Rounds City Tour – Bike sight-seeing in autumn
Minneapolis holds many attractions, not only for
city-dwellers, but also for nature lovers and cyclists. I had skated around Lake Calhoun
and Lake Harriet on roller blades before and seen
the active outdoor scene unfolding around those lakes in summer. I had also
often seen the lakes and the Mississippi river
from the air due to most of my airtravel going in and out of the MSP hub. After
seeing a sign of the “Grand Rounds” bike path through the city I got curious. A
few minutes of research on the Internet revealed lots of information about this
route. It’s about 50 miles of mostly bike path along lakes, golf courses and
the Mississippi river.
particular map is courtesy of http://www.byways.org/browse/byways/2243/travel.html
good source of information is http://www.minneapolisparks.org/grandrounds/home.htm
figured biking this loop would be a nice way to combine sight-seeing with some
light form of exercise, especially in the fall when the leaves are turning. So
when a friend from Munich, Germany came to visit the area for
business, I had made some plans to check out this bike path.
took off early morning in the pre-dawn hours to take advantage of the splendid
weather forecast for this weekend. Driving into the sunrise during the first
hour after leaving Fargo
along I94 was a great way to start the day. For breakfast I stopped in Alexandria – the city
which calls itself the “Birthplace of America”. There is this little place
housed in a former railroad station.
road visible on the right is one of the “rails-to-trails” bike path which is
closed to motorized traffic and offers a paved path along a former railroad
track. I’ll have to come back to this one some time in the future.
plenty of time due to getting up this early, I enjoyed a fabolous breakfast with
pancakes, coffee and icecream, all for less than the price of a medium sized
latte at your local coffee shop. Outside the autumn weather was putting on a
great display of fall colors.
continued the drive to Minneapolis
and made my first stop there at the REI store to buy a new bike shorts. I was
not in a hurry as the morning was quite cool and the autumn sun needed a couple
of hours to warm up the crisp air. Shortly after noon I headed towards Lake Calhoun.
It was already 1:30pm when I parked my car and unloaded my bike to get ready
for the leisure ride around town. I couldn’t help but think of the last time I
was bike riding just 3 weeks ago: By this time of the day I had already been
riding for 13+ hours and covered 250 miles (400 km) on my Iowa to Canada
picture marks the NE corner of Lake
Calhoun, one of my
favorite spots (indicated by the yellow dot in the above map). Maps show the
way around the Grand Rounds so for the most part it’s easy to follow. I turned
on the music in my iPod and started to enjoy the route mostly following along
nicely paved bike path.
was a perfect day with plenty of sunshine, temperatures eventually rising into
the low 70’s, no mosquitoes, no wind, no crouds. What a way to explore one of
the larger cities of the United
States! I circled many of the lakes once or
twice just for fun and to get some mileage. Of course you stop often to just
sit by the lakes and take in the colors. One such stop is at the Minnehaha
falls in the SE corner of the loop. A friend of mine told me some time ago that
the word “Minne” in the language of the native Indians means water. I forgot a
few of the other words he explained to me as in “Minne-sota”, “Minne-apolis”,
“Minne-tonka”… but it is no joke when I tell you that “Minne-haha” means the
“laughing waters”. Back from the historic roots to the more contemporary sights
along the river. The modern buildings and bridges along the Mississippi
river had me stop more than once for some picture taking.
was only one area in the Grand Rounds loop where I got confused. To connect
from the St. Anthony falls near downtown to the Stinson Parkway in the NE corner of the
loop you have to find your way through some regular streets. Since it is not
well marked I got lost a bit, but I didn’t mind searching around which just
added a few miles to my journey.
crossed over the Mississippi river again on
the North side of the loop and followed the majestic Victory Memorial Parkway. As the
afternoon progressed I noticed the air getting cooler again in the longer
shadows of trees and buildings. At Cedar
Lake with my loop nearly
completed I stopped where two locals were just pulling their kayaks out of the
water. After a mutual introduction – “Nice kayak!” “Thanks, nice bike!” – a
short conversation ensued expressing the appreciation for the wonderful day and
the various ways to enjoy it, pedaling or paddling.
thereafter I was back at the pavillion at Lake Calhoun.
It was around 5:20pm and the sun getting low. Many locals come out to get a
snack from the restaurant in the pavillion. It’s easy to see why they like to
hang out at this place in the comfortable wooden chairs and benches facing
stowed my bike away in the car and strapped on the roller blades to circle Lake Calhoun
one more time as the sun was setting. After plenty of sunshine and some good
workout I drove over to my favorite Italian restaurant - Romano’s Maccaroni
Grill on Frances Ave
near Centennial Lakes
Park in Bloomington. Dinner rarley tasted better than
this evening. This trip had been something like a test ride to see whether this
loop would be a good trip to do with my friend who would come to town the next
day. I can assure you that the Grand Rounds on a day like this is well worth
Sunday, October 10, 2004
friend Klaus from Munich was traveling in Toronto and had announced his plans to come over to Minneapolis and Fargo
on business. Today he would fly into the MSP airport at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi
rivers, as pictured here on a flight a few weeks later in late November.
drove to MSP to pick up Klaus. Timing was perfect as I had just parked and
walked over to the baggage claim area when Klaus was about to step out of the
building. After a few phone calls we drove over to St. Paul:
Our first stop would be the Xcel Energy Center
located in downtown St. Paul
near the big Cathedral.
months ago they had built the famous St.
Paul ice palace on this very parking lot. Then it was
some 80F colder and you could barely stand the blistering cold wind even when
bundled up. Not so today… Klaus wanted to check out the interior of the Xcel Energy
Center, one of the
foremost ice hockey arenas in the nation. Klaus met with a business associate
of a company which outfits arenas with plastic panels to cover the ice when the
arena is used for other events. This arena is a most impressive facility and is
also said to have excellent acoustics for the occasional rock concert.
this site visit we drove back to Lake
Calhoun. Through Internet
search I had found a bike shop close by: Calhoun
Bike Rentals located just a block away from the pavillion on 1622 W. Lake Street.
We rented a tandem bike!
really turned out to be a brilliant idea: We would have some fun as well as
plenty of time to talk while riding. Since it was the first time either one of
us had ever ridden on a tandem, it took a few minutes to get used to the
slightly different dynamics. Turning is a bit tricky as your wheel base is much
longer and you tend to cut corners. Also, it feels a bit awkward at times when
the pedals continue to crank even though you just stopped pedaling to roll. But
it was great fun anyway. Klaus especially enjoyed the opportunity to get some
form of moderate exercise into his busy schedule of business travel.
picture shows us next to Lake Nokomis / Lake
Hiawatha with the skyline of downtown Minneapolis in the
background. Not far from there we stopped at the Minnehaha falls for some
refreshments and coffee. With the beautiful autumn waether it was no wonder the
other visitors found us with a great smile on our faces.
is a longtime friend of mine since the days of high school in Munich. Consequently we spent hours talking
about our family and professional lives. It was absolutely wonderful to chat
about all these things while at the same time pedaling from one scenic sight to
the next. Occasionally we stopped for a picture or two, such as at stone bridge
across the Mississippi
near the St. Anthony falls.
got lost again in the NE section of the Grand Rounds, but again neither one of
us was bothered by it as we just added a few miles to our workout. Even when
there is no bike path, mostly the loop just follows fairly quiet neighborhoods
with little traffic such as here on the NE corner of Stinson and St. Anthony Parkway.
continued along the golf course of the Columbia Park.
Everybody was enjoying this beautiful day. Prior to crossing the Mississippi river again we came to the scene of a fresh
car accident. A nasty looking head-on collision reminded us of the dangers of
motorized traffic and kept us alert for the occasional crossing of roads and
intersections. We stopped for a sip of gatorade on the bridge and watched
someone playing with a powerboat on the Mississippi river
against the backdrop of a caleidoscope of autumn leave colors.
thereafter we continued along the Victory
Memorial Parkway, a majestic stretch of park in
the NW corner of the loop wide enough for several roads following along. Again
you couldn’t tell who had the bigger smile on their face J
4 hours after we had left we got back to the pavillion at Lake Calhoun.
We stopped to enjoy the warm sunshine one more time.
there it was a short hop back to the shop just a block away. We changed our
bike outfits for some regular cloths and started the trip back to Fargo. Taking advantage
of the last hour of daylight in the short days of fall we made it back to St. Cloud and stopped
there for dinner.
to say that the steak and red wine tasted great after such a day on the bike.
I’m sure this was one of the better “business trips” Klaus had done in a while,
at least with regards to the categories outdoor, workout, scenic sights and
touching base with an old friend J