I did it. I completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge for the first time in several years. For the last few years I’ve dabbled in coffeeneuring, but haven’t taken the effort to complete the challenge. For those unfamiliar, Coffeeneuring is a challenge that basically revolves around biking and coffee/tea, requiring you to go on seven bike-based coffee/tea outings over a seven week period. The challenge normally runs from the beginning of October through right before Thanksgiving. I’ve completed the challenge 3-4 times before.
With being unemployed currently and with the current state of pandemic world, this seemed like a good way to stay active. In the past you could only complete coffeeneuring outings on the weekends, which often meant trekking out into whatever weather the weekends handed you, but that restriction was loosened this year. With that change and with a relatively mild autumn so far, this was a pretty pleasant year of coffeeneuring.
Trip One – 10/10/2020 – Tupelo Honey Teas (~13.5 miles)
This was a multi-stop trip. My friend Erin met me at my house in Bloomfield and we rode our bikes over to the Northside, picking up burgers and fries from Burgatory that we ate on the water steps overlooking the river and downtown. After laying in the sun for a bit letting our food settle, we rode back up the riverside trail to Millvale and got Scottish Breakfast iced teas from Tupelo Honey Teas. We walked out bikes down the street to the Millvale pocket park where we once again took some time to chill before tackling the ride back across the river, up the hill and back to Bloomfield. Once back at my place we busted into a fresh apple pie I had made and chilled in the backyard.
Trip Two – 10/17/2020 – Kaibur (4.13 miles)
Another ride with Erin. She had a hankering for “punk toast”, the speciality of Kaibur Coffee, the punk-run cafe in Polish Hill, so we headed over there. It was a chilly morning, so we were prepared to sit outside with some blankets and some seat pads. We picked up our order, dumped our hot beverages (Earl Grey tea for me) into our thermoses and relocated to the concrete wedge of a parklet at the corner of Dobson and Brereton, just up the street from Kaibur, to eat our breakfast. The sun was out, so while it was chilly, things warmed up quickly. It was a lovely way to spend a morning.
Trip Three – 10/18/2020 – Laurel Highlands (~18 miles)
Emma loaded up our adventure bikes on the car and drove out to the Laurel Highlands and met up with our friends Kitaira and Chris. The plan was a route that Emma cooked up from part of a gravel ride outlined in the PA Public Lands rides. We stopped at an overlook a bit over halfway through out ride and had a picnic. There was a distinct mix of fancy snacks (tiny dill pickles, fancy vegan cheese and crackers, grapes, etc) and garbage snacks (gummies, trashy trail mix, etc). Emma and I packed hot cocoa. The mix of snacks, cocoa and some tough climbs after we picnic’d was not the best idea, but we persevered. Saw some covered bridges, a swimming hole, some of those big-horned cattle. Another beautiful sunny day with some hard riding. Felt good.
Trip Four – 11/3/2020 – Dead Man’s Hollow (42.32 miles)
Election day and neither Erin nor I wanted to sit around doom-scrolling the internet so we headed out on the GAP trail about 20 miles to Dead Man’s Hollow to partake in some Coffeeshop Without Walls. I packed the camp stove, some mugs and everything needed to make tea in the wild. We sat amongst the ruins of what must have been an old barn and cooked up some Uhlman Tea, a smoky tea with a little spiciness too it (it’s got them cardomom seeds in it). I was even fancy and packed some soy creamer so we could smooth it out with a little milk. Erin “forgot” to bring her bike lights with her, so while we intended to stay out longer than we did, we had to hoof it back to the city before it got completely dark. The sun was setting as we got to the Hot Metal Bridge. I shepherded Erin across town with my lights and we both got back safely.
Trip Five – 11/8/2020 – Laurel Summit State Park (~16 miles)
It was Erin’s birthday week and as part of her birthday we got away to the Laurel Highlands for a couple days to ride bikes. We stayed at a Airbnb in Laughlintown and on the second day there we worked out a roughly 16 mile loop starting in Laurel Summit State Park, visiting Wolf Rocks and then looping around a bunch of Forbes State Forest. It was Erin’s first time tackling this much gravel and mixed surface roads, but she performed well. We originally planned to make tea midway through the ride (I once again packed the camp setup), but we ended up waiting until the end of the ride and making tea at the picnic area of Laurel Summit to celebrate the completion of our ride instead.
Trip Six – 11/14/2020 – B52 (4.25 miles)
Another chilly morning, starting in the 30’s, so Erin came by once again packing insulated seat pads and puffy blankets. We rode from my place down through Allegheny Cemetery and got cinnamon rolls and chai from B52. The original plan was to head back to the cemetery and hang out there, but I had been checking out the maps and thought there might be good Allegheny River access just a block or so away at the end of McCandless Ave. Sure enough, there was a set of steps down to a large concrete structure that was in the sun. Chilly but pretty near perfect when you tossed a blanket on top of you. There were some half-smashed pumpkins floating along the edge of the river. I was able to pick one up and hurl it from about 8 feet above the water but unfortunately missed the target of the large concrete chunk in the water, so not quite the impressive explosion I hoped for.
Trip Seven – 11/21/2020 – Big Dog Coffee (~12 miles)
Erin and I had planned to complete this trip the day before when it was sunny and warm, but after Emma and I took Erin out for her first mountain biking excursion and then consuming some Baby Loves Tacos, we were all a bit spent. Saturday was supposed to still be sunny and warmish, but we got light rain and a bit cooler instead. Oh well, what’s a better way to end coffeeneuring that a cold, wet ride? We departed in a light mist that would go on and off while we biked across town to Big Dog in the Southside. We got our drinks, a orange blossom oolong tea for me, dumped them into our thermoses and then headed over to Thick Bikes, as Erin wanted to begin a conversation with them about buying a mountain bike. We arrived to a short wait outside, which worked out well and allowed us to consume most of our drinks. Once we got inside, mountain bike pickings were thin, but they did have a nice new Specialized Fuse, which just happened to be the bike model that Erin had borrowed from Emma the day before and was also in Erin’s size. Taking this as a sign, Erin pulled the trigger, purchasing herself a new mountain bike with little fanfare. By the time that bike shop transactions were completed, the rain had stopped and we had a nice, grey ride back across town, thus completing this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge.