Goofball with a purpose – two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

At 7:20pm yesterday I returned from a weekend in Madison, Wisconsin comprised mainly of drinking cheap wine to excess and occasionally picking up juggling props and throwing them around in creative ways. The otherwise unexceptional event of my return was enlivened by two things: the fire alarm in my building malfunctioning at an uncivil volume and the fact that it was the last time I would suffer Minnesota weather for two solid weeks without actually leaving Minnesota.

As part of a feature story that I’m writing, I have voluntarily confined myself to the downtown Minneapolis Skyway System as a combination goofball stunt and case study. Being that I have lived and worked in Skyway-connected bliss for nearly three years, I’ve had ample opportunity to engineer my life so that, if I really don’t feel like it, I don’t have to go outside – for anything.

For decades, the Skyway has been a convenience and curiosity, allowing shoppers and some lucky workers to pass their days while comfortably protected from our occasionally unenviable weather. But with the Skyway’s slow expansion and the addition of critical resources (namely a passable grocery inside Target), the Skyway has evolved in recent years into something approximating a proper neighborhood where, with the right timing and resourcefulness, all the usual errands can be accomplished and a reasonably rewarding life can be led. At least I think it has. And thus the confinement test.

Now it would be fairly easy, if somewhat tedious, to just hunker down for the entire two weeks, burning through my Netflix queue and ordering Luce twice a day, but that would completely miss the point. I have everyday stuff to accomplish. Errands to run, shopping to do, events to attend, social obligations to satisfy and, above all else, a practical life to lead. I’ll be using this blog to keep a (hopefully) short, daily journal, with accounts of what I did and, if it was unusually challenging, how I did it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite everyone who lives and/or works on the Skyway to leave comments with tips for their Skyway essentials, be it shopping, food, drink, entertainment, nail salon, whatever. And, for the feature article, I am in fact seeking out people who both live and work on the Skyway for short interviews. If you are, or know, one of these people, please get in touch.

Here are my self-imposed confinement rules:

•    I can, for whatever screwball reason, open a window or stand next to an open door, but I cannot break the threshold.
•    Though I was sorely tempted to do so, I did not race out before the test began and stockpile all the things I’m pretty sure that I can’t get on the Skyway. I generally get by on the relatively meager food selection available at Target on Nicollet Mall (and the farmers market in summer), but I supplement this once a month or so with a run to Rainbow for a little variety. However, in the interest of not contaminating the test environment, I’ve omitted this step.
•    I can take advantage of everyday resources outside of the Skyway (the mail, pizza delivery), though without overt abuse – eg having Lunds deliver $200 of groceries.
•    If a Skyway that I’m occupying spontaneously bursts into flame, I can go outside in order to save my life, but I must hold my breath and hop on one foot the entire time.

I have, in the past, gone somewhat disturbing amounts of time without stepping a toe outdoors during our less-than-balmy months, but this two week test will shatter my current record of nine days. It’s fair to say that I have an unusual affinity for the Skyway (check out my previous Skyway-love posts here, here and here), so it would be a stretch to claim that this test will be a personal hardship, though being that I’ve never stayed confined to the Skyway for so long, who knows?

And away we go.

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Two weeks in the Skyway | 17.01.2011 11:49 | 8 Comments

8 Comments on “Goofball with a purpose – two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway”

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Yeegh, I can’t decide if that would be paradise or punishment! Guess I’d have to experience a Minne winter before deciding.

What about all the germs on the door handles though?! Either you broke out the sanitary wipes after each take on your video (funny, btw) or you have a handle on that.

17.01.2011 14:24


Back in the day when I worked in the interior of an office building and never saw the light of day until after April 15 (tax accountant), I used to eat my Eddington’s lunch in the atrium of [what used to be] the Pillsbury Center just to soak up the rays. If you begin to get SAD, try it.

17.01.2011 17:14

Skyway My Way

Perhaps this interactive map of the skyway system will help guide you through these two weeks. “…shopping, food, drink, entertainment, nail salon, whatever,” per your request.

Good luck!

17.01.2011 17:35


@Jamie – I view an outing in the Skyway like a trip on public transport: I don’t touch my face at all while I’m out and I wash my hands the second I get home. See? Totally normal and healthy.

@kmkat – Thanks for the tip. I love that atrium.

@Skyway My Way – that is one hell of a Skyway resource. It’s going in the article.

18.01.2011 11:42

Jeff Beddow

That is one article I am looking forward to reading. I have already linked your video tour to my blog, and I will link this too.

20.01.2011 12:05

Stumbling Over Chaos :: Brrr! Linkity from subzero (Fahrenheit) land *insert plentiful shivering*

[…] Minneapolitan Leif Pettersen is going to spend the next two weeks entirely in the Minneapolis skyway…. (With it hitting -25F this morning, his plan isn’t as crazy as it sounds.) […]

21.01.2011 2:04


I’m admittedly jealous of you. I think I get a mild case of winter depression when this deep cold sets in every year. If they would build a skyway from my apartment in Uptown to my office in Bloomington, I would promise never to complain about Minnesota weather again. Looking forward to your skyway adventures!

26.01.2011 22:46

Mpls Mike

Wow, that skyway sure has grown since I lived there in the late 80’s – not that there was a map then to see it all. I think it would take 2 weeks to get around it and see it all. Did you write about showering? I’ll read with interest!

28.04.2011 17:02

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