Southern 1/3 of the Grand Rounds

For my wife’s birthday this weekend, I talked her into going to Minneapolis to ride bikes. Since my wife is a novice cyclist this was quite an accomplishment. Friday night we enjoyed a leisurely ride around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriett. For Saturday I had more ambitious plans. Minneapolis is one of the most bike-friendly towns in America. They have an extensive trail system and a culture that embraces an active outdoor lifestyle. I decided that we would ride a 20 mile urban loop covering the southern 1/3 of the Grand Rounds. The portion we would be riding starts out by Lake Calhoun, follows the Midtown Greenway  east to the Mississippi and then takes the bike trail on West River Road south to Minnehaha Falls. From there, it follows Minnehaha creek back to the Chain of Lakes.

Jan on the Midtown Greenway

It turned out to be a perfect day for a ride. There was a breeze from the south but when we rode into it we were on West River Road riding mainly downhill and somewhat protected from the wind. We started our ride by getting on the Midtown Greenway. The Greenway goes across town parallel to and just north of Lake street. It follows an old trolley or rail line and has exits for the major north-south streets. Most of the Greenway (and many of the major trails) have two bike lanes and a separate walking lane. Along the Greenway we passed by the bike-friendly Sheraton hotel. The Sheraton is right on the Greenway and has bike packages including a bike valet! Next time I am in Minneapolis, I am going to give them a try. This is a picture of my wife on the Greenway in her neon bike outfit.

Near the Mississippi, the Greenway crossed several roads at grade level. I was impressed with how courteous the Minnesota drivers were. In every case, cars stopped to let us and other cyclists by. In fact I felt guilty because a couple of times, I stopped at a road crossing to rest or wait for my wife and traffic on the street stopped to let me cross — I ended up having to wave them on.

At the Mississippi

The next portion of the ride was along West River Road. The path in this section parallels the river and is nicely shaded with woods on one said and stately old homes on the other. In the direction we went this section of the ride slopes gently downhill most of the way. There are a number of scenic outlooks and benches where one can stop and enjoy the view. We took a brief detour to ride across the river and back. The bridge is a couple of hundred feet off the river and had great views north and south. Since the day was beginning to warm up we appreciated the breeze. There are some businesses along the route near the Lake Street bridge, where one can purchase food and drinks. We saw dozens of bikes parked outside one of the establishments near the bridge. They had outdoor seating and looked like they were drawing a large crowd.

Sea Salt at Minnehaha Park

At the south end of West River Road, we came to Minnehaha Park. The last time I had ridden this route was in the evening so I didn’t stop at the park. Minnehaha Park is home to Minnehaha Falls. I thought the falls were some distance from the trail so I had not planned on stopping. About this time, we needed to refill our water bottles so as we got to the park we saw that tere were concessions and pulled in. To my surprise the park and concession area were packed with bikers, walkers and picnickers.  We stopped at the restaurant, Sea Salt to have lunch. Lunch was perfect. The restaurant prides itself on fresh fish so we ordered a fish sandwich, avocado stuffed with crab salad and a strawberry and walnut salad. We must have waited 30 minutes to order and 45 minutes to get our food, but we needed the rest. When the food arrived it was worth the wait. I generally do not like breaded fish but the sandwich was crispy on the outside and a perfect moist flaky white on the inside. The crab salad was equally good and I love avocado in nearly all forms. A perfect way to enjoy the halfway point of the ride.

Wearing Neon at Minnehaha Falls

After lunch we walked the 50 or so fee to Minnehaha Falls. The falls were spectacular and you could hear the cascade over the dining area. The picture is the two of us in our camouflage jerseys next to the falls.

After the falls both of us were getting a little tired. My wife was tired because it was her longest ride to date. I was tired because not only was it the farthest I have ridden my fixed gear bike but by far the most time I have spent on it. Fixed gear bikes do not allow you to glide so whenever the bike is moving, you are pedaling. I also discovered that while my saddle is comfortable for about 10 miles, after that it is not. I am going to have to look for an old school Selle Italia Turbo Special like I have on my road bike. That saddle is comfortable all day long.

Looking Up

The last part of the ride follows Minnehaha creek just north of the airport. The creek meanders through a residential neighborhood with some really nice homes and lots of green space. We saw people tubing and canoeing in the creek along the way. This part of the trail also has a few small rolling hills. As it got later in the ride we stopped more. This is a picture I took lying in the shad of a big tree and looking up into the sky.

After following Minnehaha creek we returned to the familiar territory of Lake Harriett. I had been carrying our swimsuits and towels in my front panniers but I was too tired to look for someplace to change and swim. When we got back to the car my odometer read 19.99 miles. I spun my front tire to make it an even 20. We had a great time, perfect weather, great scenery, excellent food and the chance to celebrate Jan’s birthday. We are definitely going to have to do it again.