A Route for Every Book Lover
Distance: 39 miles
Time: 4–6 hours
The stats on this ride are pretty daunting, but let me start out by saying that the time limit is due more to whether or not you stop at every bookstore than fitness level, and seven of the thirty-nine miles are on the Light Rail. There are also plenty of places along the way to stop and rest or grab food. It’s meant to be an all-day ride, so why not make is leisurely?
I started out on Grand Avenue (riding west) because I don’t mind riding in the street, but riding one street up on Summit is an option as well seeing as it has a bike line. If you go the Summit route, you’ll just turn down Milton or Victoria Street for Red Balloon Bookshop (891 Grand Avenue), Hamline Avenue for Sixth Chamber Books (1332 Grand Avenue), and Snelling Avenue for Common Good Books (38 Snelling Avenue). If you stay on Grand, you’ll ride straight and hit them all.
Once you hit the Mississippi River, take a right along the parkway, and once you come to the Marshall/Lake bridge, cross it, taking another right when you get to the other side. You’ll ride along the bike route next to the West River Parkway for about half a mile, then, on the other side of the street, next to what appears to be a rusting wall of metal, you’ll see the entrance to the Midtown Greenway, which you’ll stay on for about six miles before jumping off (left) at Humboldt Avenue. A little maneuvering will deposit you at Magers & Quinn (3038 Hennepin Avenue). After exploring for a bit, ride down to Lake Calhoun, taking a left onto the Grand Rounds trail (which, for reference, is only one-way bike traffic).
Head down the lake, and then take William Berry Parkway to Lake Harriet (the Grand Rounds trail system encompasses all of the trails around the lakes, which is why it can be fairly confusing, as it branches off in an assortment of places). I stayed on Lake Harriet, riding three-quarters around the lake (because one-way bike traffic) and checking out the beautiful Lyndale rose gardens in the process, but jumped off where Lake Harriet Parkway splits (near W 44th Street), taking the branch farther from the lake. I took a left onto W 43rd Street, which brought me to Wild Rumpus (2720 W 43rd Street)—and in contact with the adorable menagerie they’ve got going on in there.
From there, get back onto the Lake Harriet trail, ride the rest of the way around the lake, and come back to William Berry Parkway. Now, I wanted to see if there was any way to ride in the opposite direction of the one-way Grand Rounds traffic; turns on there is—riding in the street. So I rode along Richfield Rd. (which turns into E Calhoun Parkway) until I got back to my Lake Calhoun starting point. A much simpler way of getting to the same place would be to stay on the Grand Rounds and just ride the whole way around Lake Calhoun.
From Lake Calhoun, ride up to Lake of the Isles and the trail around the lake. I rode stayed on it (once again, one-way bike traffic) until I came to W 21st Street, which is close to the topmost tip of the lake. You can’t really see the street sign, but it’s the road right before the Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church, which is very visible. Staying on 21st—you have a take a left on Penn Avenue S and then a quick right again, takes you to Birchbark Books & Native Art (2115 W 21st Street), which is a really cool Native American bookstore.
Stay on 21st once you leave, and take a right on the Kenilworth Trail—it’ll turn into the Cedar Lake Trail somewhere in there—until you hit the Mississippi River. (If you want to take another quick detour here, you can ride up by the Twins stadium to James & Mary Laurie Booksellers [250 3rd Avenue N], but it’ll all be city riding.) Stay on the W River Parkway trail past the Stone Arch Bridge and Mill City Museum, past Gold Medal Park, until you see signs for Dinkytown Greenway. You’ll cross Northern Pacific Bridge Number Nine, and when you get to the other bank, take an immediate right onto the road with the somewhat steep hill. When you get to the top, take a very sharp left onto East River Road. It’ll turn into 14th Avenue, and the Book House (1316 4th Street SE) is right off 14th on 4th (left).
Ride down University to the Stadium Village Light Rail platform (unless you’re in wicked good shape, then by all means, keep on riding, following the Light Rail track). Take the blue line to downtown St. Paul, and get off at the Central Station platform. Go uphill on W 5th Street for a block and you’ll come to Subtext Books (6 W 5th Street). From there, if you want to complete the loop, it’s just a matter of taking Wabasha up to the Capitol grounds, hopping in the bike lane on John Ireland (see how some of these things tend to repeat?), and following John Ireland/Summit to wherever you started—hopefully with at least five new books in your bag.