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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #3

Neither I nor Laura can quite remember how we first met. It was either that we were cycling together on Mondays and then she showed up in my yoga class, or a gal from my yoga class appeared on the Monday night rides. Regardless, we have stayed friends mostly from sporadically seeing each other around the city, in a yoga class or, mainly, on Facebook. When she saw last week's post about coffee en plein air at Discovery Park, she asked if I'd like to join her in a collective coffeeneuring circle of cycling joy (or something like that).

We met up at Voxx Cafe on Eastlake Ave, she on her folding Brompton which she kept neatly (and easily, I might add) folded up beside us and me on my Surly, locked to a nearby rack. I had one of the cafe's seasonal specials – Cardamom Vanilla Latte and a ginger cookie (I guess I was in a spicy mood). They were both delicious, with not too much spice in either item.

Amid our conversation, a black lab interjected his snout, looking for cookie or at least cookie crumbs. It wasn't until his person disappeared inside and he began to bark that the crumbs made an appearance within the confines of his leash length. We returned plates that were licked clean.

After coffee and conversation, we two gals with longtime cycling connections made our way down to the obscurely–named Cheshiahud Trail which encircles Lake Union. We rode the soon-to-be-a-cycle-track area of the parking lot on Westlake Ave, then across the Fremont Bridge, at the north end of which we parted. I am sure our paths will cross again soon.

coffee: Lighthouse
cost: $7.88 for latte and cookie, plus tip
distance from home: 5 miles

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coffeneuring Challenge, Day #2

Today's coffeeneuring experience was a little bit different. While it's nice to visit coffee shops in different neighborhoods, I was also craving a little adventure. So I loaded up my bike with two panniers that contained my Pocket Rocket stove and fuel, my Aeropress coffee press (best cost/quality ratio), pre-ground Conduit coffee (El Salvador's El Bobollon that had been delivered to me via bicycle), some pre-steamed coconut milk, as well as some dried quinoa mushroom risotto left over from backpacking so that I could prepare and eat lunch, too.

the rear seat is for kid #1, front is for the babe

Just as I was getting my panniers stuffed with all my gear, my friend Elias posted on FB that he was out on his baby tandem (see photo) at a park north of Ballard and contemplating where to go next. I commented that I would be in Discovery park within the hour and could share my coffee with him (and his baby). One component that was particularly refreshing, other than the fact that I was going to brew coffee en plein air, was that it was going to be a low-tech outing. My phone is a flip phone and, while texting is possible, it is not convenient; I also have an iphone, but it has no service connection and is used solely with wi-fi, meaning that I wouldn't be able to contact Elias on exactly when and where I was or would be once I had left my house.

I rode down Fremont Ave, crossed the bridge and took the Ship Canal Trail through Fisherman's Terminal and out to Magnolia and up to Discovery Park. It probably took me longer than I thought it would, as riding with a couple of panniers uphill for a while is a slow-moving affair, but once I got up to the Officer's Quarters by the parade grounds, I spotted a tall guy on a long bike with a baby. We set up at the flagpole, an area that had steps, was dry and had a fantastic view out to the Olympic Mountains that were a treat to see on a cloudy day. After the water boiled, I first poured some into the baby bottle so Elias could make goat milk for Luca, then some for my risotto and, finally, when the water had cooled to an appropriate temperature, into the aeropress for some brewing.
the mighty Aeropress, brilliant in its simplicity

The coffee was delicious, though strong on its own so I added the coconut milk which was a fantastic complement. I have no idea why more coffee shops don't offer it as a dairy alternative (the two I know of are Chaco Canyon and Flying Apron – feel free to comment if you know of others). The risotto was a little, uh, old, but still plenty edible and provided me with some calories and warmth on this cool day. I also brought a cookie I had purchased from PCC – Chocolate Chick (as in chickpea). It was interesting. Then, I got my turn holding Luca, who probably kept me warm more than the other way around, due to his baby fat. He's cute, too, another fantastic Elias–Hitomi production and babies are so sweet with innocence and goodness. When he began to squirm, it was back to dad who bundled him up in the bike (car) seat for their journey home.
coffee: Conduit's El Salvador, El Bobollon
cost: insignificant
distance from home: 5 miles