Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mendo's Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015 - Day 1

Coffee somehow pairs well with cycling. I resisted it. For over 50 years I was one of those people who didn't drink coffee. But that changed as the alarm clock got reset to the five o'clock hour for commuting to work several times a week. First a half-cup. Then a couple cups. Then the search for a good cup.

I hadn't resisted beer. Beer pairs well with cycling, too. When porta-john's "Brewvet" beer and cycling challenge caught my eye, I was on-board. It was patterned loosely after the Coffeeneuring Challenge, which I had missed last year. But I was not going to miss it this year!

You might have questions about me, Mendo, my bikes. But your curiosity will have to wait (or scroll to the bottom, if you must). I have coffee shops to share!

Note that I actually trained for this Coffeeneuring Challenge. The night before the first ride, I drank perhaps more beer than necessary which makes coffee that much more than necessary.

### Coffeeneuring Control Stop #1 ###

Devout Coffee and Karma
DATE: 10/3/2015
DRINKS: Welser Hernandez (Guatamala) aka "black coffee"
MILEAGE: 29.8 miles
COFFEE SHOP: Devout Coffee, 37323 Niles Blvd, Fremont, CA

BACKGROUND: Brothers Jon and Stevie converted an old bbq into a coffee bean roaster and started making coffee in their garage. How Silicon Valley! In 2013, they opened this shop in the historic district of Niles. Jon made my coffee, today. We talked off and on - really nice guy. Cyclist.

COFFEE REVIEW: I asked for a recommendation, something black. The back of the menu had a dozen types of coffee that made no sense to me. Doing my best to fake my lack of knowledge, I picked the Guatamalean choice - Welser Hernandez.

I now know this probably came from the Highland Huehuetenango region. I remember one type of bean was Bourbon (the island, not the whiskey). The beans are sweeter with a sort of caramel quality, giving the coffee a nice, crisp acidity, but can present different flavors depending on where they’re planted (I copied that). Whatever a "high-quality cup" means, I'd agree. It was light, but flavorful and very well finished (if I'm using that term correctly). Another reference used the phrase "the peanut-butter-and-jelly of the coffee world". Full disclosure: I also spent over 50 years as one of those people who didn't eat peanut butter. Off-track now.

FOOD PAIRING: I had a cronut. It was great, but perhaps the flavor was too strong for the slightly more delicate Welser. Frankly, I think the pretzel thingy would have been, too. Did I miss the vegan apple donut? That seems about right. Next time.

Devout also sells Tcho chocolate - and you can have your mocha made with Tcho. Coincidentally, Tcho was a chocolate start-up in San Francisco. I heard about it in the beta stage and was one of their beta testers. I had some of the version 0.9 dark chocolate before it had a name. I'd like to think I influenced the stuff they call "chocolatey". How Silicon Valley!

BIKE AMBIANCE: I leaned my bike against the front of the building where I could see it. Turned out there was a bar stool right there, so it felt like fate. Jon told me there is a patio along the side and plenty of room for bikes there - but no windows (so he doesn't feel good parking his own bike there). Bust through the wall and put some patio doors and some windows and it would be perfect.

As a cyclist, I felt very much at home. Jon and I talked about bike rides and visiting other coffee shops - which he does. Apparently, he's not competitive with other shops; he just loves coffee and wants to learn more about it. He immediately grasped the coolness of Coffeeneuring, so I sent him the link to the Challenge. Overall, I highly recommend Devout Coffee for cyclists.

DUCK'S VIEW: Mendo loved the decor. The tables and bar were heavy reclaimed wood, very substantial. It was manly, not many flowers (but some, or were they cacti?) All the equipment was visible as was the espresso machine and it had a feeling like Buffalo Bill's Brewery - somewhat industrial but in an old world way if that makes any sense. It's dog-friendly, too, which is not so great if you're a duck. Even a rubber ducky.

THE BIKE: Soma, see the bottom of the post.

THE RIDE: Let's take the ride in four symmetric parts. First, I stopped at the ATM near my house and headed toward Sunol in brisk, clear 51-degree sunrise. Pleasanton to Sunol is part of my normal commute, so I took a parallel path on Foothill. Uneventful. Cool. Second part, from Sunol to Niles along Niles Canyon is rather sketchy. In places, the shoulder is less than a foot and visibility for cars is poor and the cars and trucks treat this road as a highway. There are two bridges: one over the old railroad tracks and another over the arroyo (sorry, that's Alameda Creek, in Spanish it was Arroyo de la Alameda).

When the Transcontinental Railway was built connecting this great land of ours, it ran through this very canyon. There's a significant hill between Pleasanton and Niles (the Niles district of Fremont) and the railroad goes through a tunnel at some point. The road doesn't have a tunnel, but is a really gorgeous, winding road through the rugged canyon.

Part four actually followed my commute route from Sunol to Pleasanton along the appropriately named Pleasanton-Sunol Road (which may actually be called Sunol-Pleasanton Road in this direction). Recently, we've been dodging some road gators, extension cords and pieces of lumber. So I decided I'd ride along and get them off the shoulder. Seemed nice. By the last one, I was tired of stopping and figured I'm good enough to simply coast by with one foot unclipped and kick it. I unclipped my right shoe but then changed my mind. Did I mention that I *always* unclip the left shoe first? Like a noobie, I fell over - right into the street. Fortunately, no one hit me! For my ego's sake, no one saw me either. And because you'll ask, my bike was fine. Even my brand new shiny Giro helmet was scratch-free. But a half-mile down the road, I realized my Garmin was not there. I found it. Fortunately, no one ran over it.

Which leads me to my theme.

KARMA: No, I'm not going to say that my good deed of cleaning the roadside annoyed the Universe and unceremoniously dumped me on the pavement. That wasn't it. After stopping by my house to pick up my backpack, I went to the Farmer's Market in Pleasanton. I stuffed my backpack with stone fruit and tomatoes, then got a brownie (do farmers make brownies?). As I was munching on my brownie, I realized I didn't have my wallet. Yikes! I scurried back to the Lone Oak Ranch fruit stand and caught Dale's eye (the owner). He said "Todd?" - he previously didn't know my name. He had spotted my wallet and pulled it behind the counter, not knowing how to reach me. Good guy, that Dale. Karma.

Apropos of nothing, Dale is famous for saying, "tastes like squirrel."

About Me: 
I still consider myself a novice at most things: cycling, coffee, blogging, and an imposter at many other things: engineering, etc. I love cycling for the scenery and the serenity but also for the occasional intensity. The fact that it affords me endless eating and drinking opportunities is a side benefit. I'm in my fifties, so I've got a few more years to shake off the "novice" moniker.

Home is Pleasanton, CA and the cycling opportunities are year-round, hilly and scenic. I'm lucky. 

About Mendo:
Mendo is a little rubber ducky that I bought as a souvenir in Mendocino many, many years ago. If you read my other blog posts, you'll read about a stuffed animal called CycloMonkey. He's rather popular and my friends often take him on trips. So I decided Mendo would be consistently around and could brighten up my photographs and become memorable. Mendocino is a cold, damp beach town in northern California and seemed like a good place for people who like coffee. So that's why I picked him. There's no deeper meaning than that.

Vote for me in the "Most Clever Use of Tub Toys" category.

About My Bikes:
I've got a few bikes, but only two that I ride consistently. There are two Treks in partial states of disassembly and a 1970s Louison Bobet (French, of course). But I need one more bike :)
Volagi Liscio is my primary road bike. There's quite a story with the founders defecting from Specialized to build a double-century kind of bike for older riders. It has disk brakes way before they started to become popular (well, they still haven't). It has SRAM components and is otherwise configured like most road bikes. I can ride it all day and climb mountains and feel great! Gloss black with bright red and bits of white.
Soma Fabrications' Wolverine is my other bike. I had it built especially for Coffeeneuring. It technically is a cross frame, but I run regular 25mm roadie tires. It is a single-speed, so no need for shifting while I might have a hot cup of coffee in my hand. It is belt-drive (no chain) in case I spill. I use the same brand of hybrid-hydraulic disk brakes as my Volagi, because I like them that much - not because they aid in coffee consumption. And it has bull-horn bars so the brake handles are easily accessible and there's also more places to rest a cup. It's cro-moly steel with a custom fork (because I thought the standard one didn't live up to the "Wolverine" name). The ride is fabulous and the gearing I chose can get me up to 22mph without drafting or descending. Turns out, I can muscle up a 5% hill - but not with coffee in my hand!

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