Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On the Wild Ride

Ever since my first semester of college, I've greatly enjoyed biking around the city, and the advantage that living in a centralized location like the University of Minnesota gives me to this. Back home in the 'burbs, biking is a constant struggle of avoiding cars and navigating a maze of city streets to find the least painful way to where you want to go. It's not too far from college to my house, but it's tough going, as I have to cross two freeways. Minneapolis, on the other hand, is a veritable hub of bike trails, and from it I can bike just about anywhere in the city. I hope to live somewhere on the bike network someday.

A word about how I bike: I don't just go for bike rides, I go for bike adventures. I set out with my trusty bike map of the city, a full water bottle, and some goal in mind. If I get lost, I just get to see more of the city! I like to bike the Grand Rounds, a circuit of Minneapolis about 35 miles in length which goes through pretty much all the scenic parts of the city.

But as lengthy and fun as that is, since not long after I came to the U I've been planning and hoping for something even bigger: biking to, and around, Lake Minnetonka, a sizable body of water in the far southwestern suburbs of Minneapolis. The route I've had planned since freshman year looks something like this.
It's kind of hard to see on this small size (click the picture to enlarge), but the red line is my route. My dorm is near the red dot marking downtown Minneapolis on the right, and my house is in the lower right corner; I drew a scale into the lower left corner. Needless to say, it was an epic, wild ride.

I spent days preparing for the ride, fixing the various problems my 30-year-old bike was having, procuring all the supplies I'd need, and waiting for a break in the monotonously cold, wet weather we'd been having. 60-degree temperatures and "mostly sunny" conditions were forecast for Sunday, May 9, so off I went. Luckily, my church has night services, so I didn't have to miss that. I got up early Sunday morning, got ready, and packed my bike. Note the water bottle filled with Powerade. That stuff is like high-octane fuel for humans. Helmeted and bundled up for the chilly morning, I set off, saying hi to the people waiting to go to my church.

And so it began. I biked through the neighborhood of my dorm, past the Riverside Plaza apartments to the bike trail along the light rail line--a handy way to get through southeastern Minneapolis. This soon took me to the Sabo bike bridge, which leads to the Greenway. I'm sad more people don't know about the Greenway; it leads straight across the city just north of Lake Street and is a very efficient way to get around (in the daytime, at least).
Several miles of pedaling later, I was past the city portion of the Greenway, which lets out around Lake Calhoun. If you keep following it, which I did, it leads out to Hopkins and beyond. Hopkins happens to be where my dentist is; it's good to know I could bike there in a dental emergency.

From Hopkins, I got on a mostly gravel trail. Others might be worried about subjecting their road bikes to crushed limestone, but my bike is in fact a mountain bike, having graduated to mountain bike status after I rode it 8 or so miles on a mountain bike trail in the Minnesota Valley, which drew many stares. The trail slowed me down slightly, but I didn't have much trouble. Soon it left suburban Hopkins and continued into some extremely pleasant forests, making for great picture taking.
After some scenic riding, I made it to the closest corner of Lake Minnetonka, Carson's Bay. I'd come this far once before, but I'd turned back immediately and gone home. Not today. I continued on the gravel trail and after another mile or so, I saw this.

All this time, I'd mostly been biking past houses; due to all the waterfront property, I didn't get many glimpses of the lake like this one. Even though it would be expensive and troublesome, I think it would be simply amazing to live on the lake. I biked through downtown Excelsior, then went through what amounted to a ribbon of forest through more lake towns. This continued until I got to a park on the far side of the lake.  I was saddened that I'd never seen this undiscovered treasure before; it was nice to bike through some open space after corridors of forest for miles.

Then it was a few more miles on county roads (a deserted one with no shoulder, and a busy one with a nice wide shoulder, which was less scary) before I got to the little town of St. Bonifacius, population 1873, the most remote place I've ever biked to. It was quite a nice place with a definite historic small town feel to it. I ate lunch there in a Subway that I later learned had been built where an old creamery had been. After restocking my bike with red Powerade, I was off again! More great biking through nature ensued, but before long I hit civilization again.

Luckily some of this civilization was in the form of Minnetonka Beach, probably the nicest neighborhood I have ever seen. (Not a good place to have a medical emergency, though, due to the speed bumps on the roads. So, if you're rich and healthy, live in Minnetonka Beach!)

I was treated to a few more views of the lake before leaving it behind. More biking (a common theme here) ensued until I reached familiar territory: the Grand Rounds! More specifically, Theodore Wirth Park, my favorite portion of the Grand Rounds.

I was in the home stretch now. I'd biked this way numerous times before, and soon Minneapolis was in sight. I rejoined the Greenway where I'd gone off to Hopkins, then biked the last few miles back home.

The final distance is in kilometers, but that's still pretty far--67 miles. Exhausting? Yes. Worthwhile? Yes. Epic? Definitely.

No comments:

Post a Comment