Coffeeneuring 2021: C+1 in the time of COVID

Coffeeneuring season has become more special to me, especially during the pandemic. An event not subject to much external influence, it stands out amongst the cancelations and general uncertainty of 2021.

This year it was again a salve for the tension and monotony of our current lifestyle, and highlighted the fact that good things can go on during difficult times, if only we are determined to make it so.

Curbside enjoyment outside Swing’s Roastery in Alexandria, Va.

Looking back to 2020, the lack of indoor coffee shop relaxation didn’t seem all that harsh at the time — I found the curbside-outdoors-latte lifestyle invigorating. I still do!

But I enjoy the company of other riders at a coffee stop and I am drawn to the community vibe of my favorite haunts. I used to get the same feeing about certain rock music venues; today, not much, and that was before the pandemic.

Group rides, coffee shops and the independent bike shop have taken over that part of my interests.

Coffeeneuring 2021 started just as we appeared to have reached a relatively optimistic hybrid stage, making social interactions less fraught.

With vaccinations, we could spend some time indoors. We could hang out with our buddies, as long as we were careful. This fall had the feeling of trying to hop from one rock to the next across a rushing stream — we got off the shore, but it was going to take some time and care to get to the other side.

All that rigamarole aside, coffeeneuring again added that extra layer of personal meaning to fall rides. I did most of them with Mary which is always a good thing! I’m incredibly lucky to have my life partner as my steady riding partner too.

And there’s nothing like a coffee ride to complement the cooler temperatures and the changing leaf colors. Here in the East we were rewarded with vibrant reds and yellows just as the season got into full swing,

Though I documented my rides on Instagram, I’ve finally gotten some down time to look back at them.

I’m proud that I kept my annual attendance streak alive, though it would be lame to miss a year when Mary runs the entire challenge from our living room! And I don’t have to work hard at it, as we have great coffee shops within easy riding distance.

Coffeeneuring was different this year in that most shops I like to visit were open for inside dining, masks required. We were able to resume our fall trips to the Philly Bike Expo and Pittsburgh to see my daughter, which gave us coffeeneuring opportunities in those cities, which I personally love to include.

Lastly, the daylight was slightly different, given that Mary opened up the challenge later and ended it later. The final rides had the feel of tipping into winter compared to previous years when the quest had to be completed before Thanksgiving.

Without further ado, and with sincere gratitude to Mary for this gentle pursuit, here are my 2021 coffeeneuring results!

Ride No. 1: Oct. 23, Caffe Amouri, Vienna, Va. Distance: 41.3 miles. Bike: All-City Zig Zag.

Why not start at one of our regional destinations? Caffe Amouri is right off the W&OD paved trail and makes a great weekend morning destination in the fall. It gets a fair amount of cyclist traffic being about halfway between D.C. and Leesburg. They lean toward the suburban experience, offering all kinds of flavored drinks, but the espresso drinks are solid and they offer a traditional smallish cappuccino.

This day I went by myself as Mary had another thing going on.

2021 coffeeneuring essentials at Caffe Amouri: Latte, pastry and face mask

Ride No. 2: Oct. 24, Swings Roasters, Alexandria, Va. Distance: 32.6 miles. Bike: Green Apple Co-Motion steel tandem.

Mary and I took our steel 650b tandem, the Green Apple, for a local loop into Anacostia to climb up to Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm, then taking the Wilson Bridge to Alexandria for Swing’s and then home. I’ve ridden to Swing’s at least a couple times a week since the pandemic started, using it as a morning commute/workout before getting online at home. The direct route on the Virginia side is about an hour round-trip. We like going there via Oxon Hill when we want to stay close to home and still get in a couple hours on the bike. The coffee is always terrific.

Hanging out at Swing’s on a sunny fall day

Ride No. 3: Oct. 30, Gravel & Grind, Frederick, Md. Distance 117 miles. Bike: Green Apple Co-Motion steel tandem.

G&G finally reopened in a new space in Frederick after a couple years’ hiatus and this was a cause for celebration in our household. The distance is just right for one of our big round-trip rides. Tracey was very welcoming and the weather was perfect, rising into the 60s. As in the past, the coffee was top-notch (I had an espresso and a cappuccino) and the white bean spread on artisan bread was very satisfying.

Back at Gravel & Grind, at their well-appointed new location in Frederick, Md.

Ride No. 4: Nov. 6, Elixr Coffee, Philadelphia, Pa. Distance 2.2 miles. Bike: Velo Orange Campeur

We went on a minimalistic coffeeneuring ride to an old favorite, tony Elixr on Sydenman Street, before a day at the Philly Bike Expo. We rode into downtown the day before on the Schuylkill River Trail after leaving the car in Phoenixville. The coffee, gourmet pastries and chill vibe of Elixr are always welcome before a busy day at the Expo.

Feeling the relaxation at Elixr
Rambling through downtown Philadelphia on a quiet Saturday morning

Ride No. 5: Nov. 7, Volo Coffeehouse, Manayunk/Philadelphia, Pa. Distance 29.2 miles. Bike: Velo Orange Campeur

Volo is the traditional afternoon coffee and late lunch stop on our ride back to Phoenixville after the expo. The lunch menu is just great and the coffee drinks are always excellent. The outdoor seating is a nice bonus. I’d be here all the time if I lived in the area.

Post-Philly Bike Expo contemplation at Volo

Ride No. 6: Nov. 14, Vigilante Coffee, Hyattsville, Md. Distance 24.6 miles. Bike: Rivendell Bleriot

Vigilante is the destination on this local loop ride. We nip across the Potomac to get on the underrated Anacostia River Trail to Hyattsville and return through northeast D.C. via the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Vigilante is a top-tier area coffee shop and this location draws an eclectic mix of folks from the University of Maryland neighborhoods and a fair number of cyclists on the weekends. It also has a good outdoor seating area and solid food options.

Dressing for an outside coffee at Vigilante

Ride No. 7: Nov. 20, Redhawk Coffee, Pittsburgh, Pa. Distance 3.5 miles. Bike: Dahon Hon Solo

Our fall visit to see my daughter in Pittsburgh always includes Redhawk Coffee, a little gem tucked into the Pitt University strip area. There is a college vibe but with polish and charm. The espresso is subtle and the espresso drinks are made with care. We like to sit down here and we got in early enough before it filled with other patrons, so there as enough social distancing.

Homey and friendly Redhawk

Ride C+1: Nov. 28, the last day of the season. Happy Creek Coffee & Tea, The Plains, Va. Distance 54.5 miles. Bike: Co-Motion 650b aluminum gravel tandem.

I’m bending the rules to include this one because we were on the Bluemont Connection organized ThanksGravel ride, though it was free, so kinda like a friends ride? I appealed this one to The Sprit of Coffeeneuring review board and it was approved, thank heavens.

Happy Creek has become one of our go-to stops when we ride the gravel roads of Loudon and Fauquier counties in Virginia horse country.

For the longest time The Plains wasn’t worth a stop but since Happy Creek opened (in collaboration with Haymarket Bicycles) we always go in there. The coffee drinks are solid and they have pastries, waffles and soups. We can grab a tube or some other item from their small bike shop as well, which is nice to know. The BMC group was friendly as always and we had a nice outing.

Some gravel hills before our stop at Happy Creek. Photo courtesy MG

Wrap-up

Coffeeneuring this year marked a return to my regular shops, which says a lot about how attached I’ve become to the concept of coffeeneuring and the places and fall events it represents to me.

2021 was a difficult time, but there were glimmers of hope ahead. Coffeeneuring was one of them! I’ll be back next year, and thanks for reading.

Ricky A. and me at Happy Creek. Here’s to a great 2021 coffeeneuring season! Photo courtesy MG

2 thoughts on “Coffeeneuring 2021: C+1 in the time of COVID

  1. Thank you for sharing, I always enjoy your photos and memories. Since I am almost never on IG, this was a wonderful recap. Happy 2022 to you and Mary!

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