We live in the beautiful wilderness of the cool Northland. So why would we want to cycle 100 miles through the urban metropolis in the southern climes of Minnesota? The answer is unclear, but Myra has her heart set on traversing the cycling trails across the Twin Cities. I managed to fend off her desires last year, but ultimately succumb to her pleas. We schedule our 5th annual Century Ride.
I should have saved myself the anxiety. For every one of my arguments against the locale, we are delivered perfection. Following a string of hot humid weather, storms blow through and the day dawns crisp and clear at 56 degrees, never climbing above a sunny 74. We manage an early start and cross the city in the quiet of a Sunday morning, unencumbered by traffic. When my rear tire suddenly blows only 16 miles into the ride, an angel appears in the form of a passing cyclist who generously helps me (read “does it for me”) change the tube. Feeling nervous about the accompanying gash remaining in my tire, we discover the bike shop we passed just 2 miles back is opening in 5 minutes. And to think we almost took a different route through town.
The best part of the trip is exploring the plethora of bike trails throughout the Twin Cities. Starting in Plymouth, we make our way into Minneapolis via the Luce Line Trail then onto the Midtown Greenway. Reaching the Mississippi River, we travel many miles along its banks on the West River Parkway and Sam Morgan Regional Trail. The splendid river views and gawking at the palatial homes keep us well entertained.
Downtown St. Paul presents the only area where we have to navigate city streets. We had done our research and identified a viable route, only to discover that the main bike-friendly street is under construction. But with a bit of dithering and the aid of Google Maps we identify a reasonable alternative, and survive the experience.
Our eastern destination and the mid-point of our ride is Stillwater, and those 20 miles are sweet. Three more trails take us there, the Bruce Vento Trail, Gateway State Trail and Brown’s Creek State Trail. Each is more rural than the next, with Brown’s being the newest trail with a delightfully smooth surface. Coasting downhill the final two miles into Stillwater is easy going, and the return climb back up is barely perceptible. While not crowded, we share the trail with groups ranging from hard core cyclists to families out enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon.
We reverse our route for the return trip, although there are several opportunities to vary the journey. And everything looks different when viewed from the opposite direction. Naturally, we take time out for a DQ break. With nearly 1.5 hours lost to my flat tire and the putsy time it took to cross St. Paul, we don’t finish our trek until just after 7pm. But on such a beautiful day we aren’t complaining.
Our final distance is 106.7 miles. With bits and pieces of other trails in between the main ones, we covered 12 different bicycle trails. And only 4 miles were on the city streets of St. Paul. Even I have to admit, it was a darned good metro century ride.