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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Coffeeneuring the Second: Intelligentsia in Silver Lake

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 2

Date: October 11, 2015

Weather conditions: Sunny & mild

Destination: Intelligentsia Coffee, Silver Lake, California

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Distance (complete trip): 13.9 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus Edible(s): Riakiberu (or was it kairebu?) brew & Croissant

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Bike-friendliness: Large bike rack right in front and visible from large courtyard dining/sipping space. Gives discount to guests arriving by bike!

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Bloomers of the day: Blue Denim Bloomers (under a Nuu-Muu dress)

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Route map:

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Notes:

To earn my coffee and treat, and to enjoy the morning, I had to first ride a loop around the Silver Lake Reservoir. The first part of that loop meant navigating a little construction, but not too much of a bother.

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Usually, when circling Silver Lake, I ride in the bike lane on the street, but this time I was curious to try the gravel path that runs along the meadow. It is a well-maintained and firm path, so no problem on my road bike, and well worth checking out.

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Riding the path gives a better view of the reservoir, although I still had to put my phone right up to an open space in the chain link fence in order to get this shot:

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At one point the path runs close enough to the street that you can see how it compares to the bike lane. Although a road bike can handle the path’s surface, you do have to navigate a lot of dog walkers and joggers.

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I enjoyed bike lane, albeit not in the best shape, pretty much the whole way from the reservoir to the business district, passing some nice public spaces:

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Best of all, after leaving the coffee shop, I turned onto one of my favorite streets to ride on, Hyperion. This is why I brought the road bike on this day, as these hills would be a bit much for my dutch bike.

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All in all, a delightful way to start my Sunday.

Coffeeneuring the First: Cognoscenti Coffee in Culver City

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 1

Date: Sunday, October 4, 2015

Weather conditions: Drizzly

Destination: Cognoscenti Coffee, Culver City, California

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Distance (complete trip): 12.85 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus Edible(s): Cortado, Almond croissant

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Bike-friendliness: One U-rack on sidewalk directly in front and visible from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. Easy to access via bike-friendly streets.

Bloomers of the day: Crazy Daisy

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Route map:

Route of Coffeeneuring No 1

Notes:

First portion of route was familiar bike-able route to and on Venice Blvd. Opted to head south on Redondo, a fairly wide arterial with sharrows – very quiet and few cars on a Sunday morning.

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Took Expo Line Bike Path into Culver City, and appreciated that there is a bike repair stand along the path.

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Turned off the bike path onto Fay, one of Culver City’s beautiful tree-lined streets covered with a canopy of Chinese Elms.

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Coffeeneuring!

I was intrigued when I heard about the coffeeneuring challenge — a weekend cycling endeavor for those who like bicycling and coffee that is organized by Chasing Mailboxes, who set forth the rules here. It basically involves riding your bike to 7 coffee shops over the course of 7 weekends, October 3 – November 15, 2015. This is its fifth year, but for me, it is the first.

I knew I had to do it, and besides, how hard could it be? Plus, with the suggestion to throw in a theme within the theme, well, I just adore themes! I turned to the Google to start researching coffee shops worth trying in the Los Angeles area. A few lists came up, and I loved that I could explore a new artisanal coffee shop each weekend in a different part of the Los Angeles area.

Since one of the requirements is to report on each ride, and linking to a blog is an acceptable means of reporting, I also decided this would also help me finally get rolling with blogging. I sort of tried to start blogging a couple of times before, but never got past the first post. Perhaps with these “homework” assignments and a deadline, I could make myself take it beyond a single post. Of course, I’m starting the blog during the fourth week, so there will be some retroactive posting. Lame or not, here I go!