people just love to play with words

 

You may recall, back in March, I had an absolute blast taking part in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge. I even managed to complete the challenge with the help of a snow day (even though it didn’t snow) and some rather creative bending of the rules.

Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for a challenge and if it involves even more questionable word-play on “Randonneur”, all the better.

Happily, our friends over at Chasing Mailboxes are putting on the fourth annual incarnation of the now world famous Coffeeneuring Challenge! Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

The rules are delightfully simple: all I have to do is drink 7 cups of coffee in 7 different places over 7 weekends, riding a minimum of 2 miles for each trip. There are a few more details but essentially that’s it!

So, without further ado, here are the details of my first Coffeeneuring outing of 2014:

  1. Where I went: Deli-Lama Cafe-Bar, 22 Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5LE
  2. Date I went there: Saturday, 4th October 2014
  3. coffeeneuring1 - coffeeWhat I drank: A simple (but very delicious) white coffee with brown sugar (it’s SO nice to find a place with brown sugar)
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: I sat outside and was quickly joined by a rather eccentric Scot who instantly starting swearing at me in that charming way only Billy Connolly can get away with.Wait. Now I come to think of it, this guy looked and sounded almost exactly like the Big Yin… nah, can’t have been.Anyhoo, in the 20 minutes or so we spent together, we discussed all sorts of important things like “Where the f*&k is Islington?”, “What f*&king noise are they compaining about?”, how good his bacon & egg sandwich was, whether it’s illegal to cycle through red lights and why it’s harder to play golf when it’s below freezing outside.

    Normally I hate it when random strangers come and talk to me but I liked this guy instantly. I think this might be the magic of Coffeeneuring… on any other ride, I would never have stopped for a coffee and, therefore, wouldn’t have met my foul-mouthed new friend and experienced his unique (and highly cynical) outlook on life.

  5. coffeeneuring1 - bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Unfortunately, Deli-Lama suffers from an acute lack of bicycle racks, or anything else you can chain your bike to… I blame Salford Council, not the cafe. You can just make out the Ogre chained to some railings across the street… not somewhere I’d like to leave it unattended for very long, I’m sorry to say.
  6. Mileage: I dunno… I went for a bit of a ride around North Manchester on the way… Maybe 20 miles? Whatever, it was more than the requisite 2.
  7. Must visit?: Despite living only 5 or 6 miles away, I almost never go to Deli-Lama despite it very much being my kind of place – the food is excellent and the menu varied, the welcome is warm and the surroundings comforting. So, is it a ‘must visit’? I think so.

Surly Ogre River IrwellI rode home via the banks of the River Irwell which was looking rather pretty bathed in surprisingly warm sunlight on this beautiful autumn day.

Oh, if anyone’s still keeping count, I think the Ogre is now sporting its fourth or fifth set of handlebars… In the Coffeeneuring spirit, it’s now gone all cafe racer style for… you know, racing to and from cafes.

Surly Ogre cafe racer bars

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the final countdown

 

Here’s the final roundup of my Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge 2014 activities, complete with gratuituous shots of various things (because I know how much you love ’em).

carradice bagErrand #1: cycling home from work | category: work | miles: 16 | thing I learned / observed: cycling in the city sucks but cycling in the ‘burbs is great | bonus: completed after dark | lighting method: hub dynamo powered front & rear lamps | full write up of errand #1: karma police

1795689_10152477967614863_2101079586_nErrand #2: getting cash from the cashpoint | category: personal care and health | miles: 25 (combined for errands #2 – #4) | thing I learned / observed: working a cashpoint with winter cycling gloves isn’t easy

Errand #3: collecting my cycling jacket from the tailor | category: any store that is not the grocery store | miles: 25 (combined for errands #2 – #4) | thing I learned / observed: I’ll never, EVER be using that place again

1150889_10152479810654863_1223898250_nErrand #4: picking up new parts from the bike shop | category: bike shop | miles: 25 (combined for errands #2 – #4) | thing I learned / observed: squirrels are mischievous | full write up for errands #2 – #4: two out of three ain’t bad

1429_10152479811194863_2052334176_n10009298_10152479810914863_53493360_n1625498_10152490374934863_2131819612_nErrand #5: buying an emergency shirt for work | category: any store that isn’t the grocery store | miles: 6 | thing I leaned / observed: it’s best to check what you’re buying before you pay for it | full write up of errand #5: not what I wanted

1911975_10152497900984863_349481395_nErrand #6: picking up my cycling jacket from the tailor (again) | category: wild card | miles: 20 (I went for a pootle in the woods on the way back) | thing I learned / observed: not all squirrels are mischievous

Errand #7: taking the Troll out for a shakedown ride | category: wild card | miles: 20 (combined with errand #6) | thing I learned / observed: my mountain biking skills are as rusty as a 30 year old Volkswagen but my new off road tyres [given to me for free by my friends in the bike shop] are brilliant! | full write up of errand #6 & #7: see my vest

1966682_10152494672014863_1843677791_n1897882_10152500817569863_291579638_nErrand #8: picking up chocolate chips & soured cream | category: grocery store | miles: 25 | thing I learned / observed: ‘Elvis Milkshake’ slices are deelish | full write up of errand #8: walking in Memphis

Errand #9: training ride | category: personal care & health | miles: 33 (also covers errands #10 & #11) | thing I learned / observed: My Surly Ogre tows my BOB Yak beautifully (today was the first time I’d taken them out together)

Surly Ogre BOB Yak 21975166_10152511519219863_948438478_nErrand #10: stopping for lunch | category: breakfast or lunch | miles: 33 (combined for errands #9 – #11) | thing I learned / observed: I have an unhealthy addiction to sandwiches, particularly when they’re made with thick, soft bread

1526096_10152511518469863_1919541855_nErrand #11: trip to the farm shop for emergency banana | category: grocery store | miles: 33 (combined for errands #9 – #11) | thing I learned / observed: bananas have actual magical powers | full write up of errands #9 – #11: live is life

Surly Ogre BOB Yak 1Errand #12: commuting home from work | category: work | miles: 10 | thing I learned / observed: I might not always like it, but I’m grateful to have a good job | bonus: completed after dark (lighting method: hub dynamo powering front & rear lamps) | full write up of errand #12: why don’t you get a job?

1947761_10152514988714863_1039945336_nDisclaimers / rule benders / pleas for leniency:

  • Some of the mileage in here is estimated and / or rounded but there’s clearly no question over whether I completed the minimum 30 miles for the entire challenge
  • I’ve noticed I didn’t take pictures per se for errands #2 & #3 but there are bonus pictures of me / my bikes / cake which hopefully make up for it
  • Number of different categories used: 7
  • Total mileage: 135 miles (roughly)
  • Bonus: 2 errands completed after dark

why don’t you get a job?

 

Grump.Grump. Grump.

I’ve had the last week off work, today was my first day back in.

Well, I say I’ve had the last week off but it was actually only 4 working days because I ended up going in on what was supposed to be the first day of my holiday because there was too much ‘urgent’ and / or ‘important’ stuff on my to-do list.

Grump.

On top of that, stupid real life syndrome kept me from spending what remained on my precious week off exclusively on the bike.

More grump.

When I did manage to get out, the trails were blissfully bereft of fair weather cyclists.

Happy dance.

Unfortunately, like any other vacuum, the space left vacant was filled by the only other people able to spend their days somewhere other than at work: The Great British [sic] Unemployed.

Now, I’m not about to embark on some kind of tirade and unfairly pigeon hole those who are genuinely out of work for reasons beyond their control… I know not all unemployed people are the same. I just seem to encounter the worst of ’em. I probably deserve it.

Most of the trial dwellers I seemed to come across were litter-dropping, cannabis-smoking yoof who would much rather deliberately block the way and intimidate me than politely smile and return my friendly “hello”… come back fair weather cyclists, all is forgiven.

Grump.

As I chained my bike up outside the office this morning, I had that familiar feeling of wanting to be out on the trails instead… but then I thought, without this job, I wouldn’t be able to afford the bike(s) I regularly take out on the trails. And, if I had every day to be out there, would I appreciate them as much as I do now? Who knows.

What I do know for sure is that, as much as I could’ve easily just kept cycling this morning rather than going to work, if I had’ve headed for the trails, I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze in my final errand for the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge!

Happy dance.

Yep, just when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, today I managed to squeeze in one last errand.

Errand #12: commuting home from work | category: work | miles: 10 | thing I learned / observed: I might not always like it, but I’m grateful to have a good job | bonus: completed after dark (lighting method: hub dynamo powering front & rear lamps)

1947761_10152514988714863_1039945336_n

live is life

 

Corr, they don’t make ’em like this anymore…

“Na na na na na…” I defy you to not tap your foot along to this tune. It’s just SO BAD.

So bad it’s AWESOME.

“NA NA NA NA NA…”

But I digress.

When I last reported on my progress with the Chasing Mailboxes 2014 Errandonnee Challenge, I had 8 errands in the bag and was well on track to complete the challenge with plenty of time to spare.

But, as is so often the way, stupid real life had other ideas.

1926822_10152500650639863_1903618558_nFirst up on the list of things conspiring to prevent me from spending my precious time off work cycling was a blown tyre on the car. It turns out the odd sensation I could feel when driving was a bulge where the carcass had let go. Naturally, the corresponding tyre on the other side was about to let go too so I set off in search of 2 new tyres.

But wait!

When I came to throw the spare tyre on, I realised that was also balder than my friend Geordie (his words, not mine) so I actually set of in search of 3 new tyres. Harumph.

1982055_10152502637289863_979880809_nWith my wallet considerably lighter and any prospect of escaping for a few days camping melting away, Karen took me out at the weekend to cheer me up. We had a lovely time mooching around Manchester museum followed by a quick pint of Dead Pony Club in Brew Dog and then a rather delicious Sunday lunch with cocktails. All in all, it was a great day but again, I got no errandonneering done!

The beer and cocktails helped numb the pain of buying the tyres though.

Yesterday, I’m sorry to say my own laziness and lousy weather was to blame for my lack of errandonneering. The couch was just too comfortable, Star Trek was just too watchable and the rain was just too horizontal.

Soooo…

Today, I set out on something of an errandonneering blitz (I suspect I may be stretching the rules just a little bit with some of these):

Errand #9: Training ride | category: personal care & health | miles: 33 (also covers errands #10 & #11) | thing I learned / observed: My Surly Ogre tows my BOB Yak beautifully (today was the first time I’d taken them out together)

Here’s a gratuitous shot of them both, down by the banks of Rivington reservoir:

Surly Ogre BOB Yak 21975166_10152511519219863_948438478_nWhilst I was out, I thought I’d take the opportunity to stop for a bite to eat so I parked the bike, found myself a sunny spot to nom my sanger and watched people stop to admire my bike and trailer.

Errand #10: stopping for lunch | category: breakfast or lunch | miles: 33 (combined for errands #9 – #11) | thing I learned / observed: I have an unhealthy addiction to sandwiches, particularly when they’re made with thick, soft bread.

Temporarily refuelled by said sanger, I took a gulp of energy drink and set off on the second half of my training ride. On the way, I wanted to swing by the farm shop to see what they had and, whilst there, I grabbed an emergency banana to help quell the ever-increasing build up of lactic acid in my tortured thighs.

1526096_10152511518469863_1919541855_nErrand #11: trip to the farm shop for emergency banana | category: grocery store | miles: 33 (combined for errands #9 – #11) | thing I learned / observed: bananas have actual magical powers

And so, on the final official day of the 2014 Errandonnee Challenge, I’ve come up one errand short – time will tell whether any of the previous so-called-errands I’ve claimed will be disallowed.

BUT WAIT!

Despite the fact we haven’t had a single flake of anything even remotely resembling snow at all this entire winter over here in the UK, the poor old ‘Mericans have been suffering and just this week Washington D.C. had something of a deluge so Errandonnee Challenge organiser MG declared a snow day and extended the deadline to tomorrow! It appears I have one last chance to shoe-horn one last errand in…

In celebration, here’s a gratuitous shot of my Surly Ogre avec BOB Yak outside the farm shop:

Surly Ogre BOB Yak 1

walking in memphis

 

Here’s a gratuitous shot of cake because… well, because cake is the answer.

It doesn’t matter what the question is.

1526471_10152316134634863_1075689087_nAs you may know, my ever-so-patient girlfriend Karen of karensbakingroom.co.uk fame makes rather delicious cakes. This one was a Swedish Princess cake [no Swedish Princesses were harmed in the making of said cake] with 3 layers of sponge, creme anglais, creme patissiere, fresh raspberries, whipped cream, marzipan and other such deliciousness.

What you might not know is that I have the utterly miserable job of quality controlling just about everything that comes out of the kitchen. In this case, I had to eat an entire prototype mini Swedish Princess cake.

It’s a rough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

1780784_10152379319114863_1068223480_nBut it’s not all glamour, marzipan and weight gain; I have to work for it too, you know. Here’s a gratuitous shot of me in my cow hat which Karen hates with a passion like you can’t imagine.

Shortly after this picture was taken, I was chained to the market stall and forced to work my charms on unsuspecting customers who ended up buying copious amounts of cake they didn’t know they wanted or needed.

But it’s not all cow hats, flirting and slave labour.

On a rare free Saturday morning, I was all ready to take off for a day of mountain biking in t’ hills until I heard “Oh, can you just pick me up some soured cream and chocolate chips?”.

What on Earth she was making, I do not know.

Not one to turn down a bit of bonus unexpected errandonneering, I dutifully picked up a backpack and headed for the shops (via t’ hills).

Errand #8: picking up chocolate chips & soured cream | category: grocery store | miles: 25 | thing I learned / observed: ‘Elvis Milkshake’ slices are deelish.

Here’s a gratuitous shot of said Elvis Milkshake slices as proof of my errandonneering:

1897882_10152500817569863_291579638_nOh, by the way, an Elvis Milkshake consists of bananas, chocolate and peanut butter. The cake it inspired is basically a banana sponge with chocolate chips and a peanut butter frosting (which I’m told contains a certain amount of soured cream).

I ate mine with a glass of Marston’s Oyster Stout, it was a surprisingly pleasant combo.

see my vest

 

OK, this whole errandonneering thing is just plain fun! Not only does it force me out on my bike but it also forces me to blog more often. And, with blogging more often comes yet another challenge: finding appropriate song titles for each blog post – this stuff doesn’t happen by accident, you know.

Today, I will admit to a rather tenuous link to the song title and I’m not quite sure it qualifies as a song per se but it’s brilliant none the less. It’s a real shame the actual clip from The Simpsons isn’t available because it’s one of my favourite bits of TV, ever.

“Seeeee my vest, see my vest…”

Huh? What? Oh, sorry, I got a little distracted there for a moment.

Before we go any further, I think it’s about time we had a quick roundup of my errandonneering activities so far:

  1. karma police | errand: commute to / from work | category: work | miles: 16 | thing I learned / observed: cycling in the city sucks but cycling in the ‘burbs is great | bonus: completed after dark
  2. two out of three ain’t bad (also covers errands 3 & 4) | errand: getting cash from the cashpoint | category: personal care and health | miles: 25 (combined for errands 2-4) | thing I learned / observed: working a cashpoint with winter cycling gloves isn’t easy
  3. errand: collecting my cycling jacket from the tailor | category: any store that is not the grocery store | thing I learned / observed: I’ll never, EVER be using that place again
  4. errand: picking up new parts from the bike shop | category: bike shop | thing I learned / observed: squirrels are mischievous
  5. not what I wanted | errand: buying an emergency shirt for work | category: any store that isn’t the grocery store | miles: 6 | thing I leaned / observed: it’s best to check what you’re buying before you pay for it

So, with 5 days to go, I’ve completed 5 of my required 12 errands, covered 47 miles which already exceeds the required 30 miles, done 1 of the 2 recommended ‘after dark’ errands and used 4 of the 7 required different categories.

Phew. And I thought this was going to be easy!

1896726_10152497900819863_1541368638_nErrand #6 is really a re-run of errand #3 as I couldn’t collect my jacket first time around but, as I’ve already used the ‘any store that isn’t the grocery store’ category the maximum permissible 2 times, we’ll have to put this one down in the ‘wild card’ category.

And, here’s some proof. It cost me a mahoosive £35 to have a new zip fitted to my Gore Phantom II soft shell jacket after the last one finally gave way after years of loyal service.

1911975_10152497900984863_349481395_nZip go up.

Zip go down.

Zip go up.

Zip go down.

Why would I go the trouble (and expense) of having a new zip fitted? Because, other than that, the jacket is still in near perfect condition depsite having been worn for just about every ride I’ve been on over the last few years. In the winter, it keeps me warm. In the rain, it keeps me dry. In the cool spring & summer months, I unzip the sleeves and wear it as a gillet. The pockets are plenty big enough for my wallet, phone, keys & a banana or two and there’s enough reflective material to make me visible to other road users and not a inch of flourescent yellow in sight.

Here’s a gratuitous shot of me wearing it with the sleeves removed, for no particular reason.

Me & GC @ Ashbourne TunnelErrand #6: picking up my cycling jacket from the tailor (again) | category: wild card | miles: 20 (I went for a pootle in the woods on the way back) | thing I learned / observed: not all squirrels are mischievous.

You see, after picking up my jacket, I took my Surly Troll out for a shakedown ride to test the new parts I’d picked up in errand #4.

Errand #7: taking the Troll out for a shakedown ride | category: wild card | miles: 20 (combined with errand #6) | thing I learned / observed: my mountain biking skills are as rusty as a 30 year old Volkswagen but my new off road tyres [given to me for free by my friends in the bike shop] are brilliant!

Here’s a gratuitous shot of my Surly Troll avec non-mischievous squirrel, this one didn’t mind posing for a photo at all.

1966682_10152494672014863_1843677791_n

not what i wanted

 

On any given journey there is a point of no return, i.e. the point at which you’ve gone so far towards your destination that there’s no way you’re going back again, no matter what.

On my way to work yesterday, I realised just over half way in that I’d forgotten to pick up a clean shirt and was therefore faced with a choice of a) going back home to get one, b) spending the day in the office wearing my sweaty cycling jersey, or c) buying myself an emergency shirt on the way in.

1625498_10152490374934863_2131819612_nI went for option c) and, not having a lock on me, wheeled my bike into Marks & Spencer and went in search of something to wear. Over in the corner I spotted what looked like a shirt & jumper (that’s like a sweater for those of the American persuasion) on a hanger. A shirt and a jumper for £21? Bargain.

So, I grabbed a nice looking purple-ish one, ran over to the counter, paid, paused to take a quick picture as errandonnee evidence and headed for work.

It wasn’t until after I’d showered and torn the tags off that I realised my new garment wasn’t quite the bargain it first appeared to be. What appeared at first glance to be a separate shirt & jumper turned out to be a jumper with a shirt collar sewn onto it!

The hell?

I suppose, in hindsight, I really should’ve just turned back.

Ah well, a bit of bonus errandonneering can’t be too bad.

  • Errand #5 is my second entry into the ‘any store that isn’t the grocery store category’ (can’t use that one any more)
  • The thing I learned was it’s better to take your time and check what you’re buying
  • Total mileage for the errand: 6 miles