STORY: Randy Milgrom
PHOTOGRAPHY: Matthew Quirk

Welcome to Dinkytown

I’m a directionally challenged person. Give me a map and a landmark and I can make my way anywhere. But without those touchstones, I’ll wander until forced to ask for directions – which means I’ll wander forever. I got right off a plane from London to my hometown Ann Arbor a day or two ago and then onto another flight to the Twin Cities the following day, and when I arrived on campus yesterday morning I went straight to TransWeb headquarters without even checking into my hotel room. After a wonderful day covering racquetball and an evening watching hoops, I dove into bed dreaming of running around town the next morning – this morning – to finally get my bearings and figure out where I had landed for the next few days of the Games.

I tend to run through new towns when I’m traveling as a means of sightseeing. I do it for the physical benefits that flow from the exertion required, to be sure, but for me these out of town runs are the best way I know to familiarize myself with a place while also clearing my head and planning for the day. My run this morning did not disappoint. What began as an effort to determine where and how far each of the Games venues is from the TransWeb headquarters at the Radisson Hotel MetroDome soon turned into a pleasant jaunt through neighborhood streets, along river walkways, and up and over bridges with eye-popping views of downtown Minneapolis.

There was also something quite pleasantly familiar about my excursion through town. I live in a college town – another Big Ten college town at that – and there are common characteristics shared among Ann Arbor (home of the University of Michigan, my alma mater), Madison (the cradle of the University of Wisconsin, where my son will start his freshman year next month), and pretty much every other Big Ten campus that makes one feel at home. There is a portion of the campus devoted to the athletic stadiums, arenas, and playing fields, and the equally sprawling medical center. And this attractive campus also has its fill of criss-crossing rivers and bridges and a mix of old and newer educational and administrative buildings dotted along clean and well landscaped streets and curved walkways. Around certain bends, when the imposing skyline of Minneapolis is glimpsed, the sense of being part of a much larger community is keen and unmistakable.

But best – and most comforting – of all is the expected student ghetto, with its hodge-podge of run-down but serviceable old houses and apartments buildings, along with an eclectic mix of bookstores, restaurants, bars, and other storefronts – a four square block here in town affectionately dubbed “Dinkytown.”

As I ran back and forth among the streets of “Dinkytown,” I noticed that many of the windows contained freshly painted signs welcoming the National Transplant Games to town. Some offered special meal deals or free beverages to its participants. One banner hung from a lamp post: “National Transplant Games: Welcome to Dinkytown.”

I felt welcomed, indeed. Now which way back to the hotel?

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Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:05:42 EST