a little-used section of the recreational trail system which was initially laid down about a decade ago with plans of eventually being connected to the rest of the city’s trail system. These plans have never been completed, but there’s a major freeway reconstruction project going on which is supposed to include this final segment of trail. Fingers crossed.

Coffeeneuring Ride #2:
10/10/15 (Saturday)
Rosie’s Coffee Roasting Co. at the Sioux City Farmers’ Market,
Tyson Events Center Suite Parking Lot, Sioux City, Iowa
36.3 miles

Our second Coffeeneuring stop was an entirely spontaneous selection. We had left home that morning (another absolutely beautiful Iowa fall day) intending to go to a different shop entirely. However, that shop had limited hours and we were running a bit late. When we rode past the Farmers’ Market and saw Rosie’s trailer, we decided that this would be a perfect stop.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

The Sioux City Farmers’ Market is a very bike-friendly venue. They set up on Saturday mornings in a parking lot right next to the Perry Creek bike trail (separated only by a set of railroad tracks). There is a set of novelty bike racks shaped like carrots at one end of the market, though walking your bike through the market is not frowned upon at all.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

Rosie’s operates out of an old renovated camper trailer and serves delicious coffee. We had the Sumatra Mandheling, which was fantastic, along with pastries from another vendor a few feet away from Rosie’s.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

After finishing our breakfast, we crossed the river into South Sioux City, Nebraska to ride their bike trail loop, which encircles the entire city. At the south end of the loop, we decided to explore another heretofore unexplored spur of the trail that runs down into Dakota City, Northeast.

While the views were uninspiring (cornfields on one side, a very busy road and the Tyson beef processing plant on the other), it was nice to again discover the places in our community that we could actually get to on two wheels.

Coffeeneuring Ride #3:
10/18/15 (Sunday)
Caribou Coffee, 2939 Hamilton Blvd, Sioux City, Iowa
29.3 miles

Today’s destination was another chain; Caribou Coffee. At least this location has some charm, in contrast to the drive-up-with-a-few-seats experience we had at Starbucks. In fact, the local Caribou, with its lodge-style décor and comfortable leather seats, coupled with passable coffee, has always been a favorite hangout for our family when we’re looking for a place to kick back for an hour or two and read a book over a cup of coffee.

It happens to be the only coffee shop in Sioux City that actually has a bike rack, albeit one that’s out of sight from inside the shop tucked behind the drive through menu board. Bret ordered the seasonal pumpkin spice latte while Marya had a vanilla white chocolate mocha cooler blended drink. On the side we had slices of cinnamon swirl pound cake, which was very tasty indeed.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

Caribou is less than three miles from our house, so we took the long way there by riding the loop around the city first to get there, then reversing course to go around the loop again to get home. In order to extend the fun a little more, we also crossed into South Sioux City and rood their trail loop as well.

Although the sun was shining and the temperatures were very comfortable, today’s ride gave us a real workout as we spent most of the day climbing up the “invisible hill” of 20 mph headwinds. It’s amazing how the wind sometimes seems to be in your face regardless of which direction you’re heading.

Coffeeneuring Ride #4:
10/24/15 (Saturday)
Dakota Perk, 3900 Dakota Avenue Suite 1, South Sioux City, NE
23.5 miles

With temperatures starting to drop, our ride this morning started out very chilly. As the day went on, the abundance of sunshine warmed the day up nicely. Our destination was almost as far from home as we can get and still be on the metro area’s recreational trail system. Although the bike trail is immediately adjacent to the Dakota Perk parking lot, the shop itself is absolutely not bicycle friendly.

There was nowhere to conveniently park a bike. The shop is surrounded by asphalt and has only a very narrow sidewalk in front, which is filled by a couple tables.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

Since it was a chilly morning, no one was sitting outside so we were able to park our bikes, relying on the honor system and hoping that no one would steal them since there was nothing to lock them to and we could not see them from inside the shop. However, if anyone had been using the tables we may have had to get our coffee elsewhere.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

The coffee itself was good. We both had the hazelnut blend. To go along with our coffee we shared a slice of “better than sex” cake. While it my not have lived up to its name entirely, it wasn’t too far off the mark and we found ourselves fighting over the last couple forkfuls.

We had a full schedule of events on our schedule today so we had to keep our ride brief and simply finished the loops of South Sioux City and Sioux City before returning home.

Coffeeneuring Ride #5:
10/31/15 (Saturday)
Jitters, 306 Virginia Street, Sioux City, Iowa
15.4 miles

Today’s ride was to one of the best shops in Sioux City. Jitters is most well known for their donuts. When they first opened a few years ago, they were able to secure the donut making equipment and donut recipe from a locally famous bakery that had gone out of business.

The coffee was good (we had the hazelnut blend), but the donuts were the real star of the day and we each had three. The décor in the shop is eclectic, but cozy and we found a couple comfy armchairs to sit and relax in.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

Jitters is not overtly bike friendly (there are no racks), but they’re welcoming to cyclists and they do have some roof-support posts and railings to lock bikes to. Plus, the windows in front are very large, offering a clear view of the bikes and adding to the security.

Today was Halloween, and we again had other plans which forced our ride to be a shorter one again.

Coffeeneuring Ride #6:
11/7/15 (Saturday)
Koffie Knechtion, 419 Golf Road, South Sioux City, NE 
28.6 miles

Our 6th ride started out very cold; 34 degrees. Today we chose to go to a shop we’d never been to but had heard good reviews of. There was virtually no wind at all, and copious amounts of sunshine so that by the time we reached the Koffie Knechtion the temperature had risen to over 50 degrees.
What a discovery! This definitely qualifies as our “must visit” shop. It’s a little out of the way, since it was opened in what used to be a garage/outbuilding belonging to the owners.

It’s only about 1⁄2 mile off the bike trail system, but it’s a half-mile of riding in what feels like a rural setting. The shop itself has no bike racks per se, but there is plenty of space to park bikes and a split rail fence to lock to if a person felt that was necessary. However, the location, the atmosphere, and the clientele make this a totally unnecessary precaution.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015

The shop is very small, but very cozy. We drank mugs of the daily dark roast accompanied by delicious lemon poppyseed and chocolate chocolate chip muffins while making conversation with other patrons and answering questions about our bikes and why we were riding in such chilly weather.

The proprietor even came over and struck up a conversation; she totally opened up about her life, why she decided to open a coffee shop, the other cyclists who frequent her shop, and her own interest in biking. She’d recently purchased a new bike of her own.

We finished our ride by once again visiting Dakota City, NE and completing the Sioux City and South Sioux City loops.

Coffeeneuring Ride #7:
11/14/15 (Saturday)
Pierce Street Coffee Works, 1920 Pierce Street, Sioux City, Iowa 
42.6 miles

We saved the best – or at least our favorite – for last. Pierce Street Coffee Works has been our favorite Sioux City coffee shop since it opened during the coffee house craze of the 1990s. It’s also the closest shop to our house, so we rounded out the ride by completing the loop around Sioux City, including the obligatory weekly visit to our local bike shop, and even detouring to a nature preserve with a gravel bike-accessible trail in North Sioux City, South Dakota.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015
As always, Pierce Street delivered in terms of atmosphere, in terms of coffee, and in terms of food. Bret had the “perky reptile” (a caramel mocha) and Marya had the “IRA” (an English toffee & Irish cream latte). We both had eggwich breakfast sandwiches on toasted bagels with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese; so delicious and fresh tasting.

As for bike friendliness, it’s accepting but not inviting, just like so many others in our hometown. No bike racks, of course. We locked our bikes to a heavy newspaper vending machine on the sidewalk in plain view of our window seat.

Conclusion

While we rarely need an extrinsic excuse to ride, the weather this time of year can make it all too easy to opt not to ride. So when we discovered the Coffeeneuring Challenge, we put the dates on our calendar and had been looking forward to it for several months. While we were able to avoid any seriously bad weather (no precipitation, including snow), there were two or three days which were cold enough that we would not have ridden were it not for the challenge.

And posting our updates to Facebook and reading about others’ Coffeeneuring Challenge adventures was a real treat. Thank you for creating and administering this challenge!

We look forward to completing the challenge every year. If you should find yourself returning home to Iowa for RAGBRAI in the future, look for us riding with Team PEZ.

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