Monday, November 18, 2013

Coffeeneuring 2013 in Eugene


I had ambitions to do more, and in particular to declare my home a coffee shop for a day (with a good story or cycling advice as the price of a cup), but in the end I am satisfied with having finished the coffeeneuring challenge successfully, boosting ever so slightly Oregon's standing as a nexus of bicycles and coffee.
My adventures are as follows: Fall colors
Lynne and Lesli, coffeeneuring before randonneuring
Coffeeneuring #5: Wolf Creek
  • October 5:  Mocha at Wandering Goat with Patrick Deegan and his daughters.  This was a wonderful start, and I wish I had been able to turn more of my coffeeneuring outings into meet-ups with delightful people.  Approximately 5 miles round trip. 
  • October 12: Mocha and pastry at Hideaway Bakery, with Cyndi.  Bonus visit to preparations for 2013 Eugene Cargo Bike Fair and Disaster Relief Trial on the way home.  Approximately 5 miles round trip. 
  • October 13: Hot chocolate at Allann Brothers on Hilyard.  Combined with a scenic loop up McBeth and down Fox Hollow, for a total of about 15 miles. 
  • October 19: Caffe Latte at Vero Espresso House, with Cyndi.  Combined with shopping at Smith Family Bookstore (before) and Arriving by Bike (after), for a total of about 9 miles. 
  • October 20: Coffee at Linda's Cafe and Deli, Lorane, OR.  This was my only longish coffeeneuring expedition:  Wolf Creek loop counter-clockwise.  Little stores and restaurants in itty-bitty towns are such a treasure and a resource to those of who ramble.  It's a great pleasure to be greeted as a regular at a place like that, some distance from home.  About 70 miles. 
  • October 26: PC (Market of Choice) at dawn, before setting out on a permanent brevet with Lynne and Lesli.  Straight espresso. Just barely over the 2 mile minimum. 
  • October 27: Hot chocolate at Morning Glory Cafe, by the Amtrak station, to see Lynne off to Portland.  About 10 miles round trip. 
  • November 3: Extra credit coffeeneur (#8 of 7), a semi-successful attempt to bike in shapes.  The cup, carefully designed on a map before departure, is more-or-less recognizable.  The saucer, improvised at the last minute based on my mental geography of the river bike path, is a travesty. Straight espresso at Full City Coffee on the way back home.  About 15 miles. 
I regret that I didn't manage to open a coffeeneuring bar one morning and make coffee for lots of other Eugene area lovers of coffee and cycling.  Maybe next year, if there is a next year.  Can MG really keep this up if the coffeeneuring boom spreads?  I hope so.  I have more adventures to plot, and plenty more cafes to visit in the Eugene-Springfield area and further afield.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Coffeeneuring extra credit: #8 of 7


I've seen a couple suggestions to ride a coffee-cup shaped route.  It's not as easy as it sounds, because street systems tend to be on a grid with few suitable lines to form the bowl of a cup or a handle.  Coburg/Cal Young/Willagillespie/Country Club was the closest thing I could find to a cup shape in the Eugene area, with a somewhat clumsy handle looping around Monroe Middle School.  That much I mapped out in advance, but I forgot to consider one-way streets, which caused me some problem where I tried to complete the bottom of the bowl.

On the way to the start of the cup, it occurred to me that I should be able to draw in a saucer with the river path.  This I did not see on a map before I got there, and I should not be surprised that my mental picture of the geometry is way different from where the path actually goes. That stretch along the river was supposed to be the saucer ... obviously that part didn't work.

The only coffee along the cup itself was a Starbucks.  I'm not too snobbish to acknowledge that Starbucks makes reliably pretty good coffee, and has had an overall very positive influence on coffee in the U.S.   But this is Eugene, and we can do a lot better, so I stopped at Full City (Pearl Street) on the way back.


Full City is more-or-less the original really good coffee in Eugene.   More-or-less because the proprietor was roaster at Coffee Corner when Coffee Corner was the best coffee in town, 30 years or so ago.  I'm not 100% certain, but I believe I bought my first batches of green beans from him when I was living in Indiana.   Fully City has a high standard for quality, from the roasting and freshness to the pulls.  They make a few choices differently than I would ... some of their roasts are a bit darker than I prefer, and the practice of serving the shot separate from the steamed milk in a caffe latte seems to me an unnecessary exposure of the coffee to air.  No latte art here; the focus is on flavor.   I had a shot. It was good.


Coffeeneuring data:  3 November 2013,  Full City Coffee Roasters on Pearl Street, "caffe normale"  (straight espresso), about 15 miles total.

The canon and the value of allusion

Two articles have got me thinking about the value (and cost) of a consensus literary canon.  Yesterday it was a Slate article, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Arcade Fire."  Today it was a Chasing Mailboxes post "Coffeeneuring is Truth, Truth Coffeeneuring".   I imagine more people "get" the latter (Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn) than the former (Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird),  and one could get something out of both articles without catching the allusions, but reading is a richer experience when we catch these inside jokes of reference.

I suspect few of my current students would catch the Keats reference, and I would be surprised if one in ten caught the Stevens reference ... which is a shame, because the whole form of the Slate review is a bit of a play on the form of the poem, with a switch-up from straight numbering of the perspectives to a repeated "one two three four" rhyming with the dance theme in the review.  The Keats theme is less woven into the coffeeneuring blog post, but there is an implicit comment there, echoing Keats, about the relation of aesthetic appreciation to practical pursuits.    Allusion makes writing denser and more rewarding.

But I miss lots of allusions, and not just in the parts of the canon that I am unfamiliar with.  A week ago, a friend who was brought up with traditional Old Testament tales told a story about her work involving  building more bricks without more straw.  I had some idea that straw was involved in making bricks, but my spotty religious education did not include unreasonable demands on Jewish slaves in Egypt.  And I miss a lot of contemporary allusions.  I know now that a British telephone box might be a disguised tardis, and that a tardis is not (as I once assumed) a malicious space creature, but I will never fully appreciate a conversation heavy with references to Dr. Who.  I know that Breaking Bad is about a high school chemistry teacher who turns to cooking meth, but that's as far as my familiarity goes.  Is my recognition of 19th and 20th century poetry adequate recompense for being completely oblivious to references to Duck Dynasty or Homeland or The Wire?

To some extent allusions are "in" jokes that we use to distinguish those from our own group, with its shared values and experience, from others.  If you make a reference to Monty Python, and I get it, then we know we have that in common.  It builds a bond.  I was pretty thrilled when I first read extensive references to Chuangzi in LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven, because I had read a fair bit of Chaungzi and because I knew that not many readers of The Lathe of Heaven likely had ... the thrill of getting an in joke is partly knowing that a lot of other people don't.  I enjoyed the Wallace Stevens allusion in a Slate review partly for the same reason.  It's fun knowing that only a fraction of the readers of that article will be in on the joke.

Which brings us to the cost of a consensus canon.  The traditional canon in western education, as others have complained, is a bunch of dead white European men.  Chuangzi isn't there.  The Bible is there, but the Koran isn't.  Keats is there, but Li Bai (Li Po) isn't.  I probably can't name a lot of the key texts that have been omitted, because of course my own education was largely built around the traditional western canon.   The in jokes that I learned to recognize and appreciate are in jokes told by people who belong to the club of those who share my educational background, and who happen to include the majority of those who have money and power in our society.  The in jokes of people brought up in other cultures, or in other subcultures in America, do not necessarily have less intrinsic value than the in jokes I recognize, but they are less useful as entree into the dominant culture.

I'm not saying that knowing Duck Dynasty is equivalent to knowing Keats.  I can't make a direct comparison, since I'm familiar with only one of them, but I wouldn't trade my 19th century poets as a group for reality TV.  (I might trade Keats for Monte Python and Wordsworth for early Saturday Night Live, if I had to ... neither the dead poets nor contemporary TV are uniform in quality.)

So there is a cost to having a consensus canon:  It is necessarily a narrow selection that omits a great deal worth knowing, and it will unavoidably be slanted toward work most relevant to those with power and resources.  It marks an in-group, and excludes many out-groups.  But there is likewise a cost to not having a canon, or having many, mostly disjoint canons.  Our discourse is plainer and poorer if we can't paint on the rich textured background of our shared reading.

I don't have a prescription for addressing this quandary.  I know plenty of others have thought about it and argued about it, for decades.   It's on my mind partly because I am not part of the community that typically argues about it.  I teach computer science, not literature.  Still, when I introduce aliasing of variables in my intro class, I really want my students to recognize and get a little thrill when I borrow an explanation:

O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Coffeeneuring #7: Seeing Lynne off at Amtrak

Lynne and I have spent a lot of time together on bicycles.  I met her a few years back, on a 200k in territory familiar to her and unknown to me.  I was having trouble finding the cues, and asked if I could tag along with Lynne and her friend Cecil, and they graciously said yes.  The next time I rode in the Portland area, Lynne was looking for someone to ride with, and I was happy to ride with her.  We're approximately compatible in riding speed, around the same age, and find plenty to talk about.  And on long distance rides, there is a lot of time to talk, and then to not talk, and then to talk again.

Now, when I travel north to ride, often I stay at Lynne's home, and Lynne sometimes visits us in Eugene to ride here.  Friday she took Amtrak to Eugene.  Saturday along with our friend Lesli we rode my Alsea Loop 400km permanent.  Her train home was Sunday morning, and (of course, this being Eugene) there is cafe just across the parking lot from the station.  So:  Coffeeneuring.

Again I made coffee at home with breakfast.  I can't quite grasp the idea of skipping my morning coffee so that I can have more coffee at a bar.  But no problem, other hot drinks count for coffeeneuring.  I took my commuting bike, and of course Lynne took her randonneuse, and we worked our way down the hill into Eugene.  I chose the route poorly, but it's just not that hard or far from anywhere to anywhere in Eugene, so soon enough we were at the station and at the Morning Glory Cafe next door.

Lynne at Morning Glory Cafe

Cyndi had an errand to run, so she drove down and joined us.


Lynne had chai, I had hot chocolate, Cyndi had caffe latte, and we had enough time to enjoy our drinks and chat a little before it was time to walk Lynne's bike over to the luggage car for loading. Then Lynne found her train car and we said our goodbyes. Cyndi went off to her errands and I rode in to school for a recruiting event.

Coffeeneuring data: Sunday, October 27; about 10 miles round trip; hot chocolate.

Coffeeneuring #6: PC at dawn

The planned event for Saturday was a 200km group permanent with my PDX-area rando friend Lynne, who took Amtrak down Friday night and stayed with us, and my Eugene-area rando friend Lesli.   The starting point was a supermarket known variously as "PC" or "Market of Choice."  Originally it was "Price Chopper," but gradually it moved into a higher-end, more organic/local/enthusiast market niche, for which the old name was unsuitable.  So for a while it was "PC Market of Choice", on its way to being "Market of Choice".  It's still "PC" to many long-term Eugeneans, but signage and bags all say "Market of Choice", and increasingly that is what everyone calls it.

Market of Choice has a coffee bar.  Not an embedded Starbucks, but its own coffee bar.  And when we reached the start point, Lynne noted that we had ridden (just barely) more than two miles from my home.   While stopping for coffee on a brevet does not count as coffeeneuring, one may coffeeneur on the same day as a brevet.  The randos of my acquaintance have universally interpreted the rules as counting the ride to the ride as a separate event, on which one may coffeeneur.  So we declared a coffeeneuring opportunity, and went in.

Coffeeneuring at PC
I had drunk two double caffe lattes at home before we set out, so I ordered hot chocolate. Lynne had single caffe lattes with breakfast, which may have left her capacity for one more, and I think Lesli also ordered coffee. It was dark when we entered PC, and daylight when we emerged.
Lesli and Lynne at PC
Coffeeneuring data: 26 October 2013, 2.somesmallnumber miles, hot chocolate

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Coffeeneuring #5: Wolf Creek to Linda's Deli

It was a beautiful day, foggy and chilly to begin but predicted to reach 65.  I decided to take my fast bike on the Wolf Creek loop counter-clockwise, possibly for the last time this fall.  The main challenge that poses is clothing: Since my fast bike has no bags or racks, whatever I need for the weather conditions needs to be on my body.  I chose leg warmers to go with my regular bib shorts, a synthetic base layer under a medium-weight long sleeve wool jersey, short-finger gloves with long-finger wool glove liners, a sleeveless wind vest, and a think wool cap under my summer bike helmet. Also I chose an unusual route outbound: Out to the end of the bike path at Greenhill and then south on Crow Road to Crow, rather than popping over Lorane hill and down to four corners.  This is because the descent on Lorane is really cold, always much colder than on the Eugene side of the ridge.   I am usually too paranoid about getting cold, and make choices that are too hot as the day warms up, but this time I got it about right:  Chilly but not painfully cold for the first couple hours, then just "brisk" for a while, then warm but not too hot when I finished around 3.

Coffeeneuring #5: Wolf Creek

The climb on Wolf Creek was pretty as ever.

At the top, I thought I found a chanterelle, but on review I think it's something else, because the gills don't continue down the stem. Past it's sell-by date in any case.

Coffeeneuring #5:  Chanterelle?

There was a lot of new clear-cut on on Wolf Creek and Siuslaw Highway, including this spot at their intersection. I used to stop here sometimes for shade. It won't be shady again in my lifetime.

Clear-cut at Siuslaw Hwy and Wolf Creek

In five years, if they replant promptly, it should look something like this patch on the right (further along Siuslaw Hwy). In 15 years, it should look like the patch on the left.


There are still a lot of very nice stretches along Siuslaw Highway, which brings me to the little town of Lorane, where Lorane General Store has become Linda's Deli.

Approaching Lorane

Linda's Deli, Lorane

The coffee at Linda's Deli is ok. The people are fantastic. It's probably been a few months since I was there last, but I was recognized and greeted, and the older lady (probably Linda herself?) asked me how long I had ridden and how much further I would ride today. I used to always have pie there, but lately I've been choosing hard-boiled eggs.

Coffeeneuring in Lorane

On the way back I noticed cattle with more impressive horns than I usually see around here. That didn't seem to much for their self-confidence, though ... they began retreating from the fence as soon as I stopped to take their picture.

Coffeeneuring #5 - cattle with horns

There is quite a bit of grazing land on the way back along Territorial Road and Lorane Highway. I can attest that the grass-fed cattle at Knee Deep are tasty.

 Knee Deep Cattle Company

Fall colors in Oregon are generally pretty subdued, partly because of the particular varieties of trees common here (oak in this view), and partly because we have wet autumns.
  Fall colors

But this has been a pretty dry fall, apart from one week of torrents, and here and there are some bright patches.

Fall colors

Coffeeneuring data:  October 20. About 65 miles round trip to Linda's Deli in Lorane, Oregon, where I had coffee and hard-boiled eggs.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Coffeeneuring #4: Caffe Vero

Smith Family BookstoreMy original plan was to stop at Eugene Public Library (which has a coffee shop) to pick up one of their two copies of How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand (better known to me as the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog).  On my way, though, I decided that I should check for a used copy at Smith Family Bookstore first.  Software engineers are fond of (building) architecture as an analogy to software architecture, and How Buildings Learn was recommended by a colleague because of the relation between (mostly unplanned) evolution of buildings and (planned or unplanned) evolution of software systems.  I thought it would be handy to have a copy of my own to peruse without a deadline, and to draw from for my spring class in globally distributed software development.

UntitledCyndi called and suggested meeting at Vero Espresso, a few blocks away and not far from where she was shopping.  OK then.

Caffe Vero exterior

But what's this? Paper cups? The barista apologized. Apparently they ran out of real cups. At least it wasn't styrofoam, but still there is a difference in flavor and in the feel of the cup on the lips. A little disappointing.
Coffees at Caffe Vero

The coffee at Vero is quite good. Both the steamed milk and the coffee is a bit sweeter than most local places, but perhaps a little less complex than the best. If you think of coffee in voices (I do), it's like a nice consonant blend of tenor and alto, maybe just a bit of baritone, all in a sweet major key. Pleasant, but not something you listen very closely to.  Vero is a good place to go for a pleasant cup and conversation if it's the conversation you really want to focus on. If you want to focus on the cup itself, Wandering Goat is probably a better choice ... you get a wider range of voices there, with some interesting and slightly more challenging harmonies.

On the way home I stopped to look at wool and light systems at Arriving by Bike.  I'm looking for a mid-layer that's a bit lighter than my Ibex Shak, and planning a generator light system for my daughter Iris's bike.

Randonneuring data:  October 19, 2013. Vero Espresso House, 205 E 14th Avenue, Eugene, Oregon 97401-4101 (14th and Pearl).  Ordered Caffe Latte.  Approximately 9 miles round trip, including stops at Smith Family Bookstore and Arriving by Bike.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Coffeeneuring Q&A

In response to Chasing Mailboxes, 14 Oct
Guest Coffeeneuring Blog Post Questions
1) Where do you live?
I live in Eugene, Oregon.  That's 100 miles south of Portland, about 60 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley.  Eugene is a town of approximately 150,000 people, and with Springfield just across the river the urban area is about 200,000 people.  Eugene is a University town, but large enough that the University is not the only thing going on.  In this way it is more like Boulder, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin than Ann Arbor, Michigan or Ames, Iowa.  Years ago the Wall Street Journal referred to Eugene as "the last refuge of the terminally hip."  We didn't take that as an insult.  
Eugene is the home of Co-Motion Cycles, Bike Friday, Rolf Prima wheels, Burley cycling accessories, and one-person builders including English Cycles and Winter Bicycles.  Eugene also has a high ratio of LBS to population. 
2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?
Peer pressure?  It really doesn't make a lot of sense, rationally.  I roast my own coffee and make espresso drinks at home, and rather seldom venture out to coffee shops.   But several of my Portland-based randonneuring friends coffeeneured last year and seemed to be having fun.   Also I'm hoping to meet a few people through coffeeneuring. Not that I'm a hermit and need some contrivance to meet people, but it seems like potentially a nice social activity. 
3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike? What makes it a good coffeeneuring bike?
Bike, singular?  Should I designate a single bike as my coffeeneuring bike?  Why would I do that? 
In the first week of coffeeneuring, I used my commuter bike, a Canondale hybrid from the early 90s.  It has a generator hub, flat bar,  twist shifters, fat tires, fenders, and a back rack for panniers. It has flat pedals with "power grips", which work with street shoes roughly like toe clips.  
In the second week of coffeeneuring I used my Salsa Casseroll, which is outfitted for randonneuring.  It has a generator hub, drop bars, bar-end shifters, fenders, a back rack, and SPD clip-in pedals.  It is my winter training bicycle and my randonneuse, and also a pleasant choice if I need to carry a bit but not so much that I need to stuff panniers. 
Both of these are quite suitable for coffeeneuring, because the first lets me wear street shoes and the second lets me wear walkable MTB shoes, which are good enough for a coffee shop.  
4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for this coffeeneuring trip?
Ah, I see, I am choosing one outing.  I'll choose the outing to Hideaway Bakery on Saturday.  It's a bakery that also makes coffee, as versus a coffee shop per se.  The bread is baked in a wood-fueled oven, and it is fantastic ... the best bread in Eugene, and Eugene has good bread.  The pastries are good too. 
5) Is the coffee shop beautiful and the coffee delicious? Tell us a little about your coffeeneuring locale.
It is very nice, very comfortable, very Eugene.  Outside and inside seating.  Essentially invisible from the street, but full of people nonetheless because people tell their friends about good food and nice settings.   I had once met a friend here to start a ride, and wanted to go back.  The coffee is good, but unexceptional by Eugene standards.  The pastries were excellent. 
6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?
I randonneur.  I rode my first 1000k this last summer, and am aiming to ride Paris-Brest-Paris on 2015.  I also commute to my work, about 3.5 to 5 miles each way depending on the route I take.  Sometimes I take a longer way home to get in an hour or two of exercise.  Western Oregon's weather is mild, making it easy to be a year-round commuter. 
7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

The cycling around Eugene is excellent, and there is more excellent cycling up and down the west coast.  Although Oregon is known for rain, we actually have fairly dry summers, and much lower humidity than the midwest and east coast of the U.S.   If you have an opportunity to visit, bring your bicycle!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coffeeneuring #3: Allann Brothers

Allann Brothers Coffee, outside view

Sunday afternoon ... I had my morning coffee (blend of two of my home roasts in a caffe latte), then finished reading a paper I am reviewing, and took an afternoon ride.  Chose Macbeth / Fox Hollow loop because it brings me conveniently near several Allann Brothers Coffee, which seemed more in the spirit of coffeeneuring than getting some pretty awful afternoon coffee at a convenience store along one of the other potential short ride loops.

Interior view of Allann Brothers Coffee

Allann Brothers is actually a chain based in Albany, but it's not a Starbucks-like mega-chain.  They make pretty good coffee, which they roast themselves not too far away, and the shop has a pretty good neighborhood vibe.   Allann Brothers is also one of the few places you can still see commercial espresso machines with hand levers.  While Pavoni makes a sort of imitation of this for home use, the commercial hand lever machines work on a completely different principle:  You pull down to compress a spring, and it is the spring that then applies steady pressure to the water through the group head.  Thus the origin of the term "pulling a shot", and a "short pull", in which the lever is pulled down only part way to reduce the amount of water in the espresso shot.   The other place I have seen these old machines, several years ago, was Sicily.  I never saw them in northern Italy.

Looking out from Allann Brothers Coffee

This being afternoon, and me being sufficiently caffeinated, I chose hot chocolate instead of coffee. It took three tries to understand the server asking me whether I preferred semi-sweet chocolate or Mexican chocolate.  Semi-sweet, with whipped cream, why not. It was nice.

Coffeeneuring data:  13 October (Sunday), Allann Brothers at Hilyard Street and 24th, hot chocolate, approximately 15 miles round trip including the loop around Macbeth and Fox Hollow  (otherwise it would be 6.2 miles round trip by the shortest route).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coffeeneuring 2013 #2: Hideaway Bakery

Coffeeneuring 2013 #2:  Hideaway Bakery by young.michal

I think this is currently the best bakery in Eugene, for both bread and pastries. I particularly like their rustic breads, but today Cyndi and I shared a scone and pain au chocolate, and each had a mocha.  (Cyndi was on four wheels, and I was on two.)  The coffee is fine, but not the best in town; the reason to go here is excellent breads and a nice atmosphere.

Coffeeneuring 2013 #2:  Mocha, pain au chocolate and scone at Hideaway Bakery.
On the way home, I got to see a bunch of cool cargo bikes, and even a cargo skateboard, preparing for the Disaster Relief Trials.

Perhaps the most interesting was a cargo bike towing another bike on the way to the trials. 


Coffeeneuring data:  5.6 miles round trip (probably a bit more with the detour to see the DRT prep), to Hideaway Bakery, 3377 E Amazon Dr, Eugene, OR, where my qualifying hot drink was a mocha. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Coffeeneuring at Wandering Goat, Oct 5 2013

I haven't coffeeneured before ... I like to think I make good coffee at home, and if I have enough time to go to a coffee shop, then I probably have enough time to hang around the house and enjoy making my coffee as much as drinking it.  Still ... it's a cool idea, and Eugene is a good place to explore and appreciate coffee.  So in 2013 I'm participating in the Third Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge.   I am hoping, in particular, to meet up for coffee (or other hot drinks) not only with current cycling buddies, but with some people I don't know as well, or at all.

October 5 I met Patrick Deegan and his daughters at Wandering Goat (268 Madison, Eugene), where I had a mocha.

 I rode by it twice looking for it, before recognizing it as my destination ... it is not a flashy place.   It may well be the best coffee in the Eugene/Springfield area, with a homey, friendly atmosphere that I enjoy.

Patrick brought his daughters in his bike trailer.  They speak English, Russian, and Chinese together ... very cool.  Also they have sparkly shoes that light up (although I think Patrick's shoes were not electric).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dog bowl heat gun coffee roasting

I have had three small home coffee roasting machines.  The first was a Cuisinart "robo cafe", which Cusinart U.S. claims never existed (it appears to have been marketed primarily in Japan, but I got one from a nice kitchen store in Boulder).   It was designed to roast, grind, and brew, which is cute but basically a bad idea.  My second was an air roaster from Hearthware, a Korean company, and it was excellent for the three or four years it lasted.  Then I had the next model of Hearthware, which was nearly as good.  And then Hearthware pulled back from the home coffee roasting market, stopped supporting their products well, and so ceased to be a good option.  What to do?

The Hearthware units operated on the same principle as hot air popcorn poppers.  They are also known as "fluid bed" roasters, because the hot air (the fluid) lifts and stirs the beans as it roasts them.  This is the same principle used by large commercial roasters, and it works well.  There are other fluid bed roasters on the market, but they are not as well made as the original Hearthware units. One can also hack some popcorn poppers to convert them to coffee roasters, but I've never felt comfortable doing that.

Small commercial roasters (like your local coffee shop, if it roasts its own) use drum roasters.  These turn the beans in a metal drum, which transmits heat to the beans.  There are also home roasters that use this approach.  Air roasters cost around $100-$150 dollars; drum roasters for home use are in the $350-$700 range.  I seriously considered this option, but it's a non-trivial investment, and in addition the drum roasters present a larger challenge in smoke management than the air roasters.

There is a third, relatively cheap option:  Put the coffee beans in a metal dish (typically a dog food bowl), and apply heat with a heat gun, like those used to peel paint.  Like air roasters, this method uses air to deliver heat to the beans, but the beans do not float on a fluid bed of hot air. Rather, they slide around a bit in the dog bowl, which gets pretty hot and possibly also transfers a bit of heat through conduction, like a drum roaster.  (I am a little skeptical that this contributes much to the roasting.)  There are pretty good instructions for getting started online.  It seemed like a good idea to at least try this cheap method before investing in a drum roaster.

So ... after much delay, we bought a heat gun and gave it a try.  First I tried roasting some older green coffee left over from when my last Hearthware died.  It was pretty disappointing.  Then we bought some fresh green coffee from Sweet Marias, my supplier of choice, and it was better.  And a little better.  And, eventually, really good.

Impressions so far:  Dog bowl roasting is a lot more challenging than using an air roaster.  It takes a good deal of trial and error to find the right amount of green coffee to roast and to find and technique to achieve even roasting and the desired roast profile.  Currently I use 100 grams of green coffee (because that amount seems to stir well in the hot air, while also retaining heat well enough), and I use the heat gun on low and very close to the beans for several minutes to reach first crack, then switch to high heat from a greater distance to rapidly take it from first to the desired level of roast (usually a little into second crack).  Results still vary a lot, after a month or so of roasting roughly every third day.  Occasionally it is very good indeed.

Today we took pictures at 30 second intervals during a roast, to illustrate how the color of the beans changes during the roast, as well as to show the basic setup.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Seattle to Klamath Falls - my first 1000km brevet

August 15-18 I rode my first 1000km (621 mile) brevet, the SIR Seattle to Crater Lake 1000K.

I typically learn something from every ride.  I particularly learn when things don't go well ... so in that regard I didn't learn as much from this ride as I might have, because the ride went well.  But having never ridden more than 600km before, and having never had a multi-day ride that started at night, learning that I can do it is worth quite a bit.  My confidence of being able to be ready for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015 is bolstered.

 Cyndi and I drove from Eugene, picked up Asta in Portland a little after 2, and reached Bremerton with time to nap a bit before the start.  Not that real sleep was possible, but I think the quiet resting time may have been worth something.  The ride started at 10:30pm, with the idea that we would ride through Thursday night and Friday before our first stop Friday evening, 400km (250 miles) down the Washington and Oregon coast to Pacific City.  (Some people chose to ride farther, to Lincoln City for the first overnight.)

One of the first decisions one makes on a brevet is how fast to start.  Try to ride with a fast group for a while?  Go out slower to preserve energy for the long ride ahead?  A benefit of staying with the fast kids early was that many of them knew their way out of Bremerton, and I didn't.  Moreover, while they were moving at a pace I couldn't maintain forever, it wasn't that fast; I knew I could keep it for at least an hour or two.   Sticking to a fast wheel for a while meant building up a reserve of time that might ultimately be traded for sleep later, so that's what I did.  Before long we were a paceline, taking relatively long pulls, and I found I could take my pulls without getting too exhausted, at least for a while.

Fairly early on, maybe an hour in, a car gunned its engine as it passed us, then quickly disappeared around the bend.  A moment later we heard the sound of peeling out.  But it was probably not peeling out; what we heard was surely skidding breaks, because when we rounded the bend the car (presumably the same one) was off the road on the left, and just beyond it was a pickup, upside down in the left lane.   We stopped.  I could hear one man asking "is everyone ok", another man cursing at him, and a woman sounding a bit hysterical.  Since everyone seemed to have exited their vehicles intact, and since we hadn't actually witnessed the accident, we rode on.

I remember only three stops in the first 200km (125mi).  The first was the brief pause at the accident.  The second was an "information control"in Matlock, where we were required to find the brand of gas sold as evidence that we had followed the correct route.  We probably spent about 20 minutes there, taking time to drink and pee and eat and prepare a little more food to be eaten while riding.   I believe some riders who had come off the back of the group rejoined us there, as well.  The third stop was at Raymond, 170km (105 miles) in.  By that time I had fallen off the back of the group, and found my way to the convenience store alone.  I told the clerk that I imagined she had recently initialed brevet cards for the riders who reached there before me, but she said she had not, which was curious. After I refilled my water bottles and prepared a bit more food, just as I was riding back to the main highway I saw another small group of riders go by.  I chased them, caught up, and joined that group ... but it was the same group I had ridden with earlier.  I learned that they had found a restaurant open and had coffee, which took more time than my convenience store stop, and gave me one last chance to take advantage of their pace.   We finished the first 200km in just over 8 hours (means about 6:30am, so about dawn), and I dropped off for good to avoid wearing myself down too far.

Without the group I was much, much slower, but still at an acceptable brevet pace.  It was fully light when I reached Astoria and rode, at a slow pace, across that long long bridge.  There I turned off course slightly to have breakfast at Pig'n Pancake, where once again I saw the bicycles of the group I had ridden with.  They were enjoying breakfast at a table; I sat at the bar on the guess that it was the fastest way to get in and out.  The hash browns and eggs tasted great.  Then ice cream.  And coffee. The worst coffee I have been served in a restaurant, I think.   But I got in, ate a bunch, and got out in good time,  so overall I consider it a success despite complete failure to caffeinate.

Speaking of caffeine, and of food:   While I prefer "real food" when I can get it and eat it, I have increasingly resorted to highly processed "energy" foods on rides.  I first tried Hammer Perpetuem (a food drink) on The Big Lebowski last summer, thanks to my riding partners Susan and Lesli, and it worked to fuel me when my stomach was refusing other forms of food.  I used Perpetuem again on this ride, particularly at night because it's easier to reach for a bottle than to fumble around for other foods.  I also used  gels (Gu) and gelatins (Clif Shot Blox).  All of these come in caffeine-enhanced forms.   I would not have been able to hang with the fast group if I couldn't keep fueling myself in that manner.  Shot Blox in particular worked very well for me all three days of this ride, along with the occasional gel.

Near the end of the first day, I felt a second wind and rode several miles at a brisker pace, including a stretch with Theo and James.  But here I miscalculated:  Less than 20 miles from my overnight in Pacific City, the second wind left me, and I was much slower that I should have been to finish that last little bit.  When I finally did reach the hotel, I was too exhausted to eat much, and went to bed without a substantial meal.  Fortunately I had enough time in the bank to sleep almost 4 hours, and when I woke I was able to eat the chowder Cyndi had brought for me, and probably something else I don't recall.

I rolled out Saturday morning just after 1 (having heard that others planned to leave around that time).  I rode for a time on Slab Creek Road with a group of Bay Area randonneurs, and stopped with them briefly at Lincoln City, but then went on ahead when they chose to have a sit-down meal in the Safeway there.   Riding alone now, I rode on to Newport, where I found Newport Cafe open.  And inside Newport Cafe, Asta and Kerin!  Also excellent hash browns, eggs, and corned beef hash, and palatable coffee. Asta and Kerin finished and left before me, so I left Newport alone again.

I do not recall the next segment of the ride in great detail.  It was foggy and misty.  At some point I passed the Bay Area randonneurs as they paused at an overlook.   It cleared and became warm, and I stopped at Honeyman park to remove a layer and put on sunscreen.  Somewhere (around Waldport?) I had a strong spell and rode faster.  In other places I rode slower.  Eventually I came to Reedsport,  where I again met the Bay Area riders and others.   I had a tub of potato salad, refilled my water bottles, rested a bit ... and then off toward Roseburg, riding with the Bay Area randonneurs again for a stretch.

The Bay Area randonneurs organized a very disciplined paceline:   The leader was to maintain a steady 16mph and pull off at the next milepost.  In most pacelines I have ridden, pulls are much shorter than a mile, but I think I understand the rationale for these long pulls.  First, the milepost is a definite marker, much easier to track than a shorter distance or time.  Second, while shorter pulls are probably less taxing physically, a constantly rotating paceline is more mental burden, and on a long ride our brains are at least as worn as our legs.  Even so I found the paceline mentally demanding, and did not intend to join it again after our stop in Elkton.  As it was, we did not leave Elkton as a group, and the paceline never re-formed as far as I know.   I briefly rode again with a couple of them as we neared Roseburg, but not for long ... I fell behind and rode the last few miles pretty slowly.

Our second overnight was in Roseburg, and just across from Dennys.  Dennys was slow, but I managed to have another form of fried potatoes and a milkshake.  I was overfull, but could digest while I slept.   Two and a half hours?  Three?  Something like that ... not too bad compared to the amount of sleep I have had on 600s.  Asta, Kerin and I rode out a few minutes after 2am.  50 miles in, at Dry Creek Store I took some extra time in the restroom and Asta took a nap on a picnic bench; Kerin rode out ahead and I didn't see her again (though I think Asta did).  A little further Asta stopped for a ditch nap and I continued.  And a little further yet, a refreshed Asta caught me and went on ahead, skipping Diamond Lake where I stopped for food and rest.

The next segment, from Diamond Lake to Crater Lake, was my weakest.  Perhaps I over-ate.  Perhaps it was the heat.  Whatever it was, I was riding very slowly, and not feeling great.  I have ridden that segment before and know it is not nearly as hard as it was this time. Tired and uncomfortable as I was, by this point I was never in any doubt of finishing.  It was simply "relentless forward motion" time.  I stopped for a while at the rim to chat with other riders, and then longer at the lodge where I bought ibuprofen, drank a lot of water, filled water bottles, and used the restroom.  And then down, steeply down ... the decent should have been fun but I wasn't having fun, I was in some physical pain and tired, but it was nice to be making good time again.

Descents end, and one pushes on.  In Fort Klamath once again I met the Bay Area riders, along with the ride organizer, stopping for a beer.  I stopped for soda (I am quite certain beer would have been a phenomenally bad idea for me), then rolled out just a little before the rest ... and promptly flatted.  Changed the tube, checked the tire for sharps and didn't find one, so I put the same tire back on.  Whether there was a sharp in there that I didn't find, or whether I under-inflated too far and caused a pinch-flat, I don't know, but by the time I reached the intersection with the main highway into Klamath Falls, my front tire was soft again.  I pumped it a little and rode on to a better spot, a closed real estate office with a big porch to work on, where I changed the tube and tire.  (I carry three spare tubes and one spare tire.)  Clearly I was going to be later than I hoped, but I still felt like I was in no danger of missing the final time cut.

From that point I had a brisk tail wind and was able to ride pretty fast along the side of Highway 97.  Fast enough to not see something ... bang ... ran over it with my rear tire.  Listening for a hiss ... no hiss.  Maybe it's ok.  But a few miles later, the back tire is definitely getting soft.   So one more time, pull over, dig through my bag for my last spare tube, pull the wheel and remove the tube.  I inflated the flat tube just to be sure it really was a pinch flat, indicated by a "snake bite" pair of holes.  It is ... whew, that's good, because it means I can put the same tire back on and not worry about sharps.  Check it for sharps anyway.   I'm tired, I'm being very careful, and I'm really really slow doing this.

Just as I'm getting the back wheel into those awful horizontal dropouts, Roger rides up.  Do I need any help?  Well, if you happen to have more than one spare tube, could I borrow one?  Roger reaches for his tubes, then has another suggestion:  Shall we ride in together?  Yes yes yes please let's do that but I'll be slow yes please.  Roger is a very strong rider.  There's no way he should have been behind me, but he suffers from Shermer's neck.  He's had to stop several times to rest until his neck muscles will work again.  He thinks he can get in to Klamath Falls without stopping again.  I notice that he is sitting as upright as he can, sometimes using just one hand on the bar to be more vertical and reduce stress on his neck.    Even so, with the tail wind we make good time.  And then we make very slow time trying to navigate the small streets through Klamath Falls, as the bugs come out to celebrate evening.

And, eventually, as it is getting dark, we see the hotel ... with Cyndi and Asta standing on the corner to cheer us in, a nice touch.  Pizza, beer, a little time to chat with other riders, and off to sleep.

So what did I learn on this ride?  Although I had rough patches, I learned mostly from some things that went right.   Riding with the fast group was fine for a while, although I probably should have dropped off a little faster.  Eating what I can is better than forcing myself to eat more;  even going to bed Friday night without a substantial meal wasn't a catastrophe, while I might have done better to eat a little less at Diamond Lake.  Processed energy foods, and Shot Blox in particular, do work for me, although it's still better to eat more "real food" when I can.  Keeping a level head and not getting too frustrated was helpful when I experienced a series of flats, and earlier when I wasn't feeling good between Diamond Lake and Crater Lake.    Making time when I felt strong, and keeping going when I felt weak, balanced out pretty well.   I did lose too much time at a couple controls:  Cannon Beach was a mess, and I should have just gotten my control card signed and moved on as quickly as possible.  If I had eaten less at Diamond Lake, I might also have left earlier.  But mostly things went well.  I feel good about it, very good about having made another step in my development as a randonneur, and confident that I am on my way to riding a full grand randonnee of 1200km in the next year or two.