My Commute is Delightful

As described in streets.mn’s Mission and Core Values, one facet of better places in Minnesota is that they’re “delight cultivating.”  I’ve been contemplating what sorts of places bring me delight, and one of my biggest joys recently has come from an unexpected source: my work commute route.

 Delight-cultivating: places should inspire happiness and wonder in all seasons and all times of the night and day

After years of part-time bicycle commuting, I elected to sell my car and commit to biking full-time in early 2017.  I made this choice primarily to decrease my individual carbon footprint, but expected that I’d also see other benefits such as better health and decreased financial commitments. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d enjoy these 1.5-2 hours of daily bicycling. It’s made me look forward to mornings (I’ve never been a morning person), to the changes of the seasons, and to exploring new routes.

Blue Marin bicycle with fenders, leaning against a light pole with garages in background

My old commuter bike, with a St. Paul flag from Bill Lindeke in the background.

Bicycling in winter makes some of the little things even more rewarding, and continues to increase my appreciation for winter, much like Melissa describes in her  “30 days of Winter Biking: January 2019” post. There’s a special joy in savoring our days of cold and snow, and in the beautiful sights along the way.

 

The increasingly-late-rising winter sun is one of my least favorite parts of living in the northern longitudes, but watching sunrises during my commute is a (partially)redeeming joy.
Snow covered bike path with bike basket and bar mitts in foreground. River with railing and bridge, plus dawning sun and grey clouds.

Dawn over the Mississippi on one morning’s commute on the Sam Morgan trail

 

I often ride along this part of the Mississippi River on my route, which is probably at it’s best in the winter months with it’s ever-changing ice sheets, shards, and occasionally ice pancakes.

Grey river with large circular chunks of ice, floating in a loose mass. Tree-lined shore in background

Ice pancakes floating on the Mississippi River in St. Paul

Route-exploring in winter can sometimes be difficult, especially when there’s lots of snow (or weeks-old snow that was never removed from the bike lanes and is now ice). It’s still worth it, overall. I get to bike on a fresh coating of snow, watch some turkeys cross the road, enjoy the snow-covered tree limbs, or see the ice-cracking tracks of those who have gotten up even earlier than me.

Clear road next to fully snow covered bike path

That’s the bike path, covered in many inches of plow-thrown ice chunks and squishy snow. I had to walk up the hill this time.

Bicycle tire track through a pool of ice-covered water on the bike trail

This person must have gone through shortly before I did, as the water was still lapping at the edges of this tire track

Selfie in helmet, safety glasses, and gaiter. Covered with layer of ice.

The author, after a very icy ride

Bicycle commuting through Minnesota’s winter might not be the most obvious source of joy, but I truly do find delight in bicycling through all of these places, year-round. Sharing these experiences here also helps, and I encourage you all to join me in writing for streets.mn.

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17 Responses to My Commute is Delightful

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke January 17, 2019 at 1:05 pm #

    Beautiful pics!

    • Jenny Werness
      Jenny Werness January 17, 2019 at 1:13 pm #

      Thank you! I probably should’ve tried to make the feature photo one of the pretty ones, but a photo of a bike is not bad.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke January 17, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

        I fixed it for you.

        • Jenny Werness
          Jenny Werness January 17, 2019 at 2:13 pm #

          You’re the best.

  2. Anon January 17, 2019 at 1:25 pm #

    Why don’t more winter bicyclists wear motorcycle helmets? They are safer, warmer and easier to take on and off than scarf+glasses+bike helmet.

    • Jenny Werness
      Jenny Werness January 17, 2019 at 2:19 pm #

      I think some do – but for the me, a motorcycle helmet is overkill. I’d overheat pretty easily without my helmet’s vents (and adjustable face/neck protection when needed). Bicycling takes a lot of energy and that exercise warms you up quick!

  3. Christa Moseng
    Chris Moseng January 17, 2019 at 1:47 pm #

    I love this post! I get a lot of the same feelings biking, including in the winter. Seeing wildlife is always a highlight. I’ve had commutes in the past on some “remote” suburban Mendota Heights trails, which often brought me near turkeys and deer. But even though turkeys are less common and rabbits, squirrels, and common birds are the less-exotic sights on a Minneapolis trail, it’s still nice to be out in the same nature they are!

    • Jenny Werness
      Jenny Werness January 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm #

      Yes, even the little critters are fun to see. And hearing the birds chirp!

  4. Jack January 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm #

    I envy your physical ability! I don’t think I could bike to work even in the nicest summer weather, much less in winter. I do walk to and from the train station, and in the winter I just hate it. The wind, the cold, the snotty nose when you finally get on the car. Yuck!

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica January 17, 2019 at 5:09 pm #

      You get used to it 🙂

  5. Jenny Werness
    Jenny Werness January 17, 2019 at 2:59 pm #

    Winter can be so rough, especially those windy cold days. That’s one of the reasons I try to focus on the pretty things.

    Since I moved, my commute became a lot longer (12 miles). I bought a bicycle with electric-assist pedal capability that I use for most of my commuting – it’s especially helpful to turn on the assist when confronting that wind!

  6. Melissa Wenzel
    Melissa Anne Wenzel January 17, 2019 at 8:03 pm #

    And it’s an AWESOME bike. Thank you for inspiring me to buy one just like it!

    Thanks for the shout-out Jenny! You inspired me on the tough days. I’ve been taking so many photos this January; seeing the beauty of this time of the year, with or without snow, and seeing a different world in our community.

    This AM, I saw 2 sets of bike tires on Upper Afton before I was biking to work. Whoever they are, going west to downtown, thank you for inspiring me too. I don’t feel alone.

    • Jenny Werness
      Jenny Werness January 17, 2019 at 8:46 pm #

      Yay! Even though we don’t ride past each other much, I often think of you when I ride on afton. This afternoon the turkey flock had almost two dozen members!

      Are you going to write an end-of-January post? I’m excited to see all your photos 🙂

      • Melissa Wenzel
        Melissa Anne Wenzel January 19, 2019 at 9:20 am #

        Jenny: Yes, of course!! I didn’t take photos every day last year but I did this year. And I’m loving your photos, and Michelle Molstead’s (she’s with Nice Ride) photos too; not sure if you’re connected to her on Twitter but she’s taken some amazing river shots too, from Minneapolis.

  7. Sarah January 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm #

    I admire your positive outlook! I’ll admit I’ve been slogging through my three measly mile commute the past couple weeks. I view bike commuting at this time of year primarily as a way to earn the benefits of a car-free lifestyle – it’s not that fun (for me), but neither is driving or owning a car, so it’s still a net positive. But I don’t know if I will ever appreciate it on quite this level. (And that’s okay, you don’t have to love everything about biking to benefit from it.) But it’s awesome that you’re enjoying it so much!

    • Melissa Wenzel
      Melissa Wenzel January 18, 2019 at 1:01 pm #

      Spring was my favorite season before being a year-round cyclist. Now it’s my MOST FAVORITEIST of seasons. I let my nose lead me to work, smelling the gardens, my ears guide me to song birds, and the sun warms my spirit and soul.

      I’d like winter if it were either warmer or more colorful! And yes, I know it wouldn’t be winter without cold or snow….

      (-:

    • Rosa January 21, 2019 at 6:52 pm #

      I’m mostly a winter bus rider and I often spent some of those cold days wishing I were driving…but the last two winters I’ve been driving, and it’s really the least good winter option. Driving on ice is terrifying and bad weather makes it almost impossible to predict how long your commute will take.

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