Halloween Tree

Halloween Tree by Rootchopper
Halloween Tree, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

On my ride home from work I stopped to admire this lighted tree just up the street from my house. Boo!

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I Will Sleep No More Forever: Coffeeneuring 2013

The Coffeeneuring Challenge is in the bag! I did it so fast that I lost track of my visits. Here’s the rundown:

Day 1: Saturday October 5

Location: Port City Coffee at Eastern Market.

Brew: House roast with a chocolate chip scone.

Miles: The big 5-0

Observation: 50 miles for a cup of coffee is no problem for Big Nellie

Coffee and Scone at Port City Java
Coffee and Scone at Port City Java

Day 2: Sunday October 6

Location: Saint Elmo’s Coffee on the main drag in Del Ray, Alexandria

Brew: House roast with a blueberry and banana muffin

Miles: 64

Observation: As good as the coffee and muffin were, the ensuing root beer float was better.

DSCN2641

Bonus Day: Tuesday October 8

Location: Buzz on Slaters Lane in Alexandria

Brew: House roast with cinnamon muffin

Miles: 17.5

Observation: Cinnamon muffins always look better than they tasteGetting my Buzz on.

Day 3: Friday October 11 (Furlough day. Applying Government Shutdown rule)

Location: Swings, Home of the Friday Coffee Club

Brew: Columbian nothing on the side

Miles: 28.5

Observation: Hugo is the cutest coffeeneur hands down.

Hugo is my favorite coffeeneur
Hugo is my favorite coffeeneur

Day 4: Sunday October 13

Location: Peregrine Espresso at Eastern Market

Brew: Mexican house brew with an almond scone

Miles: 43

Observation: Gotta like a place that uses a schwa as its logo

Coffee, Scone, and Schwa
Coffee, Scone, and Schwa

Bonus Day: Monday, October 14 (Doesn’t count toward the challenge. already 2 this weekend)

Location: Misha’s at Patrick and King Streets in Old Town Alexandria

Brew: House Roast with macaroon thingie on the side

Miles: 37

Observation: Meant to go to Occoquan but was frustrated by the closure of a road through Fort Belvoir.

Misha's Coffee and Macaroon Thingy
Misha’s Coffee and Macaroon Thingy

Bonus Day: Tuesday October 15 (Doesn’t count toward the challenge)

Location: Best Buns in Shirlington

Brew: House roast (Starbucks) with a bacon cheddar scone on the side

Miles: 37

Observation: If I wanted Starbucks, I’d go to Starbucks

The scone was better than the coffee
The scone was better than the coffee

Bonus Day: Wednesday October 16 (Doesn’t count toward the challenge)

Location: Perks on North Fairfax Street in Alexandria, one block from the Mount Vernon Trail

Brew: House brew with a blueberry muffin

Miles: 15

Observation: Leather sofas are more comfortable than leather saddles.

DSCN2664

Day 5: Saturday October 19:

Location: Chinatown Coffee, H Street NW near 5th, Washington

Drink: Honduran Coffee

Miles 32

Observation: The coffee and the vibe of this place make me want to go back. Definitely one of my favorites.

Chinatown Coffee and the Post
Chinatown Coffee and the Post

Day 6: Sunday October 20:

Location: Firehook Bakery, Union Street Old Town Alexandria

Drink: French Roast (with Italian sub sandwich on the side)

Miles 14.5

Observation: No bike parking to speak of. An epic fail for a city that is supposedly a Silver Level Bike Friendly City

Firehook Bakery
Firehook Bakery on Union Street in Old Town

Bonus Day: Friday, October 25. Friday Coffee Club No.2

Location: M. E. Swings, 17th and G Streets, NW. Washington DC

Coffee: Brazilian

Miles: 32.5

Observation: It was worth the cold ride to see Kate C. and Froggie back at coffee club

Sorry no photo. Kate and Froggie remain mysterious and anonymous.

Day 7: Saturday October 26

Location: Red Truck Bakery, Warrenton VA

Brew: House roast with an orange cranberry walnut muffin

Miles: 3

Observation: Coffee was good. Muffin was sooo moist and sweet and flavorful that I am seriously considering moving to Warrenton or becoming a B&E Red Truck muffin man

Little Nellie at Red Truck Bakery
Little Nellie at Red Truck Bakery

Bonus Day: Sunday October 27

Location: Cosi on Crystal Drive in Crystal City, Arlington VA

Brew: House roast with a forbidden cookie

Miles: 29

Observation: When cheering on the Coffeeneurista, the Queen of Caffeine, as she ran the Marine Corps Marathon, one must drink the drink.

Coffeethonning in Crystal City
Coffeethonning in Crystal City

There you have it. Finis.

Coffeethonning

Riding in the cold makes you tired. So tired, in fact, that I fell asleep during the World Series game. The score was nothing to nothing when all of a sudden some pretty intense stuff started happen. It was in my subconscious, not on the field in St, Louis, I heard a roar from the crowd. It was late in the game and the score was tied. I watched the rest of the game. (The Sawx lost. Boo.)

After the game, I went to bed and came to at 7 am.  It was about ten degrees warmer outside than yesterday, perfect running weather for the Marine Corps Marathon. Not so much for riding the 10 miles to the race and standing on the sidelines. My friends Heather and Mary, both randonnistas, were running so freeze we must.

I took Little Nellie because it is the most maneuverable bike I own. I meant to ride slowly but a tailwind pushed me to Crystal City with little effort. The runners were already coming through the streets in the 23rd mile of the race. I stopped at Cosi for a coffee and a cookie. I sipped my joe and snarfed my cookie while hundreds of runners streamed past. Music was blaring. People were cheering. I checked my twitter feed. Mary had just past the 15 mile mark. I hopped on my bike and headed upstream.

Coffeethonning in Crystal City
Coffeethonning in Crystal City

I rode the Mount Vernon Trail two miles north. On the way I was passed by five BMWs, engines screaming, going perhaps twice the speed limit on the parkway next to me. I realize that not all BMW drivers are complete assholes but these five certainly were. What a great idea. Let’s drive 80 miles per hour into an area filled with distracted people milling about trying to spot their loved ones running a marathon with 30,000 other people. Brilliant.

After my ten seconds of LeMans, I ended up at the southern end of the 14th Street Bridge at about the 20.5 mile mark. The runners were thickly spread across all four lanes. Occasionally, handicapped participants would come through the pack. One man in a wheel chair of sorts was helping a blind man in a similar chair ride “run” beside him. It was astonishing to see the sighted runner holding the front of the unsighted runner’s chair. Scores of runners wore Boston Strong blue t-shirts. Go team. Some people shirts with identifying words on the front. “Go Mexico!” “Go Mariella!”

Somehow I spotted Heather in the throng. She was moving along at a respectable clip with a smooth gait but she looked a little stressed. She said she wasn’t having a good day as she went by. Hang tough, Heather.  Watching for somebody in a moving mass of people for a half an hour is really not easy. Fortunately, Mary’s husband Ed had tweeted a picture of her from mile 15. I knew what she was wearing so I could key on that. After ten or 15 minutes there she was. She had an ear to ear smile on her face. Marathon? What marathon? She stopped to chat and admired the Acorn handlebar bag on Little Nellie. And then she was gone in the flow of humanity.

I jumped on the bike and headed for the 25 mile mark at a curving ramp coming downhill from Washington Boulevard. I cheered on the same people as on the bridge. Mexico and Mariella came running by. “GO!!” They smiled at me in recognition of my cheering on the bridge. The downhill was causing some runners distress in their thighs. They ran stiff legged and wobbly. Heather came by in a fast moving group. She looked much better than before. “Go Heather GO!”

After Heather went by I focused on finding Mary again. I started to worry after about 45 minutes. I decided to check my Twitter feed. She had finished 25 minutes earlier. Somehow I missed her. She must have blasted the end of the race. Mary, you da man. (Or something like that.)

With temperatures climbing near 60 degrees I thought about doing some sun tanning. Instead I peeled off my boots, long-fingered gloves, and neck gaiter, hopped on the bike, and headed for home.

29 miles of coffeethonning in the books.

Coffee and Pumpkins and Bikes, Oh My

It was cold. It was Friday. Warming up would require a bike ride and hot coffee. Fortunately, Friday Coffee Club was on the agenda. I rode Big Nellie to Swings and found that the cold had not stopped the fearless bike commuters of DC from attending. They, however, did move the proceedings inside for the first time since late winter. It was good to see Adam (a.k.a. Froggie) back on dry land after spending months at sea in his job as Tweeter First Class aboard the USS iPad. Kate, who had just completed the graveyard shift as an underpaid public servant, was also in attendance. She had ridden Kermit, the bike I would be most likely to steal but for its pink handlebar tape. Welcome back, you two.

Friday’s workday came and went. During the ride home I was going over a checklist of things to do in preparation for Saturday’s Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA. Thing number one was raise the seat on The Mule. This went really well until I tried to tightened the seat post bolt that would keep the seat where I done raised it to. The bolt wouldn’t tighten. I jumped in the car and drove to Spokes Etc. to get a replacement. It turns out the bicycle industry no longer uses this seat post retention system. Spokes didn’t have a bolt. I drove home and decided to ride Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist instead.

Saturday morning was so cold that I didn’t bother to look at the thermometer. The drive to Warrenton involved a 15 mile detour caused by VDOT’s brilliant decision to close one of the exits on I-66. I lucked out and found a parking space only a couple of blocks from the start.

As I was getting ready to leave the car, the guy in the car next to me says, “Are you Rootchopper?” It turns out he is known online as Consularrider and he works in the building next to me in Rosslyn. Small world. After a brief chat, I took off to pick up my t-shirt and cue sheet. I decided to ride the 43 mile ride instead of the 71 miler. After doing the check in, I headed out for a brief tour of Warrenton. Old Town Warrenton is quaint and small, but I managed to get lost anyway. After about 3 miles or riding I pulled into Red Truck Bakery. I had a coffee and an orange cranberry walnut muffin. The coffee was okay but the muffin was mouthwatering. Readers of the blog may find this familiar since I had the very same thing last year. It is still the best damned muffin in the universe.

Little Nellie at Red Truck Bakery
Little Nellie at Red Truck Bakery

After muffinpaloosa, I headed back to the start of the ride where I was hoping to find John Roche, creator of the Hoppy 100 bike rides. I learned from the check-in desk that John was long gone. Bob Cannon and his son Jeremy soon appeared and in short order the three of us were underway. Bob and Jeremy set a very brisk pace. After about five miles I slowed to my normal slog and took in the scenery. Last year the foliage was post peak; this year most of the trees were green. It didn’t much matter because this is the Virginia Piedmont, the kind of countryside you see in coffee table books: split rail fences, rolls of hay drying in the fields, Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

I reached the first rest stop. It was Cannon-less. It was also foodless so I topped off my water bottle. Before leaving, I raised my seat a couple of millimeters to get more extension out of my legs. The bolt didn’t break. Yay. Back on the road I was alone with swirling winds and rolling hills. The hills are just the right size to hill hop, zoom down one hill then use the momentum to ride all the way up the next.

The next stop was at the Elk Run Anglican Church. Oh. My. God. Cookies, brownies, hot pretzel sticks, nuts, M&Ms, and more. To wash it down they were serving hot apple cider. I hate cold apple cider, but this sweet, hot drink totally hit the spot. The Cannons were here. So was Consularrider. And John Roche. Chat ensued. I split off to talk to a guy with a faired Gold Rush, a lighter weight aluminum version of Big Nellie. I did my best not to drool on it.

By the time I rejoined the posse, Consularrider (who was doing the 71 mile ride) and the Cannons were gone. John Roche and I headed out as a duo. Before leaving the rest stop, I nearly flipped my bike over backwards when I caught the rear wheel in a roadside drainage ditch. A cop sitting in his nearby car had a good laugh. He said I wasn’t the only one.

John and I gave the ride an honest effort. We had a steady tailwind for what seemed like two or three miles (yay!)  then it was in our face again (boo!). John’s better at hills so he would speed ahead on the rises and I would catch up a mile or two later. On one of the downhills, the Gold Rush went by us in a blur. Dang, that bike can fly.

Our next stop came at Poplar Springs, a vineyard up a windy hill from the main road. On the climb up, we caught and passed Gold Rush.  Recumbents can’t climb for beans. As the famous cyclists Milton Friedman once said, “There ain’t no such thing as a free downhill.”

This rest stop had tables of food, hot cider, and pumpkin soup. It looked like many of the riders were preparing for an overnight stay. Nom. Nom.

As we were preparing to leave, my grad school roommate Paul and Amy, his significant other, appeared. They were doing the 23 mile ride. Given the food at this rest stop, I think they might have gained a pound for their efforts. They were last seen falling into a food coma near the pumpkin soup.

The Cannons blasted down the road and John and I made rather pathetic chase. We found out that Jeremy, a high school hockey player dressed in street clothes, was chasing down lycra-clad triathletes on their fancy carbon fiber bikes. I’d have loved to have seen the look on their faces when this kid in jeans got on their back wheels.

The Cannons were out of sight  in no time. No worries. This stretch of the route had some honest to god foliage. Pedal, pedal. Pretty, pretty.

After passing a couple of women wearing capes, we rolled into the finish. There was more food! And massages. And antique bikes. We hung out in the hopes that the sun would warm us. No dice. We went our separate ways. Back at the car, Consullarrider was preparing to go out for another ride – to get his 100 miles in for the day. I would have joined him but I am sane and there was heat in the car!

On the way home, I visited several bike shops to find a new seat bolt. No luck. The Mule now sits at home looking sad, off in the corner of the shed, its seat pushed all the way down to the top of the frame.  No worries. One of the shops is getting some bolts in this week. The Mule will ride again.

For pix of the ride (beware: Food porn ahead) check out my set on Flickr.

The Intoverted Volunteer

The Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) is a membership funded bicycle advocacy organization. They’ve been hard at work for over 40 years helping the DC area become a better place to ride a bike. This week they are holding a membership drive so I volunteered to help out at a sign up location on the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th Street Bridge.

I arrived early and waited for the WABA staff person to show up with the sign up materials. It was warm and the sun was still shining. At around 5 o’clock I saw something that I have not noticed before. There was a torrent of bicycles streanming down the ramp from the bridge. This was especially surprising to me since I hadn’t seen many bike commuters in the morning. They were coming fast and all I could think of was how do you get them to stop?

After a few minutes, Lolly showed up. She is WABA’s membership coordinator. She had all the paperwork, clipboards, pens, and a gizmo on her smartphone for taking payments. And she had sidewalk chalk. After getting our bikes secured, she went up the ramp to write WABA and draw arrows on the trail. She is brave. And crazy. Meanwhile I decided that this membership gig called for some serious extroversion. Being a total introvert, I decided to put on an accent and bark like a hot dog vendor at a ballpark (Get your WABA memberships heah!) Cyclists just kept zooming past probably wondering what that lunatic on the side of the trail was yelling about. Many of them had ear buds in. I HATE earbuds. I thought, “This is going to be a long evening.”

Lolly
I bike therefore I am Lolly

Then, as if by a miracle, a rider stopped. Lolly did her smartphone thing and I ran off with the chalk to write on the trail to the north and south. More ballpark vending ensued. This is TOTALLY not like me. I was really uncomfortable, but no guts, no glory. Another person stopped and another. One was a guy who had let his WABA membership lapse. He originally joined in 1973! He re-upped. Go team!

Mr. WABA 1973
Mr. WABA 1973

Dana, a jovial and somewhat insane bike commuter and frequent attendee at cycling get-togethers like Friday Coffee Club and the Third Thursday happy hour, stopped and pitched in. His voice and enthusiasm project better than mine and he worked the trail like a man possessed. More and more people stopped to sign up. I kept barking out my pleas for members. “Sign up for WABA or I’ll kill my cat!” (Note: I don’t own a cat.) Dana handed out some chewing gum to us which helped immensely as I was starting to lose my voice.

Our numbers grew again when Larry showed up. He had walked over for the Columbia Island parking area on the opposite side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Unlike the rest of us, he looked like a grown up in normal office clothing. He started right in soliciting memberships. Somehow he managed to speak entire sentences to passing cyclists. Meanwhile, I was falling to my knees shamelessly begging for people to sign up. An old school DC lawyer once was overheard telling his protégé. “Never be afraid to make a fool of yourself for your client.” I took his advice to heart.

After a while Dana rode off. Thanks, for helping. We really couldn’t have done it with out you, sir. WABA owes you a tall latte and a fritter.

Occasionally, people would stop by to chat. An “old” (hey, he looked about my age but he self identified as old) man came by with a big yellow bucket sitting on the top tube of his bike. He had a fishing rod, broken into two parts like a pool cue, strapped to the top tube a well. The bottom of the inside of the bucket was covered with bait fish. He didn’t sign up but he talked a blue streak about fishing and his 1955 gas guzzling Chevy. I tried to be polite but the cyclists were still passing by and the sun was setting. What made it doubly stressful is that (a) I don’t know diddly about fishing and (b) I am an introvert (see above). After about five minutes, he rode off to land the big one.

In the process of the event, Darren Buck stopped by. We hadn’t met in the flesh before, but knew each other from various Internet dicussions. He will be working the same site on Thursday night with WABA’s Alex. Also Lane, one of the DC randos and a Friday Coffee Club regular, blew on by with a wave. And Bike House Chris, who was in the 2013 Hoppy 100 posse and an excellent two-bikes at once rider, came by to shoot the breeze.

Larry and Lolly at the End of the Day
Larry and Lolly at the End of the Day

We called it a night as the sun set. Lolly was a happy camper with a great big pile o’ memberships. Larry walked off into the sunset. Big Nellie and I rode off into the dark with my introversion restored.

Two Reasons to Bike Commute

It was the first cold bike commute of the year. 40 degrees is plenty cold enough for me. I was warmed up in a mile and the tailwind made the transition to true autumn weather a breeze (sorry). I stopped along the river to admire the sunrise. Reason number one to bike commute.

The ride home was warmer but the headwind was not a lot of fun. As I was climbing out from under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge I heard a SMASH. When I reached South Washington Street I saw the car with its front left side all smashed in. Reason number two to bike commute.

Tomorrow I will be helping the Washington Area Bicycling Association sign up new members on the Mount Vernon Trail at the 14th Street Bridge. Stop by, say hello, set a spell. And become a member. It’s like a cult only more better.

On Groucho Marx and Coffeeneuring

I’m tired. Just run down. I don’t feel good. This may be because I’ve been riding constantly thanks to Furloughmas and bike commuting and other adventures. So the irony of all my riding is that today is a perfect day to ride and I don’t much feel up to it. The Washington Post ran an article today about a guy who lives near my house and rides his bike to Rockville Maryland everyday for work. His commute is 70 miles round trip. As Groucho Marx once said to the husband of a woman who was averaging giving birth to more than one child a year: “I like my cigar but I take it out once in a while.”

For the record my commute is about 30 miles round trip. I am nowhere near as fit as the guy in the article. Then again, I actually have time to sleep.

So you’d think I’d take the day off the bicycle. Think again. I decided to go for a short ride to get some coffee and add to my coffeeneuring madness.  So I hopped on Big Nellie and made my way ever so slowly to Old Town Alexandria. My left quadricep felt like lead. The was no elasticity to it for most of the trip. Twas a struggle (Twas?), nut I made it to Firehook Bakery on Union Street in the heart of OldTownLand. I didn’t have high expectations for the coffee but I was pleasantly surprised by the French roast that I had. I also consumed an Italiano sammich. Not half bad. I’ll have to remember this place for future refuelings.

Firehook Bakery
Firehook Bakery

My quad came back to life for the ride home, but I wasn’t setting any speed records. I called it a day after 14 miles.

Coffeeneuring No. 9 (number 9, number 9, number 9):

Location: Firehook Bakery on Union Street in Old Town Alexandria (part of the Mount Vernon Trail)

Drink: French Roast

Miles: 14

Observation: For a town on the Mount Vernon Trail, the East Coast Greenway, the Adventure Cycling Association Atlantic Coast and Tidewater Potomac routes, Old Town Alexandria has crappy bike parking. Which is to say, it has next to no bike parking.

Coffeeneuring No. 8: Charity, Chinatown, and the Future

A friend of ours is out of town. She was donating her car, parked at her place on Capitol Hill, to charity. The charity failed to pick the car up yesterday. I decided to check out the situation today, a perfect excuse for a bike ride in to the city.

Before I left home, I once again tweaked the new saddle on The Mule. I measured the fore/aft position of the saddle on Little Nellie. Little Nellie was custom made to replicate the configuration of The Mule. What I discovered was that the saddle on The Mule was one inch farther forward than the saddle on Little Nellie. So I slid The Mule’s saddle back and headed out for DC.

I could tell right away that this little tweak was just what the doctor ordered. Just that one inch was all I needed to get my groove back on this bike.  With a steady tailwind, I rode straight up the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. It felt great to be buzzing along feeling as if the bike and I were in sync.

I rode down the National Mall hoping to spot some people I knew to no avail. I made my way to Capitol Hill and verified that our friend’s car had indeed been picked up.  Since I had already used up two coffee shops at Eastern Market for earlier coffeeneuring adventures, I decided to head downtown for a cup of coffee at Chinatown Coffee Company. I learned of Chinatown Coffee from the Queen of Caffeine and her husband, the King of Espresso who stop there during the 50 States Ride.

Chinatown Coffee and the Post
Chinatown Coffee and the Post

I had some Honduran coffee. It was as good as any coffee I’ve had so far. Right up there with Swings and St. Elmo’s. I was disappointed that they didn’t have much in the way of food. So I sipped the coffee and read the newspaper. I really like the ambiance of this place. I will definitely add it to my future coffee sorties.

Properly caffeinated, I rode across downtown to White House Plaza. None of my peeps were going gaga over the prez, so I headed for home. On the way, I stopped at Belle View Shopping Center to check out a new bakery/restaurant that Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley tweeted about earlier in the day.  The place isn’t open yet, but I had a long talk with the owners and admired the loaves of bread they had lined up on the window sill. The owner gave me a loaf of French bread which he called 50 percent. It looked and smelled great but he was still fine tuning  his baking products. He was confident that they all will be 100 percent. I am looking forward to that.

Bread and Water is a work in progress
Bread and Water is a work in progress
Proud owner of Bread and Water
Proud owner of Bread and Water

With le pain in le pannier, I headed for home. I tried out the new bike trail along side Fort Hunt Road. It’s a lovely trail but pretty much useless for getting anywhere. To get on it, you take a windy sidewalk that twists and turns. The path itself is wide and smooth but it winds left and right, up and down parallel to Fort Hunt Road which is a smooth steady climb. At one point I had to duck under a large tree limb, the remnant of an even bigger limb that had fallen over the trail. Add trail maintenance to the list of many things lacking in Fairfax County bicycle infrastructure.  How sad it is that the bike trails and bike routes in Fairfax County, which is mostly suburban, is inferior to the trails, routes and cycle tracks in DC and Arlington.