By Phineas Rueckert
Wanting to take advantage of our very bike-friendly city before getting snowed in at Mac and eager to view the state capital for the first time, I biked East last weekend towards downtown St. Paul, my Sony Cybershot in my pocket. Biking up Summit Avenue, I was almost immediately struck by the grandeur and beauty of the mansions that line it. Of course I had seen these mansions before, but this time they were framed beautifully by the sun and the yellow falling leaves. At a certain point the mansions on Summit Avenue thinned, the trees recessed, and the street widened. I sped down a hill, to the sight of a wide-open panorama of downtown St. Paul to my right and the Minnesota State Capitol (a magnificent, gleaming white building) directly in front of me. Summit Avenue was now John Ireland Boulevard. I saw the Xcel Center mixed into the largely unfamiliar skyline. In the area near the capitol, quite empty and eerily desolate on a Sunday afternoon, I saw several interesting sites, including the Minnesota History Center, the Veterans Affairs building, and the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. With the sun beginning to set, I headed back to Mac against the wind and up a hill. For the second leg of my self-directed Twin Cities biking tour, I set my sights on Uptown, a trendy neighborhood in Minneapolis with a wide range of shopping, dining and sightseeing opportunities. Accompanied by my friend, Joe Huber ’14, I left campus in the midafternoon with hopes of making it back to Mac before the end of dinner at Café Mac. This, I would later find, would not be as easy as I had anticipated. Uptown is about a nine-mile bike ride from Mac—made far more manageable and safe because of the Midtown Greenway, a five-and-a-half-mile biking expressway-of-sorts in southern Minneapolis. But, despite the boost that the Greenway provides, it would be a lie to say that the biking trip to Uptown is a quick, easy venture. After flying down Summit and crossing the Mighty Mississippi—made all the more glorious by the fall colors adorning the trees along its banks—we found ourselves on Lake Street, biking on the sidewalks of a largely industrial neighborhood. Finding out that at a certain point Lake Street begins to run parallel with the Midtown Greenway, we latched onto the Greenway around Hiawatha Avenue and took it to near the end of the trail, exiting at Lake Calhoun. Unfortunately, our directional skills failed us and we ended up biking around both Lake Calhoun and neighboring Lake of the Isles (both beautiful lakes—but also quite substantial lakes to bike around), before having to ask a middle-aged couple for directions to Uptown. By the time we reached Uptown, Joe and I were famished. We roamed the streets in search of sustenance. No Café Mac this evening, we conceded. In Uptown, there are restaurants everywhere and we found ourselves deciding between Famous Dave’s Blues Club, Chino Latino, and Old Chicago, eventually choosing Old Chicago because of its relatively low prices. I’m not a food writer, so I won’t attempt to artfully describe the wonderfulness of my create-your-own pizza, but Old Chicago had super good food. With evening fast approaching, we figured it might be wise to head back to campus. Admittedly the way back from Uptown isn’t as fun as the way there, especially with a flat front tire, but it passes quickly when you know where you’re going. My journey downtown took no more than a couple of hours round-trip, and was a great way to get off campus. I had way more fun than I would have had in the library. While temperatures are beginning to dip and biking might not be the most comfortable weekend activity for a Minnesota winter, it must be said that taking advantage of our very bike-able city before we’re snowed in at Mac would be a fun and rewarding experience.