Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge #7

I had a grand plan for my final Coffeeneuring Challenge outing: a hybrid of going out for coffee and coffee outside. I would ride to the Ballard Sunday Market where Convoy Coffee slow brews coffee from their bicycle-driven cart. Perfect – I get to drink a hot cup of coffee outside after someone else does all the hard work. No packing up my Pocket Rocket, fuel, kettle, water, Aeropress, etc for a little cup of coffee.

I arrived at the Market a bit later than I had planned (hey, if you're going to get a flat, let it be in the warmth and dryness of your home) and there were scores of people ambling about, looking at cheeses, meats, pastries, but where oh where was the coffee cart? I walked my bike down and then up the street, with no sight of those guys. But then I saw Anchored Ship Coffee in a tiny storefront and thought maybe it was time for a change in plan.

coffee fits in the bottle cage
I parked my bike inside using the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, then ordered a Cafe au Lait. After I shelled out $3 (ok, so it was with soymilk – maybe they make it in-house), they filled up my personal cup (yes, I was prepared) with drip from a carafe that had been sitting out there who knows how long and some soymilk. Ouch! Well, this is Ballard, my friends, and they gotta pay their rent. I took a few sips and it tasted like plain ol' drip with some unsweetened soymilk added. I could have gone on that group ride after all and had that big box corporate coffee they were planning on stopping at (it starts with a "T") because that way, I would at least be deliriously happy from the bike ride itself.

As I was riding off toward home, I saw Convoy Coffee at the corner where I had passed just 10 minutes earlier. Had I missed them, or had they just shown up. No matter, I had already gotten a full cup of coffee and spent my allotted funds, so off I went. About one long light and five blocks later, I stopped, emptied my cup out onto an already-saturated plot of grass and headed back down the street to get some decent coffee made by two guys with an Aeropress on a cart pulled with a bicycle. But they were no longer at the corner; I didn't have the patience or time or energy to get through that crowd-filled market one more time to search for them. I switched out coffee for my water bottle and rode home.

I am sure I will be continuing my own Coffeeneuring adventures after the challenge is officially over, so I will get another chance to catch up with those bicycle-riding coffee-making guys. Plus, I will be sporting my spiffy Coffeeneuring Challenge patch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge #6: Spotted Cow Cream & Bean

While I am not a veteran (of a war, that is; I am definitely a cycling veteran, but that is not what we're talking about today), I had requested to take this Wednesday off to honor my sanity which has been dwindling. Between being an introvert and having a patient at work who has had her meds reduced, rendering her a question station, I really needed s break.

that's Maxwell, head roaster/manager
And today,  I was lucky – the sun came out! I even got to ride on a brand-new patch of asphalt while the cars had to stay on the gravel. Woo! Woo!

I had been meaning to ride up to Mill Creek's cute downtown area to go to Spotted Cow for quite a while. I believe they are the only coffee shop in the area that roasts their single origin beans on-site. Although their bike parking was not directly in front of or even beside their store (I locked my bike to outside seating so I could keep an eye on it), they were very friendly to me and gave me kudos for having ridden my bike there.

everything to make a ride great

After getting my soy latte and a chocolate macaroon cookie, I couldn't find anywhere to sit, so I asked a gentleman if I could share his table. He was on his laptop and I was trying not to disturb him as a laid out my accoutrements for a photo. But he was curious as to where I had ridden from, how many miles total, do I ride with other people, am I training for an event. It turns out he used to ride a little and he recounted for me a trip he took from Spokane to Lake Chelan on a Schwinn with four working gears that his butt will never let him forget. Aside from his backside, his other reason for not riding is due to lack of time. Of course, he has time to hang out at the local coffee shop chatting with a woman who is trying to rekindle his cycling flame. I mentioned this to him and he smiled. I have planted the seed; with time and interest, it may grow;  I will have to return here to see if there is another bike parked outside.
words to live by

Spotted Cow Coffee
15118 Main Street
Mill Creek, WA

Total Miles: 25

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge #5: Ballard Coffee Works

November is the season of the blob
Look out – the blob is coming! November in Seattle is all about rain and since I ride a lot for transportation, I spend a fair amount of time analyzing the local radar for storms. Green is light rain, yellow is hard rain and red is cats and dogs (or fish, in my case). Like the time I was riding home from work and I thought I heard the sound of a fish flopping... on the road. It was the beginning of a heavy rainstorm, no doubt colored red on the radar.

I waited patiently for the blob to pass through and that was followed by more rain, but just green rain. It looked like a lot of drops when I looked outside, but I decided to take a chance on the rain in order to get a good cup of coffee.

The rain was pretty light, what I like to think of as a refreshing mist, like an outdoor spa treatment. A few minutes into the ride, I was reminded of how much I love to ride in light rain. It wasn't too long ago that my ideal weather for a good ride was "58 degrees and light rain", as my mantra went. My preferences have changed a little since then, but a nice misting is certainly welcome, especially when it is followed by warming up at a spacious yet cozy cafe serving a smooth espresso.

Not the only bike out there
Ballard Coffee Works is on Market Street at 22nd Ave, smack in the middle of Ballard. The building used to be a Tully's and there is currently a Starbucks across the street. But the cafe was packed! Lucky for me there were no kids inside because I found a small table near the kiddie play area where I could look outside toward my bike. A special day for the Surly, she sported her green shopping bag which was velcroed onto the saddle to protect it from rain (thus protecting my rear).

I enjoyed a smooth Soy Latte and then purchased a bag of coffee to take to my lucky workmates.

Ballard Coffee Works
2060 NW Market St
Seattle, WA 98107

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Coffeeneuring #4: All City Coffee

bike parking outside
Space Odyssey Beacon Hill

It started off as a fine adventure, riding downtown and snubbing the bike lanes on 2nd Avenue that seem like an accident waiting to happen. I took a car lane, flew through downtown faster than bikes, buses and cars, green lights all the way to Royal Brougham at the Link Light Rail's Stadium Station. Just say "light rail" or "train" – it's easier. OK, so I was tired and I wanted a break, a little bump to get me up to Beacon Hill. Some might call it cheating; I call it an adventure.

in the wilderness of the Duwamish
Just a couple of stops and a few minutes later, I emerged into the tube-like, futuristic station at Beacon Hill where the only way out is via the elevator. From there, I followed the signed bike route to Georgetown. I was dubious as I merged onto 15th Ave with cars exiting from I-5, but there was a wide shoulder and in a block, I turned to a quiet street and rolled down toward Lucille Street and on into Georgetown, finding bike parking right in front of All City Coffee.

the industry of the Duwamish
My fellow coffee drinkers from the Seattle Coffee Club all groaned about finding parking and the fact that there was a 2-hour limit. When I motioned toward my bike, one woman expressed an interest in riding, but only if she could be mostly on the trails. She could have ridden there on all flat trails, as I would demonstrate on my way home. After a latte at All City and lunch across the street at Hitchcock Deli (their other location is Bainbridge Island), I was off on my second half of the day's adventure.

along the waterfront trail
I stopped a bunch of times to wait for bridge decks to open, to take photos, enjoy the view, try to find a bathroom, find a bathroom and walk my bike across the Ballard Locks. By then, I was wiped out, out of water and out of snacks, only a credit card left for payment. So I didn't stop; I kept plugging away uphill from Ballard to get home and eat and drink and take a nap. It was not a pretty sight. So much for my fine adventure.

Distance ridden: 27 (28.5 minus the light rail trip)

All City Coffee
1205 Vale St

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Coffeeneuring #3: Cafe Lulu

Cafe Lulu in tile
I suppose you could say it started out as an errandonnee. I needed a few things from Trader Joe's… bananas, bars, bathroom tissue (that's what proper people call toilet paper). I had a taste of their coffee of the day and had to have more of that taste. I picked up some crackers which can't be found anywhere else – raisin and rosemary, fig and oh, who cares, it's figs. Then, some white bean and basil hummus to go with the crackers and frozen mango to make smoothies with. I packed it up in my awesome Detours bike bag and though it was bursting at the zipper, I was still able to close it.
soy latte and chocolate coconut bar

On the way back from TJ's, I turned to 65th Street and then Latona. Next to the Latona Pub is Cafe Lulu. The bike parking is outside the pub because it's more essential to bike after drinking beer than after drinking coffee, I guess. I ordered a Soy Latte and a chocolate coconut bar (the same ones I get at Pioneer Coffee in North Bend when going hiking) from the friendly barista in the small cafe and took a seat by the window. Outside, across Latona was a restaurant I had heard mention on, The Butcher and the Baker, but didn't know where it was. A quick search told me that it's an excellent spot for brunch – I am filing that tidbit away somewhere.
It's in the bag!

After quaffing my coffee, I quickly packed up to head home for the sake of my frozen fruit.

Distance ridden: 5.5 miles

Cafe Lulu
6417 Latona Ave NE

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Coffeeneuring #2: Sky Cafe

Saturday was all about procrastinating. Later in the day I would be going to a friend's wedding and, while I had at least purchased the gift (a blender from the registry) and the wrapping paper, the two had not yet merged into a presentable gift. And then there was the weather: cool and cloudy. It was supposed to improve as the day went on, so I decided on a short ride up north which would get me back in plenty of time to get both the gift and myself in a presentable state.

Unfortunately, once you leave the core of Seattle, coffee shops that aren't part of a large chain are few and far between. I managed to find one in an unusual setting, one that would include the ambiance of fresh flowers and an open and airy feel. I rode on the Interurban Trail to Sky Nursery, at 190th Street. I walked my bike inside the greenhouse to their cafe and leaned it against bales of hay (part of their fall theme). To my surprise, I was not the only cyclist there; one guy had actually locked his bike to something while shopping inside.

The friendly barista (she asked me how my ride was) made me a soy latte and I sipped it while watching families with dogs and babies, just like in any other coffee shop. I continued on my ride, feeling the heart-pumping effects of the caffeine, just as my heart was pumping plenty on its own, due to the long climb up 25th Ave that I hadn't anticipated.

After my shower and post-ride stretching was done, I had barely enough time to wrap my gift before taking off for the wedding. My procrastinator's penalty came in the form of every single light along my route being red, though I still made the event in plenty of time. Sometimes, it just works to procrastinate.

Sky Nursery Cafe
18528 Aurora Ave N
Shoreline, WA

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day 1: Ventoux

a beautiful day at the cafe
Years ago, on a bike tour in France's Provence region, I had the opportunity to ride up to the summit of Mt Ventoux; I didn't take it. Between my tight gearing that meant grinding gears (and my knees) and the thought of the screaming descent with only an inch of rubber and petite brakes to stop me, I made the decision that it wasn't worth the risk. Today, I got a second chance.
my US bike in the company of an Italian

Today is the first day of the Coffeeneuring Challenge, 2015 and I started with a 25-mile loop up to Shoreline titled, Decent Descents of North Seattle. On the return leg of the loop, I extended the route to include a climb up 55th Street to 35th Avenue for a stop at Ventoux Roasters. No need to hop a plane for this climb; the mountain has come to Seattle in the form of a sweet neighborhood coffee shop. I was out on a bike ride for some good coffee, plus a little treat for having made such a vigorous climb.

Oddly, there was no bike parking outside so I took my steed inside and leaned her against the wall, below some classic frames and jerseys. Since I had just made the climb up Ventoux, I was still perspiring and high on endorphins, in stark contrast to the barista and patrons who were mellowed out with coffee (yes, that happens when you drink it regularly) in the quiet, open environment of the little cafe.

Soon, with a Mighty-O Donut and a soy latte in hand, I was able to join those ranks. Appropriately, the espresso art was a heart (Hart Roasters) and was very smooth. The decor was bike-centered, but not entirely so in that a non rider would enjoy the space just as well.

attention to detail: chainrings and coffee bags