Great bike rides of the Twin Cities that begin and end at my house #2: The Grand Rounds

(Note: To see my first “great bike rides” post from about a year ago, go here)

I used to think “The Grand Rounds” was a rather pretentious name added in modern times to the more than 125-year old string of parkways that wind through the city of Minneapolis. But I recently learned that the term dates back to 1891, when William Watts Folwell used it to describe landscape architect Horace Cleveland’s masterful proposal made to the newly-formed Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners 8 years earlier. Now that I know the name is that old, I like it.

Horace Cleveland as a young man. He was nearly 70 when he submitted his design for the Grand Rounds !

Minneapolis has one of the best urban park systems in the world. We would have none of it today but for the vision, forethought, and actions of an amazing string of parks commissioners (along with Cleveland’s detailed plans) in the late 19th and early 20th century, including Charles Loring, William Berry and Theodore Wirth.

I’ve biked most of this route many times, but never as a whole. So a couple of days ago, I decided it was time to grab my camera and saddle up. I’d seen different numbers for the total mileage — usually 50-53 miles, but I also knew that included some dead-end spurs. I decided to just do the main, basic route and see how it works as a loop.

Cleveland’s idea was to tie together some of the most beautiful parts of the city in such a way that you could make the whole trip without ever leaving a park-like setting. For the most part, it does that very well. The Minneapolis chain of lakes, along with the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek, are well-known treasures, but the ride also includes some impressive boulevards in the city’s northern areas. Most of the route is, indeed, “grand”, but there’s a short “missing link” of about 3 miles in the northeastern part of the ride that isn’t terribly scenic. Many plans have been proposed over the years to finish it, but so far it’s still missing. A variety of street options traverse the gap and get you downtown to join up with the river.

The dark blue line shows the Grand Rounds. Note the dotted lines through an industrial and residential part of northeast Minneapolis. The outline of the city limits can be seen where the shade of green changes.

Since I live a couple of block from Minnehaha Creek, I bike and run the southern part of the Grand Rounds a lot, but the beauty of the creek and the lakes never gets old. A quick loop around the lakes or a run around Lake Harriet never fails to lift my spirits.

My grand tour the other day ended up totaling about 37 miles. As I said, there are other ways to do it that add more mileage. The route also intersects with a lot of other bike paths on which you could wander all day. It’s a great city for biking.

Here are a bunch of photos from my trip. Along the way, I somehow lost my little notebook that I was writing the mileage in at photo stops (imagine me losing something), so the mile numbers are from “Map My Ride” and are approximate — also, of course, pretty meaningless unless you start at my house. But if you ever do want to start at my house, give me a call and I’ll go with you. It’s a great urban ride.

0.7 - We drop down into the Minnehaha Creek valley to get started.


1.5 - First look at good old Lake Harriet.


5.5 - Cedar Lake's south beach


6.7 - North side of Cedar Lake. The railroad and the Cedar Lake Trail (not ours) head toward downtown Minneapolis.


6.8 - on the other side of the railroad bridge is tiny Brownie Lake, an often overlooked little gem.


8.3 - Theodore Wirth Golf course. What a view!


8.8 - Statues depicting Theodore Wirth (Minneapolis Parks Commissioner in the early 1900s) with some kids for whom he helped provide a beautiful place to play, are near clubhouse of the golf course that bears his name.


10.7 - Victory Memorial Drive honors those who died in WWI


15.2 - Downtown skyline over the rail yards of "Nordeast".


16.2 - Another peak at downtown from the 10th hole at Columbia Park, another very nice municipal golf course.


17.3 - Quiet, residential neighborhood on St. Anthony Parkway with happy, safe, above-average kids.


20.8 - After a trip through the "missing link", we're downtown.


21.3 - Almost everything you need to know about Minneapolis is represented in this photo -- flour mills, St. Anthony Falls, Mississippi River, hydroelectric plant, barge going through lock & dam, James J. Hill's stone arch railroad bridge. This area is ground zero for Minneapolis .


21.5 - New I-35W bridges show no trace of the terrible tragedy that happened here 4 years ago.


23.2 - Back to green and blue landscape. The Mississippi River from West River Road across from the University of Minnesota.


28.0 - Minnehaha Falls


29.3 - The path hugs Minnehaha Creek


30.2 - Lake Hiawatha


32.0 - Lake Nokomis -
About five more miles and we're home - around the lake and up the Parkway.

A lazy, hazy, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty kind of week

I got a note the other day from my friend Casey in San Diego and he mentioned something that I always point out to people who don’t live in Minnesota — that we have a more extreme range of temperatures here than just about any populated area in the world. Everyone knows about our winters (-20 is not uncommon and -30 is possible), but some don’t realize how hot it can get here in the summer.

We’re in the fourth day of a week-long hot spell up here. Temps are in the high 90s during the day and don’t drop out of the 80s at night.

I was on my run around Lake Harriet on Sunday, sweating out several gallons of disgustingness, and I kept thinking about two songs from when I was a kid. “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole came out when I was 8 years old in 1961. It’s a corny, old-fashioned kind of song that became etched in my brain and I couldn’t forget it if I wanted to. It’s an example of the early rock and roll era, when “How Much is that Doggy in the Window” became “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” almost overnight and both genres coexisted for a time on the Billboard charts and “rock” radio stations. That was also pre-Motown, so the only kind of song that a black singer could get on the pop charts while Elvis and others (Pat Boone ?!?!?) were making piles of cash from recording covers of black blues and soul songs.

A couple of years later, the Beatles came along and . . . do I really have to describe what happened? The mid ’60s were, among other things, the birth pangs of the Woodstock generation. The other song that was in my head on my run was “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, with John Sebastian. That song from 1966 has also left a permanent mark in my brain tissue. When I got home, I looked at a video of Summer in the City on YouTube and was instantly brought back to a time when I thought those guys were cool and that song seemed really edgy – even a little “dirty and gritty”. I was 13.

It was the year of The Monkees, The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, two generations of Sinatras — and the Billboard #1 song of the year was “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Sgt. Barry Sadler.

But the times they were a-changin’ and John Sebastian was trying to place himself somewhere in the middle between The Beach Boys and what would become “hard rock” in just a few short years. But Sebastian never made it out of that transitional zone, although he did make an attempt by perfoming at Woodstock while on an acid trip.

Long story sh . . . . no, sorry, it’s just a long story. After my run, I went back over to “my” lake – Lake Harriet – and gave myself a one-hour assignment to shoot photos of people enjoying the lazy, hazy, heat.

There are a lot of great songs about summer that would be much better to get stuck in your head than the two I had — “Summertime Blues”, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, “Heat Wave” (not about summer at all, of course) immediately come to mind — “Summer Wind” by Sinatra and “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin (and a million other singers) are great songs. I’d even welcome an occasional “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. I’m going to try to conjure up one of those on my next run.

But for now, I’m stuck with this one. I hate to admit it, but I still kind of like it — and I really don’t want to lose the memories it brings.

So play the video of John Sebastian, smirking, laughing at himself lip-synching with his long, perfectly-combed hair and mutton-chop sideburns. Look at the photos of the lake, and then go outside and have some “sodas and pretzels and beer” like a “cool cat, lookin’ for a kitty”.

“You’ll wish that summer could always be here” — especially if you live in Minnesota.












Blustery Day at the Lakes

I went for a bike ride yesterday around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun in south Minneapolis. The weather was sunny and calm when I left home, but before long the wind whipped up and the clouds rolled in. I had my camera along.

Minnehaha Creek


Lake Harriet - a pleasant way to spend a June afternoon


Lake Harriet


Lake Harriet


Lake Harriet -- view of Bandstand and downtown Minneapolis


Lake Harriet hipster wears the colors of the lake


I think this puts to rest the myth that fishing is nerdy - once and for all.


Heading for Lake Calhoun


The ladies of Lake Calhoun


Lake Calhoun


Windsurfers on Lake Calhoun


Family fun

After I left the north shore of Lake Calhoun, the wind was in my face the whole way home. I put the camera away, gritted my teeth and cranked my way back to my house.

The end.

The Date girls are ready for the Twin Cities Marathon

I know you’ve heard this before, but I like my daughters — a lot. Today happened to be one of those days where I was really feeling proud.

Emily and I ran the City of Lakes 25K (that’s 15.5 miles to you and me) this morning. It’s two laps around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun plus an extra 2/3 loop of Harriet.

Emily looks refreshed and ready to enjoy a cold beverage in her commemorative stein an hour after running 15.5 miles around Lakes Harriet and Calhoun.

As was the case the day Emily and I ran the Gopher to Badger Half-Marathon (see my post from 8/15/10), younger daughter, Lauren was running a race in Chicago. Today it was the Chicago Half-Marathon. Over 13,500 runners finished this behemoth of a race. Lauren did great — ignoring the pain of her blistered feet, she finished in the top 27% of all women and top 39% overall. Way to go, BabyDate!

The City of Lakes is a nice race — beautiful but predictable course, plenty of water and porto-potties, small field of well-under 1,000 runners. One thing Emily and I both noticed right away when we arrived this morning was the general high-quality of the field. This is very much a tune-up race for people planning to run a fall marathon. The vast majority of entrants looked great — lean, mean and serious about running. So we had a little trouble blending in, but we got over it.

Emily was up to the task, running a steady 9-minute pace with enough left in the tank for a little kick during the last mile. I really enjoy running with Emily and I’m so grateful to be able to do these training runs with her. She’s going to do very well in the Twin Cities Marathon — 3 weeks from today.

Lauren is going to do great in the marathon, too. I should mention that she’s gotten herself into shape even while working long, stressful hours at a new job for the past 3 1/2 months. It’s very impressive. I wish I could run with her, too, but she’s over 400 miles away. She prefers running alone, but I’d still like to join her once in a while — or at least be there to cheer her on.

I’m so proud of both of my girls — not just because of the running, but because of the people they’ve become. It’s so cool to see. May all of you be so lucky to have kids like these.

I’m very much looking forward to October 3rd. See you at the Dome — and the Capitol.

There are no available photos from Lauren's race this morning, but I'm guessing she looked pretty much the way she did when she finished her first road race, the Get In Gear 1K in 1992.

Lake Harriet: In beauty may I run

I’ve always thought of the month of May as sort of the Friday night of the year. Everything seems possible. Eventually the reality of the Sunday evening of winter sets in, but right now I’m enjoying the hope and possibility that May brings.

Since I’ve signed up to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October with my daughters Emily and Lauren, I’ve decided that I should probably do a little more running than my “when-I-get-a-chance” 3 or 4 miles pattern that I’ve fallen into over the past few years. So I’m back to my “track” — Minnehaha Parkway and Lake Harriet. I was thinking as I ran around the lake for the thousand-and-something time today that there’s no excuse — none — for not getting my butt out there most days and doing it. It’s such a beautiful route that I’m still awed by it when I take the time to notice.

After my run today, I went back and did it again on my bike and took my camera along. Here are a few photos I shot.

After about 1.5 miles on Minnehaha Parkway, here's the first view of Lake Harriet.

Yes, we still have rollerbladers here -- lots of 'em.

On a cool day, ice cream cones can last half-way around the lake.

OK, so this is fifty yards off the running path, but I just like this guy. He really enjoys his work.


Back on the Parkway, heading home.

.

Thank you, Emily and Lauren for motivating me to get back to doing one of the things I love — and appreciating being able to do it. Hope to see you at Lake Harriet (and many other places along the marathon route) on October 3rd! I’ll be the happy-looking older man running — for as long as I can keep up — with two amazing young women.

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty

– NAVAJO PRAYER