Errandonnee 2018: Turning Chores Into a Challenge

Transportation is an essential part of how we get things done. Most of the errands we run in our regular daily lives involve short trips. Those trips can often be done more easily by bicycle, and yet, most are not. Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us see how easy it can be.

Enter the Errandonnee: a challenge organized and led by the woman behind Chasing Mailboxes and Coffeeneuring. She’s a randonneur, and loves to meld concepts to create new terms to describe her cycling challenges, which serve to encourage folks to keep biking during the off season. Errandonnee is a fun play on the combination of “errand” and “randonnee”. Like a randonnee, the errandonnee has a set of rules participants are to follow in order to successfully complete the challenge and document their achievements. For this one, participants must complete 12 errands over the course of 12 days, March 20th-31st. The errands must fall within at least 7 of 10 categories, and no one category may be used more than twice. It is permissible to carry out multiple errands in a single day, and there is no minimum mileage per errand. One need only report the total mileage for all 12 errands, and that total must be at least 30 miles. As if all that fun isn’t reward enough, you can even get a patch!

A patch from a prior year’s challenge

This is now my fourth year taking on the challenge. I have found that it is really quite doable, provided I set aside a little time for planning to make sure I hit a sufficient variety of categories. It’s easy to hit the “work” and “store” categories, and I have learned to let my dry cleaning (of which I tend to have very little) pile up so I can take it in as a “non-store” or “personal business” errand. Also easy is “personal care”, as I can always count a recreational ride in that category. Going to an event or meeting a friend for dinner is an easy “social call”. The category that entices and intrigues me, is the “you-carried-WHAT-on-your-bike”. Some errandonneurs have come up with remarkable feats of bicycle transport of sizable loads, and I would love to make my own mark in that category. But, no, I’ve managed nothing more than a giant load of dry cleaning, or several bottles of wine. Perhaps this year I can redeem myself. Then again, perhaps I should just concede this category to one of the cargo bike riders.

Let’s see now, what did I leave out? Other categories are: “arts & entertainment”, “wild card”, and a new one, “peaceful everyday actions”. Yesterday (March 21st) I pulled out my calendar to consider the activities already planned or under consideration, and began making a list of places I’m likely to bike to in the remaining days of March. My list was pretty easy to make. I’d had already taken care of three errands, with two in the “work” category (yesterday’s and today’s commutes), and one run to the “store” on my way home from work yesterday. I think my problem this year is going to be figuring out how to keep it interesting and not too easy.

Here’s my “control card”:

#1: March 20th; Commute to the office (work);

  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Groovy Tie Dye;
  • Observation: We don’t often get overcast skies here in Los Angeles. I noticed today how much cooler and darker the ride home feels under such skies, even when the temperature is rather warmish.

#2, #3: March 21st; Commute to the office (work); stop at store for groceries (store);

  • Distance: 2.2 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Wick-It Black;
  • Observation: Those ready-to-eat roast chickens available at the grocery store on my way home from the office are wonderful when you need a simple, easy dinner, plus they are easy to carry in a bike basket!

#4, #5: March 23rd: Transport several samples of Bikie Girl Bloomers to my office (personal business); take package to post office for shipment (non-store errand);

  • Distance: 3 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Blue Bandana;
  • Observation: Although the logistics involved in selecting, organizing, and sending samples out of state, plus coordinating with the recipient, are cumbersome and overwhelming, the excitement of having my Bloomers appear in a Bike Fashion Show (at the Pedal Power Bike Expo in Olympia, Washington) is exciting enough to make it all worthwhile!

#6, #7, #8: March 24th: Ride to downtown Los Angeles to attend the March For Our Lives (peaceful everyday action); stop on return at Whole Foods for groceries (store); bike date with El Cochinito to attend the 20th Anniversary celebration of Peace4Kids at Fais Do Do (arts & entertainment);

  • Distance: 18.8 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire;
  • Observations: seeing families marching together for safety gives me hope; buying fresh produce makes me want to take better care of myself; and seeing people who give their time to help those in need makes me want to be a better person; I really appreciate it when the authorities close off downtown streets from cars – what a great way to ride through downtown L.A.

#9, #10: March 25th: Bike to start and home from finish of a group training ride (personal care); Attend BUSted Storytelling’s 4th Anniversary show at Stories Books & Cafe (arts & entertainment);

  • Distance: 16.3 miles;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Crazy Daisy;
  • Observation: pushing myself (and failing) to climb longer and steeper hills than I can (on the 3rd super-climb, I had to walk the last part of the hill) is still an important part of my self-care — it tells me that I really did do my best, and gives me a goal for next time (I’m so impressed with my ride, I took a screenshot of the route as recorded on Strava); biking to Stories later that same day was still possible even though my legs were feeling it!

#11: March 26th: Women on Bikes Culver City coffee meet up (social call); plus a bonus errand, see below;

  • Distance: 12.1 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black;
  • Observation: every time women get together, amazing conversations and connections happen!

#12: March 28th: Camp Coffee with the coffee outside crew in Marina del Rey (social call);

  • Distance: 24.6 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst;
  • Observation: getting up early and heading out on the bike when it’s still cold and dark may be painful, but the fun of riding on a car-free path (Ballona Creek Bike Path) and socializing over coffee makes it all worthwhile. Must do this more often.

I must give credit to a new bike friend, Audrey, whom I met on the group training ride that was #9. She was eager to meet other members of the local bike community, so I had extra motivation to make #11 and #12 happen. Both of these require a certain commitment to getting up early so I can make it to a meeting that is a half hour or an hour from home. Knowing that someone else was expecting me to show up and make introductions prevented me from making excuses or backing out.

BONUS ERRANDS!

Thanks to my thoughtful advance planning for this year’s errandonnee, I knew that my 12th and final errand would be the March 28th social call to join the folks at Camp Coffee. I’ve been wanting to increase my biking miles this year, and nudging myself to get up early for Camp Coffee is a great way to add a chunk of miles int he middle of my week. So, when a few additional errands presented themselves before that day, I decided to treat them as “bonus errands”. Beside, I just wasn’t ready to be finished so soon. It’s too much fun to just tick each one off the list and stop.

BONUS #1: March 26th: Visit to my local bike shop for adjustments (wild card);

  • Distance: 2.4 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black;
  • Observation: I like maintaining a good relationship with the owner of the shop where I bought my Bianchi last October, and I like maintaining my bike. I’m not so good at the DIY approach with the updated technology since my youth, so I’m happy to have the mechanic make sure it’s done right. After a gentle fall on the group ride the day before, I was concerned that something might be a little off, so I had him check it for me. He said only the rear brake was in need of a little adjustment, but everything else was fine (I’m always nervous if the bike falls to the derailleur side). Since he didn’t charge me for it, I used this as an excuse to buy a spoke light so I’ll be ready for my next nighttime social ride (when all the cool kids light up their bikes).

BONUS #2, #3: March 27th: ATM (personal business), and attending the neighborhood association meeting (wild card);

  • Distance: 2.1 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Leaping Lady Leopard Print;
  • Observation: It is important to participate in civic discussions when we know there will be NIMBYs and nattering nabobs of negativity trying to shut down any change. The meeting was to discuss a proposed new development immediately adjacent to our lovely historic neighborhood. I don’t like it when developers get waivers to get around all the zoning requirements designed to preserve a neighborhood’s character (as often happens in L.A.), but I also don’t like it when new housing is perpetually blocked by NIMBYs who want it to be done elsewhere. That’s how we end up with urban housing crises. I was happy to learn that, despite all the angry neighbors complaining about the project, the developers have taken a very progressive and “green” approach to their proposal. They are including more set-back, more off-street parking, and fewer units than zoning allows, plus they will include electric car sharing and bike parking, and amenities aimed at attracting families.
  • I couldn’t bring myself to snap a photo of the actual meeting – it ran so long, and I just wanted to get the bleep out of there! My only photographic evidence shows one of the yard signs announcing the meeting that I passed as I was biking over there.

Although I listed this bonus errand under the “wild card” category, it inspired me to propose a new category for next year: “civic engagement”. Attending meetings like this, working for safe streets and bicycle infrastructure would also count. Many of this year’s errandonneurs, including myself, also participated in a public march to voice concerns about civic issues (in this case, gun violence). It seems to me, we could support a separate category for these activities.

So, TA-DA! There it is: another successful errandonnee challenge completed! Total mileage for all errands combined was 40 miles. Even if we subtract the 4.5 miles of “bonus” errands, it still easily meets the 30 mile minimum.

The question for reflection: was that a challenge? Can I call it a challenge if I had so much fun just doing activities I (mostly) would have done any way? I think so, and for two reasons. First, it was still a challenge to plan and organize how I would hit the variety of categories and fit it all in to the 12 days. Second, I know that I biked more miles and did more social activities than I would have without the errandonnee challenge influencing my decisions. I see no reason why that fact that I finished ahead of schedule and had a blast doing it should negate the accomplishment.

Once again, thank you, Mary, for the inspiration! And thank you to the fellow errandonneurs for their inspiring posts shared on Facebook and Instagram. A great way to grow my network of bike friends. I am so excited for my new patch!

Ride on!

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BikieGirl’s Epic New Year’s Donut Ride

The resolution will not be motorized! My new year’s resolution, that is; wherein I resolve to bike more miles this year. I want to do more rides, and I want to do longer rides.

I had so much fun checking out various donut shops during this past Coffeeneuring season, it left me wanting more. There were so many donut shops on that list from the L.A. Times that inspired my donut quest last Fall, and some of them rather far from home. I had particularly wanted to visit The Donut Man, and then realized that it’s in Glendora, a good 32-37 mile bike ride (one way) from my house, depending on the routing. I thought a ride of that distance would be best undertaken on a holiday, when traffic is light, and it’s easy to devote the entire day to riding. And as long as you’re devoting the whole day to riding, why not break up the ride with a couple more stops at other donut shops along the way? And biking for donuts is fun; I could invite my friends and make it a social ride, perhaps a full-fledged EVENT!

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That’s more or less how this idea was born. I imagined knocking several of the remaining donut shops off my list of places to try in one cross-metropolis sweep, starting at Blue Star in Venice, hitting one of the many options in Mid-City, swinging by Donut Friend in Highland Park, and ending at The Donut Man in Glendora. I started planning such a ride for New Year’s Day, a holiday for which I rarely have anything planned anyways. I don’t even like to party on New Year’s Eve, so getting up early for a bike ride the next day would be no problem.

Then it occurred to me that some, perhaps many, donut shops might be closed on New Year’s Day. So I figured I’d better make some phone calls. I was relieved to find out that Blue Star Donuts would indeed be opening, albeit at 9:00, on New Year’s morning. After learning that my two most appealing destinations, Donut Friend and Donut Man, would both be closed on New Year’s Day, however, more research was required. Another one on the list was Monarch Donuts in Arcadia, but they close at noon, and according to the LA Times, they can sell out even before noon. That’s too far to ride with any hope of getting there in time, even without the holiday, especially with a group. I still very much wanted to do an epic cross-metropolis donut ride on New Year’s Day, but I would have to be willing to extend my list of potential destinations beyond those listed in the LA Time article.

On further review of the LA Times article, though, I discovered The Donut Hole. It hadn’t caught my eye on the first read, as it is located in La Puente. I really didn’t know where the bleep La Puente is, but it just sounded like it must be really far away. And now, the potential distance is precisely what makes it a worthy contender. It wasn’t just written up for its good donuts, however, the LA Times calls it an “architectural landmark” that was built in 1968. It’s a drive through that passes through two giant fiberglass donuts! Who wouldn’t want to ride their bike through that?! The distance seemed about right: 38 miles from Blue Star in Venice. By this point, I was getting rather excited.

But where to stop on the way? In Mid-City, I had considered SK Donuts, a place so many have raved about, one that was on the LA Times list, and certainly one I’ve been wanting to try. I rode past it one Sunday morning while out for a spin, and noticed a very long line of waiting customers. Also on the list was Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts, recommended for a delightful variety of creative flavors that go beyond mere novelty, and actually taste good. My telephone research led to the news that SK was getting ready to close for remodeling, but Trejo’s would be open on New Year’s Day, so that made the Mid-City choice easy.

Looking at a map of the LA area, it seemed East Los Angeles would be the logical midpoint between Hollywood and La Puente. Yet nothing in East LA had appeared on the LA Times list, giving me pause. Maybe they aren’t into donuts in that part of town? I turned to the google, and read reviews. There were two shops that seemed to have fairly consistent positive reviews, although nothing that stood out as stellar. I jotted down the names and numbers on an old envelope to carry with me so I could call when I had a chance.

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Beloved and yellowed article I saved from a September 2017 issue of the L.A. Times

You see, I had been talking up this plan for an epic donut ride with my various bike friends since November, but now it was getting into the latter part of December, and I was about to leave for an 8 day trip to Cuba, returning late on the 30th. I always meant to set aside some time to get this route sorted out, but there was always something big that I had to deal with first. We had a big family trip to Orlando the week of Thanksgiving, celebrating my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. And any time I’m getting ready to go out of town for a stretch, I have to scramble and make sure all my work is done that has to be done in time for various deadlines for my clients. So the last week before a trip and the first few days after are always busy. Then we were hosting our annual pig roast party on December 9th, featuring an artist friend who comes to visit from New York and help with the party preparations the week before. Plus El Cochinito and I had a wedding anniversary to celebrate on the 10th. Next thing I knew, I was scrambling to get work done before the Cuba trip, which is extra challenging, since I know I won’t be able to get online very readily while I’m there. So that’s how I ended up planning this while on my way to the airport as I was getting ready to head to Cuba, just 10 days before the big ride, eager to post updates to the Facebook event page before I boarded my flight to Havana.

One of the two East LA shops I’d identified was not going to be open on New Year’s, but the other was, so that settled it. I was pleased with the way the route had worked out: we should be able to burn off one donut’s worth of calories (more or less) with the 12+ miles of biking between each shop. And the distance would be no problem with built-in rest stops along the way. I know it’s risky to host a group ride without first testing out the route, but I figured we’d manage if a route adjustment became necessary on the fly.

I was excited to check in with my Facebook event page as soon as I returned from Cuba. We had a nice little group forming. I had shared the event with a variety of cycling groups, because, why not? As it turned out, everyone who had decided to participate was a friend I already knew, so I didn’t have to get nervous about the possibility of someone bringing mysterious expectations or strange vibes into our ride.

I got up bright and early, making sure I had everything I would need as a responsible ride leader: cue sheets, water bottle, empty travel coffee mug that fits into my second bottle cage (because I can never finish a cup of coffee that quickly), sun screen, lights, reflective vest, jacket, leg warmers, power bank, handle bar bag, pannier basket, helmet. I had even loaded a route on my phone in both Google Maps and RideWithGPS, just in case one system worked better than the other. I wanted to be sure I left the house in plenty of time to be the first one to arrive at Blue Star Donuts, and I had an 11 mile ride to get there. This meant leaving the house by 7:45 or so, when it was still quite cold out.

Biking from Koreatown to Venice between 7:45 and 8:45 on New Year’s morning is smooth sailing! I have never seen Venice Boulevard so quiet. None of the usual bikes versus cars battle for the bike lanes to which I have, unfortunately, grown accustomed. I did see a few cars out, and expressed my gratitude with a friendly wave whenever a driver made a point of waiting for me to pass before pulling into the lane from a side street or driveway. There was one driver who was either clueless or heartless in the way he started his car in the parking lane just alongside the bike lane in Mar Vista as I rolled by, began driving slowly in parallel with me but just a ways behind me, and then made a right turn immediately in front of me, cutting me off. I watched in amazement, yelled, “HELLOOO???!!”, and was grateful that I had been able to stop before colliding with his car. If I wasn’t awake before, I certainly was now!

The gods of the traffic lights were good to me, and I made it to Blue Star in plenty good time. I snapped a bike portrait in front of the shop and posted it to Instagram. Soon others began to arrive. I got me a cinnamon donut and some coffee to fill my travel mug. The donut was divine. Blue Star gets major points for presentation; their display case is quite chic. This is a donut shop worthy of a return visit. So many flavors that beg to be tasted!

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We ended up having a nice group of 7 riders. Here’s the official start photo (minus Jennifer, who’d been last to arrive and was probably inside getting her donut when this photo taken):

Ready to roll: Francois, Lynn, Alison, me, Joni (not pictured: Jennifer & Michelle)

We rode up Venice Boulevard all the way to Cochran Ave in MidCity, where we headed north. We zigged and zagged a bit into Hollywood, arriving at the bright pink Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland. Word to the wise: Trejo’s does not have a public restroom for customer use. There is a Mobil gas station catty corner from Trejo’s, so several riders headed over there for relief. Trejo’s has a remarkable variety of donut flavors, and I couldn’t resist trying one of the more unusual ones. I bought a bottle of ginger kombucha (that I could only handle a few sips at a time – it lasted me all day and then some) and a margarita donut. It really tasted like a margarita – rather tart, but with a lovely, light donut texture. Glad I tried it, but I would not get it again. There are other flavors to try.

Jennifer flashes a peek at the Pinka Dot Black Bloomers under her jeans, while Alison flashes her nasty woman tee shirt.
Our bikes parked outside Trejo’s; my margarita donut and giant bottle of ginger kombucha wait in my basket pannier.
The full group outside Trejo’s: Lynn, Michelle, Jennifer, Alison and Francois, with Joni & me down in front.

Alison, who had started from her Santa Monica home, decided this was a satisfactory end point for her, and took advantage of the convenience of a bus she could catch right there on Santa Monica Blvd to expedite her trip home. A couple of the others who also aren’t accustomed to longer rides were thinking they would ride at least to the next shop, and I was glad folks had embraced the invitation to join for as much of the ride as they wanted. We said farewell to Alison, and ventured on toward downtown.

From downtown L.A., we took 1st Street over the L.A. River and into East Los Angeles to Sun Donut. Readers tempted to repeat our route are advised that this establishment also lacks a restroom for customer use. We had to travel a significant distance to find a public restroom. Plan accordingly!

Sun Donut is a win for value shoppers. Donuts at this cash-only shop are only 75 cents, and a bottle of water was one dollar. I had a chocolate glazed donut, which was perfectly satisfactory. The woman at the counter was the least friendly server we encountered on this day’s adventure. Not rude; just unamused and disinterested. I bought the bottle of water after she informed me that, no, she could not refill my water bottle for me. I found this donut shop to offer nothing to complain about, and nothing to rave about.

My chocolate glazed donut looked better before I got reckless carrying it in the little sack.

I was excited for the next, and longest, leg of our ride. The trip to La Puente took us along a short stretch of the Rio Hondo Bike Path, and later a few miles along the San Gabriel River Trail. I hadn’t been on these paths before, and it’s nice to be off the streets for a stretch. The longer stretch of bike path also provided an opportunity for Lynn and Francois, our strongest riders, to let loose and go for some speed.

Regrouping as we begin on the San Gabriel River Bike Path

The part after the trail was just as stressful as the river trail was peaceful. We had to ride on Valley Boulevard for two and a half miles, with high-speed traffic alongside us. Where we needed to, we took the full right lane, and sometimes rode on the sidewalk. At least on Valley Boulevard we were able to find a gas station (not the first one we tried, but another across the street) that had a restroom. By this point, all of us were in need of relief! Not too much longer after that pit stop, we made it to The Donut Hole. I have to say, as the place came into view, a wave of euphoria came over me. We had arrived at our target destination!

My moment of triumph!                                                                                                                               (Yes, that’s a Hitchable Flounce Skirt and Hot Pink Zebra Bloomers from Bikie Girl Bloomers.)

The giant donuts encircling the drive through shop are indeed an inviting spectacle. We rolled up the driveway and got in line behind the cars to go through and place our orders. The donut case is as long as the entire left wall of the building as you pass through. They offer a wide selection, from donut holes, to apple fritters, to conventional donuts, to giant flaky pastries. I got a giant flaky cinnamon twist and a cinnamon crumb donut and some chocolate milk! Each was entirely satisfying. The twist was so large, I was able to share it with others and still have plenty for myself.

Better than even the donuts, however, was the friendliness of the couple who served us. They were most welcoming of our group on bicycles as we came through the drive through tunnel. I told the gentleman we’d ridden our bikes all the way from Venice just to try his donuts, and he seemed duly impressed. He was also kind enough to step outside and take a group photo for us. I heartily recommend this place, and consider it well worth riding a bike from one end of Los Angeles County to the other!

Jennifer, Lynn, Joni, Francois, Michelle, and me

By this time, the sunlight was beginning to dim. We donned our jackets and/or reflective wear, and began the 7.3 mile ride north to the Irwindale Gold Line Station. By the time we got there, it was dark. This last leg of our ride brought our total mileage from the start at Blue Star Donuts to 50 miles. A half century donut ride to ring in the new year.

Note Joni’s coordination of the tee shirt with her awesome donut socks.

A special pleasure of this ride with our group was seeing the excitement on the faces of Michelle and Jennifer, both of whom had originally thought they would end their portion of the ride at Sun Donut. Neither had ever biked this far before, and on this day, they rode 50 miles! They did great, and it was fun to see them delight in the realization that they could ride farther than they thought they could.

We took the Gold Line to Union Station, and it was fun to fill the train will all our bikes. We were all glowing as we reveled in the satisfaction of a mission accomplished, and chatting with fellow passengers. From Union Station, Jennifer and Michelle transferred to trains that would get them close to home, and Joni, Lynn, Francois and I biked together from there. Joni had realized that biking the rest of the way home (or perhaps even just to the expo line) would bring her mileage for the day to 61, a personal goal of hers to mark her recent 61st birthday. I believe she ended up exceeding that goal by a few miles.

It only occurred to me much later that all seven of us donut quest riders are over 50 years in age, with several over 60. This kind of fun isn’t just for kids, or rather, it’s for kids of all ages!

We all agreed that this should be an annual tradition.

Epic, indeed.

Minneapolis By Bike

Love the little bike symbols on the bike-friendly street signs, but apparently, it did not entice this gentlemen to ride on the street.

I recently attended a conference, and felt so lucky that it was being held in one of our nation’s top bike-friendly cities, AND during a week of fantastic weather! If you have to attend board meetings, there’s no better way to get there than by bike, except, of course, for taking the long way by bike!

For the last three years, I’ve been serving a term on the Board of Directors of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, also known as AIPLA. It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve, and it also means that, each of the three years, I attend the 3 stated meetings plus a board retreat, held in varied locations, as well as 3 additional day-long meetings at the AIPLA headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia. This makes for quite a bit of travel, and I have been determined to make the most of these excursions by working in some bike adventures whenever I can.

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How’s this for bike-friendly infrastructure?

Last year’s AIPLA Spring Meeting just so happened to be held right here in Los Angeles, so I biked from my home to the JW Marriott in Downtown LA each day of the meeting. This year, the Spring Meeting was held in Minneapolis, a city designated as a gold level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, among other bikie accolades. Not only that, the meeting was being held right smack in the middle of Bike Week! When I realized that, I started looking into what Bike Week events I might be able to participate in while I was there.

I also got to work at finding the right place to stay. I am not a big fan of paying big bucks to stay at a standard, run-of-the-mill chain hotel room. A room in a Marriott or Hilton can look completely interchangeable with any other corporate chain hotel room in just about any other U.S. city. The tastefully bland decor can be a damper on the spirit, if not outright soul-killing. I prefer to book my stays at nearby bed & breakfast inns or boutique hotels. It means spending significantly less per night, plus staying in a charming place, and meeting interesting people. In most cities, I’m also able to rent a bike and see a bit of the city I’m visiting while commuting from my charming B&B to the conference site. It’s a real win-win-win. So far, I have biked to AIPLA meetings in Austin, Orlando, La Quinta, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, DC, as well as L.A.

I also love trying out bike share in different cities, and I knew Minneapolis has a bike share system called Nice Ride. I was delighted to find that they offer a 30-day membership for just $18, so I signed up before my trip. Membership meant I could get a key for easier unlocking of a bike and 60 minutes of use per trip instead of 30. A great bargain. Nice Ride mailed me a code that I could use to obtain a key at a Nice Ride station once I was ready to begin using my new membership. I stowed that code in a safe place, or so I thought until I went to retrieve it and spent a few hours searching everywhere I could possibly imagine having been considered a “safe place”. Luckily, the kind folks at Nice Ride were happy enough to issue me a new code — by email this time — when I called to tell them I’d lost the code.

I stayed at LeBlanc House, a Victorian B&B just north of downtown. The house was built in 1896, and is just two blocks from a Nice Ride station. Even though I arrived in the wee hours, I got up early my first morning there, hopped on a Nice Ride bike, and rode to the south side of town for a coffee meet up. I’d reached out to various women in the Minneapolis bike community to explore the interest in a coffee meet-up, in the style I’ve written about before. I contacted people of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition, reached out via the Wheelwomen Switchboard, and emailed a blogger I found. Erin, a woman who responded on the Switchboard pointed me to a Facebook group for WTF cyclists in Minneapolis called Grease Rag Ride & Wrench, so I created an event page and invited that group. That post got lots of likes and started some conversation, but did not draw any others into the coffee plan. Both Erin and Lindsey, the blogger, participated in the coffee meet-up. Erin has lived in Washington, DC, and is already quite familiar with the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club tradition.

LeBlanc House, on bike-friendly NE 3rd Ave
Nice Ride Bike Station

Even though I’d only slept for about 4 hours due to my late-night arrival, I was able to rise and shine early enough to make the journey to Peace Coffee on Minnehaha my first experience with Nice Ride. The weather app on my phone said it was 43 degrees outside, so I bundled up with tights and a trench coat. As it turned out, the morning sun was plenty warm and I was over-bundled.I was pleased to have given myself enough time to arrive just a couple minutes ahead of the scheduled 8 a.m.meeting time. I snapped a few pics of Peace Coffee, ordered my mocha & almond croissant, and settled at a central table that made me easy to find. Erin and Lindsey joined me, and we had a great time visiting. Erin shared her comparative experiences with biking in DC and Minneapolis, and Lindsey shared her passion for spreading bike love and making her own bike-friendly clothes. Of course, I had to pull out some samples to share of my Bikie Girl Bloomers.

Over-bundled for my morning ride
Peace Coffee on Minnehaha
Hangin’ with Erin and Lindsey

After Erin headed off to work, Lindsey and I stuck around while she interviewed me about biking in Los Angeles and the Bikie Girl Bloomers story.Afterward, she walked with me back to the Nice Ride station. We stopped briefly on the way to admire her nice custom bike made locally by Handsome Cycles. Lindsey is quite a delightful tour de force, full of great ideas for helping people, and the businesses who employ them, discover how easily they can work bicycling into their lives, improve health and productivity, and find their own win-win solutions. She’s also very efficient, as she posted the interview with me on her blog the very next day!

Lindsey with her Handsome bike

From there, I enjoyed a leisurely meander on Nice Ride back to LeBlanc House, making use of the Hiawatha Light Rail Trail, one of many bike trails in and around Minneapolis. This one took me into downtown right alongside some light rail tracks.

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My route back from Peace Coffee

 

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Hiawatha Light Rail Trail
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Coming in to the City Center from the south.

 

 

 

Once in the city’s center, I soon found myself near the Old Mill Ruins, riding over wood planks. This area is right along the riverfront, with a view of the beautiful Stone Arch Bridge, one of the highlights listed on the Bike Bridges tour. Of course, I had to cross it! It’s a beauty and fed me right into a beautiful neighborhood greenway. I took great pleasure in all the bike-friendly features along my way.

 

Stone Arch Bridge
Riding the wooden planks by the Old Mill Ruins
Looking back over the Stone Arch Bridge from the north
Cute bike signs
Beautiful greenway

I was able to get in a much-needed nap before it was time to head to the downtown hotel for my first meeting associated with the conference. What would be my regular commute for the next four days took me into downtown via the picturesque Hennepin Avenue Bridge. Continuing on Hennepin Avenue into downtown was only moderately hectic, as the bike lane gives way to a lane with sharrows and lots of city buses. Shortly before my turn onto 10th Street, I passed State Theatre, whose marquis was advertising an upcoming opportunity to see a final performance of A Prairie Home Companion – so Minnesota!

Hennepin Ave Bridge
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State Theater Marquis
Feelin’ floral in my Crazy Daisy Bloomers under the purple Hitchable Flounce Skirt

After an evening event at Hell’s Kitchen, I went to retrieve a Nice Bike from the docking station right across the street from the Hilton where the conference was being held. I’d switched bags for the ride back and realized I’d left my Nice Ride key in the other bag back at LeBlanc House. No problem, though, as I knew I could just swipe my credit card and get a bike through my membership that way. Except that the kiosk wasn’t responding – not to my credit card swipe or to any attempts to press the touch screen. No problem, though, as I knew there was another Nice Ride dock just around the corner. Except that kiosk had an unresponsive touch screen as well. I began to wonder if Nice Ride doesn’t operate after 10 pm. I called their number for assistance, and got a recording telling me it was after hours for customer service, but inviting me to leave a message. I let them know I was rather concerned about not being able to get out of downtown after 10 pm. I figured I would just start walking back toward LeBlanc House, and keep an eye out for another Nice Ride station. I did find another, but had the same problem at the kiosk.

Suzannah and Angie enjoying the reception at Hell’s Kitchen

I looked up and saw what I thought was the Hennepin Ave Bridge I’d come into town on, so figured I’d just walk the rest of the way. Except at some point, halfway over the bridge, I knew that was not the Hennepin Ave Bridge. I was not going over a river; I was going over a freeway. The neighborhood did not look very residential. In fact, it seemed like a rather creepy place for a woman to be walking alone at night without knowing where she was or how to get where she was headed. I was glad I’d already installed the Lyft app on my phone, and requested a ride. I immediately called the driver who was on his way to let him know I did not feel safe standing in place to wait for him — that I was going to keep walking, and we identified a good place ahead of me to meet. I made it back to LeBlanc House fine, but a bit miffed that Nice Ride had let me down.

The good folks at Nice Ride called me back the next day, terribly sorry for my troubles, and reassuring me that it was supposed to work any time of day or night. They did point out that, if I’d had my key with me, I wouldn’t have been limited by a malfunctioning touchscreen, so I made sure I always had it with me the rest of the week. While on the phone with me, they also noticed that I’d had a significant overage from the morning before and asked if I’d had a bike out for 3 hours. I told them I’d discovered my bike was still loose at the docking station where I’d parked it before my morning meeting when I returned to get another bike. They kindly credited my account to remove the overage charges, and advised me to be sure the bike was completely locked back into the dock whenever returning a bike to a dock.

I commuted back and forth between LeBlanc and the Hilton twice each day, finding that I always needed a nap in the early afternoon in order to recharge and get through the evening receptions. On Thursday, which was Women/Trans/Femme Day of Minneapolis Bike Week, I wanted to try to catch an event listed as part of that day’s schedule that would fit my free gap in the middle of the day. At the downtown farmer’s market, there was to be a free bike check and zap-tagging event running from 10-1. I got out of the Hilton around 12:15 and walked over to the market, except I had a heckuva time trying to find it and follow my Google maps walking directions. After wandering in a big circle for a half hour, I got real hungry and stopped at one of the many food trucks parked along 2nd Avenue. After enjoying the best brussels sprouts ever, I finally found the farmer’s market. The bike “event” was just one booth in the park where an occasional passerby would stop and inquire about zap tagging (used to count bicyclists). There was nothing about this event that was connected with the Women/Trans/Femme theme of the day, so I shrugged it off and went back to LeBlanc to attend to some work matters and grab me a power nap.

Free bike checks & ZAP tagging at the Farmer’s Market downtown.

Friday was great because I didn’t have any early meetings to attend. Finally, on my fourth morning at the bed and breakfast, I was able to take advantage of the breakfast offered and get to meet some other guests at LeBlanc. After dining with a couple in town from Ohio to attend their kid’s graduation and visit with old friends, the hostess was kind enough to give me and my suitcase a ride to the Hilton. I stowed my luggage at the hotel, and then took off on my much-anticipated bike adventure.

The Walker Art Center had been recommended to me, and wasn’t too far away, so I headed in that direction. I knew it likely wouldn’t be open when I got there, but figured I could at least explore the sculpture garden. The ride through Loring Park to get there was absolutely gorgeous. Ponds, bridges, gardens, park benches, all right there on either side of the bike path.

Loring Park
Loring Park
Walker Art Center

Then I found my way onto a bike path that runs along a very busy part of Hennepin Avenue, with Walker Art Center visible on the other side of many lanes of fast-moving traffic. Google maps wanted me to do something else, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what, but I saw a bridge up ahead and had to explore that. It was a fantastical contraption, a bit awkward to go up the ramp to get to the bridge, but a fun challenge to tackle with the clunky Nice Ride bike. I got up and over and found my way to the sculpture garden. Except the sculpture garden was fenced off and closed for renovation.

So I continued onward, knowing there were lakes off in the beyond somewhere, lakes completely encircled with bike paths. I saw a sign that announced Kenwood Parkway, an area that was lush and green, so I kept right on pedaling. Soon thereafter, I came upon a crossroads of bike paths to choose from. I saw that I could head left to take the Cedar Lake Trail, so I headed that way. After enjoying that trail for some good while, it dawned on me that I had best figure out where there might be a docking station, as soon my 60 minutes would be up. I consulted the Spotcyle app’s station map, and realized that going around Cedar Lake was not a practical option. Of course, going over the 60 minutes would simply mean incurring a surcharge, but I was a bit uneasy that I would underestimate just how long it would take to go all the way around Cedar Lake. I did have to get back to the Hilton for a meeting at noon!

Kenwood Parkway

Instead, I headed toward Wirth Lake, where I was able to dock the bike at a Nice Ride station and take a little break. There was a playground and a building next to the bike station, so I got real hopeful that there would be a place to get some desperately needed water. Whatever facilities beyond restrooms that the building is used for appeared to be shut down, perhaps waiting for the official start of Summer. At least there was a drinking fountain and a lovely shaded seating area.

Wirth Lake

From Wirth Lake, I continued north alongside the lake and then through a golf course to Plymouth Ave, a nice bike-friendly street that took me back toward the Mississippi River, north of the city center. I had a bike lane most of my way along Plymouth Avenue, and even a protected lane for part of it, with a well-marked zone to guide the transitional zone where cars must cross the bike lane to make a right turn. When I got to the river, I turned right and rode along the waterfront. So many bridges – it really was beautiful.

Protected bike lane on Plymouth Ave
Riding along the riverfront
Styleshot for Friday’s adventure: Pinka Dot Bloomers under black Hitchable Flounce Skirt
Friday adventure: Part One
Friday adventure: Part Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to arc in a big circle around downtown and then head back to the Hilton from the east. At one point, I missed a turn and went a little too far south, but was able to course-correct quickly enough to get back just in time for my meeting. Maybe not as epic an adventure as I’d hope to squeeze into my morning, but enough to give me a taste of how much there is to explore by bike in the Twin Cities area!

 

Took the light rail from downtown to the airport – got there at the same time as a group who’d left the hotel at the same time as me, but went by car.

 

Coffeeneuring: The Afterglow

 

This last week, the most exciting piece of mail arrived: my official Coffeeneuring patch! It arrived straight from the Chief Coffeeneur herself, all official-like and very classy. I do not yet have the slightest idea where to place it for its long-term home, but I knew I had to snap a photo. I laid my new patch against the solid brown skirt I was wearing, and realized that it coordinates quite nicely with the Blue Bandana Bloomers I had underneath. Naturally, I arranged it all to capture the pleasing compilation of complementary pieces. These things make me happy.

Lest anyone be misled into believing that I’m only one to go coffeeneuring when in the midst of official coffeeneuring season, be it known that I did in fact go on just such an excursion this past Sunday. My youngest son, who just turned 21, was in town for a week before returning to college for his Spring semester. He likes to bike, so long as it’s not too far nor too hilly. He has a Public bike that is well-suited for city transportation, and he has no interest in road bikes, wearing special spandex bike clothing, or exerting himself to take on a grueling challenge. I proposed a loop around Silver Lake, followed by breakfast at one of the many dining establishments that can be found along Sunset Boulevard.

I decided to take my Gazelle out for this ride, to better match the style of bike my son was riding. I’ve done the Silver Lake loop a few times, but only on my road bike. I knew we could avoid the fun hill on Hyperion, but I wasn’t sure if we would encounter any other hills that might be a bit much for this occasion. After all, Silver Lake is a very hilly area. As it turned out, we had just enough hill action to give us a little exercise, but nothing too discouraging or beyond the capabilities of our 7-8 speed bikes.

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We were able to lock our bikes together around a signpost right in front of the outside seating area at Sunset Junction Coffee Shop. We were very happy with this choice of dining establishment. Noah had the Breakfast Quesadilla, and I had the Sunset omelet. I don’t usually go for omelets, but this one begged me to try it: bacon, sausage, mushrooms, cheese, and avocado. The bonus treat was the biscuit that came with it: one of the best I’ve had.

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All in all, it was an excellent excursion. Noah was very pleased with the length and mild hills of our 14 mile route. We had perfect cycling weather (mid-sixties, light clouds). We had bike lanes and/or bike-friendly streets the entire way. And I got to spend some quality time with my son!

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We may not have burned as many calories as we consumed, but we burned more than if we hadn’t done the ride at all!

And I enjoyed breezing through Silver Lake in one of my favorite styles from the Bikie Girl Bloomers collection:

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Hitchable Flounce Skirt in black, fluttering over my Red Hot Aqua Dot Bloomers, with matching Jambu Mary Janes on my feet.

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

       

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.