Solitude, and coffee

•November 19, 2016 • 1 Comment

Coffeneuring Ride 7

WHERE: Coffee Shop without Walls, in the LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac

WHEN: Saturday, 19 November 2016

WHAT I DRANK: Fresh ground Swing’s Sumatra, made with an Aeropress.

WHY GO: On a 70 deg F day in November, its hard to stay indoors.

HOW FAR: 9.5 miles round trip (Strava link)

I’d be lying to say I am immune to fear about what the future holds, in this rough post-election week.  Especially for the Earth and its climate.  Recently I learned that the North pole is, quite literally, melting and temperatures are an “insane” 36 degrees (20 Celsius) above normal. Regardless of how ideology might seep into the discussion, these facts are measurable and indisputable.

But a day like today, which started sunny and irresistibly warm, is part of the antidote to fear and worry.  I strapped on Vaya’s red trunk bag filled with coffee accoutrements, and headed for the LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac.  It has always been one of my favorite stop-overs on a commute into DC, but today it drew me for the same reasons it drew Lyndon Johnson.  Nature, scenery, and the perspective one gains by watching the nation’s capital from across the river.

The interpretive sign behind the monolith commemorates the historic time when Johnson signed the Water Quality Act in 1965, which later evolved into the Clean Water Act, now the primary Federal law governing water pollution.  Its headline, “Tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” Johnson’s full quote was “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose. I am resolved that we shall win the tomorrows before us.”  Memorable words from his Thanksgiving day address to the nation only days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the streets of Dallas, TX.  To Americans who were heartbroken and mourning, Johnson spoke words of strength and resolve.

The sign went on to say “Today, we proclaim our refusal to be strangled by the wastes of Civilization. Today, we begin to be masters of our environment.

As I mentioned, I’ve been to this grove dozens of times.  I’ve stopped at the monolith, I’ve read the sign before.  Today, somehow, the words I needed to hear jumped out at me in this scenic spot on a gorgeous day, and helped my soul to heal a little.  Thank you, President Johnson.

Wondering where I could make coffee, I spotted a picnic table on the river side of the memorial, sheltered by shady Virginia pine trees.  Perfect. There I unloaded the trunk bag, fired up my camp stove, and proceeded to grind Swing’s Sumatra beans with my portable mini burr grinder.  I had brought along my own milky concoction (whole milk and half-n-half in equal parts) for my coffee, and a book to read.  I drank two cups, and read two chapters, taking refuge in the grove created by Lyndon Johnson, and solace in his timeless and historical words.



•November 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Coffeeneuring Ride 6

WHERE: Malmaison [3401 Water St NW Washington, DC 20007, (202) 817-3340]

WHEN: Sunday, 6 November 2016

WHAT I DRANK: White chocolate mocha, with ham egg and cheese croissant breakfast.

WHY GO: Hip, urban adaptive reuse of an industrial warehouse on the Georgetown waterfront. French cuisine and espresso shop.

HOW FAR: 20.5 miles round trip (Strava link)

Can’t avoid a perfect day like this to get out on a bike! Friends had planned a ride on the C&O Canal to see the fall color, and were meeting in Georgetown for coffee first, so I jumped on board the bandwagon.

Malmaison is a French restaurant with an espresso shop inside. They serve brunch on weekends, and open the coffee shop early just for people like us, who need a quick fix before the day’s adventures. Formerly an industrial warehouse, the interior is spacious and bright, with inviting lavender sofas.  We chose our drinks and treats, a white chocolate mocha and egg sandwich for me, and shared stories of yesterday’s Cider Ride. Our bikes were all locked to sturdy racks across Water Street, next to the Georgetown waterfront park.  The staff were friendly and gracious, and the atmosphere was elegant and relaxing.

The bike gang was planning to ride 13-ish miles out to Great Falls, a short gravel ride with high impact for scenery and fall color, but likely to be quite crowded at the other end. I chose to peel off at Fletcher’s Cove boat house, but not before we’d taken a few selfies and captured the smiles. On my way back I rode the C&O Canal into Georgetown.  I love the interaction of the historic canal with an urban cityscape.  After I made a quick detour to see Mile 0 (often the most difficult milestone to find), I stayed on the DC side of the river to make my way back home.

Sugar Shack

•November 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Coffeeneuring Ride 5

WHERE: Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee [1014 S Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22204, (703) 577-9636]

WHEN: Friday, 4 November 2016

WHAT I DRANK: Whole milk latte, with two donuts

WHY GO: Donuts, of course. And Zeke’s coffee.

HOW FAR: 4.6 miles round trip (Strava link)

I’d been saving this one. I usually don’t crave (or even like, much) sugar for breakfast. But I can’t resist a great donut, and having driven past Sugar Shack about four hundred times lately, I finally gave myself permission to chalk it up as a coffeeneuring stop (sticking with my theme of trying all new places). I don’t know if 4-1/2 miles with 185 feet of elevation gain really justifies TWO donuts, but I indulged. My Polar activity monitor was happy with me, and her (of course it’s a she) opinion is the only one that matters!

There are good ways and bad ways to get from my neighborhood to anywhere on the Pike. I chose to brave the short section of S Glebe Road that goes under I-395, literally one block, but it was kind of a mistake.  I stuck to the sidewalk as long as I could, but still had to cross the on-ramp to the interstate.  As I waited with my neck craned around watching a stream of cars go past, I realized they had suddenly stopped. A bearded biker dude on a Harley-Davidson had taken pity on me and halted traffic so I could cross.  With a friendly “You goin’?” he waved me along, and I flashed him a smile and a peace sign as I sprinted to the next stop light.  Having learned my lesson, I took S Shirlington Road to the Four Mile Run trail on the way back.

Sugar Shack.  What can I say?  This place is heaven for donut aficionados.  Perusing the chalkboard menu with the day’s gourmet selections, I ordered a French Toast donut and a glazed with chocolate and peanuts.  The trick to counteracting all that sugar is to consume enough caffeine, so I chose a large latte.  They serve Zeke’s coffee (roasted in Baltimore and DC), one of my absolute favorites.  Indoors they have window seating and a few small tables, but on such a nice day I retreated to the bench outside where Vaya was locked up. (There are better bike racks further down the block.) The French Toast donut went down quickly.  Then I debated the wisdom of eating the second, but it too disappeared.  Oh yeah, totally worth the impending sugar crash.

Busboys and Poets

•October 31, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Coffeeneuring Ride 4

WHERE: Busboys and Poets [The Village at Shirlington, 4251 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206, (703) 379-9757]

WHEN: Monday, 31 October 2016

WHAT I DRANK: Caramel whole milk latte, with breakfast

WHY GO: Ultra hip yet casual restaurant-style place serving great coffee and food. Books galore.

HOW FAR: 2.8 miles round trip (Strava link)

Today I skipped breakfast at home, and headed for Busboys and Poets.  It is both a coffee shop and a small restaurant, and is well known for hosting artsy events like film screenings, poetry slams, and storytelling.  My neighborhood has numerous great places to grab coffee, many of which I haven’t tried, and this one was high on my must-visit list.

In the morning hours you won’t find the crowds or quite the same ultra-hipster atmosphere, but you can still get an espresso drink and a great breakfast.  I grabbed a booth (since outside the temps had dropped to the low 50s), and ordered a caramel latte with an egg sandwich on a bagel.  I asked for bacon and received it on a separate plate, because they segregate their vegetarian food from meat from the kitchen to the table.  Fine by me, and good to know for those adhering to strict veggie or vegan diets.  A library of books and walls filled with interesting pop art provided visual entertainment.

It was a short spin, Shirlington Village being just over a mile from my house.  Vaya had a nice parking spot at a bike rack just down the block, and my route was all trails with a couple of street crossings.  An ultra satisfying early autumn breakfast outing.

Caffe Amouri

•October 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Coffeeneuring Ride 3

WHERE: Caffe Amouri [107 Church St NE, Vienna, VA 221801, (703) 938-1623]

WHEN: Saturday, 29 October 2016

WHAT I DRANK: Hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick

WHY GO: Friendly, community atmosphere and quality drinks. Convenient when passing through Vienna.

HOW FAR: 30.9 miles round trip (Strava link)

Wherein I go coffeeneuring with a non-coffee drinker again, and everyone has a great time!

Foreseeing a spectacularly warm and sunny day, Peter and I decided to goof around on the tandem bike.  This was a good call.

First stop at Bikenetic for a demo day of Pinion drive bikes, hosted by CycleMonkey.  We test rode commuter bikes, gravel bikes, and badass mountain bikes with internal gears and belt drives.  If one of them were to follow me home, my more-money-than-brains choice would have been the Ventana Wolfram 27.5+ hardtail mountain bike, which I’m pretty sure could take me anywhere I was willing to go.  As if I had any basis on which to judge mountain bikes?  Whatever, it felt like a ton of fun, and it sure came back from demo rides with a lot of smiles.

Couldn’t stay all day playing, because Peter had scheduled a business appointment to meet a professional photographer at the Labbe’s house to take some shots for his growing portfolio.  We rode to Pimmet Hills, and while others worked, Nelson and I caught up and I even got to meet their sweet and terribly shy cat Smokey.

From there we rode into Vienna, ate our snacks by the caboose, then walked over to Caffe Amouri to check off the coffeeneuring task.  Peter waited outside while I stood in line, finally producing a beautiful mug of steamed cider with a fresh cinnamon stick that we both shared.  Shame on me for never visiting this shop before.  On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon it was packed with people, each of them happy to wait for their individually made, beautifully presented espresso drink.

We wanted to stretch the day out as long as possible, but eventually we had to make our way back home.  But not without one more stop at Bikenetic to catch the tail end of the demo, pick up swag, and get a hug from Pete.


M.E. Swing’s Coffee Roasters

•October 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Coffeeneuring Ride 2

WHERE: Swing’s [501 East Monroe Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301, (703) 370-5050]

WHEN: Saturday, 15 October 2016

WHAT I DRANK: Macchiato with a chocolate croissant

WHY GO: The real deal. High quality roasts and authentic brewing practices, in a comfortable atmosphere.

HOW FAR: 10.2 miles round trip (Strava link)

The best so far of the new-to-me coffee shops in my neighborhood.  I left early and, after a quick stop at the Del Ray farmers market, spent about an hour at Swing’s reading newspapers over my appropriately served macchiato in a tiny mug. Swing’s has a bike rack in front of the shop, which was full with fellow travelers only a few minutes after the store opened.  The large coffee bar, furniture made from reclaimed wood, and huge windows create an inviting atmosphere, where it’s comfortable to linger awhile.

Little did I know when I left, that I had chocolate smears on my nose — and how long did I spend out in public before I figured that out?  At least I remembered to buy two bags of coffee beans, so I can brew my own at home!

From there I headed for the warehouse sale hosted by Bikes for the World.  On the way in I ran into Judd, looking for a cheap fixie frame but leaving empty handed.  Peter met me there, and of all the bikes we were most impressed by a Trek 520 outfitted with Rohloff gearing in the back and a generator hub in the front.  We weren’t really considering buying it, but the cashier whisked it away rather rudely when someone else did.  Peter scored a nice 26-inch wheel to fix up an old mountain bike, and some parts.

After a whole summer of regular commuting, and some long rides culminating in the 5-day New York to DC Climate Ride, I’m enjoying these mellow autumn explorations!

Killer E.S.P.

•October 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Coffeeneuring Ride 1

WHERE: Killer ESP [1012 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 200-3200]

WHEN: Tuesday, 11 October 2016

WHAT I DRANK: Whole milk latte with almond croissant

WHY GO: Stumptown coffee and Dangerously Delicious pies, yum!

HOW FAR: 9.7 miles (Strava link)

I work from home a lot more often these days, and today was one of those times.  But the autumn sunshine beckoned, so I pushed away from my desk early and solicited Peter to meet me for a coffee ride.

I moved to my south Arlington neighborhood a little over a month ago, and I still have many places to explore.  Mount Vernon Avenue through the Del Ray area is a nearby hotspot, so I rode that way noting all the great restaurants and shops along the route.  A place to get waffles, a raved-about dairy bar, and lots of ethnic food; must investigate more thoroughly, and soon!

Peter (an architect) and I found each other then rode down King Street, when he remembered a standing meeting at one of his clients’ houses only a couple blocks away.  I joined him, and got to walk through a beautifully renovated row house in the historic part of Old Town.

From there, we found our way to Killer ESP and perused the menu.  I ordered a whole milk latte made from Stumptown roast, plus an almond croissant.  He doesn’t drink coffee but was tempted by the gelato and got a cone with two flavors, salted caramel and hazelnut chocolate.  We camped ourselves at a tiny table in the back to enjoy our treats.

Having discovered so many new-to-me coffee shops around my neighborhood, my theme within a theme for this year’s Coffeeneuring challenge is to only visit places I’ve never been before.  One down, six more to go, and the wide array of choices is pretty exciting!


Trying the “E” (espresso) and “S” (sorbet or gelato) at Killer ESP.