St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub

•December 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019 Coffeeneuring Ride 4

WHERE: St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub [2300 Mt Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301]

St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub

www.stelmoscoffeepub.com

WHEN: Friday, 8 November 2019

WHAT I DRANK: Latte

WHY GO: Window seats, and Nutella treats

HOW FAR I RODE: 5.31 miles (Strava link)

My Friday roving coffee date with Chris & Nevada took me back to Del Ray, where we met at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub. It’s probably the most popular coffee shop in this neighborhood, and even early on a chilly Friday morning it was not empty.

I arrived first and settled into the circular booth in the window, with my latte and Nutella brioche. The girls walked in with big smiles, reminding me why it’s worth starting my day with a cold bike ride in the dark.

St. Elmo’s has a large seating area, a piano (should one be musically inclined), and ample bike parking on both sides of the corner building. Even bike themed decorations. And did I mention great coffee and Nutella treats?

After we pried ourselves away from the cozy booth, I took the Four Mile Run trail back home. I could see the new wetlands bridge on the opposite side, recently installed but not yet open. Stopping at the new overlook near the water treatment plant, I spotted a Bald Eagle perched on top a tree. Remember those days when it was rare to see one? I’m glad they’re back, and that I was there to witness. A lovely morning.

 

 

Not Just Any Starbucks

•December 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019 Coffeeneuring Ride 3

WHERE: Starbucks [100 S Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314]

Seaport Inn, c 1765

www.starbucks.com

WHEN: Sunday, 27 October 2019

WHAT I DRANK: Pumpkin Creme Cold Brew

WHY GO: No ordinary Starbucks!

HOW FAR I RODE: 12.7 miles (Strava link)

To be honest, I headed to Old Town Alexandria wanting to go to Killer E.S.P. for some pie and espresso.  But it was such a nice day, this weekend before Halloween, that King Street was unexpectedly crowded.  I walked my bike down the block past Killer E.S.P and was having difficulty weaving between people, many of whom had dogs wearing costumes.  I suspect there was some kind of contest or event going on, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the dogs and crowds.  So I hopped back on my bike and coasted downhill to Starbucks near the waterfront.

This Starbucks is like no other. It’s inside what was once the Seaport Inn & Restaurant, dating back to 1765. Relics and photos from the old inn remain, adding charm to what is otherwise a familiar Starbucks experience. I was happy to wait in line enjoying the ambiance of the place itself.

The day was so warm and sunny that I opted for a seasonal treat, the Pumpkin Creme Cold Brew.  Once delivered, I took it outside and found an empty picnic table along the water’s edge and messaged Peter, who lives nearby.

Peter showed up awhile later with his daughter Sophie. We walked down to see the tall ship Providence, a recently installed replica of the historic ship that served in the Continental Navy commanded by John Paul Jones. Inquiring about tours, we learned they were putting on a holiday play. From the deck of the ship, they told a creepy story about chasing a ghost ship with no captain nor crew, and only a dog aboard. The Providence is now a permanent exhibit in Alexandria, and open for regular tours and events.

After the short play, we headed for Union Street Public House and ate burgers and fries. Sophie (by no means a kid anymore) asked for the kids’ menu and crayons, and proceeded to impress us with her artistic skills. I’d killed enough time that I rode home in the dark, on a warm and peaceful evening.

 

 

Buzz Bakeshop

•December 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019 Coffeeneuring Ride 2

WHERE: Buzz Bakeshop [901 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314]

Buzz Bakeshop, Slaters Lane

www.buzzbakeshop.com

WHEN: Friday, 25 October 2019

WHAT I DRANK: Latte

WHY GO: Bike friendly baked goods

HOW FAR I RODE: 7.41 miles (Strava link)

My Friday coffee date with Chris & Nevi led to Buzz this week, a nice and slightly out-of-the-way coffee shop and bakery in the hip Slaters Lane neighborhood of north Alexandria.  It legit looked and felt like autumn, marking the first time I wore a Buff (cold weather necessities, I own dozens of them) for an early morning ride.

Buzz was fairly quiet, though we sat at the communal table to be as social as possible while we caught up and enjoyed our treats.  I had a cranberry orange scone with my usual latte.  The wall behind us was decorated with a hundred or so mismatched tea plates, of the kind I’m always tempted to buy at yard sales.

As we peeled off for work, I crossed the Rt 1 bridge once again to head for Swings, where I picked up two pounds of coffee beans for home.  Swings was hopping with people finding their morning caffeine.  Having acquired High Mountain and Centennial blends, I took my favorite route home using a few blocks of the Mount Jefferson Park Trail.  Houses in Del Ray were decked out for Halloween, and many of the trees wore stunning fall colors.

 

 

Monday at Swing’s

•November 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019 Coffeeneuring Ride 7

WHERE: Swing’s Coffee [501 E Monroe Ave, Alexandria, VA 22301]

Swing’s coffee. The best.

www.swingscoffee.com

WHEN: Monday, 25 November 2019

WHAT I DRANK: Latte

WHY GO: The best coffee. Just the best.

HOW FAR I RODE: 6.40 miles (Strava link)

Our little bike commuter crew has a Monday morning meetup to gather at Swing’s Coffee in Del Ray. It started with Chris and myself, because there was no Monday meetup close by, and we wanted a little social time to start the week. That accountability of getting up and out early, because someone else is expecting you, seems especially important on a Monday. Swing’s was a natural choice for where to meet.

After a month or two of showing up there, other people noticed the regularity and started to join us. When enough people do the same thing several times in a row, it becomes a thing, and Monday Swing’s became a thing.

I’m not much of a gotta-do kind of person, so I attend the thing when I want to, which is not every week. This week, however, I needed one more Coffeeneuring Control to complete the challenge within the stated rules. I rode up the Mount Jefferson Park Trail to Swing’s, to join the crew at the regular Monday thing.

Swing’s never disappoints. Sipping my expertly made latte and enjoying the good company, I realized my 2019 Coffeeneuring challenge almost had a theme. All but one of my rides were social; that is, other people had met and ridden and/or sipped along with me. A couple of them, namely Chris and Nevi, make a point to drink coffee with me at least once a week. I’ve long been used to riding solo, so this was kind of a revelation. But also a natural outcome, entirely within the spirit of Coffeneuring.

Stomping Ground

•October 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019 Coffeeneuring Ride 1

WHERE: Stomping Ground [2309 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301]

Dawn brightened by a bouquet of flowers

www.stompdelray.com

WHEN: Friday, 18 October 2019

WHAT I DRANK: Regular coffee with free refills

WHY GO: Eat biscuits, they’re delicious!

HOW FAR I RODE: 5.07 miles (Strava link)

I’ve had a long-standing Friday morning coffee date with two of my girlfriends, Chris and Nevada.  We ride to meet up at a chosen shop every week, with a priority to try places we haven’t been or new ones that have cropped up in our neighborhoods.  The local bike commuters have standing “coffee club” meetups Monday through Thursday, which we often attend, but Friday is our own to explore.  We are not a club.

This week we ventured into Del Ray, a cutesy and almost idyllic enclave of Alexandria.  There’s a Little Free Library on every other corner it seems.  Outward demonstrations of social inclusion, rainbow flags and yard signs, adorn the front lawns.  A few of the picket fences are decorated with art and poetry.  And undoubtedly, the good residents dawdle their time at the numerous restaurants and cozy coffee shops.  Stomping Ground Del Ray is one of the places they go to chat and solve the world’s problems.

The three of us arrived simultaneously in the lot next door where the weekend farmers market sets up.  For no apparent reason a bouquet of orange-colored flowers decorated one of the public outdoor tables; a random act of beauty.  We entered the shop’s little fenced courtyard and, since the morning was chilly, gauged that no one was likely to sit outdoors and nested our bikes in the corner.

Homemade biscuits are the thing at Stomping Ground.  They’re big, hot, and super flaky.  We each ordered one with coffee.  Mine had an egg, bacon, and cheddar.  The coffee was great and came with endless refills.  We sat inside at the big communal table, though small tables and booths were options as well.

It’s good to be back in the Coffeeneuring saddle after last year’s abort, and it’s especially nice to be enjoying it with friends.

 

Extra Perks

•November 6, 2018 • 1 Comment

2018 Coffeeneuring Ride 3

IMG_2486

Extra Perks, the main attraction

WHERE: Extra Perks Coffee Shop and Cafe [822 N Fairfax St, Alexandria, VA 22314]

www.extraperkscoffeeshopandcafe.com

WHEN: Thursday, 1 November 2018

WHAT I DRANK: Pit stop for a latte, followed by hot cider with breakfast

WHY GO: No frills, awesomely inexpensive diner in a quiet corner of Old Town Alexandria

HOW FAR: 12.57 miles (Strava link)

It was too nice a day to stay indoors pretending to work, so I stole a couple hours of my morning for a double-dipper hooky ride.

IMG_2473

Pit stop at Whole Foods

I started with an early morning cruise to Crystal City (yup, that Crystal City, being manipulated by Jeff Bezos into groveling for Amazon’s much-ballyhooed HQ2). Bike commuter friends gather at Whole Foods there on Thursday, so I stopped in to be social and had a small latte. Whole Foods opens at 7AM on weekdays offering a coffee bar and large breakfast buffet, with bike racks and tables both inside/outside.

 

A trip up Eads Street through Crystal City is always a game of “Who’s parked in the bike lane today?” This time it was a Mercedes dirty-parked by a Car2Go customer, especially infuriating because the legal parking space was literally one car-width to the left on the other side of the flex posts. I have weaponized Twitter for just such occasions, and sent details to Car2Go who promised to scold the driver. Another obstruction just one block further was an Arlington County school bus; the driver must have seen me stop to take pictures, because he moved the bus after I’d passed.

By that point the sun was shining brightly, and I extended my journey down the Main Line trail through Potomac Yard and into Old Town. Wythe Street, which took me to the waterfront, had been freshly paved and was buttery smooth. I found Extra Perks in the middle of a row of quaint shops, with its bright yellow awning and neon signs inviting me inside.

Extra Perks is really a full-on diner, right sized for the neighborhood. The menu is extensive, but I do that thing where I scan the selection online rather than hold up the line deciding what I want. The specialty at Extra Perks is the English Breakfast consisting of two eggs, banger (fresh locally made sausage), bacon, hash browns, and a veggie scramble. Which all sounds great but about twice the amount of food I could eat in one sitting. I asked to forego a few of the sides for a simple plate of eggs, banger and toast. I sipped hot cider until my breakfast arrived, then consumed the rest at the corner table by the window.  Extra Perks and its bustling-yet-cozy environment definitely deserves repeat visits.

Not in a rush to get back and start working, I detoured into Washington Sailing Marina. Now that we’re sailboat owners, the markers in the channel and marina infrastructure have new significance. I watched a few airplanes taking off from National Airport and soaked up the warm sunshine before heading home.

Life Needs More Nutella

•October 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

2018 Coffeeneuring Ride 2

IMG_2434

Because Nutella.

WHERE: South Block Del Ray [3051 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305]

www.southblockjuice.com

WHEN: Monday, 22 October 2018

WHAT I DRANK: Regular coffee, with a Nutella Acai Bowl

WHY GO: Feel-good vibes on a big sunny patio. And Nutella.

HOW FAR: 4.28 miles (Strava link)

The Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria is known for its quirky, independent shops and restaurants. Among them, locksmiths, which came in handy because I needed to have copies of an old key (for our sailboat) made. Weather here feels like we skipped autumn entirely, so I waited until the warmest part of the day when I could get away with a long “lunch hour” and hopped on the Univega.

During what has been dubbed “the year of the detour” when so much construction is affecting local bike infrastructure, the hardest part is getting into and out of my neighborhood. I’ve been testing different routes using sidewalks, short stretches of uncrowded one-way-the-wrong-way streets, and shopping center parking lots to bypass  construction on my way to the bike trail. The best conclusion would be for them to finish these projects sooner rather than later….. but in the meantime, I muddle through.

My key errand was accomplished quickly at the Area Safe & Lock Service shop. Though I was tempted to go further, South Block (one I hadn’t visited before) was right there. It sits facing a piece of property historically called The Triangle, a sharp angle bounded by Commonwealth and Mt Vernon avenues, which hosted various businesses over the years;  the point of the triangle is now preserved as green space. I locked up at the convenient bike rack. The sunny afternoon afforded me an opportunity to enjoy my coffee and Nutella Acai Bowl outdoors on their spacious patio, soaking up solar energy. On my way out I picked up a class schedule for the adjacent Ease Yoga & Cafe, and hope to check them out one day.

Del Ray does holidays to the hilt, and Halloween is no exception. I giggled at the yard across Mt Vernon Ave with a skeleton human and dog perched on the wrought iron fence. Apparently it wasn’t one of the 10 Best Decorated Halloween House finalists, but this information quickly gave me an idea for another bike ride!

 

Do-Over

•October 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

2018 Coffeeneuring Ride 1

IMG_2420.JPG

Latte and donuts were consumed.

WHERE: Sweet Rose Bakeshop [201 N 23rd St, Purcellville, VA 20132]

www.sweetrosebakeshop.com

WHEN: Saturday, 13 October 2018

WHAT I DRANK: Latte, with an apple fritter donut

WHY GO: Extremely bike-friendly at the peaceful end of the W&OD trail

HOW FAR: 20.32 mile out-and-back (Strava link)

Back in mid-September, I was in a crash.  I was riding solo when I got hit from behind by a vehicle, which I never saw or heard coming.  Physically I am recovering.  My adventure-loving go-anywhere Salsa Vaya was totaled.  Juggling doctor appointments and barely started with insurance settlements, I’m still reckoning with what inspires me to ride.  When you’re doing everything right and it doesn’t prevent you from a near-death experience, what about cycling is worth the risks?

I have one bike left, my 17-year-old Univega Modo Volare, a steel road frame with all new Campagnolo triple drivetrain.  It’s cool in its old-school Italian kinda way.  But it’s not Vaya.  Vaya used to whisper to me “C’mon, let’s go!” and we’d be out the door with little justification needed, and never restricted by whatever terrain we encountered.  I’ve dusted off the Univega, equipped it with lights and mirrors, squirted some lube on the chain, inflated the tires.  The few times I’ve ridden it lately, the road bike feels stiff, twitchy and unwelcoming.  With skinny tires, I’m stuck on hard pavement.  My muscles hurt and my lungs gulp, and my tight joints just want to go lie down.

Fall is upon us, and my cycling friends from NatGeo organized a ride for Saturday.  The planned route started and ended at the same high school where my car was parked the day I wound up in an ambulance.  My teammates wanted to ride 40 miles of Loudoun County paved country roads, right past the spot where we had combed the grass in the dark, looking for pieces that had flown off my bike on impact.  My body and my nerves wanted to be let off the hook.  So I let my friends go their way while Peter joined me for an easy out-and-back to Purcellville along the W&OD trail.  If I’d stuck to the bike path that day instead of being tempted by the scenery and fresh tarmac of Dry Mill Road, I wouldn’t be missing my Vaya and that sense of adventure.

That westernmost section of the W&OD trail in the fall is a zen paradise.  Peaceful woods, crunchy leaves, polite dings of other cyclists, interpretive signs reminding us of railroad history.  We climbed the gentle grade and coasted to the trailhead at MM45 in Purcellville.  A posse of cyclists, a few on Bromptons and others on vintage steel bikes, lounged around on the porch of the bakery across the street from the train station.  Peter and I went into Sweet Rose Bakeshop for coffee and treats, and occupied an empty table outside.  When the donuts were gone, we wandered through antique shops and an open air flea market, then hopped on our bikes and coasted back down the trail.  The other group rolled into the school parking lot only a few minutes after us.  We spent the rest of the afternoon at an after-party at Sean’s house, complete with a hot tub, great food, birthday cake for Yumi, and quality friends.  Here’s to better endings.

 

All My Favorite Things

•November 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

2017 Coffeeneuring Ride 7

IMG_0640WHERE: Sugar Shack [804 N Henry Street, Alexandria VA 22314]

www.sugarshackdmv.com

WHEN: Saturday, 18 November 2017

WHAT I DRANK: Zeke’s latte, with a Lucky Charms donut

WHY GO: You like a good sugar coma?

HOW FAR: 18.7 mile loop (Strava link)

For the record, donuts were not my idea.

I had hoped to visit a place in north Arlington that specializes in beignets, because fried dough and powdered sugar are the appropriate way to bribe my sweetie Peter into coming with me. However, his daughter Sophie wanted to join us (they ride the tandem together) and we agreed on a shorter route closer to their neighborhood. We met up in Del Ray, and I let them choose the destination.

So, a donut covered in glaze and Lucky Charms just counts as cereal for breakfast, right?!? [Ahem.] The latte made with good strong Zeke’s espresso was just the antidote I needed.

We averted the oncoming sugar coma with a ride through Old Town Alexandria to the Jones Point Lighthouse.  My favorite spot, with my favorite people, doing one of my favorite activities.  Fitting for my last installment of Coffeeneuring 2017.

IMG_0648

Red velvet donut and Ridge Supply socks FTW

Lingering at the lighthouse, I declared it was once again Great Socks Day, garnering particular admiration from Sophie who likes anything pink.  (I actually detest wearing pink, but those socks are just too good to resist.)  We chatted with another couple about bike touring on tandems.

From there, headwinds be damned, we rode over Wilson Bridge and down to National Harbor where we strolled around town and took in the sights. Christmas decorations were already up, people were watching movies on the green while huddled in blankets, someone dressed like a Disney princess walked around on stilts, and The Awakening guy was still trying to claw his way out of the sand. We poached an elevator to the 16th floor of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center for great views of DC and Alexandria.

Sophie got hungry again, so Peter treated us to lunch at Nando’s Peri Perimuch healthier. After which it was starting to get cold and dark was already descending, so we flew back across the bridge and parted for home. It wouldn’t feel right to finish the Coffeeneuring season without at least one ride with Peter (even though he hates coffee), this was a day I enjoyed more than most.

Wafle Shop

•November 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

2017 Coffeeneuring Ride 6

IMG_0621WHERE: Wafle Shop [3864 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305]

WHEN: Friday, 17 November 2017

WHAT I DRANK: Regular coffee, with a waffle, eggs and bacon

WHY GO: All charm, open all day, counter seating

HOW FAR: 2.9 mile loop (Strava link)

Curiosity finally won.

After living in Arlandria (unofficial name of the corner between south Arlington and the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria) over a year, I’d passed this little diner dozens of times without stopping.  Coffeeneuring is the perfect excuse to explore places like this  and who wouldn’t be curious about a shop with a misspelled sign on its front awning?!?

Needing to chalk up two more rides near the end of the 2017 season, I hastily made a plan to visit Wafle Shop pre-dawn so I could squeeze it into a day full of dependencies.  I half expected to be alone, but I posted on my local bike forum with no more than half a day’s notice, and three people actually showed up!  Bike commuter friends are the best.

Wafle Shop only has counter seating indoors, with capacity for maybe a dozen (?) people. I suspect locals like it that way.  Seats were about half full with blue-collar types, and one woman who looked old enough to be retired but said she comes every day for breakfast before work.  (She later wondered out loud why I was taking pictures of my food. Busted!)

I ordered regular coffee, which wasn’t half bad, and a waffle (it seemed like a must-do) with two eggs and bacon.  The food was excellent.  Our counter seats directly faced the grill, and there’s just something homey about watching your food happen while talking sideways to your friends.

We wondered about the misspelled sign, of course, but nobody dared to ask.  The place has been there a forever, long enough that someone would’ve pointed out the mistake.  I Googled it when I got home, and learned that a decision was made back in 2012; “The Waffle Shop in Arlandria will keep its quirky and iconic misspelled awnings.”  Why?  Because “Ownership had a change of heart after learning of the support and appreciation for the awnings from customers and neighbors. One man even asked to purchase one of the awnings after learning of ownership’s decision to replace them.”

Instead, money secured through AEDP’s Facade Improvement Grant Program was used to rehabilitate the restaurant’s properly spelled neon sign, which now hangs on the brick beside the quirky awning.  Wafle Shop is what it is because the people of Del Ray like it that way.