Trail / road: Residential streets
Distance: 13 miles
Company: 13 other hungry riders
For me, bike rides have always been associated with food. When I was little, my family rode 3.5 miles to the local sandwich shop and back, thinking we had put in some decent mileage. When we took the Lake George bicycle trail to that tourist haven, it was unthinkable that we wouldn’t get ice cream. My favorite day on the Climate Ride was when we stopped at a bakery in the morning and an ice cream shop in the afternoon. And of course, there’s the name of this blog.
So when I heard about the progressive dinner ride a local bike shop had organized, I knew I had to put one together myself. Normally, three or more families host a progressive dinner. You eat the appetizer at one family’s house, the entrée at the second, and the dessert at a third’s. I suspect it was easier in the 1950s, when most people had friends within walking distance. In contrast, the progressive dinner ride involved biking between three restaurants and eating one course at each.
As I looked into what the bike shop had organized, I decided my ride would be far simpler. They rented out space at all three restaurants, making arrangements for everyone to get a specific meal and glass of wine or beer. Because they needed to put down a deposit, they sold tickets ahead of time. However, I had no desire whatsoever to deal with money or booze. Instead, I had people register for free ahead of time and made a reservation for the middle restaurant. I limited the ticket “sales” to 15 people because a group larger than that would be unwieldy.
Because this year’s Dessert Ride turnout was rather low, I expected four or five people to register. Much to my delight, all 15 tickets sold a few days before the event! Even when someone dropped out, another couple signed up in their place.
Fourteen people, including myself, actually showed up for the ride. We had a good diversity of ages – two adult couples and three families with kids. I know some of the folks were capable of riding fast, but they were quite willing to accommodate the slower members of the group. That welcoming attitude is something I love about community rides – everyone belongs, regardless of your skill, type of bike, or age.
We made our way to the first stop via a useful but not well-known route. I design my rides to show people safe routes to places they wouldn’t know they could bike to otherwise. This route runs parallel to a congested, fast-moving highway that’s so prominent in people’s minds they think all of Rockville is unbikable as a result. Although the alternative route isn’t perfect, it’s much safer and opens up an entire section of town to cyclists.
Our first restaurant was Pizza C.S., a charming parlor in a strip mall. On the practical side, they have an extremely high-temperature wood-fired oven that allows them to make your pizza in less than ten minutes. If someone wanted to split a pizza as an appetizer, we wouldn’t be waiting all day. On the personal side, I genuinely like the place. Chris and I stopped in there during their first week and the co-owner was lovely. He offered us free (local!) ice cream samples and told us about his vision. The restaurant also has free foosball and paintings featuring video game characters, which endears me to it. Although I enjoy their pizza, I got a watermelon and arugula salad, considering that I still had two more courses to go!
Just before leaving, I called our second stop, Oro Pomodoro. As the ride met near the restaurant, we were able to put our order in before we even started. I hoped to be back in time for our 6 PM reservation, but the group was a little slower than I expected. The rolling hills, almost all of which have stop signs on the bottom, challenged some of the newer riders. Fortunately, the restaurant staff understood our situation and was terribly accommodating. Because we gave them the heads-up, they were able to deliver our food only a few minutes after we arrived. The restaurant is sometimes hit-or-miss, but it was all hits that night. Lots of pizzas and pastas, perfect carb-heavy food for biking. Even my ricotta gnocchi, which is known for being heavy, didn’t weigh me down too much.
Full of delicious Italian food, we faced a bit of a conundrum. Our third stop was originally a gelato shop three miles away. But the dusk was starting to catch up to us. Thankfully, one of my fellow Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee members suggested that we make our way to a closer option – Carmen’s Italian Ice, one of my favorites. It was only about half of the distance, kept with the ride’s Italian theme, and was a popular idea with the kids.
The ride there was easy, with one long hill allowing us to glide right into the parking lot. The return was a different issue. As I told one of the kids, “In biking, what goes down must come up.” But despite having slurped down gelatis minutes earlier, everyone made an excellent effort, with even the kids hauling butt.
We made it back to our starting point after twelve miles and three courses. There was no question the ride was a success and I’ll definitely consider making it another annual tradition.
Have you ever biked to a restaurant? What are your most bike-friendly favorites?