Minneapolis and St. Paul are some of the best bicycling cities anywhere. We have a LOT of bike trails, dedicated lanes and bike-friendly streets. During these precious few months of non-snow weather, many bikers make the most of it and hit the road.
Serious bikers live in a different world than the rest of us do. We catch glimpses of them on bike paths, streets and highways, but they often ride places that others never see. I did more biking this summer than in past years and in doing so “discovered” some interesting and beautiful routes that real bikers have been keeping to themselves for years.
Mrs. D and I rode parts of this route for a few weeks. I combined these sections into a 26 mile loop and took a few photos along the way. These photos (warning: there are a LOT of them) were obviously shot on two separate days – one cloudy and one sunny.
So here goes – a 26 mile photojourney. I’m going to warn you now, it’s a LONG blog post. All distances are measured from my house, which will do you absolutely no good unless you ride with me.
So saddle up. Let’s ride.
First stop at mile 2.6 is Lake Nokomis. We see a deer. We get off our bikes and approach it quietly. It doesn’t run away. In fact it doesn’t move at all.
Notice how the urban passers-by don’t even notice this magnificent buck just a few feet away.
Then it’s across E. 54th St. all the way to Minnehaha Park. Here we enter Fort Snelling State Park. At mile 6.3 we are in the upper area where the old fort is. Down below is a wonderful natural area near the river. This fort is the first major settlement of non-native people in Minnesota. It was never actually used for defense purposes, but as an outpost to regulate the fur trade in the mid- 19th century.
Fort Snelling, looking much as it did in the 1830s
After a short section through the woods, the bike path leads to the Mendota bridge. The 3/4 mile bridge bike path is an interesting dichotomy of loud, rushing traffic on one side and a beautiful, serene vistas of the river valley on the other.
These REAL bikers probably aren’t happy that I stopped on the bridge to take a picture.
It’s beautiful looking down from the bridge at the Minnesota River’s last mile before joining the Mississippi.
The Mendota Bridge is the only place I know of where you can see the skylines of both downtowns – Minneapolis and St. Paul – at the same time.
From the Mendota Bridge – Minneapolis skyline in the distance with Fort Snelling in the foreground.
This view is taken from the same spot as the last one, just turning about 90 degrees to the right. The Mighty Mississippi makes its way toward downtown St. Paul
After we cross the bridge we go through the old town of Mendota, one of the oldest settlements in Minnesota. Here we pick up a great bike trail that runs next to the railroad tracks near the river.
The The Jean Baptiste Faribault house (1839) is one of several historic buildings in Mendota.
At mile 8.7 we get a view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. This little sand point is sacred ground to the Dakota people, who believe it to be the center of the world and the place where they originated from.
The muddy Minnesota River (foreground) joins forces with the Mississippi.
At about the 10-mile mark we enter the Lilydale Regional Park. We get glimpses of the river and some large areas of native prairie grasses, but the coolest thing about this part of the path is the sections that go through some densely wooded areas.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
At 12.8 miles we emerge from the wilderness at Harriet Island, just across the river from Downtown St. Paul. The Jonathan Padelford is the flagship of the Padleford Packet Boat Company, which owns several river boats used for various types of excursions up and down the river.
The Jonathan Padelford docks at Harriet Island in St. Paul.
At 13.7 miles, the very patriotic Wabasha Bridge welcomes us to downtown St. Paul.
Lots of flags welcome us to St. Paul.
1980 US Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks in perpetual celebration across the street from Rice Park. The guy behind him just wants to get the damn railing clean.
James J. Hill House. The inside wows too.
We pass many big, beautiful, old mansions on Summit Avenue. Governor Tim lives in one of them, at mile 17. As I’m considering whether to go up and ring the bell to see if he wants to come out and ride, a black car with tinted windows pulls out of the driveway. Maybe Timmy’s in the backseat, I don’t know. What a thrill to be a paparazzo.
The next President of the United States could be in that car. And pigs might be able to fly if they flap their legs hard enough.
After a couple more miles straight down Summit Avenue, past Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas, we reach the river again at mile 19.6. Another 2-mile stretch down E. River road brings us to the Ford Parkway bridge. At mile 21.5 we stop for one last photo of the river and then re-enter Minneapolis.
Back across the Mississippi river one more time.
We go past Minnehaha Falls and head home on Minnehaha Parkway. A steep hill toward the end helps us make sure we got a workout.
Home again at 26.1 miles. Thanks for coming along. See, I told you this was going to be a long post. Reading all the way to the end was more grueling than the bike ride. Congratulations.