I consider the annual Coffeeneuring Challenge the best time of the year for cyclists who love coffee, tea or just taking a relaxing break during a ride. It’s a wonderful segue into the fall after a long year of happy riding.
By now Mary and I have enjoyed/completed in 2017:
- the winter mileage buildup (and the Freezing Saddles challenge) and an early season marathon for Mary;
- the DC Randonneurs spring fleche and brevets;
- an unsupported two-week July tandem tour in the Rockies;
- late summer long rides for both of us and fall marathons for Mary.
These days we continue to ride, but we also like a long stop more than usual. What better way to enjoy the fall weather than a ride and a nice destintion for hot beverages?
If you’ve stumbled onto this blog and are unaware of the growing attention to Coffeeneuring, read all about it here at Mary’s much better blog (compared to this one) Chasing Mailboxes. It was launched seven years ago and attracts a global following.
She encourages theme-within-a-theme approaches, so I am adopting two:
- One will be Classic Coffeeneuring, with my qualifying outings only on the weekends.
- The other will be Friends and Family. No solo rides, you have been warned, pals and relatives. The success of my plan depends on you!
I kicked off the challenge this year on Saturday by joining Mary (best friend/spouse) on tandem with our pal Jerry S. (riding friend/actual friend) for a 115-mile loop from Marshall, Va. to Luray and back via Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley. It was a shortened version of the 200K route “We Can See Clearly Now” that includes two gaps — Edith and Thornton — the latter going over iconic Skyline Drive. You can see the full route here and our version here.
The day started out foggy and cool, but by mid-morning bright sun broke out and the temperatures rose into the mid-70s with light winds. The roads had relatively little traffic except around Front Royal and coming down Rt. 211 after Thornton Gap.
Our Coffeeneuring stop was at Gathering Grounds restaurant and espresso bar in Luray. I had a pretty decent cappuccino with soy milk. Jerry coffeeneured with a standard cappuccino, and Mary had a Coke (so no real coffeeneuring for her). We also had sandwiches and the three us shared two slices of apple pie.
Mary asks that we rate our stops on bike-friendliness. GG has no formal bike parking out front, though they do have a lovely Mercian hanging from the ceiling inside. There’s no real attempt to cater to cyclists, but that’s normal in these small Virginia towns.
Jerry leaned his sturdy Independent Fabrication sport-tourer along the front window and we parked the Spectrum around the side of the building. Not totally safe, but Luray isn’t very sketchy. Next time I’ll figure out how to lock.
The ride back to Marshall was just about perfect, though we started slowly with all the food to digest. After the climb over Thornton Gap the route takes the sublime Gid Brown Hollow and Harris Hollow roads, with some gravel, through quiet hills and forest to “little” Washington, Va.
Fodderstack Road to Flint Hill was bathed in late day golden sunshine. We stayed on Crest Hill Road from there all the way back to Marshall, cutting off four miles from the route, which normally goes over to the Orlean Store and then comes back to Crest Hill.
We wrapped up with almost an hour of daylight left. The early sunsets are a thing this time of year, even before we set the clocks back.
I feel like we kicked off coffeenering the proper way, on a warm October day that will contrast nicely with the final weekend in November when sunset comes early the temperatures are likely to be a fair bit colder.
Until Ride No. 2, happy coffeeneuring!