Honkin’ & Coffeeneurin’

I completed the 6th Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge this fall. What is Coffeeneuring, you ask?

Coffeeneuring is a play on the concept of Randonneuring. Originated by the folks at Chasing Mailboxes, the Coffeeneuring Challenge is an informal cycling endeavor for people who enjoy riding a bike and drinking coffee. 

The Coffeeneuring Challenge is essentially this:
•    over the course of 7 weeks, Oct. 7 – Nov. 20,
•    ride your bike 7 different places,
•    at least 2 miles round-trip each time,
•    drink 7 cups of coffee,
•    take 7 pictures as proof of your Coffeeneuring.

The Coffeeneuring Challenge has several rules, including:
•    Your ride must be at least two miles total, but there is no maximum.
•    You can only do a maximum of two coffeneuring rides per week, and only one per day.
•    You may not combine your coffeeneuring ride with any other organized ride.
•    You must adhere to the Spirit of Coffeeneuring…
and the rest of the Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Rules.

Bicyclists from all over the world are participating in the challenge, and based on these 2015 statistics, Seattle is one of the top locations for Coffeeneuring cyclists.

Theme Within a Theme:
Drive-Thru Espresso Stands in Seattle, WA

coffee-001On the Burke-Gilman Trail, where many of my rides begin and end, I pass by three drive-thru espresso stands. As I began Coffeeneuring, I started to notice these stands EVERYWHERE! There are at least seven within two miles of my house in Ballard.

I’ve always considered espresso stands to be an iconic symbol of the Pacific Northwest. One of the first things I did on my very first visit to Washington in April 1999 was get coffee at one of these stands. Within half an hour of getting off the band tour bus in Camas WA,  I was at an espresso stand wondering if I was violating a state law by walking up to the drive-thru window. The barista laughed and assured me it was ok that I was on foot. I was definitely not in New York City any more!

Although I went on a few Seattle Pastry Rides this fall with the Cascade Bicycle Club, my Coffeeneuring rides were mostly solo outings in pursuit of coffee. My theme turned into a Coffeeneuring adventure as I searched out espresso stands. By Coffeeneuring at these places, I didn’t need to lock my bike or go inside (although I had to be more strategic about bathroom stops).  I mapped the route with my Garmin and Ride With GPS for a total of 113.5 miles of Coffeeneuring, with all rides starting from my house.

Here are my Coffeeneuring destinations:


#1. Electric Cloud Coffee

  • Date — October 19
  • Mileage — 16.66 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 12 oz. Split-shot Americano
  • Location — Fremont Ave. N. & 4th Ave. N., Seattle, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Dolce
  • Weather — Cool, overcast, upper 50s

Most Bridges:

My first Coffeeneuring destination was at Electric Cloud in Fremont near the SW corner of the Fremont Bridge, under the looming Aurora Bridge. The barista was very friendly and we had a nice chat about saxophone players we know. I sat at a small table in the parking lot next to the stand and ate a pumpkin cookie from Ballard Market.

This adorable little place is close to three bike trails so it’s very bike friendly and easy to get to. But as with most of the drive-thru stands, I had to watch out for cars pulling up to the window. Excitement about beginning my Coffeeneuring adventure, combined with this excellent Americano, made for a great ride on a classic Seattle fall day.

On this ride, I delivered the Cascade Courier newsletter to Sproketts, a bike shop in Magnolia. Then I rode through Interbay to Pier 70 and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the Elliott Bay Trail. It was a nice mosey with lots of stops for photos of sculptures, ships and trains near Puget Sound. I saw this brightly colored girl on a skateboard and rode ahead of her to secretly take her photo. As she skated past me she apologized for ruining my photo and I thought, “No, you ARE the photo.”






Crossing the Fremont Bridge, looking down at the Burke-Gilman Trail and Ship Canal



#2. Pilgrim Coffeehouse Express

  • Date — October 25
  • Mileage — 12.7 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 12 oz. Split-shot Americano
  • Location — Northgate Way & Stone Ave N., Seattle, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Dolce
  • Weather — Warm, sunny, mid 60s

Most Unique:

I scouted out this stand by car as I was driving to do errands at Northgate and put it on my list to revisit by bike. Getting to it was a little bit of a challenge since it’s not on any of my usual bike routes, plus it’s only open until 1pm on M, T, Th, F — I had to be strategic about planning this ride. The espresso “trailer” is parked in the yard next to the Epic Life Church. It’s very bike friendly, and once I crossed busy Northgate, I was done dodging cars.

The owner, Justin Shaheen, was friendly and up for conversation. We talked about his relationship with the church and the neighborhood and his desire to build community around coffee. We also talked about bicycling, building websites, and his plans for a mobile coffee truck. The coffee was good but I misunderstood when asked if I wanted cream AND sugar and said yes — it was a tasty surprise but sugar in my coffee is not a new habit I need to embrace. I really got a nice feeling from this place and look forward to going back. [Pilgrim website]

From Northgate, I explored the area around North Seattle Community College, cruised mostly downhill to Greenlake, then down to catch the Burke-Gilman Trail with a rest stop at Lake Union. It was a beautiful day and I said hello to a few acquaintances who were also playing hooky on a precious sunny day in Seattle.



On the Burke-Gilman Trail looking at Lake Union



#3. Jumpin Jimmy’s Java

  • Date — October 28
  • Mileage — 10.6 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 8 oz. Americano
  • Location — 15th Ave. NW & 65th St., Seattle, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Hard Rock
  • Weather — Warm, sunny, mid 60s

Most “Meh”:

This was a very utilitarian ride: I was heading over to walk the dogs of my one dog-walk client, and I wanted to coffeeneur at this stand that I’ve driven by a million times. I rode my trusty vintage red Hard Rock, which is a great bike for errands and cruising in the neighborhood. The ride turned into a nice autumn afternoon mosey through Ballard, with a stop to walk the dogs, a photo op at Sunset Park over-looking Puget Sound, and a visit to the beach at Golden Gardens.

Coffeewise, this stand was pretty “meh.” It’s located on a busy corner that’s bike accessible but not bike friendly. I had to keep an eye out for cars turning in from busy 15th Ave. and from 65th St. Maybe it was because it was late in the day, but the barista was not interested in conversation or my tales of Coffeeneuring. There was no place to sit and enjoy my coffee and I shared the parking lot with an idling postal truck. Oh well…win some, lose some. I got in 10 miles on the bike. The dogs got a walk. The car stayed parked at home.










Coffee in the cage



#4. Seattle Commute Ride

  • Date — November 3
  • Mileage — 24.5 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 8 oz. Drip
  • Location — 9th & Westlake, Seattle, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Dolce
  • Weather — Cool, Sunny, mid 50s

Most Glorious:

This was a really fun bike ride with Cascade’s Machiko Threlkeld called a Multimodal Commute Group Ride. Calling it a group ride was a bit of a stretch as it was just me and Machiko. Calling it multimodal was a stretch unless you count the train and plane I saw at Interbay. Calling it a commute was a stretch since I work at home. But I had a blast and got a private lesson in bike commuting from Machiko, a Ride Leader with the Cascade Bike Club.

coffee-403I met up with Machiko at the University of Washington just as the sun was coming up over Mt. Rainier. We then commuted on the Burke-Gilman Trail, crossed the Fremont Bridge, and rode on the new Westlake Trail to South Lake Union Park. There we met up with other cyclists at the Commute Seattle / Washington Bikes: Ride in the Rain Breakfast. We were on trails the entire way and this event was geared to bike commuters…so yes, it was super bike friendly!

The coffee “stand” was a cargo trailer with self-serve coffee from Freewheel Cargo. I indulged in a Top Pot chocolate raspberry donut — why do baked goods and coffee taste sooo good on these bike rides? This is the fourth ride I’ve been on lately with Machiko that involved pastries and seeing her name as a ride leader now invokes a Pavlovian response for treats.

After Machiko peeled off to work, I continued down to the Seattle waterfront, cruised along the Elliott Bay Trail (again), and up through Interbay (again), stopping to take photos of trains and planes. From there I did a loop of Magnolia in the glorious morning sunshine where I was buzzed by a low-flying bald eagle. Then I finished my commute back home where I spent the rest of the day wrestling with WordPress and basking in the after-glow of a fabulous ride.





A train & a 737 jet fuselage at Interbay
A train & a 737 jet fuselage on the ride through Interbay


#5. coffee-501Espresso Works

  • Date — November 8
  • Mileage — 30.1 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 12 oz. Split-shot Iced Americano
  • Location — 6532 NE Bothell Way, Kenmore, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Dolce
  • Weather — Warm, sunny, lower 70s

Most Distance from Home:

Election Day in Seattle started out brilliantly sunny, warm and full of hope. No way was I going to miss a perfect day for biking by staying inside pretending to work. Plus my concentration was nil as anxiety about the outcome of the election made it impossible to sit still.

This ride was about getting in the miles. I didn’t have a specific coffee destination in mind but I knew the route had Coffeeneuring potential. I just wanted to do some serious pedaling while savoring the possibility that I could go to bed that night with a highly capable, experienced, intelligent woman elected to be our next president.

I rode far up north, then I cut over to the Burke-Gilman and out beyond Log Boom Park at the northern end of Lake Washington. Sure enough, I spotted an espresso stand across the busy highway: it was not in a bike-friendly location and it took some work to get there from the trail. The owner of the stand was friendly, and like many espresso stand baristas, seemed a little bored and lonely. She made a very refreshing iced Americano that was perfect for the warm day and the return trip to Ballard via the Burke-Gilman.

Unfortunately this glorious day of biking ended in crushing disappointment. That night I went to bed in stunned disbelief — as did many other highly capable, experienced, intelligent women — and I’m afraid that it will be a long time until I experience another bike ride as brilliant and hopeful as this one.








#6. K&J Espresso

  • Date — November 17
  • Mileage — 8.6 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 12 oz. Split-shot Iced Americano
  • Location — NW 36th St & Leary Way NW,
    by the Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Hard Rock
  • Weather — Cool, sunny, lower 50s

Most Statues:

This ride was a pure Coffeeneuring ride. The sun was out. The Coffeeneuring deadline was looming. My November Ride in the Rain milage was lagging. I saved the two easiest destinations for last, knowing that I could hit them with a quick out-n-back if necessary.

This stand is located just a couple yards off the Burke-Gilman at Fleur De Lis Garden Ornaments in Fremont. I nicknamed it Statue Coffee since it’s in a lot surrounded by garden statues. This is the stand that originally inspired my “theme within a theme” as I thought, “hey…I should stop there for coffee sometime.”

I struck up a nice conversation with one of the owners, the K in K&J. In my Coffeeneuring adventure, I’ve observed that when things are slow, baristas in these espresso stands are usually happy for someone to talk to. There’s nothing like being lonesome in a drive-thru espresso stand to bust through the Seattle Freeze. Being somewhat shy myself, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to chat with people, knowing that they weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere…and if things felt awkward, well, I’m the one with the bike!

I ordered a well-made iced Americano which traveled well in my water bottle. From there I continued on the Burke-Gilman, across the Fremont Bridge, and down the Westlake Trail to South Lake Union Park, where I enjoyed the view and some Theo Chocolate I had brought along for the ride.

(I stopped here again at the end of a ride on Nov. 26th and met the J in K&J. He made an Americano that confirms who has the best coffee on the BG.)








#7. Lucca Espresso

  • Date — November 19
  • Mileage — 10.3 miles r.t.
  • Drink — 12 oz. Split-shot Americano
  • Location — 8th Ave NW & Bright St.,
    by the Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle, WA
  • Bike — Specialized Hard Rock
  • Weather — Cool, rainy, lower 50s

Most Democrats:

This espresso stand was both the easiest and most challenging one to get to because it’s less than a mile from my house. I wanted to be creative about my final Coffeeneuring destination and turn it into a fun ride. November is also the rainiest month here in Seattle so the opportunities for rain-free riding were…ummm, drying up. Even though I’ve been logging my miles in the Washington Bikes Ride in the Rain Challenge, the only time I rode in the rain in October and November was on two group rides with the Cascade Bicycle Club. Otherwise I had the option of doing my Coffeeneuring rides in pleasant autumn weather.

This ride had two goals. One was to participate in Hands Around Green Lake, where an estimated 3000 people made a three mile loop around the lake in a peaceful protest against President-elect Donald Trump and his brand of intolerance. In my outrage and grief over the election, I somehow find myself believing that I’m alone in my despair. Then I leave my house and I realize that I’m surrounded by people who feel the same way I do.  So I rode my bike over to the Green Lake Protest and took comfort in being around like-minded peeps in this beautiful blue-state bubble of Seattle.

My other goal was to do Coffeeneuring ride #7 at the espresso stand closest to me on the Burke-Gilman. For this ride, I rode my Hard Rock because it’s easier to ride in the rain, and to maneuver slowly on a path filled with people. After the Green Lake protest ended, I carefully made my way through the crowds, traffic and rain and headed downhill towards Lake Union and the Burke-Gilman. From there it was a familiar mosey to Lucca Espresso, which is in a lot next to the Fred Meyer store near the Burke-Gilman. It was a quiet afternoon at this stand and there were no cars to dodge for a change. I ended my Coffeneuring adventure the same way I started it: on a classic, cool Seattle fall day with an excellent split-shot Americano and a pumpkin cookie from Ballard Market.



Hands Around Green Lake Protest: 3000 people in a 3 mile loop around the lake





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