Coffeeneuring 2015: The Recap

This is the quick and dirty summary of my first experience of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Listed below are the seven qualifying rides of my series. In addition to meeting the rule of going to a different coffee shop for each ride, I made a point of going to a different part of the Los Angeles area (or even farther in the case of #4). I also added a theme within the theme: wearing a different pair of Bikie Girl Bloomers for each ride.

What’s with the bloomers, you ask? This is a line of cute, comfortable, lightweight bike shorts I started once I realized this would be the perfect thing to wear under skirts and dresses when biking around town. If you are curious to try them out, please help yourself to a discount as my expression of love to all fans of coffeeneuring (voyeurs included). Use the code COFFEENEUR at check out and get 15% off any purchase of $50 or more at the Bikie Girl Bloomers online store.

Oh, yes, back to my listing of the official coffeeneuring rides. I’ve linked to the corresponding blog posts (click on the date) to make it easy to get more detail on each ride.

  1. October 4, 2015: Cognoscenti Coffee, Culver City, California
    • Distance: 12.85 miles
    • Beverage/eats: Cortado & almond croissant
    • Bike-friendliness: Good
    • Bloomers: Crazy Daisy
  2. October 11, 2015: Intelligentsia Coffee, Silver Lake, California
    • Distance: 13.9 miles
    • Beverages/eats: Kairebu single brew & croissant
    • Bike-friendliness: Excellent (discount for cyclists)
    • Bloomers: Blue Denim
  3. October 18, 2015: Verve Coffee, Downtown Los Angeles, California
    • Distance: 17.7 miles
    • Beverages/eats: mocha & almond croissant
    • Bike-friendliness: Good
    • Bloomers: Red Hot Aqua Dot
  4. October 24, 2015: PAUL, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
  5. November 1, 2015: Espresso Cielo, Santa Monica, California
    • Distance: 27.6 miles
    • Beverage/eats: Cafe au lait
    • Bike-friendliness: Good (sorta; crappy bike parking, but invited me to bring the bike inside)
    • Bloomers: Blue Bandana
  6. November 8, 2015: Coffee Commissary, Burbank, California
    • Distance: 41.77 miles
    •  Beverage/eats: Vanilla Latte & Croque Madame
    • Bike-friendliness: Not So Much
    • Bloomers: Wick-It Black
  7. November 14, 2015: Blue Bottle Coffee, Mid-City, Los Angeles, California
    • Distance: 10.9 miles
    • Beverage/eats: Cappuccino & Ginger Molasses cookie
    • Bike-friendliness: Good
    • Bloomers: Hot Pink Zebra Stripes
  8. (Unofficial Bonus Ride – on a weekday) October 21, 2015Compass Coffee, Washington, D.C.
    • Distance: 5.6 miles
    • Beverage/eats: Cafe au lait & almond croissant
    • Bike-friendliness: Very Good
    • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black

       

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Coffeeneuring the Seventh: Blue Bottle Coffee in Mid-City

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 7

Date: November 14, 2015

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Destination: Blue Bottle Coffee, Los Angeles, California

Weather conditions: Sunny & mild on the outbound leg; cool and dark on the return

Distance (complete trip): 10.9 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Cappuccino & Ginger Molasses Cookie (the latter served in a coffee filter)

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Bloomers of the day: Hot Pink Zebra Stripes (my route for this final ride may have been tame, but not my bloomers!)

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Bike-friendliness: Accessible via bike-friendly streets. Sidewalk bike parking visible from both indoor and outdoor table areas. I had brought along my heavy duty locks, knowing that my bike could be vulnerable in this area, but visibility of the spot I got made me feel the extra lock was unnecessary.

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Route map:

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Notes:

As much as I would have loved to go out with an epic journey, my full schedule for the weekend just would not allow for a lengthy ride. I decided instead that it would be good to select a coffee shop in a part of town not yet covered in my prior coffeeneuring outings. I rather like that I have covered a fairly decent selection of places in different parts of the Los Angeles area, and it would be a shame not to include something from the mid-city area.

I was only going 5 miles from my home, so I made sure to at least vary my outbound and return routes, forming a loop of sorts. I started out heading west out of Country Club Park, then north into Hancock Park. This is a route I take for my morning commute. It’s a longer way to get to work, and well worth it because the streets are wide, and the big historic homes are beautiful.

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My route this late afternoon differed from my commute in that I turned west instead of east when I got to 4th Street. This is a designated bike route that was supposed to be L.A.’s first bicycle boulevard/greenway. Although the street improvements have yet to be installed, and the pavement is in poor shape in many places, it does have sharrows and gets lots of bicycle traffic, without too many motorists. At 4th & La Brea, I snapped this photo of the statue of Lenin’s Head that is always a source of mild amusement.

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I continued on past Park La Brea, crossing Fairfax, and then heading north into the area between the Fairfax Farmer’s Market and Beverly Center, to the corner of Beverly & Sweetzer.

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Blue Bottle Coffee is described on Google Maps as a “hip café for gourmet coffee and pastries”, which seems in line with the vibe of the place. The counter area is quite designer-esque.

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And near the entrance is an impressive display of gadgetry for the connoisseur seeking to perfect their home brew.

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I like asking the barista what drink they recommend for someone trying their coffee shop for the first time. This one suggested I try the cappuccino, so I did. I also couldn’t resist trying one of the ginger molasses cookies on display.

Even the cup and saucer were artsy-cute. And my cookie was presented to me inside a coffee filter. Both the cappuccino and the cookie were delicious.

It was dark when I left, and I went further north one block to take Oakwood back east, all the way to McCadden, where I went south until I got back to the good ole 4th Street bikeway, which took me back into my neighborhood. The wide streets of Hancock Park are also pleasant for night riding. It’s dark, but there’s little traffic and the wide streets make it easy for what cars do come along to pass safely.

I arrived home feeling both a little sad, and a little proud, about completing my first coffeeneuring challenge. I look forward to doing it again next year.

Coffeeneuring the Sixth: Tour de Burbank

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 6

Date: November 8, 2015

Destination: Coffee Commissary, Burbank, California

Weather conditions: Sunny & mild (In November?!)

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Distance (complete trip): 41.7 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Vanilla Latte (excellent) & Croque Madame (absolutely fantastic)

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Bloomers of the day: Wick-It Black (under a nuu-muu dress, with my knitting in my lap)

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Bike-friendliness: Not so much. No bike racks on sidewalk or in parking lot. There was one awkwardly placed parking signpost, to which I was able to lock my bike.

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Route map:

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Notes:

I was curious to try Coffee Commissary, and its location in Burbank had the appeal of taking me into a different part of the L.A. area. Its proximity to Griffith Park made it tempting to simply do one of my routine Sunday morning rides up to Griffith Observatory (an excellent hill climb for keeping one’s ticker in shape with bonus views of the city), and then just head over to Burbank afterward. But a big part of what drew me to coffeeneuring was exploring new places, and feeling a touch of adventure, so I couldn’t go with that plan. Besides, I felt a craving for a little more distance for this weekend’s ride. I’d had to put in a lot of extra hours at work this week, and I needed a substantial ride to work off all that stress.

I consulted my handy guidebook, Cycling Los Angeles, which has 85 bike rides throughout the L.A. area. Wouldn’t you know it, Ride #36 is the “Burbank Bikeway”. The suggested route is a 14.8 mile loop that tours the periphery of Burbank, mostly on bike-friendly streets that go past parks and, most appealing to me, along the foothills below the Verdugo Mountains. Now I had my substance, and a convincing reason to bike to a Burbank coffee shop.

To turn it into a complete trip, I tried to work out a blend of Google Maps’ directions for getting from my house to Coffee Commissary, which is near the southern edge of the Burbank loop, combined with the route map from my book. Unfortunately, the book does not provide a convenient cue sheet, so I made a photocopy of the route map, and had to stop frequently to figure out where my next turn should be. It more or less worked, but I did not quite follow the book’s route the whole way. It was just too hard to keep going back to the map, as I could only read it if I stopped and pulled it off my handlebars to really study it.

First, I had to get onto the LA River Bike Path. It was rather disconcerting to find the gate closed and taped off when I got to the entrance. There were no signs explaining what was going on, so instead of entering at the gate and using this cool bike bridge to cross the many lanes of insane car traffic, I waited at a light to cross the street at the surface, and found an entrance to the bike path that was easy to use, despite being sort of taped off as well.

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Turned out there was a half marathon in progress on the bike path. I only had to proceed with caution, dodging a few runners who were not looking at the path in front of them, and before I knew it, I was already turning onto Riverside Drive, entering Burbank. Riverside Drive has a nice bike lane, and is well-designed for sharing the road, not just between cars and bikes, but also with horses.

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They even have special buttons at horserider height to activate a crossing light.

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As you approach each intersection, the bike lane splits at a median, with a separated horse lane to the right.

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I turned off Riverside, and rode past some studios. Lots of TV shows are made in Burbank.

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Mostly I rode along quiet, residential streets, lined with unimaginative post-war tract homes. But then I saw this:

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It appeared to be a fenced-off empty lot that someone had made a little more interesting. Many who live in this area work in the entertainment industry, so perhaps this is how these creative types deal with properties that would otherwise be just an eyesore.

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I love rolling hills on a bike ride, and I was pleased that my route took me into and along the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains.

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There were bike-friendly roads throughout this part of the ride. Then I rode back toward downtown Burbank, at which point I switched to using Google maps to guide me to Coffee Commissary. That got odd when the Google kept telling me to turn left off of Front Street in an area that had absolutely no cross streets. Finally, I realized that the Google wanted me to go up this crazy ramp to a bridge overhead.

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It was a little dicey when I got to the top, as I had to ride the sidewalk, which at the base of the bridge, fed me straight into oncoming motor traffic. I turned off that scary-busy street at my first opportunity, and within a few blocks, I’d made it to Coffee Commissary, where I enjoyed my vanilla latte and lunched on the best Croque Madame of my life. I took my time, filled my water bottle and hydrated while knitting on the lovely back patio. The patio space is attractive and allowed me to keep a close eye on my bike, which was squeezed into position between a bollard and a parking sign, the latter being the only structure I could find to which I could lock my bike.

After a delightful repast, I made my way back to Riverside Drive, and enjoyed seeing a side of Griffith Park I never see from the L.A. side.

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Soon I was back on the LA River Bike Path. Of course, in Los Angeles, we line our rivers with concrete:

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But that doesn’t mean we don’t get any wild life. These ducks seemed to be having a good time.

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The downtown skyline was visible in the distance as I rode south.

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My entire journey was five hours. The San Fernando Valley doesn’t usually interest me much, but to explore it by bike was fun. It made for a most satisfying ride!

 

Coffeeneuring the Fifth: Day of the Dead in Santa Monica

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 5

Date: November 1, 2015

Destination: Espresso Cielo, Santa Monica, California

Espresso Cielo

Distance (complete trip): 27.6 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Café au Lait

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Bloomers of the day: Blue Bandana (seemed like a good fit for Day of the Dead)

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Bike-friendliness: Not so much. Very bike-friendly area, but this particular shop only has a silly non-usable bike rack out front. It’s more of a style piece, as it looks cute, but you can barely get a front tire into it because it’s too close to the wall. And if you do park a bike there, your bike will block the sidewalk. Inside, however, the woman at the counter told me that most cyclists just bring their bikes inside.

Not a bike rack

Route map:

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Notes:

For this week’s ride, I decided to work a coffee shop into a trip to Santa Monica for a 6:00 p.m. remembrance vespers service being held at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church for Day of the Dead. We had just turned our clocks back, so it really was an evening ride. It was already twilight when I began, despite leaving the house at 4:15 p.m. It takes about an hour to bike to Santa Monica from my home in the Koreatown area, so I had to give myself plenty of time. I’m not one to drink coffee in the evening, but it was rather exciting to break from the usual morning approach to coffeeneuring. I chose Espresso Cielo because it was just under 3 miles from there to the UU church, and an easy route from my house.

I took the Venice Boulevard bike lane for 9 miles, all the way from Mid-City to Abbot Kinney.

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In the last year, they added a huge buffer zone by removing a traffic lane from the section of Venice Boulevard between Crenshaw & West, where motorists tend to drive 15-20 MPH over the posted 35 MPH speed limit. That extra space makes it feel much safer than it used to. Then all of a sudden it gets a little weird in the zone where many cars are angling over to veer right onto San Vicente. The most dangerous stretch is the part where the bike lane just isn’t, and you really have to watch out for fast-moving cars crossing over to the right lane.

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But that’s just a brief part. It’s still nice to have a long stretch with a bike lane for getting over to the west side. You can take this all the way to the beach. I turned off in Venice at Abbot Kinney, though, and was agape at all the trendy shops, restaurants and bars that line this cute street that angles over from Venice Boulevard to Main Street. I realized as I rode into Santa Monica that it has been a couple of years since the last time I rode a bike on Main Street, and the bike infrastructure has really grown, as has the number of cyclists you see here. That said, when I got to Espresso Cielo, realistic bike parking did not seem to be available. Instead, I found the odd little bike rack that isn’t really a bike rack out front. I moved the bike inside after ordering my cafe au lait.

Not a bike rack

The cafe au lait was dreamy in a milky-good sort of way (I get disappointed when a cafe au lait tastes like someone thought they should hold back on the milk – it’s all about the lait), which made it nice for an evening hot beverage. I had to gulp it down rather quickly, though, as I needed to hurry on my way in order to catch the 6 pm vespers service.

I managed to get there at 6:01, so by the time I’d parked my bike and went inside, the music had begun. It was a a double choir, the combined choirs of the UU Community Church of Santa Monica and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles in Koreatown (I joined the Santa Monica church in 1998, when I was living on the west side, and then joined First Church after moving to Koreatown, so I’ve got ties to both places).

They sang Luigi Cherubini’s Requiem in C-minor, interspersed with some prayers, readings, candle-lighting, and most moving of all, the singing of names. We had been invited to provide names of loved ones who died during the past year. A few soloists stepped forward and took turns singing the names. After each person’s name was sung, the choir followed with “you are not forgotten”. Just at the point when I started kicking myself for not remembering to submit my brother’s name, the soloist sang: “Craig Canady” and the choir sang “you are not forgotten”. It was beautiful. The tears felt beautiful rolling down my cheeks. Maybe I had remembered to submit his name. I know it would mean a lot to Craig to be remembered like this. Exactly 11 months after he died. Exactly two weeks before his birthday. Craig would have noted those details.

It was after the singing of the names that we had our opportunity to step up and light candles to acknowledge our memories, our grief. I wanted to light so many candles, as there have been so many deaths to grieve. I lit three, one for each of the three I’ve been grieving the most this past year: my brother Craig, my first cousin once removed Bill, and my friend Adriane. I really should have brought more tissues with me.

Emerging from that beautiful service, after having a good cry, it felt great to be in the fresh night air, feeling the breeze as I biked my way back home. I took a different way back, heading straight east from the church into Westwood, then Century City, through Beverly Hills, into Mid-City and home again. How lucky I am to be not just alive, but really living, breathing, feeling my body move as I pedal my way through my city.

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Craig, in his youth, in his element (at a family gathering). He was always the best at bringing family together, staying in touch with each of us, no matter where we were, and remembering all the details of what happened on what date.

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Cuz Bill, in his later years, but still plenty spunky. He taught me to write limericks. He exemplified a tasteful classiness, punctuated by a clever wit.

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Adriane, standing next to her favorite painting. She would rarely allow herself to be photographed. I got away with it this time only because I wanted a picture of her in the cowl I had knitted for her.

Coffeeneuring the Fourth: The Georgetown Quest

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 4

Date: October 24, 2015

Destination: Baked and Wired, Starbucks, PAUL, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

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Distance (complete trip): 6.4 miles (includes some walking)

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Hot chocolate & praline croissant (both phenomenally good!)

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Bloomers of the day: Purple/blue leopard print

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Bike-friendliness: General area has lots of bike parking, and is easy to access by bike, but nothing particularly bike-oriented about this shop. There is a Captial Bikeshare docking station a very short walk down the street.

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Route map:

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Notes:

A gorgeous morning, albeit a bit cold! Had to stop shortly after I began to adjust the seat of my Capital Bikeshare bike. It continued to give me trouble, so I stopped at the next docking station I passed and switched for another bike. I started out heading south out of Adams Morgan, hoping to make my route a loop.

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I enjoyed riding in the protected bike lane on M Street, and making use of the bike box.

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I parked the bike at a docking station that appeared to be the closest one to Baked and Wired, my intended destination. It’s tucked along near the canal, making for a beautiful walk to get there.

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Alas, I found the highly-recommended Baked and Wired, but only to see an incredibly long line inside. I just didn’t have the time for that kind of wait!

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I was sure that couldn’t be the only coffee shop in the area, so I started walking farther along the canal.

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Walked along the main drag through Georgetown, and considered breaking my no-coffeeneuring-to-Starbucks rule, but this place also had a super long line!

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So I enjoyed the architecture and activity along the way.

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I love the old Farmers and Merchants Bank buildings, like this one:

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I decided to turn down a street that would take me to a bikeshare station, thinking I would abandon my coffeeneuring effort for today, and just head on back to Woodley Park. That’s when I was delighted to discover PAUL. Charming on the outside, and full of delectable treats on the inside.

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After finishing my hot chocolate & croissant, I got myself a bike and rode down to the waterfront. It was absolutely gorgeous at the Waterfront Park.

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The colors were spectacular.

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I had some trouble finding my way onto the Rock Creek Bike Trail, so stopped to review map details on my phone. Then I looked up, and realized that I recognize this building:

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Some passersby helped me find my way to the trail entrance I’d missed. No pics from the ride on the trail, but it was so very beautiful. At the end of my ride, I had to climb up to Calvert Street on that beast of a bikeshare bike. I had figured I could always hop off and walk it up the hill if it was too hard, but I did it! That felt good.

Rulebreaker Ride in the Nation’s Captiol

UNOfficial Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 3.5 (Bonus Ride: Doesn’t count toward the official coffeeneur challenge)

Date: October 21, 2015 (A Wednesday, outside the rules!)

Destination: Compass Coffee, Shaw, Washington, D.C.

Distance (complete trip): 5.6 miles (plus about a mile of walking)

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Cafe au lait & Almond croissant

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Bloomers of the day: Pink dots on black

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Bike-friendliness: Large bike rack right in front and visible from seating area. Within a block or two of Capital Bikeshare stations (in two different directions).

Route map:

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I left the app in tracking mode while wandering on foot between miles 2.5 and 4+, as I searched for an available bikeshare bike. Note the squiggly lines during the walking time.

Notes:

Why the rulebreaker ride? Well, I was in Washington, D.C., for a conference from Wednesday through Saturday this particular week. I often travel to D.C. for meetings, and I love having an excuse to get around using Capital Bikeshare. I always like exploring cities I visit by bike, and there’s something extra special about doing so in our nation’s capitol. I had been hoping to be able to get a coffeeneuring ride in on Saturday, but knew it was dicey, given that I did not want to miss the program scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, and it would be hard to get up super early after an evening of receptions the night before. Wednesday I did not have to be anywhere until 10:00, so I had already begun planning a coffeeneuring trip when I saw on Facebook that the Women & Bicycles group was planning a coffee meetup that very same Wednesday morning! (That’s Ashley, who organized the meetup, in the photo above.) Last year, I had joined one of the group’s Wednesday morning meetups, even braving some heavy rain to get there. This time the weather was looking quite good, and the destination very doable from where I was staying.

I walked from my Woodley Park B&B to the Capital Bikeshare station at the Duke Ellington Bridge on Calvert. This pic was taken looking back at the bridge as I headed in to Adams Morgan.

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I very much enjoyed this opportunity to see the Fall colors – a treat for this L.A. gal.

It was easy enough to stop and park the bike at a docking station near my destination:

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But when I came back to this station, and another a couple blocks away, and another a several more blocks away, I kept finding this:

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Note to self: it can be hard to find a bike at 9 a.m. on a weekday! I also learned to ditch the bikeshare app I had been using, as it had seriously misled me about the availability of bikes at these stations, and so I got a new app called spotcycle. I like that this one can be used in a variety of cities, and it gave me good info as I continued my quest for a bike. For example, spotcycle said no bikes were available at this station, and I thought maybe it was wrong, but alas, both bikes at this one were out of order (note one had its saddle turned around – a signal that the bike needs service):

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Eventually, I found a bike on Massachusetts Ave, which wouldn’t have been so bad, had I walked straight there instead of meandering all over. I did make it back to Woodley Park, but ended up being late for my 10:00 meeting.

Of course, I could have made it on time, had I simply given up and taken Metro back, but I can be stubborn that way. Besides, being late for that particular meeting wasn’t a serious problem, and I enjoyed my little quest.

Coffeeneuring the Third: Verve in Downtown L.A./CicLAvia

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 3

Date: October 18, 2015

Weather conditions: Drizzle turned to sunny & mild

Destination: Verve Coffee, Downtown Los Angeles, California

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Distance (complete trip): 17.7 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus Edible(s): Mocha & Almond Croissant

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Bike-friendliness: Bike rack right in front of sidewalk adjacent tables, and visible from indoor seating areas. Not enough racks for all the bikes there that day, but many were simply parking their bikes at the sidewalk tables.

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Bloomers of the day: Red Hot Aqua Dot

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Route map:

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Notes:

This trip coincided with CicLAvia, an open streets event L.A. has 3-4 times a year, each time featuring a different part of the Los Angeles area. From 9 am to 4 pm, several miles of streets are closed to cars, and open to bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, strollers, and other non-motorized conveyances. This particular one was celebrating the 5th anniversary of the very first CicLAvia (held on 10/10/10), and so featured the “Heart of L.A.” route, extending from downtown in three directions. I started at the MacArthur Park leg. But first I attended the Sunday morning service at my church, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, which happens to be in the MacArthur Park area. This pic shows the banner out front that proclaims, in both Spanish and English, that no human being is illegal.

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I was delighted to see my friend Alice had come to church ready for CicLAvia, wearing her Crazy Daisy Bloomers!

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In the foreground, you can see the bike rodeo set up for little kids in the street adjacent to MacArthur Park.

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The downtown skyscrapers are visible in the distance.

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The lake at MacArthur Park is the site of a public & civic art project called that features colorful spheres floating. You can see the fountain shooting up in the center of the lake.

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CicLAvia attracts thousands of Angelenos, mostly on bikes, so I had plenty of company for my ride.

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Getting to Verve required a very short detour from the CicLAvia route. I headed south a couple of blocks on Spring Street so I could explore this Santa Cruz based coffee shop that is featured on lists of best coffee shops in L.A. After waiting in line, I placed my order with the too-hip-for-newcomers barista, and checked out the laptop crowd seated inside.

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I then got back on my bike, and explored the rest of the CicLAvia route. After passing by City Hall, I headed into Little Tokyo, where I noticed an impressive group of cruisers had parked.

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When I stopped to snap that photo, along came Santa Claus.

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The route then continued over the 4th street bridge, a popular photo op, and into Boyle Heights.

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There are so many beautiful murals in the Arts District, I had to nab a selfie at one of my favs.

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I then passed by City Hall and Grand Park.

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I always run into someone I know at CicLAvia, and this time I ran into Kristin, who lives in San Francisco and was in town for a wedding. Kristin makes bike-themed films that she films by bike: The Spinster and Velo Visionaries – Chris Carlsson are two that I have seen. (She’s quite good!)

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The third and final leg of the route went into Chinatown.

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I ended my experience of the CicLAvia route back at the MacArthur Park hub.

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By this time, the graffiti truck (which makes an appearance at each event) had been rather thoroughly covered.

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