Leaving part of my heart in Minneapolis

A week ago, we thought we’d be getting two days off in Minneapolis, but late in the route, we realized we could shave a whole day off of riding if we added miles on Friday and went straight into Minneapolis from Prescott, Wisconsin. And since it was off-route, our maps were useless and we had to rely on Google Maps on our phones to get us to the Twin Cities.

So the pot of variables were: not knowing where to go, phones’ batteries on the brink of dying, scattered thunderstorms, and 25 more miles than originally anticipated on Friday. That’s a pretty good recipe for a stressed out and crabby Mike. But we made it, and all immediately fell in love with Minneapolis.

We rolled out of bed and checked out one of Minneapolis’ many farmers markets. It was absolutely massive and just a really cool environment to be a part of. I washed down a few croissants with a cup of coffee from a vendor whose family grows, picks, grinds and brews the beans, and chatted with some locals about our trip.

Farmers Market
Farmers Market shot, which really doesn’t do justice to the atmosphere it provided.

The University of Minnesota put us up in some vacant dorms, and I went off own my own a few times to check out their campus which is huge and beautiful. Minneapolis is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country and it doesn’t take long to learn why. There are more bike shops than we could check out, boatloads of trails to bring you virtually anywhere, and even entire blocks banned to car traffic.

A block open to only cyclists and the city light rail.
The city light rail passing through town. 
I wandered off to the Golden Gophers' stadium, but couldn't sneak my way inside.
I wandered off to the Golden Gophers’ stadium, but tragically couldn’t sneak my way inside.
IMG_2071
My trusty steed hanging out before the Minneapolis skyline and Mississippi River

Two service projects beckoned over the weekend, and they were each equally jaw-dropping. Sunday we went to help out Janet, a local who’s been living with MS for about 20 years. Her lawn and gardens were disheveled since she couldn’t get out often enough to tend to them, and she had been receiving ordinances from city hall about it despite her disability. So she’s been reaching out to Bike the US for MS the last few years, and we’ve been helping tidy it up. I never thought I’d enjoy yard work, but it was great to get my blood flowing doing something other than cycling. As we were leaving, I saw Janet sitting on her stoop, hand holding up her head, gazing across her refurbished lawn with a sense of relief I’ve never felt. To be a part of that, and to help make someone smile like that was just incredible.

Janet admiring her refurbished yard right as we were finishing up.
We came, we saw, we gardened.

Today, we rode over to the Fairview MS Achievement Center, a place where those with MS can go to interact, rehabilitate, socialize and more. The way they were all cheering for us as we rode in, you’d think we all just finished and won the Tour de France. We all introduced ourselves, told our stories and most of us got teary-eyed. Don, Bike the US for MS’s founder and president, handed over a check for $20,000 to the MSAC, comprised of the money we riders have raised! If you’re reading this and you donated, you helped make this happen!

I’ll always remember John at the MSAC. John was a professional musician early in his life before settling down, and 20 years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He said he could deal with Parkinson’s all day, but it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with MS five years ago that it all started to take its toll on him. “I didn’t want to come here to see previews of my future attractions,” he joked, but he said it’s been all smiles at the MSAC and now he even has a band with his wife and a volunteer. He sang, played piano and strummed his guitar, and he has multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. And he did it all with a gigantic smile on his face.

Sure, I get tired, my legs tighten up and sometimes I don’t feel like waking up and riding. But if John can play in a band with no complaints, what can I possibly complain about? We riders are in pain pretty often, but I learned this weekend it’s a privilege to feel that pain. Meeting Janet, John and everyone else with MS this weekend really reseeded some much-needed inspiration within me and I cannot wait to get back on the saddle.

Meeting with the members as we rolled in!
Meeting with the members as we rolled in!
John in all of his glory.
John in all of his glory.

The rest of the day I relaxed, had more Chipotle, gave my bike a bath, and closed out my stay here by going to the Mall of America. The mall was extravagant in every way and truly a spectacle. It has so many floors with so many nooks and crannies I couldn’t even take a picture which demonstrates its unreal size.

The central hub of the Mall of America
The central hub of the Mall of America

 

I felt such a range of emotions while here in Minneapolis that I’ll always have a place for it in my heart. I definitely plan on returning in some capacity someday as it’s just such a cool city and three days is not enough time to see all it has to offer.

We’re halfway done, and none of us can hardly believe it. I already don’t want it to end, but I also think about celebrating with everyone in the Pacific pretty often. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin are on the books. North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and two more time zones await!

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