Sunday, 18 July 2010

A City fit for (a) Prince

As well as being the home town of the greatest musician in the world, Prince, we can see why Minneapolis was apparently rated by one of the bike magazines as the most bike-friendly city in the USA. We’re not sure whether it really does rate higher than Portland, but we can say for sure that our 69-mile ride from Milaca into downtown Minneapolis was one of the best rides that we have experienced, especially going into a major city.

After a few unavoidable miles at the start of the day on a federal highway, we were soon onto the county roads, which were perfectly smooth (Grand Cru Classe road surface), with very little traffic. And from the moment that we turned off the highway, and for the whole of the rest of the day, the ride had a really lovely feel to it. It’s difficult to describe because the scenery was not really spectacular, but it was all very green, pleasant and relaxing, and we had fun ogling at some of the large, stylish and expensive-looking properties that we pedalled past along the edge of the lakes, and the Mississippi River. And when it comes to the river, we were in for a real treat. We had many miles of unadulterated bike path along the edges of the Mississippi coming into the Twin Cities, even spotting a heron’s nest as we cycled along (see photos).

It was cycling along the riverside path that we also really noticed how much of an impact yesterday’s tornado had taken. We had been dealing with twigs and other tree debris along the roads and paths throughout the day (not that it really hampered us unduly), and we had spotted several casualties among the arboreal world. But as we were making our way along the river bank, we suddenly came across a huge tree had been ripped down, falling right across one of the bike paths… luckily there was a parallel path just a few feet away, but it was a salutary warning as to the power of these storms.

Perhaps it is coping with the cold winters, the summer twisters and of course the millions of mosquitoes (!) that makes the people around here so down to earth. We can see why the Minnesotans are rumoured to be among the nicest people in the whole of the USA. Having made good progress on the ride this morning, we decided that we had time to stop for a quick lunch. After quizzing a friendly guy in a small town called Elk River, we ended up at Rockwoods in Otsego. In dire need of some fresh food after our “death by nasty pizza” experience last night, we ordered fresh fruit kabobs and salads. On hearing about our story, and particularly our joy at having passed the 10,000-mile mark, the lovely ladies at Rockwoods decided that lunch was on them, and they wouldn’t accept a cent from us. We were really quite choked by their kindness. A huge thanks to Mallory (Mrs Carey – yes, she’s married to a “Carey”…spooky), Beth, Ashley and Katie. Hello also to Travis and Hillary, with whom we had a great chat as we got ready to depart from our comfortable table at Rockwoods.

And then this evening, we went out for a bit of a celebration meal to mark the big “10-K”. We found a fantastic little restaurant, Grand CafĂ©, in a neighbourhood called King Field. It has a laid-back, local restaurant feel to it and serves fresh, honest and flavourful French-style food and wine. We loved it. And our server, Laura, was such a sweetie that she took care of our glasses of bubbly for us, which was a real treat. Thanks Laura, and Michelle who also looked after us very well.

We’re now very sleepy, ready for bed and looking forward to a couple of non-cycling days here.

Us x

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