Archive for the ‘Biking’ Category

Looking for a roughly 20-mile bike ride with plenty to see and eat? We spent this 4th of July enjoying the gorgeous day and getting some exercise as we looped the Minneapolis lakes area. We took well-marked, nicely paved trails with very few steep hills as we made our way along Minnehaha Parkway from Lake Nokomis heading toward Lake Harriet, onto Lake Calhoun and then circled Lake of the Isles before cutting across the city on the Midtown Greenway to the West Mississippi River Parkway. We “put in” on the north side of lake Nokomis and circled clockwise, west on the parkway.

Punch Pizza (near Lake Calhoun) made a fabulous half-way point to stop for lunch. That worked for me since it’s one of my favorite summer spots to grab a bite to eat. It was fun to see the city from a new perspective with great people watching opportunities. The lakes were buzzing with activity and Minnehaha Falls was roaring.

We came home in time to put a couple steaks on the grill to accompany some sauteed brocollini, a caprese salad and iced tea. It was an excellent, low-key way to spend Independence Day! We hope you found a fun way to celebrate as well. Happy 4th and thanks to all who serve our country. We appreciate you!

Minnehaha Falls

Bike Trails
Midtown Greenway
Minneapolis Trails


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At the old flour mill waterfall.

So the stay-cation hasn’t exactly been what we were envisioning. Still it was good to have a week break from the office to do some relaxing and accomplish a few home projects. The less-than-desirable weather made sure of that. In some ways, the timing may have been just what the doctor ordered. Literally. Brent ended up in the cardiac unit of Urgent Care which led to an atypical number of naps and a few doctor’s visits. So, when Thursday came along with its long-awaited beautiful weather, we were more than ready to do something more “vacation-like.”

I ran across an article in last Sunday’s “Dakota County” section of the paper. It named the Hastings bike loop “one of the best-kept secrets in the Twin Cities.” After hitting this trail on Thursday, we agree.

One of the things we enjoyed most about the loop was the variety it offered. We rode through neighborhoods, countryside, nature parks and the small historic town of Hastings itself.  And we saw horse farms, fish jumping left and right in the Vermillion River, a lock and dam at the Mississippi, several bald eagles and a roaring waterfall at an old flour mill. We had no idea this bike gem existed until a week ago.

We parked at Jaycees Park along Lake Rebecca and headed west along the trail, circling the city for a 12-mile ride. With gradual inclines and very few steep hills, it makes for a nice leisurely pace. A fun ride with a fair amount of exercise without threatening to put either one of us into the hospital. We’re glad to recommend this biking option and it looks like there are plans underway to connect it up to the regional system.

Our only real disappointment was in hoping to find a cute little lunch spot. We drove around town with no luck. We’re weren’t overly impressed with the options unfortunately. We went so far as to make it to Prescott, Wisconsin. If you’ve got recommendations, we’d love to hear them since we came up empty handed. Lunch turned into a dinner of brats on the grill at home. Not a bad option after all.

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Our first foray into the wilds of Sakatah Lake State Park just west of Faribault, Minnesota proved fruitful! Ha! Sorry I couldn’t resist saying that. We were geared up for a fun day and we weren’t disappointed. There were plenty of foragers who joined us as the trip was organized by the Minnesota Mycological Society. Over 60 people arrived at the Park and were ready to forage by 10am. Our quarry was Morchella esculenta, or the common morel mushroom. And in case you didn’t know, it is the official state mushroom of Minnesota.

The season is still rather early as our winter hung around for an extra 3 weeks. The trees haven’t even leafed out yet. You can still see through the woods as if it were the middle of April. It made it a little easier to get low and see to the ground, however the ground cover is springing up pretty fast now. Another week and the morel mushrooms should be perfect. The group found quite a few, but they’re not very mature yet.

A word of advice, you will want to take precaution against ticks and mosquitos. The best way to do that is to treat your jeans, your shirt and your socks with permethrin. You can get it in the form of an aerosol at most camping stores or as a spray. We opted for the spray. Don’t treat this stuff lightly. Do NOT spray it on while wearing your clothes. You must treat the clothing and let your clothes dry for at least 2 hours before wearing your outfit. You do NOT want to spray yourself with this chemical. We purchased the Sawyer brand and treated our clothes earlier in the week. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear gloves. There are plenty of prickly shrubs and you will get scratched if you’re not properly covered. When we arrived it was overcast and had been sprinkling. This was a good thing because otherwise it could’ve been warm to be covered up as we were.

Not a bonanzaa, but a typical basket. Conditions should improve over the next week.

Finding the morels is not as easy as you might think. They blend into their surroundings as they are a grey to golden yellow in color. At this time of  year, look for dead or dying elm trees with a nice sunny southern exposure. The ground needs to warm up a bit for the fungus to fruit, so this year especially you’ll need to look carefully. Another item to carry is a long stick to bend ground cover over while you peer closely. Some folks used old ski poles, others had their favorite hiking rod. Still others had carved their own sticks with wooden morel mushrooms at the top of the staff. I opted for something provided by mother nature. I found two nice sticks each about 3 feet long. A used hockey stick works pretty well too.

Another find were hundreds of wild onions. These are similar to spring ramps or wild leeks. They are rather potent for their size, so you don’t need very many. But we can tell you how delicious they are! We sauteed the wild onions with our vegetable medley for diner tonight and it was terrific! Are you wondering about how the morel’s taste?

Early May Morels from Minnesota!

Well, we can tell you that we just sauteed them in a little butter with salt and pepper. They were outstanding! They are a very meaty mushroom. Eating them is like taking bites off of a steak. We’re looking forward to our next foray near Lake Pepin.

If you like biking, you’ll enjoy Sakatah Lake State Park too. The Sakatah State trail runs about 40 miles from Fairibault to Mankato. It’s an old, paved railroad bed and the biking is easy. There are plenty of rest stops with picnic tables. Bring a lunch and enjoy the fresh air. We biked for about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace and covered about 14 miles.

By the time we were ready to bike, the sun had emerged and warmed us up providing a little of the season’s first humid air! Spectacular!

Are you finding any morel mushrooms? Have you gone foraging before? If you’re willing to share a good location to find some, please feel free to type a tip or location in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!

Other sightings today included a bluebird, early spring wildflowers (Dutchman’s Britches) and several species of woodpeckers.

Blue bird

Dutchman's Britches

Rest stop on the Sakatah State Trail, Minnesota

MMS - MN Mycological Society Members

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Here are a couple of random things I noted today:

•  I noted that even with the economy in despair, the MOA and REI were packed today. I suppose people are about fed up with bad weather and the rain drove them to search for indoor activities.

• Brent was actually the one to notice this one. I bought a couple items at “Forever 21” (yes, even though I bypassed 21 a while back). When I got the bag home, Brent noticed that “John 3:16” was imprinted on it. Never having shopped the store before, this was new to me. I learned, with the help of Google, that the storeowners are believers from South Korea. Seems there’s all sorts of thoughts about this store online. From my brief experience today, all I know is I like the verse and I got a couple of really cute tops at a great price.

• I noted that I LOVE how Brent and I finally have a good system down for syncing our electronic calendars. He looked at me kind of goofy when I gushed this remark to him just now, but I really do love it. It’s helping manage our lives better already. We’re doing this with a combination of iCal and Mobile Me. It has taken two years to figure it out, but we’re finally getting there.

• I noted that it takes great discipline to not buy the store out when you shop REI. Brent and I had a couple goals as we fit ourselves for two new hobbies. I’m sure this will be the subjects of future blogs, but we needed to pick up some Permethrin. We hadn’t heard of it either, until getting into mushroom foraging and needing to repel and kill ticks. And we needed a few biking supplies. Do you think spring is actually here so we can hit the trails?!

• Speaking of REI, we noted that if you want to take one of their free bike maintenance class, you need to register early. We didn’t. It filled up. Bummer.

• I noted that it must be prom season. While at the mall, I saw dresses for sale all over the place. There were groups of girls wondering the mall in their fancy frocks and girls piled into fitting rooms, trying on assortments of them. It was here that I overheard this conversation:

“This is a good dress for you. It’s cute, but doesn’t look like you’re trying too hard to be cute.”

“Oh! You’re right! That’s true.”

“Unlike the other dress. In that one, you looked like you were trying too hard. Especially since you’re only a freshman, you don’t want to overdo it.”

“Oh! You’re so right! I would’ve never thought about that. It’s true. What about shoes?”

“Well, I will be getting new shoes, but then switch into tennis shoes when I get there. That’s what EVERYONE does!”

“Oh, that makes sense, ok.”

First of all, this conversation reminded me why I’m thankful to no longer be in high school. Secondly, I wanted to tell the freshman that God created her uniquely, not to rely on this “friend” for all her opinions. But she’s still young. She will learn.

There you have it. Random observations from a Saturday out and about town. Do you have an observation or two to share from your day? We’d love to hear them!

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Well, I should have known it might come to this. Considering our current interests, Brent and I could have joined a biking club, maybe taken some cooking classes or an art class, possibly learned Hebrew. But my husband is pleading with me for us to get involved in the Minnesota Mycological Society. Yep. Mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I love mushrooms. I’m glad he does too. But of all the variety of clubs we could choose from, he wants us to join one that makes you sign a death waiver. That’s right. Specifically, it states:

“I (We) realize that when engaged in wild mushroom activities, that serious physical injury and personal property damage may accidentally occur. I (We) further realize that there is always the possibility of having an allergic reaction to or being poisoned by the eating of wild mushrooms and that these adverse reactions to eating wild mushrooms range from mild indigestion to fatal illness.”

You can wear a helmet while biking because there is a chance you might wipe out. I suppose you could burn your finger while cooking. I’ve even been known to cut myself with one of those Cutco knives. And who’s ever heard of serious injuries taking place in an art class? But we’re talking about “fatal” illness. Do we have to pick the hobby that makes you sign a waiver warning of fatal illness?

Brent in Senegal

I should have known. I married a man who spent two years in the Peace Corp – specifically Senegal, living in a hut, eating with his hands and fighting off poisonous snakes. So, that means when he comes home with a seven pound mushroom he dug up in the woods down the street, he’s going to react a little differently to the idea of making it into dinner than I do. (See photos in our 9/26/10 post.)

Kalli at Our Wedding

I should have known. My friend’s young daughter, Kalli, put it quite simply at our wedding reception. She turned to me after Brent finished singing an Elvis tune with the band and said, “Well, I can see you’re not going to be bored.” And she was right.

Brent Sings at Our Wedding

So, I imagine we’ll sign the waiver and join the club. We’ll probably go on some of the foraging trips. And we’ll probably have a lot of fun, meet some interesting people and eat some delicious delicacies. I wanted to get into biking and Brent met that goal with great enthusiasm. I will take a deep breath, sign the waiver and hope and pray no poisonous funguses pass our lips. It’ll be an adventure!

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Is it really mid-October? Last weekend, you wouldn’t have known it without the help of a calendar. All across Minnesota people came pouring outside in droves.  We saw more smiles, laughter, ice cream and motorcycles than you typically expect on an October day. These kinds of unseasonably warm, fall days that come out of nowhere seem to transform the entire Minnesota population. Like squirrels gathering acorns for the long winter ahead, it’s like we’re all storing up sunshine, hoping it will get us through the weeks, sometimes months of grey, cloudy, cold days ahead.

Just caught the weather report – it looks like fall is finally here now. Cloudy, 60s and downhill from there. Glad we made the most of last weekend’s final hurrah.

Last Saturday started with my one-year old nephew’s birthday party. He probably won’t remember what may be one of his few 80-degree birthdays, but he’s one of the most smiley kids around and seemed to have a good time anyway.


Biking Elm Creek Trail


Since the festivities were in the northern suburbs, we had decided to throw the bikes on the back of the RAV and tackle the Elm Creek Park trail after the party. And we were so glad we did. What a gorgeous trail for a beautiful fall day. The golden hues seemed to glisten throughout the lovely rolling hills and landscaping. We did nearly the entire 20 miles of paved trail. Nothing overly strenuous, but enough gradual inclines throughout to feel good about getting some exercise.

We cross-country skied that same trail last winter, but it sure looked like a different place back when it was covered in snow. Hard to believe we may be strapping on those skis again before we know it. Let’s not go there yet, right?

We built up quite an appetite, just in time for dinner. And all that exercise put us in the mood for something healthy. “Where can we go for a really good salad?” We took a chance on something new. I thought I remembered The California Pizza Kitchen had salads. It turned out to be a good bet. The salads were fabulous. Brent had the Moroccan Chicken Salad and I had the Thai Crunch Salad. We’ll definitely be back.


Brent & his Dad in Prague


Day two of the final perfect weather weekend of the year led us to a trip down to Red Wing. It happened to be the local Fall Festival of Arts. Our favorite booth at the fair featured the paintings of Olga Krasovska. Brent had received one of her prints a few Christmases ago from his dad and family. It was especially meaningful because they had visited the old town square in Prague (the subject in the print) while traveling in Eastern Europe together.

We both love the style, medium, colors and subject matter from this artist, so it was fun to meet her and talk about her work. She paints on cotton fabric, using her own specialized technique of blending watercolor, ink and gouache. I love the combination of these materials and hope for time and space to one day give them a try myself. Watercolor holds some unique challenges and Olga does a lovely job of using it to convey an old world feel with warm, rich tones.

Our walls at home are already quite overloaded, but when we move one day we hope for a little more wall space and the opportunity to buy one or two more of her prints to create a set. Olga was very friendly and invited us to visit her home in St. Paul to see more of her paintings. We look forward to doing that one day.

Another booth at the art fair was full of felted hats. We were also taken aback by the large clamor of women trying them on. It caught our attention because, Patty, Brent’s mom is a master fiber artist and creates at least as big of stir when she has shown her felted/knitted bags and hats at art fairs. Recently we commissioned her to create some hats for our nieces. They are beyond adorable (the hats and the nieces!) and we can’t wait to see them in the hats at their birthdays next month!

Brent and I love to be creative and look forward to one day having more time and perhaps even a studio to be able to paint, draw, shoot photography/etc. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Well, I guess, with the cooler weather setting in it might mean it’s time to stick around home and get some projects checked off our list. One thing we learned recently at a home owner’s association meeting was that you can bring your screen door into the local Ace Hardware where they’ll re-screen it for you. Call me strange, but somehow I’m quite excited to tackle that one.

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We didn’t get our normal posts done for over a week and I was pondering why that happened because we have been busy. We’ve been focusing on the house lists and getting things done versus fun and excitement. Are you feeling pressure to get your lists done? Sorry if this post feels like stuff we’ve already talked about. Lisa blogged about her lists earlier, but as I thought about what was really new in the last week or so, I have to admit it’s how we took Lisa’s talent for lists to a new level, and it’s working.

Lisa is really good at helping me get focused. I’m like a kid in a candy shop and will get distracted by the next shiny object that comes along. By the time the weekend arrives with cool morning temperatures and warm afternoons, my mind is wandering around the joys of autumn: thoughts of hunting pheasants with the guys, watching football, walking around any of the Twin Cities’ parkways and watching the fall colors, etc. My mind is not on the stuff we need to do before the real cold weather sets in.

So Lisa helped me get focused last weekend on what needed to get done so we could plan some fun later. While she cleaned up and put away the container garden on the patio, I caulked the cracks in the garage floor and asked my buddy Gary to help me hang our bikes from the garage ceiling. Not only did we get things done, but we also spent time outside.

As we put stuff away and organized our bike gear, we realized that one of the things that made our biking adventures somewhat of a chore was the amount of time it took for us to get ready to go somewhere. And that scenario pretty much described what it was like around here each morning as we bumbled our way out the door to go to work each day.

Suddenly we were both looking at each other and smiling because we were thinking the same thing. We were both wondering, “why don’t we create a list for what we need before we go out the door and make a separate list depending on what we were doing?” Over the weekend, Lisa started writing down the stuff we needed just to go biking and then just to go to work. She printed them and put them inside the cupboard so we can scan it before we go out the door. So far, I haven’t forgotten a single thing.

We’ll keep this up and see how it works. And depending on the results we may take it further. For example, what do we need before leaving for church? Or going to the grocery store? It seems like we always get to church and I realize I forgot the offering envelope, or our Bible, or my reading glasses. Or we get to the store and we forget the re-usable bags and coupons.

So here’s our Monday through Friday checklist:  Lights off, Feed cat, Empty litter box, Pills, Money, Badge, Keys, Wallet, Rings, Glasses, Phone/Cord/Plug, Umbrella? Briefcase? Computer? Lunch? Coffee? Snack?

Here’s our Biking checklist: Bike rack, Bike shorts, Pump tires, Locks/Key, Water, House key, Money, Helmets, Spare tire wrench, Bungee cords, Bike tub, Lights, Bike pack, Bike gloves, Wet wipes, Kleenex, Bike repair kit, Tire Pump? Sweatshirt? Garage door opener? Phone? Snacks? Back packs? Sunscreen, Bug spray

The stuff with “?” marks are optional.

Do you forget stuff and realize it too late? What do you think of our idea? Do you do something similar or maybe you think we’re nuts? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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