Best of MN

ESSAY: A sweet escape to nowhere and back

  • Updated: May 15, 2012 - 2:33 PM

The Como-Harriet Streetcar Line will be up and running any day now, and my kids know who will be up and running toward it.

I love the trolley with a strange and powerful passion. I make no apologies.

Every summer, I check off my seasonal bucket list. I must eat Minnesota sweet corn, throw down a blanket pretty much anywhere to see awe-inspiring July 4th fireworks, and wander along Thomas Beach at Minneapolis' Lake Calhoun to view the whimsical Aquatennial sandcastles.

And I must ride the $2 trolley, preferably not alone.

My children know this, which possibly is why two of the three now live on the West and East coasts, respectively.

I love riding the trolley at noon and at dusk, and during Halloween when the volunteer conductors dress in ghoulish costumes. I've been known to borrow friends' children, or drag my 25-pound dog onboard, or sit next to people who sort of look like me.

I've joked that we had a third child simply because I needed a new trolley companion.

But that third child is nearly 14 now and she owes me no apology. Last summer, the newly minted teenager sensed crisp air moving in and a new school year just days away, and her mother's pathetic face.

She boarded with me, riding graciously along the tree-lined path from Lake Harriet to Lake Calhoun, the two of us surrounded by toddlers and grandparents, knowing full well that her friends might pop up at any minute and spot her.

There may have been an ice cream bribe included, but who cares? She did it for me.

I sometimes wonder about my powerful pull toward a one-mile, 15-minute round-trip ride (half of it backward). It may have something to do with a lifelong love of tracks.

As a child, I rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train with my parents and two brothers and still remember the awe-inspiring views and gentle churning motion as we curved through Colorado's mountain passes.

In my 20s, I spent a year jumping on and off clean, efficient trains throughout Europe, including the high-speed "bullet train" from Paris to Toulouse.

But I'm just as happy riding a stinky, grafitti-covered subway car in New York City. They all take me somewhere.

The trolley only takes me to Lake Calhoun and back. Or at least it may seem that way to those who haven't had the good fortune to ride it.

For me, the trolley is a sweet and simple way to escape this life briefly, to be transported in a beautifully appointed car along a route I otherwise would not travel.

In this life now, it's more than enough.

By Gail Rosenblum

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