Coffeeneuring 2015: Ride 7

Coffeeneuring Ride 7: November 15, 2015

Destination: The Sparrows Grand Rapids, MI
Drink: Madcap Coffee
Distance: 3 miles
Bike: Schwinn World Sport

Last day, last ride. On this final day of coffeeneuring, I realized that there are some amazing neighborhood coffee shops that I was not able to visit this year. It seems most of the coffeeneuring rides I have completed focus on a far away coffee destinations and neglect the ones just down the road. Next year, my goal is to mix long-distance coffee shop visits and some of the local spots before or after a ride. So Common Ground, Kava House, Lyon Street Cafe and Wealthy Street Bakery, I hope to see you next year.

Pre-ride pic
Pre-ride pic

Today’s destination was to one of the shops in the neighborhood that I have not yet visited, despite the fact that it is down the block from my favorite pizza place in Grand Rapids, Brick Road Pizza. Like Brick Road Pizza, The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newstand is located on Wealthy Street, a cobbled street that gives a rough ride even with the wide bike tires on most of my bikes.

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The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newstand

Wealthy Street, like many parts of Grand Rapids, is experiencing a boost from business development and uses a distinctive sign to call attention to this historic part of the city. I have yet to be disappointed with a visit to the area.

Wealthy Street
Wealthy Street

The Sparrows was definitely one of my favorites of this year’s coffeeneuring rides. The atmosphere was relaxed and quiet, despite a large weekend crowd of customers. I was most curious about the “Newstand” part of the shop before coming. They carry a great selection of hard-to-find magazines and periodicals that I’m sure I will enjoy in the winter months to come.

Coffee Bar @The Sparrows
Coffee Bar @The Sparrows

Madcap Coffee, a local roaster with a large presence in shops throughout the city, was the coffee of choice. For the first time this year, the coffee did not come in a disposable container but rather, a pint glass with a sleeve.

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Madcap Coffee in a pint glass

After finishing up at The Sparrows, I continued on my loop of the neighborhood. While the bumpy ride along Wealthy Street was a bit rough for bikes, I hopped on Lake Street to make use of the wide bike lane (and to add some extra mileage to meet the minimum ride distance of 2 miles).

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Lake St. bike lane in Eastown

So that’s it! 7 rides and a bonus ride split over 2 states and multiple start locations. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

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Coffeeneuring 2015: Ride 6

Coffeeneuring Ride 6: November 14, 2015

Destination: Village Baker Spring Lake, MI
Drink: Uncommon Coffee Roasters Bakery Blend
Distance: 12.7 miles
Bike: Schwinn World Sport

Here we are in the final weekend of coffeeneuring. Luckily, the wind died down and the sun came back after a long week of rough weather to finish out the challenge. I started my ride today at a friend’s house in Spring Lake, MI and we proceeded to do a loop around the lake. Spring Lake is actually connected to Lake Michigan via the Grand River so we were treated to a multiple bridge crossings throughout the ride, as well as some amazing scenery.

Spring Lake Bridge
Spring Lake Bridge

Our destination for the day was The Village Baker on the main road through Spring Lake. The area has a well-developed bike network with a combination of wide side paths and a paved rail trail called the Lakeside Trail. It has been a while but one of my very first bike tours with my brother used these same paths on our trip along the Lake Michigan shore.

The Village Baker
The Village Baker

As we rode up to The Village Baker from the Lakeside Trail, we saw some old parking spaces were now bike racks. It is always a good sign when bike parking is plentiful and easy to find.

New Bike Racks at The Village Baker
New Bike Racks at The Village Baker

After navigating a series of rooms, we found the bakery counter and ordered some fresh bread and coffees. It was a bit chaotic but it seemed like everyone was used to it and quite patient about it. The coffee selection was from Uncommon Coffee Roasters, a coffee roaster further south along the lakeshore in Saugatuck, MI.

Coffee Selection at The Village Bakery
Coffee Selection at The Village Bakery

With our coffees poured, we found a quiet table and refueled after our cool morning ride.

Coffees and Bread
Coffees and Bread

As we talked, we decided that rather than go back the same way, we would continue around Spring Lake along the bike paths. While it was still cold, the sun was shining brightly and after snow flurries yesterday, we need to take advantage of every sunny day. We only took a quick break to stage a picture on an old boat launch dock in Fruitport. The wind had picked up and the dock was no longer very sturdy so I half expected to pick the bikes out of the water in the process.

Bikes on the Fruitport Boat Launch
Bikes on the Fruitport Boat Launch

Fortunately, both the bikes and riders stayed dry and are ready for the last ride of the challenge tomorrow.

Coffeeneuring 2015: Ride 5

Coffeeneuring Ride 5: November 8, 2015

Destination: Greg’s Paw Paw Blend Paw Paw, MI
Drink: Paramount Coffee Colombian Supremo
Distance: 17.5 miles
Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker

Winter is coming here in Michigan whether or not we are ready for it. This weekend I was in Lawrence, Michigan to get our family’s summer cottage ready for the winter. The brief stretch of warm weather we had last week has now been replaced by cold and wind. Today’s ride was the coldest yet of this year’s coffeeneuring rides. By the way, I was joined today by fellow coffeeneur and my dad for our second joint ride of the challenge this year.

Travelling along Territorial Road.
Travelling along Territorial Road.

A quick temperature check before our ride (38°F) reminded us that fall is indeed here and it is time to dig out the cold weather riding clothes. Full sun and a west wind at our backs buoyed our spirits despite the cold. Before we knew it, we were crossing the Paw Paw River south of an old hydroelectric dam that forms Maple Lake in Downtown Paw Paw.

Maple Lake
Maple Lake

A short while later we pulled up to our chosen destination, located just off a park leading up the the historic county courthouse. We have talked about riding to a coffee shop in neighboring Paw Paw, Michigan for years now. Fortunately, a new coffee shop called Greg’s Paw Paw Blend just opened for us to try as part of the challenge.

Greg's Paw Paw Blend
Greg’s Paw Paw Blend

It was a quiet morning in Paw Paw but things picked up as we enjoyed our coffees at a window overlooking the main road through town.

Coffees on the Counter
Coffees on the Counter
Coffee by the window
Coffee by the window

Less than a year ago, the road pictured looked quite different with bright purple bike lanes running through the heart of town. Unfortunately, the bike lanes came at the expense of traditional roadside parking and due to the concerns of residents and businesses, they were later removed.

Bikes in Downtown Paw Paw
Bikes in Downtown Paw Paw

We grabbed a quick picture in front of the old Carnegie Library (now the Chamber of Commerce) and headed west into the wind back to Lawrence. At least we had the warmth and energy from our coffee break to make the tough ride back just a bit easier. Two rides to go…

Coffeeneuring 2015: Rides 3 & 4

Coffeeneuring Ride 3: October 31, 2015

Destination: Bagel Beanery-Breton Rd. Grand Rapids, MI
Drink: Breton Rd. Blend
Distance: 12.3 miles
Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker

Improving my commute to work by bike took about 2 months of exploring various routes through the far southeast side of the city. Getting across 28th Street, the major commercial strip south of the city, proved to be the toughest part. My current route across that busy street takes me past one of the three Bagel Beanery shops in the Grand Rapids area. As the name suggests, the Bagel Beanery specializes in coffee and bagels, which are among the best I’ve found since I moving to Grand Rapids. As I’m typically in a rush to work, this weekend trip was the first chance I had to try out this location.

Bagel Beanery-Breton Rd.
Bagel Beanery-Breton Rd.

Due to an early start to the ride and the lighter weekend traffic, the ride south was a lot quieter than usual. In the six months I have used this route, it has already seen almost a half mile of bike lanes added and it quite bike friendly. Unfortunately, the bike friendliness stops abruptly just after the Bagel Beanery. It was nice to sit down and enjoy the coffee and bagel and not be concerned with a rough, truck-filled ride through the industrial parks near the airport.

Tomato Basil Bagel and Breton Rd. Blend @Bagel Beanery
Tomato Basil Bagel and Breton Rd. Blend @Bagel Beanery

As I left to head home, the wind started to pick up and it was clear the rain in the forecast was getting closer. With the wind at my back, I took a small detour past one of my favorite casual ride loops, the Reeds Lake trail in East Grand Rapids. I skipped my usual trip around the lake today but still took a quick photo after I realized I had failed to get a picture of the bike back at the Bagel Beanery.

Reeds Lake Stop
Reeds Lake Stop

Coffeeneuring Ride 4: November 1, 2015

Destination: Herman’s Boy Rockford, MI
Drink: Herman’s Boy Pantlind Blend & African Blend
Distance: 31.5 miles
Bike: Soma Grand Randonneur

After a slow start to the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge, I finally cleared some space on the camera memory card and made sure it was fully charged. Here is the bike getting ready for what may be the longest ride of this year’s challenge.

Getting ready to ride
Getting ready to ride

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the White Pine Trail north out of Grand Rapids was my favorite trail in the area. It is easy enough to ride to the trailhead from downtown and it just keeps heading north after that (all the way to Cadillac, MI). It was a beautiful fall day and it may be the last chance I have to ride the trail without snow this year.

White Pine Trail
White Pine Trail

I’ve ridden the trail to Rockford, MI quite a few times and always wondered how there wasn’t a coffee shop right off the trail downtown. It turns out I wasn’t looking quite far enough because barely a half mile east of downtown Rockford is an amazing coffee and pastry place called Herman’s Boy.

Herman's Boy sign
Herman’s Boy sign

Coffee is just the beginning at Herman’s Boy. In addition to pastries and sandwiches, they have freshly roasted coffees, teas, fudge, smoked meats and more in various small rooms and counters throughout the building. The hardest part of the visit was figuring out where to sit because there were small groupings of table and chairs both inside and outside mixed in with shelves of food and cookware.

Tea selection at Herman's Boy
Tea selection at Herman’s Boy

I grabbed a cup of coffee as soon as I arrived in an attempt to warm up after the cool morning ride. I wandered around the store with the cup of coffee and was so impressed, I had to get another (along with some tea and hot chocolate to make later).

Coffee Round 2
Coffee Round 2

With all that caffeine and a slight downhill for most of the ride home, the return trip was so quick I barely remembered to stop and take in the beautiful day on the trail. On the way out of Rockford, the trail crosses the Rogue River using the same bridge as the railroad it replaced.

White Pine Trail over the Rogue River
White Pine Trail over the Rogue River

A bit further south, the Rogue River empties into the Grand River and the trail continues follows along until it reaches Grand Rapids. Thankfully, there are some amazing overlooks along the trail that allow riders to take in the view.

Along the Grand River
Along the Grand River