…Minneapolis has two seasons: Road Removal and Snow Repair -Steven Burst
Coon Rapids to Cottage Grove – 45.2 Miles
We woke up to rain. Seeing as we were going to be working our way through Minneapolis-St. Paul today, I would have liked better weather. I had concerns about the fact that we’d be riding in city traffic in some places -and rain doesn’t help when it comes to visibility in traffic, not to mention traction with the bike tires on wet pavement. There are MRT routes on both sides of the river through the Twin Cities and we picked what we thought would be the most direct route using both sides of the river. The trade-off was that on our route, we’d spend a bit more time riding on busy streets, instead of bike paths.
What a day! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many “road closed” signs, which complicated our ability to follow the route we’d planned. It rained nearly the entire time we were riding – not pouring rain, but enough to make us keep the rain gear on.
We have Garmin bike GPS units and I am able to go on line and map out a route and download it to the GPS. Since the only guide book for this trip gives a written turn-by-turn description of the routes + very rudimentary maps, I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and put together our route so that we wouldn’t have to keep checking the guide book’s instructions against our maps on our phones. For the most part -this worked out well…except… in the middle of the worst part of navigating the city streets my GPS shut itself off. I was able to turn it back on and it took about 5 minutes to re-calculate the route. Not helpful when we wanted to keep moving. The GPS was balky like that during the most complicated twists and turns of the route -and then miraculously started working just fine when we needed it the least. Go figure.
So, we left the hotel and began our trip, working our way toward the river to pick up the MRT without backtracking the 2.5 miles to the Coon Rapids Dam (where we’d last been on the MRT).
After a bit of second guessing about if we were even going the right way, we finally re-joined the MRT and began working our way through the outskirts of Minneapolis. We had a combination of trails and city streets all along. One moment we’d feel like we were in the middle of a forest and the next, we were negotiating our way along busy city streets. Mix in some residential areas and you are starting to get the picture.
Early on, the trail needed to cross an expressway. The bike trail was supposed to take us under the highway bridge (just where the expressway was crossing the river). We came to a sign that said the path was closed. There was a detour sign posted and it looked to me like the detour was going to take us across the river, cross under the highway over there and then cross the bridge again…by then on the “other” side of the highway from where we were standing.
I said.. NO WAY! I’m not doing that! Mike -channeling Jane (who famously said -many times during our MRT ride- “We’ll see about that!” anytime we saw a road/trail closed sign), said, “We’ll just go see if we can get through.” So we went around the trail closed sign, under the bridge and got to the other side without any problems. Up ahead we could see a park where there was a pavilion and parking area and I could see that the trail was blocked near the pavilion. There was a wooded area around and beyond the pavilion. So we left the trail and rode into the parking lot, planning to follow the road out of the park and then reconnect with the trail when the construction was behind us.
As we passed even with the pavilion area, I noticed that there was a lot of yellow tape blocking off some of the trees. I thought…hmmm…that’s odd…it says “Crime Scene, Do Not Cross”. Not far ahead on the road, there was a police car parked to the side. We stayed on the road and as we got even with the other side of the wooded area, there was more crime scene tape and two cop cars down by the where the trail was. No idea what that was all about. It was only about 1/4 of a mile after that when we came to the park entrance and re-joined our route.
It wasn’t much further before our scenery changed as we entered an industrial area on the outskirts of Minneapolis. Here, at first we had a trail -which was under construction in places – and then we were dumped onto a fairly busy street with no real shoulder space for bikes. Fortunately, traffic was light.
The big thing of interest to me in this area was passing by Betty Danger’s. Jane and I passed it three years ago and I vowed that if I ever got back to Minneapolis, I was going to go there. It just looks like such a fun place. Evidently you can dine while riding the Ferris wheel. It wasn’t open yet when we went by -darn!
Not far beyond Betty Danger’s is Psycho Suzy’s Bar. Not as interesting of a setting, but love the name!
This was the beginning of a long slog through the worst of the city riding. This is where the GPS started getting glitzy and it seemed like every road we were supposed to be on was closed for construction or narrowed down to one lane or had some other sort of obstruction or complication. In one area the GPS (it happened to be working in this stretch) had us going away from the river turn here…turn there… and I was just coming to the conclusion that it had lost it’s mind (because the one thing we knew was that our route was mostly along the river) when it brought us to a bike/pedestrian-only overpass for another large expressway. It was a less stressful way to get across that highway. After that we passed through the University of Minnesota campus, which was interesting because there were really great bike lanes and even bike traffic signals -which before today I’d only seen in Europe.
After breaking free of the campus area (which took a bit of improvising with the GPS being psycho) we finally made it to one of the bike trails that follows along the river. We were on this trail for miles -the river to our right and a parade of neighborhoods to the left. At one point we stopped under a bridge to have our lunch out of the rain.
We spotted Lock & Dam #1 across the way.
We also passed Fort Snelling (across the river), which sits above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.
One of the interesting historical tidbits regarding Ft. Snelling is that the doctor that owned Dred Scott was stationed there for a time. The Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in the territory -so the original argument for the Dred Scott Supreme Court case was that Dred Scott and his wife had lived in a free territory so, therefore, should be considered free. The story of Dred and Harriet Scott
Our route for the day meant that we did have to cross over to the West bank eventually -and we were able to do that with very little trouble since nearly every bridge over the river in Minneapolis has a nice bike/pedestrian pathway. Our plan was to cross the river on highway 35E, but there is also a 35W. Mike knew that we were supposed to cross “highway 35” and so when he saw 35W quite early in the scheme of things, he said, “Aren’t we crossing here?” “No,” I answered, “We need 35 EAST.” Since he hadn’t spent as much time as me going over the route, he was convinced that I was just as crazy as the GPS. He was pretty sure there could only be one highway 35. We got our phones out to check the maps app, but I wasn’t able to show him exactly where 35 East was (thanks maps app!). I said – “You just have to trust me here. I know there’s a 35 East. Let’s give it some time. If I’m wrong -we’ll find another way to get where we’re going.” It took quite awhile after seeing 35W to get to 35E, but when we got there, both Mike and I had sighs of relief -for different reasons! He’d been riding along doubting we’d ever see it and I’d been riding along wondering if we’d ever get there!
After we crossed, we were able to use some trails along the river until we popped out into S. St. Paul, and had to deal with traffic/busy streets again for a few miles.
Next, we were able to take another pedestrian/bike bridge over a very wide area of railroad tracks to a trail that went along the top of a low levee, right along the river, for several miles.
There was a lot of rip-rap (large cement pieces and/or stones to shore up the bank) and at one point we saw at least 10 vultures lounging around on the rocks. They weren’t interested in being photographed!
We had to cross the river one last time (basically, the different crossings were like cutting corners where the river took large bends -it saved miles). The levee trail had directional signs for how to get to the highway bridge we wanted to cross.
We had to exit the trail, take a side road (near a boat launch), cross a RR track and then climb up to the bridge and go over. Just as we were getting to the RR tracks, the gates went down and a train started passing by.
The bridge we needed for getting across the river is above the train in this picture. There was no way to get where we needed to be until the train was done passing and it was the longest train in the history of man. Mike noticed that there were 3 engines pulling it as it started to cross in front of us and he said, “This is going to be a long train.” I think we waited at least 15 minutes for it to finish passing. I passed the time checking out the graffiti. Some of it was actually quite artistic.
Once we got over the tracks and over the bridge to the other side of the river, it was home stretch time. Once again, we were able to follow a bike trail for quite a while until we went “off the map” to get to our hotel.
Due to all the starts and stops and double-checking our location against the route, the rain, the traffic lights and stop signs and the construction…this was a long day. We felt great doing the miles, but it took almost 7 hours to do them. We had something to look forward to though. Mike’s best friend from medical school practices in the Minneapolis area and he was able to meet us for dinner tonight. We hadn’t seen him in years and it was a really fun reunion.
Miles So Far: 313.1