Lost in Minneapolis

Ill admit it, I do get smug sometimes about my sense of direction. I’ve got a very good one, and I’m usually extremely proficient with maps. For example, the streets of London most closely resemble a plate of spaghetti that’s fallen on the floor, but after spending some time studying the pertinent maps, I could have found my way blindfolded when I was there a few years ago. For reasons I don’t completely understand, the only two places I’ve ever been where I could not trust my intuition at all have been Santa Fe, New Mexico and Irvine, California. It’s beginning to look like I can add Minneapolis to the list, I got lost not once, but twice.

My $6 transit pass from Wednesday was—I discovered—good for a full 24 hours after I bought it, so I decided to take a bus into town on the last few minutes I had left, and then just see where I wound up. It wasn’t too long before I discovered the Skyway. Dozens of downtown buildings and hundreds of companies have coordinated a miles-long urban shopping mall and pedestrian bridge complex that allows people to get around most of downtown without ever touching the ground. I got my lunch and a good deal of window shopping in. I also got completely turned around and disconbobulated. It was early afternoon and I had no place I needed to be right away, so I didn’t mind, but after a few hours the novelty wore off and I wanted to be back in the real world.

I left the skyway and was greeted by a very tempting sight. Those are rental bicycles. Minneapolis is bike friendly city with many bike trails and very wide bike lanes marked out on city streets. I’d seen the University of Minnesota’s art museum a number of times on the bus, and with not a whole lot else really calling to me, so I biked over the stone arch bridge over the Mississippi (which also affords a fine view of the northernmost dam and lock on the river) and made my way towards the campus. The museum is a twisty-turney, metal skinned jumble of a building. It turned out the building was the most noteworthy thing on display, so after about an hour there, I decided to ride to the ballpark, return the bike and get ready for the game.

That’s when I got really lost, and if it wasn’t for an extraordinarily helpful young man named Joey, I’d be halfway to Anoka right now. I took the Washington Avenue bridge back to the west side of the river, then made a wrong turn and found myself in a situation where the only way to safely navigate was to stay in the bike lane over a very long viaduct—back to the “wrong” side of the river and quite a ways from any landmark I really knew.

The Mississippi— even as far upstream as Minneapolis— is a very big river, but I had a very difficult time finding it. I found a map at another bike rental station and made a firm plan of attack: two blocks north and then make a left would get me to another bridge. I made the left and found myself in a cul-de-sac. After some more searching like this, I came across some people walking and riding in one of the trails. “Excuse me, can you tell me the best way to the ballpark?” I asked.
—–“Do you know where Boom Island is?” One of them asks me. Embarrassed, I say that I don’t and explain that this is my first time in Minneapolis. “Gee, it’s kinda tough,” Joey, the guy on the bike says. “I’ve biked it a thousand times, but I don’t really know how to explain it…” then, out of nowhere, he says “I’ll just go there and you can follow me.”
—–Amazed, I started to say that wasn’t really necessary, but he insisted it was no trouble at all. Turns out, I was about two miles north of where I thought I was, and true to his word, Joey had me at the stadium 20 minutes later. In that time we had a very pleasant chat about baseball, municipal rental bike programs, travel by train and the parts of town we were traveling through. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes there are advantages to getting lost.