Friday, June 13, 2014

Urban Hike: The Green Line

The Green Line, and stadium construction
June 14, 2014, the Green Line starts light rail service between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Back in December, when I hiked the Green Line, there was deep snow, no trains, and the Metrodome was still standing.

Green Line, under construction; Metrodome about to be demolished
I had planned to walk on the railroad ties, but realized this would be treacherous: the snow hid knee-deep cavities for control and signal equipment. It was wiser to take the adjacent streets.

Source: Metro Transit
In the Minneapolis Cedar Riverside neighborhood, I rendezvoused with a friend to walk the route highlighted in yellow:

Yellow: The walk from Cedar Riverside, Minneapolis to Union Depot, St. Paul
Cyan: Bus 54 to Airport
Grey: LRT (Blue Line) to downtown Minneapolis
East and West Banks

The route took us through the University of Minnesota's West Bank Campus and towards the Mississippi.

We passed the "famous" Shoe Tree, a fixture for 20 or 50 years, depending on who you ask.

Shoe tree at the University of Minnesota
We crossed the Mississippi on the double-deck Washington Avenue Bridge connecting the University's West and East Bank campuses.

On the deck, below, the tracks and catenary were in place, ready for the June opening of the line.

The Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum marked the start of our walk through the East Bank campus and on to University Avenue.

University Avenue to Midway

University Avenue has seen better and worse times, but with the advent of light rail, it's back on the ascendancy.

Abandoned grain silos
"Witch's Hat" water tower
Minnesota School of Bartending

Brunch at Keys

Leaving the East Bank campus, we passed abandoned grain silos, and a nondescript building hiding an earthquake simulator. I wrote about these in a previous post.

The Prospect Park "Witch's Hat" water tower reinforced the neighborhood's sense of place. The towers of KSTP reminded us we were about to cross into St. Paul.

By now it was late morning, and we were famished. We hurried past the Minnesota School of Bartending, and on to Keys Cafe for an enormous, satisfying brunch.

Replenished, we continued along University Avenue to the Midway area, roughly equidistant from the two downtowns.


Not to be missed is Ax-Man surplus store, a Midway mainstay.

It's the go-to place for old electronics, craft projects, or an iron lung. It profits from failure, be it excessive optimism, obsolescence, war, or business closure.

Failed motivational text at Ax-Man
"It's how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success" certificates were 75 cents per pack. Twitter marks this stuff down to its true value, zero cents.

I paid for some compression and extension springs, dropped the change into the tip jar, and headed back out into the winter.

Onward from Midway on University

For the next few blocks, national chains were winning out.

Facing off Wal-Mart, we almost didn't notice the unobtrusive Town House, a gay bar that has been in the same location for decades.

The area now gave way to social service agencies, businesses for new Americans, and low-rent properties.
I once worked for a small startup in one of those low-rent office buildings. The Department of Corrections had an office just down the corridor, which probably helped keep the rent low. 
We were concerned prospective customers would overhear the kinds of conversations we would overhear in the restroom. 
Strong language, felons critiquing their probation officers, not good for business.
In the basement of a nondescript strip mall we drooled over the extensive and expensive range at Scale Model Supplies.

Expensive trains at Scale Model Supplies
It was late December, and daylight was in short supply. We hurried past Shuang Hur Supermarket, possibly the best Asian grocer in the Cities, and on to the State Capitol

State Capitol and Downtown St. Paul

The State Capitol was a good warming house which we explored freely because the Legislature and Supreme Court were not in session.

We were now near the end of our hike. The final stretch took us through downtown St. Paul to the newly restored Union Depot.

Amtrak waiting area, Union Depot
This is a hub for light rail, Amtrak, and both local and long-distance buses.
This coming winter, with backpack on back, I will be passing through Union Depot, on a train journey to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Heading Home

Downstairs, we boarded the 54 bus to MSP Airport, Terminal 1. There we descended to the subterranean Blue Line light rail station.

MSP Airport, Terminal 1 LRT Station
Having walked past silent track all day, it was time to ride an actual train back to downtown Minneapolis.

Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station
[My Green Line resource page.]

No comments:

Post a Comment