Sunday, July 5, 2015

Catching up on Adventures

The Flock at a Gorge overlook
It's been quite a while since I've written about my adventures. It's not that I haven't had adventures, in fact really excellent adventures, but I have been a writing slacker ever since graduating nursing school (which was a whole different kind of adventure).

One of the best bike trips from recent memory (even though it's the only bike trip from recent memory) was with my good ol' buddies in the Goosebumps group, with whom I had been a regular rider for a number of years. I was already planning a trip to the Columbia River Gorge area when Dottie, one half of a tandem with Orin, told me about a weekend of cycling in the Hood River area. After making arrangements with work (read: after working a double shift to make up the time), the wheels were in motion for an excellent extended weekend.

KickStand Kitchen & Coffee, with bike shop next door
We stayed at the Vagabond Inn which overlooks the Columbia River. Well, if you pony up the money for a fancy room. I opted for a "courtyard" room which was spacious and had space for doing yoga post-ride... priorities. There were two restaurants next door, one a greasy spoon, the other fine dining and town was a quick ride or drive away. The first morning, I rode my bike downtown to KickStand Coffee & Kitchen which is owned by a guy who is obviously a biker racer, judging from the long, lanky looks of him. He is also an excellent business owner and chef, as my tastebuds and tummy can attest. Over the course of the weekend, I would go there a couple more times, each time introducing more people from the group to their food, coffee and ambience.

shady and cool in the forest
But first, the rides. I got a ride in Phu's car, along with Bill, to the start of the first day's route, from an area just west of Hood River. It was a mixture of quiet roads and even quieter trails; there was some serious Oregon-envy from early on when we weren't honked at and didn't even ride over any potholes. The only thing I found lacking in the route was toilets – it was warm, I was hydrated and there was nowhere to go. And then there was the stairs. They were kind of steep and led from the trail above the freeway up to the trail in the woods. We managed, but clearly, this was not the perfect solution. However, soon we arrived at Multnomah Falls where it was time for photos, eating a giant cookie and lounging around doing some people-watching. On the return trip, we waited 45 minutes in a line for ice cream at Cascade Locks, a town most famous for the Bridge of the Gods which the Pacific Crest Trail passes over (brings back memories from years ago, in fact).
Stairs. On the bike trail. Yep.

long wait for cold cream

The next day, Sunday, which was also Mothers' Day we started out by four of us going to KickStand for breakfast. My table-mates were relieved to not have to repeat the experience at the greasy spoon. Then, we got on our bikes and headed east this time, through town and up some crazy-looking switchbacks to another section of the scenic trail. Again, no bumps, potholes or cars and the improvement for today was the availability of toilets. Yay! After the trail, which had many scenic pullouts and meadows full of wildflowers, we climbed in the hills toward Rowena. There were some cars, but they were well-behaved. The scenery was full of old oak trees, grassy hills and views of Mt Hood, directly to the south. When we reached the Rowena Crest, there was a decision to be made: to go down the Rowena Curves to the Dalles and have to climb back up, or turn around at the Crest. Phu and I had just been talking about the ideal climbing grade, which we agreed was from 4 – 6% and there on the history placard was information that the curves were from 4 – 6% grade. Dave joined us and away the three of us went, with Bill as our photographer from above. It was not important to reveal who was the first to reach the crest on the climb back up as it was to recognize that this ride was going to be one of the best, if not the best, rides of the season.


Of course, on our way back through town, we stopped at KickStand once more and enjoyed their espresso and a fantastic strawberry shortcake that the owner whipped up.
jersey pockets are the right size for coffee and a map

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snow(dirt)shoe at Snoqualmie Pass

my arty shot for the day

When I signed up for the Mountaineers photography snowshoe trip at Snoqualmie Pass, it was with the understanding that the snow pack might be low. The ski area at the Pass was currently closed, if that was any indication. But the conditions the group found were a profound departure for normal snowpack or even what "low snowpack" implies.

We started from the Alpental ski area and set off across the ski area bridge over the creek, or more correctly identified as the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Though it has meager beginnings at Source Lake which is more like a pond, it becomes mighty lower down, eventually joining the Snoqualmie River downstream. Since this was a photo trip, our progress was not swift, especially at the start, where opportunities for capturing images of flowing water and snow were great. Further up the trail, we came to our first of many creek crossings and it appeared that these were new creeks, formed in the past week, by a storm that came through. A bunch of snow was dumped first, then the temperature warmed up and rain fell, totaling 8 inches (it is assumed the 8 inches include snow that melted). In any case, a lot of water was dumped on the area.
mass destruction where water convened

Making our way up the valley, it became clear as to what had happened: snow had melted and washed down the sides of the mountains and cliff faces, coursing beneath the snow, displacing snow and often the soil beneath. In one area, soil had been excavated from beside trees as the water had swirled in powerful form. It was fascinating to see the resulting destruction, but the travel was difficult, as we had to cross over creeks constantly, often using branches of a bush or rocks to cross on. In one area, the leader created a crossing by throwing in large rocks to decrease the depth of water. One participant was on backcountry skis and, although I identified with him in terms of standing out in the crowd, I also cringed at the thought of taking skis off to descend and ascend the bank on either side.

The photo opportunities were many – frost on trees and hoarfrost at the surface, creating images full of texture. While down on knees photographing the hoarfrost, I became engrossed in the miniature world, much like the sensation when snorkeling among colorful fish and other sea life; it took a minute to adjust to the world-at-large when I stood up. When we tired of the constant crossings, we made our way to the other side of the valley and up to the well-trodden Snow Lake Trail. Although the photo opportunities were fewer, it was a much needed break on the trip; the outing had been rated as Easy and so far there was very little about the trip that fit that description. Being on the trail was like a vacation, until that also came to an end.
doing his own thing... on skis

The leader decided to get off the trail and head down through the woods, a great idea, until we realized that meant we would have to cross the river as it was gaining steam. A couple of us "made like girls and did the sensible thing", backtracking up to the trail, finding more of photographic interest lower on the trail, including multiple waterfalls and fog in the valley.

Friday, November 14, 2014

So what is Coffeeneuring anyway?

I was recently made aware by a friend that I had neglected to explain the term, "coffeeneuring" fully. He assumed I had made it up and it was similar to canyoneering. While somebody did coin the term, I can't take the credit. It has origins in both Seattle and Washington, DC and ties into the sport of Randonneuring.

Randonneuring, a little-known sport in cycling. It comes from the French and is basically long-distance cycling (100 to 1,000K) with lots and lots of rules. The main rule is that there is a time limit, within which all of your activities must be contained: cycling, eating, sleeping, peeing, etc. The "Randos", as they are referred to, love pedaling their bicycles and ride during the day and through the night, sometimes sleeping in phone booths or in the back of 7-Elevens (true stories from a rando friend). I once participated in a rando event called the Wine Country Populaire. It could be described as Rando Lite, as the distance was very manageable (100K – 60 miles) and we slept in beds at the end of the day. I think the organizers were just hoping to gain a few more recruits to head down the slippery road of randonneuring; something about riding these long distances makes them very, very nice people. Almost too nice.

Back to the subject at hand... these rando people sometimes like to take it easy, if you can imagine that. They ride over hill and dale through the day and night, but then tootle down the street (still on their bikes, of course) to a coffee shop to perk themselves up. That is where Coffeeneuring was born – what randonneurs do when they're not out completing their bajillion-mile rides. Joe Platzner, a Seattle Randonneur, was quoted as saying, "A bunch of us have trained pretty hard for PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris). After PBP, I'm probably going to lobby RUSA for an official "Coffee Shop Run" medal. To earn it, you need to ride your bike slowly to a nearby coffee shop and enjoy a fine beverage." Shortly thereafter, a randonneur in DC coined the term "Coffeeneur".

Of course, Coffeeneuring has rules, too, though not nearly as stringent as the Rando version. Plus, there's a commemorative patch for all my hard work at the end, which is produced the the author of Chasing Mailboxes.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #7

who said anything about work?!
It looks as though this is a banner year for completing things. First nursing school and now the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Yay!

I rode one of my favorite in-city loops, starting down Roosevelt Way. The pavement cracks have been sealed recently and it's clear that all the cracks are in the bike lane (lame) which I avoided by taking the lane (totally doable when wearing a bike skirt). I turned down Roanoke Street to ride the bikeway along the lake, then connected to the bike route along Fairview and through the confusing bit where it crosses the South Lake Union Trolley (SLUT – seriously!) tracks, turning right to the South Lake Union Park (SLUP is not nearly as fun).

sunshine in November!

I found a seating area that provided some shelter from the north wind on this beautifully sunny but cool day. Several people passed by and I was ready to talk about "Coffee in the Parks" which is to say I was going to be messing with them, but no one gave me a second look. I guess brewing coffee is so commonplace, that doing it outside on a sunny day, in a park, by yourself, next to your bike is nothing special. There went my attempt at fame.

When I had poured my milk in and relaxed to drink it, two people walked by with Starbucks cups in hands. Oh Starbucks, you naughty bastards, talking about sustainability and fair trade on your website and then trying to prevent the pure-maple-syrup-state of Vermont from labeling GMOs. Want to know more? (of course you do), go here. Then here to sign a petition.
A re-located treasure

Back to my beautiful sunny day... I packed up and finished the loop with a little hillclimb where I was passed by a woman with snow boots on. I will take that as a sign, as we are expecting some chilly weather ahead this week. Perhaps I will go on to CC, Day #8 and warm up later in the week in a cafe. Stay tuned...

Also, stay tuned for another post about this Coffeeneuring business and how it came to be.

Distance from home: 5.2 miles
Coffee: Conduit's Rwanda Decaf

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #6

Stumptown at Chaco

Today (Friday) I broke with my coffeeneuring pattern and, instead of brewing my own in the great outdoors, I had someone make it for me, then I drank it at a park. That was not the original plan, but after spending a ridiculous amount of time driving this week, and a lot of it in traffic that, frankly, shouldn't even exist at the hours in which I was on the roads, I was feeling like I needed some TLC.
Total Love Coffee. Coffee baristas: show me the love in my cup, please! I am a road-weary traveler in need of some caffeine to set things right. I lack the energy it requires to pack up my brewing gear and create fire. Oh, won't you be so kind as to pull me a lovely shot or two of espresso and make it look pretty with some foam on top?

One of my favorite restaurants in Seattle is a place with organic and vegan food. Yes, that's right, this meat-eater loves vegan food. They make cheese from nuts, eggs from tofu and have the best cupcakes and pie anywhere, without the use of butter. I've been there for brunch, lunch, dinner, a Valentine's Day celebration and study groups; it comes close for return visits with Mr. Gyros (where I get my weekly Lamb Gyros). They also serve Stumptown Coffee, don't charge extra for non-dairy milk and their baristas are neither hippies, nor too hip to be friendly.

nothing average about Chaco

It was a beautiful day and I locked my bike up outside, noting that their outdoor seating was in the shade, a shame on a sunny day in November. After getting a hazelnut chocolate cookie in a bag and my latte in a to-go cup, I set the cup into a pocket of my Detours bike bag to drink it at a park. It seemed a little precarious, but I had no other choice, as I had not brought my personal cup. While several blocks of 12th Ave NE is baby-bottom smooth, plenty of it is not and so, when I arrived at the park along boat street, I had lost about 2oz of my coffee. Oh well, it was time to clean my bike bag anyway.

From the park on Boat Street, I could see the I–5 bridge and how slowly traffic was moving in the southbound direction and, for the first time for the week, seeing traffic was very satisfying.

Distance from home: 2 miles
Coffee: Stumptown Indonesia
Cost: $4.50

Monday, November 3, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #5

worth the braking!
Today, I fully realized the downside to putting off the start of my challenge – November is a month renowned for crappy weather. First, the rains begin, then the wind comes (and with it, down come the leaves), then the time goes back to Standard, making it that much more dark. I got a break in the rain, much like I did on Day #1, and set off toward Ravenna Boulevard, taking the path of most resistance. Yes, you read that right, most resistance, as in more gradual downhills so that I wouldn't have to brake too much on the wet roads. Braking on wet rims leads to less ability to stop effectively and I was going to be descending from Phinney Ridge down toward the Ravenna neighborhood and I wanted to be as safe as possible.

It ended up being a very nice route, as I cycled on the recently re-paved section of road that went south around Green Lake, then along Ravenna Blvd and to my destination near 20th Ave NE, at Seven Market & Cafe. I don't know how many times I have passed by this cafe/store which used to be called Boulevard Grocery. But this was the first time I was stopping in for something hot and creamy. This was not an uncommon sentiment heard at the cafe; it is the only commercial building among houses and on a section of downhill that does not lend itself to stopping. But stop, I did, and I locked my bike up right in front.

Almond Milk Latte
The barista welcomed me and when I ordered, asked if I wanted the standard of 3 shots in my latte. Whoa... 3 shots... I wouldn't have to pedal home! She brought my almond latte over to the table where I sat with my book. I looked around and saw some people with laptops and some with, like me, actual pen and paper. Like the grocery store we were in, with shelves stocked with all kinds of things that a nearby resident would want (snacks, chocolate, makings for a quick dinner, tea and coffee), the customers seemed to be throwbacks from an earlier era. I fit right in with my book.

Distance from home: 3 miles
Coffee: Seven Roasters
Cost: $4.27

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #4

gazebo below my perch

all the gear fit to brew
This morning, I helped kids at a local elementary school learn how to ride their bike safely and this afternoon, I rode out to another Seattle park for some coffee – making and scenery enjoying. While I was riding up the Arboretum's park drive, first I saw a patrol car and then a Seattle Parks maintenance vehicle coming the opposite way. It was then that I first had the thought that perhaps what I was about to do (brew coffee with a campstove) might be either illegal or frowned upon by officials. A sidebar might be titled, "Why is this park different from other Seattle Parks?" Well, the University of Washington owns the land here and it is maintained by Seattle Parks. So good thing they had just passed me going the other way, their patrol had apparently ended while my mischief was about to begin (am I a bad person if I admit that this thought gave me a rush of excitement?).

these rocks were made for my bike

I decided on a spot that was just off the drive, overlooking a gazebo with some really nice fall color surrounding it. For me, there was a park bench and for my bike, a duo of rocks that held my bike up as if that's what the intended purpose was, like nature's bike stand. My water boiled very quickly since this time it was water for only the coffee and I pressed the coffee soon after, adding the pre-steamed coconut milk. After putting away some of the possibly incriminating evidence, I sat with my hot cup of coffee and enjoyed my surroundings before heading off toward home.

ah, simplicity

coffee: Rwanda Korenge from Conduit
distance from home: 7 miles
cost: insignificant