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Column: How to get lost in Farmington

Believe it or not, I got lost in Farmington last Friday.

It was a good idea, going to Lake Julia to find a picture for the Looking Around photo on the Farmington page. It was just the matter of actually finding Lake Julia that threw me for a loop.

See, here's the deal: my co-worker Emily, is out on maternity leave. That leaves Nathan and me to pretty much write and photograph most of the non-sports stuff that goes into our paper these days. Only, it's not just the Farmington Independent -- we've got the Rosemount Town Pages, too, and as of this week, our two papers are pretty much on the same print schedule.

Nate had been taking most of the Looking Around pictures, but in an effort to free up just a little of his time, he asked if I could take them, and do the pet of the week, too. No problem, right?

I've come to realize this much: there's a lot more to Farmington than just downtown. We're a big city, as far as boundaries go. And with about 22,000 residents, it's fair to say most of them aren't living south of Rambling River Park.

For years, I've written stories about projects and developments that were coming in on the north end of town. I've heard stories about how many of those newer residents didn't even know there was a downtown until they had to find the ice arena or go to the school district offices.

In my defense, at least I've known there was more to Farmington than just downtown. But since I live in the southeastern part of the city, our office is smack-dab in the middle of downtown, and most of the businesses I shop at are down here, I don't usually get too far up into that northern neck of the woods.

So last week, I decided I needed to venture out. To find pictures of other parts of the city. I came up with this great kill-two-birds-with-one-stone idea -- I'd like to get a smaller camera bag that will allow me to strap on my digital camera when I go on my evening and weekend walks. Then I'll drive to different areas of the community, park my car, take my walks, and maybe snap a few pictures along the way.

Seems good, in theory. After last Friday, though, I'm a little worried about my plan.

I've been to Lake Julia before. It's been better than a year (maybe more like two or three) but I was pretty sure I knew what part of town it was in. Turns out, I was wrong.

I left from Meadowview Elementary School. Figured I was close, so I'd zip right over there. I took a left onto Embers Avenue and a right onto Dunbury Avenue (which I now understand is not the route to Lake Julia). And from there, I have no idea where I was or how I got there.

At one point, I found North Creek Park. It's in a section of town that I somehow found by taking a wrong turn last year. From there, I knew I could follow my instincts and come out by KwikTrip on Pilot Knob Road.

Having successfully made my way back to somewhere familiar, I went south and tried it all over again. But once again, I wound up turning down streets I didn't know. I thought I'd found Lake Julia a couple of times, but it turned out they were just big, big ponds behind homes.

I was waiting for a police squad to pull me over. I figured someone had to call police about "a little red car that keeps driving slowly through my neighborhood." On the other hand, I'm not sure if I was ever down the same street twice, so maybe I didn't raise any suspicion.

After I'd driven around for a good 20 minutes and was no closer to my destination than when I started, I figured I'd go back to the office and grab a city map so I could just find Lake Julia and be done with it.

And then I turned left. I came to a stop sign. Looked to my right, and there it was. Lake Julia. There were kids running through the park trying to fly a kite, ducks and geese swimming in the water. I spent another 15 minutes with the ducks, fired up my little red car and somehow found my way back downtown. To safety.

It taught me a good lesson, though -- I need to get out in the community a little more. To move outside my comfort zone and see what else, and who else, this city has to offer.

Don't think I'm going to try that without that city map, though.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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