Last spring, I bought a Bayliner and rented a slip on the St. Croix River just north of Stillwater. It didn’t take me long before my legs started to get itchy and I began to harbor notions of cycling from South Minneapolis to visit my boat.
Although Stillwater is only about a 40-minute drive from my house, mentally it used to be much, much farther. I can remember when a drive out to Stillwater felt like an all-day affair. But once I started to drive there with regularity and discovered that it was little more than 27 miles depending upon the route, I realized that a bike ride out to the marina was perhaps not an insane distance.
There was just one problem: I didn’t know which route to take.
I consulted a website called Map My Ride, and it directed me to link up with something called the Gateway Trail, which, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, is “an 18-mile, converted rail-trail for non-motorized trail use. The trail begins in the city of St. Paul at Cayuga/L’Orient Streets, travels northeast through the cities of Maplewood, North St. Paul, and Oakdale, through Washington County, and ends at Pine Point Regional Park, just four miles northwest of the city of Stillwater.”
I printed my map and lit out one day last July. Presumably, Map My Ride creates the shortest route possible between two points. It took me along River Road, over the Lake Street Bridge into St. Paul and up the hill until Prior Avenue. There, I was directed to take a left and trundle along until I spied Feronia Avenue, which described a wobbly course through a rather charming little neighborhood before dumping me out onto the concrete jungle where Fairview intersects with University.
Then a right on Minnehaha, then a left on Lexington. So far, I had no major problems until I neared the south end of Lake Como. I took a right on South Como Avenue because that is what the map seemed to indicate, and soon I was wandering in confused loops before I finally found the lake. By that time, I had travelled too far north, so I had to backtrack south along the lake until I made it round to the other side where I found West Wheelock Parkway.
I took Wheelock to Arlington and, at that point, I felt home free. No problem. I’d be on the Gateway Trail in short order.
Only I kept going on Arlington and saw nothing that looked remotely like a bike trail through the woods. I passed over railroad tracks, passed a warehouse on my right until, finally, a rather daunting-looking hill rose up like a wall in front of me. That seemed like the right time to turn around.
Mercifully, I found the trail not long after that. Soon, I was shooting down that leafy corridor and I had reached the terminus in no time. The trail deposited me onto Highway 96, which, I knew from my many car trips out to the marina, was the road that would take me straight to the St. Croix River, and that is to say, my boat.
When I finally zoomed down the curving blacktop road that winds into the marina and came to a stop not far from where my boat was moored, my Cateye computer read 28.3 miles. Today, it doesn’t sound like much, but for me, last year, I felt like I had just finished a stage in the Tour de France.