That Time of the Year Again

October 19, 2016

So I wasn’t going to attempt coffeeneuring this year because I’ve been too busy – yes, even at weekends, in fact especially at weekends. In fact, I had more or less forgotten about it to the point where I actually had a qualifying coffee (stopping off to kill half an hour before catching my train home in Glasgow) and only remembered when it was too late to record the occasion as the rules demand. But then on Sunday we ended up stopping for coffee on our bike ride and I remembered all about it and took a photo just in case

coffee and macaroon

Cappucino and coconut macaroon at Pueblo’s Solar Roast

And then this morning we headed off for a wee pootle early on the bikes and realised that more normal October weather had resumed, and it was in fact pretty nippy out there. A strategic coffee stop to warm up was definitely in order. This meant exploring downtown Pueblo’s fine cycling infrastructure:

Pueblo bike lane

Actually, they seem to have been busy putting in bike lanes, nice wide ones by UK standards, although they still run out just when you need them most, and are replaced by sharrows and a ‘bikes may use full lane’ sign. This would matter more if there was much actual traffic, and if the few drivers we did encounter weren’t disconcertingly polite.*

Fifth street parking protected bike lane

The coffee shop we ended up at is on Pueblo’s only parking-protected bike lane, which we have used before but this time we had a purpose (apart from showing the bike lane some love as apparently it is under threat because nobody uses it and the whole parking-on-the-outside arrangement is considered alien and un-American or something).

Good Karma coffee shop

Good Karma coffee shop. Great cinnamon rolls, friendly service, but the bike parking is a little awkward…

Two cafetieres of coffee and two exceedingly sticky cinnamon rolls later we were thawed out and ready to ride across town to the secondhand bookshop, before taking the river path home in the by-now much warmer sunshine.

french presses

If you can think of a better way to spend a morning, let me know.

Oh and for those of you thinking ‘But it’s Tuesday – you can’t coffeeneur on a Tuesday’ the rules have changed and you can now coffeeneur on any day of the week. Which means I might even manage to complete it this year, and on two different continents too.

* I was confused by the pickup driver going very slowly behind us as we coasted round a corner, only to realise that he was patiently waiting for us to go past the turning so he didn’t risk right hooking us.

Coffeeneuring: the Final Frontier

November 10, 2013
giant coffee mug

Now THAT’S a large coffee

This Saturday saw not one but two coffeeneuring opportunities, allowing me to complete my challenge on a high – assuming they’re allowed because both weren’t actual permanent coffee shops but pop ups in a good cause.

The first was Nearest Village’s Big Breakfast which is in aid of the local church. We’re not church people exactly but we are ‘village’ people, as it were, and besides there was the promise of bacon so the other half was even tempted out onto the bike for the mile and a half down to the village (helped by a lovely sparkly November morning). The village hall was absolutely packed and we were glad we’d got down early as we have it on good authority that they’d run out of food before it ended at 11. We’ve learnt the hard way that you can’t hang about when it comes to village events – the concept of being ‘fashionably late’ just doesn’t compute in these parts.

village breakfast

Bacon, eggs, sausage, two kinds of tattie scone and tea dispatched (I steer clear of the village hall coffee as it’s generally instant), we parted ways and I cycled down to Bigtown for the Fairer World Fair, which was showcasing fair trade products, including a pop up cafe with home made cakes (from fair trade ingredients of course) and fair trade coffee. I did some early Christmas shopping which is possibly a tactical error because I’ll now collapse in a virtuous heap and not do any more until the absolute last minute. Rather disconcertingly, because the things I liked were on sale, it all worked out rather cheap as well. I’m pretty sure that’s not how fair trade is supposed to work.

fairtrade coffee and cake

I then bought Friday’s rescuer coffee and cake while we explained to our baffled table companions why we were photographing our food. I’d feel I’d paid her back more thoroughly if the whole thing hadn’t come to the princely sum of £3…

I headed back in the last of the sunshine, having dealt my small blow against global capitalism and feeling good about humanity, a feeling which lasted until I passed the fly-tipped washing machine, bin bags and car tyres dumped in a lay by near the river. After a morning spent with people who are all in their own ways working to make the world a better place, I suppose it served as a salutary reminder that there are also people who go around making the world a worse one too. I do wonder how they live with themselves though.

two bikes

So that’s the coffeeneuring challenge over (pending final adjudication). It’s been fun – I’m not sure it’s done much to get me out on the bike any more than I would have done, but it has extended my range of local coffee shops, encouraged me to be more sociable, and sometimes tempted me off my normal beaten track, which is all to the good. Assuming my fellow coffeenaut completes her challenge today (she was cutting it a bit fine) we shall also have firmly put Bigtown on the coffeeneuring map.

Mileage: 17 miles, or not nearly enough to burn off all the extra calories…

Coffeeneuring Part 6 – the End in Sight

November 7, 2013

Regular readers will be pleased to learn that despite much gadding about in the last few days (and a bit more to come), I haven’t been neglecting my coffeeneuring duties. Possibly I’m bending the rules a bit here by sneaking in a quick coffeeneur stop on a Monday, and a busy Monday to boot, but we freelancers have to take our coffeeneuring opportunities where we find them – and as Kats Dekker and I found ourselves with an hour to kill and a keen north wind to get out of (you know your city has a biting wind when even the Dutch are complaining about the head winds) so there was nothing for it but a visit to the Tyneside Coffee Rooms, which sit on the top floor of a fantastic restored Art Deco cinema.

Not wishing to risk the bucket-o-coffee problem, I ordered an espresso but compensated with an enormous slice of cake.

large cake and small coffee

Both were demolished in short order

cake and coffee finished

As for the mileage – well it’s hard to tell as the whole day was spent zipping around in Katja’s wake, and besides Brompton miles count double (with bonus points for carrying it up two flights of stairs). So anything from 1 to a million. After all, I had to earn that cake…

The Better Part of Valour

October 31, 2013

clothes drying outI can’t help but feel it was a teeny bit unfair of the Weather Gods to wreak their revenge on me just as I was cycling home from a climate change demonstration – but then again, perhaps the Weather Gods are all for climate change as it gives them the chance to create even more havoc than usual. As it was, they did at least hold back on the hailstorms, freak blizzards and plagues of frogs and confined themselves to ensuring that I was thoroughly soaked from stem to stern, paying extra attention to making sure that my shoes filled up with water so that my socks had to be wrung out before being hung along with pretty much everything else I was wearing on the Rayburn.

At that point, with the rain still blattering down, and realising that I was going to have to go out in it all again to get to choir, I gave in and texted a fellow choir member for a lift. I can increasingly put up with worse and worse weather on the bike these days – but I draw the line at going out and getting soaked again when I had only just got myself into warm and dry clothes.

Today was better – dry enough to wash, re-apocalypse-proof, and dry my jacket and venture out again to help lead 24 11-year-olds through the streets of Bigtown (we walked the bikes for the horrendously hostile first 100 yards outside their school) and up to the local campus where they could cycle in relative comfort and safety while loudly disputing whether or not doing a wheely while riding down the middle of the (fortunately empty) road counted as riding single file in the strictest sense of the term. Having clarified my instructions (single file, with both wheels on the ground, and over to the left, and no, doing skids on the leaves is neither big nor clever and does not count as a controlled descent down a steep hill) we got everyone back to school in one piece and with only a few extra grey hairs on the part of the ride leaders.

coffee and cake

That left only one piece of unfinished business: my fifth coffeeneuring stop, this time at the Polka Dot Vintage Tea room where the coffee may not be that fancy but the china is exceedingly pretty (and no, I’ve no idea why the tearoom is described as vintage; the coffee seemed pretty fresh). A well-earned slice of cake and a good hour of gossip masquerading as discussing cycle campaign matters soon restored me for the ride home, where I was further rewarded for my efforts by the opportunity to test out the re-proofing of my jacket…

So now I’ve decided to simplify things and just have two outfits on the go: the one I’m wearing and the one drying out on by the Rayburn. All I ask is that I manage to go long enough between soakings that the last lot have dried out before I have to change again. That doesn’t seem too much to hope for, does it?

afternoon sky

This was supposed to be a photo of some geese flying overhead but by the time I’d got the camera working they had almost gone

Total distance cycled: 18 miles.

Half Way

October 24, 2013

I’m beginning to think the hardest part of this coffeeneuring lark is explaining to your non-coffeeneuring companion why you might be taking a photo of your cup of coffee.

bucket o' coffee

Actually in this case I might have photographed it anyway, but I would have included something (coin, teaspoon, small dog, a person) for scale as I’d asked for a medium Americano and been a bit startled to get a large china bucket of coffee. What can I say, I prefer a coffee you can finish before it gets cold (although I might have finished it sooner had I been talking less). And yes, this is a large national chain and not some small independent place but we’re beginning to run out of options here in Bigtown. Although they do do latte art, I noticed, if I’d wanted to get really fancy.

I made up for it by cycling back via the shortbread emporium to pick up some outdoor-reared bacon, and say hello to the pigs whose backs it turns out you can scratch if you feel that way inclined (I neglected to mention that I had their mates in slices in my bag). I’d managed to cycle right past them without noticing on my last trip


It’s been a funny autumn so far – wet (okay, that part’s not so unusual) and strangely mild. Today was the first day that actually felt and looked like autumn, with a bit of a nip in the air, and also the first day in ages it’s actually properly stopped raining. Good weather for cycling home with cured meat products in your bag.

big sky

Another 20 miler, and that’s four out of seven coffeneuring rides (pending a final arbitration on Saturday’s entry) in the bag.

Nice Weather for Ducks

October 19, 2013

There are mornings when you set off for a bike ride with a song in your heart. And there are mornings when the song is ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’. This morning was one of the latter. I was supposed to be leading a nice social ride, but I had managed to send out an email two weeks ago to everyone who was likely to attend with the wrong date and only realised my mistake yesterday, so very few people could actually make it. And anyone else who might still have been able join me would have looked out of the window and seen that the weather was designed to put to the test the saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s only bad clothing.’ It was that sort of fine damp rain that not only gets you wetter than any other kind of rain, but can go on for ever. And besides, I was wearing my waterproof overtrousers and if those aren’t the definition of ‘bad clothing’ then I don’t know what is.

river view

But anyway, it had been in the paper that there was going to be a ride and I had better be there at the rendezvous point in case any particularly masochistic nutters fancied a bike ride, and so I had to cycle the eight miles there, rain or no rain, muttering to myself that if this was cycling campaigning then perhaps I had done enough of it. Nobody duly turned up and I was just about to go and have a nice coffee and a slice of cake with the other half instead when two chaps arrived having come all the way from England just for this ride. And they were keen. When I tentatively suggested cutting it short and just heading for the cafe they weren’t having any of it. In fact they suggested a nice detour around the coast road to boot to add a few miles on. Rain? Well, we were dressed for it weren’t we? And off we went.

Ruthwell Cross

Ruthwell Cross

I have long theorised that it’s impossible to be truly grumpy on a bike. And indeed, although the rain kept going for most of it, and the wind managed to be in our faces both out and back, in the end it was fine. Not, perhaps, fun in any technical sense of the word, but fine. One of my fellow riders was a local campaigner across the border and we swapped ideas as we went along. We visited a church with an Anglo Saxon cross that was saved from the iconoclasts of the Reformation by being buried by the local congregation and later reinstated. We stopped at Brow Well to see the one place Robert Burns drank in that wasn’t a pub (and which probably killed him), and again to admire a huge flock of oystercatchers waiting for the tide to turn. And then we reached the cafe – a largely community-run venture on a spectacular spot on the river where we were revived with hot drinks and (for my part, anyway) an egg and sausage roll that hit the spot like nothing else. And the rain finally stopped and the clouds parted as we rolled back the last four or five miles, steaming gently in our waterproofs. And then I cycled the last eight miles home and collapsed by the Rayburn for the rest of the day

Now my understanding of the coffeeneuring rules was that a coffee stop taken as part of an organised ride does not count. However I’m hoping that as this ride was partly organised in order to go to a cafe, then it might sneak through on some sort of a technicality …

coffee shot

The obligatory coffee shot. Latte art has not reached this corner of Bigtownshire, but at least we still get proper tea pots

Mileage (including to and from the start point: 44 miles)

Coffeeneuring part Deux

October 17, 2013

One sad side-effect of the coffeeneuring challenge is to make me feel like a bit of a Norma-no-mates: what’s the point of going out for coffee if you’ve nobody to go for a coffee with? The other half regards cycling as largely something for a sunny summer afternoon when the roads are dry, the winds are light, the moon is blue and the pigs are flying high.* And people with normal lives are generally busy going to work on Thursdays, which was the first day I had free after another busy weekend. So I was in two minds as to whether to continue, but as I had to ride into town anyway I decided to play it by ear. The forecast for today was shaping up to be pretty dire so I was expecting to want to just get home again as quickly as I could.

But the weather gods seem to be having an off day for lo and behold today was sunny again, and even mild, and I managed to bump into a friend in Bigtown and arrange a coffeeneuring date for later in the month, so I decided the challenge was back on. And as the weather was so lovely I decided to take a little detour by way of the old A Road and stop off at the local farm-shop-turned-shortbread-emporium.

neigh horsing around

No horsemeat here…

I’ve been a bit snotty about them in the past because the shop bit seems to mostly consist of expensive and over-packaged generically Scottish giftie type stuff (hence ‘shortbread emporium’), and they are essentially an out-of-town shop in what is otherwise open countryside but they do have a nice and not too pricey cafe and that’s a good thing – and their meat is undeniably local and has a good reputation in a part of the world where good meat is taken seriously, from bacon to beef to haggis. It’s one of the few places around where you can buy outdoor reared pork (although without the option to go and say hello to the pigs – I suspect that as they have a ‘tickets only’ nature trail on offer, going and scratching a few porcine backs would cost extra). As a bonus, the twelve-year-old serving in the butchery (well, apparently – it’s not just farmers who are getting younger) told me he rides his bike in every day, so there were at least two of us to balance out all the big shiny 4x4s in the car park. And with the sun, and the cafe’s sheltered terrace, it meant I could have my coffee sitting outside. In October. In Scotland. That’s got to be worth something.

coffee and sunshine

I then rode home on Bigtownshire’s accidental cycle path, stopping only to enjoy the view of the hill I wasn’t having to tackle on the other road.

hill avoided

Some things are definitely worth the detour…

Update: forgot to add the mileage. Probably about 20 all told, including the detour

*and yes, I am aware of the irony of being an award-winning cycle campaigner who can’t even persuade her husband of the joys of cycling.

A-coffeeneuring I Will Go

October 10, 2013

After my accidental near-errandonnee earlier this year, I was determined that next time I would do better at whatever whimsical challenge Chasing Mailboxes might throw at me. And when I saw that it was merely to visit seven coffee shops in seven weekends,* I thought it was going to be easy. All right, I live approximately 7 miles from even the nearest coffee shop and there aren’t actually that many around, but there are definitely more than seven, and taking one leisurely ride each weekend for a hot caffeine-based beverage plus optional cake seemed well within my powers.

The problem I encountered, however, was the weekend part. One of the things about being being a freelancer is that you don’t have a weekend, especially not when you also combine it with cycle campaigning – oh and I used to have a writing career once, didn’t I? I wonder where I put that? Last weekend was particularly hectic with Saturday spent Pop-plotting in Embra (followed by a trip to the pub – could our next challenge be pub-based perhaps?) and Sunday spent running a pop-up bookshop where I barely had chance to draw breath let alone go out for a nice relaxing ride for coffee. No, in order to enter into the spirit of the thing, I was going to have to designate another day my weekend and do it properly.

So I have decreed that Thursday is the weekend, at least for coffeeneuring purposes, although my schedule means I was also working for most of it. But it is my least hectic day and that will have to do. It was a sunny if slightly nippy afternoon, and I managed to rope in another coffeeneur and a non-coffeeneur to join me and we rode to the lovely Nona Lou’s which is best described as ‘not at all the sort of place you expect to find in Bigtown’.

on the way

We were so busy chatting we’d finished our coffee before we remembered we were supposed to take photographs so here is some tea instead

tea of the week, apparently

And then I cycled along the river on what had turned out to be the most glorious autumn afternoon. Total mileage about 10 miles.

along the river

I can see this challenge is going to be a tough one, but I think I will just have to grit my teeth, try my best, and stick it out to the end.

* Note that this means an average of one coffee shop per weekend, not seven.