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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 😦
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!