Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Biking to Mom's

Last week I told my husband that I wanted to go see my mom on Mothers Day, to have lunch or maybe just coffee. Since I've been riding my bike so much lately, he said, "Are you going to bike there?" She lives in the suburb of Roseville, which is a pretty good distance north and east of our South Minneapolis home, so I laughed at the suggestion -- of course I wasn't going to be that ambitious!

But then on Sunday morning when I was walking the dog, I considered what a very lovely day it was -- sunny and mild, although a bit windy -- and I thought why not bike to Mom's? I have all day. And as soon as I had that thought, I remembered that when my mother used to work at the VA hospital, which is only a few blocks from where I live, she often rode her bike to work. Wouldn't it be swell to retrace my mother's bike route to visit her on Mother's Day?

So I checked the distance on Google maps and found that it's 13.5 miles. I figure that I bike at about 7-8 miles per hour, so it could take me close to 2 hours. No problem, I have time today. But just in case I'm too tired to bike home again, I asked my husband if he would come and pick me up to take me home after. Of course he said he would.

I called my mother to let her know my plans, then I asked her how long it used to take her to bike to work at the VA. "Oh, I think about an hour," she said.

An hour! You may think that sons compete with their fathers, but I found myself determined to get as close to my mother's time on that trek as I could. So I pedaled hard and fast east across the Mississippi River, up the River Blvd. (north), turned onto picturesque Summit Ave.(east again), which has a dedicated bike lane, and proceeded to Lexington Ave., which would take me north through Como Park, a large park in St. Paul on the way to Roseville.

As I was peddling along on Summit Ave., a pair of bicyclists in Spandex whisked past me. (I think of bicyclists who wear Spandex, and those funny shoes, as serious cyclists.) I picked up my pace to match theirs and followed them as far as Lexington, where they continued on Summit and I turned left, heading north.

On this day there was a wind from the north at 30 mph. After I left Como Park, Lexington Ave. veered to the west, and since I still needed to go east as well as north, and didn't want to add more distance to my route, I continued north and headed up through a residential neighborhood.

Just before you enter the suburb of Roseville, you cross a major east-west thoroughfare called Larpenteur Ave. For a long way, the north side of Larpenteur is occupied by a large cemetery, so I kept going east until I came to Dale St., which crosses Larpenteur and heads north into Roseville; this would bring me quite close to my destination.

Now I knew that Dale St. had a pretty-good-sized hill right before I planned to turn off of it, about 2 miles from Larpenteur. But I hadn't remembered that it had an even bigger hill right after you cross Larpenteur. In fact, I am certain it was the biggest hill I ever encountered on a bike! And it was followed by a second hill only slightly smaller than the first, and finally that third hill before the turn.

Well, with the cemetery on one side and a large park on the other, there was no detouring around the big hill, so I put my head down and pumped away. I had a nice long downhill run before heading up the monster, but the 30 mph head wind (did I mention that the wind was from the north?) actually prevented me from getting much momentum. So I had to shift down to my lowest gear almost as soon as I began the ascent, and when I was about halfway up, huffing and puffing with every revolution of the pedals, a bicyclist in Spandex passed me easily. By the time I reached the summit and could look down the other side for a long distance (and at the next hill), she was nowhere to be seen.

I coasted on the downhill side and then puffed my way up the next hill, not quite as big as the first, and then a third time (all into the wind) before reaching County Rd. C and turning to the east, where I encountered only a slight climb to get to my mother's street, and then a relaxing descent down Virginia Ave. to her house.

It took me an hour and a half. I asked my mother, did it really only take you an hour to bike that distance? She pondered a bit, then said it was probably more like an hour and 15 minutes. And she never went by way of Dale street, but rather took a route that was mostly level. She also reminded me that I was biking into that north wind most of the way. So I guess I didn't do too bad!

My mother drove us to a pleasant little cafe where we enjoyed lunch and coffee, and then learned that they were giving a free piece of cake to each mother. It was a delicous multilayered torte with strawberries and bananas and cream and a little dark chocolate. We should have shared one! When we got done, we were stuffed. So I decided to bike home as well, but I didn't take Dale St. this time.

I made it home in an hour and 15 minutes -- with the wind at my back.


  1. Great story Sharon! And good for you biking! We have only been out twice-it's been really windy and cold here- I hate wearing jeans when I bike- I like shorts- I also have been busy with school. The bike trails up here are incredible- a couple of our favorites go through the Chippewa National Forest. Bike On- Terry

  2. Hi, Terry, thanks for the comments. Biking through the forest sounds lovely! When I bike along Minnehaha Creek there are stretches where it feels like I'm in the woods and I've completely left the city. Then I go under a bridge or through the construction zone for the 35W expansion and the illusion vanishes!

  3. This is a great story, I remember you told it to me the last time I saw you (has it been that long?!) but this is even more fun. And as usual, I love your sketch to commemorate the experience. I wish you would publish a book of all your little sketches. Maybe a zine on Etsy? I would buy it.

  4. and by little I don't mean insignificant, but diminutive.


Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts.