Some day I’ll get back to blogging again

Back in September, I got a wonderful opportunity to do a weekly photo-based “blog” for MinnPost called View Finder. It’s been great for me. I love taking pictures and giving myself little assignments. Some weeks have been easier than others. Some groups of photos have been better than others, but I like the experience and the opportunity to show my photos. But that project has been kind of draining my blogging energy.

I miss writing about stuff. When I started this blog almost two years ago, I didn’t realize that I would enjoy writing or be any good at it. Writing about whatever interested me — coupled with a few photos — made me more thoughtful and forced me to take time to organize and package my thinking. I’ve gotten away from that. I need to get back to it soon — not because anyone else needs to read it, but because I need to write it.

My last two blog posts have basically been promotions for my first 10 MinnPost View Finders. I’ve now done 18 weeks of it. So continuing my tradition of self aggrandizement, here are my 8 most recent View Finders with links to the MinnPost page where they are found. You can also find all my View Finders on my personal archive page on my See to Sea Productions website.

I hope that I’ll soon have something else to say.


Almost Winter on the North Shore
December 1, 2011

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Starbase Minnesota
December 8, 2011

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Local filmmaker making a documentary about light rail construction
December 15, 2011

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North Mississippi Regional Park is an undiscovered urban gem
December 23, 2011

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Como Park in the winter
January 5, 2012

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Warm Minnesota winter
January 12, 2012

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Martin Luther King Day events in the Twin Cities
January 19, 2012

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U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis
January 26, 2012

Cosmoline is my first attempt at recording a live performance

I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at a live music recording for a while now, ever since I saw my friend John Kurtis Dehn’s band Cosmoline last June. (see June 8 post). I finally got around to catching them again on Friday night at the Wild Tymes Bar and Grill in St. Paul. My friend Becky was on a second camera and we got one song were we both had enough decent shots to piece together a video.

I’d like to try again some time. It’s not great, but I learned a lot and had fun doing it. One thing I learned it that this sort of video is harder to do than it looks.

So here’s “Coal Black Love” by Cosmoline from their album “Give Me Back My Pride”.

Bury my heart at Keller Golf Course

“Don’t try to cut the corner on #1.”

Monrad Peterson, golf coach of the Spring Lake Park High School golf team in the late ’60s was a man of few words when it came to actually giving advice about golf. But whenever I tee up on the first hole at Keller Golf Course in St. Paul, I always hear his voice — and his words still ring true more than 40 years later.

Friday was a magnificent, sunny, last-70-degree-day-of-the-year kind of a day. If you’re a golfer in Minnesota, this means you either get yourself to a golf course or regret if for six months. Friends Roger Buoen, Bob Jansen and Bob Whereatt joined me for a nice last-gasp round.

13th hole (old #4) is a short but tricky par 3 over a deep valley (photo by Steve Date)

I play Keller infrequently these days, but decided yesterday that I have to change that next year. I’ve played a lot of courses over the years, but Keller is my hands down favorite.

My love for this place comes from a mixture of beauty, golf course design, history and personal experiences.

1. Beauty
This place is gorgeous. You don’t have to be a golfer to see that the clubhouse and views of the lake off to the west, the trees, the rolling hills, interesting holes all add up to a visual feast. The fact that it’s a moderately-priced public course — a Ramsey County course — makes all of that even more amazing.

View of the 12th green - old #3 (photo by Steve Date)

2. Golf Course Design
The original layout, completed in 1929, was done by Paul Coates, the Chief Engineer of Ramsey County (!?!) How was this possible? Imagine that happening today. Hiring a county engineer to design a golf course of any kind, let alone one that would host PGA tournaments — impossible. According to a Golf Digest article, Coates, at his own expense, traveled to many of the great courses of his day for ideas. He also spent a lot of time with legendary golf course architect Donald Ross and picked his brain. I think Paul Coates should get some sort of award for rising to a challenge way above and beyond the call of duty — not to mention his expertise — and knocking this project out of the park.

There are so many interesting — even quirky — holes that it’s the kind of course you could play every day and not get tired of it. By the 1960s, Keller had become a lower-echelon course on the tour, lacking the length and amenities the PGA had become accustomed to, but it was still Minnesota’s chance to host a big-league golf event and we loved it.

An aerial view of Keller from the 1960s hangs in the clubhouse


3. History
No other golf course in Minnesota has the sheer amount of history as Keller (sorry, Hazeltine — you’re still too young and you only host a few major tournaments).
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Keller began hosting a PGA tour stop, The St. Paul Open, in 1930 — its second year of operation. This tournament continued until 1968. Keller was also the site of 2 PGA Championships (again, !?!), a Western Open, 11 LPGA events and a U.S. Publinks Championship.

Keller's hilltop clubhouse and parking lot in the 1930s (photo from Keller clubhouse)

All of the great professionals of the ’30s through the ’60s played there. Back in the days when most of the top players played most of the tournaments, you had a chance to see them all at a relatively minor stop like St. Paul. One could get misty-eyed just reciting the names as you walk around the place — Hagen, Hogan, Snead, Sarazen, Nicklaus, Palmer — and on and on.

A signed photo of Arnold Palmer putting on the 13th (then 4th) green in the 1965 St. Paul Open hangs in the Keller clubhouse

My favorite photo in the Keller clubhouse. Ben Hogan (bottom right corner carrying his hat) leads a group of spectators on the narrow, elevated path in front of the tee on the 16th (then the 7th) hole in the 1940 St. Paul Open.


Keller certainly has its share of stories. I’m not sure how true they all are, but it’s fun to think about them.

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Gene Sarazen supposedly once took 12 strokes on the short par-3 13th (now the 4th) hole, withdrew from the tournament and vowed never to return. That hole does have a funky big tree right in front of the green, but I’ve always liked it.

John McIntyre looks on as Bob Jansen hits a shot over the inconveniently placed oak tree on the 4th hole (#13 in the old days), site of Gene Sarazen's emotional blow up. But a 12? Come on, Gene -- a few of those must have been your fault. (August, 2007 photo by Steve Date)

Notorious gangsters of the ’20s and ’30s often came to St. Paul to get away from the authorities in Chicago. Legend has it that John Dillinger quickly dropped his clubs and jumped a train next to the 3rd (now the 12th) hole when he saw FBI agents coming.

Bob Whereatt does his impression of John Dillinger hitting a shot on the hole where he allegedly hopped a train to escape from the Feds. I didn't know Dillinger was a lefty. (photo by Steve Date)

Roger told me the other day that “Champagne Tony” Lema wrote in his book, Golfer’s Gold, that in the evening after a drink or two, the guys would hit balls from the old 3rd tee across Highway 61 into Keller Lake.

The PGA tour has changed.

Drunk PGA pros sometimes used Hwy 61 and Keller Lake as a driving range (photo by Steve Date)

A few years after the PGA left, the LPGA arrived with the Patty Berg Classic, which ran from 1973 – 1980, named after our local legend who helped found the women’s tour and grew up a few blocks from where I live. It kept Keller alive as a professional venue for a while longer and provided more memories for those of us in the galleries. It was a great course for the women and it was sad when the tournament left for bigger and more modern suburban courses.

4. Personal Experiences
I don’t remember much about that first visit to Keller with my golf team other than Mr. Peterson’s advice and feeling really pumped up about playing a course that the pros played.

Later that summer I went with my friend Steve Erickson to watch the St. Paul Open (by then renamed the Minnesota Golf Classic). I remember walking up to the clubhouse when we got there and the first player I saw was Tom Weiskopf, one of the top pros of that era, standing at the top of the stairs that led down to the locker room. It was the first time I ever saw a pro golfer in person and it was exciting. In those days it was much easier to get close to the players and I remember standing right next to him for a few minutes as he talked with somebody. Then we walked a few yards over to the practice green and listened to Chi Chi Rodriguez cracking wise. It was all very cool.

Roger Buoen also has a lot of memories of watching St. Paul Open/Minnesota Golf Classic as a teen and we always talk about that when we play at Keller together. My favorite story of his also involves Tom Weiskopf. Roger was sitting next to a green when Weiskopf’s group came through. While he was waiting for his turn to putt, he walked over to Roger and made eye contact with him. Roger was, of course, thrilled that this star golfer was going to speak to him. “Can’t putt these shitty greens”, big Tom said. That cracks me up every time I think about it.

Roger and I have a memory for just about every hole at Keller, whether it’s from a St. Paul Open or from playing there in high school ourselves. I vividly recall missing a 6-foot putt on the 2nd hole of a playoff in the regional tournament in 1971, my senior year. That putt kept me out of the state tournament. It was the same green as Weiskopf’s remark to Roger. I guess I couldn’t putt those greens either, shitty or not.

I remember Dan Sikes driving the green on the 1st hole, a dogleg par 4, on his way to a victory in the final PGA tournament at Keller in 1968. He “cut the corner on #1” and it paid off for him.

On Friday, I heard Mr. Peterson’s voice, as usual, and aimed a little farther left. But the ball didn’t obey and headed right over the corner toward the green.

It ended up behind a tree and I made a bogey.

Keller's modest but classic clubhouse where I got my first up-close look at the pros back in the '60s. It was designed by Clarence Wigington, a prominent midwestern architect of the time and one the few Black architects of that era. (photo by Steve Date)


I’ve been thinking about the fact that Keller Golf Course was less than 40 years old when I played it for the first time, but it seemed old to us then. It’s now 81. It’s been a part of me for more than half its life and most of mine.

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When the time comes, I hope somebody scatters some of my ashes around this place so I can become a tiny part of it.

Remnants of Twin Cities streetcar lines remind us

Whenever the subject of streetcars came up in conversation, my Mom would always remind me that I rode on one in Minneapolis. Since the last car ran in June of 1954, I would have been only a year old at most. But she, like anyone else old enough to remember the Twin Cities’ streetcars (please don’t call them trolleys), knew it was important to remember that part of local history and wanted me to know that I had been a witness to it.

A short section of the old Como-Harriet streetcar line operates as a tourist attraction. (photo by Steve Date)

Minneapolis and St. Paul had one of the best public transportation systems in the country for the first half of the 20th century. It began with horse-drawn cars in the 1870s and a brief period of flirtation with cable cars and steam engines in the 1880s.

When electricity finally emerged as the power of choice in the early 1890s, the system blossomed and ridership took off. By the 1920s, an elaborate and extensive web of track covered the Twin Cities metropolitan area. According to the Minnesota Streetcar Museum website, there were 524 miles of track at the peak, stretching all the way from Stillwater to Lake Minnetonka, Anoka to Hastings.

Within the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, more than two-dozen lines were spread out in such a way that most residents had to walk no more that a few blocks to catch a streetcar.

A 1933 map shows the streetcar lines that ran through the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul

Streetcars remained a preferred mode of transportation through the depression and WWII. But in 1949, a group of investors took control of the Twin City Rapid Transit Company (which by now included buses), and the end was in sight. Buses were becoming more cost-effective than rail and driving a car to work had become a big part of the American dream.

The Twin Cities’ streetcars were fairly quickly shut down and sold to other cities for use or sold as scrap metal. On June 19, 1954, the last Minneapolis streetcar ran on the Como-Harriet line.

Thankfully, in 1971, a group of individuals and the Minnesota Transportation Museum had the foresight and the funding to reconstruct about a mile of the track and refurbish some of the cars as a historic tourist attraction — a living museum.

Many people now enjoy riding the historic Como-Harriet streetcars and the volunteer operators love to tell the history of this line and the rest of the streetcar system. It’s a great way to spend a little time as part of a visit to Lakes Harriet and Calhoun.

The current ride stops abruptly on the southeast shore of Lake Calhoun, at the spot where the old Lakewood Cemetery Station used to be. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks about where the track used to go after that as it headed toward downtown Minneapolis.

Current section of track ends abruptly at Lake Cahoun, but it used to continue across 36th street on its way downtown. (photo by Steve Date)

I had forgotten about my Mom telling me about riding the streetcar until this week when I was poking around over by Lake Calhoun, following the old track bed to see where it went. From seeing old photos, I knew there used to be a bridge over 36th Street and then the line continued up the side of Lake Calhoun for a couple of blocks. This is now a beautiful walking path, covered in wood chips, with views through the trees of the lake below.

A view of Lake Calhoun you might have had out the window of a streetcar (photo by Steve Date)

Streetcars emerged from the woods where the walking path is now behind this house at 34th St. near Lake Calhoun and continue up the alley where I'm standing. (photo by Steve Date)


I never really knew where the track used to go after it emerged from the woods at 34th St. Then, I read on the marker at the end of the current line that it ran next to an alley between James and Irving Avenues between 34th and 31st Streets, eventually making its way onto Hennepin Avenue.

Streetcar #1300 (one of the preserve cars in use today at Lake Harriet) lets a passenger off in the alley between Irving and James Avenues at 33rd St. (photo by Bob Schumaker for THE COMO HARRIET STORY, a book by Aaron Isaacs and Fred Rhodes, produced by the Minnesota Transportation Museum, 1997)


The alley between 33rd and 34th Streets as it looks today. (photo by Steve Date)

A very nice book with lots of old photos by by Aaron Isaacs and Fred Rhodes for the Minnesota Transportation Museum (1997)

The Como-Harriet line must have been one of the most scenic routes in the city. Passengers enjoyed views of the lakes, a beautiful cemetery, a residential alley that opened up into the bustle of Hennepin Avenue and then on to downtown Minneapolis. We’re lucky to have a mile of it preserved so we can experience a small taste of what it was like.

I know there are quite a few other remnants around of other lines around town. Now that I’m tuned in to looking for them, I’m looking forward to taking my map and exploring some of the other routes.

As I see the popularity of our new light rail line grow, with plans for more routes to be added, I think about what we once had here and feel sad that it all had to be destroyed before we realized what a great thing it was. But I guess good ideas have a way of coming back around.

Thanks, Mom, for reminding me about my streetcar trip. Even though I don’t remember it, I haven’t forgotten.

3 Dates run the Twin Cities Marathon

Yesterday was great. I got a chance to run a marathon with my two daughters. Think about that for a minute. What a wonderful thing.

7:00 AM - It's go time! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Last April, Emily ran the Charlottesville, Virginia Marathon with her husband, Kyle, his two brothers and their girlfriends. She did very well on a difficult course, posting a 4:19. Younger sister Lauren had also been doing a lot of running over the winter and spring, working her way up to some significant mileage. Dad, on the other hand, had been slowly, but steadily sliding into old age. Although I ran marathons regularly for about 11 years, I had decided in 2002 that I would retire from the sport and put on weight (apparently).

When Emily found out that Kyle had been accepted for a residency position at the Mayo Clinic and they would be moving to Rochester, she called me up and told me she was thinking about entering the Twin Cities Marathon. She asked me if I’d like to run it with her.

Yikes.

I was having trouble running 3 or 4 miles at the time. But of course, I said yes. I would have been a fool to turn down an offer like that.

Lauren and Emily before the marathon (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

When Lauren decided to enter, too, I was thrilled. It would be her first, and I was glad she was going to give it a try.

I wished I had more months to prepare myself and at the same time I couldn’t wait for marathon day to get here. Because Emily lives in Minnesota now, I was able to do some long runs and a couple of races with her (see earlier posts). Lauren was doing her training in Chicago, so I was only getting verbal reports about that. But she did a 5 mile and 10 mile races and then a half-marathon, so I knew she would be ready.

It was a great weekend. It was good to have the whole family (including Kyle) together. We went to the Twins game and the marathon expo on Saturday. The Twins won!

This is what it looks like from the start corral, just before the race begins. (photo by Steve Date)

The three of us ran together for about the first mile and a half. Then Emily took off a little faster than Lauren and I were comfortable with so we ran together for a while. I intended to stay with her longer, but when we went past Alan Page playing his tuba at about the 2.5 mile mark, I ran over to snap a photo of him. After that, I couldn’t find Lauren again in the huge crowd of runners.

Lauren (in center with white shirt) as we ran through the Kenwood neighborhood, just before I lost her. (photo by Steve Date)

Minnesota Viking great and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page entertains marathon spectators near his home in the Kenwood neighborhood. (photo by Steve Date)

I’ll spare you the details of the actual race, but let’s just say that it was painful. Kyle and Sandy were at mile 7 along with friends Mary and Diane. Then they met us again just before the 18 mile mark.

Emily says goodbye to husband just before the 18 mile mark. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily finished strong, cutting more than 6 minutes from her previous marathon time to finish in 4:13. Lauren ran a wonderful, steady pace throughout and finished her first marathon in a very impressive 4:25. Little did I know she was only about 30 seconds behind me at the end. I wish we could have crossed the finish line together. But it was very cool being with the two of them just after the finish.

Emily waves to Kyle less than a quarter-mile before the finish line.

Very proud Dad with two great daughters. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Gotta have the space blankets. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

It was an amazing day for me. I’m so proud of the girls. I’m so lucky to have been able to share it with them. It was a day I’ll never forget.

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.