Today I was supposed to pick someone and follow them for a while, reporting on where they went. Well, I followed Old Man River and he went south, to New Orleans.

I was going to take pictures of the river (the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis)—the river itself—but it didn’t take long at all for my focus to shift to the bridges. The river is present in a few of the shots, but once again the underneaths of the bridges are the stars. Maybe you remember when I did that last summer on a bike ride.

Ah, summer.

The difference between last summer’s bike ride and today’s walk is, oh, I don’t know, about 70°F/21°C. I didn’t look today, but it was about 15°F/-9°C, based on the forecast high. But being a hardy Minnesotan, I bundled up and went for a nice walk.




1. Hennepin Avenue Bridge (historic). Underneath the bridge, behind where I stood to take my photo, are a couple of pylons from the original version of this bridge built in the mid-1800s. I think the current bridge is the third or fourth version. Oh. According to Wikipedia, this bridge was the first permanent one across the Mississippi River. How about that?



2. 3rd Avenue Bridge (secret passage). Just a bit east (the whole walk wasn’t even two miles), is a more modern-looking, but quite older bridge. This one was an odd duck because it has beautiful arches when viewed from a distance. But when you’re standing directly underneath it, all you see are two doorways like the one in this photo. It looked like it went through three parallel walls. Weird. I was sort of disappointed there wasn’t a drawbridge or something.



3. Mill Ruins Park. Okay, so it’s not a bridge, it’s the riverfront ruins of abandoned flour mills. There is running and dripping water everywhere. The icicle mass was cool. There also seemed to be a model photoshoot going on. The models were not modeling outerwear. Silly catalogs.



4. Stone Arch Bridge (arches). This is the bridge that might possibly have some notoriety outside the Twin Cities. It used to be a railway bridge. Now, it is for pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s stoney and archy and neat. It’s at the foot of the St. Anthony Lock & Dam, which I believe is the first lock and dam on the Mississippi. The first in sequence, I mean. I don’t know if it was the first constructed.



5. I-35W Bridge (strong). This is the sturdy replacement for the bridge that collapsed in 2007. From the side you see graceful arched spans, and from underneath you see these stout legs. I live in the neighborhood. I was outside puttering with my tomato plants when the old bridge collapsed. I heard the sirens and figured there was a big accident on I-94, which is also near my home. It’s still weird to interact with the new bridge.



6. 10th Avenue Bridge (industrial). It’s also weird to be underneath this bridge, just a couple blocks downstream from the 35W Bridge. This photo doesn’t show it, but this bridge looks old and tired from below. The roadbed on top is all spiffy, but it’s a little creepy to look at the chipping concrete when you know what happened to its neighbor three years ago.

Thus concludes today’s history lesson.


Photos were taken with the assistance of my new friend, Instagram, and the Inkwell filter. (Except for the first one of me, that is. I did that in Photoshop.)


My first thought was to make this a 3-D zucchini sculpture, but as soon as I picked up the knife I knew that would be overly ambitious. So instead I made a simple, woodcut-like carving. Now what?


The alien quietly kicked the electronic dead body. It was dead. It didn’t react. The alien thought for a moment. Maybe the body simply needed some hydrotherapy to restore it, but it was unready to make the decision. The alien thought for thirty seconds longer. Then, with one boisterous gesture, it grabbed the electronic dead body and plunged it into the pot of boiling water. And waited. While it waited, it poured itself a small aperitif of sherry.

The water bubbled in anger, the alien sipped, and gradually, those two things conspired to make the alien’s stomach itself burble. The alien was quite hungry. It gazed longingly into the pot at the electronic dead body. Although the boiling water was splashy, the alien could see that a transformation was taking place in the cauldron. The protracted hydrotherapy had caused the electronic dead body to transform into an edible zucchini.

The alien’s revery was interrupted by the doorbell.



Phrases and words in bold came from random generators. I went where they took me, for better and for worse. The initial sentence came from here. Subsequent words were generated here. Another fun creative writing mini-exercise.


Irrational fear of ???

December 17, 2010


I fear nothing. I used to be terribly afraid of spiders, but then I started living with centipedes. Spiders ain’t nothin’ anymore! There are things that make me uncomfortable, from vaguely to quite, but I’m certain I don’t have any out and out phobias.

The first thing that comes to mind is looking down on water from a high bridge. I’m not afraid of heights and I’m not afraid of water. But when I look over the railing at wide, moving water, I kind of get the creeps. 

In particular, I don’t like the Ford Bridge on 46th Street in south Minneapolis that spans the Mississippi River. Twenty-two years ago when I lived here the first time, I lived in a dorm, and that gave me easy access to the bike trails along the Mighty Mississippi. I’d ride down one side and come back on the other. The Ford Bridge was the last convenient crossing, so I used it a lot. I don’t know how my discomfort got started. I theorize that it might have developed on those occasions when I stopped to watch the river. I find moving water, whether it’s a river or the sea, to be hypnotic. But a road bridge vibrates with each passing vehicles, and maybe it was the shakiness combined with not being able to see the floor of the river and imagining how deep it was that got to me. Who knows. But eventually I ceased stopping because I didn’t want to be drawn into contemplating the bottom of the river. Most of the time on other bridges, such as the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in downtown Minneapolis (pictured above, and also spanning the Mississippi Rive), this sensation isn’t as pronounced and if can I keep myself from thinking about it, I can enjoy watching the water flow.

The other thing that makes me nervous is escalators in a crowd. I know exactly the reason behind this one. Six or seven years ago, I went to a baseball game in the old Yankee Stadium and our seats were in the upper deck. We joined the throng of people in gliding up one of the escalators that was available. Only, whether it was because the people already upstairs were blocking the way or because our fellow riders didn’t know which way to go, a bit of a pile-up occurred at the top of the escalator. Many people before us simply stopped immediately upon disembarking and the next thing I knew, the escalator was still moving but there was nowhere to go and we were getting pushed into the people ahead of us and the people behind us were getting fed into us. It was very panic-inducing.

So now, if I have to make an escalator journey in a mass of people, I leave an abnormally large amount of space between me and the people ahead of me. And if I can avoid the escalator altogether in that kind of situation, I will. I’m very glad the new home of the Minnesota Twins, Target Field, has old-fashioned walking ramps and easy access to stairs. I have noticed, though, that there are ushers at the ends of the escalators helping people to keep moving, but a lot of the time, I will take the ramps or the stairs.


I only intended to go to the Mill City Farmers Market to get something to eat from Chef Shack. I did, and then on my way back, I got a sudden bee in my bonnet to just go on a little bike ride. So I did. And paid attention to the undersides of bridges.

These are all bridges over the Mississippi River between St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam and Lock & Dam No. 1. There are three not pictured because I didn’t get the idea right away.


Bridge to nourishment: bacon beer brat from Chef Shack.


Photo 1: 10th Avenue


Photo 2: Remains of the I-35W bridge that collapsed in 2007 are still spread out on the Bohemian Flats near the University of Minnesota.


Photo 3: I-94


Photo 4: Franklin Avenue


Photo 5: Railroad bridge between 26th and 27th Streets . I would seriously doubt that it’s still used for train traffic.


Photo 6: Bridge to hydration


Photo 7: Lake Street


Photo 8: 46th Street. This one seemed quite cathedral-like to me as I stood under it.


Photos 9–12: Bridge on the Mississippi: Lock & Dam No. 1. I had a little staycation with this as I hadn’t realized that you can walk all around the facility. There is a catwalk that bridges the two locks (it seems only the 9-footer is used), and then it’s quite parklike on the dividers between the various channels.

Photo 9: Bridge to observation, catwalk


Photo 10: The 6-foot lock, which doesn’t seem to have been used any time recently, as there were some quite large shrubs growing in the far end of it on the wall.


Photo 11: Bridge to dinner, if you’re a spider.

Finally, I leave you with this video of the dam’s waterfall. That’s a blue heron flying around. There were also white herons, ducks, and geese.

There were more bridges on the second half of my ride, but unfortunately, my battery died while I was enjoying the Lock & Dam. Maybe I’ll go out again this weekend to capture those.



I did the 20-mile bike ride again today. The forecast called for unsettled weather in the afternoon, but I chose to defy the gods and set out. This time I had the photo plan in mind from the outset so this time the pictures are on the even mile marks. I mostly took them in motion looking straight ahead, unless there was something interesting to the side. I decided you didn???t need to see my mug in every shot this time.


Photo 1, mile 0. Stop at the neighborhood bicycle shop to blow up my tires. It was breezy so I figured if my tires were nice and plump, I???d have a better time of it.


Photo 2, mile 1. Mississippi River. Apparently it was Mile 7 for the Minneapolis Marathon. Oh great, am I going to have to dodge joggers all ride?



Photo 3, mile 2. Mississippi River, Mile 8 for the marathon.



Photo 4, mile in-between. A party on the lawn at the American Danish Institute.



Photo 5, mile 3. Mississippi River



Photo 6, mile 3.5. Mississippi River. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.



Photo 7, mile 4. Mississippi River, Godfrey Parkway, road to the Lock & Dam #1.



Photo 8, mile 5. Minnehaha Creek



Photo 9, mile 6. In between Lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis. Lifeguards on duty.



Photo 10, mile 7. Minnehaha Creek and Parkway



Photo 11, mile in-between. Hello, ???Cottontail on the Trail???!



Photo 12, mile 8. Minnehaha Creek, approaching the underpass of I-35 where there is road/path construction.



Photo 13, mile 9. Minnehaha Parkway. Two dudes in coral-colored shirts passed me. Then I showed them when there was a sharp uphill and I passed them back, without even trying. Thank you, Curves!



Photo 14, mile 10. Approaching Lake Harriet



Photo 15, mile 11. West side of Lake Harriet



Photo 16, mile in-between. I did not need the hotdog stop today. However, the Inver Hills Community Band was warming up to perform in the Lake Harriet Bandshell, so I still stopped for a few minutes.




Photos 17,18, mile 12. Between Lakes Harriet and Calhoun. There is a sightseeing trolley train that putt-putts between the lakes.



Photos 19, mile 13. West side of Lake Calhoun. Minneapolis downtown skyline in the distance. It started raining about here.



Photo 20, mile 14. Midtown Greenway. I took a slightly different path to the Greenway today. Had to wait for a long traffic light. It stopped raining. The sun came back out and the smell reminded me of the swimming pool in the summer when I was a kid.



Photo 21, mile 15. Midtown Greenway, just before the Bryant Avenue access point. I used to live there. I miss it. Also, I took a slight detour off the path to go look at something that might be important in my future.



Photo 22, mile 16. Midtown Greenway



Photo 23, mile 17. Just before Freewheel Bicycle???s Midtown Greenway location.




Photo 24, 25, mile 18. The fancy shmancy bridge over Hiawatha Avenue.



Photo 26, mile 19. Hiawatha commuter trail, almost home. The awesome, ugly high-rises that are the landmark of my neighborhood.


The mileage seems to have not quite worked out, because it’s still 20.5 miles, but you get the idea.


I finally went on a ride I???ve been wanting to, down the Mississippi River to Minnehaha Creek, up the sides of a couple of lakes, and back home on the Midtown Greenway to the Hiawatha path. It???s 20.5 miles. I stopped to take a photo approximately every mile and here they are, locations duly noted on the map.



Photo 1, mile 0.75: Mississippi River. I didn???t think to start taking photos until I got down to the river, hence the 3/4 measurement.



Photo 2, mile 1.75: Mississippi River



Photo 3, mile 2.75: Mississippi River, under the Lake Street Bridge



Photo 4, mile 3.75: Mississippi River



Photo 5, mile 4.75: Mississippi River, near the turn-off for Lock & Dam #1



Photo 6, mile 5.75: Minnehaha Parkway



Photo 7, mile 6.75: Minnehaha Parkway, between Lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis



Photo 8, mile 7.75: Minnehaha Parkway




Photos 9, 10, mile 8.75: Minnehaha Parkway, ???Cottontail on the Trail??? at Portland Avenue. I did not know this was there, and it was time for a photo, honest!



Photo 11, mile 9.75: Minnehaha Parkway



Photo 12, mile 10.75: jog up to Lake Harriet



Photo 13, mile 11.75: Lake Harriet



Photo 14, mile 12.75: Lake Harriet, lunch stop. I was really hungry by this time and the hotdog was a good enough combo of carbs and protein.



Photo 15, mile 13.75: Lake Calhoun. The temperature was in the mid-80sF. There were a lot of people enjoying the water.



Photo 16, mile 14.75: Lake Calhoun soccer fields



Photo 17, mile 15.75: between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, access point to the Midtown Greenway



Photo 18, mile 16.75: Midtown Greenway. This follows old railroad tracks along 29th Street.



Photo 19, mile 17.75: Midtown Greenway. White building is a Freewheel Bicycle store and pitstop for bikers. It even has showers.



Photo 20, mile 18.75: Midtown Greenway, turning toward Hiawatha Avenue.??



Photo 21, mile 19.75: Hiawatha Avenue bike path. Franklin Avenue Light Rail Station in the background, and also downtown Minneapolis skyline. Almost home!



Photo 22, mile 20.58: Home, whew!


Satellite Map ?? Google Maps


As I recall, I only ever did this one time in my life when I was pretty young. I think it was in the little stream that goes through the Indiana University campus where we summered when I was little. I loved that stream, and a message in a bottle seems like something I would have done there.

Today, I was working with a much larger canvas???the Mississippi River. My office is only a few blocks from it and I met Tori for lunch at the sushi restaurant Origami in the same general direction, so I declared to my coworkers that I was taking a long lunch and set out.

I didn???t actually have a bottle so I had commandeered a small plastic jar that previously housed colored toothpicks. (We photoshoot quite a bit of food preparation at work so we actually have a pretty well-stocked pantry.) My note read:

“I am a member of a web site, which has daily missions for its members. Today I am sending a message in a bottle.??I dropped this jar in the Mississippi River at the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, on May 14, 2010. Its first obstacles will have been the Upper and Lower St. Anthony Falls and U.S. Lock & Dam #1. If it made it through all that without being destroyed, please do me a favor: surf to and let me know that you found it.”

I printed it on bright yellow paper so that maybe the jar would be more noticeable in the water and perhaps thus be more likely to provoke interest should someone see it along shore. Then just because, I also included a little plastic alien. Cracker Jack it isn???t, but I was trying to do what I could to promote a response by the finder.

As it turns out, the St. Anthony Falls and Lock and Dam were not the first obstacles my little jar encountered. I biked over to Origami and as I sped around the corner from Hennepin Avenue onto Washington Avenue, the jar flew out of my shorts pocket into the road. I screeched to a halt (well, you know, as much as screeching is necessary when you were only going 12 or 13 mph to begin with) and parked my bike on the sidewalk. Trafffic on Washington was still stopped for the red light, but turning left right behind me from Hennepin was a city bus. I dashed into the road and snatched the jar back from what certainly would have been a flattening with just moments to spare. I oriented it the other way in my pocket and went on to have an enjoyable lunch.

Once at the river after lunch, it took me a few minutes to find the perfect spot from which to launch the jar. I first went to a place where steps take you right down to the water, but I quickly determined that I wouldn???t be able to throw the jar far enough to get it into water that was moving forward in a decisive manner and that it would probably just bounce along the bank for not very far. I took the photo and concluded that I had to go onto the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (in the background) and drop the jar from there.

A few minutes later I was in place about a third of the way along the bridge. I was paranoid about getting ticketed for littering, so I waited about five minutes until the gap between pedestrians was large enough that I felt I could make my pitch without anybody being very sure about what I had done or being so interested that they felt the need to stop and chat about it.

In hindsight, I should have gone further toward the middle of the bridge. The jar caught the current, but it looked like its trajectory was going to take it into the Lock and Dam to the right in the photo (more hazardous) rather than more toward the middle to the Falls (more natural). Hopefully it will make the pass through the lock with a little pleasure boat rather than a freighter. And I really hope somebody finds the jar and picks it up and responds, preferably from out of town or, better yet, out of state.