Touring Minneapolis by Bike Trail
Minneapolis, Minnesota | July 29, 2010
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Getcher feet offa there

When we woke up this morning, we had no idea where we were going, we just hoped that the Minneapolis bike trails took us there...  And they did!

Rob: The previous evening was spent with our wonderful hosts, Erica and Matt. They told us about many of the sights we should see in Minneapolis—the Sculpture Garden, The Walker Art Center, the Guthrie Theater. So, the first thing I did this morning was map out what to see, and then how to get there.

Rob: Following a couple of web sites that appeared with the search term “10 things to see in Minneapolis,” I found what Erica was talking about. I made a list, mapped them, prioritized them, and Sheri and I headed out for a day of Ricksycling!

Encountering a bike gang on the Minneapolis bike trails

We found a great PDF of the Minneapolis trail system at: Mix that with Google, and we had a plan to execute!

We packed up the Canon Rebel camera for documenting our day, the phones for Google mapping and video, the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone for Sheri’s artsy shots, the iPad for our trail map PDF, the list of destinations & general web reference, glow poi in case we were out after dark, and of course, water.

Cherry on top!        Red Drama        Big mouth

First stop, the Sculpture Garden at Parade Park at the end of the Kenwood trail.  From our hosts’ house near Lake Calhoun in the Uptown area, we hopped on the Greenway from the Humboldt Ave. trail access.

Minneapolitans seem quite proud that their city has been awarded “city with the best trails” or “friendliest city to ride a bike in.” After riding these trails for a few hours, it is obvious that they definitely earn it; bike trails go everywhere in this city! Most every street has a marked bike lane.  

Bike racks are full everywhere you turn. There is even a company called Nice Ride,, (we heard this was started with Obama money) that rents bikes to anyone; you check out the iconic bright green bike at any of their 60 locking stations and return the bike at any other locking station somewhere else in the city. The program launched on June 10, 2010 with 1000 bikes. Subscriptions run $5/24 hrs. to $60/yr. And yes, every day we saw people using them!

Flutterby        Pretty in pink        Bloomin’

Sheri: Fifteen minutes into our adventure, I determined that anyone from Dallas who is serious about creating a bike plan for Dallas needs to spend a couple days in Minnie, staying in a real neighborhood and getting around by foot and bicycle only.

These trails are nice and wide, pretty and well-maintained; often, you don’t even know you’re in a large city. The paths are marked in thirds; one third is for pedestrians, separated from the rest of the trail by a solid white line. The other two thirds are for bikes, separated by a dashed yellow line with one direction in each lane and an occasional 10MPH marked in white in the lanes. I think we might have been speeding here and there, but it didn’t seem to be an issue.

The kicker is that you can only ride a bike six or seven months out of the year in Minneapolis before everything is covered with snow; Dallas has 10+ months of decent riding, but the trails are below average or don’t even exist.

Without Words by Judith Shea, 1988        That’s quite a swing        Fun with reflections

A few miles later after turning from one trail to another (kind of like turning from one street to another in a car), we arrived at the Sculpture Garden in Parade Park. We spent two hours riding from sculpture to sculpture, taking pictures, reading plaques, and listening to sculpture descriptions from their “Art on Call” telephone system.  

Sheri said that “if this is the only thing we do today, then it’s been a good day.” We had some creative fun adding the RickSycle to the sculpture garden--placing it in and around various sculptures to photograph it and us.

“Very often I am sitting at dinner and I take out my notebook; I get very inspired when I eat, for some reason. --Claes Oldenburg (artist who designed the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, 1985-1988)

Across the street was the Walker Art Center,  After some investigating we found that admission cost $10 but would be free after 5PM!  That made it easy for us to decide to see other sights by trike and then come back here at the end of the day.

Double Curve by Ellsworth Kelly, 1988                Woodrow wathces the trike

Next stop on our list was Stone Arch Bridge, an old railroad bridge across the Mississippi that has now been turned into a pedestrian/bike path. But first, we had to cross Interstate Highway 94. To do so required pedaling up a windy ramp to the top of a pedestrian bridge, riding across, then back down the straightish ramp on the other side.

Riding up the ramp to the pedestrian bridge         Lookout!         Trike at the top of the ramp

The trip winding down to street level was SO COOL that we recorded a video.  (Throughout the course of the day, we ended up traveling this bridge two more times!  I think we just loved pedaling up, across and down; as Sheri said “it’s like a roller coaster where we have to do all the work.”)

From the bridge, we descended into Loring Park. We pedaled through a flower garden and up to a giant dandelion fountain, where we sat in the shade for a couple minutes to admire and photograph the area.

Dandelion fountain, Loring Park                One of many baseball player statues dotting Minneapolis

Rob: Okay, there is one problem with the Minneapolis trail system--the signage. The bike path names are not well marked, and trying to find our way with the above mentioned PDF, without a GPS overlay, took us to some unintended places. One was  the entrance of Target Field, the ballpark where the Twins play.  Although it wasn’t on our list of things to see, it was a nice ride circling the stadium.

While riding across the Stone Arch Bridge, we noticed a prominent building in the distance. All blue. People were standing in a transparent yellow box near the top corner of the building. We figured we should stop and see what this treasure was.

The trike lets you bring the park bench with you

As we approached the building, we saw a cantilever deck jutting out 100 feet over the street, almost to the Mississippi.  It was the Guthrie Theater! No way!  This was the next destination on our list!

Endless bridge of the Guthrie Theater        Fun with mirrors        The endless bridge is 30 feet wide and 178 feet long

Checking out the building, they told us we could walk around to the scenic overlook (that cantilever deck) and the ninth floor, that yellow (... er... “amber” as we were advised by a plaque on the wall) skybox. Both had beautiful views of the city, the Mississippi and Saint Anthony Falls.

After about an hour exploring the Guthrie and being kicked out of a couple theaters, we returned to the trike to check our route to our next destination, Open Book,

Looking out the cantilevered lobby        Self-portrait in the mirrored railing above the glass wall...        Amber box on level 9

Sheri: The trike was locked to a bike rack on the Mississippi side of The Guthrie; pretty much every building in this town has at least one bike rack in front of it, and many have multiple racks. We pedaled past another lovely park reminiscent of the little park of hills on the south edge of Addison Airport, but this one was five times as big.

Sheri: A bit of bad news reared its ugly head: the battery icon on the Rebel started blinking so no more shooting with abandon. It was time for some restraint, just as we reached a place that is sure to be recreated in graphic designer heaven, the aforementioned Open Book, a home for literary and book arts.

Open Book        Detail of top of ball of books sculpture

It’s a funky, rustic, artsy old building that houses a coffee shop/cafe, class rooms, meeting spaces, study spaces, work spaces, and display space for all kinds of paper-related art, woodcut prints, screen prints, book-binding and other 3D pieces.

The trike visits Target Stadium

Rob: Now that it was well after 5PM (6:45, in fact!) it was time to head back to the Walker Art Center. We got on the trike and back-tracked along the same trail, along the Mississippi, through the warehouse district, around Target Field, through Loring Park, and across our favorite bridge. We both shot video with our phones while riding down the far side ramp because there is no law against video taping while trike riding ... yet!

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We arrived at The Walker in time for a good hour and a half of art exploration. Again, the bicycle rack outside the museum was PACKED so we had to nudge other people’s bikes to get the trike into a stall.

It seems the museum doesn’t want people to look at its art while carrying a heavy backpack; perhaps it hampers the art-viewing experience, or they’re afraid we were going to swipe a Warhol and throw it in the back pocket. Lockers cost 25 cents and we had only pennies and plastic on us, but a nice lady getting a locker nearby handed us a quarter! People in this town are ridiculously nice!

On to the art: lots of pop art, lots of Andy Warhol including his Campbell’s soup can, Marilyn, and a JFK assassination piece. Remember kids, this was all pre-Adobe Illustrator!

Other highlights from modern art history class included Louise Nevelson, Jasper Johns and Chuck Close. There was quite a bit of contemporary art too (not to be confused with modern): photography, projector pieces, and video pieces.

One interactive piece was a dark room full of large colorful hammocks; we laid down there for a while to watch the huge Jimi Hendrix images projected on the ceiling and walls while his music played. This was feeling like a Ferris Bueller kind of day!

We retrieved our highly dangerous orange backpack, busted out the glow poi for lights and unlocked the trike to ride back over that bridge for the third time.

Young musicians outside Walker Art Center

Last stop for the night... Dinner! We decided to go downtown to Nicollet Mall, a slow-on-purpose, ped-friendly, two-lane street with wide sidewalks, lots of sculpture and lots of restaurants and sidewalk cafés.  We rode from menu to menu until we settled on a restaurant named Zelo,

Rob: The restaurant patron next to our table was a mechanical engineer, and he was quite impressed with the Ricksycle (as were a lot of people we came across.) When people inquire about the Ricksycle, they usually ask where I got it and how much it cost. This guy was different as he was trying to figure out how to add electric motors and solar panels. When he started quoting formulas to me, I knew I was out of my BS in Engineering league!

We dined al fresco on a filet mignon sandwich and a Ciao Baby salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, pine nuts, balsamic vinaigrette and seared ahi tuna, all quite delicious.

Eating dinner at Zelo on the sidewalk

Although we still had one item on our list to see, it was late and we needed to head back to Matt & Erica’s; we didn’t want to go back the same route we came, AND the Minneapolis trail system is so diverse that we had multiple options.

We chose the Hiawatha Bike Trail which parallels Hwy 55. We passed bars, dance halls, and plenty of active nightlife all with full bike racks. Apparently these folks have discovered it is best to ride to nightlife because it reduces the chance of getting a DUI, and since you can get just about anywhere by bike, that makes it even better.

We came to another bridge across the highway that connected us to the Greenway; the bridge was about a quarter mile long, beautiful, well lit, and had video surveillance. We passed no fewer than eight people on bikes and it was now 11:30 on a Thursday night!

View in Google Maps

From here, it was a straight shot across the southern part of Minneapolis on the Greenway back to the Humboldt Avenue trail access. The trail was quiet and well lit with an emergency call box every few hundred feet. It travels below street level, under all the roads (for the section we were on).  The exits were well marked on this stretch; you know which street you’ll end up on when you exit.

To top it all off, Erica and Matt gave us a “parental caring” hard time for coming in so late from an excellent day of Minneapolis sightseeing on the trike. We enjoyed nice conversation and a glass of wine before crashing.