Many times a city presents itself in your memory as places you visited, and events that occurred. Sometimes, though, a city is best remembered through the people you met. For me, the twin cities are defined by their people.
Adam welcomed me into his house with crumble and Carole King on an actual record player. I can't think of a better way to describe him as a person and host than through our first ten minutes together. He also fits in this transportation narrative because he used to run around the Union Depot when he was younger, back when the majority of the building was unused and boarded up. Whats amazing is that he comfortably fits in the millennial age group so the transformation of the building to its present state was very fast. I am also incredibly indebted to Adam for introducing me to the Juicy Lucy. I don't know why the rest of the country hasn't caught up to the Twin Cities on this front but they put the cheese inside their burgers. Game changer. Seriously. We all need to start doing this immediately.
Crystal (and the entire cast of Lowertown Bike Shop): Yes I said cast -- but you would understand why if you met them. This amazing group is so ready to be a TV show it's absurd. Within minutes of meeting Crystal I was on a tandem bike careening around the outdoor area of the Depot with this tiny ball of sunshine. Between that and her adorable dog, Bravo, I really has no idea what was in store. This is seriously an amazing bike-shop with incredibly knowledgeable mechanics and staff, but their mission goes way beyond selling bikes. Looking forward, they hope to serve as an educational resource for vulnerable adults throughout the St. Paul community by teaching them about bike safety and repair skills. While this part of their business isn't fully realized yet I am so excited to watch how they grow in the coming years. Literally watch. Because they need to be on TV.
Deborah and the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority: Deborah Carter McCoy (Public Communications Manager) and Tim Mayasich (Director) were nice enough to sit down with me and explain where St. Paul is going, and where it has been in terms of development initiatives. That discussion very appropriately happened inside Union Depot where the planning offices are located. We discussed the recent redevelopment of the station that was completed in 2012, its recent 90th anniversary celebration (April 2016), as well as the work Ramsey County is doing to position the station as a thriving hub of St. Paul's economic and social fabric in the next 90 years.
Dorian This guy might actually be the busiest person I’ve ever met. In between giving me a city (ish) wide bike tour and talking about his work with BikeMN he lead two other tours for staffers and was going to drive 100 miles that evening to go talk about bikes in another town. I guess I don’t feel too bad for him though because, while he does a lot, it is all centered on something he feels extremely passionate about. The fact that he cares so much about bike infrastructure is also absolutely why he gave such a good bike tour! In order to meet Dorian I started out the morning on the Green Line, the twin cities light rail system, and took it (with Stevie!) to downtown Minneapolis. From there Dorian lead the way across the stone arch bridge, with views of Lock 1 and the formerly industrial section of Minneapolis. Just across the bridge we visited the University of Minnesota campus which is a platinum certified Bicycle Friendly University. It wasn’t difficult to see how it earned that certification, navigating it was easy and safe due to signage and several bike only paths. After the U of M campus we headed towards the Midtown Greenway which, with 5,000 riders every day, is one of the busiest bicycle routes in the country. While we on the greenway we got a chance to visit its bike shop and speak to some representatives from BikeMN. They and many other people had a very busy morning because entirely coincidentally, I ended up in the Twin Cities on bike to work day, so I really appreciated the time they gave me. Leaving the Greenway we biked along the Mississippi National River Recreation Area. A component of the national park system, this spans 70+ miles and a major goal of it is too increase the amount of off road bike paths it provides. From there we biked up to summit avenue which is famous for its railroad baron mansions.
Metro Transit: Two lovely people from Metro Transit, which serves Minneapolis and St. Paul, were nice enough to meet up with me by Target Field. To get there I rode the Green Line end to end, which took surprisingly little time -- and I was able to take Stevie on it. They allow you to hold your bike but also provide vertical racks to hook your bike into which is nice because it allows people of varying physical abilities to take their bikes on the train. In speaking with the people at Metro Transit I learned about the station at Target Field, which serves as a hub for commuter rail, city buses, and light rail. It is also hosts a bike share station. For me, though, the coolest part of the station was the multi use gathering space outside of the field. It functions as a cistern, park, and crowd control area all in one. I like flexible spaces and this one was particularly cool because of how subtle it was.
The Avidors I've decided that when I grow up I want to be an Avidor. They travel the country, mostly with the Jefferson Bus Lines, chronicling their journey not through anything so blase as blogging, but by sketching. They also live in a crazy cool condo above the Depot where they were nice enough to host me for dinner. They are intimately familiar with the development of the Lowertown area because they moved to the condo before the Depot started undergoing major renovations, so hearing their stories of how the neighborhood has changed was informative.
As I departed on the Empire Builder for Montana, I was sad to leave so much of the Twin Cities unseen. But also happy in the new circle of friends I'd found, who're sure to form the memory of my first trip in Minnesota (and who will be called on again for whenever I arrive for Part II!).