Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weather turned hot and so did the riding

This weekend we had two rides. The Saturday ride had a theme: Elliot's birthday. We knew he wanted a challenging ride and more miles; we gave him both with a little added surprise. Often times we ride through Millvale. If they are open I always insist on stopping at Jean-Marc Chatellier's Bakery. This is an amazing gem located in an unusual place. Millvale, although becoming a bit funky and artsy, is probably the last place you would expect to find a bakery like this. On the street you are in the ultimate Pittsburgh working class neighborhood. The store front, with the awning and French signage seems slightly out of place. Once you walk through the door you are no longer in Millvale, but you enter a classic gourmet bakery that should be located in a small town in the French country side. Posters honor the French World Cup team and cycling. There is also homage to one of the store's most famous patrons, Marc Andre Fluery, the Penguin French Canadian hockey great.

The pastries look like they could be in the finest shop in Paris, although the special Penguin pastries may be targeted for the local patrons. The wonderful smells and flavors draw me inside on every Saturday ride. Elliot, who is much more disciplined than me, tolerates my sweet tooth and normally patiently , waits outside while I buy my pastry and gorge myself.

On this day we turned the tables a bit. The ride first took us on the challenging rolling hills of Fox Chapel, through a nice stretch of Old Mill Road to Campbell's Lake and then to Dorseyville Road. The ride then went on Church Lane past farms and up a steep climb until we reached Middle Road, taking us past Hartwood Acres. After one more decent climb we were in Millvale. We stopped at the bakery. As usual Elliot waited outside, but we had a surprise. We brought birthday candles and ordered a large piece of the richest raspberry mouse cake known to man, lit the candles, and presented it to Elliot with a serenade of Happy Birthday. As soon as the cake was fully consumed we gave Elliot the rest of his present: a climb up the very tough Hoffman Road. Elliot, to his credit and my surprise, made the climb without puking. We finished the ride with an exhilarating descent down Spring Garden and then through town and the Jail Trail.

Sunday's Lou Crew ride was a different type of ride. We had a large turn out with several new riders. We did a fairly level city loop, through Hazelwood, across the river, along Carson to the West End Bridge. We continued past the ball parks, across the Mon and stopped for coffee at La Prima.

This year we have been trying to incorporate a latte stop in each ride. An a beautiful Sunday morning a stop in the Strip seemed appropriate. Just as the bakery in Millvale seemed to transform into France, la Prima is a bit of Italy in the Strip. Some how their drinks always seem perfect. It is a treat to drink a latte out of a glass mug instead of paper.

After the break, the ride continued through Lawrenceville, up past the zoo (which was the only real climb of this ride) and Highland Park, and back through East Liberty, Shadyside and ending at our weekly starting spot, Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill. We all sat at the outside tables and enjoyed a final drink. While sitting there we admired the new front of the store, which is almost complete. The main feature is a series of windows that open like bi-fold doors. I commented that it would be a nice day to use them. Fortunately, the contractor was riding with us. He agreed and for the first time the Squirrel Hill Coffee Tree was opened up to the outside. We all admired Will's handiwork and thanked him for giving us back our sidewalk cafe.

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