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Presenting WTIP: Bryan Hansel Bikepacks Northern Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Touring Route

This podcast episode comes to you in two parts:
Side A: A photographer from Grand Marais previews an upcoming DNR touring route.
Side B: The Streets.mn Podcast team looks back on our favorite episodes of 2023!

Episode chapters

00:00 | Intro
01:00 | The Border to Border Touring Route
25:12 | Our favorite episodes of 2023
42:34 | Outro

Connect with us

Attributions

The piece about the Border-to-Border touring route was reported by Kalli Hawkins, and comes to us via WTIP; all rights reserved.

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

Show notes

The Border-to-Border Touring Route spans 750 miles, traversing northern Minnesota by utilizing pre-existing roadways, extending from the North Dakota border to the shores of Lake Superior.

The border-to-border project was initiated in 2015 and represents a collaborative undertaking involving the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota 4-Wheel Drive Association. In 2015, the legislature directed the Minnesota DNR to collaborate with the Minnesota 4-Wheel Drive Association to address off-road vehicle touring routes. 

As the planning process and public listening sessions across northern Minnesota began, the DNR received mixed support and opposition about the proposed touring route from the public, county officials, and various environmental groups. 

When first proposed, the Border-to-Border Touring Route was initially planned to end in Cook County. However, Cook County was dropped from the route after county officials and the public shared their reservations with the project planners about potential increased motorized traffic and environmental degradation, such as damage to trout streams, aquatic invasive species, and wetland concerns. The route now ends near Silver Bay in Lake County. 

Despite the delays and Cook County’s involvement, the nearly eight-year-long project is now entering the final stages of the route management plan. 

As it nears completion, a Cook County resident and well-known photographer, Bryan Hansel, decided to pack his bags and venture out for a long-distance bikepacking trip in mid-October along the border-to-border route to experience it firsthand. 

“So I knew I wanted to do a long bike trip this year,” Hansel said. “There was a lot of controversy with it in Cook County. So I figured it just seemed like a good idea to go ride it and see what it was about.”

Hansel planned his route using a biking program called Ride With GPS based on the preliminary border-to-border map on the DNR website. “And that loads into my bike computer, and then the bike computer gives me turn-by-turn navigation,” he said.

Bryan Hansel’s route via Ride With GPS

He began his journey in the northwest corner of Minnesota and strategically mapped out 60-mile days based on available camping locations. As he pedaled along the gravel roads, he said his apprehension about the route faded. “What I found is that the DNR did a really good job of picking roads,” he said. “I found that a really fun and exciting route.”

“I always imagined it was more of this off-road vehicle type of route. And there’s all but maybe four of five miles that I would have taken my Subaru Outback on with no problem,” Hansel said. “It was like solid good, graded county roads like you’d expect to see in Cook County.”

Along the way, Hansel tweaked his route to avoid paved roads and enjoy small detours to nearby parks, small towns, and other interesting northern Minnesota sights. One of his favorites was Big Bog State Recreation Area in Beltrami County. “I’ve always wanted to go and hike the trails there because it’s one of the biggest bogs in the state,” he said. “And that was beautiful.” Another highlight of the trip, Hansel said, was the stretch between Blackduck and Silver Bay. “That was amazing. I would ride that all again in a second.”

During his ten-day bikepacking adventure, Hansel completed 650 miles for a total riding time of 57 hours. 

Although the route has yet to be officially finalized, Joe Unger, the off-highway program consultant at the Minnesota DNR, expressed enthusiasm over the news that several individuals, including Hansel, have already embarked on exploring the touring route. While several individuals have traversed the route on street-legal enduro bikes and in vehicles, to Unger’s knowledge, Hansel is the first person to bikepack the route.

As the DNR prepares to wrap up the route management plan, it will enter a final 30-day public comment period later this winter. Unger said the route management plan addresses things such as “environmental considerations like stream crossings, wetlands, wildlife, and fisheries.”

Then, come spring, the DNR intends to sign agreements with various road authorities, finalize maps, and put physical trail signs along the route.

Photos from Bryan Hansel’s October bikepacking trip:

A gravel bike fully loaded for a bikepacking trip leaning against a wall.
A gravel bike fully loaded for a bikepacking trip, leaning against a road sign reading "domestic animals on road next half mile" on a gravel road.
Bryan Hansel riding his bike on a gravel road through the woods. Fall colors are on display on the trees.
Bryan Hansel and his bike on a pebble beach on the shore of Lake Superior. He is raising his hands in celebration.
A view down a gravel road, with trees showing off bright yellow leaves on either side.
Bryan Hansel posing with his bike in front of a large statue of a duck.
Bryan's camping setup: a tarp erected over a bivvy, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.

Transcript

Ian: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward, Minneapolis, Minnesota, I am your host, Ian R Buck. Like a classic vinyl record, this episode has two sides; on side A, we’re presenting a piece from Grand Marais’ community radio station WTIP. Kalli Hawkins reported on a bikepacking trip taken by Bryan Hansel on the soon-to-be finalized Minnesota DNR Border to Border Touring route. On side B, we’re looking back on 2023; members of the Streets.mn Podcast team have picked our favorite episodes of the year, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you!

Side A

Kalli: [00:01:05] Welcome to WTIP’s Outdoor News Podcast, I’m Kalli Hawkins. On today’s episode, we have kind of a longer format, a little more fun feature with a Cook County resident who recently bike packed the border to border touring route, and we have a full update from the Minnesota DNR on the process of the border to border touring route, which will be wrapping up in spring of 2024. Let’s hear the latest. The border to border touring route spans nearly 800 miles, traversing northern Minnesota by utilizing pre-existing roadways extending from the North Dakota border to the shores of Lake Superior. The Border to Border project was initiated in 2015, and represents a collaborative undertaking involving the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Four Wheel Drive Association. In 2015, the legislature directed the Minnesota DNR to collaborate with the Minnesota Four Wheel Drive Association to address off road vehicle touring routes. As the planning process and public listening sessions began, the DNR received a mixed bag of support and opposition about the proposed touring route from the public, county officials and various environmental groups. The intended border to border route was initially planned to end in Cook County. However, Cook County was dropped from the route after county officials shared their reservations relating to potential increased motorized traffic and environmental degradation with the project planners. The nearly eight year long project is now in the final stages, and as it nears completion, a Cook County resident, Bryan Hansel, decided to pack his bags and venture out for a long distance bike packing trip this fall. Along the border to border route to experience it firsthand.

Bryan: [00:02:56] So I knew I wanted to do a long bike trip this year, and I wasn’t 100% positive what that was going to be. And, um, you know, with the Minnesota border to border touring route, there was a lot of controversy with it in Cook County. So I figured I’d just it seemed like a good idea to go ride it and see what it was about. And it was mainly a gravel route which matched with what I wanted to ride. So that was the inspiration. So a little bit of controversy, but also because it seemed like it would be an interesting, good gravel ride. Yeah, well, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So, um, you know, a lot of what we heard in Cook County was pretty negative about this trail. Uh, so I was a little bit apprehensive about that, but I’d been looking at the maps and everything, uh, for, you know, months and months and just trying to figure out what each of the roads were, and it just looked like it was it was a well designed path from a biking perspective. So, um, a little bit of apprehension over what I was going to maybe encounter, but also excitement to be able to ride this route.

Kalli: [00:03:54] After spending months poring over maps, finalizing his gear, training and preparing his bike, and then, come October, convincing his wife to drive him to the northwest corner of the state to begin his trip, Bryan began his journey on the border to border touring route.

Bryan: [00:04:12] So I started off in the northwest corner, so there’s a little town called Saint Vincent, and then I actually started in North Dakota. So it’s right where North Dakota, Manitoba and Minnesota come together. It’s right that that point. So, um, my wife Elena and kid Apollo dropped me off in North Dakota, and I rode from there across there’s like a bridge over the Red River. And so that was the start of it. And then, uh, unbeknownst to me, they were standing in the Minnesota side with, like, a tape across the road. And my kid was there with a sign that said, “go, Bryan, go, dad, go, dad.” So, um, and yeah, so then the ride, um, sort of goes south from there down to Thief River Falls, and then from Thief River Falls, it sort of went north over, uh, north of upper Red Lake and then down to this little town called Blackduck, which was the center. And from Blackduck, it sort of goes almost directly east to Silver Bay. And I finished in Silver Bay.

Kalli: [00:05:06] Kind of worked your way home closer to home a little bit.

Bryan: [00:05:08] Yep. Yeah, exactly.

Kalli: [00:05:09] And how did you navigate the trails? Was it very easy to find this trail? Were you relying on maps or GPS or kind of walk us through that process.

Bryan: [00:05:17] So it was a little bit of both. So it’s still in the proposed stage. So they haven’t signed it yet. Once it moves out of the proposed stage, the DNR will sign it and it will make it a lot easier for anybody that wants to ride it or drive it or whatever to follow it. But, um, so the DNR has maps on their website now, and there’s eventually they’re going to add GPS coordinates so people can program that into their GPS units or whatever. But I took their maps and then I put it into a program called Ride With GPS, which is a biking program that’s a routing program, and that loads into my bike computer. And then the bike computer gives me turn by turn navigation. So once I had it in my bike computer, it was fairly easy to follow the route because every turn the bike computer would just tell me, turn here.

Kalli: [00:05:58] And how did you plan out your mileage per day and your weight on your, you know, your gear and the weight that you needed on your bike?

Bryan: [00:06:06] Um, well, so I trained – at the beginning of the season, I needed to make a decision on distance. I was going to ride per day because I have bad knees and I need to train to get them up to the ability to ride a certain mileage. So I made the decision to do 60 mile days. And about halfway through the training program, I sort of wish I would have done a little bit different of a training program and got a little faster, because it would have been nice to try to ride this faster. After I got on towards the end of the season, I was like, maybe I should have trained for 150 mile days or something. But 60 mile days was nice because there was a campsite at about every 60 to 90 miles. So that’s what I shot for is, um, ride during the day, get to a campsite, set up camp, and then the next day get to the next natural campsite. There was only a couple spots where there weren’t campsites available, so I just camped on the forest. At that point.

Kalli: [00:06:56] Knowing the nearly decade long history of the proposed border to border touring route, Bryan Hansel said he was a bit apprehensive as he began his trip based on the reservations and concerns raised by Cook County officials and the public.

Bryan: [00:07:11] So like the, you know, the big concerns were, if I remember in Cook County, there were like environmental concerns or something about it, and they just didn’t want to come here. And the route was like some of the concerns and was that the route just wasn’t going to be great. Uh, or something.

Kalli: [00:07:26] Potential. Yeah. There was damage to potential, uh, the roads, there was wetland concerns. There was aquatic invasive species, damage to trout streams, all sorts of different concerns raised.

Bryan: [00:07:36] Yeah. And and, um, you know, those were on my mind as I’m riding. And what I found is that the DNR did a really good job of picking roads. So it avoided most of those areas I thought, like and kept it to really well used roads. So for the most part, the route was fantastically designed. It was going through towns at just about the right pace on the western side and on the eastern side there’s less towns, so you just didn’t get as many, so you’re more in the forest. So yeah, I found that like a really fun and exciting route. And I think for bikepacking on gravel, it’s like one it’s really an ideally designed route. As far as a touring route for roads, uh, I always I was imagining it was more like this off road vehicle type of route. And there’s all but maybe 4 or 5 miles that I would have taken my Subaru Outback on with no problem. And those were, uh, short section of the Taconite Trail, uh, ATV trail. So that was kind of the only rough area of about four miles of that. The rest of it was well designed, good roads, um, and well used roads. Wasn’t on any back country roads that weren’t getting used already. Well, the mindset as far as like the apprehension about what, how how good a quality the route was going to be changed because as I started going along. I just kept hitting these really nice, beautiful roads where, um, that were in great shape so they weren’t muddy or anything. So it was all, I mean, they weren’t beat up by ATVs. It was like solid, good graded county roads like you’d expect to see in Cook County.

Kalli: [00:09:12] A bike packing adventure in northern Minnesota in October can be accompanied by some challenges, Bryan soon discovered, and it can also present the opportunity to explore new landscapes.

Bryan: [00:09:26] So one of the challenges was I kind of knew this was going to happen because it’s October, so you can get below freezing temperatures. It’s not unusual. We get snow. So this was like the middle of October. So I’m pushing like the weather window. And the first night out I had like well below freezing temperatures. And I was using some new gear because I like to try new gear. And I ended up getting ice forming between my sleeping bag and my outer layer of my bivvy like on the inside. So so that was interesting. And then I had a few other times where it was really cold in the morning, but you’re on a bike, and most of the campgrounds were relatively close to town, so I’d ride for ten miles and get into a town, and then I’d warm up at a gas station, drink some coffee. So that was probably the most challenging part, um, other than the sheer distance and miles. But I trained for that. But some of the highlights were, um, so I’m a really big fan of riding gravel on my bike. And, uh, some of the roads were just amazing. Like there’s one called the Rapid River Road, which is north of Upper Red Lake, and it’s a DNR road that goes right next to a wilderness area. And then it’s like north of a wilderness area, um, and then south of, like the forest. So it’s just pretty remote and it’s twisty and turny and there’s like a lot of, uh, migrating birds and stuff in there this time of year. So it was really cool. Uh, and then everything, once I got on to the National Forest, Superior National Forest, all the roads were fantastic. So that was just a big highlight, riding some of those roads. And I, you know, I’ve ridden a lot on Superior National, but I hit some roads that I hadn’t hit before, so that was fun.

Kalli: [00:10:58] I would imagine it would be very rewarding just to see and experience a different area, different terrain, different landscape, different wildlife perhaps too.

Bryan: [00:11:06] Yeah, yeah. It was um, plus I went to a bunch of new parks, so I’d never been to Big Bog State Recreation Area before, and I’ve always wanted to go and hike the trails there because it’s one of the biggest bogs in the state. And that was beautiful. Um, a lot of, uh, bog plants, like pitcher plants and, you know, little carnivorous stuff. And then, you know, your typical bog kind of cranberries and blah, blah, blah.

Kalli: [00:11:29] All the exciting stuff.

Bryan: [00:11:30] Yeah, yeah. And then the other one that I want to return to was, um, McCarthy Beach State Park. I’ve never been there before either. And that was absolutely gorgeous place, lots of lakes. So it sort of was like, um, sort of reminded me a little bit of a small Boundary Waters in a way. So I want to go back there. Plus they had good ice cream there.

Kalli: [00:11:46] Oh, nice.

Bryan: [00:11:46] So I managed I always try to find ice cream on adventures and that was the only place that was still serving.

Kalli: [00:11:51] I like it. What flavor did you get?

Bryan: [00:11:53] Oh boy, I didn’t know you were going to do that. It was like, um, I don’t remember.

Kalli: [00:11:59] Can’t go wrong with any flavor.

Bryan: [00:12:00] Probably like a blueberry or something like that.

Kalli: [00:12:03] And many people know you in Cook County as a photographer. Very well known prominent photographer in Cook County. Did you bring your camera along with you for this trip? And and did you document your experience and your adventure along the way?

Bryan: [00:12:15] I did, yeah. So I did bring my camera. Um, and I brought a little bit of camera gear, like probably more than I needed because it was quite heavy. And I did document it along the way. But one of the things that I found with roads is that. You know, if you can imagine you’re going down a road. There’s not a lot of exciting things on the side of a road. So what I ended up finding that was the most interesting to me were like unique mailboxes or because we’re coming into, uh, Halloween too. So people had a ton of cool Halloween displays. So I photographed, like, these mailboxes and Halloween displays and like, little funny displays that people would have in their yard. Like, I found one one yard that had a giant metal giraffe in it.

Bryan: [00:13:01] That’s kind of crazy, like in the middle of, you know, the middle of rural Minnesota farmlands. And there’s that. And then, uh, one of the things that I, that I was really interested in me, I’d like to go back and photograph more because I’ve never seen it before. Was the harvesting of the sugar beets in northwestern Minnesota? I’d never. I didn’t even know what it was. I saw a beet on the side of the road, and I picked it up, and I was like, whoa, this is a weird looking thing. So I texted a picture to my wife and she’s like, oh, it’s some sort of beet. And then, yeah, they’re sugar beets. So it’s a big industry over there. And I photographed it as much as I could. So I’d like to go back during harvest and spend some more time photographing that.

Kalli: [00:13:34] Yeah. It sounds like you observed quite a few things that might draw you back to that area in the near future.

Bryan: [00:13:40] Yeah, I think so. The hard part for for me on that northwest corner was it was so flat and straight, all the roads were flat and straight, so it was difficult. A friend of mine, after I did the trip, he said, you know, that’s the only place in Minnesota that you can watch your dog run away for three days straight. And it felt true.

Bryan: [00:13:59] But yeah, the best part of the route for me was like, um, Black Duck to Silver Bay. That was just amazing. I would ride that all again in a second, and maybe I would do the the western side again if I was trying to do it fast. Like if I was trying to do like a personal time trial or something across it.

Kalli: [00:14:17] Although the route has yet to be finalized, Joe Unger, the off-highway program consultant at the Minnesota DNR, expressed enthusiasm over the news that several individuals, including Bryan Hansel, have already embarked on exploring the touring route.

Joe: [00:14:36] Yeah, so it’s kind of been in this soft opening, um, for a little while now since we’ve had those maps on the website. And it’s, um, pretty cool hearing about people – when when Bryan first reached out to me and saying that he was going to bicycle it, I said, well, you know, that it’s there’s a lot of gravel and dirt roads on it’s not all paved roads, he goes, “yeah, that’s what I seek.” So it’s kind of neat to, you know, hear about that sort of recreation. But, um, you know, the bike packing, um, also the off highway motorcycle, dual sport. Uh, so those are like dirt bikes that are street legal and adventure bikes. Heard from a few of those people that have used it, and also from the, um, four wheel drive community. A lot of folks have been using it already, even though it’s not technically open or signed yet.

Kalli: [00:15:17] And was that do you think, was the DNR intent to create this border to border touring route, that it would be used by multiple user groups other than maybe just motorized traffic? I mean, is it that you’re actually there’s different user groups using this now?

Joe: [00:15:29] Yeah, I think I’m pleasantly surprised. You know, at first came about from the, uh, Minnesota Four Wheel Drive Association, um, the off road vehicle user group with its vision. But I think, you know, with multiple groups using it, the whole mission of the DNR is to get people to the outdoors, and whether that’s if they’re in a Jeep or on a bike or, you know, a bicycle or a horse, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re, you know, connecting people with the outdoors and getting them to appreciate all the great resources that Minnesota has.

Kalli: [00:15:58] And can you touch on the funding behind this? I’m looking through the Minnesota DNR website. The off road vehicle account with the Minnesota Natural Resources Fund is supporting some of the planning and mapping. Can you talk about just long-term road maintenance and how that is funded?

Joe: [00:16:13] Yeah. So, um, like like you mentioned, the off road vehicle account has been the majority of our funding so far, or actually all of our funding so far in that account is fairly healthy, uh, compared to other accounts that we care about. And how we plan on doing long-term maintenance is entering into maintenance agreements for our grants and aid program with, uh, local government units, and we’ll be able to, uh, fund any sort of maintenance agreements that we need, uh, similar to how we do our other off highway vehicle trails such as the ATV trails and stuff like that. Um, we can enter into agreements with the government units and fund maintenance. One thing that we want to be careful about with the border to border, though, because it is on roads that are already open for these uses, is that we’re not funding above and beyond, uh, what the border border adds to the maintenance. So if it’s something like they’re already grading a row, two times a year, you know, that’s normal maintenance. But if all of a sudden because of the border border, they need to grade that road an additional time of year, you know, that’s that above and beyond maintenance as part of the border to border that we’d be willing to fund.

Kalli: [00:17:18] And then that funding comes specifically just from the fees paid by off road vehicle owners.

Joe: [00:17:23] Yes. So that comes from our off road vehicle count, which is, uh, based off of registrations and. A portion of the gas tax associated with those vehicles being used.

Kalli: [00:17:35] As the border to border touring route project nears completion, Joe Unger said the Minnesota DNR will be busy completing the final steps this winter and coming spring. One of the next steps include a final public comment period before the project is completed in spring 2024.

Joe: [00:17:53] Yeah, it has been quite a lengthy process. There’s been a lot of public input at various stages that have gone into it. Right now we have a draft route that’s defined on our DNR website. We’ve talked to the road authorities that manage the roads along that draft route, and we’re just finishing up a route management plan for it, which should be going out for public review here fairly soon. And that’s going to address things such as environmental considerations like stream crossings, wetlands, wildlife and fisheries, that kind of stuff, as well as social considerations such as enforcement, uh, navigation along the route and cultural resources. We’re planning this winter right now, we’re kind of navigating with the holidays coming up. You know, it will be a 30 day public review period. And with the holidays, we want to make sure that people are going to be around when that, uh, public review period happens. Sometimes when you’re doing something over the holiday break, you know, people may not catch it. So that’s what we’re navigating right now, is just trying to work around the holidays and make sure that it’s out for public review at a time that most people will be able to catch it.

Joe: [00:18:57] So after the public comment period is over, we’ll be, um, taking everything that we hear during that period and reviewing it and incorporating those comments into the plan. So we’ll be grouping similar comments together and responding to them as a section of the plan. Uh, so commenters shouldn’t expect this to be, uh, replying directly to every comment that they’ll see in the plan, where their comment is and how we address it. It will either be stated where in the plan it currently is, or if it is something that we might have missed stating what we changed in the plan to address that comment. So that will be happening, you know, late winter, early spring, and after that we’ll be working on the final steps with the road authorities to get the signing agreements put together and signs in the ground, and a better map on our website. You know, right now we currently just have the PDF maps, but we’ll be putting some better navigation maps on our website at that time to be used.

Kalli: [00:19:54] Based on some of those concerns that were addressed from Cook County local government officials in 2018, and public as well. Some of those concerns you touched on, Joe, of just perceived fact that the route may cause damage due to increased either motorized traffic or damage to wetlands or trout streams and and maybe numerous other concerns. What are your thoughts on those concerns now that you’re at this stage of the of the process and have dived into it a little bit further?

Joe: [00:20:19] Yeah. You know, I think in the route management plan we’ll be able to address that. You know, back in 2018, uh, we didn’t really have the have a plan put together. Now we since that time, the last five years or so, we’ve been working, um, a lot closer with some of our partners within the DNR and as well as the counties to make sure that the crossings that the route is going to use will be able to sustain increased traffic with the border to border. You know, we’re not proposing any new uses on it. So all the roads that it is using is currently open. So it we’re we’re not anticipating any sort of major impacts to trout streams or wetlands or anything like that. But we do have um, some areas in the plan where we’ll talk about monitoring, um, those situations to make sure that the route does not have any major impacts. And, you know, it’s all new. This this is the first touring route that Minnesota has. So it’s kind of a new thing. And, uh, we’ll be monitoring it. And, um, you know, we can make adjustments here and there as needed once it’s in the full swing of opening.

Kalli: [00:21:27] While Bryan Hansel’s experience on the border to border route across northern Minnesota was different than what he had initially expected, he reflects on the overall experience with some final thoughts.

Bryan: [00:21:40] So what I’ve done is I have corresponded with the person in charge at the DNR with the route and just gave him some feedback on it. Um, you know, the routes kind of pretty much set to where it is, uh, right now. And as far as coming to Cook County, I just I don’t think it’s necessary. I think it ends in Silver Bay. And that’s where it ought to stay ending. So let them have the opportunity. We rejected it in Cook County. So let’s, uh, you know, we don’t need it here. Um, let’s let Silver Bay have that opportunity. We don’t need every little piece of tourism coming here. It’d be nice to see if if Silver Bay kind of runs with this and helps diversify their economy. Uh, maybe there’ll be some new businesses or something that evolve around the border to border touring route. And if they take advantage of that would be fantastic. So I’d love, love to see that for Silver Bay.

Kalli: [00:22:24] Bryan, what would you say is your favorite moment of your experience?

Bryan: [00:22:29] Oh, it’s so hard.

Kalli: [00:22:30] If you can single in on one.

Bryan: [00:22:33] You always get those questions like, “what’s your favorite moment?” And like for every trip? Like just being on the trip is probably the favorite moment to the ability to be out there by myself doing a long trip. Um, but, uh, probably, you know, visiting the new parks, riding the roads. And then one of the things was meeting people along the way, so that’s always fun. Um, because if you’re solo on a bike that’s fully loaded with with like, packs all over it, people want to stop and talk to you. And so there’s a couple couple of ones that I ran into early on. I met a guy, um, right across – He was out hunting and he was walking down the road right across from his house, and he had no idea that this route had been proposed, and it was going to come by his house. He was like, “well, normally I just get 2 or 3 vehicles a day.” I’m like, “well, you might want to adjust those expectations.” And then the other one I ran into, so this is on that ATV trail, the Taconite ATV trail. I ran into this, uh, 70 year old guy out hunting. He called, you know, it’s grouse, but old timers call him partridges. So he’s out hunting partridge, and, uh, he’s on his ATV. I pull over, I start to talk to him. He’s like, well, this is a first. I was like, what’s that? He’s like, well, I’ve never seen a biker on this trail before. I’ve been I’ve been on it since I was a teenager. And he told me that he used to drive his Buick down this ATV trail, um, when he was a kid. And now he couldn’t do it. Like, it was pretty hard for ATVs, and it was like one of the few places on the trail that I actually had to walk my bike up the hill because it was so rocky. I can’t imagine him ever riding a –

Kalli: [00:24:01] Taking a Buick down there.

Bryan: [00:24:04] Well, it was like 60 years ago. I guess it was in good shape.

Kalli: [00:24:06] Well, that’s wonderful to hear that you were able to connect with some of the the residents in the area and connect with a few people on the trail, too.

Bryan: [00:24:13] Yeah, that was really fun. Yeah, it’s fun to connect with people that are local and see what their impressions are about what you’re doing.

Kalli: [00:23:20] Hear the stories.

Bryan: [00:23:21] Hear their stories and hear what they think about this proposed trail. So most people were pretty excited about it, I think.

Ian: [00:24:44] Wow, that sounds like a gorgeous route, it’s definitely going on my bucket list. I follow Bryan on Mastodon, and seeing him post about getting ready for this trip earlier this fall had me very excited! He also made a video highlighting the gear that he took with him on the trip, which I found very illuminating. Find a link to that video and Bryan’s website in the show notes.

Side B

Ian: [00:25:12] Alright, on to Side B, and the Podcast team’s favorite episodes of the year.

Ian: [00:25:20] Editor Jeremy Winter.

Jeremy: [00:25:23] Hey, this is Jeremy Winter. I’m a relatively new addition to the podcast team. I’ve only been listening since February, starting with the episode Building Community Through Bicycles. And I am soon to become a board member of Streets.mn, which is very exciting. So here are my three favorite episodes. Uh, first off, we got Rezoning for Complete Neighborhoods. This was the episode that really, I think hooked me. I just loved the expert testimony that Luke and Zach brought to the table. That kind of interview with an expert format is really fantastic for podcasts in general, and the local focus makes it great for Streets.mn In particular. I love how this episode covers both of the Twin Cities. There’s a lot of talk about zoning in pop culture. It’s kind of one of the issues, especially with the 2040 plan, that made it out of urbanist circles into the more mainstream. And I like the very intricate focus that this episode has on the actual state of affairs of things. It’s really great if you want to nerd out on policy details, just a very fun episode, and exemplifies a lot of what I like about the Streets.mn Podcast. My second favorite one is actually going to be Essential Bike Accessories with Ian. This episode is really fun. You learn a lot about Ian and his history with bicycles and bicycle gear, the lessons that he’s learned over time in his adventure as a cyclist. I think it’s a really wonderful format overall. Like, imagine the things you can learn about people by just getting them on the mic and having them tell you about their gear and how it’s changed over time and how they use it, and what it brings to the table for them. One of the overarching themes I’ve seen in the Streets.mn Podcast is learning from people and how they move around and where they’ve gone. We see it on a more macro scale with, say, the Moving to the Twin Cities with Car Free Midwest episode. We see on a smaller scale here, and it just brings so much joy and useful knowledge too. Another really great episode for streets men, because Lord knows we have the issue of winter biking. A very gear heavy topic and one I’d love to see expanded on more in the future. Speaking of that episode earlier, moving to the Twin Cities with Car Free Midwest, another one of my favorites. I share the fact with Sarah Johnson that we’re transplants. We’re not from around here. In my case, I’m from suburban New Jersey, a place that I have a lot of issues with. I moved to North Saint Paul, a place I also have a lot of issues with. For both me and her coming to the Twin Cities proper was a huge breath of fresh air and a feeling like, oh wow, the change that I want to see really can happen, and just wanting to jump in and be a part of that momentum. It’s infectious. I really love Sarah. She’s such a great personality on the mic. She’s super fun. She does awesome work. She’s just – Her interview with Mitra Jalali was so lovely, and the passion and the anger that she has towards Omaha is palpable. It it makes, it’s such a spectacular listen because you can just feel it, you know? It’s very personable and I just had a blast with this one. And then my final favorite episode is going to be Top Ten Questions for Cyclists. I think this one’s really cool because it goes into the question of outreach and how we change people’s minds and how do we interact with, you know, the greater Twin Cities populace, the folks who live here, how do we reach out and get to them and talk to them and learn from them, too? Sherry goes into a lot of the things that she learned, you know, from talking to these people. It’s not just about educating them, but but seeing where we can meet them in the middle and maybe address their legitimate concerns and whatnot. Sherry touches on the divisions in our own community and the urbanist space, and issues like vehicular cycling and lane narrowing, things that are a bit controversial even in our own circles, and how we can discuss these topics. And make sure everyone is heard. I just want to say Sherry did better community engagement in this one than MnDOT has done for I-94 so far, so I have a lot of respect for that. It’s not easy to do to get out there and and talk to people and find out what people think. And I really love this. It brings us together. Those are my favorite episodes. Uh, I look forward to another year of working on, of listening to the Streets.mn Podcast. It’s been a great way for me to feel connected to the city I live in.

Ian: [00:30:26] Producer Christina Neel.

Christina: [00:30:32] Hello. I’m Christina (or Stina to most) and I’m a co-producer, co-writer, co-host… Honestly, a lot of co-s for the Streets.mn Podcast. And my favorite episode from 2023 (and wow, this was a tough choice because I love so many of them and I don’t just mean the ones that I’ve had the pleasure of working on.) But my choice is the 2023  BikieMN legislative agenda, one from way back in January. For me, legislature is not my strong suit. As many of you do know, I work in local government but not on a legislative side. I get really overwhelmed with jargon and a million acronyms and legalese language but Ian and Dorian from BikeMN, they have such a clear and concise way of explaining the proposed law changes in a way… It made me feel excited instead of confused or overwhelmed or any of that. In fact, this conversation with Dorian got me interested in going to the state Capitol for BikeMN’s day to chat with representatives and state senators, which I highly recommend and I promise it’s not scary because legislators are just people like you and me. And you don’t have to be like an ultra trained lobbyist or like some sort of official lobbyist person. You can just go talk to your representatives face to face. You might need an appointment. But that is how we met Larry Kraft. Who was my previous representative, before I moved to my new place. He’s also from City Climate Corner. And he’s an absolute gem, and we are so lucky to have him serving our St Louis Park neighbors, as well as Minnesotans everywhere. Anyways, sorry, back to Dorian. I learned so much from this episode, it’s only 50 minutes but it’s basically all you need to know about the legislative session and sure it’s a lot of information, but Ian and Dorian made it so easily digestible. But most importantly, it was really fun to listen to, which I greatly appreciate. Also Ian, are we doing another one of these for every legislative session? I sure hope so, let me know how I can help!

Ian: [00:32:54] Editor Parker Seaman, aka Strongthany.

Parker: [00:33:01] I would have to say my favorite episode was the Nice Ride interview. I had used their service only a couple times during its duration, as I had only moved to the city near its end. But the times I used it had been nice. No pun intended. I hope to see a similar service come back to the city someday.

Ian: [00:33:17] Producer Sherry Johnson.

Sherry: [00:33:21] So I was told by Ian to pick my favorite episode of 2023 of Streets.mn. And I got to tell you, autistic people can’t do this. I mean, we love way too many things generally. So I’m just going to say four. Celebrating Dorian Grilley’s retirement, oh my gosh, taught me about the history of the way everything that we have now for our transportation networks, and especially around biking in Minnesota, has such a much richer history than I had expected. And it helped me appreciate my elders more. The Legislative Session Wrap-up made me absolutely fall in love with the podcast. Ian’s deep understanding and connection with people who are involved in the legislative session. In all the things I cared about, I had been looking exactly for a place where I could catch up on, okay, what actually happened with all these transportation and land use bills in the Minnesota legislature? And I just listened to that podcast for one hour, and I knew. The Rezoning for Complete Neighborhoods also had just incredible voices on there. Things that I wish that I had had before I joined a district council, before I started doing neighborhood planning. Things that took me years to learn again were all in one hour and they were all local. And then finally, I think if I had to name a favorite, just personally the Moving to the Twin Cities with Car Free Midwest was incredible because Sarah Johnson literally one week, I think it was one week before this podcast got recorded. I had been at a Sustain Saint Paul event, and this person had shouted me across the room when I talked about like, some kind of urban planning thing, and she’d wanted to meet up and I’d forgotten her name. And here she is on a podcast. And not only that, but she’s talking about that wonderful liminal space of being just new to a place and reading into it in all the ways that I want to know about my own city. I felt like even the wonderful opportunities to listen to the differences between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Who doesn’t love that when they’ve lived in the Cities for a while? Just a really, really fun episode. So if you have to just pick one. Moving to the Twin Cities was great. Anyway, thanks. Keep listening.

Ian: [00:36:10] And now it’s my turn. Oh my gosh. Trying to choose just one episode that we’ve done this year as my favorite was a very difficult task. There’s there’s a lot of really good ones, a lot of episodes that I absolutely loved having conversations with the guests. The process of putting these stories together and finding people to come and talk and, you know, weaving these multiple different, you know, guests’ interviews together into cohesive episodes. I love that process. But the one that I think I’m going to have to pick as my favorite one is the Legislative Session Wrap-up 2023, which we published on June 2nd of 2023. And that’s because, I mean, the subject matter itself, right, is like we have spent many, many, many years as a transportation advocacy community pushing towards a lot of these, like big goals. These big initiatives of trying to pass bicycle safety laws. I remember, you know, in early 2020, right? Going to the bicycle summit, the summit day on the Capitol hosted by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. And, you know, we had a legislative agenda then, and the agenda that we had was almost exactly the same agenda that we had this year because it has taken that long. And, you know, and and I’m sure that a lot of those items, uh, had been on the agenda for longer than I was even aware, longer than I’ve been involved in this community. But this year, we finally got it through and we got these these bicycle safety laws passed. And so getting to celebrate that win, getting to celebrate the the major monetary investment for public transit in the Twin Cities and knowing that we are going to have new Amtrak service in Minnesota for the first time since, like the 1980s or whatever is huge. And so getting to talk to the leaders of the organizations that have been pushing hardest. Who have been leading the charge for a lot of these things. That was a really, really special episode. It was celebratory. We had a lot of great, like, a lot of good details to dig into about, you know, what do these things mean? Why were these the goals, the particular goals that we were pushing for and how do we capitalize on this? Right. What what are the next steps to make sure that we’re taking advantage of the big wins that we’ve had? The other reason that I loved this episode was that, you know, when you record with several different people and you have a goal of trying to get the episode to be an hour long in the end, and you have like, four different recordings that are all 45 minutes long, and you think you think to yourself, “how the heck is this going to get cut down? Like, where am I going to find the space? What am I going to have to get rid of? Everything that we said was was great, you know, like, how can I possibly cut any of this out?” So I was dreading like, you know, finishing an edit and then, you know, realizing that I still had like 20 minutes of content that I was going to have to cut and making some tough decisions. But by the end of, I think it was like my first major edit listen through I got it down to 59 minutes and 59 seconds, and I was so proud. Uh, so, yeah. Good episode. Definitely still relevant. Because, you know, the these are the major state level accomplishments that we’ve made in 2023. So, um, yeah, still a good episode for people to go and check out.

Ian: [00:40:49] We can also take a look at what were your favorite episodes. So crowd favorites. Just looking at the download stats, the listen stats for the show, some episodes that did very well would be, the Future of Transit. In mid-August, we released an episode all about some near future developments that might, you know, change the ways that we interface with our public transit systems. And also Moving to the Twin Cities with Car Free Midwest was also a very popular episode. That was with Sarah Johnson, who was moving from Omaha to the Twin Cities and talking about that whole process. And she, of course, is a podcaster as well, hosting the Car Free Midwest show. So, I bet that we had a little boost from her audience coming and listening to that episode. But what about you as an individual? I want to hear what everybody’s favorite episodes were and why you really like that one. You can write to us at [podcast@streets.mn] or discuss this on your favorite social media platform. Use #StreetsMNPodcast. And we’ll be keeping an eye out, looking for those conversations going on. All right. I’d say that’s a wrap on 2023. We’ll see you in 2024.

Ian: [00:42:34] Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn Podcast! The Border to Border piece came to us courtesy of WTIP, all rights reserved. The rest of the show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivative license. So feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it, and you are not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn. Find other listeners and discuss this episode on your favorite social media platform using #StreetsMNPodcast. Until next time, take care!

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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