Category Archives: Fargo

09 Jul

Farewell Tour of the Twin Cities

This past weekend, I was one of 30 passengers on a bus tour to the Twin Cities. The official purpose of the tour was to see the Yankees battle the Twins at Target Field, but I took my bike and instead used the time to tour the area once again on two wheels. Despite the sweltering heat, I would put on nearly 85 miles over the two days I was there.

During the four-day adventure, many others on the bus kept asking me if I made it to the games at all. Though there was a time when I was such a passionate baseball fan that I would regularly take a day off work to observe Opening Day, I attended neither game. I haven’t actually watched a baseball game since 2007.

I got on bright and early on Friday morning as the bus made various stops to pick up passengers. At one stop, our tour director had to call a couple of passengers who were late. It turned out they were sitting in the nearby McDonald’s and didn’t see the bus pull up.


I can certainly understand that a bus of this size would be hard to spot.

At the Salisbury House on Pembina Highway, my heart nearly skipped a beat as I saw Dave, our driver, come on board to relive the driver who came from Brandon. He was the driver we had two years earlier who, as loyal readers may recall, put us in mortal peril with his many man-made distractions on the road. This time around, however, he was much more attentive and there were no major incidents.

Speeds were down to 80 km/h for a while as road work was going on north of Morris. PTH 75 is one of the worst highways in the province and badly needs the work, yet the government propaganda sign before the start of the construction reads, “Steady Growth, Good Jobs,” as if this is just a job-creation scheme instead of vital road maintenance.

We picked up the last six passengers in Morris. We first pulled up next to Motown Motors before moving on to Burke’s Restaurant.


Does this mean they take ½ hour off each day or that it will take them 23½ hours to get to you?


Hopefully the six of them enjoyed the “karaokee” while waiting.

With everyone aboard, our tour director gave us his usual spiel, skipping his time-honored line “if I can leave my wife behind, I can leave you behind.” It was likely not a coincidence that his wife was sitting across the aisle from him. Nonetheless, I’m quite familiar with the spiel, having gone with him six times previously. I’m surprised he doesn’t end it with the line, “this has been a recording.”

Once we reached the border, I took note of the new traffic light in front of the duty free store on the Canadian side. I swear there are more traffic lights per capita in the SPRM than anywhere else in the Western world. In a way, I suppose it’s fitting to put another one in as one last reminder of the province travellers about to leave.

Since we were travelling on Independence Day, I was expecting the third degree at U.S. Customs. When crossing the border in 2008, one day after September 11, all of us faced a higher level of scrutiny than normal. Luckily, it turned out to be the exact opposite. For the first time, I wasn’t asked any questions and it seemed like they couldn’t get rid of us fast enough.

Within minutes of crossing the border, our tour director put on his first movie of the trip. This one featured a bunch of older men chasing after young women in bars and strip clubs. I wish I had a better talent for tuning these movies out.


It is a sight I’ve seen countless times, but I still grab a shot of the Crystal Sugar plant north of Drayton.


At the Drayton exit, I made sure to once again catch a glimpse of the sign that used to have the word “CHICKEN” on it. I also thought of former colleague Steve Conner, who lost his wife and three-year-old daughter near this location in a tragic accident this past winter.

As we passed Sucker Town, my eyes drifted far to the east, well beyond the horizon. Those who know me will understand why. Though we had been on the road for over four hours, it felt like it only took us 15 minutes to get to Fargo and West Acres, our lunch stop.


An unwelcome reminder that we’re still too close to the SPRM.


As I’ve said before, anything Snoopy-related is always going to grab my attention. At least one reader was surprised none of these beagles came home with me.


I picked up lunch at Subway and checked my e-mail before getting back on the bus. Following a detour to Happy Harry’s, where everyone but me loaded up on liquor, we headed east and crossed the frontier into the great state of Minnesota, where we spent the bulk of the time on the trip.

On our way, a couple on a motorcycle waved to us as they passed by. Unlike what normally happens in the SPRM, they used all their fingers. It was also a nice sign to see a school bus that actually has the words “SCHOOL BUS” plastered on the front instead of “ECOLIERS.”

I spotted a clever billboard that showed a man sitting on a toilet in obvious agony with the caption, “There’s got to be a better way. Get a colonoscopy.” The first misspelled sign I saw south of the border was a billboard for McDonald’s in Sauk Centre that said RV parking is “availiable.”

Our next stop was Albertville, the black hole of civilization.


Albertville is the home of Albertville Premium Outlets, a massive collection of stores where people get slightly less gouged for brand-name merchandise they likely don’t need and walk away thinking they’re getting a bargain.


Sadly, our tour director gave us two and a half hours at this miserable place. For some, it’s not nearly enough. For me, it’s two and a half hours too long. Before setting us loose, he went inside to pick up some VIP coupon booklets, but not one of them contained a “get out of jail free” card.

It was absolutely sickening to walk around seeing these teenage princesses in groups of three or four with armfuls of bags from the trendiest stores. As a good friend of mine put it, it is a cultural sickness. Perhaps it was only fitting that one of the vanity license plates I spotted was “PRESIUS.”

While stopping to jot down some notes, a couple came up to the drink machine next to the bench where I was seated. They seemed puzzled by how it works and asked me for help.


It wasn’t that complicated, but even with my help, they couldn’t seem to figure it out and moved on.

Trying to kill some time as best I could, I walked around to wear off the bus legs.


In front of Coach New York, there was actually a line waiting to get in. I don’t know what they sell, but I suspect they’d have to pay me to go in there.


A typical Manitoban. This would make for a perfect submission to if only the site owner had decided to keep it up.


I guess taking your dog for a leak qualifies as “Emergency Stopping.”

Having run out of places to walk to, I returned to the bus an hour early and waited for the rest of the passengers to return. Aside from me, there wasn’t one who didn’t have an armful of bags. After everyone was back on board, the weight of the bus might have been double what it was when we pulled in.

Several of my fellow passengers were showing off their purchases while waiting for the bus to leave. One woman took out a purple leotard with black polka dots that she bought for her daughter. Any self-respecting woman would have been embarrassed to wear it to bed and she likely paid more for it than I spent on the entire trip.

Every time I visit the Twin Cities, I always pay attention to the Pine Point Wood Products sign in Rogers. It has been there ever since my first visit and serves as my unofficial marker that we’re indeed here.


I was incredibly disappointed to see that they replaced their iconic yellow sign with something more generic. Sacrilege.

This time, I’m not seated at the front of the bus and I can’t see many of the signs on the highway, but I’ve been coming here so often over the years that I can tell what suburb we’re in by looking at the street signs.


We got in to our hotel at 7:45 and I saw their much-ballyhooed renovations for the first time. It has easily been the best hotel I’ve stayed at and I wondered why they needed to renovate. I appreciate the modernization, but the color scheme they chose is certainly not a step forward in my opinion.

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The following morning, after the complimentary breakfast, it was time to hit the road. Soon after getting to the trail, I made a brief stop to fill out a survey they were taking. I made sure to compliment them on how well they had done and mentioned a few of the horror stories during my many adventures in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.


I made a point of stopping at Lake Calhoun, a scenic area in the western edge of Minneapolis. There is a nice trail that circles the lake as well as nearby Lake Harriet to the south, but since I had bigger fish to fry on this day, I continued east on the Midtown Greenway towards West River Parkway and Saint Paul.


This was one of a few bike repair stations I found along the trail system. In addition to the pump, there are cables where you can raise your bike up and perform any necessary maintenance. The fact that it hasn’t been vandalized, wrecked, used as a toilet or set on fire is another strong indicator that you’re not in the SPRM.


A repair shop and café along the Midtown Greenway.


More scenes along the Midtown Greenway.


Where the Midtown Greenway meets West River Parkway.


While stopping here for some pictures, someone came up to me and asked for directions, which I was happy to be able to do.


I crossed the mighty Mississippi at Lake Street into Saint Paul, the Capital City, as the sign says.


So many people on the trails in the Twin Cities kindly yell “on your left” when passing. Little did I know that it’s a state law.

I proceeded south to Summit Avenue, where I turned east towards downtown Saint Paul in the dedicated bike lane.


I planned to stop for some pictures at Snelling Avenue and get some shots of the MN 51 markers on both the south and north sides of Summit.


After finishing with the pictures, the gentleman at right approached me and asked me why I was taking the shots of the highway signs. After I mentioned my Web site, he told me his father used to work for Mn/DOT and that he is one of a handful of contributors to the informative Minnesota highway pages on Wikipedia. We exchanged some stories that only fellow roadgeeks could appreciate and he invited me to a meet-up they were having in Como Park the next day. I would have loved to have gone, but I only had the two days there, so I had to decline. Nonetheless, this chance encounter was one of the highlights of the trip. This is something that would only happen in friendly Minnesota.


I continued on and got this shot near downtown.


The Cathedral of Saint Paul.


The Xcel Energy Center. The WHA once had two teams in Saint Paul, but today, it is home to a team that plays in another major league.


The former Saint Paul Auditorium, the original home of the first edition of the Minnesota Fighting Saints.

Continuing east through downtown, I stopped at a Subway.


Need a bail bond to go with that sub?


Snoopy in Lafayette Park.


Mickey’s Diner.


The Mexican consulate.

I turned around at the corner of 7th and Arcade and retraced my steps in making it back. The heat was taking its toll, but I made sure to stop for some badly needed fluids.


A service station at the corner of Grand and Cleveland in Saint Paul.


It’s Hennepin Avenue, not “Hennapin.”

All told, I covered 47.4 miles before putting on a few more after a rest at the hotel to go to a nearby grocery store to pick up some food for the next two days.

Next morning, I was crushed when I looked out the window and saw the rain coming down in buckets. Fortunately, it cleared up quickly and I was on the road again by 8:15, this time headed for downtown Minneapolis via the Kenilworth and Cedar Lake trails.


I exited the trail and made a side trip to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.


After a little break, I crossed the foot bridge over I-94 to Loring Park


While in Loring Park, a white squirrel came up to me and posed for a picture.


Message sent. Message received. You may understand. You may not.


Moving on, I made to Nicollet Mall and north to Cancer Survivors Park.


For me, the park is always a must-see on every visit and many of you who know me understand why.


View from the 3rd Avenue Bridge.


The light rail. Real rapid transit.


This is where the once-mighty Metrodome once stood, soon to be replaced by a palatial new stadium for the Vikings. The Metrodome may have not been one of the most legendary sports facilities in the country, but I think many of our tour participants were wishing the Twins were still playing under its air-conditioned, climate-controlled Teflon roof as they roasted in the mid-summer heat.


Oddly, I found more beggars in downtown Saint Paul and Minneapolis than in any past visit, including this one, who was holding up a sign saying she was homeless and needed money. She should consider cutting back on her food bill.

I was hoping to go through the skyway and stop for lunch in the food court at Gaviidae Common, but, curiously, many of the stores weren’t open until noon. I realize it was a Sunday, but it was a Twins game day and Americans are, if nothing else, enterprising entrepreneurs. Where there are prospective customers, corporate America will be there to open their doors. Instead, I found an attitude that I would more expect to find in the SPRM.

When I finally did get through to Gaviidae Common, I was shocked to see that the food court that I had been visiting for years was gone. I had to move on and managed to find one of the few Subways open in the area.


I had been to this Subway once before and their policy of needing to show photo ID to use the washroom was still in force, but I was one of the lucky ones who they evidently trusted with the key without needing to show ID. I felt so blessed.


After a few shots around the Stone Arch Bridge, I got back on the trail and headed back towards the hotel.


Heading underneath Target Field.

On the way back, a couple of teenagers passed me who were talking about sales and profit margins. In spite of Obama’s best efforts, entrepreneurship is still alive and well in the U.S. If I was in Canada, such talk would likely center around government handouts.


I couldn’t resist this shot on 11th Street in Hopkins. Many of my former colleagues will understand the significance as it relates to our former employer.

After getting back to the hotel, I went for a little walk around the area.


The significance is obvious in more than one way.


Manitobans don’t have a monopoly on double-parking.


On the north side of MN 62, I spotted this Caribou Coffee location alongside Einstein Bros. Bagels.


On the other side of the street was another Caribou Coffee location. Canadians aren’t this bad with their addiction to Tim Hortons.

Since this was what is virtually certain to be my final visit to the Twin Cities, it was tough to leave the following morning. I had been going there since the days when I-394 was still Wayzata Boulevard and when the state’s pro sports teams were all playing out of Bloomington. I still remember both the Met Center and Metropolitan Stadium, long before anyone ever thought of the Mall of America. I’ve seen the Twins play at the Met in 1978, 1980 and 1981. Back then, I-494 hadn’t been finished and ended at MN 5, just past the airport. I’ve got a lot of history there, most of it good, and it’s sad to see it come to an end.

In any event, with the Monday morning rush hour traffic going in the opposite direction, we headed northwest and down the familiar path on I-94. Despite having taken that route so often, there seemingly is always something new for me to see. For example, there was a billboard offering laser therapy for arthritis. For pets. Groan.

I thought of a former colleague when we crossed into WRIGHT COUNTY. Most such signs in Minnesota are in mixed case, but this one was in ALL CAPS. I know at least one reader will appreciate the sighting and perhaps more than one. Even though I spent so long there on the way in, I didn’t notice that they finally made an exit from the westbound direction for Albertville until we passed it on the return trip. Oddly, one of the most popular exits in the state was not previously accessible in both directions.

Once again, I noticed an army of white trucks from St. Cloud-based Spee-Dee Delivery Service on I-94. I can’t imagine anyone in the state having more vehicles than Spee-Dee. A truck passed us in the opposite direction with the words “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” emblazoned on the grill. Luckily for him, he was headed away from the SPRM. Near Fargo, there was a billboard promoting the Fargo Air Museum. It’s so good that they have places like this dedicated to preserving the legacy and heritage of their air.

Once we crossed the Red River and back into North Dakota, I looked out my window and south down University Drive. Feeling especially nostalgic on this trip, I couldn’t help but think of the Bowler, a place my parents and I used to frequent on our trips to Fargo. As its name would suggest, it was primarily a bowling alley, but it also had a popular smorgasbord that we often took advantage of. On one occasion, we sat down and drank some water before getting up to fill our plates. While we were away from the table, one family sat down at our table and unknowingly drank from the same glasses. We didn’t say anything and just moved to another table.

Just before arriving at West Acres, our tour director passed out the Je Declare forms for us to fill out for the border. While everyone else was madly totalling up their bills, I had nothing to declare and filled in a big, fat zero under the total value of goods purchased.

Aside from trying to tune out the movie, my last trip along I-29 proved uneventful. I laughed when I saw the billboard near Drayton that said “Be Kind.” It seems pointless to say such a thing to people headed back into North America’s toilet.

Our last U.S. stop came in Pembina, famous for the Duty Free shop.


As you’d expect, I was the only one who wasn’t in line to buy booze or smokes. I’m proud of that. Oddly, while outside taking pictures, a GO bus whizzed by. For those of you not familiar with GO, it is a major transit system in the Center of the Universe and surrounding area. As for why it was there, Pembina is not just home to the Duty Free store, but to a Motor Coach plant.

At the border, we were served by a guardette who came on board to collect our Je Declare forms. She didn’t search through any of our possessions and was only making sure that all the boxes were ticked on the Je Declare forms. Only a handful of people even had to show their passport. Bureaucracy at its finest. Once again, I feel so much better knowing the security of our borders is in such capable hands.

As always, returning to the SPRM is depressing. Nonetheless, it was another tremendous experience. I want to publicly thank Tony Rinella and his wife Yolanda for all the great memories over the years as well as to all the great people in the Twin Cities who make coming there so pleasurable. I would also like to thank everyone at the Hilton Garden Inn in Eden Prairie for their hospitality.

02 May

An Epic Road Trip

Last weekend, a friend and I set out on what would be an epic road and cycling trip to Minneapolis.

With both of our bikes loaded up in the back, we set out on Thursday morning down PTH 75 to the border. It is a path so familiar that I can almost picture it in my sleep, yet I always manage to spot something new along the route.

I noticed that the speedway near St. Adolphe is on its third name. The former Winnipeg Speedway and Victory Lanes is now Red River Speedway. Perhaps it has been this way for some time. I’d check into it if I cared more.
I was struck by the number of new homes going up north and south of Ste. Agathe. I never would have thought that a flood-prone community like this would be the hotbed of new home construction. I hope that these homes are built with two or more floors so that the lucky homeowners have a place to keep their valued possessions dry.

I also noticed that there was a new wind farm south of the junction of PTH 14. It looked similar in size to the wind farm off PTH 23 near St. Leon.

Regrettably, one of the things that hadn’t changed was the low-lying bridge over the Morris River that floods like clockwork each spring and forces the closure of the highway. Fortunately, it was still open for us, but it still amazes me that the government has not replaced it. They have replaced numerous bridges over the Floodway, yet what is unquestionably the Achilles heel of the Manitoba highway system has received no attention whatsoever.

In reality, however, I shouldn’t be surprised. The NDP government has shown that its priorities lie elsewhere. Like building that $200-million saloon in Fort Garry and lining Mark Chipman’s pocket, for instance.

Before crossing the border, we stopped at the Emerson Duty Free store to use Manitoba’s favorite bathroom. Just as we stepped inside, this sign jumped out at me:

I should have asked one of the clerks where “Danada” was.

This is the exact sign that I got a picture of several years ago and it still hasn’t been corrected. Perhaps they’re leaving it as a conversation piece. More likely, however, they don’t care enough to change it.

I can only shake my head.

While waiting in the line at U.S. Customs, I noticed the following sign:

It’s “Douane”, not “Duane.” Looks like people on both sides of the border are guilty of bad spelling on signs.

After a short wait, we were on our way south on I-29. Interestingly, it was the first time that I had passed through one of the car lanes since the new building went up at the Pembina Port of Entry many years ago. Each of my recent crossings has been through the bus lane on the east side.

For those of you old enough to remember, there used to be a small, box-like building with pale green tiles on the sides that used to stand at that location. Facing the incoming traffic was a stone engraved with the name of President John F. Kennedy. Today, the stone facing the bus lane is engraved with the name of William Jefferson Clinton, the husband of the sitting President at that time.

At my request, we stopped at the Alexander Henry rest area near Exit 180.

The current structure bears little resemblance to the one that stood there when I was a child. It was built like an old-style fort with tall, spiked wooden planks, faded and weather-beaten, where kids like me could run around and play the role of someone like General Custer protecting the homesteaders.

It was when that fort was still standing that I last visited that rest area. Back then, we were still using rotary dial phones. Today, free Wi-Fi is available there. How times have changed.
I noticed a number of sugar beet trucks on both sides of the highway as we got closer to Sucker Town. Those same trucks would be dotting the highway on our way back as well.
Between Sucker Town and Fargo, scenes like this were commonplace on both sides of the highway:

Welcome to the Red River Valley.

We stopped at West Acres in Fargo for lunch and I picked up a sub at the Subway in the food court. After passing through the line, I am convinced that it is a condition of employment that each “sandwich artist” must have at least three rings in each ear and at least one in their lip.

After a lengthy break, at my suggestion, we proceeded east along US 10 through downtown Fargo.

It had been at least three decades since I had last been through downtown Fargo. At left in the shot above is the train station where my mother had once come from Winnipeg, back in the day when the train ran from Winnipeg to Fargo.

After crossing into the great state of Minnesota, we continued east along a route that I had not been on for 14 years and that my friend had never travelled before.
I noticed a peculiar sign past Mile 29.
This sign advises motorists of the presence of snowmobiles in the area. There were many such signs to follow. It was an obvious indicator that we were not on an Interstate highway.
We made a brief stop at Detroit Lakes to check out the snow-covered lake. On our way back to the highway, we were following this van:

The plate on the back reads, “WHITE EARTH OJIBWE”, “INDIAN NATION.” Yes, these plates are legal.

Continuing east, we ended up in New York … Mills.
Near Mile 92, we passed Oink Joint Road.
I am not beneath digitally altering pictures for a joke, but even I, bearer of a vivid and sometimes twisted imagination, could not have come up with this name.
Our next stop was Ernie’s Liquor/Tobacco/Gas Station/Grocery Store in the eastern end of Staples. I walked in and the handful of clerks turned to gaze at this alien creature wearing an Atlanta Thrashers jersey. I wasn’t a local and I might as well have had a flashing blue light on my head to advertise it. This is what happens when you take the road less travelled.
While my friend picked up another coffee, I went across the street to get a good shot of the nearby US 10/MN 210 markers. After we took off, I can imagine some of the chatter that took place there for the rest of the day.
“I wonder what that guy in the Thrashers jersey was doing taking pictures of a highway sign.”
“Beats me. Takes all kinds.”
“He was getting up really close to it. What’s the matter? Never seen a highway sign before?”
I have seen a highway sign before, but I’ve never had such a good shot at a US 10 and MN 210 marker before.
Moving on, we turned to follow MN 210 at Motley and went through Baxter and Brainerd. We both made the observation that we hadn’t seen any S.P.R.M. plates since leaving Fargo. That fact disappointed neither of us.
In Brainerd, we hit their version of a rush hour.

Brainerd is a town of just over 14,000 people. I didn’t think that they would even have a rush hour. Maybe it was source of pride as a way to signify that they’ve really arrived as a community.
We turned off and eventually arrived at Garrison, a small community located on the western shore of Mille Lacs Lake.

Again, the lake was covered in snow, but if you’ve never been out this way, it is quite a scenic area. Nearby is Grand Casino Mille Lacs for those of you inclined to throw your money away. There’s a hotel where you can stay as well.

We followed US 169 south towards the Twin Cities and arrived at our hotel in Eden Prairie.

It would be my seventh stay at this hotel and it would again be a good experience. I recognized many of the staff from past visits and I was thrilled to be there in good health. When I was there around this time last year, I had a fever and was badly sick.

However, I really didn’t need to know that the front desk clerk who served me likes long walks along the beach. No, I didn’t ask. He had it printed on his name tag. Why is a question that I don’t have an answer to.
The following morning, we took our bikes out of the back of the truck and headed for downtown Minneapolis. The trail was only a couple of miles from the hotel and after navigating through some construction, our first stop was Lake Calhoun.
I had circled Lake Calhoun last year, but this postcard shot of the Minneapolis skyline never gets old. It was a challenge to keep my attention focused on the trail instead of looking over at the skyline.
After covering the Lake Calhoun area, we took the Kenilworth Trail.
The infrastructure for cyclists was no less awe-inspiring than it was in my visit last year. There are signs pointing the way almost like an Interstate highway. There are often separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. When there aren’t separate lanes, pedestrians keep to the right. The system works because the people make it work. They respect each other’s space.

When being passed by other cyclists, it was “On your left,” and “Thanks, I appreciate it,” after getting over to the side.
Dog owners, of which there were many, kept their pets on leashes. Through two full days of covering these trails, we saw only one person with their dog off the leash. Even in that instance, the owner pulled her dogs to one side to let us pass.
My friend also observed that he hardly found any dog crap lining the trails. People actually pick up after their pets. I saw a couple stopping to pick up after their dog and I felt like taking a picture of it.
It is the exact opposite in Winnipeg.
Pedestrians three and four abreast spread themselves across the width of the trail as if they are strolling through their backyard. They swear at you for having the audacity to be there.
Dog owners turn the many trails into off-leash dog parks. It is increasingly rare to find a dog on a leash. Even in those rare instances, the dog is at the end of a long leash where the dog is taking the owner for a walk instead of vice versa.
We continued on, going past Target Field, ending up near the Hennepin Avenue bridge.

From there, we followed West River Parkway to the Stone Arch Bridge.
From there, you can get some spectacular views of the downtown skyline and nearby St. Anthony Falls.

As I do each time I visit Minneapolis, I made a specific point of stopping at and touring the Cancer Survivors Park in front of Marquette Plaza.

I am not a cancer survivor, but many of you are no doubt aware of my connection to the late Carli Ward, the subject of my second book. Carli passed away from cancer at the age of 25 and I always make this trek in her honor.

The slogan on this poignant memorial could just as easily apply to Carli.

I would have liked to have spent more time downtown and perhaps tour the skyway, but the weekday crowds made it difficult. Instead, we decided to hop the light rail and head for the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington.
For those of you, like my friend, who had never taken the light rail before, I would strongly encourage it. It is an experience that makes Winnipeg’s attempt at the so-called “Rapid Transit” look utterly foolish and ridiculous.
The train leaves downtown, then speeds along Hiawatha Avenue before rocketing through the tunnel alongside the airport. It comes out and circles around to the Mall’s east side, where you can take the escalator up to the entrance.

What did we do with our bikes? We just wheeled them in and stood them up on the racks provided beside the doors.

We circled around the Mall and went a few blocks down nearby American Boulevard. In front of one of the many hotels in the area, there were a few youngsters burning off some excess energy on the grass. They shouted at us on our way past, “Canada is the greatest country in the world!”
I find such a belief inexplicable when comparing the Twin Cities to Winnipeg.
We passed by nothing but smiling faces on our travels throughout the four-day trip. Yet everyone in Winnipeg is grumpy. Rage permeates every nook and cranny of the city. It is as if the entire population of Winnipeg has been infected by alien DNA, much like what happens in the classic movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Throughout my many visits, it never ceases to amaze me as to how two peoples so close geographically can be so different in every way.
I shot back at the kids, “No, it’s not!”
We returned downtown shortly thereafter on the same train ticket. For the amazingly low fare of $1.75, you can ride anywhere in the transit system for 2½ hours. From there, after a wrong turn, we retraced our path back to the hotel.
On our way up the 58’ hill on Smetana Road in Minnetonka, I noticed this sign:

How kind of them to provide free trash for their residents.
All in all, it was an incredible day. And we got to do it all again the next morning.
We began Saturday’s journey at Lake Nokomis, located in the southeast corner of Minneapolis.

We passed Lake Hiawatha, where I stopped for another stunning shot of the Minneapolis skyline.

We followed the Minnehaha Parkway and ended up at Minnehaha Falls. I had last been there in November 2009 and would have liked to have seen it again, but, unfortunately, they were in the middle of kicking off a marathon. The best course of action was to get out of Dodge, so to speak, and we followed the trail south to Fort Snelling State Park.

The park is nestled along the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers and provides some scenic views of both. The trails in the park were not as well maintained, but we were away from the crowds enjoying scenery that was no less interesting.

We reached the Fort Snelling Mendota Bridge and crossed it.
If you’d like to see the view looking down from the bridge, you’ll have to get one on your own. I have a fear of bridges like this and all I was thinking about was getting to the other side without falling over the edge.

On our way back, we stopped for a shot on the Minnehaha Parkway. It snakes its way through a residential neighborhood along Minnehaha Creek and connects to Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun.

While looking down at the creek, we both noticed how clean the water looked. There was a noticeable absence of litter. In Winnipeg, waterways like this are used as garbage dumps.
My friend had some errands to run, so he left and I continued on, following Minnehaha Parkway west to Lake Harriet.

Crowds were bordering on oppressive on the trails, but again, there were no close calls or collisions. These friendly Minnesotans know how to get along. A gathering of cyclists and pedestrians of less than half the size would fill the emergency room of every hospital in Winnipeg.

I circled Lake Harriet and stopped at the bandshell at the northwest corner of the lake.

From there, I continued north back to the familiar confines of Lake Calhoun. Badly in need of some sustenance, I went looking for a Subway and finally found one tucked away in the Calhoun Village strip mall north of Lake Street. I could have used a lunch break much earlier, but the disadvantage of following residential trails is that there are few restaurants in sight of the trail. There are times that it seems like there is a Subway on every street corner, but, in reality, there isn’t.

While enjoying a much-needed break, I noticed that a fellow cyclist came by. He simply stopped outside the Subway, put his kickstand down and walked inside without locking his bike up to anything. It is a scene that I haven’t seen since my last trip to Gimli. A small town feel in a major city.
I wanted to go farther, but my tank was running on fumes at this point, so I made my way back to the hotel in the late afternoon to wrap up a 75-mile weekend.
I do not travel well and though I was looking forward to returning home the next day, I was just wishing that home wasn’t in the capital of the S.P.R.M.
On Sunday morning, we took I-35W north to get one last glimpse of the Minneapolis skyline.

We continued north and headed for Duluth, located on the southwest tip of Lake Superior.

At my request, we took the exit to cross the first of two bridges over St. Louis Bay and into neighboring Wisconsin.

This is a mid-span shot on the Bong Bridge:

The scenery when crossing the bridge is breathtaking. When you reach the other side, however, the city of Superior leaves much to be desired.

Rows of dilapidated homes line the streets of the run-down community. It looks like a place where time has stood still for the past couple of decades.

I did, however, take the opportunity to grab some shots of a Wisconsin highway sign. A variation of that sign is now my Facebook profile picture.
We did stop near Barker’s Island and I got some shots of the resort, whaling ship and the Duluth skyline.

We headed back for Duluth via the Blatnick Bridge.

This is the confluence of US 53, I-535 and WIS 35. 5-3-5-3-5-3-5. Note to highway planners: There are other digits besides “3” and “5”.

We crossed back into Minnesota and made our way to Canal Park and the waterfront area.

Looking at the skyline, the homes on the hill facing the waterfront are laid out like a Newfoundland fishing village. Hordes of seagulls were circling over our head. Duluth seemed equal parts Gimli, Kenora and St. John’s. Strangely, I would find myself missing Duluth more than the Twin Cities once we left. I only wish that we had more time there, but I knew that we had a long journey still ahead of us.

We did, however, find time to tour the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center.

I found it quite an interesting place and I was glad that we took the time to see it.

There was a guestbook and I added the entry, “Curtis Walker, Winnipeg, SPRM.” If you’re reading this from the Visitor Center and scratching your head wondering where the SPRM is, you can look up at the title of my blog and figure it out.

We made our way through the touristy Canal Park area and stopped at the Subway for a lunch break.

After a couple of brief photo stops, we headed west on US 2 for what would be another scenic drive.

We stopped for a bathroom break in Grand Rapids, where I picked up another shot of a misspelled sign while waiting to relieve myself.

It’s “Chisago”, not “Cisago.”

Moving on, we passed through the town of Ball Club.

Yes, there is such a place. Those of you who remember listening to the late George Kell on Detroit Tigers’ television broadcasts might recall how Kell would always refer to the Tigers opponent not by their proper name, but by the generic “Ball Club” moniker. It was the “Toronto Ball Club” and the “Oakland Ball Club.” The Yankees, however, were special. They were simply the “Yankees.”

We then passed through the Chippewa National Forest.

I couldn’t help but notice this particular sign:

This lake would be illegal in Canada since it is called “Six Mile Lake” rather than “Ten Kilometer Lake.”
After a long drive, we eventually made it to Sucker Town. Travelling down Washington Street made me feel like I was in a time warp. So little had changed over the many decades since I had last seen it.
We stopped briefly at the South Winnipeg Mall before a final stop at the Super One Foods across the street.

I didn’t take advantage of that deal on “Hienz” Ketchup. I did, however, pick up two bottles of Spicy Hot V-8 juice, something that is unavailable north of the border. This $5 purchase was the only thing I had to declare at the border.

At Les Douanes du Quebec, we were greeted with a “Bonjour” from a guard who appeared to be over the age of 30. It was the first time in recent memory that I had been served by a guard who had obviously reached the age of majority. He sent us on our way quickly and we soon returned home.

It was a tremendous experience, but it was bittersweet as it may very well have been my last visit to the Twin Cities. Those who know me know why and I’ll leave it at that.