Celebrating National Coffee Day

Happy National Coffee Day! Until this morning, I had so far ignored the #coffeeoutside trend, though it is a bandwagon I probably should have chased down long ago. Like many a cyclist, I love coffee, being outside and bicycles, which are the vehicles commonly paired with this Instagram-friendly activity.

Coffee outside is easy to mock. It’s a social media phenomenon that looks like the exclusive realm of the lumbersexual and the hipster, neither of which I can claim to be. No flannel? No skinny pants? Then you need not apply.

Meanwhile, my 50-something university professor uncle has been riding his multiple vintage bicycles into the Wyoming woods to cook breakfast and brew coffee for himself for at least a decade. He usually takes a radio with him so he can listen to National Public Radio on top of a mountain. I think the breakfast part has something to do with his love of bacon and my aunt being Jewish.

Still, why spend the time and effort packing up a stove, beans, a hand grinder, a mug, a filter, a blanket and then riding a bicycle somewhere away from your house (where the coffee maker lives) before having any caffeine at all? My coffee maker is set the night before so that I may awaken to the sweet smell of bean juice wafting under the sheets (which are invariably pulled over my head in a desperate attempt to delay morning). I don’t have to take five steps after getting out of bed without the black elixir of life getting to work booting up my systems.

But if you’re going to question coffee outside you ought to question cycling, especially for utility. A car is much faster, dryer and more socially acceptable. You don’t smell funny when you arrive at your destination as you might if you pedaled and sweated. So why bother? Like the coffee pot set on auto-brew compared to a slow-drip pour-over system, our infrastructure and our lifestyles are not as favorable to mechanical things, but there’s something lovely about slowing stuff down once in a while.

In honor of National Coffee Day I decided that this was my morning. I loaded a waterproof blanket and everything I needed for a cup of joe into a couple of panniers and pedaled away on my 1990s Ritchey mountain bike. Not knowing the rules about stoves in the vicinity, I settled on a secluded river bank spot about three miles up a dirt road.

What coffee outside forced me to do was sit and wait, something I’m not particularly used to in this modern world. The paperwork for my alcohol-fuel stove claims it will boil a pot of water in eight minutes, meaning I had eight minutes to watch the way wind moved through leaves yellowing for autumn. I sip beverages slowly so actually drinking the coffee afforded me another 20 minutes to be still and think, unencumbered and unbothered. When was the last time you did that?

The whole experience of sitting on a rock drinking the resulting cup of (very weak) coffee and dangling my feet in the river felt akin to riding a bicycle. It’s not the most efficient way to go about things, but it’s perhaps the most enjoyable. Taking time to move slowly and to leave behind the electronic devices, at least once in awhile, is a nice reprieve from the modern world.

I left the river feeling refreshed, energized and with a clarity of focus that had me fully ready to face a Tuesday otherwise chained to a desk. The brief ride, wind in my hair, mountain water over my feet and deep gulps of fresh air had been very good for my mind.

Or, it could just be that I’d finally had that first cup of coffee.


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