Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mendo's Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015 - Day 4

Sunol Railroad Cafe and the Invisible Cyclist

I didn't intend on doing another Coffeeneuring run this morning, but I didn't feel like a big ride, either. So I tucked Mendo in my pocket just in case and his mere presence made it happen.

### Coffeeneuring Control Stop #4 ###

DATE: 10/18/15
DRINKS: Seattle's Best
MILEAGE: 15.6 miles
COFFEE SHOP: Sunol Railroad Cafe

Worm's-eye view from across Main Street. Almost perfectly timed - that's me entering the frame...

Another Timer Photo Experiment
BACKGROUND: Mark Martin owns and runs the little cafe on Main Street in Sunol, where he grew up. Situated a block from the Niles Canyon Railway station and a block from the Sunol Glen School, where my son attended - Sunol is really only about two blocks long - it occupies a house built after the 1906 earthquake. Sunol, population 913, is a pocket of small-town life with more than its share of eccentricities (residents unofficially elected a dog named Bosco as their mayor in 1981). 
"The place is a throwback, it's old-fashioned Americana," says Martin. It's more about comfort food than coffee, plenty of hellos and how-are-yas to old friends. The review I read referred to the diner's funky Mayberry-in-Silicon-Valley vibe. This was my first time inside, even though I'd been by it hundreds of times. So I figured I need a place like this in my Coffeeneuring group, to contrast the "rock star" baristas.
COFFEE REVIEW: I am too much of a novice to be a coffee snob yet, but I was a bit let down to see the "proudly serving Seattle's Best" sign in the window. But that wasn't really the point for this stop. I didn't ask if they were serving the "house blend" or one of the numbered series of "signature blends". It was fine. It really was.

FOOD PAIRING: The covered pastry platter was empty by the time I got there, so I had an English muffin. That was pretty good, too. They paired well enough. But this is really a better place to sit and have a meal.

BIKE AMBIANCE: The parking lot down the street for the Niles Canyon Railway is a common meet-up for cyclists, as is the school. And there are several great rides from here. On the weekend there are probably as many cyclists as cars rolling down the only street. But the cafe doesn't give off a cycling-friendly vibe, per se. It's a train-friendly vibe, for sure. But having said that, everyone is welcomed here and everyone feels comfortable - as you would be at gramma's house. Parking is adequate and the town itself is safe enough that there's no worrying.

DUCK'S VIEW: This is a great place to be a duck. Well, the town is - if a dog can become mayor - but the cafe is a railroad cafe. Not great for ducks, but great for old men wearing pinstriped overalls and an engineer's hat. Mendo was happy on the bike ride down here. He wanted to get out when we crossed Verona Bridged and hop in the arroyo. It flows slowly down to Sunol and he wanted to meet me there. Sorry, not happening.

THE BIKE: Volagi, see Day 1 post.

THE RIDE: Although it looked fine with possible sunrise photo opportunities, it actually rained. (That's a bit rare here.) I took the Happy Valley route, detoured into the Serenity neighborhood and noticed I was at the intersection of Sanctuary and Sleepy Head. So there, that's how the ride was. And that's why coffee was in order.

INVISIBLE: I enjoy cycling for many reasons. One is the serenity of being alone on a scenic country road. That's my happy place. For most of these CC2015 rides, I'm trying to venture into new places, chat up the owners and maybe learn something about coffee. I realize I'm wearing lycra in very loud colors, but I'm man enough to own it. But I was a little apprehensive entering the Sunol Railroad Cafe knowing it was a place for the locals - and I wasn't really one of them (although I thought I could fake it pretty well). But although the staff was nice, they were "Midwestern nice" - term I made up, being from the Midwest. It means that they don't gush with fake friendliness, they are just nice. They might end up being your friend for life, but not at first. And so I was politely left alone while they greeted others heartily - people they obviously knew much better. Eventually, I paid my bill, left $2 and left. I doubt they thought twice about me. I would certainly go back for a meal. But not just for coffee, unless I was wearing my overalls.

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