This past week I moved to Minneapolis. I grew up in a small town an hour west of Minneapolis, but I haven’t lived in Minnesota for more than 20 years. Having grown up in Minnesota, I am, of course, familiar with the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but during family visits, I was always a passenger, never having to pay attention to routes. That gave my first day a weird feeling of familiarity without knowing how to get anywhere.
Luckily, a friend knew I get around by bike and had suggested a few routes to try. Even luckier for my poor waistband, one of the routes (unbeknownst to my friend) was from my house to my new gym. So to give myself a sense of purpose on my first day in Minnesota, I decided to ride my bike to the gym.
On an amazing, warm, sunny fall day, Stella! and I set out on a ride that would include an old family joke, a missing street and Mary Tyler Moore.
Minnehaha Creek meanders its way for 22 miles through Minneapolis to the Mississippi River - chances are you’ll cross it at some point. The name comes from the Dakota language for waterfall. When I was a kid, my family would drive into the Twin Cities often and each time we’d cross Minnehaha Creek, my mom would say, “Say that without laughing.” When I was little, I would groan and laugh. As a teenager, I’m sure I just groaned. On my first ride over the Minnehaha Creek last week, I said to Stella!, “Say that without laughing.” I now find it funny, but I think Stella! might be a teenager.
I rode around the lake in awe of the fall beauty and my luck at having such a perfect first day. I continued riding around the lake wondering where Lake Street went. It was always on the north side of the lake.
Lake Street had disappeared.
After riding around on side streets, frustrated, it finally dawned on me that I had been riding around Lake Harriet, just one of the dozen or so lakes (not counting ponds or lagoons) in Minneapolis. I needed to get to Lake Calhoun.
(Calhoun was named for John C. Calhoun – U.S. Representative, Senator, Vice President and Secretary of War, and defender of slavery. Harriet was named for Harriet Lovejoy, wife of Col. Henry Leavenworth who was ordered by Secretary of War Calhoun to establish Fort Snelling. I spent far too much time trying to figure out if Harriet Lovejoy was related to Asa Lovejoy, one of the founders of Portland, Oregon, where I had just moved from. If there is a connection between the two, I didn’t find it.)
The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board was created in 1883 to establish parks around Lakes Calhoun and Harriet. It would take more than 25 years for the board to acquire all the land surrounding the lakes to complete the parks, but already by 1896 separate paths for bikers and pedestrians were in place, nearly the same as today’s separated paths with pedestrians closer to the lake.
I made it to the gym and then rode back home along the lakes.
Being my first day and enjoying the perfect fall day, I began to hum “Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can have a town, why don’t you take it,” barely resisting the urge to toss my bike helmet in the air a la Mary Tyler Moore. (MTM fans, in the opening credits where Mary Richards is walking around a lake in winter, which is one more lake over, Lake of the Isles.)