Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Coffeeneuring Adventure: 6th Time's a Charm

As the leaves make their annual transition from green to brown making stops along the way as yellow, red and orange alarm bells signaling the end of summer, we are reminded of the importance of warming beverages to fend off the cool winds of winter and to stretch this season of riding out just a wee bit longer. For the past five years, the Coffeeneuring Challenge has helped me cope with, and even enjoy, this change of seasons.

This year, I created a "Theme Within a Theme" by riding my new(ish) Brompton folding bike on all of my coffeeneuring adventures. While I remain a devoted roadie and randonneur, the Brompton has revolutionized my commuting and urban cycling over the past year. As someone who works from a home office in the Hudson Valley, I am often on the road visiting schools throughout New York State. My travel often brings me to New York City, 90 miles to my south, and the Brompton has enabled me to ride to the commuter train 10 miles away and then directly from Grand Central Station to meetings without having to worry about the bike share or public transportation. I can also throw the Brompton into the back of my car or the carry-on compartment of an Amtrak train or commuter jet to pick up a short ride following meetings or conferences without difficulty. While daily bike commuting is not currently possible, riding to meetings and school visits has enriched my work while helping me fit additional exercise into my routine.

Ride 1 (October 15)
Bank Square Coffeehouse - Beacon, New York
3 miles
Latte and an oatmeal raisin cookie

Like quite a few other places, Beacon, NY has been heralded as the "next Brooklyn" following the creation of the Dia: Beacon museum and an influx of artists in search of more reasonable rents. Nestled into the hills of southern Dutchess County, Beacon lies on the MetroNorth train line right on the banks of the Hudson River. My trip to the Bank Square Coffeehouse involved a typically convoluted plan to drop off a car at a friend's house for my daughter to claim as she returned from college for a short fall break. Following a nice latte and fresh-baked oatmeal raisin cookie eaten while being serenaded by a ukulele-playing millennial, I rode over to the station to catch the train north to Poughkeepsie and ride home.

Ride 2 (October 25)
Aroma Espresso Bar - New York, New York
8 miles
Black coffee, oatmeal and fruit

Ironically, the only chain shop I visited during the Coffeener Challenge was the Aroma Espresso Bar, right in the heart of authentic cafe culture. While one can literally stumble over a hipster coffee bar on just about every street corner in NYC, Aroma was the most convenient place for me to stop on a day I was zipping around Manhattan. I must say, it was a bit of a disappointment.

Ride 3 (November 1)
La Deliziosa Pastry Shop - Poughkeepsie, New York
4 miles
Black coffee and a mini cannoli

The delicacies in this family-owned pastry shop in the heart of Poughkeepsie's Little Italy neighborhood are more than worth the trip from wherever you may be. A short ride or walk from the MetroNorth train station, this spot is a must-see destination the next time you find yourself in the Hudson Valley. Miniature cannoli, eclairs and cookies more than make up for the pedestrian coffee patrons make for themselves using a Keurig maker that sits on the counter.

Ride 4 (November 3)
Mohonk Mountain House - New Paltz, New York
15 miles
Black coffee

The Mohonk Mountain House is one of the nation's most remarkable historic resorts. Sitting high above the village of New Paltz on the Shawangunk Ridge, patrons are able to view the Catskill range off in the distance and hike, bike or cross country ski along hundreds of miles of well-preserve carriage trails that date from the nineteenth century when horse-drawn carriages were the principal form of transport that brought guests up to the hotel from the docks along the Hudson River where they disembarked from steam ships heading north from Manhattan. I often ride on these carriage trails with my road bike equipped with cyclocross tired, but this was my first foray into the wilderness on my Brompton. Verdict: not terrible, but hitting a root or a pothole with a 17" front wheel is a bit of a shock.

Ride 5 (November 5)
Slow Train Cafe - Oberlin, Ohio
18 miles
Latte and a salted chocolate chip cookie.

When our daughter called to invite us to see her perform a solo dance composition in a fall student concert, we didn't think twice about reserving a hotel room and clearing the date. Unfortunately, though, my son came down with a nasty virus and my wife had to stay behind while I drove to Ohio with my Brompton in the back of the car anticipating the opportunity to grab a nice ride through town with my daughter should she have a few spare minutes. As luck would have it, she cleared the day (which for her begins about noon) and we were able to take in a fun ride on a rail trail that stretches from the center town out through the farmland that surrounds it. While she had an early call to prepare for an evening performance, I spent some time spinning through this lovely college town, an oasis of blue in an increasingly red state, and enjoyed a fresh latte and a rather delicious salted chocolate chip cookie.

Ride 6 (November 7)
Outdated Cafe - Kingston, New York
5 miles
Double espresso

The Outdated Cafe is an old Coffeeneuring standby in the historic Uptown section of Kingston, New York. Another "next Brooklyn" outpost along the Hudson, Kingston was at one point the capital of New York State. Now a bit down on its lucky, following the departure of IBM in the mid-90s, Kingston contains several historic neighborhoods filled with 18th century stone homes ripe for hipster conversion. The Outdated Cafe serves as a vibrant community meeting place for patrons old and young who sit at long tables drinking great coffee and eating fine food. Some work, some play and others look at the antiques, most of which are for sale, that line the walls and shelves.

Ride 7 (November 19)
The Poughkeepsie Grind - Poughkeepsie, New York
6 miles

My final coffeeneuring journey of 2016 involved one of my favorite multi-modal locations in the Hudson Valley. The Walkway Over the Hudson was opened to the public in 2009 and brings hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from near and far to marvel at the beauty and spectacle of the Hudson River Valley. Once the site of a busy rail line linking trade from New England to the American Mid-West, the bridge fell out of use following a track fire during the early 1970s. After many years, the structure was converted to become the longest pedestrian bridge in the world towering 220 feet over the river below. On Saturday. following the bar mitzvah of a family friend, I parked at the lot on the west side of the river near my home and rode through throngs of tourists to Poughkeepsie where I enjoyed a hot cappuccino at The Poughkeepsie Grind, a new cafe with what I hope will be a long and bright future ahead of it.

And now to order that patch . . .