Seven Cities and Seven Coffee Shops

Friday, December 11, 2015

2015 Coffeeneuring Blog
Fat Man Riding
Seven Cities and Seven Coffee Shops

Last year I had some home construction projects that could only be tackled during the weekends. Time was limited and very little imagination was used to get in the seven required rides. One donut shop, one cupcake shop, one Coffee Shop Without Walls, one Starbucks, and three different 7-11's made up my rides. They all put a check in the check box, but I wanted to do better this year.
This being the second year that I have taken up this challenge, I decided to try to come up with a theme. I decided to ride to seven different coffee shops, in seven different cities. I wanted to keep all of the starting points on the Virginia Peninsula. If you look on the map, you can see that Virginia has several peninsulas. Locals refer to the "peninsula" as the strip of land that is bounded by the York River, James River, and the Chesapeake Bay.
This year's Coffeeneuring Challenge started on October 3rd. This coincided with the grand opening of the Virginia Capital Trail. What a great way to kick the challenge off and ride with the multitude that would be on the trail. Unfortunately, that weekend a hurricane was coming up the coast. The hurricane missed us, but it pushed a nor'easter over us and we got drenched. The Virginia Capital Trail would have to wait.

That Saturday I got out and rode twenty-five miles around the neighborhood, keeping an eye on the skies. I got drizzled on from time to time, but remained dry for the most part. Coffeeneuring ride number one was on Sunday, October 4th. The rain was patchy that morning so I rode to the neighborhood Krispy Kreme. It was a three mile round trip. As usual, the place was busy. There is no bike parking to speak of and nothing to lock the bike up to. I went in and got a small black coffee and a dozen assorted donuts to take home. One nice touch was the person who waited on me. She was an absolute delight. She knew I was on a bike, so she put the donuts into two half-dozen carriers and then bagged them up for me. This made it much easier to lash them down to the front rack of my Long Haul Trucker. I stood outside and drank about half of my coffee by the bike. It started up with the rain again, so I put the coffee cup in the front water bottle cage and rode home. This wasn't the way I had planned the inaugural 2015 Coffeeneuring ride, but it would have to do. 3 miles in all. Hampton ride complete.

My second ride was one of our club's typical autumn rides on October 11th. In the fall, we have a few organized coffee shop rides. (Our pub rides still to roll well after the weather turns) This one started in Newport News City Park, Newport News, VA and went 25 miles to an Aroma's coffee shop in Williamsburg and back. I rode to the ride from my house in Hampton to get some extra miles. Five minutes after I arrived at the park, my buddy Rich rode up. I rode past his place on the way to the park. Turns out he rode the same route to the park that I had, just a mile or so back. We had a couple dozen riders rolling at nice mellow B pace. Aroma's was very busy, but there was a street fair going on outside the shop. Plenty of seating and the weather was perfect, so we all sat outside and took in the sites. Plenty of on street bike parking as cars were not allowed. We all took the opportunity to open it up a bit way back to the park, breaking up into a couple different pace groups. From the park, Rich and I rode back to our neighborhood together. It was a delightful ride. 65 miles in all. Williamsburg ride complete.

My third ride was a Coffee Shop Without Walls ride to Langley Air Force Base on October 17th. Langley AFB always makes for a nice weekend ride. The roads are in great condition and traffic is minimal. This route also includes my normal commute to work. There are several scenic vistas on the base to choose from and the sun rise coming up over the Back River is spectacular. For this ride, my destination was a series of raised platforms that lead through the wetlands on the north side of the base. It is just a beautiful place to hang out with or without coffee. 31 miles in all. Langley ride complete

For the fourth ride, I chose to ride the Virginia Capital Trail on November 1st. The plan was to ride the trail form the Jamestown Trail head to the Richmond Trail head. The ride would be a little over 100 miles and I was looking forward to another century. My only other century for the year was a 200K brevet with the Tidewater Randonneurs back in March. I posted the ride to our club Facebook page since there might a few others who wanted to pick up anther century as well. Two other club riders departed with me at 7 AM headed for Richmond. I had expected to get some really good pictures during this ride, however it started to rain about 20 miles into the ride. It wasn't a down pour, but it was enough to get the leaves on the trail wet. Turns out that the wooden bridges that go over the many creeks were slippery when wet as well. This slowed the ride a bit, but didn't dampen our enthusiasm. We had coffee and lunch at Bottoms Up Pizza, Richmond. The coffee was good, but I get the feeling the beer would be better. Sounds like a good summer pub ride. I had their Greek Pizza and it was awesome. Plenty of places to lockup the bike and the people in Richmond are definitely bike friendly. It was raining pretty steadily when we headed back, but hey, we were already wet so no big deal. The climb out of Richmond kicked my butt. Climbing hills at 300+ pounds riding a 33 pound touring bike can be a real challenge. (the number of grams my cassette weighs doesn't cross my mind much). We rode together at around 15 miles per hour for the rest of the ride. The rain stopped at around the Charles City rest stop (20 miles out) so I took the opportunity to rinse the bike of with my water bottles to remove the considerable grit that had built up. The Capital Trail is a great ride and a good way to get in a century. Maybe it could be used for the bulk of a brevet in the future? 104 miles in all. Richmond ride complete.

For ride number five, I chose the City of Newport News on November 8th. This is a route that I have ridden from my house countless times. It includes about 2.5 miles of four lane arterial that leads to the Hilton Village section of Newport News. Once I was there, I went on a little expedition.
Our club had led rides for years that started in Huntington Park, near the James River Bridge, and passed through Hilton Village as we rode towards Christopher Newport University. This was my first club ride ever back on January 1st, 2012. It is a very scenic ride that follows the James River on neighborhood roads that are sparsely used. About two years ago, the city started doing road and sewer work in the section between Hilton and Huntington. The roads were passable for a wide tire bike like my Long Haul Trucker, but most of our riders wouldn't enjoy that section at all. Today, I was able to follow River Road, all nicely paved, to the foot path that leads to Huntington Park! I posted a ride report to our club Facebook page while I was still in the park. The Huntington Park New Year's ride is back on!
I rode back through Hilton, past Lake Maury and the Lion's Bridge, and continued to a Starbucks near the university. I should have scoped out the Starbucks prior to the ride. Turns out it was inside a Harris Teeter grocery store. I'll pass. I rode back to Hilton. Hilton Village is home for a cake shop called Couture Cakes. They have excellent coffee and the cupcakes that are the best I have ever had. Plus there is plenty of bike parking. It had been threatening to rain the whole morning and a few rain drops had started coming down by the time I arrived at the cake shop. While I was placing my order, the sky opened up. Oh well, not my first wet ride. I drank my coffee and put the cupcakes in my trunk bag. I rode home in a steady downpour that let up just as I was pulling up in the driveway. Got the bike washed and picked up 21 miles. Newport News ride complete.

Being a retired sailor, I chose Veteran's day for ride number six. Today's destination would be another adventure since it would take me through York County along a route that I had frequented in the past. The last time I had tried this route, the main highway was torn up and many of the neighborhood roads were completely unpassable, even by bike. I had gotten a ride report from one of our club riders that a separated bike lane had been completed along this section of highway and the neighborhood roads had been completed. I couldn't wait to ride it. Sure enough, the bike path had been completed and was completely separate from the main road. The path nicely connects two neighborhoods without having to roll on the main highway. I continued on to a Starbucks up the road a ways. I had my Veteran's Day free coffee outside in the sun. I am so happy this route is back open. 31 miles in all. York County ride complete.

Ride number seven was on November 14th. It was supposed to be another Coffee Shop Without Walls ride through Poquoson to Messick Point. It has a beautiful marina and is a regular rest stop for our club rides. There was a club ride that day and I probably would have ridden with the club while on my way out to the point. Unfortunately, I developed an odd mechanical noise coming from my rear axle and decided to stop at a lake that wasn't far from my location. The lake is in the city of Hampton, not Poquoson, so the seven city tour will remain incomplete. 16 miles in all. Second Hampton ride. I took my bike to the shop the following Monday. They got me back on the road a few days later. I guess my tune ups should happen every 5000 miles, not 13,000.

I really enjoyed this year's Coffeeneuring challenge more than last year. I planned my rides out better than last year. Planning the rides in advance enhances the experience. As the anticipation builds, I get to pre enjoy each one. I even got some members of our club to do a few of the rides. Maybe next year our bike club, Peninsula Bicycling Association, can get a group together to do all seven rides together? I would like to thank MG for hosting this challenge again. You rock!
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