Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden: How we did it

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When: Saturday, May 2, 2009

How: Bike and bus (94C to downtown Msp; 9D to Theodore Wirth Park).

From where: Macalester-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul.

How long: About 1 hour 20 minutes (includes short bike rides at each end and 1/2 hour transfer time).

Ease: Takes some planning. Transfer problematic with street construction (read below).

Worth doing? A great urban and wild flower adventure for a Saturday.

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On this lovely May day two of us trekked to the wildflower garden using a combination of bikes and two buses, one from St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis, and the other to Theodore Wirth Park. The trip was an urban adventure, with some surprises along the way.

First, a note to those wanting to use the bus with bikes: Metro Transit’s current policy has expanded to allow you to bring bikes on the bus itself if the rack is filled, provided the bus driver says OK. The new policy really helped us reach the outing on time, as you’ll see.

So, here’s how we did it. Starting in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul, we biked north a little over a mile to the bus stop at Snelling Ave. and the I 94 frontage road. (See map – can be done using neighborhood streets and the footbridge over the freeway, all parallel to busy Snelling Ave.) Our bus, the 94C, a freeway express bus to downtown Minneapolis arrived right on time, 9:32, with two bikes already on the rack. Luckily, the driver let us bring the bikes on board. We took his employee number and have since commended him, using the comment form on Metro Transit’s web site. It’s something you might consider doing if you run into a similar situation.

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Our trip to downtown was uneventful and quick, getting us there in under15 minutes, but finding our second bus in downtown provided us a little excitement. We had opted for the 7C which we could catch at 10:04 just where the 94C let us off, 4th and Nicollet. Arrival time: 10:19 at the chalet in the park, and a bike ride of about a mile down Theodore Wirth Parkway would get us to the wildflower garden. Simple, right? Not so! Here’s where the drama begins. A little paper sign at 4th and Nicollet told us a number of routes had been detoured including ours (roadwork in progress). OK, we had 15 minutes to get to the stop indicated on Washington Ave., no problem. But, once there, it wasn’t clear what corner to stand on. We picked the logical one, where a northern bound bus would stop, but we called metro transit just to make sure. The staffer told us to go to a different stop a block or so away. No sign posted indicating the bus numbers stopping there, so as the clock ticked the minutes away and no 7C we made the decision to bike 6 blocks down Nicollet mall (is it legal now?) to 9th street and Nicollet to catch the 9D at 10:18. It arrived right on time with no bikes so our drama was over, but we had needed every minute of our half hour in downtown to make the transfer.

The friendly bus driver seemed to enjoy having bicyclists on board, and we all enjoyed the drive along Glenwood Ave. where a neighborhood yard sale was in progress. We exited the bus after about 10 minutes at Theodore Wirth Parkway just north of highway 394, and had a hilly ride to join our group at 10:40. The wildflower garden is .59 miles from this bus stop, according to Metro Transit’s trip planner, definitely doable on foot. Our entire trip starting from home took about an hour and 20 minutes, a little long if you view it as “just getting there”, mostly fun if you view it as a transit and bike adventure.

Addendum: with a good tail wind we made it back to Mac-Groveland by bike in about an hour, by trail around CedarLake and along the greenway for the most part. Even had time to stop at one of the yard sales.

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