Minnesota and N. Dakota - Classic Byways: Highway 52

Text: Robert Annetzberger • Photography: Robert Annetzberger, Sanja Blagojevic

We've enjoyed our few days of rest in Rochester, but the lure of the highway cannot be denied. Unable to resist, we leave the city behind and again plunge into the sea of greens and golds we've come to know as Midwest farmland. Drifting lazily along the asphalt current of Highway 52, we find ourselves cruising closer and closer to yet another of middle America's major ports of call.

Rochester, Minnesota - Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota
Before we know it, we find ourselves rattling the gates of Minnesota's capital, St. Paul. But to get oriented before rolling through them, I first stop for a map check at Harriet Island Regional Park, just across the Mississippi. Usually when I find my route heading toward an unfamiliar town of any size, I try to familiarize myself with the major roads. This strategy works quite well most of the time; this time though, I'm hit with a double whammy: St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Twin Cities.

We have no trouble finding our way downtown to Minnesota's impressive state capitol building, a structure that's highly visible, with its large dome modeled after St. Peter's basilica in Rome. Like Rome, St. Paul was built on seven hills, and the statue of the triumphal quadriga (four-horse chariot) atop the capitol rather reminds me of the one that tops the Brandenburg Gate in my hometown of Berlin.

Snaking our way out of St. Paul, westward on I-94, and in the blink of an eye we're in Minneapolis and feel more like we've just entered a different part of town. These twins really are joined at the hip! Just after I-94 crosses the Mississippi, we dive off onto Washington Avenue and get into the Warehouse District. Before long, we find ourselves cruising along the "Mississippi Mile," a very nice drive running beside the mighty river.

Riding along River Parkway, it's obvious that this is the "place to be" in the Twin Cities. Nicely renovated lofts and new buildings overlook the water. A former flourmill turned into a unique apartment complex is a perfect example of the area's revitalized waterfront properties. The urge to stay and explore Minneapolis is quite tantalizing, and the prospect of rumbling over the cobblestones of Main Street, with its numerous historic buildings housing shops and restaurants, should be enticement enough for any two-wheel traveler. Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Highway 52 beckons again.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2006 back issue.