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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

July Flower Extravaganza, Mt Rainier Nat'l Park

Flowers at Paradise, or should I say IN Paradise! I took a day off from work to explore the panoramas at Rainier that were bursting with color, starting at the Reflection Lake trail and connecting to the Skyline Trail.

This is an area I snowshoe, especially on New Year's Day. At that time of year, it is covered with white and lacks contrast. But on this trip, it is an area where the dry of the moraines collide with the wet of the creek and the flowers.

The above was taken while crossing the shallow creek, just above Sluiskin Falls. I found a nice rock from which to perch and I filtered water, soaked my feet and took photos. It is so lush with moss and flowers, with a great view of the Mountain, I didn't want to leave.

There was lingering snow on the trail to Panorama Point, so I opted for the higher trail. I never expected to find tiny, colorful flowers growing so high (7,000') in a rocky field. This is where I talked to the first of two volunteer rangers and I made a note to self: volunteer at the Park after nursing.

While the Tatoosh Range was hazy, the foreground flowers made up for it. Color, color everywhere!

I call this the "Mountain at Work" photo because this is really the heart of Mt Rainier. The glacier advances and builds up moraines, moving rocks and boulders as it goes.

This is Myrtle Creek Falls and I was the billionth and one person to photograph it. I have a refrigerator magnet with this image painted, only with mountain goats added to the cliff on the left and in the meadow. I was just lucky that the other billion people were not standing on the bridge above the falls at the time.

Mountain Lupine is everywhere on the mountain, but these are my favorite colors. I also love the leaf pattern. This was one of the last photos I took and had to return to the trailhead to leave this beautiful area and get back to my real life.

What a fantastic day!

Chain & Doelle Lakes Backpack, July 24 – 26

PCT trailhead at Stevens Pass

The very next weekend after suffering in summer's intense sun, I was back on the trail with a full pack on my back, heading south on the PCT from Stevens Pass. The weekend's forecast had made a drastic change: cool with temps in the 50s and rain. Rain?! I had mixed feelings; I was grateful for the cool temps to hike in, but I didn't want to get cold, especially when swimming in the alpine lakes we were headed to.
the last of the sunshine for the weekend

Angling up on the PCT that traverses the Stevens Pass Ski Area, we said goodbye to the last traces of sunshine and headed into cloud cover. At Lake Susan Jane, a lake I hadn't noticed on previous trips, I decided to go for a swim as we stopped for a lunch break. The water was relatively warm and I didn't feel cool as I exited and dried off with my minimalist towel. My fellow backpackers thought I was nuts, but that is the life of an Alpine Lakes Wilderness swimmer.

We passed Lake Josephine (swam in it in the past) and took the Icicle Creek Trail. So now I know that the headwaters of Icicle Creek are Josephine Lake – I love making this kind of connection in the geography. After some climbing and descending, we came to a small camp area beside the trail, the only one we had seen, and wondered how the seven of us, in our seven tents, were going to squeeze in. I offered to share my tent with a friend on the trip, but true to Mountaineers form, she chose to go single and we all managed to find suitable, if not creative, spaces for tents (including one hammock which definitely had the advantage in this scenario).
stopped for a swim

During the night it rained and not a "light shower" that had been predicted, but long and hard and soaking. I stayed dry but was a bit leery about the day's trip up to Chain & Doelle Lakes. We started up the trail and it was a bit grueling: switchbacks followed by straight up sections, a couple of level spots and repeat. It reminded me of the trail to Spade Lake which climbs up from Lake Waptus. Even knowing I would never hike that trail again, I couldn't bring myself to get into the water. My quest to swim in every lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that a trail goes to was going to have at least one blank spot.
Lower Chain Lake after cloud lifted

We made it to the lower of the Chain Lakes and I wasted no time to get into the water as my fellow hikers practiced patience, standing by in their rain jackets and gloves, keeping warm. When I emerged from the water, I got the post-swim rush that I used to get when swimming in Lake Washington in October; it must have something to do with the cold. My head was pleasantly dizzy and light and I had a feeling of euphoria. Or maybe that is my body's way of blocking out the pain. I was standing on a wet surface and realized I wouldn't be able to get my feet clean or dry before putting my boots back on. After everyone got their photos of the lake and fog and the maiden who dared swim in it, we headed for the upper lakes and to the trail to Doelle.
Icicle Creek Trail

I had most of my layers on at this point, including my hat and gloves and so when I felt the wind blowing through me and thought about the danger of hypothermia, especially after submerging into a lake at 6500', I bowed out of the final climb. Instead, I stayed at the lake and ate my lunch (which was woefully small), changed to dry socks (though my boots were already soaked) and hiked all the side trails I could find to stay warm. One member of the group, another swimmer, came back early to tell me that all I missed was more wind and cold and a peek-a-boo view of a lake a couple of hundred feet below. We started descending toward camp together until the clouds lifted a bit and he went in for a swim. That evening found a couple of us doing hill repeats on a beautiful, moss-covered section of the Icicle Creek Trail in order to warm up before getting into our sleeping bags. What a contrast from last weekend!
on the Crest Trail ski run

The next day on the hike out, we were doing the rain jacket on/rain jacket off song-and-dance as we ascended, then descended a couple of times to the trailhead. The drive home was through a deluge and we all felt better knowing we had not missed much in the way of sunshine. And one of us had crossed off another lake or two on our list.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not Very Wild, July 18 & 19

north on the Katwalk
 Ever since the book, and subsequent movie, Wild came out, a lot of attention has been paid to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that runs from Mexico to Canada. Attention from trail runners, dayhikers and long distance backpackers, aka thru-hikers, who want to hike part or all of the trail made famous by the book about a woman getting her life back together.

From this past weekend's backpack trip to Ridge and Gravel Lakes about 7 miles north of Snoqualmie Pass on the PCT, it appears that the trail may knock Snow Lake's trail off of its number one perch as most-hiked trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (hmm, that word looks like "Wild Mess"). Our group of nine hikers arrived at the trailhead parking lot at 8:15AM to find a packed lot of cars with all manner of hikers preparing for the trail. As we made our way up the trail, there were people already coming down from the area known as the Katwalk, a section blasted out of the cliffs to provide a trail on a ledge.
Ridge Lake, home for the night

It was a hot day and we would have liked to linger in the shade a little more, but the leader pushed us to get to the lakes so that there would still be a place for us to camp. Since it was an overnight trip and we were all near-strangers to one another, everyone preferred to be in their own tent, making camp availability a little trickier (we needed to find 9 spots). We pushed on through the lunch hour and arrived at Ridge and Gravel Lakes and found a meadow area at Ridge to spread out and camp. My first desire was to get under water, but the lake was so full of kids, people and a few dogs that it resembled a city park. Instead, I filtered water, set up camp and set out with the group a little later to hike further along the trail.
Alaska Lake below – no need to dive, swam it already

Chikamin Peak and Joe Lake
Gold Creek Valley, the spot for solitude

The views from this area of the trail just got better and better, from Mt Rainier and Mt Adams, to Alaska Lake below and the Gold Creek Valley stretching out before us, reaching to Kachess Lake. Alternatively, Gold Creek is a nearly desolate stretch of trail, where bears and other wildlife are almost guaranteed to be sighted. I made the hike via Gold Creek to Alaska Lake last summer and we saw only one other party. At our turn-around point on the PCT, about 2 miles further from camp, we rounded Alaska Mountain and could see Joe Lake down below and peaks to the east. In the heat, it was tempting to think about going down to Joe, but the thought of the rough trail and climb out kept me sitting on my hot, smooth rock in the shade. 

When we arrived back at our camp, the lake was quiet and I went for an early evening swim before dinner. Perfect! It was a relatively warm evening and we had a meadow to ourselves which led to some stretching and yoga. Soon, pigeons (a great glute stretch), dogs (hamstring, calves, shoulders) and even a few crows (ab strengthener, balancing and just plain fun) started to show up. The soft ground was very forgiving, a welcome contrast to the typical hard, dusty ground found in most camp areas. In retrospect, we probably should not have been camping in a meadow area, as it is more fragile.
south on the Katwalk

After a relatively quiet night (we heard nearby thru-hikers packing up at dawn), we woke and had breakfast. I started to pack up for our beat-the-heat early departure of 9am, then took a break to get into the lake one more time. The water was still, the area was quiet and the experience was perfect, sublime even. Pushing the water with my hands and feet, it was like being the very first animal to ever ply the water. The sun was up, but not yet searing and the morning was mine to savor.  This was my Wild. Soon enough, we would be on the trail, seeing many hikers coming up the trail, trading places with them from the day before.

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 bike 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