Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sneak Preview of Phase III

I rode to church Sunday. I'm sure nothing could be more fascinating to you than me relating all the times I ride to church. This being All Saints Day, it was a Festival Sunday, and the usual 9:00 Stodgy Service/11:00 Lame Service schedule was changed to 9:00 Quiet Service/11:00 Festival Service. The good news here was that choir didn't need to be there until 10:15 to warm up versus the usual 8:30. With all this extra time there would be plenty of time to ride.

I left shortly after 9:00 riding the Atlantis. I build out this frame in June and am only now getting close to 1,000 miles on it. To many cyclists around here, 1,000 miles on a bike is as nothing, you do that by late May. For me, it's as many miles as I've ridden in a season in years. (Actually, I have probably 300 more on the Marin, but it's hard to tell, the computer battery died and my USB drive that I tracked mileage on got wiped out so I lost track). I want to get the bike over 1,000 miles for the season and don't anticipate riding the Atlantis much once the weather turns cold and the streets get salty.

It was 36F when I left, and foggy. I've been riding in these conditions in a wool t shirt, a Wooly Warm long-sleeved jersey and an REI DayGlo yellow cycling jacket. I wear a SmartWool skullcap (extremely thin wool, but it helps a lot as I have no hair) under my Bell Metro on which I have not yet installed the Cold Weather Kit with the extremely hilarious-looking basset hound ear covers. I wear some wool pants I got from Marshall Fields and some Pearl Izumi gloves that are not insulated but which work fine for this type of temperature range.

Having decided the streets work better than trails at night, I wanted to try my street route in daylight before riding it at night the first time. I made a quick stop at the local Caribou Coffee to get a Mocha in my excellent Jong Won JSB500 stainless steel thermal water bottle, then set off. I did my usual Como/Raymond/Pelham/Lake Street Bridge route but rather than taking the West River Road bicycle path I rode a couple of blocks down Lake Street and took 46th Avenue southbound. This is marked as a good bike street on the Twin Cities Bike Map. I rode this down to 42nd Street, then headed west across I-35W to Bryant Avenue, then a few blocks south to church. I arrived in 1 hour 3 minutes by my stopwatch including the stop at Caribou. This is a full 10 minutes faster than my usual time when I use the bike paths. It's 12.5 miles even. I like this; it cuts more than a mile from the path-utilizing route and, if less scenic in the daylight, will be shorter and better in the evening.

Church over, I saddled up and headed out. I originally thought just to zoom back home, but instead began to get distracted by things on the way home as I looked around. The first was a bicycle framemaker I've never heard of and whose shop I have never seen. This is on 42nd Street just west of Hiawatha.
Chris Kvale Custom Frames
I've never heard of Chris Kvale Cycles before but then I'm not particulary in tune with the Twin Cities cycling scene. I went up and peered through the window. The blue frame hanging there looked very luscious with a beautiful paint job and some superb lug detail work. I think he paints these frames as well. Looking for the link on the web later, it sounds like he's highly regarded. It looks also like he's moving around the corner, the opposite side of the hot dog shop.

I rode on a bit. The light rail barriers came clanging down.
New Minnesota and Old Minnesota
New Minnesota and Old Minnesota. In the foreground, one of the Light Rail trains goes by while in the background, across Hiawatha, stands a grain elevator. Minneapolis was founded on grain milling and trading and a vestige of this business remains scattered along a rail spur on the east side of Hiawatha. This rail spur has some interesting ramifications for bicycles, too, as you shall see below.

I wasn't in a particular hurry to get home, where lay lots of leaf work to do, and instead meandered up along the streets behind Hiawatha taking some pictures. As with most photos on my blog and website, if you click on the image here you'll get a bigger version.

Railway north of 42nd Street at Hiawatha
The rail spur along Hiawatha is limited to pretty slow speeds and just sort of peters out so that there is barely a remnant left by the time it gets to Minnehaha. Here, though, it is still active.
Elevators and Rail Cars
Here are some grain cars alongside one of the elevatores.
ADM Atkinson Mill yard office
For all the financial services businesses and high-tech stuff, this was the core business for Minneapolis for a long time.
House by the Elevator
This house is right behind one of the elevators. I think if I stood between them I could spread out my arms and touch both.
Elevator with wheat mural
I like the wheat mural on this elevator.

The train tracks that serve these elevators curve to the east just north of Lake Street and head over to the Mississippi River and Saint Paul. The same rail spur served the train tracks that ran along the Midtown Greenway Bike Trail. There is a plan to put a bike trail alongside the train tracks. I don't know if this means to actually cross the Mississippi or not, but you can see Phase III of the plan here.

I meandered over to Lake Street and then up to the train tracks. The road crossed on a level crossing.

Rail lines to the west
Looking west, you can see the tracks and some of the light industry.
Rail lines to the east
Looking east, I noticed that work seems to have started.
McLeod and Sprint
Things were marked up like there was work going on, McLeod and Sprint here. McLeod was once digging down in Eagan and put an auger through both the main and backup data cables for Northwest Airlines, shutting down Northwest's worldwide operations for a few hours. Running main and backup lines right next to each other may help explain why NW is in bankruptcy. The second set of tracks has mostly been pulled up. The dirt looked pretty hard-packed. The Atlantis is no mountain bike, but the 700C X 28 tires aren't delicate, either, and I decided to ride along and see what I could see.

Cyclists cross railway tracks
I rode down alongside the tracks. They hadn't pulled up the parallel tracks at the level crossings. Here a couple of Practical Cyclists cross over; the front guy has a grocery bag on his handlebar.

Pile of railway ties, utility poles, etc
There were heaps of debris. Some of it was trees, some of it telephone poles, some of it railroad ties.

Bridge deck before any work
As the tracks move towards the river the land begins to fall away from the railroad tracks which are up on an embankment. Here a bridge crosses a road where a few blocks west they'd still been level crossings. No work has been done on this bridge, but I rode on across.

Graffiti number one
It's mostly light industry along the north side of the tracks. Some segments of the Minneapolis artistic community seem to have found this area already.
Graffiti number two
For all the artistic impression, they could sure use help with their handwriting.

Railroad ties like an archeological skeleton
These factories had had rail service at some point, but now the ties in the ground emerged like they were old dinosaur bones.
Trees growing in old train tracks
There are some remaining rails, but it's clear they haven't been used in a long time. I wonder when the last train ran on these tracks? 1960s? 1950s?
Anasazi bike mural
I think some of the graffiti is official. This Anasazi-style cyclist recurs along the factory walls several times, as does a similar runner motif.
Pedestrian Tunnel under tracks
At 38th Avenue there's a pedestrian tunnel under the tracks. The embankment for the rail line keeps getting higher above the surrounding ground and is quite an obstacle at this point.
No Trespassing
You go by some houses and then come to the west end of the Mississippi River bridge. I don't know what the plans are here; it would be great if the trail carried on over the river, and the bridge is wide enough for a single rail track and a path. I read on one of the always-useful railfan sites that this is Bridge #22 and was for the former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific main line going west. It was called the Short Line Bridge and opened on December 4, 1880. The Milwaukee Road ran passenger trains across the bridge until May 1971 (when Amtrak started). Canadian Pacific and Minnesota Commercial still use the bridge to service the Southtown yard (the stuff along Hiawatha) although it is no longer on a through route and now has only one track.

Mississippi River from Minneapolis bridge threshold
You'd be a long way above the river!
Road turnaround by bridge
I stumbled down the embankment to the West River Road.
Bridge over West River Road in Minneapolis
This is the bridge over the West River Road before it heads across the river. I decided to go over to the Saint Paul side and see where this comes out. I set off down the bike path to the Lake Street Bridge, my usual river crossing, a few blocks south.
Yellow leaves in Minneapolis Tree
Most of the trees have lost their leaves, but a few are hanging on and haven't even completely turned yet!
Rail bridge from Lake/Marshall Bridge
This is the rail bridge from the Lake Street bridge. This is looking upriver.
Bridge above East River Road
I rode up the East River Road. The rail bridge is way up in the air here.
Atlantis by bridge support
Heavy Iron. This bridge is built! That's a major nut behind the handlebars.

A guy stopped, mistaking me for some other Atlantis rider, and we chatted for a few minutes. I meekly said I was closing in on 1,000 miles; he was getting close to 8,000 for the year, and had just toured in Nova Scotia. He was retired, he said, which gives him lots of time to ride. He noted that the front wheel of the Atlantis had a lot of spokes; it's 36 spokes but is radially-laced, which makes it look like a lot. Funny thing is, the back wheel is 32 spokes. He told me that should be the other way around. He asked if I were riding the same direction, which I thought was nice, but he was going south down the trail and I wanted to go east, so we parted ways.

I rode east up Saint Anthony Street which goes from the East River Road to Pelham, a street I've been using on my way to church. I've lived here more than 11 years and had never been on this street. It runs parallel to the tracks and rises quickly up the hill.
Tracks coming from bridge
These are the tracks coming from the bridge. There's room for a bike trail there!
Tracks to the east in St Paul
And then they go off to the east. I rode up to Pelham.

Graffiti on railway bridge over I-94
The Saint Paul artistic community hasn't been idle either.
Interstate 94 and the railway tracks
A pathway along the tracks would deal very gracefully with crossing the Interstate. This is where Highway 280 goes off to the north from Interstate 94.
Rail bridge over I-94
And off it goes.

At this point, teatime was drawing near and I gave up following the tracks and rode on home. Karla, who had been up at 5:30 getting Henry ready for an early Minnesota Boychoir appearance, was feeling fatigued and we had a couple of cuppas. Cycling was done for the day, and Henry and I went out and worked on leaves until dark.

Bikes make a great way to explore like this. You can get places that are tough or impossible in a car, everything is accessible, you can see lots, and there's no problem stopping to take some photos, unlike a car, where you've got to park the darn thing every time you want to take a snap.

The trail could be pretty cool. If the Greenway actually does extend from the current termination at Hiawatha and continue to the river and then over and into Saint Paul it would be an extraordinarily useful bicycle and pedestrian superhighway. (Actually, you can read about the construction progress here and there are plans to use the rail bridge). The Greenway already joins up very nicely at its western end with other bike paths; to have it connect across the river would be brilliant. I will have to make some inquiries about it.

In the meantime, the Atlantis got to 996 miles. One short ride and it'll be over 1,000 for the season.


KM said...


Great entry. In talking with the folks who are actively working on the Midtown Greenway, they tell me the plan is to have the trail cross the river and eventually connect to Shepherd Road in St Paul. Apparently, they have funding to build the trail using the railroad bridge but there is lots of concern about having cyclists next to active railroad tracks.

It works on the Cedar Lake Trail in some sections so I am sure they can make it work.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great pictures! I've biked under that railroad bridge (on the East River Road) so many times and I never knew where it connected! Kevin has it right -- there is a plan to use the Southern 'lane' of the railroad bridge for ped/biking and the Northern lane will still have rail traffic. There is also a plan to build a ped/bike bridge over Hiawatha so the Midtown Greenway will be seamlessly uninterrupted by traffic stops! You can see the latest Midtown Greenway update here; their home page is here. The timeline at this point is that the Hiawatha bridge would open in 2007 and the river bridge would open in 2009. Here's hoping!

Jill Homer said...

Cool photos. I actually feel like I'm biking through industrial Minnesota in in fall.

Yokota Fritz said...

That's a nice travelogue. I ride my bike to church also.

hereNT said...

I've walked a bike across that bridge, and know some people who claim to have ridden it, but it's kind of nuts. They'd have to do a lot of work on it to make it anywhere near safe for most bikers. Especially if there are still trains - I imagine that some of those loose boards would vibrate all over, sending tires very easily into some of the gaping holes and bikers either into the path of the train or several hundred feet down to the river...

zippahzip said...

i like your photos.