"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Jane Jacobs

14 Miles: General Mills, Trains, Public Works, and the Mighty Mississippi

My training schedule for the June Grandma's Marathon has me out on long runs every Saturday, giving me plenty of time to think and analyze my surroundings. I used to rely solely on headphones to help get me through the miles, but for safety reasons stopped using them when I ran with my dogs. Now I have dropped them altogether whether I am running with my dogs or not because I can connect with my surroundings better.

Today's run was on a route I have done in pieces before, but never in one straight shot. I took my running buddies around the neighborhood and a local park for the first 4 miles. After dropping them back at home I set off for 10 more miles that would take me out to the Mississippi River and the Island of Peace Park in Fridley, Minnesota.

After crossing University Avenue I began to smell toasted grain. Looking ahead, the General Mills factory building was pumping out not only a hazy smoke among the neighboring houses, but the delicious smell. I began to think about the supply chain at work. Where did the grain come from and who grew it? How much water was used and did they apply chemicals? How many jobs does this one factory create? Where will the boxes of cereal go when they leave this factory and how will they be shipped? When they reach their distribution center, how far will they travel to reach my local grocery store shelf? So many of us look a building and forget how connected it is to a dozen other places.

General Mills factory on 44th Street  Image courtesy of Google Street View (forgot to take my phone)

General Mills factory on 44th Street  Image courtesy of Google Street View (forgot to take my phone)

I began ascending the 44th Avenue bridge over the BNSF rail yard. Looking south are miles of tracks against the backdrop of downtown Minneapolis. Looking north is a sea of rail cars stretching endlessly. Again, where did these trains come from? Where are they headed to next? What are they transporting? It was entertaining to run alongside a slow moving string of cars for about the next mile and debate all this in my head.

View looking south at the train yards with downtown in the background. Image courtesy of Google Street View

View looking south at the train yards with downtown in the background. Image courtesy of Google Street View

The journey north along the East River Road trail took me past the Minneapolis Public Works site, filled with gorgeous old buildings (I'm an avid lover of all things old). I began to picture the history of the site, wondering if it was always the Minneapolis Water Works or if it had another life before this. There were cranes and large piles of dirt which meant there was expansion on the horizon, but unclear what was intended.

The last leg of my journey before doubling back home took me into the Anoka County Riverfront Park. A beautiful area nestled into the busy hum of the city. My favorite spot is the Island of Peace Park, hidden behind a series of apartment complexes in Fridley. It is located only a few hundred feet from the speeding cars on I-694, but you can barely hear the hum of traffic. It has a peaceful feel to it, hence its name. I stopped for a few moments to watch a pair of geese float by, chattering as they went. 

View of the Mississippi River in the background with my running buddies posing nicely (this was taken last fall when we still had leaves on the trees) 

View of the Mississippi River in the background with my running buddies posing nicely (this was taken last fall when we still had leaves on the trees) 

As I turned back home, I finally passed some people on the trail (my early weekend starts leave me alone for most of my runs) and a few people in kayaks on the river. I made my way back over the train yard, listening to the music the brakes were making as the train cards moved in and out of the loading areas. I breathed in the toasted grain smells, giving one last thought to the global supply chain and ran back up my street.