Archive for September, 2010

Trains and Bikes; Big Lake to Minneapolis

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 26th , 2010. 3 responses

Riding buddy Dave Olson and I had talked about it on and off through the summer: We’d take the North Star Commuter Rail from Minneapolis to the end of the line, then ride our bikes back, but life got in the way and summer slipped by, so when the email said that North Star was offering a free ride to the end for bikes and riders, we jumped on it.

The train: We rode to Target Field, wandered around a bit in confusion, then figured out that getting to the train platform required using an elevator, escalator or stairs. Not easy in road riding shoes. That problem will be solved when the Cedar Lake Trail extension is finished late this fall. Bicyclists will be able to go directly from the trail onto the platform. Quite nice, except that North Star doesn’t sell tickets on the platform. They’re sold one flight up- via elevator, escalator or stairs.

Each car has storage for two bike, at one door of the car, but securing the bike is clumsy. It requires holding the bike upright while kneeling to floor level to strap the rear wheel to the stand. LRT has a much better system. The cars themselves are quite nice with commuter enhancements like 110v electrical outlets for plugging in a laptop to get some work done during the commute. They also have second floor seating for a nice view of the city and countryside during the ride.

Train platforms lack bathroom facilities. Plan ahead, especially if you are over 50.

The bike ride: We received maps for the ride back. The suggested route more or less followed the Mississippi River and the rail line back to town, but the map itself was remarkably free of useful information. At one point, for example, the route turned off Hwy 14 onto Hwy 30, then weaved through a number of streets until it arrived in Elk River. We saw Hwy 30, but it wasn’t on the map, anywhere, so we rode on and spent the next hour negotiating our way to Elk River through a combination of aiming in the right direction (the sun was out, that helped), asking directions (novel for male travelers), and trusting our gut instincts. It worked, and we managed to hook up with the main group at a park in the center of town. The route we found was actually quite a nice alternative and could easily be incorporated into a loop ride or alternate route back to town.

Although it was novel to ride back to the city from the end of the line, I think the real benefit of  commuter rail for bicyclists will be the opportunity to get off the train at one of the remote stations to spend a few hours riding country roads before hopping back on the train for the return trip. Train fare is under $8 each way, so for the price of a couple of movie tickets you could spend a pleasant afternoon riding the train and bicycling through farm fields and woodlots.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Beer Line Trail Opens (in part)

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 21st , 2010.

The northern section of the Beer Line Trail between Gordon Park and Wright Street is open and paved. This trail follows the former train track that service the Schlitz and Pabst breweries. The new trail is at the edge of the bluff above the Milwaukee River. South of this section the trail that climbs up the bluff (or climbs down, depending on your direction) from Commerce Street to the new trail is still under construction.

Update (October 16, 2010): the entire trail is now open.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Badger State Trail Opens

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 21st , 2010.

The missing 6-mile section of the Badger State Trail through Fitchburg was recently opened. The new sections of the trail is paved, as is the existing trail into downtown Madison). The trail continues south to the Illinois state line, continuing as the Jane Addams trail in Illinois. South of the new section the trail is unpaved but in generally good condition.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Lake Country Trail paving

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 6th , 2010.

This Labor Day, I decided to ride Waukesha County’s Lake Country Trail to view the progress of its repaving project. Both the eastern and western sections have been paved. However the project is not finished even in these sections, despite the original target completion date of July 23. The barricades announcing the trail is closed are still up, if pushed out of the way. Landscaping along the shoulders, guard rails, painting, and signage are still missing from these sections. The trail is officially closed to allow crews to finish these jobs.

The middle section, mostly in Naga-Waukee county park, is another matter. Except for a section of rerouted trail at the intersection of highway 83, this section has been left unchanged. Although there are several paved sections where the trail is steep, several spots are sandy and difficult going for road bikes. According to the county’s web site, work on this section is slated to start in early September.

The visitor center near the eastern end of the trail is a good place to start for bicyclists arriving by car from the east. For those arriving by bike, a better option is to take the bike trail along county G from Waukesha. Other places to park along the trail are the park and ride lot at highway 83, Cushing Park west of Delafield, and along city streets in Delafield and Oconomowoc.

A new trail along Cushing Park Road is planned to connect the Lake Country and Glacial Drumlin trails. Currently it stops where the Ice Age Trail enters Lapham Peak State Park. Bicycles are prohibited on this section of the Ice Age Trail.

A nice loop trip is to start at Cushing Park, ride the trail to Oconomowoc and then return via road, skirting Oconomowoc Lake and having views of several other lakes and a former mill pond (see the map for details). In fact, the roads are considerably more scenic than the trail. Despite the difference in scenary, I encountered far more bikes on the trail section of the route.

This route can be extended with a ride around Lake LaBelle. The ride around the lake includes several dead-end roads that are connected by short bike paths. (In a case of apparent overkill, speed bumps were added when a section of road was converted to bike path.) For me, part of the appeal of both lakes is that one rides along the water.

Update (October 16, 2010). Construction has been finished on both the eastern and western sections of the trail. Despite the dates given on the Waukesha county website, there is no sign of impending improvements on the middle section. Much of this section is already paved because of steep hills. But other parts are difficult because of loose sand.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Hank Aaron trail construction

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 6th , 2010. One response

Last Friday, I hiked the section of the Hank Aaron Trail that is currently under construction. Between a point just west of Hawley Road and 93rd Court, the trail has a firm compressed rock surface. I saw a couple of joggers. It looked like it was ready for paving.

To the east, however, the route is still quite challenging. Three bridges need completing: a new bridge over Hawley Road, the reconstruction of the old bridge over the walkway between the VA hospital and the stadium, and the new bridge over the Menomonee River. Work on the trail itself is still at the stage of removing brush, breaking up old sidewalks, and bulldozing the surface.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News