Coffeeneuring in Car Hell

The fourth annual coffeeneuring challenge is upon us. This challenge entails riding your bike to coffee shops on the weekends and meeting rules that only a randonneur would love. I wasn’t going to do it this year but I had a Sunday to burn and a gift certificate to a new coffee shop burning a whole in my saddle bag.

To me rolling out to get a cup of coffee seems kind of silly since I have a perfectly good coffee maker in my kitchen. So I combined today’s coffee trek with some errands. I started with a ride to the hardware store for some bird seed. Little Nellie, my New Wrold Tourist with little wheels, does a terrifc job of carrying the unbalanced load without making me feel like I’m going to tip over.

Once the seeds were off loaded at home, I turned around and rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town to use an ATM. I could have done this at the Safeway near home but I needed some therapy miles. Call it bikescendental meditation. My brain shuts off, I sing songs badly, I look at the egrets and herons. All is calm.

After ATMing, I headed off to the coffee shop on Telegraph Road south of the beltway. I rode over to the Eisenhower Valley (why does this invoke tanks in my mind) and used the nifty newish trail over the beltway at Telegraph. It drops you right smack dab in the middle of a spaghetti bowl of ramps and traffic lanes going every which way. This being Sunday traffic was light. Riding this on a weekday would take nerves of steel. This sort of road pattern is what I call Car Hell. Car Hell is why Fairfax County is a bike hostile community.

After waiting three minutes for a traffic light, I headed south on Telegraph. The shoulder comes and goes so taking the lane is the only option. People were driving their cars responsible though so it was not an entirely unpleasant experience. Telegraph wends through a hilly area. There was one hill I had to climb (right after Climbhill Rd., I kid you not) and I made it without breathing hard.

A fun downhill led to a left hand turn (always fun) into a strip mall (planned American retail blight). There I found the Grounded Coffee Shop.

I locked Little Nellie to a street sign because, this being Car Hell, there was no bike parking to be found.

Inside I found a very pleasant, kid friendly place (toys and games were placed on shelves and a Lego pit was off to one side). A young man was playing guitar and singing songs for tips.The customers ranged in age from 1 to 70. A student did homework on a laptop.

I ordered tomato soup with chicken and orzo, a banana, and a 16-ounce house coffee (dark roast from the Congo). This being the first crisp fall weekend day in these parts, the warmth of the soup and coffee alone would have made me happy, but they were both top notch. (The banana lacked a certain je ne said quoi, but it is an essential bike food.)

Grounded Coffee Shop

The ride home involved South Kings Highway which included one whopper of a hill. The road has a paved shoulder that comes and goes. And when it goes it just drops off in an way that would mean a trip to the ER. Way to go VDOT!

I managed the hill with the forebearance of some drivers.  When confronted with the next, steeper hill bailed out and took side streets until I popped out at US 1 and the entrance to the Hybla Valley strip mall farm. That this monstrosity was actually planned by someone is simply astounding. Fearlessly, Little Nellie took on the mass of cars and we made it through somehow. In fact, in about 5 minutes I was turning onto Parkers Lane using the turn lane and ironically not 30 yards from the spot where my wife was mowed down (actually thrown in the air) by an ex-con driving an SUV, when a driver honked at me. I wasn’t in her way. I wasn’t doing anything illegal. My offense was I was not in a car. Some people need remedial driver’s ed.

So I arrived home unscathed from my first coffeeneuring adventure. Here are some stats:

Date: October 5.

Place: Grounded Coffee Shop, 6919 Telegraph Avenue, Alexandria VA.

Drink: Congo dark roast, most delicious. Also, pretty darn good tomato chicken and orzo soup.

Observation: Grounded Coffee is a real find. I have $6+ left on my gift certificate and look forward to going back. I’l probably drive though because it’s located in Car Hell.


Grounded Coffee Shop

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