Touch ’em all, Steve Berg!

Steve Berg has written a wonderful book chronicling the planning, design, construction and opening of Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins. Nobody is better qualified to do this book than he. Throughout his days with the Minneapolis StarTribune, first as a reporter, then as an editorial writer and now writing for, Steve has been a steadfast proponent of smart development in Minneapolis and of this stadium. At a party for him this evening, I learned that over the years, he wrote 125 columns in favor of a downtown baseball park.

Tonight’s book-signing event in the Kirby Puckett Atrium at Target Field was very nice. A lot of Steve’s friends and fans of the ballpark stopped by to congratulate him and buy a book or two. Steve’s family spoke humorously and lovingly of him. Twins President Dave St. Peter talked about Steve’s qualifications and how happy he and the Twins organization are with the final product.

Steve signs a book for Bob Jansen, an old friend from his StarTribune days. Behind Bob are Debbie Jansen and Steve's daughter Hannah.

A good turnout for Steve's book-signing

As everyone who has visited Target Field knows, it’s a beautiful place. It’s already begun to transform that part of downtown Minneapolis and will continue to do so. Steve’s son Alex, who has lived elsewhere for the past decade or so, talked about how whenever he comes home, there’s something new in town to be proud of — the light rail line, the Guthrie Theater, the Walker Art Center, etc. . . . . and now this very cool ballpark, owed in a significant part to his Dad’s efforts.

The ballpark looks great even when it's empty.

Thank you Steve, for writing this book and for doing all that you have done over the years to help make Minneapolis the great city it is. I’m proud to call you my friend.

A ghostly image of Kirby Puckett hovers over the bar and the atrium that bears his name. It's a beautiful space.

Buy Steve Berg’s book about this place!

God Club results in unlikely entry in the Jonah Project

Becky, one of my friends at work, is a Christian — but she’s one of the good ones. We started having little conversations about our differing beliefs a while back. Occasionally, one of us would give the other something to read and then we’d get together and discuss it. We started calling this “God Club”. Sometimes it’s fun and lighthearted. Sometimes it’s stressful.

Becky lent me a book a few months ago called “The Unlikely Disciple”, by Kevin Roose. It’s about his experience spending a semester at Liberty University — Jerry Falwell’s ultra-conservative college in Lynchburg, Virginia. Roose decided to enroll there for one term and write about it from his more moderate christian perspective.

I read the first couple of chapters of the book, but before I got around to finishing it, Roose announced something called “The Jonah Project”, giving out free copies of the book to the first 500 pairs of people who wrote in and offered to read it, discuss it and send in some sort of joint response for his website. It fit perfectly with God Club, and since I never turn down a free anything, we signed up.

After some good talks (and a few obnoxious comments by me), Becky had an idea to try to write a joint poem, explaining some of what we had talked about. She did most of the work and she did a great job. “The Rooster” thought so too, and said some nice things about the poem on his website. Here’s our poem and some kind words from Kevin (we’re project #10).

“The Unlikely Disciple” really is a great book — a quick, interesting and thought-provoking read. We had a good time (mostly) doing the project. Thanks Kevin, for the book, the project, and the nice comments. Looking forward to your next book.

Becky — looking forward to the next God Club. I’ll try not to be obnoxious.

Great bike rides of the Twin Cities . . . that begin and end at my house: Volume 1.

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’ve been doing more biking this summer than in past years and in doing so, have “discovered” some interesting and beautiful routes that real bikers have been keeping to themselves for years.

Mrs. D and I have been riding parts of this route for a few weeks. I combined these sections into a 26 mile loop last week and took a few photos along the way. These photos were obviously shot on two separate days — one cloudy and one sunny.

So here goes — a 26 mile photojourney. 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

Rice Park is just a block over and worth a look. It’s a beautiful little urban park surrounded by several interesting buildings.

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.

At 15.1 we go up the hill by the St. Paul Cathedral and on to Summit Avenue. First stop is the home of railroad tycoon James J. Hill. It’s pretty impressive.

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 (more about that in a future post) 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. I know this was a long post. Reading all the way to the end was more grueling than the bike ride. Congratulations.

Turkeys Take to Tangletown

As Mrs. D. and I were beginning an evening bike ride tonight, we noticed a gang of four turkeys foraging their way through a yard on 52nd St. just west of Nicollet Avenue. I had heard people in the neighborhood talking about seeing turkeys, but this was my first encounter with these wild beasts.

Tangleturkeys eating their way down West 52nd St.

These magnificent examples of Ben Franklin’s choice for our national bird decided to cross the street (without looking both ways) and visit the family that lives at 111 W. 52nd St.

Big birds engaging in risky behavior.

I'm not sure if they've been invited by these residents or not.

Maybe there's a barbeque in the back yard. Watch out!

What’s next for us? Moose? Elk? Rattlesnakes? Raccoons? Bunnies? Squirrels?

Tangletonians, get your guns. Thanksgiving is not far off.

Gopher to Badger 13.1 and 16 sweltering miles in Chicago: the Date girls seriously rock.

It’s time to get serious about the upcoming Twin Cities Marathon on October 3rd. OK, it’s BEEN time for a while, but we’re entering the toughest month of preparation. Emily and I ran the Gopher to Badger Half-Marathon yesterday morning as a checkpoint to see how we’re doing.

400 miles away at exactly the same time, Lauren was grinding out an impressive 16-miler in the heat of downtown Chicago. Lauren is the only actual Badger in the family (UW Madison, Class of ’07) and I thought about her a lot and how much she would enjoy this race — especially as we crossed the bridge over the St. Croix River into Wisconsin.

The G to B is a good race, on a mostly scenic course that begins in the northwestern edge of Stillwater, Minnesota (Gopher country) and ends at the riverfront park in Hudson, Wisconsin (Badger land). The field is a manageable size — 736 finishers out of about 1,300 entries. Shuttle buses efficiently take runners from the finish area up to the start before the race. With the exception of one early water stop that apparently ran out of water (?!?!) it was a very well-run event. They took good care of us — lots of treats at the end, too.

Emily was very strong for the first 11 miles and then toughed it out for the last two when she was having some muscle pain. She still finished in 1:55:36 and was in the top 15% in her division (age bracket) and top 16% of all women finishers — yowsa !!!!

I made her wear the Badger hat for the photo. Lauren, I know you wish you could have been here to wear the red!

There were no photos of Lauren's run, but I'm guessing she might have looked like this as she headed out yesterday morning.

I’m such a proud papa. It was so great to be able to cross the finish line with Emily today and I was thrilled to hear that Lauren ran her longest run ever. I’m really excited about the Twin Cities Marathon when both Date girls will be here and we’ll all be running together.

Emily and Lauren — you both rock.


Honkers Hammered at Home . . .

. . . but nobody got too shook up about it, because it was baseball on a nice summer evening and that’s all that mattered.

I had my second outdoor baseball experience of the year last night, courtesy of Emily. She invited me to come down to Rochester and go to a Honkers game with her. While not Target Field, Mayo Field has it’s own charm.

Rochester Honkers cheerleader doing her honkin' best.

The Honkers play in the Northwoods League, which is a summer league for college players from across the U.S and Canada — kind of a pre-minor league. Players are not paid, thus preserving their NCAA eligibility. According to the Northwood League website, “each team is operated similar to a professional minor league team, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions using wooden bats, minor league specification baseballs, experiencing overnight road trips, and playing nightly before fans in a stadium.”

"Slider", the Honkers' mascot, is probably a good guy, but his big head does kind of block the view when he sits in front of you.

Some of the best entertainment at any ball game is provided by activities other than the game itself. “Slider” is a good-natured mascot (even though he is inexplicably not a goose). He made a point to slap a high-five with each of the 963 fans in attendance. He actually got us twice after we moved seats.

This is either a great photo op or a very odd family.

Like all good small town or minor league teams, the Honkers have lots of low-tech games and contests between innings to amuse us. There was a race between a kid and a ball-fetching dog, a “big shoe” race between two kids running from second base to home plate in opposite directions, a water balloon sling shot contest where if you hit the “Ci Ci’s Pizza” ad on the outfield fence you would get a prize from Perkins (?!?), and a dizzy run where everyone had to spin around and then run a race. But to me, the most funkily bizarre one was where they had a little kid try to kick a shoe so it would land (and stay) on a card table about ten feet away. He could kick the shoe as many times as he could in a minute that seemed like 10. The kid was exhausted and frustrated and I’m sure pretty pissed that he didn’t win anything.

No, these ladies aren't drunk and mooning the fans, they just finished spinning around with their foreheads on a baseball bat and now they're trying to run. The crowd loved this one.

The Honkers got trounced by the Thunder Bay Border Cats 11-3. Emily and I left in the 8th inning and walked to Rosco’s Drive-In for a root beer float. They were closed. Bad night?

Nah, it was a great night. Thanks, Emily. Can’t wait to do it again.

Intersection near Lake Nokomis is a glimpse of a bygone era.

I dabble in nostalgic feelings from time to time. I’m not somebody who believes that “everything was better when we were kids”, but I do like to visit places that conjure up old memories now and again.

One of the great things about bike-riding is that you can cover a lot of territory in an hour or two and explore places that you might not otherwise see. Recently, I’ve been biking through the neighborhoods east of Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis. It’s a quiet, unnoticed (by many) corner of the city where you can find areas that seem stuck in a time period that I do miss sometimes.

The neighborhood around East 50th St. and 34th Ave. South has become particularly interesting to me. I’ve eaten at al Vento, a great Italian restaurant, several times over the years, but hadn’t really taken the time to look around at some of the other buildings until I pedaled through there a couple of times this week.

Al Vento is a great neighborhood Italian Restaurant. It's in one of those classic brick early 20th-century buildings that was built as a stop on the streetcar line.

The area around this intersection has more than the usual share of homey, family-named, non-chain businesses — McDonald’s Liquor Store, Oxendales Market, a cake and pastry shop called 3 Tiers, and a couple of small dental offices. My favorite building is the office of Dwight C. DeMaine, D.D.S. It’s a tiny, art deco gem, so beautiful that it makes me want to have a tooth drilled. I love this building and wish I could live in it.

Dr. DeMaine's office at 3319 E. 50th St.

I think I like this guy.

After your root canal, how about a little bowling? Around the corner and half a block down is Skylane Bowl, an unpretentious, unchanged, small bowling alley that would be a great movie set. I haven’t been inside yet, but you can be sure I’ll be lacing up some shoes one of these days.

Skylane Bowl, 5019 34th Ave. So.

In the mood for some Mexican food? You can’t miss this place. Say hi to this guy and his trusty burro on your way in.

Dominguez Family Restaurant at 3313 E. 50th St.

Of course, there are some NON-examples of nostalgia-inducing architecture, too.

Sorry, Dr. Shand, but Dr. DeMaine has you beat in the dental office architecture contest. 1973 just isn't a good look.

I didn’t grow up in this neighborhood, but in some ways I feels as if I did — and wish I had. It has the sand dunes of Blaine beat, hands down (sorry Blaine), for character.

A quiet, urban neighborhood where you can buy groceries, a bottle of booze, eat Italian or Mexican food, go bowling, get a cavity filled and revisit the 50’s and 60’s all in one afternoon — what more do you need?

Buy local. Nokomis, USA