My first few years participating in the Coffeeneuring challenge were heavily-planned exploits with carefully crafted themes. Last year, things had devolved into a matter of simply ticking the essentials off the list. Then, along comes 2020, a year that will go down in infamy for so many things, most notably a global pandemic that has thrown a monkey wrench into just about everything. Enter the official theme for this year’s challenge: One Good Thing. An excellent way to ground and focus us on an attitude of gratitude, key to managing during crazy times.
Since the challenge requires seven rides over seven weeks, the extent of my overall planning consisted of deciding I would come up with something each week that would qualify, including being open to whether or which coffee shop I might visit when I headed out on my bike. I let myself off the hook from past notions that involved extensive planning and placed greater value on only visiting coffee shops that were new to me, or making sure I ventured to different cities or parts of town with each ride. With all that is disrupted this year, and so much time spent at home, just getting out for a bike ride is a super important thing, and there’s no value in ruining it with pressure to push special rules.
So this blog post is my control card, a full report of my sixth year completing the Coffeeneuring challenge. It is presented here so that I can link to it for my formal submission to the Chief Coffeeneur, enabling me to claim my prize. If anyone actually reads this, well, then, bless your sweet heart. If you want to check my submission against the rules, you can find those rules here.
Control No. 1: Highly Likely Cafe, West Adams, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 10/10/2020
- Beverage: Cortado for me & Cappuccino for him (with croissants)
- Bike ride: My beloved, also referred to as El Cochinito, had invited some of his students to meet him at the Baldwin Hills Overlook, one of L.A.’s treasures that many overlook (pun intended). More accurately, many Angelenos haven’t heard of it. It was an easy ride, except for the one steep hill, a necessary element when one seeks to ride to a view point. I knew this outing would put us in a good position to head east on Jefferson to visit Highly Likely on our return to home, one of those cafes I want to support, as I hope they can make it though the pandemic.
- Bloomers: Crazy Daisy under Mermaid (a Nuu-Muu dress)
- Mileage: 13.6
- One Good Thing: Sidewalk dining is an easy solution in Los Angeles, and it allowed us to enjoy a restaurantish experience for the first time in months.
Control No. 2: Griffith Park Helipad, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 10/18/2020
- Beverage: Reed’s Ginger Brew
- Bike ride: A group of bike friends has a summer tradition of meeting once a week at the helipad in Griffith Park to watch the sun set while enjoying a beverage and the good company. This year, someone had the bright idea to shift it to Sundays after the sunsets start coming too early for weekday work schedules. This was the first such re-scheduled Helipad Happy Hour. An easy way to socialize outdoors and while maintaining social distance.
- Bloomers: Pinkadot Black under a Tidepool Nuu-Muu Dress
- Mileage: 15.4
- One Good Thing: We may not be able to participate in the same organized group rides and events as in the past, but we can still find ways to hang with our bike friends. The helipad provides a great space for safely distanced social interactions.
Control No. 3: Franklin’s Cafe, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 10/24/2020
- Beverage: Hazelnut Latte
- Bike ride: I have ridden up to the Griffith Park Observatory so many times, it would be impossible to count. This is my go-to ride. Most times, I ride up to the Observatory via the Crystal Springs loop to Mt. Hollywood Drive (aka Trash Truck), and sometimes I ride up Western Canyon from the Fern Dell entrance. Either way, I descend via Vermont Canyon. It’s been bugging me that I had never ascended via Vermont Canyon. It’s so fun to come down (you can hit some sweet speed on that one), that I’d assumed it must be a steep climb to go up that way. Of course, this was a deficiency I had to address: what is it really like to ride up the Vermont Canyon way? That’s what I did, and guess what? It’s not such a hard climb. Yeah, there’s a steep part, but it’s not that bad. According to Strava, there’s a 3/4 mile ascent with a grade of 7.6%. There’s a little more to it than that, but that just means you start climbing (with a lesser grade) before you get to that part. The advantage, I realized, is that by going up this stretch, instead of down, I noticed a lot more as I rode past the Greek Theater. For example, after riding past it dozens of times, I discovered a cafe that I’d never noticed before because it had always been on the opposite side of the road while I was flying downhill, with all my attention focused on the road. So that’s where I just had to get my coffee this time.
- Bloomers: Romantic Ruby Jeweltone Bloomers under Fruit Punch Nuu-Muu
- Mileage: 15.4
- One Good Thing: Griffith Park is so amazing, there’s always more to discover. I’m so lucky to have this gem in my neighborhood.
Control No. 4: Zia Valentina, Fairfax Farmer’s Market, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 11/3/2020
- Beverage: Waffleshot (an affogato in a chocolate dipped edible cup)
- Bike ride: My beloved was going to teach his classes (over Zoom) from the crepe stand at the Fairfax Farmer’s Market, a place I love to visit, and it was Election Day (who can concentrate on work during this crazy election?), so I offered to meet up with him when he was done teaching, and take this opportunity to make up for having skipped a weekend of coffeeneuring. I knew there had to be a coffee shop there I hadn’t yet tried, so I did some research. That quickly led me to the discovery of Zia Valentina and their Waffleshots. It’s a shot of espresso served in an edible waffle cone in the shape of an espresso cup. I was tempted to get the hot chocolate in the edible cup, since it was already afternoon, but the affogato (espresso over ice cream) was irresistible. By the way, those dipped cones in the shape of an espresso cup can be ordered online, in case you’re eager to give it a try at home.
- Bloomers: Blue Denim Bloomers under Dragonfly Nuu-Muu dress
- Mileage: 4.5
- One Good Thing: Another treasured gem of Los Angeles is the Original Farmer’s Market, a collection of shops and restaurants that has been there since 1934. I’m so glad it’s there, and I hope these small businesses are getting enough to get them through the pandemic. I’m grateful it’s a pleasant bike ride away, even if there are no bike-friendly streets to get you there (they do have bike parking, and I just ride the sidewalks when the street traffic is too wild).
Control No. 5: Bloom & Plume, Echo Park, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 11/8/2020
- Beverage: Mocha (with a chocolate croissant)
- Bike ride: I reached out to a couple of bike friends I used to ride with all the time, but hadn’t seen lately, to see if they’d like to help me celebrate the election of our first female Vice President. I was curious to try a new coffee shop that was on a list of black-owned coffee shops in L.A. The Echo Park location was appealing, and leant itself to serve as the beginning or ending to a ride to Elysian Park, which I proposed to my friends. I’d mistakenly pitched Bloom & Plume to them as black-women-owned, thinking it was a great way to celebrate our black female VP-elect, only to later realize I’d confused this one, owned by a black male floral designer named Maurice Harris. So at least we can like the idea that the owner shares the new VP’s last name. We loved the place as soon as we laid eyes on it. Clearly someone with a real sense of design and color is responsible for the whole look, and I ate it up. Had to take a lot of photos here. We started out with treats and drinks here, and then meandered our way through Echo Park, alongside the Echo Park lake (but on the street because the path inside the park says “no bikes”). At the north end of the park, Lynn noted that we were close to Aimee Semple McPherson’s architecturally interesting church and, well, we just had to swing by. I enjoyed hearing Lynn’s telling of the story, as I had only had an impression that McPherson was a bit nutty and had developed a bit of a cult following and had some story involving a potentially staged death/kidnapping. Lynn described her as the founder of the Four Square Church and someone who had intentionally started her ministry in what had been a neighborhood of the poor and destitute, and who reached illiterate followers through the use of drama and theatrics. From there, we moseyed our way to Elysian Park, stopping to take in the view from Angel’s Point before riding around to the exit onto Broadway and then taking the Spring Street Bridge to Los Angeles State Historic Park, on through Chinatown and downtown L.A. on our way home.
- Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire Jeweltone Bloomers under Wildfire Nuu-Muu dress
- Mileage: 16.8
- One Good Thing: Los Angeles has so much interesting history. There is always more to learn, and it is fun to keep exploring these different neighborhoods and find out more about how they came to be.
Control No. 6: Tierra Mia Cafe, Echo Park, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 11/15/2020
- Beverage: Daily House Brew (with cream & sugar)
- Bike ride: I know, I just rode Elysian Park last weekend, but this time I was riding with El Cochinito, and he had a hankering to ride into Elysian Park via this hilly street near our friend’s house, and he needed to first drop something off with a colleague in downtown. Thus, it made sense to enter the park from the Chinatown/Broadway side. That appealed to me as an opportunity to explore the reverse route to what I rode last week. So off we went. But no sooner had we entered the road into the park off of Broadway when we noticed the road ahead (beyond where we would turn left to follow the usual route into the park) seemed to offer a nice view, plus there was another road veering off to the left up ahead, behind a gate. I’ve never been on that road; might that need to be explored? So we explored. I imagined it might be a back road that leads to the Buena Vista viewpoint, which I don’t believe I’ve visited. We saw a lot of trash along this little road, and a few interesting characters here and there, who seemed like they might not have a typical reason to be hanging out in the park. This was definitely not a main park road, and certainly not the road to Buena Vista I’d been thinking of. I began to think about the fact that I was riding my flashy new Celeste green Bianchi and the fact that this might make me a target for bike thieves. But we just kept on riding and no one disturbed us. And then we saw the end of the road at a fence separating us from the 110 freeway. But there was a dirt walking path that paralleled the freeway, so we walked our bikes along it. And then we saw a hole in the fence that gave us access to a pedestrian walkway that runs alongside the freeway. So we rode that and continued on. And that led to a spiral stairway. We carried our bikes down that and landed at the interchange between the 110 freeway and the 5 (that’s L.A.-speak for Interstate 5). We rode further, now on a pedestrian path on the opposite side of the 110, that took us to a trashy looking stairway that led to San Fernando Road near the roundabout that offers an access point to the L.A. River Bike Path. So we rode the river path north until we found an inviting exit point that allowed us to explore a cute residential neighborhood sandwiched between the river and Riverside Drive (an area I believe is referred to as Frogtown). We came across an intriguing lot filled with rows and rows of some kind of futuristic looking sanitation vehicles we’d never seen before. A large fleet of them —- might those be called upon in the event of a chemical spill? Inquiring minds want to know. We then continued on Riverside Drive until it led us back into Elysian Park from Stadium Way. We made our way through the park and came out on Academy Road. This is where the steep road up to our friend’s house can be found. And up we went, or so we tried. Neither of us was able to bike the entire hill. We made it a little over halfway before having to walk the rest. We circled around and dropped back into the business district of Echo Park and took a right onto Sunset Blvd. At Alvarado, I noticed the Tierra Mia coffee shop, and realized this was our perfect coffeeneuring stop. And so it was.
- Bloomers: Party Pants Bloomers under Jade Nuu-Muu dress
- Mileage: 18.5
- One Good Thing: That road that intrigues you, calls to you, leads you on a new adventure: Take it!
Control No. 7: Undergrind, Castle Heights/Beverlywood, Los Angeles, California
- Date: 11/22/2020
- Beverage: Dutch (dark chocolate/milk/espresso) plus shrimp & grits
- Bike ride: I reached out to Lynn and Jennifer to see if they would like to join me on a ride to rectify the tribute to our new VP-elect by visiting a black woman-owned coffee shop. Of course, they were game. We met up at the Culver City Expo Line station and rolled over to South Robertson (or “SoRo”), just a bit north of Hamilton High School. As we rolled up, my eye caught sight of a red pick up truck painted colorfully. Then we came upon a gorgeous mural on the side of the building at the corner of Robertson & Gibson. Jennifer started exclaiming that she knew this building; that this is the building our friend (another bike person) Aubrey owns, and that this is the gallery of an artist she has met. We drooled over the mural, took pictures of our bikes in front of it, and then proceeded to Undergrind. If you like chocolate with your coffee, then you must try their Dutch, which features dark chocolate and a shot of espresso plus your favorite kind of milk. It was decadent and delicious. I’d also seen from the reviews that Undergrind is known for its shrimp & grits, and I was hungry. Those were the tastiest shrimp & grits ever, and I will definitely be going back again for more. While enjoying our goodies, Jennifer called Aubrey, and by the time we’d finished eating and drinking, along came Aubrey and his wife, Melba, the owners of the building that houses their own direct mail business and also the Barbara Mendes Art Gallery. So we got a tour of the gallery, some stories about its history, a preview of some Haitian art that was about to have an opening in the adjacent gallery space when Covid-19 came along and put those plans in limbo. Then Barbara Mendes, the artist herself, showed up and we got to learn a lot more about her amazing work. Most remarkable is a giant mural she painted that depicts, with both detailed images and Hebrew script, every verse of Leviticus. After that visit, we got back on our bikes and toured the curvy streets and beautiful homes of the Beverlywood/Castle Heights neighborhood, then circled back on the Expo bike path toward the Culver City Station where we’d met up.
- Bloomers: Leaping Lady Leopard Bloomers under Night Nuu-Muu dress
- Mileage: 17.7
- One Good Thing: Nothing lifts one’s spirits like stumbling across some colorful and expressive art!
And, with that, Coffeeneuring 2020 is a wrap. I hope the good folks at Coffeeneuring Central will forgive me for not using a reusable cup at most of my controls. Under COVID protocols, our local places will not fill the customer’s cup (I even remembered to bring it!), and most are using only disposable cups. As for a theme within the theme, I’d say more than one theme emerged upon reflection. Besides managing to do each ride in a different Bloomers/Nuu-muu Dress combo (I do love me some bike style), I found myself living a theme of using each coffeeneuring ride to embrace what my world offers: wonderful bike friends, a city of never-ending fascination, and delightful small businesses doing their best to endure in the face of unprecedented challenge. They are so worthy of our support.
Little tidbit: I did 6 of the 7 rides all on my gorgeous new Bianchi. Can you spot the one exception, when I rode a different bike? Extra credit if you can identify the make & model.
Obviously, there was so much more to savor about each ride than just “one good thing”. What a great way to focus on all that is good during a time when so much is not. May we hold all of it dear, remembering those who are suffering, and remind ourselves to keep doing one good thing to support someone, while also embracing one good thing we are lucky to have in our lives.
Final tidbit: here’s a photo of the interesting vehicles spotted in Frogtown. According to Google Maps, this is the location of Los Angeles Sewer Maintenance.