Thorin N. Tatge (thorintatge) wrote,
Thorin N. Tatge

My 11th Annual Summer Solstice Adventure

Each summer solstice (or the day or two after if it's not available), I take a long, all-day walk or bike ride to explore someplace near my home I haven't explored before. In the first ten years of doing this, I covered basically every direction from home except one, so this year I did what couldn't be put off any longer and made an excursion by foot into North Minneapolis.

My goal was kind of nebulous. North Minneapolis is the poor part of town, and when I Googled attractions there, I came up pretty much blank. Two people had the same local coffeeshop on their personal lists--apparently it was a big step toward revitalizing the local community, so I resolved to try and find it, but my real objective was some kind of northern park. I eventually decided that Victory Park was an apt one for potentially declaring victory in. I remembered a summer Movie in the Park that had once been screened there; I'd thought of going to it but decided it was just too far away. Was it too far away now?

I left at 7:45 a.m. and saw a couple interesting things in the first, morning leg of my trip--a robin gathering more nesting material in its beak than I'd ever seen a bird hold at once, and a tree trimming city crew with one guy in a cherry picker throwing down branches to his colleagues left and right. I discovered something that no one ever knew before now: Arby's doesn't open until ten. (I got ice cream at Sebastian Joe's instead.) And I saw a group of thirty boys being led in some sort of training exercises up a steep hill over and over, separating whenever a car drove down the street to applaud the driver warmly and implore them to 'loop around'.

Having brought with me a little book on rainforests I acquired some twenty years ago, I read bits of it during my first two mile breaks before putting it into the first Little Free Library I found, as was my plan. I paused for some time beside the library box, skimming it to get everything I reasonably felt I could. I've been stocking various Little Free Libraries with old books of mine lately, one per trip, as I assess them and decide I have no use for them nor anyone to reasonably give them to.

I passed the renovated Walker Sculpture Garden and took a gander about. I came close to playing the artist-designed minigolf course, which various people were wandering about and no one was actually playing. I decided that if the price was $19 or more, though, I wouldn't play it, and that turned out to be the exact price.

I finally wandered past 394 into North Minneapolis and rested in the shade of a tree in a funny-shaped park. When I eventually reached the place I thought the cafe was, I couldn't find it, nor can I find any sign of it now. So I kept trucking. I rested cross-legged in a vacant lot halfway between the equator and the north pole. Most vacant lots one hears about are bare or full of weeds; this one was lush with grass.

I'd been a bit apprehensive about walking through the north side, worried that I might be hassled or possibly worse. But there were no remotely scary situations. In most cases, the neighborhoods I walked through were just like familiar neighborhoods--some with construction, some more working class, some more middle class, some lush with trees and some open with smaller yards. An ordinary mix. The thing that really struck me was how I saw no attractions at all. An occasional government building, and a few businesses on the big avenues (Broadway and Plymouth), but nothing exciting that a person would want to visit. I didn't even see any McDonalds or the like. There were corner markets a step up from convenience stores, which belie the federal designation of 'food desert' that's applied to parts of North Minneapolis. If produce is available, I feel like a neighborhood shouldn't be called a food desert, though that doesn't mean there's no cause for concern.

Although you might say the local library branch, North Regional, is an attraction. I've substituted there a couple times and gone to a couple of meetings there, so it seemed reasonable to go a little out of my way to visit. As is often my custom when randomly visiting libraries, I read through a bunch of children's picture books, and most notably found a couple by amazing author/illustrator Graeme Base. One, The Legend of the Golden Snail, was new to me, and it was good to revisit The Water Hole, an ominous simple tale about running out of water, especially because I'd run out of water earlier on the trip.

So! Unable to find the cafe whose name I couldn't remember, I had to decide on a concrete goal and chose Victory Park. I don't like using my phone for mapping during these adventures, but I had little choice. It turned out that there was some ambiguity: Victory Park exists far north in Camden, but there's also a Victory Memorial Park abutting the length Victory Memorial Parkway. While lying in the grass near an overpass, I decided I would try to visit both--then I had what my friend called a Zen moment when I discovered that I was currently technically lying in Victory Memorial Park--goal achieved! As if to underscore the moment, I spotted a monarch butterfly feeding on the forbs and got one lousy picture before it flew around and around and around me.

I wandered randomly into Robbinsdale, which was clearly a horse of a different color, but didn't go in deep enough to experience it. My left knee was starting to hurt by this time, so I rested by a picnic table between a hospital and a freeway and ate some blueberries to regain some health, as well as rediscovering half a bagel I'd forgotten was in my inventory. Whoever had drawn stars on the table hadn't known how to differentiate between the five-pointed and six-pointed varieties.

Returning to Camden, I then followed Victory Memorial Parkway, on which elm trees are planted with striking regularity across the streets and walking paths. Beside each is a plaque commemorating a serviceperson of Hennepin County. As it's part of the Grand Rounds, I'd come this way on my first Solstice Adventure ten years earlier, but this gave me time to savor it. I took off my shoes and walked barefoot between 19 pairs of trees, then found I had a little wildflower between my toes.

Eventually I reached a surprisingly nice neighborhood, with lots of greenery and a ridiculous density of Little Free Libraries--I counted five within several blocks of each other on the same street. My knee was hurting enough that I had to rest frequently and take it slow. Eventually, I reached Victory Park and declared victory. Families were enjoying the playground and wading pool area. To celebrate, I found some chalk lying around on the pavement near a bunch of chalk drawings and decided to add my own:

(It's a character from my current favorite video game, Undertale. I drew her because she's yellow and there was a big stick of yellow chalk.)

On my way out of the park, an ice cream truck happened by, so I bought my customary fudge bomb pop. I wanted to maybe find a different coffeeshop/cafe I'd been to once, but I couldn't find that either, even with the internet for assistance. So I just wandered east, looking for a bus route.

I happened randomly across a new library--Webber Park Library, near the park of that name. As it happens, my former supervisor relocated to this recently reopened location, and I'd thought of visiting; unfortunately, it was after 5 by then and the building was closed. (I still got to use its wi-fi sitting outside!) So, with nothing more to be done, I walked until I spotted a familiar bus line, and after a little more waffling, I finally settled for taking the 5 back, which left me just under a mile of walking to get home.

It was one of my least remarkable solstice adventures--possibly only Year 3 was less interesting, when I simply tried to ride a hundred miles on my bicycle. And it was disappointing I couldn't find certain places of interest. But there were still a fair number of highlights, as you've seen. I estimate that I walked a total of 14 and a half miles, which isn't bad. I got home at 7:55 p.m. after a little over twelve hours on the hoof, for an unimpressive rate of 1.2 miles per hour.
Tags: summer solstice adventure

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