Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a recurring series of posts from any interested authors. These pieces will document a trip you made anywhere in Minnesota by any means other than a private car. This includes biking, scooting, walking, transit, car-sharing or anything else you might want to highlight!
For each trip, I propose we cover five general aspects, but feel free to add your own as well:
- Brief overview: where you went, by which mode(s) and why.
- Narrative of the trip: photos are always great!
- What was special or joyful about your journey?
- Did you face challenges that might be a hindrance for others, especially those that might be easily addressed?
- Other notes.
Last July, I rode my bike from the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul to Blueberry Fields of Stillwater, which is located, as you might guess, in Stillwater. I rode because I wanted to pick delicious local blueberries to freeze and enjoy all winter long!
Since the trip out there takes a while, and the business is usually open only in the morning, you do need to plan on an early start.
Almost the entire route for me was on off-street facilities, which is pretty amazing! I have quick access to the multi-use path along Lexington from my house, which I followed to Como, then got on the Wheelock Parkway section of the Saint Paul Grand Round. I followed this to the Gateway State Trail, which I took most of the rest of the way, taking the Brown’s Creek Trail when that splits off (I did take a brief detour for doughnuts from Maplewood Bakery, located near the intersection of the Gateway and Bruce Vento trails).
At Brown’s Creek Park, located at the intersection of Neal Avenue and the trail, I exited the trail and followed a newer multi-use path through new subdivisions plopped down in former farm fields and forests, along Neal Avenue up to Dellwood Road/County Road 96. Note: Google maps will probably tell you to get on Dellwood earlier. I don’t recommend that as it’s basically just a highway, so minimizing the time on it is preferable (at least to me). Lastly, turn right off Dellwood and follow a few bends of Mendel Road to the farm itself.
Once at the blueberry farm, I was able to lock my bike to itself and leave it by the check-in area, get checked in after answering questions about my cargo bike and why I love it, and start picking. Blueberries are small, so in about two hours I was able to pick a little over 6 pounds (which got me just over the threshold of a discounted rate).
I heard a variety of conversations from the folks around me, ranging from naturopathy and other alternative medicine discussions to Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) conspiracy theories (including that Trump was just biding his time before “reclaiming” the presidency). Turns out folks from all parts of the political spectrum like blueberries!
After checking out, I headed back the way I came and enjoyed some of the trailside attractions along the way home, such as a cool art installation and learning what a Gandy Dancer was (the crews who built or repaired the railroad tracks). By this time, it was pretty hot, but the trees along Gateway provided generous shade for much of the route. The roundtrip was a bit over 46 miles, the longest ride I’d done yet on my cargo bike.
The Gateway is an amazingly dignified way to head northeast from St. Paul. Much of the route, except parts through North St. Paul, has a beautiful tree canopy with lots of wildflowers and wildlife. You see a wide range of other trail users, from cyclists and equestrians to walkers and joggers. Also, fresh blueberries are absolutely delicious!
It’s a longer trip out to the farm; however, it should be in the range of most e-bikes to give a boost if you’re not used to rides of that length. There are plenty of great places to stop for a rest along the way, too. Otherwise, the route is generally quite pleasant except for the short stretch on Dellwood Road.
I rode my cargo bike so I could bring a cooler for my blueberries since it was a pretty hot day. Unless you’re planning to pick enough blueberries to feed your neighbors, you could easily fit them in a pannier or backpack. I’d definitely make the trip again, and I think it would be a fun group destination.
All photos by author