2017 Fleche: Team Once in a Blue Moon

It’s been a week since our six-person, five-bike team Once in a Blue Moon rode 226 miles in 24 hours on April 22-23 as part of the D.C. Randonneurs 2017 fleche, and I’m just now getting my head clear to post our story, so forgive the tardiness. It’s worth it to get a story that isn’t clouded by sleep deprivation, I hope.

In case you are unaware of the fleche, it’s the main team randonneur event of the year. Teams of up to five riders or bikes (tandems count as one bike, yay!) make up their own route that covers at least 360 kilometers (223.6 miles), with 24 hours to finish and no stops of longer than two hours, so you can’t race and finish way early.

Interested? Perplexed? Shocked, even? Typical for randonneuring, there are a bunch of rules, see them here. In sum, it’s a long ride with time limits, just like other randonneur rides, but you get to make up your own route and have to finish together.

I tried to get this post out earlier in the week but needed time to process the whole event and catch up on my sleep.  I always think I’m back to normal from the fleche after just one or two night’s sleep, but it always takes longer.

The Fleche: What the Heck is That?

We like the fleche but mostly during the ride and after. In advance the concept is daunting.

The fleche is run on or near the Easter weekend so spring weather is a given. Riders have to bring night/cold/wet weather gear, and of course learn how to stay awake in the wee hours. They also have to get to a remote start, if a point-to-point route is chosen to the designated finish at the Key Bridget Marriott in Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington.

This year our team had two randonneur newbies which added another bit of extra uncertainty – though they did fine! More below.  A team must have at least three bikes finish together for an official result, but the goal is always to complete the ride with nobody dropped, and optimally riding as a group the entire way.

Sunny skies in Cumberland for our arrival

 

Lastly, there is always the threat of bad weather. It’s rare that there is no rain somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic on a fleche weekend, and usually some winds. Every team (this year there were seven that attempted the DC Randonneurs event, five were successful) throws the dice in deciding their general direction regarding the weather. Last year half of 10 teams abandoned because of a massive cold front from the northwest with gusty winds.

This year we started in Cumberland, Md., at the northern end of the C&O Canal Towpath where it meets Great Allegheny Passage Trail that links Washington with Pittsburgh. Mary and I drove out Friday morning in a rental minivan with the Spectrum tandem, which isn’t allowed on the train because it’s too long – the tandem, that is!

It fits!

Clean, for the moment

 

Cumberland has an Enterprise franchise that accepted a one-way rental, and a staffer drove us back to the hotel, which was nice.

Our Team

Team OIABM was drawn together by our English pal and captain Jerry Seager, who loves to provide cue sheets in proper European kilometers instead of miles, finds restaurants for meals, and looks for mountains and dirt roads to liven up the proceedings. For the second year in a row Jerry had us start from a town on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited line, which has bike service, so that our team could ride a point-to-point route without arranging a shuttle.

 

Bilal and Natasha in Cumberland

 

We and Jerry were the holdovers from our team last year. Rando stalwart Eric Pilsk joined us this year along with newcomers Natasha Calderwood and her partner Bilal Zia, who Jerry recruited. They are very active cyclists in the DC racing/cyclocross scene but not randonneurs, so they were green to the brevet cards and middle-of-the-night riding thing.

The makeup of the team brought its own stresses, because it would be our first ride together, but also made it interesting to see if we could come together on the road.

Eric and Jerry at our first stop in Corriganville, five miles into the ride

 

To meet the minimum mileage, Jerry devised a question mark-style route that initially sent us in the opposite direction from Washington, which was kind of strange, but hey this is randonneuring so just follow the route, OK? Joking aside, devising a fleche route is not easy, and we’re indebted to Jerry for doing the work.

See our GPS track and data at RidewithGPS and see Jerry’s route at Ridewithgps.

Basically, we took the GAP Trail towards Pittsburgh over the Eastern Continental Divide and then left the trail in Meyersdale for some gruesomely hilly & gravelly/scenic riding to Bedford for lunch. From there we turned south through the steep but lovely Laurel Highlands, landing in the early evening in Hancock, Md.

Pointing our wheels to the southeast, the remaining highlights were:

  • rolling back roads to Shepherdstown, W. Va., (for a planned dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe, hence our team name);
  • a few flat and muddy miles on the C&O Canal Towpath to a Potomac River crossing at Brunswick, Md;
  • more back roads to Leesburg in Virginia;
  • the finish in Arlington via the paved W&OD and Custis paved trails.

Friday Arrival in Cumberland

The forecast for the weekend was ominous, and that left us with some dread on Friday, with cold rain forecast for most of Saturday and all of Saturday night. Our hopes were pinned on the chance that the rain would somehow miss us.

Mary and I got into Cumberland under sunny skies and light breezes, an ironic touch. I forgot my knee warmers at home but we found some nice Endura ones at the friendly nearby Cumberland Trail Connection bike shop, right by our Fairfield Inn hotel.

We had just one gear scare. I brought my Sidi road shoes by mistake instead of my mountain shoes. They are set up with Shimano SPD road cleats so we tried them out on the tandem and they worked fine with our dual-sided SPD pedals. Using only SPD pedals on our bikes paid off this time.

Saturday: Rain at the Start

We met at 7 a.m. for handshakes and photos under heavy cloud cover in Cumberland and sped off to the early control points that were needed to verify our route. We had our rain gear handy and it would come out in short order.

Our humble start point

Eric in Cumberland

Steep hill into Frostburg

Us, in Frostburg, mostly dry

Bilal and Natasha in Frostburg

 

Light rain started after Frostburg where we picked up the GAP Trail. By the time we were over the Continental Divide there was steady cold rain, and we were shivering. At the Sheetz store in Meyersdale we put on all of our cold weather gear and rode off in drizzle that seemed to be getting less intense. Before long the rain stopped completely, which was great news.

Natasha and Jerry on the GAP Trail. Courtesy Mary G.

The Continental Divide on the GAP Trail

Bagging that turkey on the GAP Trail

 

Best of all, the rain did not catch us again on the entire ride, as we stayed behind the cold front moving toward the southeast. It was chilly, especially on the downhills, and cloudy, but that was so much better than rain.

Dirt Climbing with Eric and Jerry

 

We still had a lot of ups and downs to conquer in the first century. Jerry has a knack for finding steep dirt lanes and on this day he did not disappoint. We took on a few including Schoolhouse Road on the way to lunch in Bedford, and the appropriately-named Hill Road that took us over McKee’s Gap into Hancock. We added these to our annual list of fleche grievances.

(Tech note: we enjoyed good traction with our new tire choice, the 700×32 Panaracer Gypsyking Gravelking file tread model. We’ve been using Panaracer Pasela PT 700×32 for years).

Crazy steep Schoolhouse Road

 

Jerry is also good at finding better lunch spots. This time we enjoyed the farm-to-table restraurant Horn O Plenty in Manns Choice, where Mary and I each had a Monte Cristo sandwich – a ham-and-cheese on French toast – which must have had 1,000 calories, and we didn’t leave any behind. The staff was really great too about getting us our food fast. Eric shot past the place (it was easy to miss), but he returned with five bonus miles and they got him fed in fast order.

Big Lunch at Horn O Plenty

 

The many hills in the area offered fantastic views but they came with a downside for a fleche team with a tandem included – we became well strung out.  The fast downhill speed of the tandem (48+ m.p.h. on one hill) pulled us away from the group and we rode a number of the miles by ourselves, with Eric coming up from time to time on the ascents before we’d fly off again. Jerry,

Natasha and Bilal were out of sight behind us somewhere, which made us worry, but we figured there would be a regrouping in Hancock. Temperatures remained in the 50s, not ideal but warm enough.

Up in the Hills courtesy. Mary G

 

We arrived at Hancock way behind schedule, at about 6 p.m., or 11 hours for the first 115 miles, and the rest of the group was some minutes back. We were barely making minimum overall speed for an official finish. Not good!

Dinner was not happening at the Blue Moon in Shepherdstown – the restaurant would be closed at 9 long before we got there, and Natasha’s stomach was acting up, keeping her from getting nutrition and slowing her progress.

There was some consternation at this point about our team prospects. We decided to split up, with Bilal and Natasha taking some extra time to see if she could recover. It was sad but we had to move on if there was to be any chance of making an official finish.

The Reunion and the Magic

Along the way to Shepherdstown, riding by ourselves, we got off course for a couple of miles. After returning we noticed bike lights ahead and eventually caught up to Natasha and Bilal, who had gotten past us. Natasha was so surprised to see us that she initially thought we were some other tandem couple riding around in the dark!

Meanwhile, Jerry and Eric found a pizza place in a shopping center near Hainsville and we had a happy gathering. Natasha’s appetite returned, we got plenty to eat, and set out in good spririts. The gentle terrain kept the group together and the miles flew by.

There was conversation. There was laughter. We stuck together and got into Sheperdstown late but happy.

Racing to the Finish

The night ride was foggy and damp but mostly uneventful, except for a chance meeting with the Severna Park-based Four Guys and Another Guy team at Harpers Ferry. Our group stopped under the pedestrian bridge across the Potomac River after midnight, only to hear people clomping down the spiral staircase above. Another happy meetup!

After some pleasantries they sped off east while we took the C&O south, splashing through the puddles, toward our next control at Knoxville outside of Brunswick, Md.

Eric in Knoxville

 

Our final goals were a 7-11 control in Leesburg, and then our last control at Amphora diner in Herndon, which we had to reach by 5 a.m. We knew it was going to be close. After getting confused in an apartment complex trying to get on the W&OD again in Leesburg that required a bit of bushwhacking, we rode hard to get to Amphora, and made it with about 10 minutes to spare.

After a 20-minute rest we trundled out toward Arlington, and a randonneur team time trial formed. We arrived with seconds to spare at 6:59 a.m.! It was a joyous moment after a long and at times tough ride.

Team portrait at the finish. Courtesy Mike Wali.

 

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of talk in cycling these days about epic adventure rides, particularly on gravel. The fleche, at least when Jerry is making up the route, is a great way to experience the long miles, night skies and remote roads right here in the Mid-Atlantic. This year’s edition was particularly challenging and an official result wasn’t always a sure thing. Our team pulled together in the dead of night and made it happen, and for that I’m proud of them and us.

It was a pleasure to ride with Natasha and Bilal, who remained calm and resolute throughout.

And, as always, special kudos are due to Mary, who rode with her usual aplomb. I’m always glad to be part of our tandem team.

Mary and Me. She looks much fresher. Courtesy Mike Wali.

The Unintentional Century

On Saturday big crowds were expected in D.C. for the protest march, but I’m in the news business and had no related assignment, so I was looking for an escape from the city. The forecast was for a mostly dry, mild day, and a long bike ride in the country was in order.

Mary graciously agreed to join me and we set off from Marshall, Va. on what was to be an 85-miler, though it ultimately turned into a longer and harder route than we expected. See the final ride at Ridewithgps. The route we intended has a shortcut via the low water bridge over the Shenandoah River that is usually passable – but I should have checked beforehand.

The day was gray, with some light mist, and lots of fog. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, though, so no worries. I always keep the generator front and rear lights running in daytime, but I was doubly glad for them today because of the fog. (Tech nerds: our setup is a Schmidt SON 28/disc 36-hole hub, running a Busch & Muller IQ-X headlight and a B&M Toplight rear light mounted to a Tubus rack).

Wool blend jersey and vest kind of day

Wool jersey and vest kind of day

 

This route features one big climb, Snickers Gap, but otherwise is made up of rolling hills. The temperatures warmed up into the low 50s.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

 

Snickers Gap was shrouded in fog.

The fog on Snickers Gap

The fog on Snickers Gap

 

We had an early lunch a few miles before Snickers Gap in Middleburg, which we thought would allow us to get around the course with just store stops.

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

 

All was going well until we got to the low water bridge at Morgan Ford Road, only to find it gone, with a new bridge under construction. This sad turn of events came later in the afternoon, which was a bummer. The only options were to backtrack over Snickers Gap, or go on to Front Royal and cross the Shenandoah River there.

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

 

We opted for the Front Royal option to keep things in a loop. Our thought was initially to take Rt. 55 straight back to Marshall, but that road is pretty scary leaving Front Royal and I talked Mary into taking Rt. 522, which took us over Chester Gap in thick fog and added a few more miles. Traffic was light and gave us plenty of room.

Our generator light did a great job on the descent, supplemented with a Light and Motion battery light, and we got off onto Hume Road without any issues.

From there it was quiet roads all the way back to Marshall, in and out of the fog banks. We never got really cold or wet, but it was still a relief to get back to the car, well after dark at 6:30 p.m.

Today (Sunday) I felt pretty tired but our pal and fleche captain Jerry S. talked me into a 35-miler out on the W&OD Trail out to Caffe Amouri in Vienna and back. The rain held off and it was a pleasant outing, and made an afternoon nap pretty sweet.

Jerry leads the way back to DC

Jerry leads the way back to DC

 

Next week: The DC Randonneurs club has their annual meeting and 68-mile populaire next Saturday, and that’s likely going to be plenty for us. I’ll make my 600-mile goal for January sometime this week and my legs are starting to feel it.

Winter Riding and Summer Planning

Ah, a three-day weekend. Better yet, on Sunday and Monday the weather was mild and dry. This is the time of year I find myself of multiple minds: trying to keep up the miles on the bike to get ready for the upcoming spring randonneuring brevets, and fretting over our summer tandem tour. A long weekend let me indulge both.

Friday morning started out pleasantly as always at the weekly Friday Coffee Club commuter cyclists gathering. The pre-work meetup is nearing its five-year anniversary, which we’ll celebrate later this month.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for the reopening of our original FCC location at Swing’s Coffee on 17th & G NW by the White House. It now looks like July or later according to the Swing’s site. A Baked Joint at 440 K St. NW has been a welcome temporary spot and we’ll continue there.

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

 

Saturday

A typical cold and rainy January day met us. I got out for a nice midday Freezing Saddles ride for a coffee visit with Jerry and Carolyn at Chinatown Coffee.

Rainy Day in DC

Rainy Day in D.C.

 

The rest of the day I worked on our summer tour. This year we’re returning to Colorado, but starting in Albuquerque and finishing in Boulder! The route is here – we start for Santa Fe on July 1 and finish on the 13th, about 950 miles later.  We haven’t ridden in New Mexico before, and in both states we’ll see some new terrain and towns, notably:

  • Santa Fe, Taos and Chama in New Mexico;
  • the Black Canyon of the Gunnison;
  • Monarch Pass to Gunnison;
  • Independence Pass;
  • Aspen and the Rio Grande Trail to Carbondale.

We’ll also return to some favorites: Durango, Silverton, and Kremmling, and another go at hauling the tandem over the wild & wooly Rollins Pass from Winter Park on the final day. This time, big tires are going on the tandem for that doozy.

The route was already drafted – the real work was making hotel reservations and buying our airline tickets. I always feel a little nervous locking down our July trip in mid-January, but it’s also nice to have everything lined up. I’ll make up cue sheets in the coming weeks and figure out the coffee places, bike shops and restaurants in the new towns.

Sunday

The skies cleared and we rode the Spectrum tandem to Frederick, Md. to one of our favorite area shops, the enchanting Gravel & Grind. Mel and James have created something really special and we always enjoy ourselves there. Everything is good (the coffee, food, bikes, stuff, and scene), but especially their welcoming vibe.

James, Mel and Mary

James, Mel and Mary

 

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

 

Mary, James and Me

Mary, James and Me

 

A randonneuring friend of ours has been talking to James about staging a fall randonneur brevet from the shop, so everybody could get some food and drinks and hang out afterwards. I hope it comes true.

The ride was a good one for us, at 117 miles without any extended climbs – perfect for winter when the wind isn’t blowing. Here’s the route on Garmin Connect or you can check it out at Strava.

The ride home was uneventful except for this very cool hawk on the side of River Road, near dusk. It calmly let us take photos. Thanks hawk!

A Hawk Surveys Its Domain

Hawk Surveys Its Domain

 

Monday

Mary and I each had dentist appointments and the skies were gray. I rode my Rivendell Bleriot, which sees far too little use these days, up to Clarendon in Arlington to turn in a very old Mac Mini for recycling (the PowerPC generation, if that rings a bell). The bike, unlike that old Mac, is just as good as ever, though it needs better fenders.

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

 

From there I rode down to the Mall and went to the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, which was busy with visitors — appropriately so on this day.

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

 

Spiraling Into 2017

When one gets obsessive about annual cycling mileage, Jan. 1 marks the abrupt end of one quest and the start of another.

Looking Out Over the Potomac

Looking Out Over the Potomac

 

I made it a goal around Thanksgiving to get to 8,000 miles in 2016, and dubbed the effort Project 8K on my Twitter & Instagram feed to motivate myself.

It seemed doable, with about 350 miles to go in December, my records told me. Then I found a big mistake in my log — I had uploaded a century twice by running two Garmin GPS units on a ride. Why? I was debugging a problem with my Edge 810 bike unit and rode with my GPS watch as a backup, and forgot that it uploaded the miles on the next sync some days later.

Taking that ride out was the only honorable thing to do. But it made my goal jump to 450 miles, no small amount in December with iffy weather and holiday time with family. I started putting in a few extra miles on the weekdays and rode a 200k with the DC Randonneurs with Mary on Dec. 3, which got me closer. But then I got sick and lost four days mid-month, including a weekend.

Things looked tight, but I got some miles at the Hains Point 100 and managed a solo century on the Dec. 23, which did most of the job. Along the way I got some very nice online and in-person cheering from the BikeDC gang as I posted my progress. Thanks all!

I made it to 8K on Dec. 29, fittingly riding around Hains Point after work with Mary and our mega-miler pal Judd joining in.

Me and Judd (courtesy Mary G)

Me and Judd (courtesy Mary G.)

 

Then, barely 48 hours later, I’m back at zero miles on Jan. 1. Geez! At least all the other mile/kilometer chasers were in the same boat. It was our good luck then that we had mild, dry weather on Sunday, and we took the tandem out to Adamstown, Md. for a long ride west to Shepherdstown, W.Va. and back.

Quiet Winter Roads

Quiet Winter Roads

 

I modified the Century of the Spiral Staircase to start in Adamstown to an 88-mile version that let us start a little later in the morning, and meet a local furniture dealer after the ride.

Glad to Be Out Riding

Glad to Be Out Riding

 

This century was one cued by tandem riders John Fauerby and Lynne Rosenbusch, whose death caused by a drunk driver on Halloween in 2015 remains hard to accept. Here’s a link to a memorial fund set up in their honor to promote the work of Bike Maryland to make the roads safer for all users.

Here’s their full 1o1.5-mile route, (input by our riding buddy Eric P.), and our shorter route.

Gapland, a Familiar Sight

Gapland, a Familiar Sight

 

To celebrate New Year’s Day I counted our firsts of 2017 along the way. Here are a few:

  • first tandem ride of the year;
  • first summit of iconic high point Gapland;
  • first lunch at Blue Moon Cafe, a Shepherdstown favorite;
  • first espressos at Lost Dog Espresso, another Shepherdstown favorite;
  • first hauling of the tandem down the spiral staircase to the C&O Canal Towpath in Harper’s Ferry;
  • first “she’s not pedaling” jibe by yet another smartaleck old guy;
  • first sunset together on the bike!

On the final miles we caught up to a group of randonneurs riding a 200K permanent. They had 30 miles to go with the sun going down and were happy as clams. Check out these smiles.

 

Randonneurs Katie, Emily, Mike, Steve and Nick

Randonneurs Katie, Emily, Mike, Steve and Nick

 

Our ride also got us going in the annual Bike Arlington Freezing Saddles winter riding challenge. This is my second year and I’m again shooting for perfect attendance. This is my chance to make up for never getting the attendance ribbon in elementary school, I always stayed home sick at least once.

Good luck and tailwinds this year, readers. We’ll be looking for you!

 

The Feeling Returns

When inspiration strikes, the feeling is magical. After this weekend, I’m enthused about spending more time out on the open road, now that summer is ending.

How so? Last week Mary and I decided to ride a DC Randonneurs 300K course, the “Contrary Mother of All 300Ks,” as a two-day, no credit tour. We’re randonneurs in the spring, but the rest of the year, we veer more toward touring and centuries, and this one is a beauty.

The West Virginia town of Romney, nestled in the hills, is at mile 102 and has a good hotel and dinner options. The second day would be about 90 miles, just as hilly but not as long. See the routes: Day 1 and Day 2.

We also put out the word on the DC Randonneurs listserv to see if anyone wanted to come along. To our happy surprise, another tandem team joined us – Gordon M. and his wife Kay T., on a lovely black Co-Motion tandem.

Gordon and Kay

Gordon and Kay

 

I’ve known Gordon for 20 years but only recently met Kay, a very active rider who has a successful masters-level bike racing pedigree. They were married just three months ago and are enjoying newlywed bliss.

We met Saturday in Middletown, Va. in the Shenandoah Valley, and pedaled off to the north and west into the rolling hills. Mary and I stuffed the Carradice with a few essentials, while they carried lightly loaded panniers.

The weather cooperated wonderfully with bright skies, low humidity, and moderate temperatures in the 80s. This after forecasts earlier in the week talked about possible rain from a tropical storm moving up the Atlantic coast. For once, the storm moved away and we were left with perfectly clear late summer weather — whoo!

This route is rarely flat and we were a bit quicker up the hills, but Kay and Gordon came on fast on the descents and flats and were rarely far away. We stopped to enjoy the orchard views and lingered at the rest stops, including a well-deserved late lunch in Capon Bridge.

Riding along the Capon River

Riding along the Capon River

 

Dinner at a local place that shall go unnamed in Romney was slow and kind of odd, but it gave us time to get better acquainted and learn more about each other’s bike collections. I’m afraid I took the prize for boring everyone with the nuances of 650b bikes vs. gravel grinders vs. singlespeeds, and so on. (See? I’m doing it now!)

Day 2: Sweet and Scenic

 

Sunday dawned a little overcast and cool. Mary and I rode by ourselves down into town to the Sheetz for a coffee-type drink and breakfast sandwiches, while Gordon and Kay lit out on the course toward Lost River ahead of us. The motorbike guys at the Sheetz asked us about the tandem and I found out a little about Honda Gold Wing touring motorcyles. Word is, the engines last forever. “The Cadillac of motorcycles,” one guy said.

A brief derailleur adjustment and photo stop

A brief derailleur adjustment and photo stop

 

On the way to Lost River we rode over one hill after another on quiet roads, with just the occasional herd of cows and sheep looking on. One little dog came out to chase us, but I was certain the chain would stop it at the road’s edge. Then we noticed the chain wasn’t anchored! It gave a hearty chase, dragging the chain. That pup won the day’s prize for spirit.

Speaking of dragging chains, we kept dropping ours past the small front chainring on uphills, and had to stop a few times to pull the chain up onto the ring and fiddle with the front derailleur. The hills were steep enough – one was 16 percent – that we really needed to use that ring, and were glad when we got things working correctly. Relieved is more accurate, actually.

The Lost River Grill was supposed to stop serving breakfast at 11:30 AM and we arrived right then, trailing Gordan and Kay by 20 minutes. He talked them into keeping the breakfast menu going a little longer for us. I had purchased a little bottle of maple syrup at the South Branch Inn in Romney and was thrilled to order a waffle to justify carrying it over the hills. Unfortunately I left it there by mistake, still half-full. Oh well. It was delicious syrup and worth having it.

We climbed up Wolf Gap and the Garmin GPS unit went haywire trying to route us, beeping madly about a turn that did not exist, and finally just shut down at the top of the climb. No matter, we’ve blasted down that descent a few times and know the drill. The Spectrum tandem handled the sharp turns with aplomb and we got down to the Larkin’s Store in Edinburgh with smiles on our faces.

The smiles turned to frowns when we discovered the store was closed for repairs from a fire. We read later that a drink cooler caught fire and the owner saved the structure by getting everbody out and closing all the doors to limit oxygen. They’ve promised to re-open, I hope soon. That place is a main stop for the randonneurs and other riders in that part of the valley. We made do with some pocket food and didn’t need water, so all was well enough.

Larkin's is closed, but repairs are underway

Larkin’s is closed, but repairs are underway

 

Back Road never fails to entertain and was lovely and challenging with its many rollers and wide views. I just wish there was a crossing of Rt. 55 without having to ride on it for a few miles first – fast traffic and no shoulder make it a little scary. We got back to Middletown in good shape, and greeted Gordon and Kay who looked fresh and happy as they rolled into town.

Yes, that was fun!

Yes, that was fun!

 

Mary and I went to dinner at Roma Italian at Stephens City, which made for a satisfying end note to the weekend.

Sometimes things just work out well without drama. I took a lot of inspiration from Gordon and Kay, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves – and Mary, who rode strong as always.  This weekend was a great finale to a fun and active summer.

The Spectrum Tandem, Bowie, and the Snow

Last week was a weird and long one. The death of David Bowie on Sunday hit me harder than I expected.

I saw Bowie perform twice. The first time was on the first U.S. stop of his monster Serious Moonlight tour in 1983, at the US Festival in California; there were 300,000 people there. Like many in the crowd, I suppose, I was a recent convert, having been drawn in by the Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Let’s Dance albums.

My Vantage Point during Bowie's US Festival show

My Vantage Point during Bowie’s US Festival show

The show was a revelation in what rock music could be — both powerful and artistic. It was at that time and remains for me the most electric rock concert I’ve seen; a standard in terms of theatrics and raw rock sound that nobody else has equaled.

Up to then I’d always been a fan of his sound but I was more into the hits than his albums. I realized why his fans were so ardent.

I was on Team Bowie until I saw him at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside DC in 1990 on his Sound+Vision Tour, which was supposed to be his last tour singing his big hits. That experience was a letdown; he appeared to be disinterested.

After that Bowie’s output didn’t register, until the release of the Blackstar album on Jan. 8. It had that Bowie weirdness that caught my ear. It seemed Bowie was back in form — at age 69 — pushing current rock artists to do something really new (looking at you, James Murphy!).

Then his surprise death kind of knocked me down. The guy had cancer, kept it secret, recorded one final album about it, plus two eerie videos, then died two days after the release. This was an artistic act nobody else would pull off. Who does that?

Johnny Cash recorded three albums in his final years, but it was known that he was ill and was racing time.

As long as Bowie was still recording, it felt like I still had a living link to those days of youth; all that’s gone now. But we have something else.

Bowie’s final gift was his challenge to us to create, to push our own and society’s limits, while we still have time, right up until the final day.

I’m starting to dig into Bowie’s back catalog to hear the songs that didn’t get into compilations. I’m also interested to see whether renewed public attention to his work will spur some of today’s artists toward bolder directions.

The next album from Arcade Fire should be interesting and so should one planned by Murphy and his renewed LCD Soundsystem. Murphy played on Blackstar, so I hope that experience will have an impact.

Even in death, I believe Bowie is going to move rock music in ways we can’t yet predict.

The end of work on Friday came none too soon. With a three-day holiday weekend ahead, Mary and I got out the car on Saturday to take our new Spectrum road tandem back to Tom Kellogg’s workshop in Breinigsville, Pa. for a small fix.

The view from the car roof (courtesy Mary G)

The view from the car roof (courtesy Mary G)

He used internal cable routing for the rear brake and on our second ride the sleeve started to make a metallic noise inside the frame when we went over a bump. By phone, Tom suspected the sleeve was hitting a set of bottle cage bolt bosses that protrude into the frame tube.

Tom brought us into the warm confines of his shop at his rural home, and quickly confirmed the noise source was that sleeve. While we went to lunch, he injected some expanding insulation foam into the frame tube, which isolated the sleeve and stopped the noise.

We had a nice visit afterwards where we talked about bikes and riding. Tom gave us some free T-Shirts for our trouble.

A souvenir from Tom

A souvenir from Tom

On Sunday we decided to ignore the gloomy forecast for snow showers and took out the Spectrum, with Ted N., to Leesburg via the W&OD Trail. The skies were dark grey but the temperatures were enough above freezing, so we kept on going after Ted turned back in Vienna, about 20 miles out.

Not snowing, yet

Not snowing, yet

The frame noise was gone, so we were glad about that. The whole bike rolls really smoothly. It’s appropriately stiff but not as rigid as our Cannondale MTB tandem (super-stiff) or our Co-Motion Java (very stiff), and has a more agile feeling in turns.

By the time we got to Leesburg snow flurries had started and were gaining intensity, but were still melting on the ground, so we were OK. After getting hauled over the Potomac on White’s Ferry we rode through a fair squall and got cold and a little wet. This was a bummer! Riding a century in the January cold is never easy, is it?

You can see our ride details at my Garmin Connect page.

Waiting on White's Ferry

Waiting on White’s Ferry

The tandem discount. One bike, not two riders!

The tandem discount. One bike, not two riders!

We warmed up in Poolesville at the McDonalds while the snow tailed off, and by the time we got home in late afternoon the sun had come out. We rode around the neighborhood to make it an exact century, 100.0 miles, right outside our door so that we could claim some bragging rights on the Freezing Saddles challenge.

Warmup at McDonalds

Warmup at McDonalds

I’ll write up a separate post on buying a custom steel tandem; it took a long time to get and costs a lot, and then you find out how it rides. After our first century, in the snow, we’re satisfied, and expect the feeling to grow.

The Spectrum's first ride on Whites Ferry

The Spectrum’s first ride on Whites Ferry

Coffeeneuring No. 5 and No. 6: Weekends in Motion

We were busy on all of the weekends last month, taking advantage of October’s waning daylight and warm afternoons. That’s my introduction for this flashback post to rides a couple of weeks ago as I try to get caught up on my coffeeneuring reports.

For most of us, the last day to complete the challenge was Sunday Nov. 15. The completed submission reports are coming in fast to Mary from all over the world, so I better get cracking.

On the road to Poolesville under a bright October sun.

On the road to Poolesville under a bright October sun.

 

Coffeeneuring heralds both the start of October and gives us excellent reasons to get out on the bike as the night comes earlier each day (before the hammer drops and we turn the clocks back) and cold weather sets in.

On Sunday, Oct. 18 we combined coffeeneuring with a delightful impromptu ride that came together late in the week via word of mouth at Friday Coffee Club and on the interwebs.

I mentioned that we should undertake the latest irregular French Toast Ride. A number of folks thought this was a good idea, and by Sunday it was a real thing.

This is a simple out-and-back jaunt from D.C. to Poolesville, Md., a staple destination for local riders via River Road in Montgomery County. Then we put a theme on it by going to Bassett’s Restaurant in Poolesville and ordering french toast (or pancakes). Voila — concept ride!

The French Toast Riders. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

The French Toast Riders. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

 

The air was crisp with our first dose of fall cool, but no matter, the sun was out and our group of nine had a fun ride. We also had the pleasure of hosting Pittsburgh duo Noah and Sarah, who came to D.C. to ride the C&O Canal Towpath and GAP Trail back home.

Cool enough for layers and gloves.

Cool enough for layers and gloves.

 

Also along were mileage eaters Ted, Rachel, Eric and Rod, and our regular compadre Jerry S. In sum, a mix of friends new and old — that’s my kind of bike ride, folks. Some of us ended the ride at Room 11 in Northwest D.C. (see below) for some very good espresso drinks.

Back in Rock Creek Park. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

Back in Rock Creek Park. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

 

The weekend of Oct. 24 Mary saved her legs for the Marine Corps Marathon and was not up for a ride, so I coffeeneured on Saturday when I met up with Jerry, and other randonneur pals Eric (The Wise), Eric (The Younger), and the debonair Roger H. for a long permanent ride from D.C. to the Antietem battlefield.

Our randonneur group, at Gapland.

Our randonneur group, at Gapland.

 

We began and ended at an outlet of the Mermaid-logo coffee chain, about six miles from home, and I had  soy “latte” before we started — quotes because their version is a big sugary concoction with a dose of harsh burnt espresso thrown in. Anyway, I could claim it as a “not part of an event” coffeeneuring ride.

However, I’m not counting it because there are much better locally-owned spots in D.C. to publicize.

I’m going to count Sunday the 25th instead — sorry guys! Mary successfully completed her fifth MCM (way to go, whoo!) and we went coffeeneuring together. As we have arranged in past years, I rode the Co-Motion tandem to the finish line with her Sidi shoes and helmet.

On the 14th Street Bridge, Mary stops for a picture.

On the 14th Street Bridge, Mary stops for a picture.

 

After crossing the finish line and getting her medal, we pedaled up to Eastern Market for lunch and coffee. I find it romantic that Mary comes back from her big triumph with me.

Medal earned, Mary is ready to do some coffeeneuring.

Medal earned, Mary is ready to do some coffeeneuring.

 

I still have to comply with the coffeeneuring bookeeping rules, so here are the details.

Coffeeneuring No. 5

Destination: Room 11, Washington, D.C. Oct 18.

Beverage: Soy Cappuccino.

Distance: 76.4 mi. See my route here.

Company: Mary, Jerry, Noah and Sarah from Pittsburgh.

Bike Friendly? There is a rack outside on the sidewalk, and a window view of the bikes from the small room by the espresso bar. Thumbs up.

Observation: Room 11 is another repeat visit from past coffeeneuring. It’s a small place but they make some seriously good coffee drinks (from beans by D.C.-based Madcap and San Francisco-based Four Barrel roasters) and sell awesome bakery items, with a dinner menu in the evenings.

The cappuccino was terrific. I like an espresso or espresso drink after a long bike ride as a little reward. The cappuccino here and the company really made for a lovely end to the day. I just wish Room 11 was closer to our house.

 

Mocha. Cappuccino. Cookie. The good life.

Mocha. Cappuccino. Cookie. The good life.

 

Noah and Sarah, tourers and coffeeneurs.

Noah and Sarah, tourers and coffeeneurs.

 

Coffeeneuring No. 6

Destination: Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market, Washington, D.C. Oct 25.

Beverage: Espresso.

Distance: 12 mi. See my route here.

Company: Just me and Mary.

Bike Friendly? Good. Sidewalk racks nearby and lots of poles and fencing. If you sit outside, your bike is within arm’s reach.

Observation: Peregrine is one of the premier espresso shops in D.C. and is a regular stop for us at Eastern Market. They serve strong, super-short shots and I normally get a triple (or, “triplo” if you are Italian). I like going there, but I’m glad they are a bit out of my normal orbit as I’d end up hanging out too much.

It was great to coffeeneur there with Mary, who was enjoying the glow of finishing her marathon (her third this fall).

Next Time: Coffeeneuring Finale in Philly!

 

 

Schmidt Dynamo Hub & Edelux II: the TDR review

During the last few years, MG and I have seen a growing number of our randonneur brethren adopt generator hubs and connected lights for our night-time events. The trend started taking off in the 1990s when German company Schmidt (a.k.a. Wilfried Schmidt Maschinenbau) came out with their very high quality, low drag SON generator hub.

The early adopters in the rando community paired the SON hubs with focused halogen-bulb lights, which were good, but not quite as powerful as higher-power battery systems from NiteRider and others. The tradeoff in unlimited runtime was worth it for them.

I held off for a long time on a generator system. On the tandem, where we achieve high speeds on downhills, we need bright lights with a really long throw. I felt battery lights gave us what we needed.

At Paris-Brest-Paris with Ixon AA-battery lights. Courtesy Michael Hansmann.

At Paris-Brest-Paris with Ixon AA-battery lights. Courtesy Michael Hansmann.

The advances in LED technology have changed everything, and this year I started thinking about making the switch.

We moved to LED lights a few years ago via the powerful Ixon line of 4xAA-battery LED lights from German company Busch and Müller. Two of these on the handlebars (and a rapid battery recharger in our drop bag) got us through brevets and long randonnees, including Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011.

In the last couple of years new LED headlights for hub dynamos began throwing amazingly bright and focused light on the road.

Our friends with these lights were outshining us, and giving nary a thought about batteries beyond carrying a backup light.

The drag of the latest generation SON hubs with LED lights is so low that they run their lights all the time. Like motorcycle riders, the lighting is bright enough to give daytime drivers notice of a bike on the road instead of blending into the background.

Lane and his Supernova light. Courtesy MG.

Lane and his Supernova light. Courtesy MG.

Schmidt also slimmed down their hubs and came out with an ISO 6-bolt disk brake model. This grabbed my attention because we use disc brakes on our Co-Motion Java tandem.

The only holdup was the cost — about $750 for a built wheel (rim, spokes, labor, SON hub), a top-quality B&M or similar headlight and wiring, a tail light and shop labor.

The Start

This spring Erik Kugler, co-owner of the BicycleSPACE DC shop in Washington, approached us with an offer. He wanted to build some business for the shop in generator wheels and asked me if I’d buy one at a sale price and write about the experience.

Here's Erik. No lights on this one, yet.

Here’s Erik. No lights on this one, yet.

Erik didn’t ask me to write a positive review nor ask to see anything in advance. In fact, he has not brought it up since then. This is the first time he or anyone at BicycleSPACE will see the review.

So, with that disclaimer, here’s our take on our generator system after 3,075 miles ridden since installation in May.

We’ve ridden the wheel exclusively on all our tandem rides and run the light full time. Those include local jaunts such as the Seagull Century, overnight rides to Shepherdstown, W.V., and randonneur brevets in the Shenandoah Valley and Pennsylvania hills.

We took it on a 1,000-mile lightly loaded tour of high passes in Colorado in July with some gravel roads, and a 1,000-kilometer hilly randonnee in August, also in the Shenandoah.

Edelux II in the fading light to Kremmling, Colo. Courtesy MG.

Edelux II in the fading light to Kremmling, Colo. Courtesy MG.

The bottom line: this is a fantastic setup. The lighting is powerful and reliable. We’re converts.

The Process

First off, I’ll back up and describe our interactions with BicycleSPACE. They were uniformly pleasant and professional.

I worked with Tony P. on the sales side at the shop to put the package together. We chose our go-to tandem rim, the workhorse Velocity Chukker, and picked out the parts from Peter White Cycles, the main U.S. distributor of hi-performance German lighting systems.

The ever-friendly Tony P. got the order squared away.

The ever-friendly Tony P. got the order squared away.

We settled on the following spec:

— SON28 Polished silver 36-hole disk hub
— Velocity Chukker black 36-hole rim and silver spokes
— Schmidt Edelux II silver headlight
— Busch & Müller Secula Plus seatstay mount tail light
— front rack and handlebar mounts, wiring and connectors.

Schmidt has yet to make a 40-hole tandem disk hub. We’ve been using 36-hole front wheels for years without problems, so that was no setback.

The Schmidt 36-hole disk hub, in polished.

The Schmidt 36-hole disk hub, in polished.

There was some delay in availability of all the parts, however. It took about a month from our first conversation for everything to arrive at BicycleSPACE and for the building of the wheel to commence.

So, if you want the system for the winter darkness, start the process right away, just in case Peter is out of stock on something. But it’s also a great setup all year long — both as a daylight running light and a ready-to-go night light.

Tony kept in good contact with me throughout the process and answered all my questions. I felt like he was intent on getting the order right and was happy to confirm everything with me before we proceeded.

After the parts arrived, veteran mechanic and wheelbuilder Jerry and I had a good talk before he built the wheel. He understood it was for tandem use and that we regularly head for the hills, which puts added stress on wheels.

Once the wheel was built we took the tandem to the shop and left it there for fellow mechanic Dave to install everything. The wiring was the big challenge here, because the tandem is so long.

We needed a lot of extra wire, with quick-disconnects added, to reach the taillight while allowing us to separate the frame for airline travel via the built-in couplers.

Jerry and Dave. Excellent hands taking a break outside BicycleSPACE.

Jerry and Dave. Excellent hands taking a break outside BicycleSPACE.

The Results

Jerry built a beautiful wheel, straight and strong, and Dave did a clean and thorough job with the wiring. We had him mount the light on a handlebar mount to start. We also wanted to put it on our front rack if needed, and Dave left us enough extra cable from the hub to do either.

Picking up the bike at BicycleSPACE, a nice clean install.

Picking up the bike at BicycleSPACE, a nice clean install.

It took me awhile to settle on the right mounting point for the front light. To eliminate shadows from the front bag and front wheel, I moved it to the forward edge of the front rack. I was glad Dave bundled up some extra cable.

Mounted the front of our Nitto front rack.

Mounted the front of our Nitto front rack.

There was some vibration from the hub through the fork legs at first when braking. I found that I was not tightening the hub skewer enough. A little extra clamping force eliminated the vibration.

In terms of usability, we’re very pleased. Blown away would be more accurate, actually!

First off, we don’t sense any penalty in terms of rolling resistance from the hub. I can turn it off at the headlight and there’s no difference in our speed. The Schmidt folks have figured this out, folks.

I angled the headlight for a long and wide throw, giving up some near-distance intensity. It delivers a nice even beam that has the feel of the low beam on a car. The Edelux II gets up to full brightness very quickly, and then we have many yards of visibility ahead of us.

You can see see what I mean at Peter White’s site, where he compares headlight beams.

The one drawback to a light fixed to the bike is that it points straight ahead all the time, which isn’t the best for downhill turns. The Edelux has excellent full road coverage, but obviously can’t see around hard turns. I use a helmet light in the hills at night, which lets me see into the turns until the bike straightens out.

In terms of reliability, our system has been excellent. We’ve had no issues, even after disconnecting and reconnecting the cables for our Colorado trip and regularly disconnecting the hub to put the wheel into the car trunk. Both the front and rear lights have been rock-solid in the rain.

Lighting the way around our Colorado tour.

Lighting the way around our Colorado tour.

Wrap-Up

I won’t kid around: generator lighting isn’t cheap. But you’re getting more than just lighting. You’re getting peace of mind whether on the open road or riding in the city.

When we were invited out for dinner in Durango, Colo. by the guys at the bike shop, there was no wondering if our batteries were charged. The lighting front and rear was there at the ready and we just went.

During daytime riding I feel like drivers see us more readily. And at night, we have some of the brightest lights on the road.

Of course, we have the folks at BicycleSPACE on 7th Street Northwest to thank for making this a painless experience in getting set up. I would have spent hours trying to get the wiring just right and making mistakes. It was money well spent to have Dave complete the installation, and Jerry built us a wheel that has been problem free.

If you are on the fence about dynamo lighting, I would say the hub and headlight technology is there now to make the leap. You’ll be glad you did.

Mike R. with a dynamo setup on his Velo Orange. Courtesy MG.

Mike R. with a dynamo setup on his Velo Orange. Courtesy MG.

Comments? Please ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks again to Erik and the gang at BicycleSPACE.

Brooks Cambium C17 Saddle: A real Brooks?

The new Brooks non-leather saddle, the Cambium C17, caught my eye recently during a stop at one of my favorite local bike shops, BicycleSpace in downtown Washington.

The off-white woven fabric cover and rubber base was certainly different than the traditional Brooks saddles MG and I use on most of our bikes. The British company is synonymous with leather and has been on a roll in recent years with the growth in urban and non-competitive cycling.

Test model had promotion text by Brooks.

Test model had promotion text by Brooks.

I’m among those who were skeptical when they announced the Cambium line that it would be more than just another uncomfortable racer saddle.

Handling the display model, the quality was higher than I expected. I offhandedly asked if they had a loaner and I was offered a C17 to use for a week. In a few minutes I installed it on my Rivendell SimpleOne singlespeed bike and off we went.

Quick verdict: The C17 is surprisingly comfortable! Brooks managed to get the feel of their mainstay B17 leather model into this saddle, while offering features that should appeal to riders who might not ride leather.

The price is a little steep, however. Would I buy one? Read on.

Cambium atop my Rivendell SimpleOne at the Lincoln Memorial.

Cambium atop my Rivendell SimpleOne at the Lincoln Memorial.

Looks: Let’s address appearance and construction first. I’ve gotten a few questions about what Brooks calls the “organic cotton canvas” cover. It looks coarse but is mostly smooth to the touch and there is nothing noticeable about it when riding. They’ve put a waterproof coating on it, so rain and sweat are not supposed to be an issue.

In any case the cover is bonded to a slightly flexible natural rubber underlayer that can’t be hurt by water, so I’d consider this an all-weather saddle. Brooks includes their signature rivets at the rear and on the nose, and builds in bag loops into the rear frame which I confirmed allow the attachment of a Carradice saddlebag — a nice touch.

Form: Along the top the shape is similar to the leather B17, with a long flat nose and raised rear heel when the nose is level. The widest portion is about 160mm, which is narrower than the 170mm B17 (and equivalent to the Brooks Professional) but the Cambium did not feel much narrower than a B17 when riding.

Brooks B17, left and Cambium C17 right.

Brooks B17, left and Cambium C17 right.

Side skirts are cut away, however, giving this saddle a racy look.

Silver rivets, cut-away skirts, longer rails, rubber base.

Silver rivets, cut-away skirts, longer rails, rubber base.

Comfort: The other similarity to a B17 is flexibility. With a firm downward push, the C17 flexes vertically the same way as a B17. Tooling around downtown urban streets, I found it felt like I was on a nicely broken-in leather Brooks. I think they worked hard to get this right because unlike leather you can’t turn an adjusting bolt to tighten the saddle tension.

Big differences: Besides overall appearance, and the lack of side skirts, the biggest change for current B17 owners is that the saddle is not as tall and the rails are slightly longer and set farther forward.

Different rails: B17 on left, C17 on right.

Different rails: B17 on left, C17 on right.

That means you have to raise your seatpost about a half-inch, and can push the saddle back more than a B17. There is at least 5 mm more rail length, but Brooks appears to have positioned the usable rail length closer to the nose, which allows a little extra rearward positioning.

Finally, the Cambium weighs in well under the B17. I did not weigh mine, but Brooks claims 415 grams for the men’s C17 and 405 grams for the shorter-nose, slightly-wider women’s C17 S. Those weights compare to the B17’s 540g listed weight.

Purpose: Who is this saddle for?

Do you wear form-fitting jersies from a certain apparel maker based in England and ride a spotless racing bike? On appearance alone, the Cambium line should fit your aesthetic. Brooks also makes the Cambium line in a dark slate gray that is more sober if you are into the bike-ninja look.

More seriously, if you don’t use fenders and worry about a Brooks getting destroyed from wheel spray, there is no such concern with the Cambium. On any bike you can still ride in the rain or soak it in sweat without worrying about covering the top.

If you have a hard time getting a B17 or other Brooks far enough back on a given bike, this saddle may also offer a solution.

And, if you don’t want to break in a leather Brooks, the Cambium is ready to go out of the box.

Fears about breaking-in can be overblown, however — Brooks are generally comfortable for us from the first ride and get nicer over time.

We are more likely to encounter our Brooks saddles getting stretched out too much from hot summer rides, brevets and multi-day touring. The Cambium presumably won’t get scooped like our B17 models after a few seasons.

Conclusion: Will I buy a Cambium C17? Probably. I’m put off by the $160 pricetag, but the value of a saddle with the same comfort as a B17, rear bag loops, longer rails and weatherproofing has its attractions.

If Brooks runs a promotion that gets the price down I’ll probably take the leap.

I like that they are trying to create a new saddle that expands the Brooks line and replicates the comfort of leather without some of the care considerations and weight. At last they tried to resolve the issues that come with the short-ish rails on the leather models.

The C17 may find a home on my Ritchey Road Logic racing bike where saddle setback has always been an issue.

See more photos of my test saddle at my Flickr page. Please leave comments on your experience if you have purchased a Cambium.

I want to extend my thanks to BicycleSpace for loaning me the saddle to test. They have an extensive range of Brooks saddles and other fine urban riding gear and a solid service department. If you are in the D.C. area they are definitely worth a stop.

Living the Coffeeneuring Dream: The Cinematic Outing

When your spouse is the originator of The Coffeeneuring Challenge, the coffeeneuring season arrives with a flurry of excitement. As many of you know I am the spouse of, and tandem partner with, the inimitable MG, A.K.A. “Coffeeneuse Prime,” Twitter’s own @coffeeneur. I get regular updates on all the interesting coffee places you coffeeneurs seek out, not unlike a front row seat at NASA flight control.

The good news is that I LOVE coffeeneuring. We’ve combined cycling and coffee stops on our randonneuring brevets and touring rides since, like, forever, so I’m all over this one.

In case you haven’t heard of this particular challenge, the objective is simple: ride a bicycle to seven different coffee shops over seven weekends (starting on Oct. 2) for a coffee or other hot drink. But wait, there’s more: document your adventure with a photo and submit the particulars to MG directly or via links to social media.

The distance is fairly easy. One merely has to ride at least two miles round trip. Read all about it at MG’s Chasing Mailboxes blog.

For 2013, my goal has been to do something mildly interesting on every coffeeneuring ride, and try to rack up some long-distance miles (that’s the -euring part for me) in the process.

I’m going to work through my first five coffeeneur trips over the next few days. Here’s the first.

My daughter DF was in D.C. on the weekend of Oct. 5, the day after the opening of the space disaster movie Gravity. This is surely the the best high-concept remake of The Poseidon Adventure yet.

It seemed like an apt connection to coffeeneuring:

1. You leave home to visit a beautiful yet unforgiving environment: the Washington urban grid on a weekend day with distracted tourists and errand-runners.
2. You encounter threatening space junk: Metro buses and drivers making sudden moves while trolling for parking.
3. You undergo a stunning rebirth that arms you with the steely will to get home: the rush to the head and heart brought on by delicious espresso and the great outdoors!

Espresso at Tryst. Very Good.

Espresso at Tryst. Very Good.

We rode to lunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan before continuing to the historic, single big-screen Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park. The Uptown is simply the best venue in the city to see blockbuster movies, with sumptuous sound, a balcony, and a massive curved screen. DF and I rode the “Lead Sled” Cannondale tandem and MG rode her trusty Rivendell Quickbeam singlespeed bike.

Upon arriving at The Diner, I ducked next door into Tryst next door for my coffeeneuring stop. A self-titled “Coffee house/Bar/Lounge,” Tryst is a cavernous student and college grads-with-laptops-and-scarves hangout and was packed on this warm day. I ordered a triple espresso and took it back to the diner to drink while we awaited our food. It was delicious. They make really good espresso here.

Tryst. Espresso. Style.

Tryst. Espresso. Style.

Back on the street we met up with local resident and Friday Coffee Club regular Ryan S., who was finishing his morning bike ride. Here’s a photo to prove it!

Ryan, me & MG. Additional show added! (Photo courtesy DF. )

Ryan, me & MG. Additional show added! (Photo courtesy DF. )

The movie was scary and visually amazing, if a little simplistic in the character development department. But good for Sandra Bullock, though, who at age 49 looks not that much different than the young-and-beautiful people in Tryst.

The ride home from Cleveland Park is fun because it is mostly downhill toward our co-op building on the Potomac River in Southwest D.C. We saw our friend Mike’s daughter Claire on her Soma and chatted — that was fun. When you see a Soma Saga ridden by a stylish woman with rack, fenders and a generator light, say hi for us.

Total miles: 13. Total multi-billion dollar Space Shuttle and space stations destroyed: Zero. Mission accomplished.

Back home, safe and sound.

Back home, safe and sound.