Monday, November 28, 2016

Coffeeneuring ride 7: #coffeeoutside on the Glacial Drumlin Trail

For what could have been the final ride to complete this year's coffeeneuring challenge, I decided to get in an instance of #coffeeoutside, that is make my own coffee somewhere in the outdoors. As my wrist continued to feel better, a longer ride seemed in order, and I headed toward Lake Mills, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Madison.
Patching my spare tube, after the flat on the previous ride
 A large proportion of the ride is on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, but first you have to ride some nice-ish country roads to the trailhead in Cottage Grove. Eventually the trail will be extended all the way into Madison, but that will still be a few years.

Mini horses near Cottage Grove

On the trail
It had been raining a lot over the past week. I had read reports of other bike trails around Madison being very soggy or even flooded. But the Glacial Drumlin turned out to be in fine condition.
Koshkonong Creek had high waters
 Shortly before reaching Lake Mills, I passed two cyclists with camping gear, maybe headed to the Sand Hill Station campground, where the SO and had done an S24O earlier in the season.
Rock Lake
The plan was to first ride to the Tyranena Brewing tasting room, have a beer, and then make my coffee on the way back to Madison.
Warm enough to sit outside at Tyranena...
On the way to Lake Mills I had kept my eyes open for good coffee spots and decided on a bench with a pretty view of wetlands. Thousands of birds provided a wonderful soundtrack to complement the gurgling of my Bialetti Moka Express. Even the coffee itself was bike themed: Just Coffee Co-op had given out sampler packs of their Revolution Roast at a cyclocross race. The coffee is named for Revolution Cycles, a great local coffee shop. And while the coffee itself is a little too dark for my liking, it made a good fit for this #coffeeoutside adventure. As a side note, The Bialetti works great as an outdoor coffee maker. It happens to fit perfectly into the pot stand I made ages ago out of a illy coffee can, and with a capillary hoop alcohol stove it will make coffee pretty quickly. The coffeemaker is certainly not the lightest, but for coffee-centered trips where weight is not the highest priority, I really like this combination.

The days have gotten shorter

Almost back home
This was a wonderful ride to complete the coffeeneuring challenge, and I'm really glad I participated in the challenge this year. We had an uncharacteristically warm fall this year, but still there were days where maybe I wouldn't have gone out hadn't it been for the challenge. And it also encouraged me to seek out some new coffee destinations in an around Madison. I did a few more coffeeneuring rides in the meantime and may blog about them. But the submission deadline for the challenge is just around the corner, and so I had to write up my official entries first! See you again next year, and always be coffeeneuring!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Coffeeneuring ride 6: Coffee & 'Cross, Sun Prairie edition

Minimalist cue sheet
After my incidental coffeeneuring ride to the 'cross race in Verona, this time around the combination of cyclocross and coffee was more deliberate. The Sun Prairie Cup was on the calendar, and my friend Jacob was going to race again. The weather was forecast to be amazing again, and so I headed out to Sun Prairie. I'd never been out there before and wasn't quite sure what kind of riding to expect. Well, first I caught a flat while still in Madison–note to self: buy rebuild kit for Topeak Road Morph pump...–followed by some mediocre riding through the 'burbs. 

Flat :-(
Once I was past the interstate, though, traffic volumes went down and enjoyment went up. Having a strong tailwind probably didn't hurt either. Once in Sun Prairie I rode past Sheehan Park (the venue for the race) and headed downtown. Whereas Sun Prairie had a very suburban feel, they do have a little downtown core with dense-ish multifamily housing and newer mixed-use buildings. One of those buildings is home to "Beans'n Cream Coffeehouse," my coffeeneuring destination. 

Downtown Sun Prairie fall colors
While the whole shop was decorated with various kinds of fancy coffee-making implements (Haros, Chemexes, ....), the brewed coffee that they served was nothing to write home about. The atmosphere is nice, though, and the food looked good.

Just in time for my friend Jacob's start in the singlespeed category, I made it over to the race. The course was quite cool and the barely rideable "party hill" made for a great spot for spectators. If you care about the actual race results, here's a write-up.

"Party Hill"

For the way home I took a different route (now riding straight into the wind...). Shortly before reaching the bike path along US-151, I spotted a promising sign:

Of course, I had to go explore! The road started out as double-track, which gradually disappeared and turned into an overgrown goat path. It was passable enough, though, and eventually led back to the bike path. Cool little adventure detour!

Adventure detour

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coffeeneuring ride 5: Early morning edition at EVP Coffee

Monday morning, five o'clock. I was awake, and with the SO traveling, there was little incentive to stay in bed. Checking the weather forecast, I was surprised and pleased to see that after a warm Sunday it had barely cooled down over night. In other words, perfect conditions for a quick coffeeneuring ride before work. I briefly considered my options, but after checking opening hours of various shops within reasonable distance, EVP Coffee on East Washington Avenue was the only plausible option. In addition to getting a ride in before work, I also needed enough time to finish a couple things for Madison Bikes, the local advocacy group I'm vice-president of. 

To get to EVP in time, I took the slightly-longer-but-pretty route: Going over to Lake Wingra, following the Wingra Creek Path to Lake Monona, and the follow the shore up to the Yahara River -- almost all on separate bike trails. Only the final short stretch was on busy East Washington Avenue. I was tempted by EVP's outdoor patio, but the traffic noise made me opt for the indoor seating. It's a nice and cozy space, populated at this time of day mostly by regulars. To celebrate the warm temperatures, I ordered an iced coffee, which turned out to be just that and not the cold brew I had expected. Oh well. I made it back to work with plenty of time to spare, and in an excellent mood! 

I realized I still had a gift certificate from 2015...
Cozy interior
Pretty but noisy patio

A calm Lake Mendota

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Coffeeneuring ride 4: Incidental cross-coffeeneuring

Pretty Airstreams at Lake Farm Park
I'm not sure if it violates rule 9, about the "spirit of coffeeneuring," if you go out for a ride and incidentally come across a tasty coffee opportunity. That's what happened two weekends ago: After the S24O on Friday/Saturday, I wanted to get some more kilometers in on Sunday, and riding to a cyclocross race in one of Madison's suburbs seemed to make for a good destination. I took the long way there, looping on the Cap City trail before heading to Badger Prairie Park in Verona. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Cadence Coffee nitro cold brew trike on site. They have built up a successful little local nitro empire, with their coffee now on tap at the university hospital, the student union, and also available in cans in many shops around town. So I took the opportunity to get in ride four of my 2016 coffeeneuring journey, while watching people torture themselves on the 'cross course.

New bike repair station on the Cap City Trail
The Cadence coffee trike

Coffee 'n' cross

My friend Jake in his first Cat 3 race

Overheard the guy saying, "I have no chance of winning. So I may as well make people smile."

Jacob with a well-deserved post-race beer

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Coffeeneuring/S24O, 2nd ed.: Sjölinds Chocolate House in Mount Horeb

Last weekend offered another opportunity for a combined S24O/coffeeneuring adventure. Friends of mine had grand plans: Bike to Blue Mound State Park late on Friday, camp there, ride 200 kilometers the next day, camp again, and then ride back to Madison. My wrist and general fitness were definitely not up for the middle part, but another quick fall S24O camping trip sounded good. 

As per usual, I didn't manage to pack my stuff the night before and therefore only left Madison around 5pm. It was a beautiful fall evening, warm enough for 3/4 shorts and a short-sleeve jersey. I was riding Grando, with two Ortlieb Front Roller panniers and my handlebar bag. The sun was slowly setting, and by the time I rode through Mount Horeb, it was mostly dark. My friends, who had left Madison earlier, texted me that they were on the wait list for a table at Hooterville in Blue Mounds, famous for its Friday fish fry. After dinner and a couple beers, we headed to the state park and set up camp. I finally got a chance to try my new hammock, but of course it was pitch dark by now, my headlamp was low on battery, and one of my whoopie slings seemed to have some sort of malfunction. In the end I did get the hammock and tarp set up more or less properly and slept alright. More testing is required to see if I'm a hammock person or not...

Military Ridge Trail

Unexpected obstacle on the Military Ridge Trail

Tartar sauce explosion at Hooterville
 The others had set their departure to 6:30am, and since I was up early anyway, I quickly packed up my stuff and got on the road at the same time. While they turned west and then north, I headed back east into Mount Horeb. I was the first customer of the day at Sjölinds Chocolate House. While their main attraction certainly are the various kinds of chocolates, sweets, and quiches, they also have decent coffee. I hung out there for a while, reading a John Grisham novel I had picked up from the Little Free Library next to Sjölinds's bike parking, first drinking a cold brew and then a regular coffee.
7am at Sjolinds

I bought some fancy hot chocolate powder for the SO, and then headed back into Madison.
Double-track detour near the Quarry Park MTB trails


A strangely warm and breezy October day

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Coffeeneuring and a Fall S24O, two-in-one

Despite my deep immersion in all things bike and my love of coffee, somehow I never picked up on the coffeeneuring phenomenon. Yeah, I had seen the occasional hash tag, but only this year did I realize that there is more to it than just getting on your bike and having coffee somewhere. You can read all about the origin and rules of this "utility cycling challenge" on the Chasing Mailboxes blog. In any case, this year I'm participating.

Sunrise on a beautiful fall day
After a false start over the previous weekend—I had assumed the challenge started on October 1—I got my first two rides in last Saturday and Sunday. Even better, we combined coffeeneuring with a fall sub-24-hour overnight camping trip, the first one since my crash in July. Living in Madison puts you in the fortunate position to pick from four different destinations for an S24O that are all close enough to not be too challenging, despite me still recovering from my injury. This year we had already done two trips to the west (Blue Mound State Park and Brigham County Park) and one trip to Sand Hill Station in the east. So this time we opted for New Glarus Woods State Park, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Madison.

New Haro coffee carafes at Crescendo

Both the SO and I still had some work to do on Saturday morning, giving me an opportunity for a quick coffeeneuring ride to one my favorite Madison coffee shops, Crescendo. It is less than a mile from our home to the shop, and so after enjoying a nice Rwanda pour-over, I had to do some detouring to get the trip distance over the required two miles.

After lunch I crammed all our camping gear into a plastic tote strapped on a trailer and hitched to my SOMA Grand Randonneur, and off to New Glarus we were. The great thing about the route is that is almost exclusively on trails. First on pavement, where lots of people were out on their bikes, absorbing the October sun. Once the Badger State Trail turns to packed gravel, bike traffic diminished quickly. The trail was quite overgrown with grass, turning it into double-track, probably due to the above average rainfall over the past weeks. While the bike was in the track, the trailer would roll over grass, providing me with an extra workout.

Downtown Belleville
 After a quick snack stop in Belleville, we continued on to the always amazing Stewart Tunnel. Time to leave the trail and ride the final stretch to the park. This involves a rather mean climb, where passed two other bike campers headed for the park.
Obligatory tunnel pic

Exeter Crossing Road, just before the climbing begins

Slanty camp site, in close proximity to Highway 69...

When we arrived at the park, we were amazed how busy it was. Almost all the walk-in camp sites were already occupied! A chatty ranger informed me that not only was there a harvest festival and a renaissance fair in New Glarus, but that night there would also be a bonfire and candlelight hike in the park. While we didn't care much for the park and camp sites, the proximity to New Glarus is a nice feature. We rolled down the trail into a bustling little town and enjoyed dinner at Toffler's Pub.

Rolling into town just after sunset

The next morning we once again followed the trail spur into town, getting in coffeeneuring ride 2 at Fat Cat Coffee Works. This is a great little coffee shop right on the bike trail, offering decent coffee and excellent pastries and breakfast foods. It's quite popular with the cycling crowd, and indeed while were there a large group of roadies made an appearance, including someone in a RUSA wool jersey.

We had a bit of a headwind on the way back, but we made the S24O mark with time to spare, arriving back home around 1pm.
On the Sugar River Trail