|Yep, this seems liked it'd be |
WAY better than the Metrodome.
It's feels absolutely ridiculous to write that. I've been a Twins fan for as long as I can remember, idolizing Kirby Puckett as a kid and even staying loyal during the dark times of Pat Meares, Marty Cordova and Scott Stahoviak.* During my high school and college years, I went to more Twins games than I could ever hope to keep track of and collected Twins bobblehead dolls to the point where I'm ashamed to print the number of them that I have in my possession.
Alas, working life came between me and the newly-minted baseball gem of downtown Minneapolis. My days off varied from week to week while I worked at the Mankato Free Press and it was almost impossible to coordinate anything with friends who worked more conventional hours (also not big on going to baseball games by myself, it's meant to be a shared experience). Aside from that, tickets became harder to come by once the Twins started calling Target Field home.
The closest I've come to attending a game at Target Field came two years ago, when a friend and I biked past the ballpark while the Twins were playing Baltimore. We were exploring Minneapolis bike trails for the first time and stuck around long enough to check out the monuments around the stadium and marvel at the park's accessibility via bike trails, but it was too late to get a ticket and we had many more things to see that day (pretty much fell in love with the Twin Cities' bike trails that instant, blog entry here).
That experience got my wheels spinning to plan a bike trip up to the cities to see a Twins game. I figured the biking would add a sense of adventure to the trip and make the ballpark experience all the more rewarding once I finally got there. Reading about ballpark cycling adventures like that of Darren O'Donnell last year only increased my interest to do the same.
The trip never quite came to fruition while I was living in Mankato. The aforementioned work schedule got in the way and I kept letting myself get bogged down with other commitments. Eventually, two baseball seasons came and went and I started to wonder if my ballpark pilgrimmage would ever become a reality.
But with a new setting comes new enthusiasm. My new job in Faribault has a much more consistent schedule and pretty much as soon as I accepted the position, I began mapping out routes to Target Field and asking Twin Cities friends what trails to take around the stadium. This year's mild winter also helped stoke the fires of biking for me, as I got an earlier start on long rides and got acquainted with the back roads around Faribault. I did a bike trip to Northfield at the beginning of March and made it all the way up to Farmington a couple of weeks after that.
This past weekend, I took advantage of the gorgeous weather on Sunday and drove up to Farmington to work on another portion of the route: using the bike trails of the southern metro area to get to the more-familiar Grand Rounds trail system in Minneapolis/St. Paul. After browsing Google maps, I came up with this route to Minnehaha Falls.
I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to navigate. In the pre-GPS days, I used to get lost all the time while driving in the cities. It didn't matter if the directions were simple or complicated; I wasn't used to city roads and got rattled in heavy traffic. I figured biking along those roads would be a lot of the same, only without the airbags and seatbelts. However, that wasn't the case at all. There were bike paths on every road I looked at, the trails were clearly labeled and I had no trouble finding Minnehaha or the trail leading from there to Target Field.
Pretty much the only drawbacks of the ride were the long lines for drinks at the Minnehaha diner and the ridiculously steep hill coming out of Fort Snelling on the way back (it was the first time I had to walk my bike up a hill in awhile, I felt slightly emasculated).
The ride probably wasn't necessary from a physical standpoint. The overall distance from my apartment to Target Field is about 55 miles, roughly 1/3 of the distance I rode from Mankato to Lanesboro last summer. It's a challenging ride to be sure, but it's certainly not beyond my skill level as a cyclist.
No, the ride was really more necessary from a psychological standpoint. I've never biked in the Farmington/Apple Valley/Eagan/Burnsville part of the metro area and had no idea how the trails would handle. Getting lost on a back country road with no schedule to keep is one thing, but when you get lost on a busy city street while trying to make it to a Twins game on time, it adds a little more stress to the situation.
After Sunday's ride, I feel like I'm good to go for the trip. I've now biked out all portions of the route at one time or another and have a decent grasp on how long it'll take me to complete it. All I have to do now is put it all together, mix in a baseball game and have a good ride.
At long last, my Target Field drought is coming to an end.
NOTE: I haven't decided on an exact game date yet, but it will more than likely be on a Saturday. I'll post a shorter entry about that once I settle on a day.
*During the 1996-97 seasons, my dad kept telling me that Stahoviak would become the next great power hitter for the Twins and erupt for 40-something home runs someday. He was out of baseball by the end of 1998 and finished with 27 career home runs. To this day, I'm still not sure whether dad was just trying to be funny or was clinging to hopeless optimistism during a dreary time for Twins fans. Not-so-fun fact from that era: The Twins' top home run hitters from 1996-99 combine for less homers (68) than Mark McGwire hit by himself (albeit controversially) in 1998.