Coffeeneuring 2018: Some New, All Good

December has arrived and that means the time has come to reflect on another satisfying coffeeneuring season, which wrapped up last weekend.

Coffeeneuring, the best

Mary puts in a lot of time on the Coffeeneuring Challenge, her labor of love, keeping up with all the riders around the world and their quests for fine beverages.

If you haven’t heard of the challenge, read more here.

I have the easy part – I just make sure I keep up my streak as one of the coffeeneurs who have completed the challenge every year since the inaugural in 2011. Plus, I want the commemorative patch.

This year my outings featured mostly familiar places where we live and ride: around Washington, D.C., and our annual weekend trip to the Philly Bike Expo. We ride to the expo via the Schuylkill River Trail after leaving the car in Phoenixville, Pa. and always stop in quaint Manayunk for hot beverages before the final few miles into downtown Philadelphia.

In a change for me, I fit in a late-season ride from my home town in southeastern Illinois that featured gas station coffee (gasp!) 20 miles away. If the Casey’s General Store chain rings a bell, read on.

Also! I stuck to my personal theme as in past years: Classic Coffeeneuring. The challenge started with qualifying rides only on weekends, which has since been relaxed to two per seven days. I have kept up the weekend aspect in homage to coffeeneuring in its infancy and not mixing it up with my daily bike commute.

Here are my rides this year:

  • Chinatown Coffee, Washington
    Date: Sunday Oct. 14.
    Miles: 10.3
    Drink: Soy Cappuccino
    Company: Mary
    Bike: Dahon Hon Solo small wheel folder
    Bike Parking: none, but they don’t mind if you bring the bike inside.

Chinatown Coffee in Washington near the Verizon Center is an oasis of laidback chill on the weekends, compared to its bustling neighbor, A Baked Joint, which has an expansive food menu. When Mary and I want to get out on the bike for a short weekend spin or walk, we often end up at Chinatown. The drinks and pastries are always good.

Cozy confines of Chinatown Coffee and a Washington Post article on ‘bents

  • Peregrine Espresso, Union Market, Washington
    Date: Sunday Oct. 21
    Miles: 8.1 (Part 1 and Part 2)
    Drink: Soy Cappuccino
    Company: Mary
    Bike: Rivendell Atlantis
    Bike Parking: Plentiful.

We drove back this day from visiting my daughter in Pittsburgh, where she is an undergraduate at Pitt. An early start got us home in time to jump on the bikes and get from fresh air after being cooped up in the car all day. We also wanted to make the most of the last few days of daylight savings time.

Peregrine Espresso is one of the stalwarts of the independent coffee scene in D.C., and this location in Union Market serves a quality drink. There is a lot to see and eat at Union Market, nestled in the warehouse district northeast of Capitol Hill. We managed to get a table and sit for a few minutes.

There are bike parking racks outside the market though we locked the bikes together where we could see them.

A late afternoon ride past Nationals Park

Outside Union Market by the Fall Decorations

  • Volo Coffeehouse, Manayunk (Philadelphia)
    Date: Sunday Oct. 28
    Miles: 28.9
    Drink: Soy Cappuccino
    Company: Mary
    Bike: Rivendell Atlantis
    Bike Parking: No racks, but locking options in view.

We’ve been including Volo Coffeehouse as a coffeeneuring stop during our trip to the ever-expanding Philly Bike Expo, as it is a natural refueling point about 20 miles from our car on the way into downtown Philadelphia, and again on the way out of town on Sundays. It’s also a hit with the sport bike crowd riding to and from the city on the Schuylkill River Trail, which we use after leaving the car in Phoenixville, Pa.

The espresso drinks are quite good, and they have good sandwiches and other food options. Volo has kept up the quality over the years and has a mellow vibe.

Volo makes me happy
Hot cider for Mary, also happy!
Outside Volo, where we can see them

  • Watershed Cafe, Poolesville, Md.
    Date: Saturday Nov. 3
    Miles: 91.8
    Drink: Soy Cappuccino
    Company: Mary
    Bike: Co-Motion Aluminum 650b tandem
    Bike Parking: Bike rack outside the front door.

This sunny and relatively warm day prompted us to get out for a long ride on our newest tandem, a 650b-wheeled aluminum tandem from Co-Motion. We met up with riding pals Bill and Peter in Glen Echo and rode with them until they broke off to loop back home.

From there we rode the Leesburg Loop – D.C. to Poolesville, then across the Potomac River via White’s Ferry, returning via the W&OD Trail from Leesburg.

Watershed Cafe is recent and very welcome addition to Poolesville. It was opened last year by a local former farmer-turned chef. They have a good menu, based on locally-produced ingredients, and make quite good espresso drinks. It has become another stop for the bike crowd coming from D.C. and the northern suburbs.

Terrific coffee and sandwiches in Poolesville, and some other local riders
  • Grace Street Coffee, Georgetown, Washington
    Date: Sunday Nov. 4
    Miles: 8.4
    Drink: Soy Cappuccino
    Company: Mary
    Bike: Rivendell Atlantis
    Bike Parking: None

Grace Street Coffee was a new one for me. It is on a side street in Georgetown a few doors down from the Rapha store and from the street the place looks tiny. But like the TARDIS, entering reveals the place is much bigger on the inside.

We met up at the completion of Mary’s morning run; I brought her helmet so that she could ride home via Capital Bikeshare. The coffee was terrific but the atmosphere was busy – I was glad to get back out in the fresh air. I’d go back at a quieter time.

Mary rode her feet to meet me
Big interior 

Mary got lucky and snagged one of the Plus e-assist bikes CABI has introduced. I struggled to keep up with her when the electric drive kicked in! I took it for a spin near our home before we docked and it was a lot of fun, as long as you kept a hand on the brakes.

Vroom Vroom!
  • Baked and Wired, Georgetown, Washington
    Date: Sunday Nov. 17
    Miles: 72.5
    Drink: Soy Cappuccino
    Company: Mary
    Bike: Co-Motion Aluminum 650b tandem
    Bike Parking: None

Mary and I led one of our informal group outings, the French Toast Ride, where we go to Poolesville for a full breakfast at Bassett’s Restaurant. They do a fine job and we got five takers this time.

Breakfast time at Bassett’s

The day was cold but sunny and we had a fine time. The group split up on the way home and we ended up going to our Georgetown mainstay, Baked and Wired bakery cafe.

Their coffee drinks are fine, indeed, if the service is a little cool, no doubt due to the amazing number of people who crowd in on the weekends for the cupcakes. I imagine they are more focused on keeping up the flow. Still, we’ve never had a bad coffee there.

Mary goes for the Mexican hot chocolate, lots of zing
  • Casey’s General Store, Eldorado, Illinois.
    Date: Saturday Nov. 24
    Miles: 45.1
    Drink: Coffee/Hot Chocolate blend
    Company: Solo
    Bike: Rawland dSogn
    Bike Parking: Ha! The wall outside.

I went home for a few days after Thanksgiving to see my family in southeastern Illinois. My home town of Shawneetown, near the Ohio River and the Shawnee National Forest, is in a coffee desert. Unless you count McDonald’s 20 miles away, the nearest coffee shop is a Starbucks at a Target store 40 miles away.

On the road to Casey’s

So you take what you can get in this part of the world. I joked to Mary before I left that I was going to coffeeneur to the Casey’s in Eldorado as a nod to her roots in Iowa, where the chain’s stores are prevalent. I picked it as a turnaround for a ride mostly on gravel roads on my Rawland Cycles dSogn, a steel 650b-wheel mixed surface bike I built up a few years ago.

The weather was windy but warm, peaking in the low 60s. It was fun to see my hometown region from the bike, when I wasn’t fighting headwinds and grinding through fresh gravel.

No other cyclists here today. Maybe ever.

Once at Casey’s (which was just past a much nicer-looking Huck’s), I used my convenience store coffee approach that has worked well on our tours and randonneur rides:

  1. Pour a sample of each of the “coffee” offerings and choose the one with the least-terrible burnt smell.
  2. Fill the cup halfway with “coffee” and top off with “hot chocolate” drink.

It was palatable and I didn’t throw up, so, success. I combined this with a lunch consisting of the largest egg salad croissant sandwich I have ever seen. It looked like an egg-stuffed bear claw. There were no worries about bonking on the way home. 

Late day on a paved section of New Market Road south of Ridgway, Ill.

Final Thoughts

Lately I’ve been contemplating the things that motivate me to ride and explore the world by bike. Coffeeneuring is certainly among them. Why else would I ride to a Casey’s? Ha!

More seriously, this year I savored coffeeneuring more than ever. After all the big training and randonneur rides were done, the idea of just riding and stopping for coffee with Mary was just what I needed to keep the magic of cycling going strong.

Thanks Mary, as always, and congratulations to all the coffeeneurs around the world. I’m already looking forward to 2019!

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