I am an expert at not doing things that one is supposed to do. I don't mean things like getting to work on time [although sometimes I have trouble with that], brushing my teeth on a regular basis, or showering more than once a week. I'm talking about that rack full of awesome designer stuff you're supposed to ask for at that hidden, hole-in-the-wall thrift shop, or the espresso beverage that's not on the menu but is the thing to get at that hip cafe. The little things that aren't so much found on the Internet as are transmitted by word of mouth among the super cool and in the know. Instead I tend to march to my own somewhat oblivious drummer, resolute in my determination to remain, as ever, not hip.
Which I'm perfectly content with, mostly because being "hip" lends itself to a predictability that I find boring. Hip-ness teeters all too often on the brink of unsubstantiated hype, consequently devolving into an "Emperor's new clothes" scenario where the food isn't that great, the drinks too expensive, the clothes really sort of meh, but you hang out there because you're supposed to until the next hip spot draws you away. Perhaps a little too suspicious for my own good, I watch and wait out the hype. I order what I want to because one secret, menu item shouldn't carry a cafe, or browse the displayed clothing because the semi-secret stash in the back isn't a fair measure of a store's worth. So [perhaps predictably in its own way] at Bunbury's for the first time a few weeks ago, I chose the blueberry muffin over the Bunbury bun [my choice later met with howls from Mike], and continued the stream of "shit you're just not supposed to do," this past Sunday on the much-talked-about Chinese Bakery Ride.
A route that Brett, Andy, and Mike discovered last summer, it's a path that turns off 9W and heads west to Tenafly, NJ. The pit stop of choice being, obviously, a Chinese bakery called Cafe Savoy that's actually run by Filipinos. Since knowing the aforementioned trio of cyclists, I had been subject to numerous emails and twitter posts displaying giant $1 baked goods and bad coffee. They talked about that ride and how much they liked it, both online and off. I had whined that I wanted to go since 2009. The considerable climb out of Tenafly kept the ride just out of reach.
But sometimes, a bike shop owner comes back from a mid-day ride in gorgeous weather and feels generous enough to offer you a road bike for the following day unless that customer that was interested in borrowing one comes around. So you count down the minutes, desperately hoping that said customer won't show, and internally cheer when closing time comes around and you didn't have to make that offer of a bike you want to ride to someone else. Then you get up the next morning, hesitant about leaving because it's actually pretty cold out, then end up forcibly dragging your boyfriend out of bed because you have a frigging road bike for once and you want to do a ride. You know, the one that you've wanted to do for over a year now: the Chinese Bakery Ride.
Across the bridge and on 9W, we rode down the familiar route, then eventually made a left turn around the third or fourth traffic light. The road narrowed, SUVs squeezing in between us, and as the road seemed to roll out and down beneath us, our bikes picked up some frightening speed. With the handling skills of a newbie commuter on crack, I conservatively rode my brake the entire way, but even so the bike was rocketing down the descent. Mike flew down ahead of me, crouching down and picking up more speed while I tried not to get myself run over by a car. I briefly remembered the 2009 Jens Voigt Faceplant, then pushed it out of my brain trying to concentrate on positive thoughts like Pomeranian puppies and bunnies in paper cups.
We made another left at the base of the hill and rode on flat yet somewhat badly maintained roads, passing by Pollo's old shop then into the center of Tenafly. The Chinese bakery appeared to our right, but Mike, hungry for decent coffee, led us to the train station which housed a traditional cafe - Cafe Angelique. I peeked inside, standing on the tips of my cleats to get a good look at their array of baked goods over the heads of parents with their children ogling the gelato case, then put in an order for an Americano and something to munch on. Mike ran inside and a few minutes later returned with two steaming cups, an almond brioche [for him] and a wheat-free "energy cookie" the size of my face for me.
It was delicious. Gooey and oat-y and full of raisins and cinnamon, it totally hit the spot and i ate that entire thing, only relinquishing a small corner to Mike [and only begrudgingly so]. I wanted to pull my armwarmers back on and doze on the bench after I was done, but it was getting cloudy and colder. We climbed back on our bikes.
We coasted 50 feet, then all of a sudden we were climbing. And I was like "holy shit."
The climb out of Tenafly [it's different from the way in], requires cresting a small but fairly steep hill, then riding up another longer one. It doesn't feel as long as the one on River Road, but it's steeper, requiring some work out of the saddle. Still uncomfortable with the whole concept of spinning my way up anything, it was nice to mash a little, and there was none of that feeling that I was going to puke up my lungs. The fact that the road didn't twist and turn helped a little bit too; you could see there was an end to it. It wasn't easy, but I felt like I did okay when I got to the top.
The ride back was uneventful, a tailwind helping us on the way. I was actually somewhat surprised at how much I liked that climb, and told Mike I'd do it again, maybe even head up to the Palisades Marketplace, bust a U-turn there, and head into Tenafly on the way back. And because I always do the things I shouldn't, thus skipping the Chinese bakery after which the ride was named, there's at least one reason to go back.
...Although...that wheat-free energy cookie was pretty killer...