Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Biking the Grand Rounds

Post and images by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

On top of trying to map out various 15-minute biking destinations in NoMi, I've also been building up to biking the entire length of the Grand Rounds this summer.  Well, technically not each and every inch of that trail, since some of it loops around the lakes and Minnehaha Parkway.  Recently, I made good on my goal to bike the Grand Rounds in one trip.  What you see pictured above isn't the exact map of the trail, since the designated area stops just short of north Minneapolis.  And, in a point of pride, the last little jig in northeast isn't mapped out because my phone was low on batteries.  I had to upload the map of what I had done before it shut off and erased the record of my progress.

That's right, I had more endurance than my phone's batteries.

All bravado aside, the experience led to a few observations about the Grand Rounds...

First and foremost, I highly recommend taking the trail in the reverse of how I mapped it out here.  That way you can go DOWNHILL at Deming Hill, the high point of the city.  See that green spike in the elevation in the lead image of this post?  That's Deming Hill, and trust me, you do NOT want to come around the corner after biking roughly thirty miles and see that looming in front of you.  I wasn't too familiar with that area's topography, and if swear words could be used to move mountains, I probably could have taken care of the Rockies at that point.

Second, along this trail there are really very few facilities where one can stop and grab a bite to eat or use the bathroom.  This trip, including my own version of the "missing link" between northeast Minneapolis and the north-ish segment of the Grand Rounds, is about a 36- or 37-mile route.  I biked the loop in just over three hours, and rest stops for food, drink, and other facilities would be very useful.  Let's be honest here; the prospect of being in the middle of a long bike ride and either running out of gas or, well, needing to run out of gas can be pretty daunting.  As it stands now, there are only three such sites along the way that are directly on the bike trail:  the concession stand at the Lake Harriet band shell, the Tin Fish at Lake Calhoun, and the golf course at Theo Wirth.  The Sea Salt Eatery gets an honorable mention, but you still have to know it's there.

While it's true there are numerous businesses within a reasonable distance from the bike path, facilities that are specifically on the trail are in short supply.  The Fuji-Ya site would be an excellent place to add such amenities.

And then we have the Missing Link.  The hyperlink goes to a 113-page report that surely has more detail than someone who has ridden the area only a handful of times.  Their recommendation is:
"The recommended Missing Link route and associated parks fulfill the charge given to the CAC to identify a achievable route, provide new local park spaces, and identifies new regional park amenities (Fig. 8. Preferred Missing Link Parkway Route – Recommended Park Sites).  North of I-35W, the recommended route begins at the intersection of St. Anthony Parkway and Stinson Parkway. It then follows St. Anthony Parkway east and south passing through a section of St. Anthony Village (on St. Anthony Blvd) where it borders Gross Golf Course and then intersects with Ridgway Parkway and I-35W. Once passing under I-35W, the preferred route continues south on Industrial Boulevard. to East Hennepin Avenue. South of Hennepin Avenue, the route leaves Industrial Boulevard. heading southeasterly on new roadway alignment through industrial properties between 29th Avenue SE and the Minneapolis City limits. Most of these industrial properties will need to be acquired for the purpose of fulfilling the Missing Link and for providing needed parkland.

"As the route moves south past Como Avenue, it continues through industrial properties, intersects Weeks Avenue and then, via an underpass, travels beneath the BNSF rail line. It then enters the Bridal Veil Pond site, avoids the newly created wetlands and climbs above the proposed Kasota Road alignment, bridging the BNSF rail yard and intersects with future Granary Road. From there, the route follows the Granary Road alignment west to 27th Avenue SE, where it turns south, crosses over I-94 on the existing bridge, then intersects with East River Parkway at the Franklin Avenue Bridge."
Since that's as clear as mud, here's an approximation of that route, as best as Google Maps is able to create it.
The plan calls for new roadways/park additions that would essentially amount to a straight line between C and D.
An alternative or addition to that route could also be to do a bike path/greenway addition to Lowry Avenue, across the bridge, and then south past the Park Board headquarters, connecting the loop at Plymouth Avenue. Selfishly, I'd like to see that route prominently featured.  But the approved plan brings more of the city - and just as importantly, the University of Minnesota - into a connection with the Grand Rounds.

Finally, I wish I  had some photos to share, but hey, you try testing your endurance on this long of a bike ride and then see how much you want to stop and take pictures along the way.

1 comment:

  1. Great advice to reverse the route - just rode the circle starting from Calhoun, but went south first. Deming and Wirth Parkway climb/descent are much more fun...

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