Saturday, October 1, 2011


Minneapolis/Saint Paul: The Twin Cities. My great friend Jeff lived here for several years, and we couldn't pass by without stopping to pay a visit to the City of Lakes. Minnehaha is a name common to these parts - from Longfellow's epic The Song of Hiawatha, Minnehaha was a native american woman, and Hiawatha's lover.

Our drive up from Worthington was not an easy one as we had very strong crosswinds ripping across the prairie. It was white-knuckle driving. Several gusts shoved us forcibly off track, and passing tractor-trailers jostled us much more than usual. I was thankful for Gigantor's dually rear end, and the inherent stability of the 5th wheel trailer. When we got closer to Minneapolis the landscape changed, getting hillier and well forested. This cut the wind down considerably, and we rolled into camp safe and sound.

We stayed at Lebanon Hills County park. The campground was nice - not much privacy but decent site size, clean and grassy. There were trails running into this large park right from camp, so we had our dog walks there. Toby found this cute little tree frog:

Lebanon Hills park also has a really good mountain bike trail system. I headed over there not knowing what to expect and was immediately impressed. The trails are all single track, all one-way travel, and not open to hikers. There are lots of hiking and equestrian trails as well, but these were mountain-bike specific. Nice! The hard-earth surface was fast, and the trails designed to extract all that the moderate terrain had to offer. A few technical features kept things interesting, like log piles, small jumps and a progressive drop. After 10 minutes or so of riding I was caught by a local. We chatted and he offered to ride with me, showing me the best route. Chris helps build and maintain the trail system, loves his Specialized Camber full-suspension 29er, and is a strong rider. I worked hard to keep up with him as he was very fit, but my New England rocks 'n' roots experience gave me an edge when the trail got technical. It was really great to ride with a local, and Chris helped make this ride one of my favorites. He works with Travellers Insurance Company, which is based out of Hartford, CT. I hope that when Chris visits the home office someday that I'll be able to return the favor and take him out on the trails of Connecticut.

After the ride Nancy and I drove over to catch the Hiawatha Light Rail train from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis.

A nice man in a wheelchair saw us on the platform, looking confused. He assured us that we were on the right train, showed us the map of stops, and told us about various points-of-interest along the way. Another friendly Minnesotan! We got off at Nicollet Mall and wandered this street for the next several hours.

Nicollet Mall allows pedestrians, bicycles and buses - no cars. Glassed in skyways connect many of the downtown buildings so that folks can move around without exposing themselves to the city's harsh winter weather:

We were hungry but it was too early for dinner, so we popped in to Barrio Tequila Bar for a drink and a bite. Made to order guacamole, washed down with red and white sangria - just what the doctor ordered!

A bit more wandering and we were ready for dinner, which we had at Brit pub. Newcastle for me and a cosmopolitan for Nancy. We started with some excellent "cod-pieces" (HA!), beer-battered fish which Nancy ranks #1 and me #2, behind that of Austoria's Bowpicker. We shared an order of chicken tikka masala, and walked back to the train happy.

On the walk back we saw a really cool bar on wheels, Pedal Pub, which looked just like this, except that it was covered with and powered by drunk people:

Our train ride back was not as enjoyable as the ride out. We got "treated" to a taste of the rougher side of Minneapolis. 5 or 6 urban youths piled on noisily and settled into the seats right behind us. For the next 45 minutes we were "entertained" by a nearly incomprehensible and continuous assault-to-the-ears of inner-city dialogue. Punctuated with profanity and racial slurr, it was extremely uncomfortable for us country-folk. Here's a censored sample: "Yo, N-! Sh*t, N-! What the f-, N-! Suck my d-!...." On and on and on ad nauseum. I never thought I'd say this, but it was with great relief that we disembarked and went into the Mall of America!

Wow. It was like stepping out of South Central L.A. and into Disneyland. We only walked around for 30 minutes as we had our dogs to get back to, but we checked out the Lego store with it's larger than life models looming over the retail space:

And the impressive, full-scale amusement park at the mall's core:

All-in-all we liked Minneapolis and its surrounds. It felt more like New England than anything we've seen in 9 months, and therefore felt familiar and comfortable. A great parks system, public transportation network, and bike paths (plowed in winter) give this city appeal. Their legendary cold winters would,however, keep this off our list for long-term residency, but otherwise a worthy destination.


  1. dear Nancy and Matthew, I was in Minneapolis once while Barry worked there for a while. It was Spring and I love it. Too bad the youth on the bus ruined your run. I send you a big hug..

  2. Good timing on that Bowpicker comment! Just settled into Fort we know a place to stop!