From the Rails 4 (Sky High Edition)

Well folks, here I am sitting in the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport waiting to depart for Austin. Since I arrived a little earlier than expected, I thought I’d write another ‘From the Rails’ post, even though this would technically be ‘From the Air’. Either way, it will help to pass the hour or so of waiting I still have to endure.

Of all the cities I’ve visited so far, I’d have to say that Minneapolis is far and away the cleanest. The street lamps are without posters, flyers or stickers; the walls are graffiti free; and the lack of blowing trash would astound just about anyone from the northeast. In addition to that, it’s a place where fitness and nature are top priorities. How do I know this? Well, it was pretty hard to miss.

NYC and Chicago both have bike share programs that I took advantage of while in town. For NYC it’s Citibike and for Chicago it’s Divvy. In Minneapolis, they have Nice Ride Minnesota and usage-wise, it trumps both of those other programs (or perhaps it just seems that way). Aside from cyclists, the number of joggers I saw at all times of day was pretty spectacular too. I still run before work and usually I’d see about 4 or 5 people out at the same time. But in Minneapolis, I could count about 20-25 people every morning. Obviously, the timing of my stay played a role in it, as I can’t imagine this many people out and about during the winter months. 

Then there are the parks. Once you step foot outside of the downtown area, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a park. Whether it’s a small landing with some benches or a giant greenspace filled with flowers, tables and plenty of room for frolicking, this is a city at one with the earth. I know there are plenty of hiking trails and mountain paths nearby and while I didn’t have a chance to hit any of them during my stay, there presence was greatly welcomed. You can escape the city at anytime, either for an afternoon or an entire weekend. And you never have to stray too far from home. How cool is that?

Clearly, there's something special about this city. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but things here are just… well… a little different. It could be the crisp air or the ever-present charm of the Midwest. Either way, the people here are kind, genuine and calm. And the city, even in it’s busiest moments, is still peaceful in its own way. I was actually surprised the other day, when I took my headphones off on a busy side street and noticed it was nearly silent, despite being filled with diners lounging in the nearby patios. That’s not something you’d find in a lot of big cities.

Now, I’ll have to wait and see how it compares to my remaining stops. I hear the west coast is a much different place than where I've already been. I’m excited to find out for sure; but first, I need to visit the wonderland that is Austin, TX. So, I’ll see you all there.

-Steve-