On the ski hills, on the bike trails, and thru life in general

Posts tagged ‘coffeeneuring’

2016 Coffeeneuring

After almost a year of not blogging about any ski or bike trips (or anything else, for that mater), the annual  Coffeeneuring Challenge has shamed me into action. You can read all about it in the link provided but, in a nutshell, the challenge by biking blogger Chasing Mailboxes is to visit 7 different coffee shops between October 7th and November 20th, with a maximum of 2 visits per week. I normally park the bikes once the snow flies and, since I live near Edmonton, Alberta, the snow usually flies early. So my challenge isn’t to find different coffee shops, it is to beat winter! There are a few more rules to follow but all are quite doable, especially for a retired guy. I completed the challenge in 2013 and 2014 but missed last year while in Italy and Slovenia on organized bike trips at the time (planned bike trips are ineligible). So this is my official documentation for 2016.

Coffeeneuring #1:

Hot chocolate on a chilly day. On the viewing deck on Big Lake.

Hot chocolate on a chilly day. On the viewing deck on Big Lake.

When: Friday, October 7, 2016

Where: Lois Hole Provincial Park, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada (Invoking the “Coffee Shop Without Walls” rule).

What: Hot chocolate from a thermos

Distance: 16.0 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11411648

Bike Friendliness: 3/5. A 3- or 4-bike lockup post just off the deck but rarely used unless people wander off out of sight.

Weather: -2C, overcast and windy.

Leaves littering the trail through the wooded area.

Leaves littering the trail through the wooded area.

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Coffeeneuring #2

We got hit with, what I hope, was an early season snowfall on the 8th and 9th. Not a lot of snow, about 10 cms (4 inches) total, but the ground was cold enough to retain it on the greenery (brownery?). The roads and trails, thankfully, managed to retain enough summer heat to melt off after a while so I was able to venture out today without worrying too much about the traction. I did my usual ride out to Big Lake then veered off on a part of the trail that has been closed for over a year due to nearby condo construction. I  circumvented the concrete barriers that still bar the trail (is the city ever going to remove them?) to visit Good Earth Cafe. This is the go-to coffee shop for our club rides in St. Albert in the summer, mainly because of the large common patio just outside it’s doors. And having decent coffee and treats. A little too cool to sit outside today though.

Warm inside but snowy outside.

Warm inside but snowy outside.

When: Monday, October 10, 2016

Where: Good Earth Cafe, St. Albert

What: Black coffee and praline brownie

Distance: 16.5 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11457311

Bike Friendliness: 4/5. Few bike racks but plenty of space to park bikes by shop.

Weather: -1C, overcast. Snow lingers on ground from recent snowfall but trails are clear.

Two days after our first snowfall. Trails are clear though.

Two days after our first snowfall. Gotta watch out for slippery leaves!

The Sturgeon River in downtown St. Albert on a damp, -1C day.

The Sturgeon River in downtown St. Albert on a damp, -1C day.

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Coffeeneuring #3

After last week’s early snowfall, we had yet another 10 cm dump on October 14th. So much for starting week 2 of coffeeneuring on a high note :(. The temperature has hovered between -4C and +2C all week under cloudy skies so not much melting has been going on. Thankfully, the city has plowed the trails and they are mostly ice-free. Today’s excursion was my usual route out to Big Lake again, with a side trip to the Glasshouse Bistro. I imagine that it gets it’s name due to the fact that it is housed in one of the largest, if not the largest, greenhouse/garden centres in the Edmonton area.

Latte and a chocolatey muffin on a cool day.

Latte and a chocolatey muffin on a cool day.

When: Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where: Glasshouse Bistro and Cafe

What: Latte and double chocolate muffin

Distance: 18.6 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11564541

Bike Friendliness: 3/5. One bike rack (although it holds ~6 bikes) about 100 feet from the entrance. I have locked to it many times but today I just chained my bike to a fence by the door.

Weather: -1C, overcast, with a penetrating dampness.

The trestle rail bridge on a gray day.

The trestle rail bridge on a gray day.

The viewing deck at Big Lake, complete with snowman on the picnic table.

The viewing deck at Big Lake, complete with snowman on the picnic table. Glad that people are having fun with this early snow 🙂

My requisite picture of the trail though the woods. Looks much the same as a week ago.

My requisite picture of the trail though the woods. Looks much the same as a week ago. Fewer leaves on the trail though.

The beavers doing what beavers do, munching down trees near the river.

The beavers doing what beavers do, munching down trees near the river.

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Coffeeneuring #4

The weather has finally changed to more bike-friendly, and biker-friendly, conditions. After almost 2 weeks of snow and temps hovering around 0C, we are now having “normal” fall conditions – normal for here being sunny and 5C to 10C. The city kept most of the trails swept clean during the cold spell but the thaw has meant snow melting during the day, flowing across the trails and freezing at night. A thin layer of melt on top of the ice patches is perfect for unseating an unwary cyclist 😦 The trails were actually in better shape when it was cold!

I went on my usual ride out to Big Lake, in Lois Hole Provincial Park, around lunchtime. Although my wife saw some trumpeter swans out there in the morning, they must have been hiding by the time I got there. Lots of Canada Geese and various ducks though. The temp was +2C when I left home and I’m glad that I dressed in layers as I was forced to shed a number of times during the ride. Nice to feel the heat of the sun again! The snow has pretty well disappeared, except in the shadowy and north-facing areas. Still some ice on the ponds and puddles though.

After my out-and-back to Big Lake, I decided to head to the north end of St. Albert. There is a new commercial development out by the Costco, which includes a Tim Hortons that I have not visited before. Not that I am a big fan of chain coffee shops – I would rather patronize the independents – but there are also some nice trails at that end of town that make for a reasonably scenic trip. But no independent coffee shops 😦

Coffee and very chocolaty muffin at Tims.

Coffee and very chocolaty muffin at Tims.

When: Saturday, October 22, 2016

Where: Tim Hortons, 1075 St. Albert Trail

What: Coffee and chocolate lava muffin

Distance: 26 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11617660

Bike Friendliness: 3/5. Three bike posts outside the coffee shop and another 3 about 50 feet away, so good for 6 bikes. Other than that, would have to lean bikes against walls or windows. Could be much better since there is adequate space for more posts but, being in a “power centre” where bikes are not the normal mode of shopping transportation, I suppose it is adequate. Typical for Tims though.

Weather: Sunny (yay!!) and +2C when I left home. +6 by the time I returned 90 minutes later.

Snow mostly gone from bush (compare this to the previous entry).

Snow mostly gone from bush (compare this to the Coffeeneuring #3 entry above).

Trail through a park by a decorative, but functional, storm water pond.

Trail through a park by a decorative, but functional, storm water pond.

Still snow in the shadowy areas but trails clear.

Still snow in the shadowy areas but trails clear.

Some nice trails in the north end of town - backyards on one side, bush on the other.

Some nice trails in the north end of town – backyards on one side, bush on the other.

I think the remains of a snowman on the trail.

I think the remains of a snowman on the trail.

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Coffeeneuring #5

Taking advantage of the sunny weather while we still have it, I went out to the garage to prepare for another coffee ride. Well damn! A flat front tire! Thankful that it didn’t happen while on the ride, I put a new tube in and set out. My plan was to ride out to Big Lake (again) and check out a coffee shop in St. Albert that is now under new management, complete with a new name, on my way back. As I noted on yesterday’s ride, all the melting during the day has resulted in a lot more icy patches to contend with after the overnight freezes. It was down to -6C last night so I expected the usual wet areas of the trail to be a little treacherous. After the first 7 km, my front tire was feeling squishy so I added more air. It had me concerned though – I had filled it up adequately when I changed it earlier. Did I miss a tiny wire or stone poking through the tire? I had felt all the way around inside the tire and didn’t feel anything. The hole that I found in the previous tube was just a pin prick so it was definitely something small that caused the flat. I had wanted to do a little exploring today but, preferring to have to change the tube in the comfort of my garage rather than in the cold (it was 0C when I left) I headed for the coffee shop.

As I anticipated, the normally wet areas on the trail were now covered in sheets of ice. I managed a little skid on one of them when I was forced to make a slight steering adjustment but stayed upright. One helpful walker even offered a warning of ice ahead around a bend, which I appreciated. I checked my tire again at the coffee shop and, sure enough, it was down again. I pumped it up again, had a quick coffee and muffin, and boogied off back home.  The Sips and Sweets Cafe – formerly La Crema Caffe, formerly St. Thomas Coffee Shop…) seemed to be no different from it’s previous incarnation, just with a new name on the inside. All the La Crema signs were still up outside. Can’t really say that I noticed any difference at all but I only go there once or twice a year. The latte was passable but the barista was evidently not trained in coffee art. Doesn’t affect the taste, of course, but helps with the presentation!

Once home, I pulled the tube and put in my third tube of the day! Still can’t find the hole though. Some days, biking is just like that.

Latte, muffin, and a slowly deflating front tire.

Latte, muffin, and a slowly deflating front tire. And my Year 2 Coffeeneuring patch (2013, I think).

When: Sunday, October 23, 2016

Where: Sips and Sweets Cafe, St. Albert, AB

What: Latte (nothing to rave about) and blueberry muffin.

Distance: 15.8 km, on a flattening tire shortened day.

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11632695

Bike Friendliness: 4/5. Three bike posts (good for 6 bikes) across the street and a wrought iron patio fence, good for another 6 or so.

Weather: Sunny, 0C when I left home, +2C when I got back. Nice day for trail riding.

Too much of a hurry to get home so no other pictures from the ride.


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Coffeeneuring #6

After a wet, dreary week I was finally able to get back in the saddle and continue my quest for 2016 coffeeneuring success. Although the weather still wasn’t the best – typical of late October in these parts – it had been a week since I was last on the bike, so off I went to search for new and better coffee experiences. One of the aborted aims of last week’s ride was to find the location of a new coffee shop that I had heard about. Not wanting to just meander last week with a slowly deflating tire, I instead went to a centrally located cafe. This week, after my usual trip to Lois Hole Provincial Park, I cruised around to try to find the hole-in-the-wall location of DaVinci’s Cafe. It turned out to be hidden in a back lane in an industrial park near the park. The place is just a gem though – a small family-run independent shop with great coffee selections and a yummy looking lunch menu. They are actually a gelato making operation and the coffee shop is a new, and very welcome, addition. Thus it’s location in a bay of the gelato plant.

Even cool, grey days can generate some internal sunshine! Glad I went out today.

Treats, coffeeneuring patch and part of my rear tire through the window.

Treats, coffeeneuring patch and part of my rear tire through the window.

When: Saturday, October 29, 2016

Where: DaVinci’s Cafe and Gelato, St. Albert, AB

What: Latte and chocolate chip muffin

Distance: 16.9 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11710550

Bike Friendliness: 1/5. No bike racks, nothing to chain up to, and even limited vehicle parking due to it’s back lane location.

Weather: +2C (36F), misty and damp but no precipitation.

The ever changing patterns of the duckweed on the wetland ponds are always intriguing.

The ever changing patterns of the duckweed on the wetland ponds are always intriguing.

Kind of like a monochromatic pointillism that changes with the meager current.

Kind of like a monochromatic pointillism that changes with the meager current. One of these times I expect “The Scream” to appear!

DaVinci's location in a refurbished bay of an industrial building. Pretty well the only place I could park my bike, with a giant ghost guarding the other empty spot.

DaVinci’s location in a refurbished bay of an industrial building. Pretty well the only place I could park my bike, with a giant ghost guarding the other empty spot.

The trees are almost leafless now, waiting for the white stuff.

The trees are almost leafless now, waiting for the white stuff.

The Sturgeon River from the Woodlands/Oakmont foot bridge.

The Sturgeon River from the Woodlands/Oakmont foot bridge.


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Coffeeneuring #7

October was an abysmal month for biking – cold and snowy when it wasn’t cold and rainy – with only rare glimpses of sun. November, however, has broken all sorts of records around here for warmth! Instead of turning the clocks back an hour, like we have to do tonight, it seems that the weather gods have turned their clocks back a month or two. I wasn’t able to make use of the nice weather earlier in the week (highs of 18-20C) but got out today for my last coffeeneuring ride. Not my last ride of the year though, I hope, with the good weather forecast to last at least for another week.

I did my usual route out to Big Lake, stopping at the waterfowl viewing platform and walking the boardwalk through the wetlands. Not a breath of wind was rippling the water – it was the calmest that I have seen the lake for some time. Still some ducks and geese hanging around and I was able to watch a muskrat swimming back and forth gathering food for future use.

It was a pleasant ride and there were lots of people on the trails taking advantage of the nice weather. I like seeing people enjoy the trail but having to avoid all the dog walkers who think the trail was made for only them and their dogs on 8-foot leashes gets frustrating after a while. But that’s what I get for going out on a sunny Saturday.

I had a surprise at the coffee shop. They rotate their urns through the usual Second Cup offerings and I normally get whatever medium roast is displayed. Today it was “Holiday Blend” WTF?? It’s only the beginning of November, not even to Remembrance Day, and they are already flogging their Christmas offering? Sorry – Holiday offering. It’s akin to stores putting up their Xmas decorations as soon as Halloween is over. I told the barista that I thought it was a tad early but she just shrugged it off. Maybe I was just getting owly after avoiding all the dogs :/ At least it was nice enough out to let me sit outside for the first time this coffeeneuring season!

Able to sit outside for the first time this coffeeneuring season!

Able to sit outside for the first time this coffeeneuring season!

When: Saturday, November 5, 2016

Where: Second Cup, corner of Bellerose and Inglewood, St. Albert, AB

What: Coffee (Holiday Blend, whatever that is) and lemon-poppyseed muffin

Distance: 16.4 km

Ride Link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/11802151

Bike Friendliness: 2/5. No racks but an iron patio fence to chain up to, good for a few bikes.

Weather: Partially sunny but +9C (50F) and dead calm. Ending the challenge on a high note!

Not a ripple in the wetland ponds, mirroring the boardwalk and vegetation.

Not a ripple in the wetland ponds, mirroring the boardwalk and vegetation.

The trail through the woods, now snowless and dry as well as leafless.

The trail through the woods, now snowless and dry as well as leafless.

A beautiful day for November in the north. Great for getting out in the kayaks and enjoying the Sturgeon River.

A beautiful day for November in central Alberta. Great for getting out in the kayaks and enjoying the Sturgeon River.

 

 

 

Coffeeneuring 2014 Compilation

The Coffeeneuring Challenge is a great one because it not only ensures that I go for a ride at least twice a week at a time of year when the weather here could be really iffy but that I also report on said ride. Although I have ridden lots this summer, my discipline for blogging, about riding or anything else, has been pitifully non-existent. So Mary G. forcing me to get behind the keyboard may be the incentive I need to get these posts going again. I have been Tweeting each Coffeeneuring ride (@cruisindownhill) but 140 characters seems so unsatisfying (says the guy who hasn’t put word to blog since June). So I’ll offer a little more detail, and pictures where I have them, here. I’ll be updating this post with each new ride so it will end up being my 2014 coffeeneuring compilation.

Coffeeneuring Ride #1: Oct. 4 – To the market

With only 1 week left in the St. Albert Farmer’s Market, touted to the be largest in Western Canada, it was a good opportunity to take advantage of Rule 2 – visiting a “coffee shop without walls”. My route from home to Big Lake passes right by the market, going and coming, so I did my usual ride down to the wildlife watching platform and boardwalk before heading over to the market for vittles.

It was a sunny and windy 15C and a nice day for riding. Because I had been biking in BC for the previous week and the weather the week before that was abysmal (0C and snow), I hadn’t been on the trail for a while. Three weeks ago it was summer. Now, it was plainly fall. Leaves littered the trail, most of the waterfowl have moved on, and brown is becoming the dominant colour. Thankfully, we still have some tamaracks adding a little gold, and yellowing poplars, but that little dash of colour won’t be here much longer.

Still a few green bullrush stalks in the wetland. Not for much longer though.

Still a few green bullrush stalks in the wetland. Not for much longer though.

Some gold with the fading greens and browns.

Some gold with the fading greens and browns.

The trail on September 1st.

The trail on September 1st.

The trail on October 4th.

Same trail on October 4th.

At the market, I chatted with a friend who makes and sells Health Crunch granola bars, bought a few, got some broccoli requested by my wife, then went over to the food truck area to find a beverage. The latte, from Molly’s Eats, was acceptable, especially when coupled with a 72% bitter-sweet dark Belgian chocolate covered granola bar, and I enjoyed my snack while sitting on the side of a fountain that had been drained for the winter. Yes, winter is coming.

Molly's Eats food truck at St. Albert Farmer's Market.

Molly’s Eats food truck at St. Albert Farmer’s Market.

My latte and granola bar and informal seating on a fountain.

My latte and granola bar and informal seating on a fountain.

When: Sat. Oct. 4:

Where: Molly’s Eats food truck at St. Albert Farmer’s Market

What: Latte, in a paper cup, and a granola bar.

Bike Friendliness: A few racks by St. Albert Place (housing city hall, library, etc.), though not nearly enough in mid-summer when the market is packed. The LBS at the corner of the market, though, offers monitored bike parking. I usually chain up to a convenient tree or lamp post in a green space bordering the market. Never have had trouble finding a secure place to park my bike. Rating 4/5.

Distance: 16.5 km

 

Coffeeneuring Ride #2: Oct. 5 – Road Ride

The weather was too nice to pass up, sunny and mid-teens, so 5 of us gathered at the Ardrossan Rec Centre for a ride up to Fort Saskatchewan and back. It was a familiar route, having done variations of it a bunch of times over the summer. Rolling terrain, light traffic and good asphalt make this an enjoyable area to ride in. We always stop at the Timmy’s in the Fort for a coffee so it was perfect for a Sunday coffeeneuring ride. Heading right into a 44kph NW wind for the first 20 km, we definitely earned our treats! The ride back, taking a longer route, was far more enjoyable (and significantly faster) since we had the wind in our favour most of the way.

Tim's coffee and muffin in Fort Saskatchewan.

Tim’s coffee and muffin in Fort Saskatchewan.

Mural on the side of the Ardrossan Rec Centre

Mural on the side of the Ardrossan Rec Centre

Route

When: Sun. Oct 5

Where: Tim Horton’s, Fort Saskatchewan

What: Coffee and chocolate chip muffin

Bike Friendliness: There is one rack outside the coffee shop, usually full. We normally lean our bikes against a fence bordering one side of the parking lot, by some picnic tables, and station someone there to watch them while we get our coffees. It’s also a popular spot for bikes of the 1200cc variety and the owners are usually sitting at the picnic tables. Rating 2.5/5.

Distance: 53.3 km

 

Coffeeneuring Ride #3: Oct. 11 – Dutch Delicious

One of St. Albert’s less endearing qualities is a distinct lack of good, independent coffee shops. There are numerous Timmy’s, Starbucks, and Second Cups, but, after the demise of Arcadia, only 1 other independent (La Crema, which I will visit later on). So, trying not to rely on the chains to fulfill all of my coffeeneuring requirements, I headed off to the big city.

St. Albert abuts Edmonton but there is an industrial buffer between the 2 cities and it isn’t the prettiest ride. There are a couple of safe routes to take – i.e. ones where you are not compelled to ride on the busy roads – but I wouldn’t call them scenic. Regardless, I have ridden the routes many times this season and they are old hat by now. I did my usual research – consulting urbanspoon for coffee shops within a reasonable distance from home – and decided to check out what I thought was just a bakery that possibly had coffee.

Located about 11 km away, the Dutch Delicious Bakery was a pleasant surprise. Located in a strip mall by a traffic circle, there are no bike racks anywhere around and I had to resort to chaining my bike up to a pillar in front of the store. It is small, with only 3 2-person tables inside, but well worth the visit. It is not really a coffee shop, more set up as a retail establishment selling mostly Dutch items, from pastries to clogs, and it was constantly busy the whole time I was in there. When I asked for a coffee and a cinnamon bun, after much perusing of the plentiful assortment of baked goods, the clerk answered “You know that we charge for coffee now, don’t you?” Excuse me? I guess coffee used to be free with pastries in the recent past! I wish I had known about this place before.

Coffee and cinnamon bun. Yes I ate all of it. Yes it was good.

Coffee and cinnamon bun. Yes I ate all of it. Yes it was good.

I had just settled at my tiny table when to my surprise, another cyclist leaned his bike against the window outside and came in. As we chatted, he said that he had been coming here for years and told me that he brought a dozen or so cyclists here after a long ride a few weeks before. So the store is used to having bikes leaning against their windows and a milling crowd out front. Nice atmosphere, friendly staff, and great coffee and treats. I’m glad I came and I’ll be back.

Limited bike parking, and by limited I mean chain up to whatever is handy. Or lean your bike against the window. They don't seem to mind.

Limited bike parking, and by limited I mean chain up to whatever is handy. Or lean your bike against the window. They don’t seem to mind.

Click to see the route.

When: Sat. Oct 11

Where: Dutch Delicious Bakery, Edmonton, AB.

What: Coffee and cinnamon bun

Bike Friendliness: Distinctly unfriendly but that doesn’t seem to stop bikers stopping by – tasty treats will do that. No racks and no place to put one. Two pillars in front could secure 4 bikes in a pinch. Rating 1/5.

Distance: 27.5 km

 

Coffeeneuring Ride #4: Oct. 12 – Warm but windy

For some reason – perhaps a combination of being too tense hunched over my handlebars and starting up squash season again – my right shoulder has become quite painful of late. Stretching and a chiropractor haven’t helped much so it looks like rest might be in order. My last few rides have been pretty uncomfortable, squirming around trying to find a pain-free position (sitting straight up with my right arm dangling by my side seems to work best but not an efficient riding stance) so I thought that I would just do a short ride today. As I mentioned yesterday, La Crema Caffe in St. Albert is the closest independent coffee shop so that became my #4 coffeeneuring destination.

The usual ride out to Big Lake was uneventful, except for the howling wind (gusting to 52 kph) making things interesting when in my one-armed stance. Thank goodness most of the ride is in the trees! Surprisingly, the waterfowl that haven’t yet joined their friends in the migration were not hunkering down in the weeds but were happily swimming, diving, dipping and whatever else happy ducks do while being buffeted by wind and waves. But, then again, it’s hard to tell when a duck is happy.

On the way to Big Lake. A sunny, warm,  and colourful, but windy, day.

On the way to Big Lake. A sunny, warm, and colourful, but windy, day.

Bullrushes in the wetland, from the Poole boardwalk.

Bulrushes in the wetland, from the Poole boardwalk.

Tamaracks bending in the wind.

Tamaracks bending in the wind, needles being blown off.

Won't be long now until the trees are completely bare.

There is a bike trail under there somewhere. Won’t be long now until the trees are completely bare.

La Crema was as I remembered from the last time I visited, which was for last year’s coffeeneuring challenge. Decent goodies and coffee selection but absurdly expensive. Eight bucks for a small latte and a smaller cinnamon bun? That’s why it is only a once-a-year destination for me, cheap-ass that I am.

Latte and cinnamon bun. That's 2 days in a row for cinnamon buns - I must have a craving.

Latte and cinnamon bun. That’s 2 days in a row for cinnamon buns – I must have a craving.

When I arrived, I noticed 3 road bikes leaning against their patio fence, with the owners inside (too blustery to sit outside today). Since it is the only remaining coffee shop in downtown St. Albert, it is now the de facto caffination destination for the two-wheelers who need a break.

When: Sun. Oct 12

Where: La Crema Caffe, St. Albert, AB.

What: Latte and cinnamon bun

Bike Friendliness: No bike racks. The fence around the patio is good to lean bikes against but no way to secure them. Have to be watched. Three arty racks across the street are good for securing 6 bikes. Rating 2/5.

Distance: 17 km

 

Coffeeneuring Ride #5: Oct 18 – Elm Cafe

In my coffeeneuring quest to attempt to patronize small, independent coffee shops as much as possible, I ventured into Edmonton to check out the Elm Café. It is located in the Oliver neighbourhood, just west of downtown, and the ride there was decidedly unscenic with much of the ride on either multi-use trails beside arterial roads or on high-density housing residential streets. Thankfully, there is a good system of designated bike routes into the area so there was not much traffic to contend with. Edmonton is striving to become more bike friendly and this is one of the easier areas to access from St. Albert.

Elm Street certainly fits in the category of small coffee shops – I’m sure there are bigger food trucks! I’m also sure that I have slept in bigger tents in my bush days. It is tucked into a corner of a low-rise medical building and surrounded by apartment buildings and small businesses. Seating is minimal, with only 4 window stools inside and 5 2-person tables on a tightly cramped patio, but it is mainly a take-out place for coffee and sandwiches so that is to be expected. The good reviews I had read of the place were spot on. I had a very nice small latte and an oatmeal cookie and spent my time watching the steady stream of customers in and out of the place. It is obviously a popular destination, with quality goodies.

Small latte, big cookie. And fog on the lens :(

Small latte, big cookie. And fog on the lens 😦

I took the same designated bike routes back through the residential areas in Edmonton on my return trip but then turned west down 137 Ave. so that I could get back to St. Albert via Big Lake and the Red Willow trail. It was another glorious, sunny and warm fall day and I took my time riding on the trail and did the odd bit of exploring. The city/province has been developing a new access into the Lois Hole Provincial Park from Ray Gibbon Drive and it looked close to completion. The road has been packed and looks soon to be paved so, with no construction equipment on it today, I rode its extent from the Poole boardwalk to Ray Gibbon. There are still concrete barriers at Ray Gibbon to prevent vehicular access but it will be a good way of getting to the Enjoy Centre next year.

Stopped for a while to watch the boys of fall.

Stopped for a while to watch the boys of fall.

Oct 18. Yup - fall is here.

Oct 18. Yup – fall is here.

There were lots of people out enjoying this last stretch of shirtsleeve weather – cycling, jogging, walking, watching/playing football, even picnicking. The forecast is for yet another week of temperature into the teens (that`s 50`s for the Fahrenheit crowd). Here`s hoping.

 

When: Sat. Oct 18

Where: Elm Café, Edmonton, AB.

What: Small latte, large oatmeal cookie

Bike Friendliness: The tone of the place would seem to appeal to the bikey crowd but there is NO bike parking whatsoever. I had to chain up to the railing bordering the miniscule patio but had to lift my bike over the landscaping of large rocks/boulders to do so. I would have taken a picture of the arrangement but the patrons sitting at the table on the other side of the railing didn`t seem amused.

Rating 0.5/5.

Distance: 46 km

 

Coffeeneuring Ride #6: Sun. Oct. 19 – Elk Island

With the temperatures still in the mid-teens, it was a perfect day to head out for a road ride. A group of us decided to drive out east of the city to Elk Island National Park and do a ride through the park to Lamont and back. We have done this ~50 km route many times before and it never gets old. Light traffic, smooth asphalt, rolling terrain, wildlife (the 4-footed kind), and a great training hill just before Lamont – it is one of the best road rides in the Edmonton region. And we always stop in town for refreshments.

It was sunny, with a stiff south wind, so we enjoyed the north-bound leg of our ride. Although the park is named Elk Island, it is not an island (i.e. land surrounded by water) and I have never seen an elk here. The predominant large mammals here are plains bison and the park has 100’s of them, all free roaming in a completely fenced park (fenced meaning island, I guess). Once you pass over the Texas gates close to the north and south road entrances, you are in their territory. They seem to have a distinct dislike to cyclists, probably because we are so quiet compared to cars, and this is rutting season so there was extra incentive to be on the lookout. More than once, we have been stared down by a large bull on the road daring us to encroach on his harem. In those cases, we wait until they clear the road, all on the same side, then warily pass. That said, we all hope to see them because they are such an impressive animal. This time, there were a few way off in a field – too far away to even try a photo.

Entrance sign to Elk Island National Park, 50 km east  of Edmonton.

Entrance sign to Elk Island National Park, 50 km east of Edmonton.

Bare trees, but no traffic and a sunny, warm day in late October.

Bare trees, but no traffic and a sunny, warm day in late October.

The ride to Lamont was uneventful, except for Darryl’s flat after the Lamont hill. Better there than when we are usually doing 60 kph on the downhill! Unfortunately, the shop where we usually get our coffee had closed down and we had to resort going to the small grocery store to see what sort of refreshments they had. No coffee, but it was warm enough that the milkshake machine did a brisk business.

Lamont, home of the limo graveyard.

Lamont, home of the limo graveyard.

Cappuccino milkshake. Closest thing I could find to coffee.

Cappuccino milkshake. Closest thing I could find to coffee.

The ride back was not as much fun, as that tailwind coming was now a headwind going, compounded by going uphill into the wind for a few kms, but it’s all part of the ride. The bonus part of this leg was that a small herd of bison had now moved close enough to photograph as we approached the south entrance of the park. They were slowly meandering through a field towards the road and Lucille, between us and the herd, was trying to decide whether to ride up to us or wait for them to plod across. The decision to wait was a good one because they got spooked by something and stampeded in front of her, right where she would have been if she had continued on. Heartrate elevation and sphincter tightening ensued, and another story grew to tell her grand kids.

Bison peacefully plodding in front of Lucille, just before the stampede.

Bison peacefully plodding in front of Lucille, just before the stampede.

 

When: Sun. Oct 19

Where: Lamont grocery store, Lamont, AB.

What: Cappuccino milkshake, though I’m not sure that it contained any natural ingredients other than coffee.

Bike Friendliness: Although we have seen many bikers besides ourselves stop in the town for refreshments, I have yet to see a bike rack nearby any of the stores. Nobody seems to mind when we lean our bikes against their windows though and we always congregate outside anyway.

Rating 0.5/5.

Distance: 51 km

 

Coffeeneuring Ride #7: Sat. Oct. 25 – Vinyl Rock

The double digit highs that we have enjoyed for most of October, and that have provided a welcome exclamation point to a wonderful summer of riding, are now tapering off to more October-like single digit coolness. Overnight temperatures are down around the freezing point, most trees are completely bare and there is a skim of ice on the ponds out by Big Lake. Moreover, tomorrow’s forecast has a possibility of flurries. Yes, winter is coming. Still nice for a ride though.

While riding past the downtown part of St. Albert on the Red Willow trail out to Big Lake, I noticed that the space previously occupied by the defunct Arcadia Café now has a new tenant. I rode over to check it out and behold – it’s a new coffee shop! Not surprising, since the last 4 businesses to be in that place have been coffee shops, but it was nice to see the tradition continue. I went in to make sure that it was actually open for business and not still under renovation and sure enough they had opened last night. I promised to be back after my ride, happy in the knowledge that St. Albert now has a new independent coffee shop to patronize.

It was a steel-grey 5C (41F) with a bit of a chilly breeze but I was dressed warmly enough and enjoying the relatively uncrowded, and remarkably leaf-free, trail. Out on the viewing platform, I watched a few Greater (or Lesser) Yellowlegs wade about the shoreline, stabbing up whatever it is they eat. The water level in the lake and river is the lowest it has been all season so there actually is a shoreline now. Before, the water lapped right up to the reeds, not leaving any bare shore at all and, hence, no shore birds for most of the summer. Also, groups of Tundra Swans were just close enough to the platform to tease me with some picture attempts. The ponds off the boardwalk that were out of the wind still had a partial skim of ice from last night’s freeze, like a wetland slushy, but there were still a few mallards paddling about the open areas. Not for too much longer, methinks.

Shorebirds patrolling the shore,  even with ice starting to form on the edge.

Shorebirds patrolling the shore, even with ice starting to form on the edge.

Tundra swans on their stopover migration to warmer climes.

Tundra swans on their stopover migration to warmer climes.

 

Slushy skim of ice on the lee ponds.

Slushy skim of ice on the lee ponds.

Trail and trees clear of leaves. Now just waiting for the white stuff.

Trail and trees clear of leaves. Now just waiting for the white stuff.

Once back in town, it was time for Coffeeneuring #7. I had planned to go to another establishment but a new coffee shop in town was too good an opportunity to pass up. The new place is the Vinyl Rock Café, with a somewhat incongruent fusion of a Portuguese/European theme but playing classic rock as background music. It worked for me though and it serves a nice selection of pastries (as well as healthier fare) and excellent coffee. The owner came by to chat and give me a complementary Portuguese butter cookie to try. Nice touch. Hope they can make a go of the place and that it is still here next summer when all the cyclists are about and the Farmer’s Market is hopping.

Latte and pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart)

Latte and pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart)

Completed my final official coffeeneuring challenge before the snow! Now hope to be able to do a bunch more unofficial coffeeneuring before I break out the skis.

When: Sat. Oct. 25

Where: Vinyl Rock Café, Perron Street, St. Albert, AB.

What: Latte and a custard tart, with a complimentary Portuguese butter cookie.

Bike Friendliness: As with its predecessors, there are no bike racks. But there is a wrought-iron railing around the large patio that at least a dozen bikes can chain up to. Seeing as the place is right on the Red Willow trail and it is guaranteed to see a lot of bikers, it would be nice if they invested in a few racks.

Rating 2/5.

Distance: 16.6 km

Coffeeneuring #7 – Last warm ride?

How fortuitous that my final coffeeneuring ride of the year should occur on what is probably the final double digit temperature day of the year. I’m talking plus side here, people! The double digit negatives will be here shortly. This has been a wonderfully warm and dry October, where we have made it to at least +10C/50F for all but 3 days so far.  Unfortunately, the “so far” is forecast to come to an end tomorrow with snow and a high of -4C/25F. Good timing for the last coffeeneuring ride!

It was +12C/54F when I set out on my regular ride to Big Lake at noon. Overcast, with just a light wind, was great for riding and I was thinking that maybe I should have gone for a road ride instead. But I had my heart set on going to a particular café in downtown St. Albert and I hate riding my road bike on the trail system or on the city streets.  So I chose the hybrid and set off on the trail for my coffee ride.

On weekends, the trail is usually pretty crowded with runners, walkers (usually with dogs, on leash and off) and other cyclists. But, remarkably considering the weather, there weren’t many people at all, maybe because it was lunch time, and I was able to keep up a good pace. As I came around the corner by the BMX park, though, the pace ended abruptly.  What the hell were 2 big trucks doing blocking the trail?  Then I remembered that there was some sort of unidentifiable spill reported in the stormwater outfall at that location and the trucks must be cleaning it up. Had to bushwhack a bit to get around them but glad that it was being cleaned up. They were gone by the time I made the return trip.

A "what tha?'" moment after rounding a corner. Vac trucks taking up the whole trail.

A “what tha?'” moment after rounding a corner. Vac trucks taking up the whole trail.

On Big Lake, the geese were making a racket in one of the far bays and the swans were still there too, both too far away for a picture. I spotted an immature bald eagle (no white head yet) perched on a light pole by the highway over the river but my camera and skills were too poor to let me get a decent picture.  All I got was a brownish blob, albeit with a wicked beak and long, sharp talons.

Immature bald eagle perched on light pole by Ray Gibbon bridge.

Immature bald eagle perched on light pole by Ray Gibbon bridge. (Click on picture for bigger view.)

On the ride back to town, I noticed that more trees had been beavered down by the trail near the river. The rascals have been busy getting ready for winter. At least they haven’t fallen any across the trail. Yet.

Evidence of our national animal hard at work.

Evidence of our national animal hard at work.

Thought that I would throw in a few pictures that show what a difference 3 weeks make in the vegetation.

Oct 3rd - path through the woods. Still lots of leaves on the trees.

Oct 3rd – path through the woods. Still lots of leaves on the trees.

Oct 26th - same path. Leaves on the ground, not on the trees.

Oct 26th – same path. Leaves on the ground, not on the trees.

I stopped for refreshments at the Arcadia Café, in downtown St. Albert.  It’s a nice place, though I found my latte a little weak. I have yet to see any latte art by the baristas here either, though that doesn’t detract (or add, for that matter) from the taste. Our cycling group, usually 50 to 70 strong, stops there when we ride in St. Albert at least once a month during the summer and they are pretty efficient in serving us, unlike most of the chains. No bike racks, although there used to be some, but they have a 40-foot long metal fence surrounding their (closed for the winter) patio that is great for chaining to.

Latte and lemon/blueberry muffin on the pastryneuring, er, coffeeneuring ride.

Latte and lemon/blueberry muffin on the pastryneuring, er, coffeeneuring ride.

Arcadia Cafe, with 1 lonely bike.

Arcadia Cafe, with 1 lonely bike.

Coffeeneuring #7

Date: Saturday, October 26, 2013

Place: Arcadia Café and Bar, 24 Perron Street, St. Albert, AB

What Had: Latte and lemon/blueberry muffin

Distance: 16 km

Details: Possibly last warm ride of the year

Coffeeneuring #6 – Lost and Found

Today was another ride out to Big Lake to see if anything had changed from yesterday.  Um, not so much. While I was on the viewing platform, a muskrat swam right below me but none of the pictures I took came out, as the camera seemed to focus on something on the water other than the muskrat 😦  First muskrat I’ve seen there in a while too.   I noticed some white dots off in the distance on the lake and, using the deck binoculars, determined that they were swans. But they were way too far away to take pictures of – just not a day for wildlife photos, I guess. And, although warm enough to force me to replace my jacket with a vest, it was pretty grey and spitting a bit, so the landscape didn’t look too remarkable either.

I decided to take another route back to town, just to vary my routine a bit.  I went through Heritage Lakes, got turned around by a detour on the trail, and ended up riding the streets for a while trying to find my bearings. I was successful on one front though – I discovered a nice dirt trail as an alternative to a paved one we usually ride. I have found that, when I lead a club ride in St. Albert, all I have to do is do a well known route in reverse and everyone thinks they are in someplace new! So, to throw in a new wrinkle like a dirt path instead of a paved one through a familiar area, is a bonus. I will definitely include it in next year’s tours.

My coffeeneuring target today was La Crema Caffe, in downtown St. Albert. As with yesterday’s destination, I hadn’t been there since last year. A difference with this cafe (caffe, I guess) is that all baking is gluten free. I tried a piece of banana bread and I must say that it was pretty good, although made with rice and potato flours.  It was shrink-wrapped, so doubtful that it was baked on site. They also make a decent, though unremarkable, latte.  I found the place a little pricey – $8 for the banana bread and a small latte – and that is enough to prompt me to go elsewhere for my regular caffeinations (probably not a word, but it should be). The price is likely why it has been a year since my last visit. That, and only indirect bike parking, i.e. 3 arty bike posts across the street, which loses it points in my book.

Latte and gluten free banana bread.

Latte and gluten free banana bread.

Bike rack across the street from the caffe - 2 out of the 3 posts in use! I guess it is legal to tie up to a bike rack right in front of a fire hydrant...

Bike rack across the street from the cafe – 2 out of the 3 posts in use! I guess it is legal to tie up to a bike rack right in front of a fire hydrant, seeing as the city stuck one in there!

Coffeeneuring #6

Date: Sunday, October 20, 2013

Place: La Crema Caffe, 44 St. Thomas St., St. Albert, AB

What: Latte and gluten-free banana bread

Distance: 21.4 km

Details: Gloomy but warm day so I explored neighborhoods, sometimes not intentionally.

Coffeeneuring #5 – The Glasshouse

A little tardy in responding to MG’s coffeeneur guest post request but better latte than never…  OK – that was bad but I couldn’t resist.  I had already posted my #4 ride before MG came out with her suggestion so had to wait until I completed ride #5.  Here is today’s ride description in “guest post” form.

1) Where do you live?

I live in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, a city of 60,000+ on the northwest edge of Edmonton.  I know that MG had to look up where Edmonton was to make her map of last year’s coffeeneurs but, to help the rest of you, Edmonton is about 500 km (310 mi) north of the Montana border and is the most northern North American city having a population greater than 1 million people. Both St. Albert and Edmonton have extensive, and well used, recreational bike trails.

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

I regularly read a number of cycling blogs and came across the challenge last year on chasingmailboxes. I thought that it would be good fun and provide added incentive to keep riding later into the season when the weather here is known to throw more than a few frozen wrenches into the mix. I successfully completed that challenge (with ride #7 only 2 days after a 35 cm (14 in) snowfall – a challenge indeed) and fervently hope that the snow stays away a bit longer this year.

3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike? What makes it a good coffeeneuring bike?

My main coffeeneuring bike is a 2000 Specialized Crossroads hybrid.  Since most of my rides at this time of year are on city streets and multi-use trails, I prefer using the hybrid. Tires are 700×35, with a fairly non-aggressive tread – acceptable for bumping along packed dirt trails, when necessary, but don’t act like suction cups once on pavement. It’s a pleasure to ride, especially now that my new Brooks saddle is broken in. I also have a 2012 Trek Madone 5.2 road bike, which I use for longer (and faster) excursions.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for this coffeeneuring trip?

My caffeine destination today was the Glasshouse Café and Bistro.  Even though it is close to my regular riding route, I hadn’t been there since last year’s #5 coffeeneuring ride. No real reason, other than it is more expensive than other choices on the route and less convenient to get to because of trail construction detours. Unlike last year, when it was -6C/21F and I rode in the snow to get there, today was warm (13C/55F) and the trail was dry. Just so that it wouldn’t be a perfect biking day though, the weather gods decided that a steady 35kph wind, gusting to 50kph, would be appropriate. Such is life on the prairies.

5) Is the coffee shop beautiful and the coffee delicious? Tell us a little about your coffeeneuring locale.

This coffee shop is large, modern, bright and full of greenery, as befitting it’s location in the Enjoy Centre – a huge new greenhouse complex on the edge of St. Albert. I had a very good latte and a so-so pumpkin cream cheese muffin. And, wonder of wonders, they actually had a bike rack by one of the entrances, even though I’m sure that their bike traffic is minimal. Good for them. I should make a point of coming here more often.

The Enjoy Centre, a large greenhouse complex in St. Albert

The Enjoy Centre, a large greenhouse complex in St. Albert

 

The Glasshouse Cafe. Lots of light and shrubbery.

The Glasshouse Cafe. Lots of light and shrubbery.

 

The cafe and a small part of the main floor of the greenhouse.

The cafe and a small part of the main floor of the greenhouse.

 

Latte and muffin. And bike helmet, complete with coffeeneuring button. No tuque and mitts this year!

Latte and muffin. And bike helmet, complete with coffeeneuring button. No tuque and mitts required this year!

Bike rack by a side door. A little old school but still functional!

Bike rack by a side door. A little old school but still functional!

 

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?

I belong to senior’s downhill ski club which has a large and very active cycling contingent in the summer. We have scheduled rides in Edmonton and the surrounding communities twice a week and those of us with road bikes usually ride as a group another 1 or 2 days a week. Probably 90% of our rides involve a coffee stop half way through, so we are pretty well a full time coffeeneuring club! I also go out on my own, riding the trail system in St. Albert on the Specialized or getting a workout on the roads with the Trek. I generally get in about 4,000 km (2,500 mi) over the season.

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

Being retired, I have ample time to play on my bikes and enjoy life. It is easy to keep active when you enjoy what you are doing and have a supportive peer group around you.

Coffeeneuring #5

Date: Saturday, October 19, 2013

Place: Glasshouse Cafe and Bistro, in The Enjoy Centre, St. Albert, AB

What: Latte and pumpkin cream cheese muffin

Distance: 20 km

Details: A nice re-visit, after a 1-year absence, on a warm but blustery day.

Coffeeneuring #4 – To the University

I took the opportunity to do a hybrid ride today, i.e. I loaded the bike into my car, drove to an Edmonton city park and started my ride from there. It was a beautiful sunny day and I couldn’t resist the lure of doing a coffeeneuring ride in the river valley while it is still colourful. My ride was short but pleasurable.

The North Saskatchewan River from the Hawrelak footbridge.

The North Saskatchewan River from the Hawrelak footbridge.

I started in Laurier Park, by the Valley Zoo, and make my way across the footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River into Hawrelak Park.  From there, I pedalled uphill to the university area to find a coffee shop that I had never been to before. As I mentioned yesterday, this year I am trying to coffeeneur to independent cafes that are bicycle friendly. My record so far has not been good but I hit a home run with the Leva Café.  Trust the university neighbourhoods to come through! There was a good sized bike rack out front with half a dozen bikes in it already, and one locked to a nearby No Parking sign for good measure. The café staff was friendly, the muffins were still warm from the oven, and the barista knew how to make a good latte.  My only quibbles were that it was a little pricy and the music was too loud.

The bicycle friendly Leva Cafe

The bicycle friendly Leva Cafe

Latte and muffin and biking. Life is good.

Latte and muffin and biking. Life is good.

I meandered back via the High Level Bridge to the north side of the river, west on River Road, and then over the Groat Bridge to the south side again. Then it was along the beautiful riverbank dirt trail through Emily Murphy and Hawrelak Parks and back to the car. You can see the route here.

Looking south to the university over the High Level and LRT bridges.

Looking south to the university over the High Level and LRT bridges.

The great multi-use trail beside River Road.

The great multi-use trail beside River Road.

The leafy river valley trail on a beautiful fall day.

The leafy river valley trail on a beautiful fall day.

I don’t know how many beautiful fall days we have left.  The forecast for the next week is still great though, with temps in the low to mid teens.  Here’s hoping that I can finish this challenge without resorting to studded tires this year!

Coffeeneuring #4

Date: Sunday, October 13, 2013

Place: Leva Café, 110 St & 86 Ave, Edmonton, AB

What: Latte and blackberry, apple, lemon muffin

Distance: 16.9 km

Comments: Gorgeous fall day, accompanied by good latte and yummy muffin. Could have ridden for hours but home chores awaited 😦

Coffeeneuring #3 – Layered

Fall is still hanging in here quite nicely. When I went out for my ride today at noon it was a sunny 4C (39F), but that sun and no wind makes a huge difference in comfort.  I overdressed to start, as usual, but it is better to have too many layers than too few.  My lower limit for bare legs is 5C so I started out with my wind pants over my cycling shorts. I also started with 3 light  layers on top. After 7 km, one top layer came off and when I got to the coffee stop, after 15 km, off came the wind pants and the full-fingered gloves! It only got up to 9C (48F) but I was plenty warm as long as I was pushing on the pedals.  Once I stopped at the farmer’s market for a few supplies, I started to feel a bit chilled though.

Short cut over a dirt construction road

Short cut over a dirt construction road. No rain so not muddy.

Good on the powers that be to build a multi use trail beside a new arterial road.

Good on the powers that be to build a multi use trail beside a new arterial road (137th Ave).

 

Dammit people - put in some bike racks! Is this what you want cyclists to use?

Dammit people – put in some bike racks! Is this what you want cyclists to use?

Latte and a slice of cake. Comfort food!

Latte and a slice of cake. Comfort food!

Looks like those leaves dropped straight down!

Looks like those leaves dropped straight down!

For the rest of this year’s coffeeneuring challenge, I wanted to try to avoid the chain stores and just hit up the independent shops.  Not only that, I wanted to further restrict my visits to those shops that had even rudimentary bicycle parking. It remains to see how successful I will be but so far, so bad. I rode into Edmonton again today and went to “The Tea Place” at a nearby shopping centre, which, despite it’s name, also pours a decent coffee.  Although I had never heard of it before, when I clicked on its website after I got home I discovered that it is indeed part of a chain, albeit a chain of 3 local stores. So I’ll give it a bit of a break.  Not for the bike parking though.  Not a bike stand to be found anywhere.  I could have chained up to a fence around the patio of a nearby pizza store, although they may not have liked that, but I chose a parking spot closer to where I was and that I could see.  Thank goodness for landscaping, as minimal as it is! And shame on that shopping center (Christy’s Corner) for not having ANY bike parking 😦

Coffeeneuring #3

Date: Saturday, October 12, 2013

Place: The Tea Place, 137th Ave and St. Albert Trail, Edmonton, AB

What: Latte and chocolate cake. Needed calories to fight the chill. OK – maybe not.

Distance: 27.6 km

Comments: Latte was good, though no pretty design in the steamed milk (it was a tea place after all). NO BIKE PARKING.

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