Sunday, October 4, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015, week #1: Lawrenceville via McKnight Road

For those unfamiliar with the concept, coffeeneuring is a neologism of randonneuring, the hobby or practice or obsession with going on long bike rides just because. The coffeeneuring variant is a game of sorts, the taking of a non-trivial bike ride (at least two miles) to get a cup of coffee. The rules are simple: Once a week, on what amounts to your weekend, go someplace on your bicycle and get a cup of coffee. Might be a coffee shop in a nearby town, might be a friend's house, might be a church service with fellowship afterwards, you can even bring your own thermos and sit along a trail somewhere and imbibe. The point is, get off your butt on a weekend you might just sit around the house, and actually go somewhere, via bicycle. Do this for seven weeks running, to a different place each time, and you've completed the challenge, i.e., you've "won".

For week #1, I had a series of unfortunate events on Saturday, but Sunday's weather was better anyway, a nice crisp early autumn day, so I decided to make a small shopping trip. The house's two portable phones were both becoming difficult to use because of dying batteries, so I popped one of them in my shirt pocket and headed for McKnight Road. I also brought along a pen and notepad (I feel more naked without them in hand than I feel when actually naked, OK sorry, too much information), as well as the cell phone. One additional coffeeneuring detail is that you have to tweet your travel, preferably with a photo of your beverage. Pumped up the tires, oiled the chain, fixed the mispositioned headlight, and headed off down the road.

McKnight Road, also known as Truck 19, Business 19, McKnightmare Road, Neon Boulevard, and a few things we won't repeat here, is a six-lane suburban arterial with ambient traffic speeds well above the posted 40 mph, as well as a plethora of curb cuts for strip malls, restaurants, gas stations, car dealers, and the like. Easily a dozen traffic lights in a four-mile stretch. Not exactly a serene spot to take a bike ride. I have no fear riding McKnight, though. I place myself in the left of center in the lane, and cede it to nobody. Dressed visibly, usually nobody gives me any trouble, only the occasional honk from an ignorant motorist who can't understand the concept of using a bicycle as transportation.

I got to the store at opening time. Actually a little before. The employee was dropped off just after I got there. When I got inside, made my selections and was checking out, I mentioned that I got there by bike. I don't think I won any converts, though.

Getting out of the place proved difficult. By car, you can only make a right and go north. I was going south, and didn't feel like dashing across three to five lanes of 45 mph traffic. Thus I was reduced to jumping partitions between parking lots down to the next intersection. It wasn't all that difficult, but I did need to think outside the box a bit, as there are no sidewalks, and adjacent properties were not necessarily at the same elevation. Once I got to an actual side street, though, I got the green, peeled onto Babcock Blvd, and had a pleasant ride into Millvale.

My plan was to have my caffeinated beverage at one of the two diners in town. However, both are cash only, I only had $6 (so figure five and a tip), which wouldn't go far. I walked around looking for other options. There really weren't any, so over the 40th Street Bridge I went into the city.

PennDOT in its infinite wisdom last year added a bike climbing lane from Millvale up to the bridge. This is actually pretty handy, but the top of the lane is difficult. The bike lane is on the left of moving traffic, but cyclists need to get to the right as they turn onto the bridge. There is a green "bike box", but this is both universally ignored by motorists, and almost useless to cyclists anyway. Using it would force cyclists out in front of a pack of motorists, and half the time it is only one lane inbound across the bridge, causing cyclists to either take the lane like a sheep running from an angry pack of wolves, or forced to the right edge of that lane and forced to endure repeated close passes until the pack has passed. To make matters worse, the first 150 yards of the bridge southbound is uphill, so even a strong cyclist is not going to be moving very quickly. For myself, I have found it better to wait in the uphill bike lane until most of the traffic has passed, then work my way over (one or two lanes) to the outside turning lane, thereby having to deal with only a couple of cars rather than perhaps a dozen.

That done, I make the left onto Butler, and a block later appears the Lawrenceville Crazy Mocha. Here, for me, cash is not a problem, as I keep a store card loaded with a few dollars in advance. The flavor of the day is "Jamaican me crazy", so I go with that and one of their giant cookies. This will also have to serve as lunch. I sit down, arrange my gear on a nearby table, and tweet this photo.

A few scribbles in my notebook later, along with a tweet and cross-post to Facebook, I pack up and head back home. I again take the 40th St Bridge, but use the right traffic lane, as it is two lanes northbound. Usually I take the sidewalk but today I felt brave and daring. Despite that, I still got one unnecessarily close pass. And that was the bulk of the issues on the eight-mile return trip. No, one more incident. Just as Babcock splits at the corner with Three Degree Road, a white pickup lays on the horn, apparently upset that I didn't accelerate to 35 through the intersection, which involves a sharp left turn, and I was also following another car. As if I had any choice in where to go? There is only one lane approaching the corner. Once around it, he could easily have passed me, which he did, and my non-jackrabbit start possibly slowed him three seconds, poor baby.

From there to home was only a mile and a half. No further issues. Once home, I installed my batteries, got my shower, and chalked up Week #1 coffeeneuring to the history books.


  1. Coffeeneuring explained. You can do this, too! Wherever you are!

  2. Excellent! You can coffeeneur two times in a weekend, once each day. Just making sure you knew so if one weekend gets away from you, you have wiggle room.