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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - DNF, again

A few weeks ago I was talking with Shoji about coffeeneuring on the ride to work.  We happen to cross paths and ride in together, although not all that frequently.  Shoji was a successful errandonneur this year but didn't plan to try to complete this year's coffeeneuring challenge.  As a dad with two young children, he couldn't count on always have free time on the weekends for the coffeeneuring challenge, although he is free to commute by bicycle, which he does every day.  It's relatively easy to finish the errandonnee if you are riding 5 days a week already (not that I finished this year's challenge) but it is another thing entirely to always be able to carve out alone time on the weekends when you have young children.  And so it was this year.  I missed the first weekend of coffeeneuring with a trip to Maine that didn't include bikes.  I made up that lost weekend with a second coffeeneuring trip on another weekend and had just one trip for this weekend.  And it didn't happen.  I could go out now for a cup of tea or a mulled cider but if I did it would violate one of my rules for coffeeneuring - it has to be fun.  And right now I have some energy for typing but not enough for going out in the cold.  Not that the cold and dark bother me but I do have to get ready for the work week and getting the boys out the door tomorrow.  So here is the record of my successful trips.  Maybe I'll earn an honorable mention.

Coffeeneuring 1 - Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, Somerville, MA.  This is one of my favorite places for coffee and hanging out. 9 miles.

Coffeeneuring 2 - An early morning ride out to Concord and Carlisle with a stop at Haute Coffee in Concord, MA.  Lights were required for this one. 43 miles.

Coffeeneuring 3 - A carbon nap for my son without the carbon.  We stopped at my current favorite coffee shop, Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA. 15 miles.

Coffeeneuring 4 and 5 - A quick trip to Kickstand Cafe in Arlington, MA, taken the long way with a detour though trails in Belmont, the town to the south of Arlington.  Included is a quick trip to a Starbuck the following day after running errands in town. 8 and  4 miles.

Coffeeneuring 6 - Sofra Bakery on the Belmont/Cambridge, MA line.  This also included a detour through the same trails through Belmont but I got a little lost in the woods.  Sofra is a great place to stop for coffee and/or treats.  I never had breakfast or lunch there but it looks like it would be great.  11  miles.

While I didn't finish the challenge, I did work with the Chief Coffeeneur on the digital maps.  We added a coffee shop map this year.  Let us know if you participated in the challenge and want to add the shops you visited to the map.




Sunday, November 9, 2014

Coffeeneuring #6 - getting lost in the woods

Coffeeneuring #6 is complete!  If you read my blog last year, or the results from the Chief Coffeeneur, you might recall that even as the New England Regional Office of Coffeeneuring, I wasn't able to complete the challenge.  I stand a better chance this year, with one weekend remaining in the challenge and only one more coffee shop to visit.  Or I could say, darn, only 1 more coffee shop that I get to visit, with my wife's blessing.  In fact, I'm hoping that my wife comes with me, and the boys, too.  I'm hoping for a combination of Union Square Donuts and Bloc 11, which I visited on last year's challenge, as my last coffeeneuring event.  Maybe I could ride there and they could join me via the van car.

I picked Sofra for this trip.  It's a fabulous bakery, specializing in Middle Eastern fair (although the owners are not from the Middle East, at least as far as I know).  They have a lot of savory options and while they call themselves a bakery, you can certainly get breakfast and lunch there as well.
Sofra is in Belmont, the next town over, and I decided to again ride through the trails on my way there.  I again used the Diverged ride route and decided in advance to avoid the steepest section, just above Snake Hill Road.  Just before the turn off I noticed, for the first time, an old water tower, probably connected to Maclean Hospital.  For an isolated spot, at least a half mile from the nearest road, it was covered in graffiti:


The top is capped with a conical roof, which I couldn't capture from below and couldn't focus on it from a distance.  It's colored with rust, above the graffiti:


Just beyond this was, I thought, the steep section.  And just before the steep section was a turn.  I think that's were I left the known route or maybe I already veered off since I didn't have the GPS route and I had only been on these trails twice before.  In any case, I soon found myself descending into the Maclean Hospital grounds.  The hospital is expansive and some of the buildings looked like there were in the middle of renovations:


There was also the new residential development that was built within the grounds after some lean years in the 1990s.  It was odd seeing the modern somewhat dense residential development surrounded in places by the older institutional buildings.  I didn't have a map (although I could have looked at Ride With GPS on my phone (I added a route, just in case I got really lost) but knew that the road I was looking for, Mill Street, lay to the north.  I was lucky that the path I followed led quickly to a road then I simply followed what seemed to be a one way road until I saw an exit sign, which did lead me towards Mill Street.  From there I followed Trapelo Road to Sofra.

Sofra was packed.  The line for ordering and waiting for your order was long but it seemed to move quickly.  I grabbed a seat but noticed that there were empty seats outside.  I considered that but I was lightly dressed and it was fairly cold so I stayed inside.  The coffee (a cappuccino) was fabulous and I had a savory and a sweet pastry:


I shared my table with a woman waiting for a friend and enjoyed some conversation, but also a relaxing few minutes on my own.  It had been a busy morning, with my wife away for an appointment and me playing with the boys while I raked up a considerable volume of leaves, hopefully most of what I need to do this fall.  I'd love to come back here for lunch some time.

I managed to find more trails on my way home, descending from Huron Avenue down the path along Fresh Pond, and then taking the bike path into Arlington.  It was a 12 mile ride with a decent amount of uncertainty about where I was and mostly very nice roads and trails.  Trapelo was the exception but there was a lot of room (seemingly enough for parking and a good bike lane) so it wasn't bad despite the traffic.

Miles for the ride: 12, miles for  the month: 58, miles for the year: 2621.

My personal coffeeneuring map (let me know if you want to do this for yourself):

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Coffeeneuring #4 2014 or a ride in the woods + coffeeneuring #5

A couple of weekends I had the chance to get out for a second coffeeneuring excusion on Sunday.  I believe I spent most of  the day getting the boys out of the house so my wife could work so she generously gave me an hour and a half to get in another coffeeneuring adventure.  I thought I would stay in town and try out Kickstand Cafe, which I rarely go to, but decided on a longer route to get there.  I had the Ride Studio Cafe Diverged 2014 route on my Garmin so I decided that I'd try to get on the route to ride through some woods in Belmont.  I had tried this route in the spring without the GPS and didn't get lost but thought I might increase my chances of getting home on time so the GPS would give me confidence in doing so.

This area is a bit of a ride from my house so I had to navigate hills, semi-urban streets and a Route 2 crossing to get there but it was worth it.  The trails, for the most part, aren't technical but there is one descent that I did in the spring but I balked on since the trail was now leaf covered and, again, I wanted to get home on time and get home without blood showing.  The Garmin route from Ride Studio Cafe had a nice cutoff to avoid the Concord Ave morass where it emerges from the underpass (below the commuter rail tracks) and eventually brought me to the Fitchburg Cutoff and Minuteman Path.  All in all, I think well over half of my ride was either on dirt trails or bike paths.

The Kickstand Cafe is a nice place for coffee, especially in the afternoon when it isn't too busy.  The room is big and there is bar seating overlooking the parking lot.  Well, at least you could see the sun.  There is minimal outdoor seating.  I suggest that they do a better job with bike racks, however.

I think I take a left here ...


A quiet trail through the woods.


The wetland along part of the Fitchburg Cutoff.


I stopped and chatted with Jeremy on his Rivendell Simple One on the Minuteman.



Coffeeneuring #5 - not much to say about this except that the challenge motivated me to get out of the house before last weekend's nor'easter .  I had to run an errand in the center of town and had time for a quick cup of coffee (as in a short, which is not on the printed menu).  I did get some trail riding by going out of my way but mostly is was an excuse to get out of the house for a few extra minutes that morning.

My well locked bike attached to one of the only two racks here.



Official proof for the coffeeneuring challenge.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

A communal coffeeneuring map

Last year I helped the Chief Coffeeneur supplement her classic colored pencil map of coffeeneuring with a digital version of the map.   One person commented, suggesting that we should map all of the coffeeshops that people visit on the coffeeneuring challenge.  That would have been a lot of work last year and even more coffeeneurs are riding this year so having me or Mary add everyone's destinations would be more work than we are capable of doing.  But the idea is a good one and I made a map of my destinations and then I thought that I could share editing privileges for this map and anyone who is coffeeneuring could contribute.  This still could get unwieldly, with me having to send an email to anyone who expresses interest but I think it's worth a try and Mary thinks it could be worthwhile.  So here is the map, with the three coffee shops that I visited on it (and maybe more by the time you read this) and ready for more coffee shops:



If you are adding your coffee shop(s) and they don't appear on the map, go back to the table and open the Map of Location view.  This will geocode your address(es) and they will then appear in this map.

So this is how it will work ...

Anyone interested in adding their stops to the map should email me directly.  Find my email address in the About Me section of the right column of this blog.  Please send me your Gmail account, which seems to be the easiest to work with.  I will give you editing privileges via email.

Notice that you will have editing privileges, which means you can add rows of data but also accidentally delete or otherwise edit another person's data.  So you you will have to be careful.  This is what the table looks like so far:


If you want to add a coffeeneuring stop, you go to the Rows view (note the tab for Row, Cards, and Map of Location) and then in the Edit menu, select Add Row.  You might select Delete Row by accident, which will delete all of the rows and end this experiment.  The Add Row interface looks like this:


You need to fill in the coffee shop name (Shop), which is a simple text field.

Next, add the address (Address).  The address could be something like "1720 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420" (the Ride Studio Cafe address), or it could be "Concord, MA", which would be less precise.  It's best to check the address in Google Maps.  For instance, something like "Starbucks in Lexington, MA" yields the less helpful (in this instance) map of all of the nearby Starbucks.  "Ride Studio Cafe Lexington, MA" works since there is only one Ride Studio Cafe in or near Lexington, MA.  An address could be a latitude, longitude pair, like "33.023513, -113.049178", works.  Try this one in Google Maps.  I've had lunch at this place, but didn't get there by bike.  If you think you don't have access to where you visited in spherical coordinates, simply open Google Earth and zoom to where you had coffee and look at the bottom of the Google Earth window.  Google Maps likes Decimal Degrees and not Degrees Minutes Seconds, which is the Google Earth default.  Change this in the Tools menu under Options.  In the Options window, look for Show Lat/Long then click on the Decimal Degrees radio box.

Now add a link to the coffee shops website (Link).  This is a hyperlink, if that term is still used, which take the map reader to the website and will hopefully help other coffeeneurs figure out if they want to visit the shop as well.

You can add notes about the coffee shop, or your visit there in the Notes field.

The last field, Coffeeneur, is meant to identify you, the person entering the data.  And by identifying you, I mean your online presence, if you have one.  For instance, I put in a link to my Twitter page.  I could have put in a link to this blog, or my Instagram account, or a link to my blog post about my visit there.  Anything works but it should be a legitimate web address or leave it blank.  Once you added a row and saved it (see the above image) then you need to click on the Map of Locations tab.  This geocodes the address, making it possible to put a pushpin on the map representing the shop and the data about it that you added.  Doing this may change the map extent.  While it is presently centered around Lexington, MA, adding a point in Finland, where there is an active coffeeneur, will center the map over the Atlantic and scale it so that both the eastern United States and Europe are in the map.

So be brave and contact me and I'll give you permission to edit the map and soon you will be adding to the map on this page.  A word of warning: I work a full time job during regular-ish business hours and have two children.  That means it might take a day or two after you send me an email to invite you as an editor.  If I seemed to forget, don't worry about pinging me.

I'll stop accepting requests to edit this page not long after Mary's final posts about this season's coffeeneuring exploits.


Coffeeneuring #3 2014, or a car nap, without the car

I probably never would have got out of the house today except that it was the day of the spooky walk (a Halloween walk around a pond in a wooded park in town) and the little guy needed a nap before we went, since we would be up past his usual bedtime.  He is too old for naps in his bed and car naps work great.  But we weren't going anywhere before the walk so I decided I'd run a couple of errands and then see if I could get my son to sleep in his bike seat.  We rode to the library in town then the post office then I said we'd take the long way home, a very long way home.  As it turned out, we took the bike path to route 128.  He didn't fall asleep until somewhere in Lexington and remained asleep until I pulled off the bike path to Ride Studio Cafe.  The studio wasn't hopping like it would be before or after a ride so I found a place inside to lean my bike so I didn't have to lock it for a second time on this trip.

Questions to be answered:

3) What bike are you using for as your coffeeneuring bike?


My Surly Cross Check commuter, equipped with a Co-Pilot child seat.  We are outgrowing this seat.  The big guy no longer fits in it while the little guy will be out of it next year.

BTW Rob Vandermark, president of Seven and Honey and co-owner of Ride Studio Cafe needed to grab something out of those drawers behind where my bike turned out to be inconveniently located and graciously moved it to get what he needed and put it back into place.  It's always nice to see Rob here.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur on this trip?

Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.  If you don't know it already, it's a great shop with very nice people both on the coffee side and bike side.  The make great espresso and pour overs and sell very beautiful bikes.  It's my favorite coffee shop and I'd be there a lot more if it were closer to home.

It's obviously bike friendly, being part bike shop.  They have indoor bike parking and have worked with the town the have a two parking stall mini parklet and bike parking outside their shop.

The communal table:



7) Anything else to share?

I did get in trouble for getting home too late.  Fortunately we all survived.

Some things I saw on the bike trail ...

A high school boy insisting on passing an older couple on a bridge, forcing me to the side so he didn't hit us head on.  But he is immortal so no problem.

A man with a young girl on a child seat, pushing his son on his own bike, with training wheels.  I saw him on the way out of town and back in and either he was in a hurry or this was how he was training his son to ride.  I still remember a crash I witnessed a decade ago, a couple of hundred feet from where I last saw this family.  In that case, dad pushed his daughter to the ground while pushing her on her own bike with training wheels.  He went down as well.  This can never end well so don't try it at home.

An older child getting pushed by her mom, with mom screaming, "PEDAL, PEDAL!"

Overall, there were a lot of sane cyclists on the path today.




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coffeeneuring # 2 for 2014 or riding your bike in the dark


Coffeeneuring #2 for 2014 coincided with my second road ride since the beginning of September.  I tried to plan an early morning ride with another coffeeneur that combined road riding with his desire to ride trails but that coffeeneur's family life leaves him even more time constrained than me.  For that route I had planned on riding my Surly, which is well equipped for dirt roads.  Instead, I choose a similar route that kept me on paved roads so I could ride my IF, which is well equipped with lights: a Busch and Muller IQ CYO 60 lux headlight and Specula Plus taillight, both powered by a Schmidt Son Deluxe dynamo hub.  I have a back up 600 lumen Nite Rider headlight and used a Portland Design Works Radbot tailight in steady mode (in the dark; I switched to flashing mode in daylight).  The wheels have reflectors and I have reflective material on my shoes, supplemented by reflective ankle bands and also wear a reflective vest.  I was safe as I could be riding at night.  I left at 5:30 AM, which meant I had an hour and a half of riding before sunrise.  It was clear when I left my house but clouds moved in, making it a dark morning.

I really like riding my Surly, which is a bit of a tank but useful for a lot of the riding that I do (read: mostly commuting) but I enjoyed riding my IF for the coffeeneuring ride.  It's a great ride for me - very crisp response and quick handling, as designed.  It also weighs almost ten pounds less than the Surly.

The route

I followed well known roads out to Great Brook Farm Park then south to Concord, coming back into town on 2A and then used the Mill Street cutoff.  I would have taken Old Bedford Road and Virginia Road but I was somewhat pressed for time and didn't want to be late so I took 2A.  On the way out I avoided the bike path since it was leaf covered and wet and I didn't want to slip alone in the dark (or any other time).  4/225 wasn't very crowded so I didn't regret my decision.  The full route is here.

Coffee stop

Since this is a coffeeneuring post. I have to mention where I stopped: Haute Coffee in Concord, MA.  I had been there twice before, once on a partially dirt road ride I did in the early morning last fall in advance of coffeeneuring season.  I came by before they opened but they saw my lights and let me in and served me a pour over.  The make a great cup of coffee and I later enjoyed another cup after my boys and I explored the Concord heron rookery this spring.



They continue to make great pour overs and have nice treats.  I had a granola bar, which was great, especially since I had just a couple of bars for sustenance, because I was out too early to eat breakfast at home.  There is a nice place to sit indoors but the weather was fine and they don't have great places to lock bikes (you might see a mini u-lock attached to my seat bag) so I sat outside in what became a communal table.  Just as I got my coffee, I small group of riders from the Blue Ginger (yes, that nice restaurant in Wellesley) cycling club arrived and eventually joined me.  They were great company and I ended up staying a bit longer than I intended but probably was more in line with the spirit of coffeeneuring.  The coffee was served in a small carafe making it all a bit fancy but I got over that.



Riding in the dark

I have to say that I enjoy riding in the dark, although it takes a lot of equipment and care to be nearly as safe as you are riding during the day.  My wife doesn't quite get it but it is an interesting experience and not at all thrilling in a death defying way.  In fact, I wouldn't be riding in the dark if I thought it was unsafe.  I do prefer riding in the early morning when drivers are less likely to have been drinking and there are few people on  the roads rather than in the late evenings.

I have come to like the Busch and Mueller lights that I now have one on both of my bikes.  It gives me a great light on the road when I am traveling up to 20 miles per hour and has a decent spread of lower intensity light so that I can see to the side, something that I couldn't do with my battery powered headlight.  In that case, I feel like I am riding through a cone of light, although the light is better for rougher terrain.  I have a Spannigo Pixeo rear light on my commuter (which someone actually told me it was quite visible on a later afternoon commute a couple of weeks ago).  I thought the Specula Plus would be better, more than a point source of light, which some people say is not as easy to gauge distance by.  The Specula, which is the light mounted just below my seat post on the picture at the beginning of the post, seems to do better.  I still like to have a second light whether commuting or riding out of town.  I think the prettiest light is just around sunrise and sunset and in  the summer and I prefer to not ride in the heat of the day so I occasionally end up riding before sunrise and after sunset.  I end up traveling a lot slower at night, but the effect seems similar to riding on trails in the woods - it seems like you are riding a lot faster than you are.

Be careful out there if you do ride at night!

At the Maple Street bridge in Carlisle.  Lights on for safety



West Street before it turns into North Street and goes into Great Brook Farm Park.



The foliage show is fading fast but there are still some nice color out there.



Despite all of the rain that we have had in the last couple of weeks, the area is still very dry.  This is the inlet of one of Cambridge's reservoirs.



Not quite retro, not quite modern.


A map of my coffeeneuring destinations (this will change as I hope to ride more):





Miles for the ride: 43, miles for the month: 200, miles for the year: 2428.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - #1

Now that it's coffeeneuring season, I realized, again, that getting out of the house on some kind of schedule is hard, especially when it comes to cycling.  First, you need to understand that I managed to get on my bike 27 times (including today) since the beginning of September and 23 of those times have been commuting and another of those times was a family trip by bicycle.  So riding for fun seems to have largely faded from view.  Having said that, I already have family approval for a coffeeneuring trip to Western Massachusetts next week and that includes 40 miles, 4000 feet of climbing, and somewhere close to 15 miles of dirt roads.  But generally it is hard to get out of the house and this coffeeneuring season is getting a slow start.  To be honest, a lot of it has been my fault.  I instigated a trip to Cape Elizabeth in Maine, accepting friends' invitation to spend what turned out to be a rainy Saturday and sunny Sunday in a beautiful corner of the world with great friends.  I could have squeezed a coffeeneuring trip in early Saturday before we drove up there but it would have been stressful so I didn't.  Yesterday, the Saturday of the second coffeeneuring weekend, found us driving again, this time to the Ashfield Fall Festival and visiting some of my oldest friends, from college back in the 1970s.  We all had a great time, except my wife was pretty tired after driving back late with the boys (late for boys, not adults, except adults with children).  Riding before the trip was impossible, especially with me trying to get the the boys hair cut, which was successful.  So today was my first chance.  And here is what it looked like:




My wife is now aware of this challenge and while she undoubtedly scoffs at it (and is reading this post), she did encourage me to get some paint after I got some coffee (unfortunately the paint store was already closed for the day before I left the house) and even mentioned the challenge.  So I got out for some coffee and a nice ride, even if it was on busy streets.  On to the questions.

1) Where do you live?

Arlington, MA

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

I like coffee and I like to ride my bike.  And I ran the Northeast Regional Office for Coffeeneuring last year, making the digital map and I'm making the digital map again this year.

3) What bike are you using as you coffeeneuring bike?  Tell us a little about it and why it makes a good coffeeneuring bike.

Well, it's a Suly Cross Check frame built up with Shimano 105 shifters/brakes and derailleurs along with a Shimano 3N80 front hub and a White Industries MTB rear hub.  It has fenders and racks, lights powered by the generator and others powered by batteries and it even has a bell.  It serves as my commuter and carries the boys and one day I'l go for a short tour on it.  The racks make it a good coffeeneuring bike since I can carry panniers and fill one of those panniers with locks so I can confidently lock my bike.  (The locks include two Kryptonite locks and two cables, one locking and one used with one of the u locks, so I can park it for all of 20 minutes without worrying too much.)  I guess being able to carry locks is what makes it a coffeeneuring bike.  That said, I intend to do a coffeeneuring without walls sort of trip this coffeeneuring season and I'm thinking that I won't be locking my bike on that trip.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for your first trip?

Diesel Cafe, Somerville, MA.  That's where my wife and I met, 12 years ago.  It's a great place but my wife always complains when I go there by myself.  Maybe she worries that I'll meet someone else but it's more likely that she wants to feel like she has a life outside of work besides kids.  Believe me, no one was interested in me and I just wanted to enjoy a cup of espresso.  Expecting to meet someone wasn't on my radar, nor was talking with anyone - I seriously needed alone time.

5) Would you recommend the Diesel Cafe?

Heck yea!  I met my wife there and you might meet your future spouse there too.  And the coffee is good and the space is expansive and cool, although at my age I can't even be considered a hipster.  You can play pool while you drink coffee, if you happen to time it right.

6) Is there bike parking?

Yes.  The city of Somerville re-purposed a parking stall or two in front of the cafe and put in a decent bike rack.  I even found a spot there today although bike parking in the Davis Square hipster district is tight, given all of the people who ride bikes and like to hang out there.

7) Did I forget to ask you anything that you want to share?

Well, no.  I think you have it covered.

My coffeeneuring bike:


You may notice that I was carrying a tire on the bike.  I made a stop at a bike shop to get a new tire for my son's new-to-us bike.  So this could have also qualified as an errandoneuring trip, if you happen to know what that is.