How to Pay $0 for Gas

The world is in turmoil right now, as we are more than two weeks in to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not wanting to support war crimes in progress, much of the world is shunning Russian oil. Gas prices were already high, and now they’re even higher. I only know this from watching the news, as my primary vehicle has no gas tank. It doesn’t have a battery, either. I prefer biking for lots of reasons, mostly because it’s more fun than driving. The current situation, however, is bringing one advantage to the fore: I don’t have to buy gas!

Which brings me to the biggest reason why I share my biking stories, and the biggest reason why I created Bikie Girl Bloomers: I am a bikevangelist, and I want to share the bike love! I live in Los Angeles, and I remember how I felt when I first moved here back in 1996: how is it even possible to bike in a crazy car-centric city? It should not require special bravery and skill; biking should be available to everyone. Once you learn the tips and tricks, though, urban cycling is really quite delightful.

Back in 2017, I was inspired to create a handout for visitors to a New York pop-up shop I participated in for a week with several other brands that cater to urban cyclists. Some of the brands sponsored events as part of the pop-up shop experience, and Bikie Girl Bloomers offered a workshop for bike commuting. I made a handout that included tips for getting started on bike commuting as well as showcasing how each of the products offered in our pop-up could help make bike commuting more enjoyable. Afterward, I posted a version of it here on the site. Just this week, I revised my handout so I could post it to my virtual booth at the National Bike Summit coming up March 27-30, 2022. I realized that nearly five years had passed, and it was time for an update. Here’s the updated version:

Getting Started

Keep it simple. Establish a small goal: to bike to a nearby store for an errand, or to bike home from work one day this week. You will be going through the planning and execution logistics, and perhaps overcoming some trepidation, and that is enough for the first time at it. Make sure you are ready by thinking through the following items to ensure a positive experience. If you are new to city riding, you might start out with recreational social rides led by a bike advocacy group or a local bike shop, or you can search for a licensed cycling instructor (see Bike League Directory Search to find local resources). Riding with a group can make city riding safer, teach you city riding skills, and introduce you to others who like to ride. It’s also a great way to discover parts of your city you never knew. You can find local groups to ride with through sites such as MeetUp.com and Facebook. Look for “no drop” and beginner-friendly rides to match your riding level.

Joining a group ride can be a great way to get comfortable riding in the city.

Gear

If you will ride your own bike, consider taking it to a local bike shop for a tune up and safety check. If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, now is the time to learn and practice (you can find tutorials on youtube). The weekend before your first ride, check your ABC’s: A – air in the tires; B – brakes working; C – chain is clean and lubed. Re-check these before each ride. It’s normal for your tires to need a little more air, or for your chain to need some cleaning, about once a week or so. Checking these items regularly will also make it easy for you to notice when the brakes are getting worn, or another repair is needed.

If you will use bike share, go to the web site for your city’s bike share system and familiarize yourself with how it works, what you need to check out a bike, and where the docking stations are for your start and stop points. Download an app to make it easy to find bike share stations while out and about. Many bike share systems changed during the pandemic, so be sure to get up to date information. Google maps has a feature (select “more” to reveal the “search along this route” box and type in “bike share stations”) that will show bike share stations along a route you are considering.

Google maps directions in “biking” mode. Use the “more” (top, center) to show bike share stations along the route.

The basic gear needs include: helmet, lights, and something to carry your stuff. Helmets are available in stylish designs (see those by Sawako Nutcase and BikePretty), and with lights to signal braking and turning (see the Lumos helmet). If taking your own bike, you will want to carry a patch kit, extra inner tube, a pump, and bike tools, such as a multi-tool. Keep a quality lock with you, even if you can park the bike inside, as you may need it when stopping for an errand. High quality theft-resistant locks can be heavy, but TiGr offers titanium locks that are strong, light and stylish. The best way to lock a bike is to combine a strong cable with a high-quality U-lock, to ensure the wheels cannot be removed and the frame is secured to a bike rack. (See here for examples.)

Stylish accessories can be both practical and fun!

Gear that makes the commute more pleasant: fenders, a chainguard, a good saddle properly adjusted, a basket and/or rack, phone holder, and a kickstand. Other gear that can be worth the investment: handlebars/bike that support upright riding position, dynamo lights, panniers, platform pedals that work well with street shoes, and a power bank to re-charge your phone or lights. An electric assist bike can be practical if the commute is long and/or hilly. Although electric assist bikes cost significantly more than regular bikes, they are a fraction of the cost of a car, and well worth it if it makes it possible to commute by bike more often or at all. There are also kits that can turn a regular bike into an electric assist.

Clothing

You are likely able to ride in whatever clothes you wear to work. Exceptions are avoiding or adjusting for long, flowy items that might get caught in the spokes, or dealing with hills, distance, or weather that leaves you too sweaty or wet. For these situations, you can bring fresh clothes with you and change at work. Some work places offer shower facilities or have a gym close by. Many bike commuters keep extra clothes at work, or bring a week’s worth to the office at a time. You can also keep a kit of toiletries at work to use for freshening up. Consider a small towel, cleansing wipes, deodorant, and a comb or brush.

Experiment with different clothing to find what is most comfortable. Some prefer pants, others prefer the freedom of movement provided by a skirt or dress. BikieGirl’s Hitchable Flounce Skirt comes with the patented Skitch® skirt hitch to lift the hem out of the way while riding. Pants can easily wear out from bike riding, so consider a style designed for the durability and flexibility biking requires. Skirts and dresses can be combined with BikieGirl’s lightweight bike short or leggings for coverage and/or warmth. If needed, you can wear a padded bike short for the ride in, and switch to regular pants upon arrival. Let the bike shorts air out during the day so they are at least partly refreshed for the ride home.

Yes, you can wear the same clothes for the commute and the office.

Planning Your Route

The best route for biking to work is likely different from the route you would take by car or other means. Most cities provide a map of bike routes, bike paths, and bike-friendly streets. Google maps Kamoot and other bike routing software can help you figure out a suitable route (in Google maps, select “layers” to see the option to show bike-friendly streets). Test ride your route on the weekend to make sure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises and get familiar with the streets and turns when there is less traffic on the roads. Keep in mind that occasionally Google maps will direct you to cross a major street without a traffic light. If you get stuck in such a situation, consider taking the sidewalk (walk the bike if sidewalk riding is not legal in your city) to access the nearest crossing with a traffic light.

Carrying Your Stuff

Options for carrying your things include: a messenger bag (make sure it is stable while riding), backpack, basket or panniers. A bag that is against your back will create much more sweating, so many prefer a basket or a pannier that attaches to the rear rack. Po Campo provides stylish options that includes bags that hook on your bike and can also be your professional-looking briefcase or handbag. Rear-mounted bike baskets allow for a more stable weight distribution, while front baskets provide easy access while riding. Your choice will also be influenced by what you need or will have to carry with you upon arrival. Think also about whether your arrangement will be used for shopping or carrying children.

The Po Campo Bergen Pannier attached to one side of the rear rack, and a big wad of bonus material strapped to the top of the rear rack with a bungee cargo net. Because I can.

I find a pannier that clips onto the rear rack, yet looks like a suitable shoulder bag for the office, meeting with clients, or running errands is a good first choice. When I need to carry more stuff, however, I like the easy of the Nantucket pannier baskets that simply hook onto the rear rack, and can hold a sizable amount of groceries. I also keep a bungee cargo net on my rear rack for those times when I get carried away with too many extra items. When all I need to carry are my essentials, including my tablet, wallet, a snack and perhaps a few toiletries, such as when visiting a client or attending a conference, I like using a stylish trunk bag that securely attaches to the rear rack and also looks like a normal purse when slung over my shoulder.

Nantucket basket panniers loaded with groceries.

Staying Safe

Know your local bike laws. The most important keys to safety relate to being visible and predictable to others and being prepared for the unexpected. Ride with the flow of traffic, and take the lane when sharing the road with motorized vehicles. Riding too close to the edge of the lane makes you less visible to motorists and can encourage drivers to pass you too closely. Allow 3-5 feet between you and parked cars to avoid getting doored. Avoid weaving around parked cars, as that can catch motorists by surprise when you re-enter the traffic lane. Signal your turns, and call out or ring a bell to let others know you are approaching to pass. You can increase your skills and confidence by taking a class (see link in first paragraph). Click here to see some examples of the skills that will help you handle dicey situations that can arise on city streets.

Riding At Night

Wear reflective clothing at night, and use a white light in front and a rear light in back. Brands like Vespertine NYC provide stylish reflective vests, jackets, scarves, and dresses. Flashing lights can make it harder for others to gauge distance and are unsafe (to others) as front lights. Lights vary, so be sure you know how effective the lights you have will be. Consider also whether they will require battery replacement or can be recharged. Lights are often stolen from parked bikes, so consider lights you can easily carry with you. Alternatively, dynamo lights whose power is generated by the front wheel and integrated into the bike design are less easy to steal from a parked bike.

The Vespert reflective vest (left) and a Vespertine reflective dress (right) — they look like normal clothes in daylight, but light up at night.

Multi-Modal Options & Back-Up Plan

If the distance is too great, one direction is too hilly, or you feel more comfortable knowing you don’t have to ride both ways, look into the options for public transit. Some cities allow bikes on trains, buses, and/or subways, others allow them only during non-commuting hours, or have limited space. Some commuters use public transit for part of their route, or in one direction. Others take public transit (or drive) at the beginning and end of the week to carry clothes and other items for the week, and use the bike in between. These options can also be your back-up in case of weather or an equipment mishap.

Keep It Stress-free & Fun!

When it’s unfamiliar, city riding can seem quite stressful. Finding yourself on a too-busy street, worrying about cars passing too closely, navigating around broken glass and potholes, these are challenges that will become manageable once you’re a seasoned rider, but can ruin your experience when you feel unprepared for them. If this happens to you, pull over as soon as you find a safe spot to do so. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if necessary, or find a bench where you can sit down and take a breath. Use a smart phone to look at your route and see if you can find a better option to get to your destination. Often there is a parallel street or alley that is much calmer and more enjoyable to ride on. If a major thoroughfare is the only option and it’s just not feeling safe to ride in the street, I will ride on the sidewalk. In some cities that is not legal, but depending on the circumstances, it may be your best choice. I would prefer to feel safe and get ticketed than to get hit by a car, but I’m white and female.

I have found that, over the years, it gets easier and easier to find the better, more bike-friendly streets. Wide residential streets can be pleasant and offer plenty of room for motorists to safely pass. Sometimes, however, narrow streets are better because drivers have to slow down and fewer cars will choose such streets. Roads that curve, have lots of shade trees, feature historic homes with gorgeous architecture can be great choices for creating an enjoyable biking experience. It can be fun to explore a different street each day of your commute and discover all that you’ve been missing out on when getting around by car.

Other tidbits that contribute to a more enjoyable ride include: using a bike that keeps me more upright (I feel more easily seen, and I find it easier to look around), decorating my bike with flowers, wearing a cute helmet, riding in a skirt, leaving early to give me plenty of time so I don’t get nervous about being late or sweaty from riding fast. I do sense that drivers are more courteous to me when they see me as a commuter rather than as a recreational road biker. I believe the flowers and pretty helmet soften their reaction to me. Even if I’m only imagining these things make drivers treat me better, I am certain they make me enjoy the ride more. Even fake flowers can remind us to enjoy the beautiful things in life.

The Gazelle Tour Populaire provides a super comfortable, upright riding position.

Take It Away Errandonnee

Yes, another challenge. I seem to love these things. Perhaps because they give me a sense of accomplishment without being too taxing. We’ve all been through enough this past year plus, so we don’t need to tackle Herculean tasks, but a little motivator can go a long way. Biking through the pandemic has definitely been a major factor in making these strange times more enjoyable. It keeps me active, it provides a safe way to be social, and it gets me out of the house and back in nature. I believe the structure of the challenge provides just the nudge I need to overcome that pandemic-induced inertia that imagines I’m just fine hanging out at home, even though I know better.

The Guiding Force behind the Errandonnee modified the rules a bit to fit the unusual circumstances this year, dubbing this the “Hyperlocal Edition”. The full details can be found here, but the upshot is to complete 12 errands in 12 consecutive days, and ride, run, and/or walk a total of 30 miles. In a special twist for this year, participants could pick the 12-day stretch, so long as it is be between April 15 and June 30. I was particularly grateful for this last bit, as I had to defer my participation until June due to a minor matter involving some fractures to my pelvis pursuant to a little unexpected contact with the pavement while biking to the office one morning in March. It has taken a couple months, but I’ve recovered sufficiently to be able to do bike rides again, so long as I stick to the flatter, lower mileage type.

Of course, not just any 12 errands will suffice. One must complete errands falling within at least 6 of the 9 categories, with no more than two qualifying rides in any one category. While that can seem intimidating, I found that several of the errands I was inclined to perform could quite soundly fit within multiple categories. Check out the 9 categories:

  1. Discovery (See something new while you’re out and about!)
  2. Helping Hand (e.g., helping a person, helping the environment)
  3. History Lesson
  4. Non-Store Errand
  5. Personal Business
  6. Personal Care
  7. Public Art
  8. You carried WHAT?!
  9. Wild Card (Any trip that does not fall into any of the above categories.

Here is my report:


  1. June 1st: Personal Care
Crazy Daisy Bloomers served me well at my PT appointment — no worries about flashing anyone, either at the clinic, or on the ride to and from.

I biked to my last of six physical therapy appointments that helped me recover from the fractured pelvis. This was my first experience of breaking a bone in my body, and I had no idea how much such an incident screws up various muscles. Some muscles had become super weak, and others were in spasm, either from the impact or from working overtime to compensate for the weakened muscles. I was grateful for the physical therapy, and eagerly embraced the daily exercises I was given to do at home. I’m still doing them, but I’m recovered enough that I walk and bike normally; I just have a limit to how much I can strain myself right now.

Mileage: 10ish round trip.

Bike: Volpe

Bloomers: Crazy Daisy


2. June 2nd: Personal Business

Dazzling Amethyst Bloomers as I test ride the newly adjusted brakes while riding away from my local bike shop.

Took my bike to my local bike shop for a brake adjustment. I’d recently had new, wider tires put on my commuter. I had been thinking for several months about turning the Volpe into even more of an all-purpose adventure/gravel bike since I knew it could accommodate bigger tires, and I now have a fancy new road bike that I use for my hillier and longer distance non-touring rides. Since the aging tires that had been on the commuter might have been a factor in the unfortunate incident of March 11th, when I wiped out on a slick patch of pavement, I decided it was time to get the new tires. But the front wheel kept catching in the brake pads, and my attempts to adjust them myself were not successful, I just swung by the shop and they took care of it for me lickety split.

Mileage: 3

Bike: Volpe

Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst


3, 4, & 5. June 3rd: Non-Store Errand + Helping Hand + Wild Card

As much as I love my fancy new road bike, a Bianchi Infinito, I was unable to love the gorgeous coordinating Fizik R7 Aliante saddle that came with it. It’s supposed to be a great saddle, but it just wasn’t a fit for me. I tried tilting the nose down, which usually is the ticket for me and that did help a bit, but I found myself no longer the who-needs-a-chamois rider, and I kept developing one troubling problem or another in my delicate regions, so it just had to go. After many hours spent reading saddle reviews, I decided to go with the Specialized Power Expert with MIMIC. The day it arrived, I put it on my bike and took her for a test ride.

The new saddle, inside the post office where I can easily bring my bike with me inside.
Big, ugly sweater I knitted for my itty bitty daughter-in-law

I also wanted to mail a sweater I’d just finished knitting to my daughter-in-law. She had requested a big, ugly sweater to help her stay warm in Rochester, New York. That was last Fall, but I warned her it likely would not get done in time for this winter. I did have just the right yarn and pattern to knit up what she wanted. I managed to finish the sweater just in time for Summer! I’m counting this as my helping hand errand. She may not be needing it now, but it will be ready for her when the seasons change again.

Satisfied that the new saddle is so far so good, I was eager to try something wild. Although I have ridden my bike up to the Griffith Park Helipad many times, I hadn’t attempted that kind of climb since February, before the unfortunate incident of March 11th. I was eager to see if I could handle it. The other wild thing was that it had been a long time since I’d been to the helipad for the weekly happy hour meet up. Socializing has become a big, wild deal this year. El Cochinito and I decided this was the day to give it a go, and we did. I made it up that hill, albeit slowly, and it was nice to see my bike friends again. The ride also showed me, however, that I’m not quite ready for this. I was okay, but I felt it and knew this was just a bit too much too soon.

Happy Hour at the Helipad

Mileage: 18ish

Bike: Infinito

Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire


6. June 4th: Personal Care

When a postmenopausal woman fractures her pelvis, the topic of osteoporosis gets raised. The orthopedist noted that the x-rays revealed a little less bone density than they like to see, and I was referred for a bone density scan. That scan confirmed the expected diagnosis: osteoporosis in the pelvis and spine. That led to an appointment with an endocrinologist, who then ordered some tests. That testing meant I needed to pick up a special “collection device” (I will spare you the graphic details) from a lab not too far from home, but in a neighborhood in which one would not want to leave their bike unattended. So I got out the Volpe and my best Pee Wee Herman bike lock & cable set and set out to fetch the device.

Mileage: 5ish

Bike: Volpe

Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black


7. June 6th: Surprise!

I was feeling a real hankering to start increasing my mileage a wee bit, and to ride a hill that wouldn’t be too much for my current state of recovery, but could help me build some strength. That called for an old familiar loop through Griffith Park along Crystal Springs Drive. I knew this ride would get me a total of 22+ miles and a couple of doable hills without overdoing it. This route passes by the Pony Rides, through the Wilson and Harding Golf Courses and continues past the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, the Zoo, Travel Town (a kid’s delight of old trains), and back around through some picnic areas. Since I started tracking my rides in Strava, I’ve done this loop at least 45 times. You’d think I’d seen whatever there is to see on this ride by now, and yet, on this day I had to stop and gawk at what was, for me, a first: three deer grazing on the golf course!

Mileage: 22ish

Bike: Infinito

Bloomers: Black


8. June 7th: Wild Card

Now that folks around here are vaccinated, some social events are coming back. One that I missed was the biweekly coffee meetups with Women on Bike Culver City. Every other Monday (in prepandemic times), they would pick a different coffee shop and invite others to either meet at the coffee shop, or join up for a ride together. It’s a friendly, welcoming group that makes a point of supporting and encouraging women who might not be seasoned riders to venture out and get more comfortable biking around town. Although they’d had some socially distanced meet ups at parks during the pandemic, those meetups had not lined up well with my working-from-home schedule. But here was a Monday when they were back to meeting at a coffee shop (one with outdoor seating), and I was free that morning. It was a small group, but a delight to see two familiar friends and meet a new one. The downside was, it had been a long time since I’d last biked the Venice Boulevard bike lanes during morning rush hour, and that was stressful and miserable. Drivers have always been bad on that street, but they gotten worse during the pandemic: driving much too fast and passing bicyclists much too closely as we navigate the door zone bike lane.

Mileage: 16+

Bike: Volpe

Bloomers: Crazy Daisy


9 & 10. June 9th: Non-Store Errand + You Carried What?

While commuting to work is not part of this year’s Errandonnee, it surely counts as a Non-Store Errand. I’m self-employed, and I’ve been paying rent for an office I haven’t been using except as a place to receive mail these last 15 months. Now that the COVID-19 case rates are down in Los Angeles, and the vaccination levels are up, I am gradually going back to the office a little more each week. The only part that worries me is that darn ramp down into the parking garage, which is where I wiped out that ill-fated morning in March. I’d biked down it a jillion times before, and I know what got me was a slick patch where oil from idling cars must have built up on the surface and had been wetted by the rain we’d had the night before. It’s not like I’m expecting that same thing to happen to me again, but I find myself anxious about how fast it feels I am going as I descend the ramp now. But I’m okay, really (or so I tell myself each time).

I had a couple of BikieGirl orders to ship out that day for two of my best customers. One reason for going to the office was because I needed a product that was not available in the stash of inventory I keep at home. Plus I knew I had a bigger shipping box at the office that would be just right for the larger order. While the mail carrier does pick up outgoing packages from the office building, I prefer to take them directly to the post office when I can, as it is more reliable. The office pick up sometimes appears to result in an extra day before the package actually is officially “accepted” into the USPS system, and that annoys me. I feel better putting the packages directly onto the “ready to ship” counter at the post office. Plus, there is a post office near by that is well-suited for rolling the bike inside, so I don’t have to fuss with locking up the bike.

So, I figured I could use my bungee net to secure the packages to my rear rack for the short ride to the post office on my way home that afternoon. Except I also needed to carry my pannier with my computer and other necessary commuter items, plus I wanted to take a six pack of soda cans home since I now use those more at home than at the office. As I went to pack it all on the bike, I realized I’d put myself in a “you-carried-what” situation. Luckily, I was able to fit the six pack into my handlebar bag (phew, as I don’t always have that bag mounted on my handlebars for regular commuting). The handlebar bag wouldn’t close with the six pack inside, but I was able to use a disposable medical mask to create a strap that would secure the lid of the handlebar bag to the mount for my smartphone.

Next I tried to stack the boxes onto my rear rack, but the bungee net wasn’t big enough to accommodate both boxes. The smaller box could almost fit into the pannier, and by snapping the handles of the pannier bag together, I was able to secure the box there. Finally, with a bit of scooching and nudging, I was able to get the bungee net to secure the larger box onto the rack. Off to the post office I went!

Mileage: 2.2

Bike: Volpe

Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire Thighwise Pettipants


11. June 11th: Wild Card

The “Wild Card” category is defined as any trip that does not fall into any of the other 11 categories. Well, the lawyer in me wants to argue both sides here. You see, I biked to the office on this day. Now, this year’s errandonnee does not have a commuting to work or school category like we’ve seen in years past, so that means a ride to the office qualifies for the Wild Card. On the other hand, I managed to submit a previous trip to the office just two days earlier as a “Non-Store Errand”. So how can I argue that my trip to the office does not fall into any of the other categories when I just logged a trip to the office under another category? Ah, but wait a minute: wouldn’t ANY trip that did not involve going to a store fall under the “Non-Store Errand” category? If so, then the Wild Card category would be rendered meaningless. Under the Errandonnee Rules of Statutory Construction, therefore, I proclaim it improper to construe a rule in such a manner as to render it meaningless. Besides, per Rule 9 of the Errandonnee Official Rules Blog Post, we must have fun, and I am having so much fun ruling on the rules here.

And if that doesn’t sound like a “Wild Card” ride, what about my Hot Pink Zebra Bloomers, worn under a tropical floral print dress? If that isn’t wild, what is?

Mileage: 3.4

Bike: Volpe

Bloomers: Hot Pink Zebra


12. June 12th: Public Art + Surprise

Don’t laugh, but I planned this ride by opening Google Maps and typing in “public art”. I know there is public art hiding in plain sight everywhere, so I figured this might be one way to discover something worthy of a bike trip. Sure enough, at the top of my results list was a piece of public art that I did not recognize (by name or by photo) that is in a location I know I have passed by dozens of times, both in a car and on a bike. And it had an interesting story. And I had a pretty good guess that my bike friend Jennifer would be interested in exploring it with me.

“The Freedom Sculpture” or “Freedom: A Shared Dream” (2017) by Cecil Balmond is a 20,400-pound, 15-foot high by 20-foot by 9-foot sculpture of water jet-cut powder-coated stainless steel double cylinders, supported by two 15-foot diameter high-polish stainless steel gold and silver half-rings, mounted on an approx. 10-foot by 18-foot by 4-inch travertine stone platform, and has internal LED lighting at night. The sculpture is modeled on the Cyrus Cylinder, and has been referred to as one of the Best Public Art in Los Angeles. It sits in the median of Santa Monica Boulevard at the intersection with Century Park East.

Along the way, we rode the bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd as it passes through Beverly Hills, and were delighted to notice a beautiful garden of cacti and succulents. [Surprise!] We just had to stop. I was so taken with the agave in bloom that bordered the bike lane. We wandered around the garden, took lots of pictures, and marveled that we hadn’t known of this place.

We took Charleville, a favorite bike-friendly street through Beverly Hills, for the return trip, and stopped for coffee along the way. All in all, a perfect outing for the twelfth and final day of my Hyperlocal Errandonnee run.

Mileage: 16ish

Bike: Infinito

Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst Thighwise Pettipants

Report From The BikieGirl Challenge

So how did that go? “That” being my attempt to lift some spirits by nudging folks to take on a doable challenge to finish off a strange bike month, the second year in a row that our month of May was overshadowed by a pandemic. The doable challenge is described in this prior post. In short, the Challenge involves 5 different ways to incorporate an activity that lifts the spirits into a bike ride, which bike ride, of course, is enough to lift one’s spirits by itself. Sometimes, though, we need an extra nudge to get out there and ride. The 5 ways: 1. Dress up Fancy; 2. Go Social; 3. Be of Service; 4. Try something new; and 5. Bike to Beauty.

Rolling fancy through Beverly Hills

I was most excited about #1. There’s something about riding a bike in style that feels so fantabulous. To feel the breezy freedom that I always feel while riding a bike, and to do so while dressed up, especially in a skirt or dress, well, that brings on a nirvana all its own. I love also how clearly it proves that a simple bike ride does not require a pair of padded shorts and a pocketed jersey. Not every bike ride is the Tour de France (not that there’s anything wrong with the Tour de France, except for the exclusion of women). I also love the romantic imagery of a Tweed Ride, or that elegance depicted in those old timey pictures of women in full-length skirts, high collars, and bloomers flouting convention as they rode through the late 1800’s.

In the pursuit of elegance for our fancy bike ride, I invited my husband to join me for a ride to Beverly Hills. It’s just a few miles from our home, and offers over-the-top mansions and beautifully manicured gardens worth gawking at, on streets that are wide and quiet. I pulled up Google maps and started scanning for good streets and places to explore. A few key spots caught my eye, and I proceeded to plan a little loop for our tour de Beverly Hills.

Look at our bikes leaning against . . . The front of the Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills

It was easy to choose my outfit, as I had purchased a pair of dresses in anticipation of a local Tweed Ride a few years ago, one being my first choice dress (adorable, but I was nervous about the somewhat mermaid-style shape), and the second a backup in case the first choice dress didn’t allow enough room for pedaling. I’d assumed the backup dress could be saved for the following year’s Tweed Ride. But there hadn’t been a second Tweed Ride, so that backup dress was still waiting its turn. The bright red of that yet-to-be-worn dress, and it’s 40’s era vintage styling, meant the perfect choice of matching Bloomers was obvious: the Red Hot Aqua Dot Bloomers. I completed the look with some red earrings and a matching necklace I’d inherited from my mother, and a comfy yet cute pair of red Jambu Mary Janes. Oh, and the brightest red lipstick I could find.

We rode past the architecturally notable Beverly Hills City Hall, making our way to the Virginia Robinson Gardens. The Gardens were closed that Sunday, but it was fun to get a glimpse and see enough to know it would be worth a return trip when it’s open. From there, I wanted to check out the “Hillhaven Lodge” that Google maps indicated was just a little ways farther up Benedict Canyon, but alas, it’s one of those things on the map that isn’t really a place you can visit. Our next stop was the Spadena House, also known as the “witch house”. We rounded out the tour with a pass by the Wave House. And since I’d never before biked to these Beverly Hills sites, I decided this ride also ticked the box for #4.

Oh, did you think the Challenge required 5 separate bike rides? Ah, don’t read anything more into the rules than necessary! (Forgive me, I’m a lawyer.)

#5 was super easy, as biking to beauty can be done just about anywhere, especially if you are on the lookout for nature’s treasures and/or public art. One street I use frequently to traverse the mid-city area of Los Angeles is 6th Street, as it passes along the back side of the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It’s the less stressful alternative to busy Wilshire Blvd to the south and hectic 3rd Street to the north (despite Google maps always suggesting 3rd Street instead — don’t do it!). I’ve ridden 6th Street so many times, it’s easy to forget to take in the treasures. One fine day, riding home after a medical appointment, I noticed lots of colorful flowers peeking through the wrought iron fencing that surrounds the La Brea Tar Pits.

Groovy Tie Dye Bloomers under the Hitchable Flounce Skirt

Stopping to appreciate the flowers 🌺

In between these rides, I did work in a bonus ride, that could be stretched to fit a few categories. I rode to my favorite bike shop to get some new tires for my commuter/adventure bike. This Bianchi Volpe had come equipped with 28mm tires that served me well for the last 2+ years, but those tires had worn down quite a bit, and after a bad wipe out on slick pavement one March morning that left me with a fractured pelvis, I had decided it was time for not just new tires, but something wider and grippier. Especially now that I have a newer, fancier Bianchi for road riding, it makes sense to turn my trusty steel Volpe into a gravel bike. I figure visiting my local bike shop counts as a social experience that helps someone, and I’ve never bought 35mm tires before, so there’s 3 categories right there! But since it’s a bit of a stretch, I’m treating this as a bonus ride.

Breathable Black Bloomers
New tires!

On the last day of May, I got in #2 and #3 by inviting a friend who had no quarantine buddy for the whole 15 months of pandemic restrictions out for a ride and to treat her to a goodie. Riding a bike is fun, and socializing is fun, but social riding is even better, especially with a friend who can appreciate a leisurely pace. Enjoying goodies together is all the more fun, which is what we did as we swung by California Donuts. I love this place because, in addition to good donuts, they serve from a window you can roll your bike up to — no locking up required. Having just watched The Donut King, I was eager for some local donuts, so I bought a box of 6: horchata, cinnamon crumb, M&M’s, Reese’s, chocolate glazed, and a cronut. Jennifer and I sampled a bit of the horchata donut, and I took the rest home to share with my hubby. Jennifer was more interested in a Thai Iced Coffee than a donut, so that was her treat. Over the next few days, my husband and I sampled the donuts. In my opinion, the cronut was the best.

I gave folks who opted to take the BikieGirl Bike Month Challenge until June 15th to turn in their ride reports, but so far, I’ve only seen one. Joni shared her 5 dares completed on the Club BikieGirl Facebook page: hooray for Joni! Some others indicated that they’d done a few, or had thought about it, so I’m thinking maybe we don’t have to limit this to Bike Month. If you’re still toying with the idea, well, it’s not that hard, and I will give you the summer to finish it up. We’ll leave the Challenge open through the end of August. Now, I double-dog-dare you!

Coffeeneuring 2020: Taking Note of the Good Things

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.

Prizes from prior years (still agonizing about where to put them)

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

Highly Likely Cafe is just down Jefferson Blvd from the Baldwin Hills Overlook. El Cochinito sure loves his coffeeneuring socks! And that cute bicycle print mask? I’ve been sewing these up; giving some away, and selling some on my Etsy shop (click photo to see it).
  • 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

The Griffith Park Helipad is a great place to meet up with friends in a socially-distanced way, and to watch the sunset (and yes I’m wearing a cookie gaiter and cookie socks from Phil’s Cookie Fondo)
  • 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

Riding up to the Griffith Observatory via Vermont Canyon takes you along the Greek Theater and through a tunnel (today’s gaiter is brought to you by Bike Lane Uprising)
  • 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

The Original Farmer’s Market in L.A.’s Fairfax district features an old timey gas station, a delightful variety of vendors & restaurants, and is home of Zia Valentina’s Waffleshot.
  • 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

Celebrating the election results with some bike friends
  • 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.
The two interesting buildings are part of Aimee Semple McPherson’s original Four Square Church; the right column and bottom row of photos were all taken in Elysian Park (today’s mask is also from my homemade/Etsy collection)

Control No. 6: Tierra Mia Cafe, Echo Park, Los Angeles, California

After looping through downtown, exploring our all-terrain urban adventure, and then through Elysian Park, we refreshed ourselves with some of the Daily Brew at Tierra Mia.
  • 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!
Highlights from our urban adventure

Control No. 7: Undergrind, Castle Heights/Beverlywood, Los Angeles, California

The three of us in front of our friends’ building; a peek at Lynn’s Chuck Taylors (worn in honor of VP-Elect Harris) under the table outside of Undergrind.
  • 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!
Highlights from the Barbara Mendes Gallery; Aubrey & Melba posing with Barbara Mendes (center) in front of her Leviticus piece.

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.

If these are just regular sewer maintenance trucks, why haven’t I seen them before? Do they only come out at night?

Coffeeneuring 2019: Rolling Themelessly

My fifth round of participating in the Coffeeneuring challenge happens to be the eighth year since it was first launched by Coffeeneur-in-Chief of Chasing Mailboxes. She proclaimed “Eight is Great” when announcing this year’s theme. In years past, I’ve had fun working my own theme into the master theme, with themes like making sure each coffee shop is in a different city, or trying different donut shops, or showing off a different pair of Bloomers for each ride. Last year, I honored the master theme of “Best Intentions” by backing away from elaborate planning of special sub-themes, and simply focusing on intention. This year, I had zero interest in planning a theme for my rides, or carefully selecting new coffee shops to try for each ride. I decided to let myself roll through the challenge themelessly. I am quite pleased that I managed to avoid re-arranging my life around coffeeneuring. Rather, I worked the coffeeneuring into whatever was going on each week.

Here is my control card:

Control No. 1: 10/13/19 – Kaldi in Atwater Village, Los Angeles

Beverage: Iced Americano (with pumpkin scone)

Bike-friendliness: Excellent bike parking – large bike corral right in front

Mileage: 26

Outfit: Crazy Daisy Bloomers under a Mermaid Nuu-Muu dress

Notes: El Cochinito had a meeting to attend in Atwater Village and invited me to ride along. Well, what a great way to kick off coffeeneuring season, especially since I hadn’t been to any coffee shops in Atwater Village. Plus, it’s not far from Griffith Park, giving me a great opportunity to spin my wheels while he was at his meeting.

Control No. 2: 10/20/19 – The Helipad in Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Beverage: Delivered by thermos from Kettle-Glazed Doughnuts (along with some donuts!)

Bike-friendliness: Doesn’t get any friendlier than Griffith Park, especially the Helipad, where local bike friends gather regularly to take in a great view of L.A. together.

Mileage: 20

Outfit: Tealicious Nuu-Muu dress over Black Bloomers (not pictured)

Some of the gents looked so dapper, matching their outfits to their bikes.

Notes: Many Thursdays this summer, I joined a group that bikes up to the Helipad after work to watch the sunset and sip beer. As the sunsets became too early in the Fall, the group switched to Sunday mornings and coffee. An advantage to doing it in the morning is that I could then continue riding on through the park. The photo in the lower left panel is the view of the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory. Lower right is a favorite mural I pass on my way home from the park.

Control No. 3: 10/26/19 – Cameron Cafe in Alexandria, Virginia

Beverage: Cafe au Lait (with an apple turnover)

Bike-friendliness: Conveniently close to the Holmes Run Trail and offers bike parking right out front. I was rolling on Capital Bikeshare that day, and there are no docking stations anywhere in that area, so I just parked it in front, next to the bike rack (with timer still running!), and kept an eye on it from my window seat inside.

Mileage: 13

Outfit: Purple Drape Neck Top over Black Hitchable Flounce Skirt & Pinstripe Bloomers (prototype for new style)

Notes: Every year in late October, I attend a conference in the Washington, D.C. area, right in the middle of Coffeeneuring season. In fact, two years ago, I was able to join a fellow coffeeneur who lives in D.C., and share a Coffeeneuring ride together! This year, I was staying in Old Town Alexandria, and thought it would be fun to explore the Holmes Run Trail and visit a coffee shop along the way. Cameron Cafe turned out to be an excellent choice. Both the coffee and the turnover were delicious. Plus I enjoyed visiting with a couple who’d also biked there and had been curious about my use of the bikeshare bike (given that we were well outside the Capital Bikeshare territory).

Control No. 4: 10/27/19 – Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, Los Angeles

Beverage: Cappuccino (with coffee cake)

Bike-friendliness: There are bike racks on the sidewalk out front on Sunset Boulevard, but some of us like to bring our bikes into the patio area in the back, off the alley. The bookstore is always kind to the Street Librarians who gather there on the last Sunday of each month for drinks and eats, to gather some books generously offered to us from the clearance rack, as we head out on our bicycles to re-stock the local Little Free Libraries.

Mileage: 16

Outfit: Zen Nuu-Muu dress over Pinka Dot Black Bloomers

Notes: The Street Librarians Ride always has a theme. This time the theme was Day of the Dead. As we stop to do our re-stocking at each Little Free Library, we also take a moment to share a reading, usually in line with the theme. For my turn, I read from a children’s book called “What is Death?”

Control No. 5: 10/28/19 – Bar Nine in Culver City

Beverage: Mocha (with a cheese biscuit)

Bike-friendliness: Well, they got rid of the bike rack they used to have out front, but we are inclined to forgive them since there is now an electric car charging station in its place. Several of us rolled our bikes inside, and no one seemed to mind.

Mileage: 12

Outfit: Blue Toad & Co. dress over Leopard Print Bloomers

Notes: This was a meet up with the Women on Bikes Culver City group. These women have a regular tradition of meeting up at a different local coffee shop every other Monday morning. They are especially great at supporting women who are new to city biking.

Control No. 6: 11/3/19 – Blue Bottle Coffee, Downtown L.A.

Beverage: Cafe au Lait (with a maple pecan scone)

Bike-friendliness: There may be bike parking right in front, I forgot to look. I parked across the street in front of the Grand Central Market.

Mileage: 21

Outfit: Jade Nuu-Muu dress over Shimmering Sapphire Bloomers, topped off with a green Bikie Girl Bloomers Boat Neck Tee

Notes: El Cochinito had a field trip in downtown L.A., having his Economics students explore relevant principles at the Grand Central Market. He first has them walk across the street to see the beautiful Bradbury Building, often used in filming, most notably the original Bladerunner. I rode along and enjoyed my treats at Blue Bottle Coffee, right there on the corner in the Bradbury Building, while they did their field trip. Afterward, he and I continued on through Chinatown into Elysian Park to take in some iconic views of the city.

Control No. 7: 11/10/19 – Hot & Cool Cafe, Leimert Park in South Los Angeles

Beverage: Cinnful Coffee (with coffee cake)

Bike-friendliness: There is bike parking right in front and the Ride On Bike Co-op is next door, should you need any parts or repairs.

Mileage: 15

Outfit: Wildfire Nuu-Muu dress over Romantic Ruby Bloomers

Notes: El Cochinito and I will be doing a bike tour in Cuba over the upcoming holidays, and I wanted to make sure we squeezed at least one ride into this busy weekend. I also wanted to make sure we climbed some sort of hill to get some training value out of a short ride. I decided the perfect route would be to nearby Kenneth Hahn Park in the Baldwin Hills. This 400-acre park atop some sizable hills in the midst of a large metropolis offers great views. I used to think there was no way to ride a bike to this park until a group ride I was on a couple years ago took us there. I was delighted to be able to show this route to El Cochinito (who otherwise knows his way around L.A. more thoroughly than I do). He also hadn’t been to this park in well over 20 years, since before the basin at the top had been made into a grassy meadow. This was once the site of a reservoir that spilled down the hillside in 1963 when a dam broke and the ensuing disaster took five lives and damaged over 200 homes.

We then descended gleefully down into Leimert Park to enjoy one of my favorite local cafes. If you like some flavor and a hint of spice in your coffee like I do, I strongly recommend the Cinnful Coffee. Their coffee cake is a delicious accompaniment.

What looks like a dead-end street actually goes through via a small bridge for pedestrians & bikes.

Control No. 8: 11/17/19 – The Free Cafe in Leimert Park in South Los Angeles

Beverage: Iced Coffee

Bike-friendliness: It doesn’t get any friendlier than this – the host is a bicyclist who sets up the cafe in his backyard. Bikes are welcome, and can be leaned against the fence along the driveway.

Mileage: 7

Outfit: Sirena Nuu-Muu dress over Shimmering Sapphire Bloomers

Approaching the bridge from the south is much prettier.

Notes: The Free Cafe is a friend’s project intended to cultivate community. He invites all his neighbors to come to his yard for coffee and conversation about once a month. Occasionally, he sets up the Free Cafe at other locations, such as parks or other host homes. I enjoy riding there, as it’s only 3 miles from home, and it takes me on some bike-friendly streets through pretty neighborhoods, and over a small bridge that crosses the freeway. I love going over this bridge, because it is a hidden delight.

Originally this was to be my celebratory “Eight is Great” ride, but I completely forgot to snap a photo of my bike or my coffee! I don’t think that made it any less great. In fact, it was a great way to cap another great season of coffeeneuring.

The following week, I was able to sport my new socks!

Taking It To The Limit: What I Learn From Bonking & Other Rides That Kicked My Butt

More than half way into 2018*, I find myself reflecting on how my resolution to bike img_7929more this year is working out. I believe this may be the first time I have actually made a true resolution and followed through on it enough to remain aware of it this far into the year. The resolution was somewhat vague; I just knew that I wanted to do more and longer rides. I kicked it off with the 50+ mile Epic Donut Ride on New Year’s Day, and soon thereafter discovered that the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC) was offering training rides that are open to anyone who wants to up their biking game. This turned out to make all the difference for me.

Group Rides Are No Fun, Right?

I long ago realized that I prefer to go solo when it comes to road biking. When I had tried riding with a group, the pressure would be on to keep up with riders who were faster than me. While I can appreciate the value of others inspiring me to ride faster, my experience was that I would spend the entire ride focused on trying to go faster, feeling like a loser because my best effort wasn’t good enough, and eventually realizing that all the joy of cycling disappears when the effort is all about trying (and failing) to keep up. The only thing that makes that worse is seeing the look on the face of a fellow rider who clearly is annoyed and disappointed that someone like me is holding them back from riding as fast as they would like.

It didn’t take me long to conclude that group rides were pointless for me. There is so much to enjoy about cycling, and why should I care about going faster? I have no desire to enter a race or to prove myself to others. I just plain love riding a bike.

But, Wait A Minute: How Do I Meet Other Cyclists If I Only Ride Solo?

bikie girl final 111618 with text and butterflyMy resistance to group rides changed when I launched Bikie Girl Bloomers. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I could not expect to sell my cute bike shorts to others without getting out there and interacting with other cyclists. But at first I made the mistake of going on a social ride with roadies. It was the Rapha 100, all about women riding together, and 100 km is a very doable distance, and they were going to ride the San Gabriel River Bike Path to Seal Beach, cut over to Long Beach, and ride back to Union Station on the LA River Path, which means a nice long, flat ride. While I very much enjoyed the ride, that turned out to be a stupid way to try to connect with the kind of women who might be interested in unpadded bike shorts for commuting to work by bicycle.

So I figured out that I should be going on low-mileage, slow-roll rides, and that’s what I started doing. After all, part of my mission in peddling bike shorts is to encourage more women to ride their bikes. But, who really wants to bike at an annoyingly slow pace of 8-10 miles per hour? How can you even stay balanced on a bike rolling that slow? What is the point? Yet I did it, and I met all kinds of interesting people (you can actually talk to people when you ride slow), and saw and learned interesting things about different parts of Los Angeles. After all, we weren’t whizzing past everything without looking. And, some of the nice people I met became Bikie Girl Bloomers customers! Success!

What Kind of Rider Am I, Anyway?

But then I started to miss road biking and being in better shape. What a dilemma! Can one person be both a slow-roller and a roadie? Can I bike in style AND climb Nichols Canyon? I spent several years trying to split the difference. I got a Dutch-style upright bike for social rides and commuting in style. I still got out my road bike for

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Biking in vintage style on my Gazelle for the Tweed Ride

the occasional solo ride, cleats and all. I had fun, I met great people, I fell more deeply in love with Los Angeles, and eventually I figured out that I can squeeze in a nice climb up to the Griffith Observatory and still participate in other desired activities on a lovely Sunday. More or less.

But the years were sliding by, and I was doing a lot more social rides at the slower pace, while the road bike adventures were just not consistent enough for me to really be in the kind of shape I’d like to be in. So I found myself in my mid-50’s, facing the reality that I was not really the cyclist I wanted to be. I wanted more adventure. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to get out and ride and ride for hours. And, for once, a true desire for a meaningful New Year’s resolution arose in me. I was determined to ride more in the coming year: more rides and longer rides. No more (or at least far fewer) Saturdays at the office catching up on work I should have done during the week.

Can I Blame It On Coffee & Donuts?

One side effect of my quest to explore all things bicycling related on Facebook (and, boy, is there a huge amount of bicycling related activity/groups/events on Facebook) was the discovery of Coffeeneuring. This “sport” of making 7 trips by bicycle to 7 different coffee shops in 7 weeks during the darkening days of Fall and documenting it in order to earn the coveted patch delighted me. Then I had to participate in the late Winter img_1364Errandonnee, a challenge to conduct a variety of errands by bicycle, covering a distinct list of categories, and documenting the exploits in exchange for yet another coveted patch. These endeavors led me to the discovery of how much fun can be had in planning and executing an urban bike adventure. This gave me excuses to bike in new places, try new coffee shops, plan new bike routes, see new parts of the Los Angeles area.

Last Fall’s Coffeeneuring ended up following a theme (for me) of visiting different donut shops. That led to the realization that there are far more donut shops worth trying than one season of Coffeeneuring could cover. So I became obsessed with the idea of planning a “donut ride” to visit a number of donut shops I hadn’t yet tried. I would invite my friends and make a full day of it, perhaps a weekend or holiday. Next thing I knew, I was organizing Bikie Girl’s Epic New Year’s Donut Ride. I rode about 67 miles that day, spread out over many hours, but this ride was a delightful mash up of the best of urban road biking and the social slow roll.

The Resolution Will Not Be Motorized

But that was just the first day of 2018. I couldn’t possibly stop there. Soon I joined the LACBC training rides, and was having fun on rides that were both social AND road rides. It was a supportive group that welcomed and accommodated a variety of skill levels, and never made me feel ashamed or burdensome because I can’t keep up with the fast riders. Well, OK, maybe once, on the Latigo Canyon ride, but that’s one of the points of this story. You see, the training ride series started out easy, as one might expect. The first one was only about 35 miles, and we climbed hills in Elysian Park I hadn’t climbed before, where the fantastic views make climbing rewarding. The next rides in the series were a little longer, and there was always some hill climbing involved, and I loved it.

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Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park, a solo adventure in January 2018

As I took on rides of increasingly greater length and challenge, I sometimes encountered a hill I couldn’t quite finish. I would try to talk myself into persevering – just a little farther, you can do it, don’t give up, just keep pedaling! Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. I figured it was just a matter of needing to train more, and get stronger. Then came the Latigo Canyon ride. By the time this one came up on the schedule, it was late April, and I knew, in fact I was certain, that I could do this one. I have a special affection for Latigo Canyon. I first discovered this gem of a ride when training for the AIDS ride back in 1998. It’s a long climb up switchbacks, gaining about 2000 feet over 9 miles, but not too terribly steep. Somewhere along that climb, you start looking out over the canyon at stunning scenery and a view of the ocean.

The last time I climbed Latigo Canyon, it was 2011, the summer I was turning 50, and I had challenged myself to get back in shape enough to be able to do that climb by my birthday. I did a lot of riding with my eldest son that summer, after he’d come back from a year in Santa Cruz, where he’d fallen in love with road biking. The day he and I took on Latigo Canyon, it was pretty hot. By the time we reached the Calabasas area, the temperature was well over 100 degrees (F), I believe as high as 114. I had gotten a little woozy, and had to stop a few times to rest on the way up, but I did it.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

This year’s attempt looked promising in that the weather was cooler (than 100+ at least), and I felt pretty confident that I was ready for it. The one thing that made it more challenging was that we started in Santa Monica, adding about 18 miles before the climbing began. I found myself torn between wanting to conserve my energy for the climbing part, and not wanting to fall too far behind the group as we rode along PCH. Adding to the pressure, a ride marshal had been assigned to stay with me, and I could tell he was disappointed with the assignment. I tried not to let that ruin my experience, but to instead turn that situation into a positive motivator. It was hard, though, to let go of the awareness that the whole rest of the group was well ahead of me, and this one guy was stuck having to ride behind me.

The group did a re-grouping at the turn off for Latigo Canyon, and so I was not alone when the climbing began. I felt pretty good on the first segment, which is a gentle, steady climb. At some point, though, I noticed I wasn’t feeling 100%. So I stopped and took a little rest, snacked on some trail mix, drank extra water, and started climbing again. It seemed I hadn’t gone much farther before I needed to stop and rest again. And then again. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. It wasn’t as hot as the last time I climbed Latigo, and I thought I was in good enough shape for this. I didn’t want to accept it, but the truth was, I was stopping to rest more and more frequently, to the point where it was ridiculous. Finally, I realized I was feeling woozy while pedaling, even right after a rest, and I was alone at this point, and I knew I still had more than a few miles of climbing left. I did not want to give up, but I decided it would be stupid to force myself to keep climbing in that condition. After all, I have responsibilities and other people to think about, and it would be so embarrassing to have some sort of medical crisis here. So, I turned around and rode down that beautiful canyon.

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Climbing up Latigo Canyon

As disappointed as I was about not being able to finish the climb, I was ecstatic to discover what a fun descent can be had on that road! I thoroughly enjoyed that downhill on the switchbacks, steeled myself for the ride back on PCH (a scary ordeal that I am always grateful to survive), and rode on to the restaurant where the group was planning to meet for lunch afterward. Over lunch with the other riders, I shared my experience of bonking, and gained some useful tips on improving my nutrition and hydration strategy. I still struggle with this notion that I even have to have a nutrition and hydration strategy. Why, back in my youth, I did triathlons and Ride the Rockies, a week-long bike tour through the Colorado mountains, and I don’t recall needing a nutrition and hydration strategy. I just drank water and snacked on bananas at the rest stops. But, OK, I’m a little older now, and I have to deal with my reality.

OK, Time to Figure Out A Strategy

This frustrating experience was also leaving me wondering if I can realistically hope to do long, arduous rides the way I used to. I love being on a bike all day, and I don’t want to have to cut my rides short or pass on the big challenging ones just because I’m older now. I’d like to spend my whole retirement doing bike tours, and I don’t want to be limited to short, easy routes.

The following weekend, I decided to do a solo ride, and take the opportunity to experiment with timing my snacks and electrolytes. I planned out a big loop of a ride that would introduce a few climbs spaced out so that one climb was near the beginning, one in the middle, and another near the end. It turned out to be a nice tour of some of my favorite spots west of downtown L.A. I made Nichols Canyon – a doable favorite climb – the first challenge. At the top of that climb, I was about 90 minutes into my ride, so I nibbled on a couple of Cliff blocks (electrolyte / nutrition chews) and took a few swigs of my electrolyte drink before rolling on to Mulholland and over to Franklin Canyon, where

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Taking a little break in Franklin Canyon

I descended into Beverly Hills. I stopped a snacked a wee bit (just one more Cliff block and some electrolyte drink) there, and then again (a couple more chews and a banana) before climbing up Mandeville Canyon over in Brentwood. I just don’t get hungry when I’m out on a bike ride, but word has it the muscles need more glycogen after 90-120 minutes of exercise (likely my problem on the Latigo ride), so I tried spreading out my snacks into smaller bits to ensure I had consumed enough before beginning the five-mile, 1000-

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My triumphant moment at the top of Mandeville

foot climb.

I was pleased with myself at how good I felt making it to the top of Mandeville at noon. From there, I sailed down with a big fat smile on my face, and continued to Palisades Park along the ocean in Santa Monica. I sat for a bit in the park and snacked on a Cliff bar (my “lunch”), drank a lot of water, and refilled my bottle. I continued on to the Ballona Creek bike path, took another, shorter snack/drink break there before heading to my last climb, Kenneth Hahn State Park. There I climbed one of the hills that had been hard for me to complete when it was part of an LACBC training ride. This time, it was after 2 pm and my third climb of the day, but I DID IT!! That success brought on a sense of glee that added to the joy of taking in some beautiful views of the city. By the time I got home, I had logged over 60 miles with over 3,600 feet of climbing. Just what I needed to restore my hope!

Time to Get Epic

With my confidence restored, I was able to feel good going into the next LACBC training ride, the epic 74-mile ride south along the coast to San Juan Capistrano. It had

The Aurora Bridge in Seattle, May 2018

a couple of challenging stretches that weren’t easy for me, but I was able to do it, and even enjoy it. That was followed by a couple weekends of easier rides, some for social / Bikie Girl Bloomers commitments, and some because I was in Seattle for a patent attorney conference, where I enjoyed commuting into downtown Seattle from my sister’s house.

I dared not rest on my laurels too long, as I had another challenging ride in my plans for the first weekend of June. So I was happy to speak up when I learned that my friend Joni was also jonesing for a long ride on Memorial Day weekend. She and I were both going to be out of town the weekend of the L.A. River Ride, missing out on the century ride from Griffith Park to Long Beach & Seal Beach and back along the L.A. River Bike Path. I though a flat century ride was just the ticket, so we made plans to do that route together. I hadn’t ridden a century since 1998, when I did the California AIDS Ride. The 103 miles total I rode that day with Joni kicked my butt, mostly because the headwinds really got to me as we rode toward the ocean. Between about miles 80 and 90 that day, I worried that it was more than I could handle, as I fought the urge to quit. Something kicked back in for me to get me through the last 10 miles, and I was glad to have that experience before my trip to Colorado.

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Long Beach with Joni on our century ride

And Then I Bonked Again

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Top of my last climb in Colorado, passing through the Black Forest

I wrote a whole blog post just about the Colorado trip, so I will summarize here. The nearly 70 mile ride from Denver to Colorado Springs kicked my behind big time. Maybe it was the headwinds, maybe it was the altitude, maybe it was the 3500 feet of climbing, but most likely the biggest factor was combining all that with a steel bike that had 25 pounds of panniers on the back. I thought the ride would take me 8 hours, but it took me 10 hours. I had to walk the bike up some of those hills, and there were times when I feared I just wasn’t going to be able to do it. Luckily, the return trip to Denver was a delightful downhill thrill, and I finished that weekend on a positive note, but I knew I still had more to learn about tackling the tough rides.

With that slice of humble pie settling in, I returned to L.A. determined to just get in as much training as I could before the next big challenge. Because I had committed myself to a very BIG challenge for later in the Summer: the Tour de Laemmle. That would be a 138 mile ride that passes by each of the movie theaters across the Los Angeles region owned by the bike-loving Laemmle family. The ride is timed to coincide with the end of the Tour de France. That means late July, in Southern California, as in HOT weather. If you manage to complete the full course, you get a special pair of socks. How exciting is that?!

My first Saturday back from Colorado, I planned for myself a 40-mile ride with over 1800 feet of climbing that coordinated with some social plans. On Sunday, I rode the COLT, the Chatsworth Orange Line Tour, which got me another 60 or so miles. The following weekend, I did a delightful 57 mile, 3000 foot elevation ride out to Pasadena and Montrose, followed the next day by a 30-mile croissant-themed ride with Joni. Some easy social rides followed on the next couple of weekends, but I made sure to squeeze in a lot of extra rides to keep my mileage up.

The weather got super hot in July. I knew I needed to do more challenging training rides, so I made the most of the 76-mile LACBC training ride to Pt. Dume. The next day after that, the LACBC group did a 71-mile ride to San Pedro. Those back-to-back high mileage rides challenged me, giving me what I knew I needed. I still had a little trouble on the San Pedro ride, feeling myself waning and even a wee bit woozy with another 15 or so miles left to go. I stopped for a Cliff bar and some extra hydration, and managed to get the energy I needed, but only just barely. The following weekend was a good test for me: the LACBC group rode out to Claremont in the heat. This tracked the hardest part of the Tour de Laemmle route, and it kicked my butt. I had enthusiastically joined a group that rode from Koreatown out to the start in Pasadena, but was unable to do the return from Pasadena back to Koreatown after barely getting through the last part of the return to Pasadena from the San Gabriel Valley. This showed me how critical the nutrition and hydration strategy becomes when riding in such high temperatures (over 100 degrees F).

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The Koreatown contingent getting ready to roll out to Pasadena

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The killer route of our training ride to Pasadena in 100 degree HEAT

That left me with only one more weekend before the big Tour de Laemmle challenge, and we were hosting a huge party and out of town guests that weekend. The only training ride I got in was a quick run up to the Griffith Observatory. Before I knew it, the big weekend was upon me, and all I could do was give it my best effort. I wore my flame print bloomers (in a nod to the heat) over my padded shorts, and I prepared myself as best I could for riding in the heat: cooling sleeves, a visor that had a special band to keep the sweat from running into my eyes, and a vented helmet instead of the stylishly covered helmet I usually ride in.

The first half of the Tour de Laemmle went very well. I had planned out a schedule of what I thought were realistic goals for getting to each of the official stops that would keep me on pace to complete the route before the time cut off. The first stretch took us from Santa Monica through mid-City and downtown to our first official stop in

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Feeling good on arrival in Claremont

Montebello. I continued to feel good as we pedaled on to Claremont, managing the heat and staying on schedule. I stuck to my plans for eating and hydrating along the way. The next segment was the part that had kicked my butt on the training ride: the ride from Claremont to Asuza, and then across the Santa Fe Dam into Duarte. I was ecstatic when I finished the Santa Fe Dam part and was still feeling good!

One woman in the group I’d been riding with, however, was not feeling so good at that point. Our group stopped to rest in some shade after coming down from the dam. The rest stop continued for quite a long time. I began to feel nervous that we would fall too far behind schedule and not be able to make up the lost time. (And I wanted my SOCKS!) When we finally got rolling again, I made a foolish decision to ramp up my effort in order to try and get back on schedule. By the time we got to Arcadia, I no longer felt able to keep giving it that extra effort. And soon after that, I started to feel kind of lousy. The ride into Pasadena, our next official stop, was seeming to take forever. I tried drinking more water, eating an energy bar, but nothing was helping me feel better. By the time we got to Pasadena, I was woozy and weak and desperate for a rest. Making matters worse, the official stop in Pasadena was closing down just as we arrived. The ride marshals began to warn riders that we had to get moving if we still wanted a chance at the socks. I knew I had to rest for quite awhile and that I probably could not finish the route.

I had ridden 95 miles by this point. I decided to take as much time as I needed to rest and eat so that I could feel clear-headed before hopping on the Metro Gold Line to work my way back to Santa Monica by train. I figured I could get off the Gold Line in Little Tokyo, and bike a few miles over to USC to catch the Expo Line train to get back to Santa Monica, allowing me to log enough miles to make it a century for the day. Which begs the question: Is it really a failure to ride 103 miles in grueling July heat? Sure I was bummed that I didn’t earn the socks, but it was still an awesome adventure.

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The Tour de Lammle route that I completed (the super-straight lines were train rides that got me back to Santa Monica after I bonked)

Two weeks later, a few friends joined me for a reprise to ride the latter part of the Tour de Laemmle route, from Pasadena to Glendale to Encino and back to Santa Monica. We started from my house, though, which added enough miles to qualify as my “birthday ride” (and then some). It was fun, but I had mixed feelings about the realization of how easy the latter part of the Tour de Laemmle was. It made me think, “I could have finished it and earned the socks!” But then I remember how wiped out and delirious I was that day, and that it would have been well past 10 PM by the time I would have made it to Santa Monica, even if I’d been able to keep going that day. Instead, I will use this realization to help me try again next year!

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Tour de Lammle Part Deux – my birthday ride

Now What?

I continued to bike a lot for the remainder of 2018. No further big, huge challenges, but enjoying whatever rides suited my fancy each week. I did leisurely social rides whenever I wanted (a seersucker ride in Pasadena, for which I wore an old-timey seersucker dress), and longer rides when the opportunity arose (67 miles to catch the gently-paced Sunday

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Scenes from the wine-tasting ride

Funday ride with LACBC when it was held in Long Beach). In September, I planned and led a wine tasting ride to the San Antonio Winery just a bit northeast of downtown L.A., and mostly, I just enjoyed riding with friends and revisiting some of my favorite places to ride in the L.A. area, like Elysian Park and the Griffith Observatory. I also continued to enjoy some exploratory rides when visiting other cities, like Seattle, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

So what did I learn from all that bonking and those tough rides that kicked my butt? I learned to respect the significance of taking on a long and/or difficult ride and the importance of minding my fuel intake, and most importantly, not to wait until I’m hungry or thirsty. I learned that I can cut a ride short if I need to, and there’s no shame in that. It leaves me with something to strive for next time.

I also learned that I can enjoy myself on a wide variety of rides. I don’t have to decide whether I’m a slow-roll social rider or a hard-core roadie. I’m just a woman who loves to ride her bike. The common theme that I see in the wide variety of rides I do is that each one feels like a rolling adventure. Sometimes I’m taking delight in an amazing view I was treated to after a grueling climb, or a thrilling descent down switchbacks. Sometimes I’m enjoying the gorgeous architecture of a city or an astounding canopy of old trees. Other times I’m enjoying the company of my bike friends, or the fun of dressing up in vintage clothing for a themed ride. As long as I’m out on my bike, I am enjoying the chance to feel most alive.

My last bike ride of 2018? A guided tour of Havana, Cuba on the Friday after Christmas. We rode to all the key sites of the city, most of which I’d seen before by car. It was such a delight to discover how each of these, the forest along the Almendares River, the Cemetery Colon, the Plaza of the Revolution, Old Havana, the Malecon, are not really that far from each other, and could be visited in one 14-mile loop. And this brought my total mileage for 2018 over 4,000 miles. Not a bad year of biking, and I can truly say I kept my New Year’s resolution.

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Biking through Parque Almendares in Havana, Cuba, my last bike ride in 2018

*OK, so it was Summer 2018 when I started writing this post. To be clear, I continued to work on it over the ensuing months, and finished this up in January 2019.

Coffeeneuring 2018: The Best Intentions

Entering my fourth year of participation in the Coffeeneuring challenge, generously sponsored by the Coffeeneur in Chief of Chasing Mailboxes, I knew I needed to approach this round in a fresh way. The general idea is to bike to seven coffee shops in seven-ish weeks, each ride at least 2 miles, and no more than two rides can qualify per week. My first few years of it, I focused on using the challenge to explore new coffee shops I might never have tried and to explore different geographic locations. Last year, I extended that to a theme of exploring new donut shops. These were good aspects of the game, but I feared I might get into a rut with that approach, in which I had created my own little “rule” requiring new shops and differing cities (we have so many to choose from right here in the Los Angeles area).

The declared theme for this year’s challenge was “intention”, and that inspired me to ensure I approached each coffee ride with conscious intent – not simply doing something the way I had done my coffeeneuring planning in years past. I confess that I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by “intent” at the outset, and occasionally that intent was more apparent after the ride was over, but I continued to embrace it regardless. Because, like daily flossing, I just knew it was good for me. In addition, I approached each ride with the intention to make the most of whatever riding experience I had in store for me that particular day.

Part of my intention for this year’s season included a relaxing of any rules that might add to my stress (without, of course, compromising my intention to fully comply with the official rules of Coffeeneuring). My work life provides enough stress, thank you very much, and bicycling is supposed to be my stress-reliever. I thus gave myself permission to double up on my ride planning, by hitching a coffeeneuring ride onto another planned ride. In past years, most of my coffeeneuring rides were solo rides, which I do enjoy, but I have come to appreciate a special delight in social rides, and then there is an added joy to spreading the Coffeeneuring love around. I ended up with a mixture of social rides, solo rides, and solo coffeeneuring tacked onto the beginning or end of a social ride. What follows is my official Control Card and report for the record books. I’m rather pleased that the series does not follow some rigid theme.

Control No. 1: My friend’s Sukkah*

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Date: October 14, 2018

Beverage: Butter Coffee in a bottle purchased from Whole Foods en route

Bike-friendliness: Excellent. We parked our bikes in the hallway of her home.

City: Westchester, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Romantic Ruby Jeweltone Bloomers

Mileage: 48.8

Observations: One of my bike friends invited me to visit her Sukkah, which was still standing in her back yard after the recent holiday. Another bike friend wanted to join me for a ride to get in some extra miles and hills. So we combined the two ideas, and I picked up some bottled coffee to bring along in order to qualify. I took this opportunity to try butter coffee, since so many have sung its praises, despite it sounding like an odd idea. I liked it well enough, but do not feel any desire to have that again. The coffee may not have been impressive, but all the rest of the adventure was superb, particularly the opportunity to see our hostess’ art. Her works in bronze are extraordinary.

*This one might not qualify, since it is not an official coffeeneuring destination. I added this note only after feeling confident I have plenty of bonus rides to spare, because I’m clever that way.

Control No. 2: La Tropezienne Bakery

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Date: October 20, 2018

Beverage: Caramel Macchiato

Bike-friendliness: Very good. In addition to bike racks on the sidewalk, the umbrellas at the outside tables provide a nice spot to lock up the bike.

City: Mid-City, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire Jeweltone Bloomers

Mileage: 18

Observations: I first visited this bakery as part of a visit to the three top winners of a croissant competition, and I knew it was well worth a return. This is where to go if you want a properly flaky pastry treat in the French style. And the coffee is excellent as well. It was also conveniently on my way to the start for a social ride to visit the Music Box Steps in Silverlake. Our group ride visited the stars of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (they are not near each other), learned some history about these stars of the silver screen, toured the Mack Sennett Studios, and ended at Laurel and Hardy Park, where the neighborhood hosts a party where the film, The Music Box, is screened, and Laurel and Hardy themselves make an appearance and perform a reenactment of the famous scene in which they attempt to carry a piano up a long flight of stairs.

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Top: Hollywood Walk of Fame; Biking on Hollywood Boulevard; Lower left: Mack Sennett Studios; Lower right: Laurel & Hardy reenactment of the famous scene from The Music Box, where it was originally filmed in Silverlake

Control No. 3: Dinosaur Coffee

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Date: October 21, 2018

Beverage: Cardamom Cinnamon Cappuccino (exceptionally delicious)

Bike-friendliness: Decent – there is sidewalk bike parking out front

City: Silverlake, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Crazy Daisy Bloomers

Mileage: 39.3

Observations: Since my intention of ride number one above, to get in more miles and hills, was compromised by a late start, I took this opportunity to ride solo and explore Elysian Park, a place I’ve ridden through a number of times on group rides, but without ever feeling like I’d gotten to know the park as well as I’d like to. It’s not far from Griffith Park, where I do most of my riding, and both are treasures with plenty to explore, so this was my chance to visit both parks in one ride. Each park offers some hills to climb, rewarded with spectacular views of Los Angeles.

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Upper left is along my favorite route to Griffith Observatory (domed building at hilltop), with downtown L.A. skyline in the distance; Lower left is a completely different view of downtown from Elysian Park.

Control No. 4: Coffee Commissary*

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Date: October 22, 2018

Beverage: Cold Brew (a generous pour that kept me buzzing all day)

Bike-friendliness: Awesome – check out that bike corral right out front!

City: Palms, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Leaping Lady Leopard Bloomers

Mileage: 14.3

Observations: This makes three days in a row, and exceeds the maximum of two Coffeeneuring rides in a week for the challenge, hence the designation as a “bonus ride”. Over the past year, I have enjoyed getting to know the Women on Bikes Culver City group, which meets every other Monday morning at a different coffee shop. I try to go when I can, and this one was relatively close to my part of town.

*This one does not qualify since I had already done two this week, and no matter which day one declares the beginning of the week, I would end up with three in the same week if this one were to be included.

Control No. 5: La Colombe

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Date: October 26, 2018

Beverage: Hot Chocolate

Bike-friendliness: Very good, at least I know it is accessible by bike share

City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bike: Indego Bike Share

Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black Bloomers

Mileage: 2.6

Observations: I love it when I can work a bike ride into my travel plans when visiting another city. This time I was in Philadelphia for the Philly Bike Expo, where I would be pitching my Bikie Girl Bloomers at a booth shared with Sarah Canner of Vespertine NYC. I had a little free time on Friday in the late afternoon, and knew that was my one opportunity to get out for a coffee ride, as I would be busy at my booth all day Saturday and Sunday. I made use of the city’s bike share system, IndeGo, which had a docking station a few blocks from my AirBnB. I wanted to go somewhere not too far, and in the heart of the city, so settled on La Colombe, right next to City Hall and Dilworth Park and in easy reach of a docking station. I didn’t mind that I missed it the first time I passed, causing me to loop around the square a bit in the midst of a frenzy of rush hour traffic, plus zigzag some until I found the docking station. It was fun, albeit a little scary, and I knew I needed to add some extra riding to hit the minimum two miles for my trip. The hot chocolate was selected for comfort on a brisk afternoon, and to avoid caffeine so late in the day. It was served without any sweetener, and I was offered a bottle of simple syrup so I could sweeten it to my own taste. That took me a couple of tries to get it right, but the drink was delicious.

A major highlight of this trip was that I got to meet the Coffeeneur in Chief in real life at the Philly Bike Expo. That was fun!

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Yours truly, with Mary, Chief Coffeeneur, and Sarah of Vespertine NYC

Control No. 6: Spoke Bicycle Cafe

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Upper right: Angel’s Flight sculpture in Elysian Park

Date: November 4, 2018

Beverage: Orange Ginger Cubano (OMG I LOVE this drink)

Bike-friendliness: Top Notch – loads of bike parking right next to the seating area, plus bike repairs and rentals available

City: Frogtown, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire Thighwise Pettipants

Mileage: 37.7

Observations: So glad I gave myself permission to visit a coffee shop that isn’t new to me. I wanted to do more with Elysian Park, and also to revisit my original intention to go from Elysian Park to Spoke Bicycle Cafe, which is along the LA River Bike Path. (I had messed up that plan on control number 3.) Besides, the meet up for this day’s Sunday Funday social ride with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition was Spoke Bicycle Cafe, so why not do my coffeeneuring there? The social ride was easy and flat, continuing north on the river path to Griffith Park, and ending at a Harvest Festival there. Some friends and I wanted to continue riding after the group ride was over, so the four of us rode up to the Griffith Observatory together. One young 73-year-old in our group had never ridden up there via Mt. Hollywood Drive, and is not big hill-climber type, but we all agreed to take it slow and stop for a rest whenever she needed one. It was a difficult climb for her, but we enjoyed taking it slow and having plenty of time to stop and snap photos. It was a lot of fun, and we enjoyed celebrating with Jennifer at her achievement once we reached the Observatory.

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Good times in Griffith Park

Control No. 7: Highly Likely Cafe

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Date: November 5, 2018

Beverage:

Bike-friendliness: Not ideal – no bike racks and staff let us know that they had experienced bike theft themselves on that street, so they let us bring our bikes inside (there is a fair amount of room for bikes in the cafe)

City: West Adams, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Pink Zebra Bloomers

Mileage: 7.8

Observations: Once again, the Women on Bikes Culver City group held their Monday morning meet up at a coffee shop close to my part of town – and in a completely different area this time! I was delighted to have such a short ride (no excuses about being too late to the office) and to try a new spot not far from home. I hadn’t known there were any cafes in this area, and this place is quite popular.

Control No. 8: La Colombe (Bonus ride, except I definitely need this one)

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Date: November 11, 2018

Beverage: Draft Latte (you have to try this!)

Bike-friendliness: Very good – right off the LA River Bike Path; small bike racks, but in a safe area of the patio.

City: Frogtown, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire Thighwise Pettipants

Mileage: 22

Observations: Due to the Woolsey Fire raging in Malibu and Thousand Oaks, the air quality was poor, so we hesitated about whether we should pass on riding this Sunday. But my friends and I couldn’t miss our one day to ride this weekend, so we decided to keep it short and simple. We rode downtown, took the Chinatown way to the LA River Path, and checked out the new La Colombe that recently opened just south of Spoke Bicycle Cafe. We tied bandanas over our faces to minimize the particle exposure, although that may not have been sufficient filter out the problematic small particles. I was impressed with the Draft Latte, their signature drink, a tall glass that is at least half foam and has a rather heavenly texture to it – unlike any latte I’ve ever had.

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Clockwise from top left: I Am Finley mural in downtown L.A., riding the LA River Bike Path, riding the bike lane on Sunset Blvd, and three amigas coping with smoky air from local wildfires

Control No. 9: Stir Crazy Coffee House (Bonus ride in case #1 doesn’t count)

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Date: November 18, 2018

Beverage: Cafe au Lait (good, solid classic)

Bike-friendliness: Not so much. No bike racks, but we were able to lock our bikes in pairs around the parking meters.

City: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Pink Zebra Bloomers

Mileage: 3

Observations: This was a ripe opportunity to recruit new Coffeeneurs. I invited fellow members of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee to join me for a short coffee run before we began our meeting. I picked a spot that was 1.5 miles from our meeting location, and that could be accessed via local bike-friendly streets in a loop, so we wouldn’t have to take the exact same route back. I was happy to find that five others joined me for the ride, and all were happy to learn about Coffeeneuring.

Control No. 10: Bar 9 (Another bonus ride, just in case)

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Date: November 19, 2018

Beverage: House Pour Over (a generous pour and so good, even I could drink it black)

Bike-friendliness: Good. There’s a bike rack on front, although one of those unfortunate designs that seems to only secure the front wheel, but they also have posts that can be used to secure the bike.

City: Culver City, California

Bike: Bianchi Volpe

Bloomers: Crazy Daisy Bloomers

Mileage: 14.5

Observations: This coffee shop is rather hard to find, and Google maps does not help much. This was another meeting of the Women on Bikes Culver City, and it was a good location for our large group, as they have a big table where we could all sit together.

Control No. 11: Caribou Coffee (OK, one more bonus ride, because.)

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Riding with El Cochinito in Atlanta’s Midtown, followed by a stop at Caribou Coffee

Date: November 25, 2018

Beverage: Turtle Mocha (a.k.a. liquid dessert)

Bike-friendliness: Must confess I didn’t really notice the bike rack situation here. It is just a block from a bike share station, and that made it an excellent choice for an out-of-town visitor arriving by bike share.

City: Atlanta, Georgia

Bike: Relay Bike Share

Bloomers: Oh, no, busted without my Bloomers! I was wearing Levi’s jeans this time! (But I always wear long pants and support socks on days I will be flying across the country.)

Mileage: 5

Observations: This is not exactly in keeping with my intentional approach to coffeeneuring. But sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be ready for anything, especially a chance to ride a bike. I had brought my helmet, saddle cover, and reflective vest along with me on a short weekend trip to Atlanta, knowing that I would get out for a bike ride if I could squeeze in a chance between family events. Although I had the intention to try to work in a coffeeneuring ride during this short visit, I knew it was neither necessary nor worth compromising on the plans with others for this family-oriented weekend. On Saturday, I had done so, as the rain let up and I took bike share from a station near where we were staying to the restaurant where we would meet family for lunch. I was glad to have my handy saddle cover with me, as it had been raining and the saddle was well-soaked. The 3-1/2 mile ride was gorgeous – all of it through parks on bike paths or bike lanes, the city bursting with autumn colors. It occurred to me later that, had I snapped a photo of the coffee I drank after lunch, this could have qualified as a coffeeneuring ride. Alas, on Sunday, my husband and I had a few hours free before our flight home, and he suggested we get on some bikes and explore Piedmont Park (the man knows what makes me happy). My helmet, saddle cover, and high-viz vest were packed away in my suitcase, but not really needed, so off we went. At least, I thought we were only riding in the park, so who needs a helmet for that, right? But I should have known that we would end up spending most of the ride exploring other streets, and without searching for bike-friendly roads. I am glad to report that the absence of helmets did not cause us any problems. We did enjoy a lovely 5-miles of meandering, and after docking our bikes, we were both feeling thirsty. We found a Caribou Coffee shop right nearby, a chain I only find when away from home, and which I love for their delicious turtle mochas. I’m a sucker for chocolate and caramel!

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!

Bike Date Weekend in Ojai

This Presidents’ Day weekend, I knocked another item off my bike-it list: El Cochinito and I took our bikes on the train to Ventura, and then rode the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai. If you have ever had doubts about whether you could do a bike overnight trip, this is the one. Anyone can do this! You will be rewarded with fantastic scenery and a delightfully liberating car-free weekend.

The Ojai Valley Trail is a 16 mile separated bike path that runs all the way from Ventura to Ojai on what was once a railway route. The trail is nearly flat, with a very gradual incline as you head north and east into the Ojai Valley. Ever since I’d heard about this bike path, I knew I had to do it. I was particularly excited to have such a treat so close to home, and a distance that would work for both me on my road bike and El Cochinito on his Pedego electric assist bike (well within the range his battery can handle on a single charge).

Panniers packed. I’m ready to roll!

El Cochinito and his steed

First, we checked the Amtrak schedule, and made a reservation for the Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles’ Union Station to Ventura. Amtrak makes it very easy to roll your bike onto the train. There’s a car that has six spaces for securing a bike on the train; all you have to do is reserve a spot for your bike. This influenced our schedule, as some of the trains had already been maxed out for bike reservations. Luckily, even though we were planning our trip on fairly short notice, we had a schedule that worked quite well. We took the 9:11 train on Saturday morning, and a 5:30 train for the return Monday evening. Round trip fare was $43 each.

From our place in Koreatown, we can either take the purple line subway from the Western/Wilshire Station one mile from home, or simply bike the six miles to Union Station. I find it takes about the same amount of time, when you allow for working around the train schedule, so I prefer to just ride my bike downtown. It was brisk, but not too cold.

We got to the designated train platform at the recommended 30 minutes before our train, but I’d say that’s about 10 minutes sooner than necessary. That did give El Cochinito time to grab some breakfast while I waited with our bikes. There was a very nice and helpful Amtrak employee on the platform who cheerfully pointed us to the right spot to wait for the train and be ready to load our bikes on to the appropriate car.

Waiting on the platform at Union Station

Rolling our bikes onto the train was easy (easier than with Metrolink), and the lower level of the bike car has six spots with straps to hold the bikes in place. We found seats on the upper level, just above our bikes. The train stopped at Glendale, Burbank airport, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, Camarillo, and Oxnard on the way to Ventura. The scenery along the route is just what you’d expect for this mix of suburbia and industrial parks. Perhaps not what you imagine for a scenic train ride, but I took pictures anyway.

Velcro straps make it easy to secure one wheel of the bike to the wall in the train’s bike car

Getting off the train at Ventura was also easy, and we had just a short ride to the Ojai Valley Trail bike path, which at this end, is called the Ventura River Trail.

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The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, pulling out of the Ventura Station

The first portion of the trail is a little less impressive on the scenery side, but features some curious markers along the way. Perhaps next time I do this ride, I will stop at each one (there were several) and pay a little more attention to see if I can pick up on a theme. You can read a little about them on this trail description here.

Some of the semi-industrial scenery along the Ventura River Trail

Making the ride even more fun was the soundtrack provided by El Cochinito, courtesy of the Bose speaker he brought along in his bike basket. We listened to everything from the old crooners to Lady Gaga.

The trail is paved the whole way, transitioning to more natural beauty as you head north into the Ojai Valley

After about 6 miles on the trail, it becomes the Ojai Valley Trail, and the scenery becomes more pleasing. We rode alongside a park, some pretty fencing, over a couple of bridges, past many beautiful trees, and looked out at mountains in the distance. We took a brief detour at Oak View, where we headed into town to get some lunch. We had some perfectly acceptable Mexican food at Casa de Lago, and then returned to the trail to complete our trip into Ojai. Our total mileage from Ventura to Ojai, including the side trip to Oak View, was 19.2 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,022 feet.

Our favorite bridge along the route

Making all of our travel plans just two weeks before the holiday weekend limited our choice of accommodations. I would have liked to try staying at the bike-friendly Ojai Rancho Inn that was recommended in this piece from The Path Less Pedaled, but they were already booked. As it turned out, we did alright with the Topa Vista Inn in Meiners Oaks. Perhaps because it’s not right in the center of town, it was very reasonably priced, plus it turned out to be a charming area in which to stay. We had a beautiful view, some cute amenities close by, and an easy enough ride into town. It was also fun to explore the variety of ways we could route our bike rides from where we were staying each time we rode into Ojai.

The Topa Vista Inn is located at the junction of Highway 33 & Cuyama Road

Posing in front of our room. I kept my wardrobe simple: Nuu-Muu dresses & Bloomers. Easy to carry in my panniers.

Plenty of room for our bikes inside the room

We arrived a little too early for check in, so we rolled on into Ojai, taking a pretty route to Bart’s Books. This bookstore is a must for any visit to Ojai. Bart’s is a delightful outdoor bookstore that’s been around awhile. I was happy to see that the place looked freshly painted and cheery. (You never know when an old beloved bookstore is going to fade away.) A special perk of this bookstore is that they allow you to bring your bike inside. We browsed, got some cold drinks (they do offer refreshments), and sat awhile reading what we’d found.

We rolled back to the Topa Vista to drop off our things and rest a bit before dinner. It was a bit frustrating to pick a place to go out for dinner in Ojai. There are restaurants, of course, but nothing that satisfies what you might expect for a tourist destination. Even the places with the better ratings have mixed reviews, and we weren’t able to make reservations on such short notice. I made us a reservation for Sunday night, and El Cochinito picked a place for our first night.

His choice turned out to be an excellent one. We went to Nest, a casual place where you order from a window and seat yourself on an outdoor patio. This meant not having to worry too much about where we parked our bikes, as we could sort of see them from our table. The atmosphere was pleasant, the vibe relaxed, and the food did not disappoint. Of the various meals we had in Ojai, I think I liked this one best. But maybe that’s because we also got a full carafe of a very drinkable red wine to go with it.

Sunday morning, we ventured out into Meiners Oaks. We stopped for breakfast just a short ride down the street from the Topa Vista Inn at the Farmer and the Cook. This is a cute, folksy market and cafe that offers an impressive selection (for its size) of very good for you foods in the market, and some tasty options for a cooked breakfast. El Cochinito had their huevos rancheros, and I had a classic breakfast of eggs and toast, and an unusual drink whose intriguing name now escapes me. You have to allow a bit of a wait for it, and I can only say that it tasted like it probably had ingredients that were good for me, but I’m not likely to order one again. Next time, I’ll just have coffee!

From there, we continued west to explore Meiners Oaks. We were rewarded with a gorgeous view of the valley. We continued on north-ish from there, and ended up going down into an area that had an avocado orchard at the end of the road. Across the road from the orchard was a yard with an odd variety of items, some of which appeared to have been burned in the recent Thomas Fire. We returned back up that road, then found a way to turn our ride into a loop that took us back to the Topa Vista Inn.

We saw some burnt debris, likely damaged in the recent Thomas Fire

Avocado trees behind the fence

Later, we ventured out again on our bikes, this time heading east-ish and exploring an alternative road we hadn’t yet tried. We worked our way over to Foothills Road, and got a little bit of hill work in, although nothing too challenging. We then found a way to arc back toward downtown.

Exploring Rancho Drive

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After stopping for lunch, we continued our meander. I was curious to see the part of the bike trail that runs alongside downtown, so we headed there. That was nice, but ended soon. From there, we decided to continue east on the main drag (Hwy 150; Ojai Ave). Along the way, we stumbled across a pottery show, so we stopped there. We ended up meeting a woman who had recently sold her business and moved to Ojai. She had bought a house and set up a pottery studio to create a space for local artists to work and show their creations. There were several artists showing their work that day, accompanied by refreshments and live music.

El Cochinito enjoyed extended conversation with Oxnard-based potter Jacqueline Biaggi

From there we went a wee bit further east, then a smidge north into the farmland areas, and looped back on Grand Ave, which took us all the way back into town. We completed the entire “Tour de Ojai” for a total Sunday afternoon ride of 12 miles.

Our 12-mile Sunday afternoon Tour de Ojai

For dinner, we had our reservation at Azu, a funky restaurant that is connected to the Ojai Valley Brewery. The place happens to be at the far end of the same block as Nest, where we’d eaten the night before. Our experience at Azu was, well, consistent with the mixed reviews we’d seen online. Luckily, we enjoy each other’s company and had sufficiently low expectations that it wasn’t too serious a disappointment. It’s a charming enough place, but nothing to get excited about.

By Monday morning, we had run out of the coffee supplied for our room at the Topa Vista, and we were ready to try the coffee shop just across the street. The Coffee Connection is a good find, and I heartily recommend it. After relaxing back in our room for a bit, we started packing up our things, checked out of the Topa Vista, and rode into town for an early lunch. Feeling we had seen all there was to see in Ojai by this time, we started looking into what we might be able to do in Ventura before our 5:26 train back to Los Angeles. We had been thinking of seeing a movie, and saw that there was a 1:10 showing of Black Panther, which had just come out. It occurred to me that, if we left immediately, we just might be able to make that show.

Our last glimpse of the trail as we left downtown Ojai

We hopped on our bikes and began riding the trail back to Ventura. The ride back, with its gradual downhill, was fast and fun! We did not stop to snap photos on this trip. According to Strava, we did this 17-mile ride in one hour and eight minutes.

We managed to get to the theater in Ventura at 1:05 pm, but alas, the 1:10 showing of Black Panther was sold out! We decided to see The Post instead. A good movie, with excellent performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

Downtown Ventura; note the wind in the palm trees.

We still had some time to spare after the movie, so we wandered down the main drag in Ventura, and browsed a charming bookstore, the Calico Cat Bookshop. That was a treasure. El Cochinito found a book he wanted there, and we got to “bookend” our trip with visits to cool bookstores.

Bundled up for the ride home from Union Station, visibly pleased with our bike adventure!

Having logged each of our rides on Strava, I can tell you that our total mileage for the 3-day weekend was 72.4 miles (total elevation gain 2,567 feet), spread out over more than a dozen small trips.

So fun, so doable. You should try it!

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.