“This is what biking’s all about,” my friend Bob Hines said Friday as we watched barges being pushed down the Mississippi River toward St. Paul.
That event was the culmination of a bicycle ride that might be described as a misadventure. Bob, my daughter, Gabby, and I found ourselves within sight of Minnesota’s capital because of a wrong turn and a brief, but hellacious climb.
Bob was on vacation, Gabby had a day off she had to use by June and I had worked the previous Sunday so my work week ended Thursday.
Months ago, Bob and I planned to use that weekend to go on a three-day ride somewhere.
Then we realized it was Mothers Day weekend.
We had to modify our plans.
That’s when Gabby suggested that we spend Friday riding the trails that wind through the Twin Cities.
There’s a route that takes cyclists around several of lakes in Minneapolis, she said.
As Bob and I left Willmar, it was raining.
Weather predictions indicated that it might rain that morning in the Twin Cities, which led to my suggesting that we shoot for arriving in St. Paul around noon.
It was cloudy, cool and windy when we arrived, but not raining.
As planned, we went to an Asian buffet for lunch before riding.
After the buffet, we really needed to ride even though the weather hadn’t changed.
We were on course as we rode down Summit Avenue to the river by the University of St. Thomas.
From there we followed trails to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, a place Bob hadn’t visited before.
After a brief stop for photos, we took off for Lake Nokomis.
At some point, we saw a sign for Nokomis, but no path or bike lane. But we also saw a trail with signs indicating that it led to Ft. Snelling.
We made it to the fort, but only after a brief, but steep climb up to it. If the climb had been much longer, I would have been walking.
We were at the fort, but where should we go from there?
Away from St. Paul was Gabby’s answer.
That took us by another historic site — the homes of Henry Sibley and Jean Baptiste Fairbault in Mendota Heights.
Once we found the the trail after our stop at the homes, we pedaled along the Mississippi.
The trail would lead to a road and end a couple times as we rode followed the river. But we found that it would begin again a few hundred yards down the road.
While we rode from trail to road to trail, we noticed a long train. Its boxcars extended back into a wooded area that prevented us from seeing where it ended.
Looking in the direction the train was headed, we saw lights on an old railroad bridge begin to blink. In moments, the bridge began to open — not by rising — but by swing sideways like a door.
We continued down the trail and, at clearing where we had a better view of the bridge, we saw a barge heading past the bridge and toward St. Paul.
We rode down the trail, across the river and back to St. Paul. We had to walk our bikes through downtown because people were pouring into the area to attend the Wild game at the Excel Energy Center.
Once through the crowds, we pedaled up Cathedral Hill to Gabby’s apartment.
Our ride didn’t go as planned, but the three of usl agreed we were glad it hadn’t.