2 years later, I got around to scanning the photos from our trip
into the Saint Paul campus steam tunnels. As I finished up and started
thinking about putting the new website section up, it occurred to
me that the photos I had of the system were pretty weak. I only
had a handful, and they were almost as many shots of the Meat Sciences
building as there were of the tunnels themselves. The system was
a quite interesting one, and I decided that it deserved better representation
on the website ... so I started calling around to see which Squad
members were up for a trip.
they would ask.
Now." Most Action Squad trips are pretty spur of the moment.
the end, only Tourettes was willing and able to come with, which
worked out well since she knew of an entrance Slim Jim had found
which was better than the one the Captain, Fuck and I had used years
was just around zero degrees, with a wind-chill about 10 below,
which presented us with an age-old exploration dilemma; what to
wear. See, it was frickin' freezing outside, but steam tunnels generally
range from temperate to sauna-hot. Tourettes decided to dress in
warm layers and bring a backpack to shed them into; I went with
medium-warm clothes that zipped up the front so I could open them
up in the heat of the tunnels.
geared up and drove into campus, and parked several blocks from
the actual entrance. Although locating the entry took more time,
effort, and frozen snot that we'd expected, we eventually did find
it and got into the tunnels without incident.
had a vague memory of how the tunnels were arranged beneath the
campus from our last trip, and had brought a map of the campus on
a clipboard, so I could trace our route as we progressed and not
get lost somehow. It was easier to navigate on this trip, because
little post-it notes that had been left by an exterminator usually
bore the name of the building they were left beneath.
We made a loop of the southernmost side of the campus first, keeping
an eye peeled for the 1950's fallout shelters that were said to
be somewhere in this part of the system. The temperature was very
nicely regulated, with very few places that were very hot or cold.
This had been accomplished by both strategic placement of giant
tunnel fans and the installation of sliding iron doors at the bottom
of ventilation/entrance shafts to the surface. Many of these were
closed, while others were left open a small amount to allow cold
outside air to pour down into the steam-heated passageways.
then did a loop of the northwestern part of campus, stopping to
take photos and to check out interesting features. There was often
no clear distinction between where a tunnel ended and where a building's
mechanical room began: there were tunnels in some buildings, and
mechanical room-like spaces in the tunnels.
three and a half hours of exploration and documentation, we were
both starving and ready to head back to the surface. After a few
minutes of confusion (I'd forgotten that we had to climb a ladder
up over some pipes and then down the other side to cross over to
a parallel tunnel), we fixed our location on the crude map I'd been
making and set out for the entrance/exit.
exited first, and, when I got the "all-clear," I followed.
As we walked briskly toward the car, I noticed the gravel before
us had faint shadows that were growing stronger.
natural. A car is sneaking up behind us."
vehicle drew nearer.
going to take a look. Innocent people wouldn't just ignore a car
lurking behind them." I looked. It was a campus police truck.
the hell did he come from?"
hoped that the cop would just drive past us, but he didn't. The truck
crept along slowly behind us, with us pinned in its headlights. God
damn it, I'd almost gotten busted the last time I'd explored this system,
but I'd gotten away. Now I return for a safe little photo run and we're
about to get nailed. I knew that at least some members of the U campus
police force had a major hard-on to bust us.
been getting emails on and off for years from kids stopped on campus
for various offenses, reporting that the officers that questioned
them had demanded to know if they were members of Action Squad,
if they knew anyone in Action Squad, if they knew about Action Squad.
did not relish the idea of giving them the satisfaction of finally
nabbing us, so long after we'd essentially finished exploring their
this particular cop drifted along behind us, as we acted indifferent
while bracing for the moment that a spotlight would hit us and the
red cherries would begin to spin and the distorted bullhorn voice
of an amplified officer of the law would demand compliance.
run, or not to run? That was the question. On one hand, the cop
may have seen us exit the tunnels and was either toying with us
cruelly or simply radioing his comrades before busting us. On the
other hand, perhaps he had not actually seen us do anything, but
strongly suspected we had, and was trying to scare us into running
or otherwise betraying our guilt. It was a tense moment, as we considered
options, weighed probabilities, and did our best impression of nonchalance.
turned a corner and approached the parked car we'd come in. It was
the only car parked anywhere in the area. The cop waited at the
stop sign, watching us walk down the road. As we approached the
car, Tourettes suggested we just walk past it, both to keep the
option of flight open and to avoid associating ourselves with something
that would be so easily linked to our identities via the license
just get into it. He's just going to keep following us, and if we
have nowhere to go it's only going to get us both frozen and busted.
I don't think they saw anything. Just act innocent. I have a feeling
got into the car, while the police truck idled a half block away
at the stop sign, watching us. Tourettes started the car and turned
on the headlights. The cop finally moved, turning in our direction.
As he pulled past us, I faced Tourettes, talking casually, only
giving a glance to the oncoming police car. More or less could be
drove past us slowly, and then let off the gas, just coasting down
the road at a snail's pace, watching us in his rearview mirror.
pull out and do a U-turn."
it'll look good. And that's the way home, anyway."
we came up behind the police truck, it turned onto a side street
and stopped, watching us go past. The next couple of minutes were
tense ones, as we hid gear throughout the car and waited for him
or other cops he'd called on the radio to pull us over.
no one did. We made it back to Minneapolis unarrested, and devoured
some subs on the University's Minneapolis East Bank campus. It had
been another night beneath the U's Saint Paul campus, another night
almost getting busted, and another night getting away unscathed.