U: The Unknown
Exploring around Minneapolis has been an adventure. Recently my 9-year-old, Ava, and I set out on the newly paved Chicago Avenue that added designated bike lines last summer. We chose a Sunday morning 9:30a.m. time slot to begin the trek.
From our neighborhood, it was a 10 block commute in the Chicago Avenue lane to Minnehaha Parkway (around 51st Street in Minneapolis). Despite having a bike rack — it is not the most hassle-free bike route option — I really prefer setting out from our house when possible. After losing the Saturday battle for a bike ride together, I took a rain check from Ava. Now she owed me a sunny disposition for our Sunday morning ride.
Smiles, sunscreen and moments later, we set out. It was a hot several-city block ride to the parkway with one moderately steep hill. There were a lot of whiny complaints, which I tuned out. Her main focus was the hills – – what a drag to have to endure the uphill battle. But what about the downhill coast that most often followed closely after?, I asked. She glared. There’s a lesson here – No Pain, No Gain; Just Do It, etc. And believe me, I pulled out all the major athletic ad campaign slogans throughout the journey, hoping something would stick.
We reach the parkway and jump on, heading east towards the Mississippi River, which literally feels like you’re entering a stream of swimming fish or hopping on the light rail. We wind around and discover tons of tennis courts, parks and bridges on the path as well as very seasoned bike riders. I am a bit concerned for her safety on her new bike so we alternate: her first, me following, and vice versa. I like to be in front when we’re approaching a major intersection and in back when we’re coasting intersection-free.
We stop just north of Lake Nokomis on the pathway for a photo and a water break (along the parkway, there is no shortage of bridges to see, as seen in our photo). We cross up the way from this bridge over the vehicle traffic in the pedestrian/bike cross walk. I witness a near accident between veteran bikers – one riding in the car lane and one crossing over in the ped/bike lane. Glances are exchanged. Ava and I are glad we played it safe and held back for that one.
We have an open, towering view of downtown over Lake Hiawatha before we cross a bridge and continue east. Curiosity pushes us further. We come to the light rail path along Hwy 55 (Hiawatha) and we turn right (south) and after a short while (.5 miles max), we arrive at the Historic Longfellow House and Gardens (photo opp here) where no biking is allowed. The various options along the bike path have us a little confused, but we cruise by the Princess Depot and head east to cross the River Road. We arrive at Minnehaha Falls, where we have driven to and hiked numerous times. Biking there is a new experience.
We pause for a moment on the bridge that overlooks Minnehaha Falls. We make note of the Dairy Queen for future trips, then turn and head back home. We have helmets, but not other official biking gear. I’m overly cautious – – it’s difficult with the winding trails to make sure Ava and I pass slower riders safely. Lot’s of “On your left“‘s are spoken. We arrive home and I make a mention of our 5 mile exploration and begin to detail it out to my husband, “that’s more like 8 miles,” he says. Okay, I guess so – -“we” were having too much fun that I may not have calculated it correctly. It’s about 11:oo so we rode for 1.5 hours. I consider the journey and agree with him.
I’m sure the paths will be more crowded later in the day with cyclists that plan full-day routes. Next time, after Freewheel Bike installs her carrier rack, we’ll pack a lunch for the midway point. Hopefully, there will be less complaints about the uphills, seeing how she screamed with delight on the long downhills. I can hardly resist dousing her spirit with a words of wisdom moment, “Life is an Uphill Battle,” but I leave it be. She is already wondering about our next outing… and that’s a good thing.