Late Sunday night I launched my plan on Sal, a 3 day trip to Minneapolis. We made some quick reservations and noted some places we wanted to see, e-mailed those we needed to and hit the road at 8am Monday. Our trip down was uneventful. One of the spots we (I'll explain the we part later) wanted to hit was the Bikery in Stillwater, a bike shop and a bakery run by a Belgian mechanic-baker. Just before the east-west split of I-35, Gloria our GPS had us heading into rural Minnesota bound for buns and bikes. The quiet country roads through rolling farmland were a welcome change from the 4 lane madness. The roads were smooth and hilly and the shoulders were nice and wide. I wished I was riding rather than driving. We got to the shop and it was closed (Mondays), at least the drive there was a treat. The drive back into rush hour traffic wasn't. It was only 2:30 and it had already started.
After checking in we headed for Mall of America in a bumper to bumper race a snail could have won. The drivers are pretty courteous letting each other merge. We did a lap of each of the 3 levels and actually went into about 3 stores. Most of our time and our only dollars were spent in a kitchen store, Le Gourmet Chef that has tons of gadgets and ingredients. We finished our hike and had the feast for 2 at Famous Dave's BBQ. Both the food and the music were great. We headed back to the hotel and our 6 hour bed, any more than 6 hours in it and you're ready for traction.
Tuesday morning began with rain and thunder. I was awake at about 5:30 reading as my back decided a chair was more desirable than the bed. It poured for quite a while but by time we were heading out things were starting to break up. We jumped head first into the morning traffic and headed downtown to One On One, a trendy bike shop in the warehouse district. They have a coffee bar, some bike history and art, new and used parts and of course bikes. We looked around a bit and it didn't seem to match the hype until I was told that everything happens in the basement, or didn't happen. Not sure what that exactly meant I headed down the old stairs past the guard cat and Sal decided to skip the best part and promised to send a search party if need be. A few unclaimed bikes crowded around the bottom of the wooden stairs and then as I rounded a corner I saw a massive collection of used bikes, frames and categorized parts in plastic bins. At a rough guess I would say there were as many as 1,00o bikes literally piled in the basement. I emerged about 30 minutes later. With a flashlight and time you could probably find just the part you were looking for but I had neither. We gps'd our way to another shop and found a second next door but nothing like One On One. Eric's was very clean and new but had none of the atmosphere, they didn't even have coffee. Next door at Varsity Bike & Transport they had some great prices on single speeds and lots of colorful parts, a bit more of an edge and more piercings and tattoos than a Satan's Choice convention.
And now the 'we' explained. I thought it was time for some 'normal' shopping but Sal said we should return to the Bikery so we entered the address and followed Gloria again. The bike part of the business is very small, the bakery is the draw. The owner does both the mechanic and baker duties with a staff of 2. We had tomato and basil soup with fresh bread and coffee, all of which were very good.
We headed back towards the Twin cities and stopped at a Target for our normal shopping. We picked up quite a few things, mostly excellent deals. The weather was now warm and sunny so we decided to visit the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory which was close by. The zoo is an old style, small enclosure collection of primates, big cats, a few African hoofed (we only saw giraffes) and a couple of seals and sea lions. Watching the gorillas, tigers, cougar and lions reminded me of the bears in the old Chippewa Park. The enclosures were bigger but the result was the same. Drowsy looking animals either sleeping or walking in their sleep in endless circles. The silver-back gorilla looked so much like a little old man it made me want to leave. Not my cup of tea I guess. The conservatory was more lively with a collection of vegetation that was extensive. We both enjoyed the small collection of bonsai.
We got back into traffic later in the afternoon but the flow was a bit better and we crossed town quickly. I made one wrong lane choice but Gloria came to the rescue again. Having one of these units allows you to explore a city to your heart's content. We hit the Olive Garden for supper, gassed up and back to the room for the night. I slept until about 4:30 again, thank God I brought a good book. We were up and in the truck at 6:15 (5:15 their time) and there was still too much traffic to really feel comfortable. A short but fun few days exploring, next time I'm bringing a bike.