Thursday, November 16, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017- Me and my Ride Buddy

For the sixth year in a row I've completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge, but this was the best year yet because of my Ride Buddy. Last year I barely completed the seven rides because life had been turned upside down with a 7 month old baby at home. This year at 19 months he was old enough to come along- at least on some of the rides!

The experts say to wait until your child is at least 1 year old before putting him on a bike. He needs to have strong enough neck muscles to support the weight of his head plus the weight of the helmet. Also there is some concern about "micro-vibrations" and shocks, so I promised my wife I'd wait until Little Dude had reached his first birthday. Leading up to the big day I spent quite a bit of time modifying and outfitting my commuting bike to become our toddler carrier. I bought an iBert SafeT Seat and to accomodate it I replaced my drop bars with a set of Soma Oxford bars, Tektro brake levers, and Sun Race thumb shifters. I also splurged on Compass Barlow Pass 38mm wide tires to absorb lots of shock and vibration and give us a smooth ride. The iBert seat is great for the little one- he has an unobstructed view of the world as we ride and a fun steering wheel to turn. He can reach our brass bell, so once he learned how to make it ding that became one of his jobs- when we see someone else on the sidewalks and trails he dings the bell and says "Hi!" He is right between my arms, so I can tell if he's getting sleepy or uncomfortable, and- you'll have to trust me on this- when he needs a diaper change... The iBert is not so great for the Big Person piloting the bike... There's not enough room to get off of the saddle, whether it's for climbing a hill or just stopping at an intersection. Therefore the saddle must be lowered so the rider can put a foot down while seated. This is not a good bike fit, and though we're not going to be traveling long distances he does add some weight... That 24lbs of wiggly extra weight on the handlebars can sometimes make the bike handling a bit odd or unpredictable, too. I'm sure some folks thought I was a bit strange on my practice rides with 2 ten pound bags of sugar in the seat, but I wanted to be sure I could handle it!

We started riding together back in the spring, and all through the summer we made it a weekly ritual to get on the bike and ride to the bank, to the playground, to storytime at the public library, and to the grocery store pulling our Bob Yak trailer. Ride Buddy got used to these trips, and apparently was enjoying them because he started getting excited when he'd see me preparing the bike and putting on my helmet. Now if he hears bike shoes clomping through the house he knows what's up and gets all worked up and ready to go! This makes it a bit difficult if I'm preparing to go on a fast ride with friends... We rode in the Raleigh Oaks and Spokes Kidical Mass event, and he had a blast. Since he'd become such an experienced biker, my wife and I discussed the idea of him joining me on this year's Coffeeneuring Challenge.

She had some ground rules (which, of course were perfectly in line with mine!) #1- Safe routes. I had to plan routes that used sidewalks and greenways to access 7 different coffee shops (or coffeeshops without walls.) Any use of roads shared with cars should be kept to the absolute minimum. #2- No coffee for Little Dude! Shops had to have some kid-friendly choices like juice, whole milk, or smoothie. #3- Good weather. Daddy has a habit of riding the bike in any kind of weather ("there's no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothing choices") but we have to be more protective of our Ride Buddies... #4- NO CRASHING!! This has been a general rule ever since I started bringing Little Dude on the bike. I'm generally a very careful cyclist anyhow, but with this precious cargo I'm about 100 times more careful, head on a swivel- constantly watching for inattentive drivers pulling out of driveways, runners with earbuds on greenways, and dogs. Once I'd received Mommy's conditional approval I started looking for safe routes to see if the challenge was even do-able with a toddler on board. Amazingly, I was able to find six shops in fairly close proximity to our house and all but one had routes that were entirely sidewalk & greenway! I checked in with Mary at the Coffeeneuring Authority Headqurters to see if a 19 month old who doesn't actually pedal and only drinks milk, juice, and smoothies would technically qualify. I was assured that as long as he completes all 7 rides he'd qualify, and he would become the youngest coffeeneur to date! I asked my son if he felt like taking on this challenge and he said "google," which I took as a yes!

Coffeeneuring 2017 #1- 10/17 Jessica's Donuts, 3.2 miles, Café Mocha (me) and juice (Ride Buddy)

The local donut shop is just a few blocks from our house- not good for my waistline, and too close for the Coffeeneuring Challenge, so Ride Buddy and I rode the South Garner Greenway to White Deer Park, played on the swings for a bit and then stopped at the donut shop on the way home. We shared a glazed donut, Daddy had a café mocha and Little Dude had a fruit juice. This route was all sidewalk and greenway, and including the playground made it more fun. The donut and coffee were very good, but I wished that they had more kid-friendly drink options.

Coffeeneuring 2017 #2- 10/23 Starbucks, 5.8mi, Café Mocha (me) and Apple Juice (Ride Buddy)

Our usual Monday morning routine is an errandonné ride to the bank with a stop at the playground. This route is all sidewalks down Timber Dr. in Garner. Cycling on the sidewalk is a necessary evil with a toddler on board, but you have to be extra careful. Drivers aren't expecting anything to be traveling down the sidewalk at any sort of speed, so they're not really paying attention. Every driveway, every side street and light is a potential conflict point. Fairly stressful for Daddy, but Ride Buddy loves riding on the sidewalk. Each ramp down to cross a side street and ramp back up to the sidewalk on the other side elicits an excited "wheee!" We often encounter joggers and dog walkers, and it's Little Dude's job to ding the bell to let them know we're coming. I slow way down out of an abundance of caution, and he happily says "Hi" as we pass, usually more excited by the dogs than the humans... In the same shopping center as the bank is a Target department store with a Starbucks inside. We dropped in, and Daddy had his usual café mocha while Little Dude got an apple juice. He was pretty thirsty, and drank the whole thing- usually he doesn't finish one. Since that meant an impending diaper change we rode straight home and decided to go to the playground after naptime.

Coffeeneuring 2017 #3- 10/24 Aversboro Coffee, 3.5mi, Café Mocha (Daddy again) and Strawberry Banana Smoothie (Ride Buddy)

On Tuesday Ride Buddy wanted to go to storytime at the library. They have singing and dancing, read stories, and at the end there's everybody's favorite- bubbles!

After storytime we rode to Aversboro Coffee, our favorite local coffee shop. Daddy had his usual café mocha and Little Dude had his favorite, strawberry banana smoothie. We colored in their coloring books some and our barista Tawny took our picture with Daddy's camera.

Coffeeneuring 2017 #4- 10/30 Lorraine's Coffee House and Music, 5.2mi, White Mocha (Daddy) and Cuppa Whole Milk (Ride Buddy)

The next Monday we went out on our usual sidewalk errandonné to the bank. Ride Buddy is a bit too young for suckers, so the bank tellers have been giving him stickers- he has quite the collection! Today's sticker was Thor. Afterward we rode to Lorraine's Coffee House, a local spot for coffee, ice cream, and live music in the evenings. This was our first trip there together. Daddy ordered a white mocha, but the options for the kiddos left something to be desired. Little Dude finally decided just to get a cuppa whole milk. He did have lots of fun exploring the shop and getting up on the stage. It had rained on Sunday, so the playgrounds were still too wet for us to visit after. Besides, we still had some Halloween preparations to take care of before tomorrow...

Coffeeneuring 2017 #5- Halloween Edition! 10/31, Coffee Shop Without Walls at Lake Benson Park, 6.7mi, Pre-made Pourover Coffee (HepCat Daddy) and Juice (Ride Buddy Dragon)

This one was perhaps the most fun I've ever had on a bike (and that's saying something...) Ride Buddy wanted to go to Trick Or Treat Storytime at the public library and he insisted that Daddy dress up too! He went as a dragon, and I went as his big fuzzy stuffed kitty cat. His dragon tail was a tight fit in the iBert seat, and my cat tail was dangerously close to getting caught in the spokes! We rode through Garner dressed in our costumes and went to storytime where they had lots of singing and dancing, a spooky Halloween story, and trick-or-treating around the library.

After storytime we rode to Lake Benson Park for a coffeeshop without walls. We played at the playground and swung on the swings, then relaxed with our prepared-ahead-of-time beverages at the picnic tables.

Little Dude loved running around town in costume and seemed to get a big kick out of the fact that Daddy was dressed up as a big fuzzy kitty cat. We went home and took a long nap so we'd be ready for more trick-or-treating fun with Mommy when she got home from work later. All sidewalks and greenways, and no tails caught in the spokes!

Coffeeneuring 2017 #6- 11/6, McDonald's, 6.6mi, Caramel Mocha (Daddy) and Apple Juice (Ride Buddy)

Our usual Monday morning errandonné to the bank again- this time Ride Buddy was flirting hard with the teller... We're going to have our hands full with this boy. She gave him THREE stickers for his collection! After errands we rode all the way down Timber Dr. to McDonalds (we've just about exhausted our coffee possibilities in close proximity to the house.) This route was all sidewalks, but did require that we cross Timber Dr. twice- a busy 4 lane road w/a turning lane... The speed limit goes up to 45mph out near the McDonald's, so of course people tend to go about 60mph. Daddy was not taking any chances, so we just waited until there were no cars anywhere nearby before we went. This is the first time in 6 years of Coffeeneuring that I've visited a McDonald's! In years past I've ventured much further afield to find small shops, but this year I kept the rides shorter.

Coffeeneuring 2017 #7- 11/7, Full Bloom Coffee Roasters, 5.4mi, Honey Cream Cold Brew (Daddy) and Cuppa Whole Milk (Ride Buddy)

It was a dreary Tuesday morning, threatening rain so I suggested we wait till the next week to complete the challenge... Ride Buddy wasn't having it and demanded "BIKE!" so we geared up and headed to Full Bloom Coffee Roasters, the newest coffee shop in town. I stuck a small umbrella in my messenger bag, figuring if we got caught in the rain I could walk the bike home with Little Dude protected under the umbrella. Luckily that didn't happen! I'd saved this shop for last because I needed to figure out a safe route- it's on the other side of Hwy 70 and the bridges that cross the highway don't have sidewalks. My scouting determined that the safest crossing would be the Hwy 50 bridge, we could ride up Aversboro on sidewalks, cross over into a quiet neighborhood and come out right at the bridge. Then we'd only have to share the road with cars across the bridge and pick up the sidewalks on the other side. We timed our run carefully and avoided the cars, safely arriving at Full Bloom for an amazing honey cream cold brew with cinnamon for me and a cuppa whole milk for Little Dude. We also shared a celebratory blueberry muffin before heading back out across the bridge to the relative safety of the neighborhood. It was still dreary but no rain yet and we decided not to chance it, but ride on home and drive the car to storytime at the library. Safely back in our driveway I told Ride Buddy that he'd officially qualified as a Coffeeneur! He dinged the bell a few times in celebration, then we put away our bike and helmets so we could head to the library.

So that's it for the official rides, but our adventures continue! At the start of the challenge he was 19 months old, making My Ride Buddy the youngest ever Coffeeneur to date! I'm not sure who's having more fun- him or me, but I love the fact that I can share my passion for cycling with my son. I get a huge kick out of seeing him enjoying the rides, pointing out the things we see along the way, and greeting the people we meet. I can't wait for the days when we're sprinting for county lines and he's dropping me on the hills!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Coffeeneuring 2016

I actually did ride a bike some last year but I just haven't been writing... New baby in the house keeps you busy! Well, it's Coffeeneuring Challenge time again so I've got to blog about my adventures. This year I decided my Theme Within A Theme would be Coffeeneuring with Friends- seven coffeeshops, seven weekends, seven friends. Sounds easy, right? Well, technically I succeeded at the Coffeeneuring Challenge, but I failed at my theme since I had to do three solo trips to qualify. Why is it hard to convince folks to come out and meet me for coffee? You might well arsk.

#1- Geof at Lucky Tree, 10/9/16, 24 miles

First Coffeeneuring weekend was right after Hurricane Matthew. I rode from home to meet Geof at Lucky Tree coffee, using a couple of greenways along the way. Trees down everywhere. Most I could climb over or under, but a couple blocked my route entirely. Once at the coffeeshop I had a brownie and a drip coffee. Geof was riding some dirt through Umstead and headed over to meet me. He and I have known each other since I first moved to Raleigh 18 years ago and he worked with my wife at a photo lab. Eventually we started riding bikes together and then working together at Peace Camera. I didn't have to twist his arm at all to get him to meet me for coffee on a bike.

#2- Kristy at Cafe de los Muertos, 10/15/16, 8 miles

My second Coffeenuring with friends was meeting up with Kristy at Cafe de los Muertos in downtown Raleigh on a Saturday morning before work. We met a few years back through her bicycle advocacy with Oaks and Spokes and on Benelux rides. I drank a cafe mocha while we chatted about her recent trip to Alaska, my trip to Paris, the addition to my family, etc. It was really cool to use coffeeneuring as an excuse to just sit and chat with a friend and catch up on life. Just before I had to leave to head to work, Dave Zell from Oak City Cycling rode up and we chatted with him as well. I was late for work.

#3- Solo to Deja Brew, 10/16/16, 30 miles

Unable to find anyone willing to meet me for coffee on a gorgeous Sunday I decided to ride a solo safety coffeeneuring run. Good thing I did, as it would soon prove harder than I thought to convince folks to meet me for coffee. Since Peace Camera is being forced to move to a new location, my work commute is getting longer. I managed to plan a route to the new store, and there's a great little coffeeshop in the same shopping center with us. With no one to join me, I decided I might as well test out the new commute. It turns out to be not a bad route. I had an iced coffee, checked out a park nearby for photo possibilities, and then headed home.

#4- Solo to Aversboro Coffee, 10/29/16, 4 miles

Again I was unable to find anyone to join me. I figured it was probably smart to ride another safety trip just in case, so I headed to my favorite coffeeshop near my house for a frozen mocha. 

#5- Ken at Jubala Coffee, 11/5/16, 18 miles

Back on track with friends, I rode from home to meet Ken at Jubala Coffee for a cappuccino. We met a couple of years back at Cranksgiving, schlepping canned goods and turkeys by bike to help feed the homeless. Since then we've ridden together on a few organized rides, a chance meeting on the road, and lately a bit of randonneuring. This was the first time we've had a chance to just hang out & drink coffee. Afterward we rode over to City Market so I could scout locations for my shoot the following day at the Tweed Ride.

#6- Simon at Boulted Bread, 11/13/16, 12 miles

Another great opportunity to use coffeeneuring to catch up with a longtime friend! Simon answered the call and agreed to meet me on a crisp Sunday morning. We talked about his recent trip to Europe and Ireland and my start on the journey of fatherhood. I've known Simon about 15 years, and we've worked together on quite a few photo shoots. It was great to get the chance to catch up, and I had a drip coffee and a coffeecake. I also tucked a ciabatta and a couple of other pastries in my pannier to take home. I can't resist Boulted Bread!

#7- Solo at Starbucks, 11/20/16, 4.5 miles

The realization that I was going to fail at my theme within a theme had already set in, and I had resolved to use my safety rides to complete the challenge. But life kept getting in the way and now I was down to the wire and in danger of missing it by one ride. I was scheduled to work a full day loading and moving the camera store on the last day of the challenge, so my only option was to get up early and ride to the closest Starbucks for a technical finish. It wasn't pretty, but it counts. On an interesting note, in five consecutive years of successful Coffeeneuring Challenges this is my first Starbucks! I had a grande Pike and a bacon gouda sandwich. Pretty sure they sprinkle crack on those things, they're addictive. 

Alright, that's it. Another one down. Can't wait for next year- my son will be old enough to ride in the iBert and come along on some of my journeys- at least the ones that Mommy approves the safety of the route!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015

It's that time of year again- The mornings are crisp and cool, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and it's time for the Coffeeneuring Challenge write-up! This is my fourth consecutive year, and the rules have remained very much the same- 7 different weekend bike rides to 7 different coffee shops, etc. "Coffee shops without walls" count for those of us who like to make coffee in the wild, and this year they added a "Theme Within a Theme" category! I have always imposed the rule of no corporate chain coffee shops on myself (with mixed success) and I've always tried to visit 7 shops I haven't coffeeneured to before (with no success.) I decided that my Theme Within a Theme would be 7 different bikes! My problem was that at the start of the challenge I only owned 6 bikes that were rideable, but since I had a couple of frames and way too many spare parts in storage I figured I could cobble something together… Imagine my surprise when I visited one of my favorite shops, Oak City Cycling Project and they had a beautiful used chrome Bianchi Pista in my size just hanging on the wall and begging me to take her home. So I slept in the doghouse for a week, but I had my 7 different bikes… My "weekend" days are Sundays and Tuesdays thanks to a retail job, so here we go!

Coffeeneuring #1 Sunday Oct. 4th, Boulted Bread in Raleigh, NC

I rode from home in Garner to downtown Raleigh, about 17 miles round trip to visit Boulted Bread and meet up with my friend Geof who was out & about on his Sunday ride. My bike choice was my 1973 Nishiki International, I've owned this frame since I was 13 and bought the bike with $50 I'd saved up from mowing lawns. It spent a long time rusting away in my Mom's basement until 5 or 6 years ago I brought it back to life and converted it to a single speed commuter. Geof and I enjoyed coffee and apple turnovers, then I headed back home since it was looking like rain.

Coffeeneuring #2 Tuesday Oct. 6th, Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham, NC

I've been telling the guys at OCCP about coffeeneuring- it's right up their alley! Plus their shop is closed on Tuesdays, so they're some of the only folks I know with the same days off I have. Anyway, I managed to convince David and Brandon to join me for a coffeeneuring jaunt. Of course, their idea of a quick coffee run was to ride from the shop in Raleigh 50ish miles to a great little coffeeshop in Durham and back! Sure, it's 100 miles round trip, but only 50 miles for coffee (the other 50 is riding home…) They had a route planned, and knowing that they love mixed terrain I brought my Soma Doublecross. This is my "Swiss Army bike." I can do anything with it- randonneuring, gravel, commuting, cyclocross, etc. Sure enough, we were on roads, flooded greenways, American Tobacco Trail, and the gravel roads of Umstead State Park. I enjoyed a drip coffee and a chocolate croissant- nowhere near as good as the pain au chocolate I enjoyed so much in France, but quite edible. By the time we got back to Raleigh I was worn out, but it was a great ride!

Coffeeneuring #3 Sunday Oct. 11th Velo Coffee Roasters in Chattanooga, TN

We were visiting my sister-in-law and her new baby in Hixson, TN and I was bringing a bike to go ride a mountainous 200K on Monday, so Sunday I got up early and rode about 15 miles into Chattanooga to visit Velo Coffee. I rode my Scott CR1 Team, what I call my "plastic bike." It's basically an off-the-rack mid-level components carbon road bike- black, white, and red like they all are these days, but it's great for climbing mountains! I had an iced coffee, then explored downtown Chattanooga for awhile before meeting up with the family for lunch.

Coffeeneuring #4 Tuesday Oct. 20th Cup-a-Joe on Hillsborough in Raleigh. NC

Another Tuesday outing, I again convinced David and Brandon to join me. They were going out to ride gravel at Umstead, but I just rode the 9 miles from home through the NC State Campus on my new fixed gear, the Bianchi Pista I just bought from their shop. Mainly I wanted to show them the changes and upgrades I'd already done to it… We enjoyed coffee at Cup-a-Joe where I forgot to take a picture and then we rode over to the Roast Grill- a Raleigh landmark and home of the famous Roast Grill hot wieners. It was David's first time, and I'm betting he'll be back!

Coffeeneuring #5 Sunday Oct. 25th Aversboro Coffee in Garner, NC

We had lots of rain in central NC in October. This Sunday I got up early and there was a short break in the rain, so I got out the old steel Nishiki Manitoba mountain bike and rode 2 miles over to Aversboro Coffee, my favorite local shop. Had a medium coffee and some blueberry mini-muffins, then rode the bike over to check out the local trails. Of course they were too wet, and it's good to stay off the trails when wet so we don't destroy them. I got back home and my wife and I headed into downtown Garner for a food truck rodeo. Mmmm...

Coffeeneuring #6 Sunday Nov. 1st "Coffeeshop Without Walls" in Garner, NC

After a solid week of rain I decided to just take a quick trip over to Lake Benson Park, about 2 miles from my house in Garner and make some coffee outside. I rode my Douglas Titanium S&S coupled travel bike- this is the bike I rode at Paris-Brest-Paris back in August. I brought along my camp stove and all the fix ins to make a pour over dark roast. Got some really strange looks from a few of the hearty runners who were out despite the drizzle- the park is popular for joggers. I half expected to have to start fixing coffee for everybody, but I guess they didn't want to approach the weirdo making coffee on a rainy day at the park shelter, so nobody asked!

Coffeeneuring #7 Tuesday, Nov. 10th- 5th Avenue Coffee in Garner, NC

I may have saved my favorite bike for last. This is my early 80's Ciocc San Cristobal that I carefully restored a few years ago. I waited till it warmed up a bit in the afternoon, then rode from home about 14 miles down to The Coffee Mill in Clayton, but they were already closed. So I headed back to Garner and stopped in at 5th Avenue- not my favorite shop but it got the job done. Just had coffee and an apple danish. The Ciocc is a dream to ride and just a beautiful, elegant bike so it's always fun even if the coffee is sub-par. I got nearly 30 miles in and finished just as the Sun was going down- a fitting end to this year's Coffeeneuring Challenge for me!

I learned something with my 7 bike Theme Within a Theme... my mountain bike sucks. Other than that one I really love all my bikes. Each has a specific purpose, or fills a niche, or just has sentimental value. But I'm going to have to think about a mountain bike. Truly, the optimum number of bikes is N+1!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

North Carolina's own Strade Bianche

Last weekend I rode the Wilkes County Gravel Grind, a 200k RUSA Permanent route that starts in Clemmons, NC. It's a perm that I've had on my list for a couple of years because of three things: #1 It's tough, 126 miles with 7,500 feet of climbing... #2 It's unique- it includes about 18 miles of gravel roads, with one of those sections being the big climb of the day... And #3 It starts just about 20minutes from my Mom's house!

No one answered my invitation to join in the fun, so I rode solo all day. I chose to ride my Soma Doublecross with 700x32 Pasela TG tires. I had a nice conversation with Jimmy Williams, the perm owner at the start and heeded his advice on tire pressures. The first gravel section was just a taste- an easy 1.4 miles, but I could tell I was set up well. The bike had a nice floaty feel on the gravel and my legs were feeling good. I pushed a bit to see how fast I could go on the dirt roads...

The scenery aint too shabby

Paved roads for awhile and then the cue sheet tells me I'm approaching the 2nd gravel section, but it never comes... The state has been busy and they went and paved the road! Fresh asphalt took over about a 1.5 mile section of what looked like it was good fun dirt road. Oh well, it's on to the first control at a convenience store- but it's Memorial Day weekend and the store is closed. I lurked around the buildings a bit looking for a spigot to fill my bottles, but to no avail. I was down to about half a bottle of water and the next section included the big gravel climb up Brushy Mountain.

During our conversation in the early morning, Jimmy told me lots of stuff about the route- more than I could possibly recall, but when I saw a sign for Love Valley I remembered him suggesting I could go past a turn half a mile to visit the town. "Real old west" feel to it he said, horse country with hitching posts outside the general store and whatnot. I'd pretty much figured I couldn't take the extra time, but now I needed to go look for water. What I found was a real watering hole! The owner was quite a character, and when I told him I was heading up the gravel roads to climb Brushy Mountain he gave me another bottle of water for my jersey pocket. Full up with H2O and a dash of good rando luck I headed up the mountain, passing friendly folks on horses and enjoying some beautiful weather.

 Gravel climbing

Turns out I climb on gravel just about as slow as I do on paved roads. This is a serious climb, too with a few steep turns that had me losing traction and sliding out sideways. I walked a couple or 3 times.  Each time I was able to get going again once the steepness wore off. Finally I got to the top and back on paved roads. My reward for the climb was a really fun descent with fast switchbacks on asphalt. I'm glad I didn't have to go back down the gravel road!!

I stopped... to take a picture...

The control in North Wilkesboro is the Coffee House, and by this time it was after 1PM and I was hungry. I sat down for a ham & cheese sandwich and fries. Refilled the bottles and got back on the road in just about half an hour. There aren't any more controls for the last 50 miles or so back to Clemmons. The cue sheet does mention one store, but I missed it and after awhile I began to worry about water again. The day had gotten hot and I was riding in some of those areas you just know it's a long way to a store. Twice the road was closed due to a bridge out. the first one was a scramble down rocks and hop a creek, but the second was a river crossing. The bridge workers had stretched a couple of I-beams across the river to go back & forth.

Extreme rando cyclocross! 

Did a couple more easy gravel sections and then stopped at an old gas station that was closed but had a spigot out front. I was down to less than half a bottle. The water was rust-colored at first, but then became slightly less rust-colored so I filled my empty bottle and carried it in case I ran out before finding a store. A little while later I passed a school with a ball field and went on the hunt again, finding a much better spigot. I dumped the rust water, rinsed and filled up for the last 20 miles.

Nice paved roads, too

The last gravel section came at 11 miles to go, and I was happy to be well ahead of time limits- now it looked like I'd finish in under 12 hours so once I got back to asphalt I texted Jimmy and let him know my ETA. Rolled up to the Starbucks finish at 11 hours, 46 minutes! I had a great time, and this was a beautiful & challenging route. Afterwards I've looked at the RUSA results for this route and I am just the 6th person to finish it. Jimmy is the only one who had done it twice, and no one had ridden it since 2012! There really are some great gravel roads still in Wilkes County, but watch out- the state is out there paving them...

Yep, still in NC

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's time.

It is 2015… a  Paris-Brest-Paris year. The last time it was held was 2011, and I couldn't afford to go. Instead I rode the Taste of Carolina 1200K that year and both the ToC1200 and the Shenandoah 1200K in 2012. Since then I've done tons more Randonneuring but I scaled back my goals (and slacked off on my blogging.)

In both 2013 and 2014 I abstained from 1200K's but completed 1000K rides. My 2014 Super Randonneur series (200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K) and bonus 1000K put me in great position for PBP pre-registration. It's currently midway through January and I've already completed my 2015 200K and 300K, my 400K is coming up in 2 weeks and the 600K is at the end of February…

This year I'm going to France. I've been saving my pennies. My bike is ready, my body however needs a bit of a tune-up. It's time for me to get back to serious training. My goal is NOT to set any record time- I just want to be fit enough to enjoy the ride. On the long randonees, the faster you can ride the more you get to sleep. I want to enjoy the experience of PBP- I want to meet locals, volunteers, and fellow Randonneurs.  I want to stop for coffee and a pastry often. I want to take pictures. And yes, I want to sleep in a French ditch. To ride it this way I need to be able to make up some time on the road.

I'm going for a ride.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014

This was my third consecutive year doing the Coffeeneuring Challenge. I've had a blast each year, enjoying the casual rides with no particular route or time schedule, and of course finding great new coffee shops! Once again this year I used Sundays and Tuesdays, my guaranteed days off from work. I also get every other Saturday off, but the coffee shop rides I did on those days just didn't count!

Coffeeneuring #1: Benelux Coffee -Tuesday, Oct. 7th 2014 - 17.8miles
In both previous years I have visited Benelux Coffee at City Market in downtown Raleigh, but shortly before this year's challenge they moved to new digs at Cameron Village. I decided to use the first ride to go check out the new location. It's a bit further for me to get to the new shop from home, and Cameron Village is not one of my favorite places to ride. It was hot out, so I had a mocha frap and waited to see if anyone would show up for the usual Tuesday night ride, but no one did. The shop had only just opened the day before, so folks probably didn't know. Got back on the bike and rode home, suitably caffeinated.

Coffeeneuring #2- Lorraine's Coffee House and Music - Sunday Oct. 12th, 2014 - 4.7miles
Lorraine's is a new coffee shop on Timber drive in Garner, quite close to my house. I've been meaning to check it out, and since I had a speed light class to teach in the afternoon I needed a quick ride in the morning. I went to Lorraine's first and fueled up with a cafe mocha and a blueberry scone. It's a huge shop, and includes a stage for live bands. I'll have to see what kind of music they book, perhaps Garner nightlife is looking up? Once I finished my coffee and breakfast I rode a quick loop around Garner and went home to clean up and make myself presentable for class.

My Garmin wasn't charged up, so I logged my ride with the MapMyRide app on the phone.

Coffeeneuring #3- Aversboro Coffee - Tuesday Oct. 14th 2014 - 7.3miles
Another shop I've visited during both the previous years is Aversboro Coffee, my favorite local shop here in Garner, NC. I had a full day planned for my day off, so I went out for a quick morning lap around town with a stop near the end for a medium coffee and a pumpkin spice muffin. Mmmm…

I still hadn't charged up the Garmin… Here is the MapMyRide link.

Coffeeneuring #4- Harris Lake County Park (coffeeshop without walls) - Sunday, Oct.19th - 18.6miles
I decided to ride the 72 mile route at the NC Bicycle Club's Fall Rally, but I really wanted to get a coffeeneuring run in. I did this last year and rode over to a shop in Holly Springs, but discovered that the powers that be had turned Hwy 55 into a "super street," effectively splitting Holly Springs in two for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. If you're not familiar with these asphalt abominations then click the link, and imagine trying to navigate them. Then if your local transportation folks propose one you'll know to fight it tooth and nail! Anyway, I didn't want to fight that again, so I brought my stove and pour over kit so I could ride to Harris Lake- I'd been wanting to do a "coffeeshop without walls." 

(charged up the Garmin!)

Coffeeneuring #5 - Café de los Muertos - Sunday Oct. 26th 2014 - 15.88miles
This is a popular new coffee shop in downtown Raleigh that I've been wanting to try, so I rode to Raleigh from Garner and had a cold brew and a muffin. While I was there I ran into 5 different friends- like I said, this place has become popular! When I left to head home I was joined by a couple of friends from the Benelux/Hepcat Race/Oaks And Spokes crowd. We rode casually through downtown and talked about the coffeeneuring challenge… Perhaps a couple of new riders next year! We parted ways on the east side of downtown and I turned south to head back to Garner.

I really suck at charging the Garmin. Here is the route.

Coffeeneuring #6 - The Coffee Mill - Tuesday Oct 28th 2014 - 25.4miles
There's a great little shop in Clayton, NC that I've visited both of the previous years as well. I had to meet a contractor at the house in the morning, so once that was done I grabbed my charged-up Garmin, jumped on the carbon bike and headed to The Coffee Mill for a pre-lunch snack- a cheese danish and a cafe mocha. It's a straight shot, out-and-back on a road that's lightly traveled this time of day. A nice relaxing ride!

Coffeeneuring #7 - Lake Benson Park (coffeeshop without walls) - Sunday Nov.2nd - 8.1miles
I enjoyed the coffeeshop without walls experience so much I wanted to do another for my final ride. I gathered my stove and pour over kit, jumped on the bike and headed for Lake Benson. It was a chilly, windy morning and there was no real shelter from the wind on the lakeshore. I stopped at a picnic shelter and did my best to block the wind from my little stove. It did a great job, and soon I was sipping some nice hot coffee… but I forgot to pack any snacks! Downing the rest of my pour over brew I got back on the bike and rode a big loop around Garner back home to grab some food.

Bonus Coffeeneuring (#8) - 5th Avenue Coffee - Tuesday Nov. 4th 2014 - 10miles
I hadn't planned to get coffee. It was my day off, and I threw the 'cross wheels on the Soma to go play around on some of the local trails. I was a bit lazy though, and I didn't take off the fenders! I got lots of twigs and leaves up in there, and had to stop to clear some major blockages a few times. Still, I was out on the bike and having fun when a strange thing happened… I started craving coffee! I decide to get back to the asphalt and head to 5th Avenue Coffee in Garner- I hadn't been back there since a bad experience with the former management. Well, I gave them another shot but this was a sad excuse for a cafe mocha. I drank about half of it, dumped the rest and headed home to make a real cup.

Well, that's it. 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge in the books! As I rode home from work today I found myself inexplicably drawn to stop for a cup at Morning Times… As if I wasn't enough of a caffeine addict, now I must drink coffee every time I ride. Oh who am I kidding, I was doing that anyway.