Ride ALL Night Long, ALL Day Long

- A recap of Dark2Dawn4 and Open Streets Franklin Avenue-

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By Dan Miller
Photos by Walter Griffin

The weather predictions for Saturday evening, August 20 weren’t promising with possible rain and temperatures dipping into the low 50’s.  I used my knowledge of riding Dark2Dawn last year to catch a daytime nap and “layer up” to be as prepared as possible.  Jumped on the bike and rode to the ride start hoping the wet streets would dry off and remain that way.

Introductions and our first stop

d2d1The Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota knows how to begin a ride.  Coming up to the ride start at Martin Luther King Park recreation center, participants were enjoying each other’s company while noshing on a hot nacho bar, roasted curried vegetables, fruit and cookie trays.  It was a most welcome beginning for an evening that would be about camaraderie and exploration.  Dark2Dawn4 was a social ride that stopped at several locations to discuss noteworthy African American historical events and places.   Our first stop was at Lake Calhoun where the Dakota “Bde Maka Ska,” meaning White Earth Lake, has been added to the signage.   It was explained that the evening would explore the historical relationships between Native and African Americans.  A wonderful thing I learned from last year is that it primed my interest to learn more about these topics after the ride.  For instance, John Calhoun, for whom the lake is named, was not only a pro-slavery politician and government official, but also authorized the construction of Fort Snelling, which we would visit later in the evening.  About this same time in history Cloud Man’s Village aka Eatonville existed where nearby Lakewood Cemetery is today.  A brief intro about this village can be found here.  http://patch.com/minnesota/southwestminneapolis/historic-southwest-citizens-cloud-man

Visiting the AIM Interpretive Center on Franklin

d2d2Around Bde Maka Ska we rode to connect up with the Midtown Greenway going east.  Our weather forecast continued to improve and a bright full moon lit our way.   We then turned north, taking Chicago to Franklin Avenue.  Nearing midnight, we entered a parking lot and a person motioned us to come through a doorway with bikes in tow.  We were at the AIM Interpretive Center, http://www.aim-ic.org.  The person was the curator and gave us a tour of the “Thunder Before the Storm” gallery.  On the walls were photographs capturing the history of the American Indian Movement, which was founded nearby in 1968.  One photo was of the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties walk on Washington showing a supportive Muhammad Ali.  It was explained that AIM modeled itself on the civil rights movement including the Black Panthers.  We were full of questions and had to be rounded up to get on with our ride.

Onto St. Paul’s Capitol Mall and Indian Mounds Park

We continued east on Franklin Avenue past the American Indian Center and its newer outside ceremonial area.  Under the bridge with Native themed murals, we continued through the Seward neighborhood, over the Lake Street Bridge taking Marshall to the Capitol Grounds.   We stopped at the Spiral of Justice memorial to Roy Wilkins, the long time NAACP president, prominent civil rights leader, University of Minnesota graduate and St. Paul native.   More about the memorial can be found here. http://www.startseeingart.com/sculpture/spirals-of-justice-roy-wilkins-memorial-by-curtis-patterson/.  Onward we went past the nearby, newly dedicated Hmong and Workers memorials into downtown St. Paul and under the Lafayette Bridge.  And then came the realization that we were going to climb up to the Indian Mounds Park for a rest stop.  The climb did warm us up allowing us to better enjoy the rest stop.  Fresh strawberries, grapes, hot apple cider, bars and cookies were unloaded from the sag van and we enjoyed our break looking out on spectacular city nightscapes and learning about the 1,500 year old burial mounds created by native peoples of the Hopewell culture.  A brief history of the park and mounds is here.  http://saintpaulhistorical.com/tours/show/5. 

Riding the river to Fort Snelling

d2d3Back down the hill we just climbed and continuing onto Kellogg Blvd. to the river and onward to Fort Snelling via the bike paths, Highway 13 and the Mendota Bridge.  Arriving at Fort Snelling, we encountered torches on posts lighting the path to its open main gate.  Inside, we were asked to close our eyes and imagine that it was 1837.  Land cessation treaties with the Ojibwe and Dakota had just been signed across the river in Mendota.  We were motioned over to a small campfire and some benches.  A non-uniformed man stepped out of the building and welcomed us.  He introduced himself as Dred and shared with us his joy that his wife was expecting their first child.  He also shared his sorrow with bearing a child into bondage being that its parents were both enslaved.   He searched for understanding of how they could be enslaved in a free territory and asked for any ideas.  Years later, Dred and Harriet Scott would sue for their freedom.  Twenty years later in 1857, the Supreme Court rejected their claim hardening disparate beliefs that would lead up to the Civil War.  More here. http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/plan-visit/what-do/dred-scotts-quarters.

Going up to get back to downtown St. Paul

We again were late for the next stop and quickly grabbed some treats from the sag van.  Over the Mendota Street Bridge again, down into Mendota and onto the Big Rivers Trail.  Because of road construction we had to climb that nasty hill up to Highway 13.  Some in attendance may not have known about this hill and it was probably better that the darkness hid its length and incline.  There were a few groans, but we all made it.  More construction and a little more climbing led us to Smith Avenue going down hill over the High Bridge to wind up at the Landmark Plaza adjacent to Landmark Center and the St. Paul Hotel.  There, our next speaker had patiently waited for our arrival.  She told us about a new Gordon Parks Memorial that would be built on the site and the important role model that Gordon Parks continues to be for young people.  More information here. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/06/03/gordon-parks-memorial-st-paul. 

One more hill up to Rondo

d2d4Further behind schedule we dashed to our last speaker up in the Rondo Neighborhood, which was demolished for Interstate 94.  We learned that this was one of many African American neighborhoods that were destroyed across the country by building the interstate highway system and urban renewal efforts. Rondo Avenue running parallel along the south side of 94 disappeared and was renamed Concordia Avenue.   Our speaker was at an empty corner lot where a building burned that had a succession of African American fraternities, organizations and businesses.   This site is to become the Rondo Commemorative Plaza.  One of its features will be a neon sign with the word. “RONDO” that will be viewable from 94.  For more information about the Rondo Neighborhood and Plaza view- https://rondoavenueinc.org

A site for sore eyes – breakfast and a chair

Now it was back to the ride start via Marshall, Lake Street, Park Avenue and 40th Street over 35W Bike Bridge and into the park.  With bikes stowed in the gymnasium we all sat down to a breakfast catered by Zamaya Delicious Catering.  Yes indeed - juices, coffee, egg bake, sausage, oatmeal, fruit, homemade granola and I’m forgetting something.  All gathered, tired, happy sharing grace and company. 

Memories of those attending

d2d5Dark2Dawn4 was truly a club effort that looked after its participants’ well being in big and small ways.  It was a different route than last year and the fourth year it has been done.  The stops were interesting and the presenters had personal connections to share about them.  The stops lasted longer than anticipated and several of the presenters waited in the wee hours for our arrival. The leaders made sure the group stayed together often riding back to affirm we were all there.    I made new acquaintances and six TCBC members attended.  I discovered my retired family physician that I hadn’t seen for over a year on the ride.  The group size of 35+ attending made for an intimate time.  And lastly the sag van with doting driver, helper and Buster the sag dog, large and in charge, watched out for us the whole evening long.  Well-done Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota!!!

The Day after the Night – Dawn2Dark

After breakfast, I biked home via Franklin Avenue to see what progress was being made for the Open Streets event starting at 11:00 am.   Arriving home around 9:00 am, I tried to get some sleep.  Sleep didn’t come and I was determined to get back on the bike and go to Open Streets getting there around 1:00 pm.  I connected again with the AIM Interpretive Center Curator while listening to an Indian rapper.  Along the way, I met up with three other Dawn2Dark riders and biked together making numerous stops of interest along Franklin from Park Avenue to the Seward Coop.  Did it both ways and then it was time to call it quits and ride home.  About 6:00 pm my circadian rhythm kicked in and I crashed.    Thus is the tale of Ride ALL night long, All day long.

Still time to check out neighborhoods

There are still three more Open Streets this year, West Broadway, Nicollet and the U of M.  I have attended several and found each to be unique and wonderful.  They all occur on Sundays.  Check out the website for details http://www.openstreetsmpls.org.  Maybe we will see each other out there.