Coffeeneuring Week 2, belatedly

These are the rides I did last weekend, and just never got around to posting. Somehow I managed to not get any bike paraphernalia in any of these pictures, so you’ll just have to trust me that I biked there.

Ride Two

I was somewhat ambitious this year, thinking that we would try to do different places than last year. That ambition lasted until the exact second that I got my “Kolache Saturday” e-mail from the local coffeeshop/restaurant/grocery store. They have special chef’s choice Saturday breakfasts every week, most of which are out for us because they heavily feature sausage and ham. But their Kolaches are great.

Coffeeneuring weeks 2 and 3

Kolaches, if you don’t know, are a basic yeasted dough with a fruit filling. You can start fights here by suggesting that some kolaches have meat–for the diehard, meat “kolaches” are called something else. The fillings these days are all over the place. These two are apple spice and pumpkin pecan. (There’s a place between Houston and Austin that makes some with cream cheese and a mini Hershey bar in the middle. They’re kind of my favorite.)

Plus some latte art:

Coffeeneuring weeks 2 and 3

This place has the best coffee in town, but their bike parking is crap. We had to stash our bikes in a hedge and then only go in one person at a time to order.

Total ride distance: 9.26 miles.

Ride Three

Next up (cue angelic chorus) is a beloved Indian restaurant. It is more authentic in spirit than in fact, and one of the ways they’ve branched out is by offering a great breakfast menu.

Coffeeneuring weeks 2 and 3

Breakfast-sized dosa, anyone? This is amazing. The coffee’s good, too.

This cafe wins my vote for strangest bike parking. You go into the parking garage, and then in the corners they have these vertical bike hooks:

Coffeeneuring weeks 2 and 3

I wouldn’t have even recognized them, except we used to have a similar set in our garage. Yes, I know my bike locking is average at best, but this is a very low-risk area.

We were on the bikes by 7:15 in the morning, because this place really crowds up for Sunday brunch. We’ve had to leave empty handed before, and I wasn’t sure exactly when they would start to get busy. Not at 7:30, it turns out, because just that week they had started opening at 8 instead. Sad face.

Total ride distance: a little over two miles.

These two rides were a study in our bizarre “fall” weather. Saturday morning was 75 degrees and 99% humidity. Really 99. Most people who say “It must be 99% humidity out there!” have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s really miserable, even at 75 degrees. Sunday morning, on the other hand, I was huddling with my coffee cup for warmth.

Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride #1

I mentioned in my last post that I had basically ruined my summer of biking. I’m happy to say that the situation is much improved. Still a work in progress, but much improved. Maybe the saddle and I are finally seeing eye to eye.

On Saturday, we went out for our first Coffeeneuring ride of the year. I wanted a moderately long ride with no stress, which means the bagel cafe at the end of the bike path. This place thwarted my efforts last year by closing early on Sundays, so it seemed like a great starting point.

The weather was perfect. It was so good I didn’t even want to get off the bike. I spend a lot of the year complaining about our weather, but when it is good, it is so good. And that’s what we had this weekend.

So, the bagel cafe. I love this place, but I have to confess that I find bagels a little hard to digest on the bike. I would probably be better with half. Alas, you can’t get half of a bagel.

Last time we were there my typical bland, sweet bagel was at least 75% sugar, so I switched over to a cheese model. Delicious. The cheese was perfectly crunchy on the outside. (This is not New York; plain bagels here tend to be not so great.)

Coffee at this shop is usually good, but on Saturday it was a little weak. That’s probably good for my biking stomach, even if it was sad for my taste buds. I have no idea why my husband felt like we needed five coffee stirrers in two cups of coffee; there’s not even any sugar in mine.

Coffeeneuring 2014, ride 1

Bonus points for getting a table right next to the bike rack. You can see my new-ish Jandd bag here, which is the perfect size for rides that don’t require stowing layers of clothing. It’s taken me years to find a bike bag I like this well.

Coffeeneuring 2014, ride 1

Total distance: 12.73 miles.

We were planning to front load our rides a bit and go out again on Sunday, but when the time came there were some maintenance issues on my city bike and I was hungry. We did do some riding that evening, but no coffeeneuring.

How I ruined my summer biking

Last year when I dusted this blog off for the coffeeneuring challenge, I was hoping to stick with it. Then I struggled all winter with the fact that we had well below average temperatures. It wasn’t too cold to bike; it was too cold for the gear I own. I could have bought new gear, but the weather was so weird. I mean, people had to cover their tropical plants for weeks at a time. We’re talking coldest winter since they started keeping records. I kept expecting it to warm back up to average temperatures, and it never did. This was a serious betrayal. I cope with a lot of summer misery to get our wonderfully pleasant winters, and then winter wasn’t pleasant, either.

In the spring I rallied myself. I got back out on the bike, prepared to do the whole summer thing again. It quickly became obvious that I had to have a new saddle–the one on my road bike had been transferred from my very first adult bike, and it had accumulated a lot of mileage over the years. The cover was worn through to the foam, and it hurt in places it had never hurt before.

Somehow I cajoled my husband into loaning me his saddle. A lot of women’s saddles are too wide in the middle for me, even when the actual sit bone measurement is fine. And his saddle was perfect. Slightly narrow in the seat, but it came in a version that was wider only in that one measurement. Desperate to get his own saddle back, he bought me one for my birthday in May.

It was miserable. I chafed. My toes went to sleep. My arms hurt. Some good adjustments took care of the last two, but I was still so uncomfortable.

Why was this saddle not just like the perfect one? They were exactly the same! Except, I finally realized, the perfect one probably had 1500 miles of riding on it.

So, right at the beginning of the summer, when I already really hate being outdoors, I had to break in a new saddle. And, because I couldn’t do longer distances, thanks to the saddle, we were having to ride the world’s most boring route.

Triple disincentive!

My total biking, from mid May until now?

122.6 miles.

Yep. I ruined my summer biking. Now the question is, can I recover enough baseline bike fitness to enjoy my winter?

Coffeeneuring #7: Not as planned

About halfway through the coffeeneuring challenge I found a perfect little bagel cafe on my favorite bike path. When I’m on a long ride, it’s about mile 20 out of 40. In other words, perfect for a mid-ride snack. For some reason I didn’t buy coffee that day, and then we’ve been away from the regular ride schedule.

Today was the day! The day we were going to ride out for bagels and coffee! Except it took us forever to get going, and we got there an hour after the shop closed.

Fortunately there was a Starbucks right up the street. I was trying to make it through the challenge with exclusively local shops, but I didn’t quite make it. After a little check of the map to find a way around the very busy road we were on, and a little cutting through of some shopping center parking lots (mostly empty, because it’s Sunday) we settled in to a pair of peppermint mochas. I like to have one a year. I always enjoy it, then decide that they’re really much too sweet.

Have I mentioned that it was 85 today? (Yes, that’s freakish even for Texas.) I should have gotten it iced.

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By the time we got our late start and stopped to drink coffee that was much too hot for the weather, it was getting dark. The ride itself ended up a little shorter than planned. 18 miles instead of 30. Oops.

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Coffeeneuring challenge complete! A few close calls, but done. As I said yesterday, it’s really been a very interesting and quite useful experiment. I’m so pleased that I participated.

Coffeeneuring #6: The One That Almost Didn’t

I was so tempted to just stay home today. Errands took up most of the day, traffic was heinous, and it rained off and on. By 7:30 I was past hungry, past cranky, and on to completely apathetic.

I rallied, though, prodded my husband to get the bike lights ready, and off we went.

Last time we were at our favorite dinner place we’d noticed that they had both a bike rack and hot tea on the menu, so we decided to get dinner and tea all at once. It’s equal opportunity tea and coffee around here, after all, and tea had yet to make an appearance.

One very interesting thing that coffeeneuring has taught me is that biking is really fast. I got to the restaurant in three minutes. Three! I doubt I could beat that by much in the car (we usually walk), not counting the time it took to lock the bikes. I was wearing a skirt and ballet flats and not even trying to bike fast.

Now, it was well past dark outside and in an “atmospheric” restaurant, so you’ll have to forgive the blurry photos.

Tea:

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And, more importantly, a darned good burger:

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We had to bike around a little to get the mileage up and wound up just scraping in:

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It was an interesting ride. It brought home to me that I really do feel reasonably safe on our local streets now, at least as long as I’m riding with someone. That’s a huge change from when we first moved here. I’ve learned where you can bypass busy roads with strategic sidewalk riding and where that’s a terrible idea. I’ve learned the back way around a few dangerous intersections. I’m not about to bike out during lunch rush or anything. I still think every car on the highway was looking at me and thinking “Good heavens, that person is crazy for biking on these roads,” but I’ve come a long way from being too worried to ride around the block.

Coffeeneuring #5

Here’s the hitch with the Veteran’s Day Coffeeneuring allowance: my husband and partner in all things bikey had to work. It gets dark here at about 5:30, which is about half an hour after the earliest he can get home.

So today I resorted to something I’ve been saving for a rainy day: the coffee bar of the Whole Foods just down the road.

My photos are very un-artistic for this round, thanks to said darkness.

Coffee and an orange cinnamon roll:
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Closeup:

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Mmm coffee. This was actually some of the better plain drip coffee in town.

We managed to get the outbound ride done in daylight. The return trip required the use of my husband’s fancy-pants bike light:

coffeeneuring 5

Scraping the minimum length requirement at 3.26 miles. I think it took me longer to lock and unlock the bike than it did for the whole ride.

coffeeneuring 5

Coffeeneuring #4

Skin of my teeth, people. Skin of my teeth. I’m not even sure if today’s post really counts. Even if it does, I’ve got to hit Veteran’s day plus both days next weekend.

This isn’t procrastination–we got a last-minute chance to go back home and visit some family, which we gladly took. Packing destroyed last Saturday, and Sunday we drove sunup to sundown. The first weekend of the challenge I just missed.

So, on Saturday (the 9th) we drove a way out of the town we were staying in to bike a new-to-us bike trail, the Chief Ladiga.

The problem? It was freezing. Okay, okay, it was 58 degrees. But I didn’t pack a bike jacket, because when I packed my suitcase it was forecast to be 70. My new bike bag with room for the jacket isn’t here yet, so I haven’t learned to over-pack clothes. Stupid, yes? In my defense, I’m still used to the upper 70s to mid 80s. My brain hasn’t switched to “you might freeze” mode yet. The only thing that saved me was that I still had my neck-cooler (like a neck warmer, but in a wicking fabric) in my bike bag, and it worked well enough as a headband to keep the wind out of my ears. I had forgotten how much my ears hurt on the bike below 60.

Back to the bike trail: I was sure there would be a chance to buy a cup of coffee. I did not count on the rural-ness of rural Alabama and the fact that both of us are unfamiliar with the towns nearby. I mean, we biked through a college campus. What kind of college campus doesn’t have a single place to get coffee?

In any event, it was a chilly overcast day, but the trail itself showed a lot of promise. I’m hoping we’ll be back sometime to cover more of the distance. I can’t quite wrap my head around the logistics of the whole 95 mile length of trail, but it would be fun.

Coffeeneuring 4

Coffeeneuring 4

(The ground was too soft for me to get a close-up, drat it. If you can’t make out the sign, it says, “Biking Good, Rapture Better.” Oh, Alabama.)

Coffeeneuring 4

That’s cotton, not snow. Some of the fields had been harvested already, some hadn’t. It’s pretty, but I shudder to think how many chemicals get sprayed right next to the bike trail.

At ten miles, we finally saw a sign proudly proclaiming that there would be coffee and ice cream in the next town . . . eight miles away. Combining my total lack of appropriate clothing with the fact that the Nuun tablets in my water bottle had gone undrinkably rancid, I called the ride and we turned around.

Fortunately I was prepared for this possibility, so at the trailhead I stopped for fresh water and (brace yourselves) instant coffee.

Coffeeneuring 4

I somehow don’t think that instant iced coffee is quite what the challenge meant by “coffee shop without walls,” but it’s the best I’ve got with no time for a make-up trip. I’m also standing right next to my car in the picture, but I promise I carried the coffee packet on the bike with me. (See lack of water, or I would have happily made it at mile ten.) The iced Via really isn’t bad, except that I prefer my coffee without sugar and with milk.

Coffeeneuring 4

20 miles. Not too bad for 1) the wrong clothes 2) no drinkable water and 3) my poor husband being on his mountain bike.