In the fall of 2012, it seemed I wasn’t getting much mileage on my bicycle. However, I more than made up for it with airline mileage, which led to some interesting exploring of bicycle facilities elsewhere. The link above is a PDF of some highlights of trips.
Yes, there are bicycles all over Tokyo. Bike paths are marked, mostly on sidewalks. Bicycles are parked all over the place. Most apartment buildings have sheltered bicycle parking, some with elaborate double-decker rack systems.
But most parking on the streets appears a bit haphazard. Bicyclists are all over the place — except on the subway (metro) where they’re not allowed. Most of the bicycles are utilitarian — very heavy, with kickstands; some with center stands, like motorcycles. All have lights. Most have very large baskets. My favorite accessory was a set of brackets for carrying an umbrella — kind of like the less formal setup here.
These utility bikes have minimal locks. The most minimal is the old style that attaches to the stays, like a brake caliper, that simply prevents the bike from rolling.
I recognized bikes by some known bicycle manufacturers — Bridgestone (alive and well in the Japanese market), Giant.
I also recognized brands not usually noted as bicycle manufacturers — Chevrolet? Jeep? Hummer? In Japan, do car manufacturers have a profitable side line in bicycles?
And there were lots of folding bicycles, mostly inexpensive and sturdy ones, although I did see one Bike Friday. There are also hipster bicycles in Hong Kong, if you go to the hipster neighborhoods — I mostly saw these in Shibuya and Shinjuku. Familiar brands — Bianchi, Raleigh — but unfamiliar (to the US market) models. These shift levers are particularly intriguing.
So, am I sorry I didn’t bring my bicycle to Tokyo. Yes and no. The distance between my hotel and office was too short (1 mile) to really make it worth bicycling. Plus, I couldn’t have brought the bike into the office building. But the bicycling didn’t look that intimidating at all, especially since I’ve ridden in places like the UK and Australia, where vehicles drive/ride on the left. Maybe next time …
Alas, I have failed the Coffeeneuring Challenge this year. One ride, I forgot to document. And the last weekend was a total washout, biking-wise. I have a great excuse … but first…
Saturday, October 27: Panera Bread, Silver Spring, MD
Another ride up to Silver Spring for another film noir. I brought my insulated mug from home (the better to get coffee into the theatre without spilling it), so you’ll have to take on faith that the coffee is from Panera. And that the bicycle is parked in its usual bike rack in the parking lot just behind where I was standing when I took to picture. Silver Spring is identifiable by the Art Deco clock on the Lee building.
Sunday, October 28: Northside Social, Arlington, VA
The day before super-storm Sandy was supposed to hit, I was lucky to get myself out of the house and onto a bike. Therefore, the coffee run was to a local place, Northside Social, in Clarendon. They have great bicycle parking and good coffee.
Saturday, November 3: Eventide Restaurant, Clarendon VA
It should count when the coffee (an excellent French press) is the final course of an excellent meal. However, it doesn’t count because I was in a rush to get to a movie (Pitch Perfect, just right), and forgot to snap the picture. The food was ok (a little frou-frou for my tastes) but the decor and atmosphere are to die for.
Sunday, November 4: Starbucks, Dulles Airport
Sunday was a gorgeous day for a bike ride. Some friends were doing a long (100-mile) ride, starting from Marshall, having lunch in Lovettsville. I decided to do the intermodal version of that ride — take the 5A metro bus from Rosslyn out to Dulles airport and ride from there. The coffee was at the Starbucks on the arrival level in Dulles, waiting for the bus to get home. I know that Starbucks fairly well, but it was my first time taking the 5A home. Usually, when I do this intermodal trip, I ride an extra 20 miles back to Vienna and take the metro. But it was November and getting late, hence the Starbucks on the bus.
Saturday, November 10: NH001, IAD-NRT
It’s hard to do a coffeeneuring run when you spend the day in a plane. It’s fourteen hours non-stop from Dulles to Tokyo. The airline dinner (courtesy of ANA) was just about the prettiest and tastiest airline food I’ve ever had. I documented the trip by taking a picture of the toilet. I’m sure someone has written a sociological monograph on what toilets say about the culture in which they’re found. It seems that Japanese toilets in public places (like this airplane and, as I discovered a few days later, modern office buildings), have a button to make flushing sounds when you’re not actually flushing.
Sunday, November 11: Cafe Excelsior, Tokyo
I really did try to rent a bicycle today. But all the bicycle rental places I could find were way on the outskirts of town, and my hotel is in town (near Roppongi). So, instead, I took a taxi to the Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo and walked back to the hotel. Evidently, streets are closed to cars on Sundays around the Imperial Palace and Gardens, and seeing all the runners and bicyclists made me very jealous. To pay homage to coffeeneuring, I stopped in Excelsior Caffe for lunch. The latte was quite acceptable. But it’s going to be impossible to get decaff coffee in this country.
Follow-Up: Coffee in Tokyo
The bad news:
- As expected, decaff coffee is virtually impossible to find. Starbucks has it, but drip only, no espresso.
- What good is a gold Starbucks card if the Starbucks throughout Tokyo won’t accept it?
The good news:
They take their coffee seriously here, and it is uniformly excellent. Even the Starbucks, although I’ve switched to drinking matcha (green) tea chai during the day.
Recently, MG proposed the second annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. The rules are quite complex, but they boil down to: On each day of six weekends, ride your bike to a coffee place, have a coffee (or alternate beverage) and document the experience. We’re supposed to turn in the proofs to MG after all the weekends (and coffees) have been experienced. But I should try to document them as they happen. I’m already two weeks behind …
Saturday, October 6: Caribou Coffee, Crystal City (Arlington) VA
I volunteered to help out at the Arlington Fun Ride, sponsored by Arlington county, and which benefits Phoenix Bikes. I was at the first rest stop (the Crystal City Water Park) around 7 AM, to help for the set up for the 8 AM ride start. There was time before the riders got there for a trip to the nearby Caribou Coffee.
Sunday, October 7: Buzz Bakery, Virginia Square (Arlington) VA
Buzz Bakery just opened a new branch in Virginia Square. I was familiar with them from their Alexandria location, which I visited as part of the Cheap Eats quest. Nice baked goods, great coffee, good atmosphere, sufficient bicycle parking. I got a frequent drinkers card, so I’ll have to make this place one of my locals.
Monday, October 8: Espresso Bar, Pentagon City (Arlington) VA
This was Columbus Day (Observed), so it counts as part of the weekend. I rode down to Pentagon City, parked my bike in the new! covered! bicycle parking and took metro into town to meet a friend and see an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art: The Serial Portrait: Photography and Identity in the Last One Hundred Years Great stuff. Some of it was familiar to me. But I especially liked a new (to me) photographer, Nikki Lee — her photos kind of reminded me of Cindy Sherman. After dinner, I got back on metro and did some shopping in Pentagon City. With the Coffeeneuring Challenge, I finally had an excuse to get a coffee at the place that is in the mall, just outside the first-floor entrance to Nordstroms. Meh. Mediocre, overpriced coffee.
Saturday, October 13: Java Coast, National Harbor (Oxon Hill) MD
The following day I was scheduled to volunteer as a riding marshal at the Law Enforcement Ride & Run to Remember. The ride started at National Harbor at 7:15 AM, and volunteers were supposed to be there at 6:30. I didn’t feel like getting up at zero-dark-thirty to ride there, or slightly later to (the horror! the horror!) drive there. So, I bicycled to National Harbor the day before and used some of my frequent sleeper points to book a room at the Marriott. I checked in, went for a run, cleaned up, then went for a walk to the Gaylord Hotel/Conference Center, where I visited Java Coast. Sigh. It kind of reminded me of the Espresso Bar in Pentagon City — overpriced, not-great coffee.
Sunday, October 14: St Elmo’s Pub, Del Ray (Alexandria) VA
Riding home from the Ride & Run to Remember I stopped at St Elmo’s. They have great bike parking, excellent outdoor tables, good coffee, and friendly but somewhat disorganized service.
Saturday, October 20: Coffee Bar in the Lobby of the AFI Theatre, Silver Spring MD
Starting October 20, the AFI Theatre is hosting the DC Film Noir Festival. I am a big fan of film noir, and have had the opportunity (when in San Francisco on business trips) to attend the Film Noir Festival at the Castro theatre, which is an incredible event. The DC/MD Festival is much more low key, but it’s still an opportunity to see films that don’t show up on TV, or DVD, or Netflix, or to re-see classics I have seen a gazillion times on TV but never on a movie screen. I got there in time to get a so-so coffee in the lobby coffee bar.
Sunday, October 21: Kefa Coffee, Silver Spring MD
On Sunday, it was back to Silver Spring for more noir films. Silver Spring has lots of Ethiopian restaurants, so it was easy to find one serving Ethiopian coffee close to the theater. Nice neighborhood vibe, good coffee.
Tuesday, October 23: Blue Moon Cafe, Fort Lauderdale FL
Ok, I know this one doesn’t count, since it wasn’t a weekend. But the setting — along the Intracoastal Waterway, in Fort Lauderdale — was too good to pass up. And the espresso was a great end to a nice meal. (The fixed gear bicycle, which lives in Florida, was locked to a No Parking sign out front.)
In 2010 I started on a quest to visit all 100 restaurants on Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats list. When I started I grandfathered in restaurants on the list I had already visited. When the end of the year came (ie, when the Washingtonian issue containing the 2011 Cheap Eats restaurants appeared, I hadn’t made it to all of the restaurants on the 2010 list, so I grandfathered in the ones on the 2011 list (there is a 20 percent turnover) and continued on my quest. I *would have* finished this quest in 2011, but the 2012 Washingtonian list came out in June, while the 2011 list hadn’t appeared until August. So, I started over on the 2012 list, with about 20 restaurants to go.
I did it! I can now report that I have eaten at every restaurant on Washingtonian magazines 2012 Cheap Eats Restaurants list. So I think I should do a recap. There have been highs and lows.
So starting with my Best Cheap Eats (in no particular order):
- Damoim, Annandale VA. Fusion Korean-Mexican cuisine. Really. (Gotta love American ethnic pluralism when it results in blends like this.) The short rib tacos are to die for. Great atmosphere, too.
- Ray’s the Steaks at East River, Anacostia, DC. A great place and a great way to support economic development in a part of town that hasn’t had much of it. Yes, there are steaks, but also Southern Fried Chicken.
- PS 7, between Chinatown and Penn Quarter, DC. A perfect combination — a Cheap Eats (bar) menu, but served in a restaurant that also has a more expensive menu, so you get the advantage of great service and a lovely setting (great outdoor dining) without paying for expensive food.
- Bangkok 54, Arlington VA. It’s kind of not fair to include this on the list, since it’s one of my longtime neighborhood favorites. But now I can go without feeling guilty that I’m not experiencing a new restaurant.
- R & R Taqueria, almost-to-Baltimore (Elkridge) MD. Very unique atmosphere (a converted gas station). Very good Mexican food.
- Sundevitch, Logan Circle, DC. Fantastic, unique sandwiches and salads. But teensy.
- Burma Road, Gaithersburg MD. Anything not on the American menu.
Probably, the least said about the bad, the better. But I wasn’t particularly impressed with:
- Shawafel, H St NE. Blah Middle-Eastern (shawarma and falafel, get it?)
- Sidebar, Silver Spring MD. Teensy portions of so-so bar food.
- Eamonn’s. Fish and chips. Period.
- Any Pho place (but that’s just me)
- Most of the chicken places (except Sardi’s, and again, that’s just me)
I’m on the lookout for another quest, until the 2013 Cheap Eats list comes out. I thought of visiting all bike shops within a 15-mile radius of home, but I’ve probably already been to them all. Suggested gratefully accepted.
A little while ago, there was a discussion on the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia’s (BCP) list about using Google Maps to do bicycle routes. Since I’ve been using Google Maps to do bicycle routes since that option became available, I was intrigued by some of the discussion. A few weeks after that, I had an opportunity to test out some of my observations and “best practices” when I had a business trip to San Jose/Santa Clara. The last time I had a similar trip, I stayed in a hotel literally a block from the office where I would be working, which was no fun at all. This time, I decided to stay in Campbell, where my company is headquartered, so I would have an 8-mile commute to Santa Clara. Then I got to figure out the route.
- Hugh Hefner is a huge fan of silent movies, very knowledgeable about restoration, and recently bankrolled (produced) a magnificent restoration of “Pandora’s Box”.
- Louise Brooks – magnificent.
- Douglas Fairbanks Sr in Zorro – meh
- Un-f*ing-believable: South A 1919 (1919!) documentary about Ernest Shackleton’s abortive trip to Antarctica.