Nighttime Nice Ride

YOU ARE HERE. We stood gazing at the map before us. Hmm…should we take a nighttime Nice Ride through downtown Minneapolis tonight?

We were in the neighborhood that evening to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The plan was to mosey down to the Minneapolis riverfront, have a drink on the patio at Aster Cafe, then head to dinner at Restaurant Alma. We’d taken the bus from our home in northeast Minneapolis and, with the kids tucked away at their grandparents overnight, the night was ripe with possibility. It was a night to BE.

But there they were, those bright fluorescent green Nice Ride bikes queued up, ready for us to hop on. No matter that I was wearing a dress; the urban trails were calling our names. It was a night to DO.

(For those of you who live outside Minnesota, Nice Ride Minnesota is a bike share program with stations scattered throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. You can purchase a 24-hour subscription for $6, 30 days for $30 or 1 year for $65. The program is meant for short trips and you’re charged for the amount of time the bike is unplugged from the docking station; trips under 30 minutes are no additional charge.)

While we lounged on the Aster Cafe patio, we downloaded a Nice Ride iPhone app. Tonight was going to be an urban adventure.

First, dinner at Restaurant Alma– one of the top restaurants in the Twin Cities serving local, seasonal, organic food, helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Alex Roberts. This place rocks—the food, service and atmosphere are stellar each time we visit. Tonight was no exception.

Time to saddle up and get our Nice Ride on.

Saxophone notes rippled through the sultry night air as we crossed the Stone Arch Bridge.

This is where the city of Minneapolis began. It’s here that the Mississippi River powered the legendary flour mills which eventually grew into food giants General Mills and Pillsbury. Those mills now lie in ruins along the riverbank, with the Gold Medal Flour sign still blinking overhead each night.

Heading into downtown we were pulled into the future once again, biking through the glass and steel canyon. With little traffic on this street, we craned our necks to admire the glittering buildings.

Five minutes to spare, we pulled up to a docking station near the Nicollet Mall and parked our bikes.

Masses of people gathered along the mall (yes, people actually stay up late and go out, imagine that!).

We snagged a table on the lively patio at The Local and soaked in the sights and sounds of the surroundings: a bored-looking pedicab driver clad in a tuxedo muscle shirt, idling in a long line of pedicabs parked at the curb; a young couple with that awkward first date vibe; a disheveled woman walking by, urgently asking our server to give her some spoons (to play music with, she said).

Clip-clop, clip-clop, a horse-drawn carriage ambled by.  Another sax player belted out a Brazilian number in the slip of space between two buildings as a man shouted randomly behind our backs, with us unable to make out a single word he said.

City life.

Eventually it was time to go home. Wedging ourselves in the narrow gap between rows of rowdy cars streaming along Hennepin Avenue, we cheated the traffic jam on our bikes.

Eighty humid degrees at midnight, clothes sticking to our skin, sweat pooling in our nooks and crannies, we were nightswimming on bikes. We crossed back over the river on the Hennepin Avenue bridge, shimmering Oz-like green in the night.

Once again, five minutes to spare as we climbed off our Nice Ride bikes for a final time. Cabbed it the rest of the way home. And collapsed into bed, humming Do. Be. Do. Be. Do.

Like I’ve said before, biking helps you see your city with new eyes. Nice Ride makes it an effortless experience to do. If you live in the Twin Cities, what are you waiting for? The website has a list of self-guided Minneapolis biking tours, with themes ranging from art to architecture to beer.

There are also a couple of fun bike + food events coming up:

-Nice Ride is hosting its next Nice Nite event at Rye Delicatessen tomorrow – Thursday July 26th 7-9 pm, with live outdoor music by local ska band Umbrella Bed and New Belgium beer on tap. Website says “the first beer is free with a Nice Ride key or a printed slip from one of our stations.”  If you can’t make this one, Nice Nite #4 will be at Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul, date TBD.

-IATP is hosting this year’s Bike and Bite 2012 on Saturday August 18th 10 am – 2 pm. This year’s theme is Year of the Cooperative and gives a sneak peek at Kim Bartmann’s new restaurant, among other things.  Judging from how much fun I had at the 2011 Bike and Bite event, I’d recommend this.

Have you tried the Nice Ride bikes too? Tell us about it. And, please share any other fun biking events that are happening this summer.

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5 thoughts on “Nighttime Nice Ride

  1. Pingback: The State of Union and Morning Roundup « The Heavy Table – Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

  2. I absolutely love this post, Amy. It’s such a beautiful ode to city life, the lure of Minneapolis and a few perfect landmarks, the sounds and sights of nightlife and the spontaneity of going on instinct and inspiration. I had to read it several times to absorb every detail, and could feel and almost touch that night, right along with you. Nicely done!!

  3. What a fun night! These NiceRide bikes are such a fantastic idea. We don’t have anything like that in Victoria (yet). Maybe it’s time for someone to get on it… Well, happy bday to your hubby. It certainly looks like you two celebrated in style :)

  4. We also have such bikes in Paris since about 5 years and I have to say that it is fantastic! pretty cheap (1.70euro for 30mins or with the card you always have the first 30mins free!)
    There is alot of bicycle stations all around the city so you can go almost everywhere and in not much longer than 30mins! :)
    Your night must have been so much fun!
    Thank you for sharing ! :)
    pmu recently posted..pmuMy Profile

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