Coffeeneuring 2017 No. 4: Whole Foods Market, Pentagon City, Va (15.2 Miles - 10/26)

The Home of WTFCC

Keeping the coffeeneuring train rumbling down the tracks, I stopped at the Whole Foods in Pentagon City to meet up with some friends for the Whole (Thursday) Foods Coffee Club (a.k.a. WTFCC). This coffee club has a reputation for being one of the ones that tends to be more heavily attended in the earlier hours in the morning, and I was running a few minutes behind. I was afraid that I would be having a coffee club for one, but as I rolled up and peered into the window I was pleasantly surprised to see Steve-O, Kathy, and Pete.

My coffee club companions

I picked up a hot cup of their house medium roast, which was generic but serviceable, and made my way to join the crew. I was pleasantly surprised to be offered pie by Steve-O when I sat down. It was delicious and that particular slice was not long for this world as I happily devoured it. It was great to chat with the three of them and was a great start to the day.

Pie. Delicious Pie.

Coffeeneuring 2017 No. 3: Swing's Coffee Roasters, Alexandria (14.2 miles - 10/23)

It doesn't get much better ...

Swing's Coffee Roasters in the Del Ray area of Alexandria is without a doubt both my favorite coffee shop and my favorite coffee roaster. To be honest, I've never had anything bad there. Their coffees are great. My go-to is their High Mountain blend, and when it is available, my favorite is their Burundi single origin coffee which is in a class of its own. They source their pastries from Junction Bakery just down the street and they are similarly excellent. They always have something interesting on drip, have a full menu of coffees available for pour-over using their always fun to watch poursteady, have both nitro black and nitro draft lattes that are the best in the area, and they even have really interesting specialty drinks that they experiment with throughout the seasons. Swing's has been around for 100 years, but they're not afraid to try new things. When they break new ground I always delight in what they have on offer.

Swing's Coffee

As you can probably tell, I love this place, so no coffeeneuring journey would be complete without a stop at Swing's. I decided to break out of my usual routine a bit and try their new spiced latte.

What's inside ...

As you can see from the list above, it has many warming spices to fortify you against the coming chills of the season. The cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, orange zest, and allspice blended very well together to give a pleasant warmth that lingered long after you finished each sip. The beverage was pleasantly sweet but not cloying. The peppercorn was likely what gave a slight tingle on the lips that added to the warming sensation while the star anise floating on the beautiful latte art gave a subtle licorice bouquet as you put your nose in the cup, but didn't overwhelm the other spices.

In was, in a word, delicious.

Just look at that beautiful thing ...

I paired it with the cinnamon bun from Junction Bakery that I have enjoyed many times before. It is a societally acceptable reason to feast on their incredible cream cheese frosting. The bun itself has a healthy amount of cinnamon and a great texture that is both airy and light while providing a fair amount of resistance to your bite. I've taken to disassembling the layers by hand as doing it in a big bite leaves me with a messy (if delicious) frosted beard. Definitely worth the effort.

The ride there was a pleasant detour from my normal route to work that had me go on the trail behind George Washington Middle School alongside the metro. The trail was very busy that morning with commuters scurrying off to Metro, students hustling off to school, and many dogs taking their owners for a walk. After my visit to Swing's I took the inland route past Potomac Yards and through Crystal City before rejoining the Mount Vernon Trail.

A great start to the day.

Coffeeneuring 2017 No. 2: Cosi, Crystal City (15.1 miles - 10/17)

Coffee and a "Squagel"

For my second Coffeeneuring trip I made my way to join some friends at the Crystal City Coffee Club that meets up on Tuesday mornings. I had packed an insulated mug of Swing's High Mountain to enjoy outside with the crew. Usually, they get together at the Crystal City Water Park just off the Mount Vernon Trail, but when I got there the park was empty. A friend rolled by just then and let me know that everyone was at the Cosi just a few blocks down the street taking refuge from the cooler temperatures that finally came after an abnormally warm Autumn. I would have to save my insulated mug's coffee for later -- I made my way down to Cosi.

The Crystal City Coffee Club Crew

When I came in I was greeted by many smiles and fun conversation all around. I ordered an everything "squagel" with butter and a cup of their house coffee. The "squagel" was tasty and the coffee itself did the job, but was nothing to write home about. A passable medium roast delivered from a vacuum carafe from drip. It was great catching up with friends I hadn't seen in a while and enjoying some breakfast. There were tales of long bike rides and helmet mounted pumpkins with flashing lights (see above).

Afterward I showed my friend Grace the way into DC via the LBJ Memorial Grove. It is one of my favorite detours on the way to work and a beautiful place to visit by bike. We parted ways by the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial and I continued on to work.

Coffeeneuring 2017 No. 1: Commonwealth Joe, Pentagon City (14.2 miles - 10/16)

Mmmm... Coffee

After many years of watching from the sidelines, I've decided to participate in this year's Coffeeneuring Challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the idea is to go to 7 different places to have coffee (or other approved beverage) during the 6 week period from October 12 - November 19. For each ride to count it has to be at least 2 miles in length, you can only count 2 per week (Friday-Thursday), and you have to document it with a picture (or pictures) for each ride. I'll be documenting these trips in real-time on Instragram and doing a bit more of a lengthy write-up here. So here we go.

Commonwealth Joe - Pentagon City, Virginia

For my first stop I went to Commonwealth Joe in the Pentagon City area in Arlington, Virginia. I have been there a few times and have enjoyed what I've tried. They were early on the nitro cold brew train and have several different varieties of it available on tap in the store. They roast their own beans in Culpeper, VA and I first encountered them on one of their nitro cold brew carrying trikes during Crystal City Coffee Club.

I decided to mix things up a bit and take a new route from my office to the shop and explored a casual trail by the Pentagon that connects with at the "dead end" of the paved trail created on the South side of the Humpback bridge. I had heard rumors that you could "get there from here" so I took the trail until it ended and was met with a very small trail surrounded by vegetation that made its way to Boundary Channel drive. At one point I had to get off the trail to let oncoming traffic go by, but I made it and then took Boundary Channel to Long Bridge Drive and then crossed over on 12th Street to the shop. A fun adventure.

There were a lot of options on the cold brew front, but I felt like a hot coffee, so I went with their Potomac Falls blend on pour-over. They claim it is a medium blend, although I'd say it is on the darker side of medium. There was a dark cocoa taste on the finish that improved as the cup cooled with some mild spice and nuttiness. Normally I do my coffee consumption on the way to work, so this was a nice change of pace and I savored the ride and continued taking lesser used (for me) routes, going down Eads Street until I met up with the Four Mile Run Trail where I connected with the Mount Vernon Trail and made my way back home, warmer, more caffeinated and happier.

Riding into the Sunset

For 25 years, I've had a trusty companion who took me where I needed to go, brought me along on adventures near and far, filled me with joy, and never complained along the way. It took me to sandy beaches, to river side trails, to green forests, to busy city streets, to rural highways, and to the pages of the Washington Post, in beautiful sunshine, tropical storms, blizzards, hail, sleet, and snow. My Mt Shasta Capella has been favorite way to get where I'm going, and what a great ride it has been.

I first got the bike when I was 11 years old as a gift from my mother. It was probably a bit big for me and I didn't ride too far afield when I was young, but as I got a little older I used it to get around town and go on some adventures. It was my first "real" bike that came from an actual bike shop (its predecessor was a Huffy Stone Mountain). It felt so much faster and more responsive. When I got my driver's license, it didn't get as much use, and sat in the garage more often than not. When I went off to college, it went with me, although it still didn't get on the road much. It wasn't until a few years after I graduated that I went on a bike ride with my dad and realized just how out of shape I was that I resolved to make a change in my life. My bike was more than happy to oblige.

It wasn't without its challenges. In addition to the physical challenges I faced, the bike's components needed some upgrading for the miles I started riding. I ended up losing 30 pounds the first 2 months, and eventually would lose about 50. However, being a larger rider at the outset meant that I went through equipment much faster. I ended up getting new wheels that could take what I was dishing out complete with a generator on the front and stout hub on the rear. I got racks to carry all my stuff when I commuted and went on bike tours. I went from platform pedals to clipless pedals. I went through countless brake pads, chains, and snapped my fair share of seat rails. But we kept on riding together. I only started keeping track of miles in the last few years, but I've easily ridden 15,000-20,000 miles astride its frame.

Last week I had my rear hub fail due to a broken pawl spring, and while I was getting it looked at I noticed there was a crack in the frame by the seat post. Not something that would be catastrophic if it continued working its way around the seat tube, but a good reason to stop riding it. I may look into getting the frame repaired, but for now, the Mt Shasta is enjoying some well deserved rest.

For the first time in a quarter century, I have a new bike. It is a Surly Ogre. Currently it is almost completely stock save a new rack, but like its predecessor, that won't last for long. I am looking to build it up with a generator and other such niceties, and once that has happened, I'll be certain to share that here.

I am grateful for the many years of service the Mt Shasta provided me, and look forward to many years of fun and adventure on my new Surly Ogre.

Freezing Saddles 2016 Results

Me riding in the snow (Photo by Reba)

It has been a while since I last posted. Although I haven't written much, I have been doing a lot of riding. For this year's Freezing Saddles competition I rode everyday for the 79 days of the competition totaling 1,410 miles and earning 2,200 points. There were a lot of strong riders this year, and out of 264 participants, 58 rode everyday. I ended up 48th in the points competition and smashed my previous records for winter mileage.

Once again, Freezing Saddles was a lot of fun. It was great sharing in camaraderie with my fellow winter cyclists, many of whom have become my friends. It is also rewarding to earn the realization that you can do a lot more than you may have thought, and that what most people think is crazy can be a great deal of fun.

Riding Every Day: 1,000 Miles Before March

2016 has been a good year for biking, even if the weather hasn't been wholly cooperative. As of this afternoon, I have surpassed 1,000 miles for the year, and it isn't even March yet. Last year I reached 1,000 miles on the 13th of March, so I'm about 2 weeks ahead of last year's pace. I credit the higher mileage with the fact that I have ridden my bike every day so far this year, a feat which has taken some logistical work. Between a blizzard blanketing the mid-Atlantic earlier this year and visiting family in Florida, I had many excuses not to ride. I did not use them.

Riding in the Blizzard

After completing Freezing Saddles last year I realized that one of the reasons my position on the leaderboard was not higher was due to the fact that I had largely taken the weekends off to let my legs rest. Since each day you ride at least a mile gets you 10 points and each mile gets you 1 point, having nearly 3 months of weekends off can give you a serious point deficit. So, when I decided to enter the competition again this year, I also came to the decision that I would do my best to ride everyday. Happily, I've met that goal by riding through a blizzard, climbing over mounds of unplowed snow, riding through torrential downpours during a tornado warning, transporting my bike thousands of miles to ride while in Florida for a week, and by using a rental bike one day in Key West that was provided free once they heard what I was doing. It has been a lot of fun.

Riding in Stuart, FL

It has also been a surprise how my legs have adjusted. Initially, not taking my customary break on the weekend made my legs feel tired and leaden. However, in time things got a bit easier. Now with 60 consecutive days under my belt, which is by far the longest riding streak I've ever had, I look forward to completing Freezing Saddles having ridden every day, barring the unforeseen of course.

Riding a Rental Bike in Key West

The Freezing Saddles site generates a lot of metrics from the ride data it takes in from Strava. As of tonight, here are a few fun ones. So far this year I have spent 4 days, 38 minutes in the saddle. I have ridden 269.63 miles in temperatures below freezing. I've spent 4 hours and 9 minutes riding before sunrise and 1 day, 9 hours, and 38 minutes riding after sunset. The coldest ride it measured was 11.5 degrees F for 1 hour and 42 minutes (my bike thermometer registered lower). The ride with the most rain this year was 1.21 inches over a 57 minute ride.

The amount of fun I have had is immeasurable.

It has been fun setting goals and seeing myself progress toward them. I'm definitely looking forward to the miles ahead.

2015: The Year in Review

2015 was a great year for cycling. I surpassed previous annual and daily mileage records, commuted by two wheels more than any previous year, and participated in my first Freezing Saddles. Even more fun, I got more involved in the cycling community in the DC area and have made a lot of great new friends as a result.

Regarding mileage, I smashed my previous annual record by 1,969.5 miles and spent an additional 196 hours on the bike. I biked 51 of 52 weeks during the year.
September was my highest mileage month at 650 miles. October came in second with 511, then January with 455, June with 437, and August at 413. My lowest mileage month, at 349 miles was February, which was largely due to severe snow conditions involving cancellations of work and needing to find alternate routes. I also completed my first English century. I made it a point to stop making excuses and ride whenever possible. That meant riding when the thermometer was at 3°F up to when the heat index was well in excess of 100°F. I rode in rain, sleet, snow, winds in excess of 50 mph, and with headwinds that seemed to keep their position no matter which way I was riding, and on with studded tires paths that were regrettably unplowed. There were also picture perfect days with tailwinds and sunshine. I loved every minute of it.

I also became a regular at the Friday Coffee Club at Swing's in DC in 2015, attending 33 weeks, making many new friends, and savoring at least 3 dozen delicious coffees. I also went to 7 Hump Day Coffee Clubs at Best Buns in Shirlington, where I met more great people and enjoyed coffee and conversation. The only reason it is lower in number is that it ends earlier and is more challenging for me to get there in time from where I start. I hope to get both numbers up in 2016, they are a lot of fun.

The year started with the beginning of the Freezing Saddles cycling competition. It did not take long for the freezing part to come into full force as there was significant snow on the 6th of January. It was a cold but fun ride, complete with the formation of beard icicles. I soon met my amazing Freezing Saddles team at the opening happy hour and made several fast friendships. We would go on to do some fun rides together and finish in second place for the competition. Due in large part to the competition I surpassed the 1,000 mile mark before the first day of Spring, a first for me.

After the conclusion of Freezing Saddles, I kept riding, as usual. I had the pleasure of passing by the blooming cherry blossoms each day on my way into work, attended yet another Bike to Work Day, and waxed poetic about the beauty of Spring as viewed from atop a saddle and two wheels. In mid-August I surpassed the mileage record I had set for the entire year in 2014. At that point I privately guessed that I'd probably get 4,500 miles for the year, and doubted I'd reach 5,000. I ended up riding on average a century for every week I rode, at 5.112.6 miles.

One of my goals for the Summer was to take a Friday off and finally finish my first full English century in excess of 100 miles. As ever, time kept flying by and when Labor Day weekend was upon me I realized that the goal was in danger of being unmet. I had plenty of leave, so I took off the Friday, made a stop along the way at Friday Coffee Club, and ended up making a 106.9 mile journey up the C&O and back home via the W&OD. I even managed to grab lunch with my wife and dodge a thunderstorm while still getting to the finish before dark.

I rode a full week after that and then did my second ride of the WABA 50 States Ride for a metric century in a downpour followed by another 19 miles home. Between those two weeks, I biked 396.9 miles contributing to September being my highest mileage month.

In October I rode in my first Great Pumpkin Ride with my friends Reba and Robert for 68 beautiful miles in Fauquier County. In November I did my first WABA Cider Ride, also with Reba were we got to explore some of the Anacostia branch trails and the Agricultural Research areas in Greenbelt for a fun 47 mile ride. December brought the WABA Holiday Party and a happy hour with some Mount Vernon bike friends.

I feel lucky to have had such a great year both on and off the bike. Thanks to everyone who helped make 2015 so fun and memorable.

The WABA Cider Ride 2015

After having such a wonderful time on the Great Pumpkin Ride with Reba and Robert I was eager to have another fun ride and WABA's Cider Ride seemed to fit the bill. The ride came in two flavors, a shorter 23 mile "McIntosh" route, or the even more delicious "Honeycrisp" route at 47 miles. Needless to say, I preferred the Honeycrisp option and I was lucky enough to be able to join Reba once more for the ride.

We parked downtown a few miles from the start and made our way to the Dew Drop Inn. When we got there we were greeted by our friend Sam who handed us our cue sheets and wished us well. The ride was a "show and go" style ride, so after getting our bearings, we set out with a group and made our way on the Honeycrisp route. We were on city streets for the first few miles and then got onto the Northwest Branch Trail and then the Northeast Branch Trail. As we wound our way around the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia, we went around the end of College Park Airport, which is the oldest continuously operated airport in the world. Shortly thereafter we took a ride alongside Lake Artemesia before joining the Paint Branch Trail as we deftly avoided the busy Route 1 we were soon to cross. After a short climb we crossed Route 1 and made our way to the first pit stop at Proteus Bicycles.

While at Proteus I had some of the cider and doughnuts on offer chatted with a few friends who I knew while there. Next we made our way to Rhode Island Avenue toward Beltsville where we rode onto the grounds of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Area. Here the traffic significantly reduced and we enjoyed the views of the research farms on gently rolling terrain. Our next (unofficial) pit stop was at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. From the entrance there is a loop road that is popular with area cyclists that ends in a surprisingly large visitor center where we took a break and enjoyed looking at a craft fair that was taking place that day and got some fresh water. It looks like a cool place to visit when you've got time to walk around with exhibits in the visitor center and paths around the area.

After completing the loop and retracing our route a bit on Powder Mill Road, we went down Springfield Road to Beaver Dam Road and then back to Research Road, where we had a good climb up the hill on a mostly closed road. Shortly thereafter was our next pit stop at Greenbelt Lake Park. It was surprisingly pretty with a brightly colorful sylvan scene alongside the lake. Water and cider were in ample supply, as were assorted pies. While there we saw a few of our friends, including Ted and Dave from coffee club. Dave and Jean were doing the route on their tandem.

Next we made our way through Greenbelt and I started noticing my pedal start to click and make noise. I knew this meant in was soon about to fail from prior experience, so I tried my best to use good technique and baby it so it would last for the rest of the trip. We entered Greenbelt (National) Park and headed over to Riverdale Park and then Hyattsville to the Trolley Trail. Reba noticed the Arrow Bicycle Shop close to the route, so we went in there and the mechanics were very helpful. They are a Speedplay dealer, so they had all the right tools and shot some fresh grease into the pedal to give it a better chance to make it home. Really nice guys, and if you're in the area they are worth a visit. From there we continued for the last few miles on the Anacostia River Trail and then back onto the streets of Colmar Manor and Mount Ranier until we got back into DC for the final segment back to the Dew Drop Inn.

Once we got to the finish line, we were given a nice green mug with the Cider Ride logo on it and the opportunity to fill it with beer for a discount at the Dew Drop Inn. We enjoyed sharing a frosty beverage with several friends, including Dave who we had seen earlier and John who had started a little before we arrived. A good time was had by all.

Afterward Reba and I made for the exits and headed back toward the car, but we were a bit hungry, so we decided to make a stop at Habesha for some delicious Ethiopian food. I had the raw kitfo and devoured every bit of its deliciousness encased in pillowy soft injera. After enjoying our meal we returned to the car, put our bikes on the rack, and headed on home.

Another great ride with friends in the books.

The 2015 Great Pumpkin Ride

Earlier in the year I was chatting with my friend Reba and she mentioned a fun ride she was planning to do down in Fauquier County called The Great Pumpkin Ride. It is a charity ride for the Fauquier Trails Coalition with a 67 mile ride as well as some shorter distances in scenic Fauquier County. The ride is limited to 1,250 riders and is quite festive, with many cyclists dressing up in costumes. I decided to don an orange cape with a jack-o-lantern pattern on the back (made with electrical tape), and Reba also wore a more stylish orange cape with a screen printed jack-o-lantern. It all happened on October 24th, 2015 and it was a blast.

In the morning I got up before dawn and made my way down to Warrenton to meet up with Reba and her husband Robert for the 9AM start of the 67 mile route. The ride started at the entrance to the Warrenton Branch Greenway where it continued for almost a mile and a half before going out onto the scenic roads of the area. The route to the first stop was mostly downhill, so the three of us really made some good time. The color of fall was out in full force, and while the temperatures were cool, the wool base layer sand my knee warmers did the trick keeping me comfortable. The first rest stop was at a church and was well stocked with water and gatorade. While there we saw our friend Dave from DC who was also doing the ride.

The next leg of the trip was a bit more rolling, but the terrain was never overly difficult. Reba and I got a lot of compliments on our capes as we biked through the countryside. Robert's Rock Racing jersey also got a lot of attention with its Halloween appropriate styling. The next stop was also a church and it had a bunch of snacks, including some of the most delicious miniature pumpkin whoopie pies I've ever had. After grabbing a quick bite and getting some water we made our way to the next stop which promised another treat, beer.

As we headed to Old Bust Head Brewery the route headed upward and we got a bit more climbing in. Fauquier County's beauty was definitely on prominent display as we went down its country roads. Everyone was excited to be have the next rest area be at a brewery and after 55 miles, Old Bust Head Brewery did not disappoint. They were sampling a couple of their beers, an Oktoberfest and their Old Jail Pumpkin-Peach Brown ale. Both were quite refreshing after the mileage. There was live music on offer inside and food trucks to supplement the food at the SAG station. I saw my friend Karen there and enjoyed the food and drink.

From there it was back to our bikes for the last 12 miles or so which brought us some of the most consistent climbing of the route, although nothing too bad. When we got back into Warrenton we made our way to have some beers, food, and conversation about the fun ride we had just enjoyed together.

I'm glad I joined Reba and Robert this year, any excuse to ride with a orange superhero cape on is a good one.