Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Coffeenuering Rd 5

Coffee Shop #6
The Fruited Plain Cafe
Sioux Center
3.2 Miles

As promised  I saved the best for (nearly) last. I broke out the road bike for this ride, this perhaps being the final ride that I will take with this bike before putting it away for the winter. My old Sekai does many things well, but ice and snow are not one of them. Remarkably for this time of year, the weather was (relatively) wonderful.
The Fruited Plain Cafe is one of two shops in the entire county that you can actually order a genuine espresso at. That rarity probably makes me a bad judge of what makes a good/bad espresso, but I must say that I really enjoyed my double shot. The Fruited Plain also offers a pretty wide range of wine and beer (40 or so varieties of each) and makes some very fine baked goods (My wife being the producer of said goods has not influenced my opinion, I swear).
I remarked to the owner that things were quiet at the bike shop (fat biking has not caught on here yet, not sure if it ever will, we have almost no trails nearby). He noted that even with the nice weather, everyone is starting to hunker down for winter. Harvest is all in, gardens have been cleaned, leaves are mostly raked up, and now we wait for the white stuff.

Coffee Shop 6.5 (VOID)
The Fruited Plain Cafe
1.3 Miles

I know this coffeeneuing stop doesn't count, but it involves stroopwafels and cute small children with excessive amounts of hot chocolate.
Later this same day, I got a notice through Facebook that the Fruited Plain had home made stroepwafels for sale. I mentioned these Dutch treats before, but having them fresh is another level of tasty. I had also been promising to take my daughter out for hot chocolate, so off we went for another round of coffee (the things I do for this challenge...)
On our way over, we had to wait for a train. One side effect of the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline has been more of the Bakken oil field product being shipped by rail. Train traffic in our town has almost tripled since 2011. 

Leg header. Grain/feed is elevated, then dropped down one of the pipes
 for storage before loading out on a truck
Back to Stroopwafels.
As mentioned before, these are a traditional Dutch treat, consisting of a thin waffle that has been sliced (think like a bagel) then filled with caramel syrup. In my mind, they are the ultimate coffee dessert.
Remarkably, my daughter did not find them quite as amazing as I do, but her hot chocolate was another story.

I tried to emphasize that I wanted a very small hot chocolate for my daughter. It still looked like she was drinking from a soup bowl.
But doesn't seem to have been a problem for her.

Coffee Shop #7 (without walls)
Lat: 43.064091°
4.5 mi
Yerba Mate

Obviously, Iowa is flat and open. And obvious to anyone who has biked here, it gets pretty windy. You know what goes well with wind? Kites.

Highly specialized kite packing rig. 
The kite of choice is a 5' wide parafoil. Two nice features of a parafoil kite are its compact pack (no spars) and it's durability. You can crash these kites as hard as you want, and as long as you don't tear the fabric, its all good. The kite is a two string, which allows for very precise control. I'll admit that it is a bit tough to drink hot tea while flying a two string kite.

The odd perspective on the kite lines is from me trying to shoot from the chest
while flying a two handed kite. For scale, the lines are 100' long
The wind was steady, the sky a brilliant blue, and I'm wringing every minute I can from this out of season wonderful weather. Weekend is looking cold and wet (just in time for the Living history farms race) but I'll keep riding.

Thanks again to MG for continuing to host such fun (and odd) events. I greatly enjoyed this challenge, and look forward to reading about everyone's adventures.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coffeeneuring Rd 4: All this for a cup of coffee

Coffee Shop #5
Dutch Bakery
221 Central Ave NE Orange City
21 Miles

While the "Coffee Shop without Walls" has kept me in the running for this year's challenge, it does start to feel like cheating after a bit. And while I don't think I can avoid having at least half of my stops be the "without walls" sorts, I felt compelled to put in a few miles to make up for it. Entry #5 will probably be about as far afield as I go this year.

The Dutch Bakery is located about ten miles from my home in the nearby town of Orange City. To be clear, we do not grow citrus in NW Iowa, rather the orange references William of Orange, and is yet another indicator of the Dutch obsessed corner of the world that I live in. Almost none of the offerings that the Dutch Bakery cranks out have anything to do with the Netherlands, but what this bakery does have going for it is its hours. This place is open from midnight until 5 pm, meaning that I could sneak a 20 mile ride for coffee before I needed to be home by 7:30.

I was rolling a bit before 6 am, which was about a half hour later than I had wanted. There was a headwind that would be an issue on the way back, and I would be taking all gravel. While there are two paved route options, both are some of the busiest roads in my area, and I had no desire to test them in the dark. Absolutely no one expects to see a bike rider out a full hour and a half before dawn out in the middle of nowhere. So I clipped on an extra flashing taillight, slipped on a reflective vest, and hoped for the best.

We had had light rain the night previous, so the roads were nice and firm without being tacky. This is a blessing because my headlights are bit under powered, so it's hard for me to judge where the best track is on the road. The sky was clear, but no moon, and the roads were dead quiet. The stars were amazing, Sirus burned like a torch.

Riding in the dark with poor lighting is a strange experience  I would find myself gasping for breath without knowing why, until I finally realized that I had started climbing a hill. The ever changing nature of the roads also kept me on my toes. In the dark, I can't tell if a smooth patch is packed hard or sandbox loose. With my 200+lb frame on 32mm tires, I find out in a hurry.

About 40 minutes later I rolled into Orange City, a town completely dark and quiet, except for my bakery.
It's hard to see, but my bike is lurking just to the left of that garbage can.
Also: To people with light temperature obsessions, I'm sorry.
Perhaps the owners think that as long as they have someone on the clock baking, they may as well try to sell a few rolls. Most of the day's goods were still cooling on racks in the back, so the nice guy behind the counter (looked like a linebacker with a Red Soxs grade beard) let me in back to pick straight from the rack. The other nice thing about this place are the prices. A coffee, a doughnut (for my wife) a pink smiley faced cookie (for my daughter) and a roll (for me!) cost $3. No idea how they turn a profit.

With no time to enjoy my loot, I loaded up and rolled out of town. I had been nice and warm, but now that cold wind was in my face, and I had cooled down while in the bakery. My highly specialized bike clothing (old pair of khakis, heavyweight work shirt) kept me shivering for a bit, but a few miles down the road and I was good again.

Dawn started to catch up with me a few miles from home. I know I've taken dozen of photos of the sunrise during this challenge, but I never get tired of this view.

A few miles later and I was home with enough time to get cleaned up and open up the bike shop. Then I finally got to enjoy the coffee (still hot in my thermos) and the roll that I had hammered 20 miles on the dark gravel to get. Effort makes for good flavor.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Shameless Coffeeneuring Guest Post

In an an apparent attempt to bury herself in guest posts, MG has put out a call for posts from all participants in her Coffeeneuring Challenge. In an attempt to make my post more interesting, I will bribe you with a small child:
Beware, that smile hides at least six teeth.
And believe you me those things are sharp.

Guest Coffeeneuring Blog Post Questions

1) Where do you live?

Sioux Center, IA, which is in the NW corner of the state. Not to be confused with Sioux City, IA, or Sioux Falls, SD. Some of you may know of my town as the start of RAGBRAI 2012. For any of you who were there, you played a pretty big role in getting me started in biking, so thanks!

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?
I find that having a goal, no matter how silly or odd, makes it way easier to get on the bike (especially now that the weather is turning cold). I'd participated in the (very chilly) Errandonee this past winter, and enjoyed reading everyone's stories. With the addition of the Coffee Shop without Walls rule, I found it possible to hit seven "shops" in my very rural area.

3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike? What makes it a good coffeeneuring bike?
I mostly ride a 1970s Schwinn World tourist, which serves as my town/errand bike. It's heavy and beat up, but it fits me pretty good (I'm 6'3", so used bikes in my size are rare). It also has Shimano's Front Freewheel System, which means that you can shift while coasting. Its a feature that is mostly good as a conversation starter, and I'm dreading having to ever repair it.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for this coffeeneuring trip?
Using the Coffee Shop without Walls rule, the family and I headed out to a small park to enjoy the lovely weather. This late in the year you never know what the weather is going to throw at us, could be a blizzard or it could be beautiful so we take what we can get.

5) Is the coffee shop beautiful and the coffee delicious? Tell us a little about your coffeeneuring locale.
The park was actually quite lovely. Fall color is still hanging on, despite Iowa's perpetual wind trying to tear all the leaves off. Actual coffee shops in this area are few and far between. I am saving a coffee shop that I find quite lovely (and the espresso wonderful) for last.
Sioux County is an area in transition. One one hand, farming has been really good business the last few years, and that money circulates through the local economy, leading to more urbanesque things like nice coffee shops. In opposition to that is the history of this area being intensely conservative, both politically and fiscally. Its basically an area where it's fine to be rich, just don't flaunt it (too much).

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?
I cycle with my family quite often. In September my wife and I picked up a longtail. We've really enjoyed being able to strap both kids to a single bike, and still have cargo room to run errands. I get a childish level of glee seeing what I can all load onto that bike. My wife bakes for one of the local coffee shops, and I usually manage to get the shop's early morning muffins delivered by bike.
I also do some road riding (first century a month ago) a fair amount of which is on gravel roads. Even in Iowa the traffic is not your friend, but about 90% of the roads here are lightly traveled gravel. My bike of choice for that is a Sekai 10-speed that I put some 32mm Paselas on. I'm hoping to do the Almanzo 100 this spring.
I believe the correct term is "Gravel Mutt"

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?
What about bike parking, accessibility, friendliness? There is really very little bike parking. The only business I know of with any sort of rack is the local mall. The schools and public libraries have been good about installing racks. Honestly, you hardly need to lock your bike around here, its a pretty low crime town.
Sioux Center is actually a really easy town to get around on by bike. Everything is close by, and you can route around high traffic roads without issue. We've also been putting in some separated trails that are nice for families to use. In my mind, if you don't feel safe enough sending a 10 yr old on a bike route, it's not good enough. Drivers in town are very well behaved, but I was run off the road by a semi last week while riding out in the country, which was an unpleasant first. People have noted that having RAGBRAI in town has really put bike planning on the minds of city and county officials, we've got a lot of projects in the planning stages, so I hope to see big improvements in the next few years.