Ice is off the river, the tulips are cresting, and little green buds freckle forsythia bushes and maple trees – all are signs that April has returned. Even though we had an extremely mild winter, spring is always a time when Minnesotans emerge from hibernation to celebrate longer days in warm sparkling sunshine. It means we can put away our heavy coats and dust off our bikes and hit the bike paths.
You don’t need to have the endurance of a Tour de France champion to enjoy coasting historic Victory Memorial Drive, the pride of Camden. The bike path runs between rows of evenly spaced dappled trees that stand like regimental soldiers as a living memorial to the 568 Hennepin County heroes who lost their lives in WWI. The trees and the plaques, at the foot of each tree, were installed in 1921, and the three mile parkway became Minneapolis’ first major bikeway in the 1970s.
And no wonder it was chosen as the first bikeway — it is a beautiful, uninterrupted excursion that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. It runs through several amazing landscapes that begin on Victory Memorial Drive in Camden. After three miles it melts into scenic Theodore Wirth Parkway that includes Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary on one side of the road, and the spongy five acres of ecological Quaking Bogs on the other side. The biking excursion continues into South Minneapolis to encircle the lovely Lake of the Isles shoreline.
It is a bike tour that is unsurpassed, and we all owe it to the foresight and vision of Theodore Wirth and Charles Loring. They were instrumental in creating our parks and making the 22 lakes accessible, which has consistently placed Minneapolis on the top 10 lists for livability and scenic beauty.
The Minneapolis web of lakes provides a lovely and irresistible backdrop for biking. Since launching Victory Memorial Drive as the first bikeway, Minneapolis has become a major bike- friendly city, boasting over 200 miles of bikeways that showcase the finest features of the city. Cashing in on this emerging and healthy pastime was the launching of the non-profit Nice Ride in 2010. Nice Ride, a convenient bike rental system, began with 65 strategically located stations throughout Minneapolis. The popular signature bright green bikes became so popular that stations were increased to190 in 2015.
April is not only a time when nature becomes alive, but it is also a time when Nice Ride returns. With Nice Ride, Camden residents don’t need to own a bike to enjoy the seasonal splendor of Victory Memorial Drive, or to stop for a swim at Webber Park pool or grab a burger at Victory 44.
There are several ways to rent a Nice Ride bike: single rentals by the half-hour or three-day rentals. With a swipe of a card at the station, you can rent a bike for $4 every half-hour. Three-day rentals cost $10 and offer unlimited rides. A cost cutting measure is to buy a membership for either 30 days that cost $18 or a year membership at $75. Either option gives you unlimited rides and assures you the availability of a bike whenever you need it. To make payment even easier, Nice Ride will introduce an app this summer to give you the option to skip paying at the station altogether. Just another example how Nice Ride is making bikes more accessible for people who want to experience the city on two-wheels, feeling cool breezes on their face, as they sail around the Camden Community.
Camden is where a ‘nice ride’ begins each April and continues through warm summer days until the first snowflakes fly. Enjoy the ride while it lasts because in Minnesota it doesn’t last forever. Or at least not until the next April arrives, and then it starts all over again.