#66 Exploring Minneapolis by Bicycle

(I have not established a statute of limitations for my blog posts. I was thinking of pushing myself to write them in the same year that I did them. I will use that rule today and like normal New Year’s Resolutions, I break it tomorrow.)

Back in July 2017 when we were in Minneapolis, MN, we had some time to tour the city. We agreed it would be ideal to tour the city by bicycle. We found a bike rental store, rented a few good bikes and took off. We rode throughout Minneapolis for 5 hours. The city has very good bike paths, several of them were formally trolley lines or railroads.  Also, the city is fairly flat.

We traveled up the river along the old industrial section, crossed the Mississippi River, weaved our way through the University of Minnesota, rode past the old mansions, crossed the Mississippi again, rode down along the river through a large park, ate lunch, had an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen (of course) and stopped at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. We packed our bikes on the subway and headed back to near our origin, and completed our ride. It was a lot of riding and some good relaxing. It is really fun to sightsee a city by bicycle and not have to worry about competing with cars and trucks.

Bike path formally a rail line

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Cityscape of Minneapolis

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Mississippi River

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Photograph of the Month: November 2017

This photograph is of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, which is located north of Lowell, MI, east of Grand Rapids. It wouldn’t be a good photograph of a covered bridge if it didn’t have snow to allow the roof to protect the bridge. As luck would have it, it did snow the night before.

From a website: “Completed at a cost of $1500, Fallasburg Bridge stretches 100 feet long and stands 14 feet wide and 12 feet high. The Fallasburg Bridge is one of only three covered bridges open to vehicle traffic in Michigan. Historic Fallasburg Village, past the 1871 covered bridge on beautiful Flat River, was a bustling nineteenth-century village until the railroad era.”


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#65 Visit Bridge Grandpa Built

My grandpa, Oyvind Leiv Rydland, worked as a design engineer for the Michigan State Highway Department in the 1930’s. He was involved in the design of bridges for the state.

While I don’t recall grandpa talking about his work or these bridges, my dad would occasionally mention them to me and tell me that if I went to Michigan I should see these bridges. A long time ago I had seen one of the bridges that grandpa designed, the Cut River Bridge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but not the other. On this trip to Michigan I found out where the other bridge was located.

So on 11/12/17 I headed up from Grand Rapids to Cadillac, then west on M-55 over to see the bridge spanning the Pine River. The interesting thing I found there was that although this may not be a real impressive bridge by modern standards, it was at the time.  They even built a park next to it as a tourist stop. They had a fairly large parking area near the bridge and a path for visitors to get a closer view of the bridge near the river. I guess at the time, it must have been a pretty impressive structure. Perhaps it was impressive because most bridges in Michigan do not have to span deep valleys and this is one of the exceptions.

All in all, it was kind of cool to see something my grandpa had a hand in building.

From one of the websites: “The Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge is one of only two cantilevered deck truss bridges in Michigan. This structure is notable on aesthetic grounds as well, as the winner of the American Institute of Steel Construction Award in 1936 for the most beautiful structure in its class. This is also a large bridge, with an overall length of 555 feet.”


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#64 Solo Road Trip

Background – Mary Ann will occasionally take a trip to see her sisters in Florida, Minnesota, or Illinois. With my family nearby that doesn’t apply to me. I got to thinking, “Heck, she is leaving on a vacation and I am staying home. Maybe I will take a vacation by myself. I’m retired and have the time.” After discussing it with her, she agreed that I should take a ‘vacation’ while she is on her ‘vacation’. (I was invited to join her and the sisters, but … No way, no way, no way. Haha). So where to go? I settled on Michigan since I thought it was a place that had no good reason for us to vacation together. It would give me a chance to see places where I used to live, which might bore her to tears. And I would also have the opportunity to practice my photography – landscapes and cityscapes.

Warning to readers: Unlike my other more ‘interesting’ experiences (Haha), this may not be as exciting for readers to appreciate and replicate.   (My brothers and sisters might relate to this, though.)  Bear with me.

There are four cities/towns in Michigan that I have memories of as a kid. They are Grand Rapids, Paw Paw, Muskegon, and Lansing. I was born in Grand Rapids. I have only a few memories of one of the houses that we lived in there. After all, I was pretty young then. At the age of 3 or so we moved to Paw Paw, where we lived for 3 or 4 years before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. I have lots of memories from Paw Paw. My Mom’s parents lived in Muskegon and my Dad’s parents lived in Lansing. Both sets of parents moved to Maryland after we relocated east.

I drove first to Paw Paw (11/8/17) since I had the most memories of that town. Paw Paw is a village, population 3,500, in southwest Michigan. The population has barely grown in the 55 years since I lived there. Although it is the county seat, there is not much else. Maybe it is a commuter town to Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, or a stop off the interstate. I did uncover two bright spots – St. Julian Winery and Paw Paw Brewery. I visited both for tastings. The wine was good and so was the beer. The village is so small, for what I wanted to see, I could have jogged around the lake and seen the whole town, but it was freezing cold and I had my camera to record some memories.   I stopped by the house I used to live in, the elementary school I briefly attended, a cemetery near our house that I knew was there but does not show up in maps, the scary bridge that crossed the hydroelectric dam on Mona Lake, the skeleton of the Tastee Freez we used to have ice cream, and the downtown area.

The ‘scary bridge’ was a narrow road over the lake which barely fit a car between the hydroelectric building on one side and the lake on the other, no safety rails. When you are 5 years old and can’t swim, don’t have seat belts on, and your mother is driving fast over the bridge screaming “We’re all going to die!” you get pretty scared. My younger sister, Karen, was just as petrified as I was.

Next I drove west to Lake Michigan to photograph lighthouses. I went to South Haven and then Grand Haven. It was colder on the coast with high winds, making for some good photographs. I then drove up to Muskegon (actually North Shores) to see my grandparent’s old house (Adolph and Anita Dasler).   I didn’t stay long (you don’t want to stay long in Muskegon), high-tailing it to Grand Rapids.

I decided to lodge in Grand Rapids for the rest of the trip. From there I could get to any other place I wanted to see in about an hour or so. Seems like a lot of people live somewhere else and commute to Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, about 200,000. From what I hear it is the best city in Michigan and also claims to be Beer City, USA.

While in Grand Rapids, I stopped by the two houses where I lived and the hospital where I was born (Blodgett Memorial Hospital). The next day I took a tour of the countryside, visiting a few small towns and covered bridges. I also met up with my wife’s nephew, Bryce, for lunch as he does one of those commutes from a small town on Lake Michigan to Grand Rapids.

The next day I did a walking tour of downtown Grand Rapids. While staying in downtown, I stopped by a few of the breweries – Founders Brewery, which sells craft beer nationally, and the Grand Rapids Brewery.

Then I took a day trip to Lansing to see the house where my grandparents (Oyvind and Dorit Rydland) used to live. While in Lansing I spent the afternoon visiting relatives, Pat and Pat (My godmother’s daughter, Patricia, and her husband, Patrick), catching up on our families.

So that was the extent of my personal road trip experience. It was interesting taking a trip by myself. I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. On the other hand, it would be better to share it with my travel partner. I realized that this would be a good trip to involve Mary Ann, however we would definitely have to pick a better (warmer) time of the year!

Scary bridge in Paw Paw, Michigan

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Lighthouse at Grand Haven, Michigan

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Cityscape of Grand Rapids, Michigan

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