Riding Bikes in Minnesota is Great! A Six Day MN Recap
After our fast-track tour through North Dakota Dustin and I got back in the saddle in Fargo and headed toward Moorhead to start exploring the land of 10,000 lakes.
…And, in the six days it took to ride across Minnesota, I think we truly saw at least 6,421 lakes, indeed. And only about 100 mosquitoes! Minnesota is amazing!
While traveling across Minnesota we stayed in Pelican Rapids; Dalton; Sauk Centre; Ramey and Dalbo.
Since we we are using the North Lakes maps to enter the U.P of Michigan, we took the Trails Alternate in Northern Tier map number 5 (a detail that will only matter to other cyclists traveling the Northern Tier).
While we were (and are still currently) bummed about missing Bemidji and nothern Minnesota (we’ve made plans the visit northern Wisconsin for a future holiday), the Trails Alternate was great; lots of bike paths (!) and no lack of scenery. Here’s a MN day by day break down.
Pelican Rapids, MN
From Fargo, ND we headed south then east through Downer, MN (yes, a real place) and Cormorant before finally landing in Pelican Rapids to camp in a downtown city park.
Pros of Pelican Rapics and the city park camping experience:
- The camp site — despite being, literally, a city park in the middle of the “city” — was actually really pretty and right on the Pelican River (I thought at the time this was a lake, but looking at the map now, it’s clear it’s a river). The grass was green, there were park benches, and generally we felt safe.
- The camp site was right next to Pelican Rapid’s river suspension bridge; a bridge they are very proud of for right reason (it’s pretty cool).
- The camp site was right next to a city pool that was really warm, not full of poo, and cheap (only $2 to swim) so we got to take a dip with some city kids, and that was fun.
- We camped right by the Pelican Rapids giant pelican!
- There were flush toilets and showers (ok, a single shower) in the camp group. No quarters required.
- On the way into Pelican Rapids, Dustin saved this turtle from near road-side death:
If you’re reading, the turtle heroism was for you, Virginia Nussey!
Cons of Pelican Rapids:
- Apparently the men’s bathroom was much funkier than the women’s and Dustin dropped his pants in some water….. that turned out to be poop based on the way it was drying. So, we spent a while at the Pelican Rapids laundry mat (which, by the way, if you’re cycling through, I don’t recommend. The laundry mat was overpriced and I saw a man washing some large canvas thing that potently smelled like gasline even after he was done washing it. Yikes. There are no pictures of this laundry mat because it was forgettable.)
From Pelican Rapids, we took CR3 and the Otter Trail Scenic Byway southward through Edwards and Fergus Falls, then hopped onto the Central Lakes State Trail — the first of many bike trails we would take through Minnesota. We planned to ride all the way to Alexandria on MN day two, but instead ended up sleeping in a city park off the bike trail in Dalton because of some super heavy suprise rain fall.
Dalton — the city, the people who live there, and the park — were all great. There is actually a giant sign ini the park that says “no overnight camping,” despite the ACA map saying that camping is available. So, we called the city clerk, and, after offering to let us sleep in her front yard (amazing), she said that even though they recently discontinued camping in the park it was fine for us to sleep there. And if anyone said anything to us about it, to tell them that Sandra [names changed to protect the innocent] at City Hall said it was ok.
One highlight of the Dalton city park was definitly the bored teenager grafiti scrawled in the covered picinic area including, a personal favorite: “Cheyanne and her new boyfriend are gay.” Hilarious.
A Sidebar about Minnesota’s Amazing Bike Trails
Apparently, Minnesota is amazing. I mean, if being bike friendly is a criteria you use for judging amazingness (as it should be). Using the Central Lakes Trail, the Lake Wobegon Trail and the Soo Line, you can ride Rails to Trails bike paths all the way across Minnesota — and then in the winter, you can ride snowmobiles on the bike paths (if you’re into that).
I love the Rails to Trails program, and I loved the number of people I saw cycling all over the state because of the convenience the paths provide. From moms with kids and grocery bags, to walkers, you could tell the bike trails were really inspiring people to get out and get active. I love it.
Some bike path pictures that prove Minnesota is the shit for bike riding:
(In my personal and humble opinion that is.)
Sauk Centre, MN
From Dalton we were back on the bike trail headed toward the Wobegon bike trail and Sauk Centre. Along the way we stopped at the Kensington Runestone Museum in Alexandria and stood witness to (supposed) evidence that the vikings were in the United States long before mister Columbus landed here. This museum was also a Native American + natural history museum, so we saw many interesting non-viking artifacts as well — oh, and a gigantic 40 year old statue of a viking named “Big Ol” (the museum had kind of a lot going on).
After the viking/Native American museum, we ended up camping at the Sinclair Lewis Campground, which was pleasant. Actually, it was very pleasant and I would highly recommend it if you’re trekking the Northern Tier. The shower was really clean and hot; we were right next to a beautiful lake; the grass in the tent camping area was green; mosquitoes weren’t bad; and we were about a five-minute walk from the “downtown” area where you can find a coffee shop, a grocery store, a movie theatre and some other schtuff.
One of my favorite parts of our stay in Sauk Centre was meeting Dick and Joyce Stock, a couple of lovely snow birds who rode bikes “before it was cool.” They invited us down to their campsite to share a campfire and a sunset by the lake and we had a great time. Dustin and I shared stories about our trip, and they told us about ther travels, and we all watched the lake as ducks and white pelicans swam around in the mirror-calm water and the sunset changed colors in the distance. In the morning they invited us over for toast and coffee (two of my favorite things!) but we had to politely decline since we had a long day of riding ahead of us.
Although I dropped the ball again and didn’t get a picture with Dick and Joyce, we will definitly keep in touch with them via snail mail.
Off-Roadin’ On the Way to The Ramey-Ish Rum Shack
Leaving Sauk Centre, we hopped back on the Woebegon Trail toward the Soo Line. After asking for some bikepath help in Holdingford (heads up, the “Wobegon Spur” isn’t labeled and may or may not be a real thing; we had to take the 3 to get to the Soo Line Trail), we we found the Soo Line, took that to Nature road.
Adding to the adventure we found ourselves faced with a road closed ahead detour sign…. which we decided to ignore. Sometimes these detours will take you 25 miles around in circles that work just fine for cars, but add hours of riding to a bike tour. So we decided to chance it and found ourselves faced with a gigantor whole in the ground about 10 miles in. So, naturally…….. we walked aroud the giant hole and the construction through the tall grass on the sides. Ah, the magic of bike touring. On the other side of the giant hole the road was business as usual. (I must say, that tall grass adventure was a real bitch, though. It was like dragging 40 pounds through a thick forest with four-foot pokey grass. Dust and I felt like real off-road bad-asses when we made it out alive on the other side.
After our off-roadin’ adventure, we were about 20 miles from the days final destination: a tiny bar named the Rum Shack at the corner of CR 22 and CR 7 (which is why I call it the “Ramey-ish” Rum Shack; it’s not really in Ramey, it’s more or less in between towns) . This is where we met John and Ted, a couple of touring dudes we would lend up inadvertantly trailing for a few days, and where we experienced our first raging Minnesota lightening storm. Oh — and where I ate half of the world’s largest most delicious pizza ever and the most amazing Billy’Os-esque-salty-free bar popcorn.
The owner of the Rum Shack was ridiculously nice and, aside from allowing us to sleep behind his bar for free, actually invited us to sleep inside his house in the basement if the storm got too bad. A combination of laziness and fear kept us in our tent, but the offer really warmed our hearts (even more than the pizza. And that pizza made us pretty darn warm and happy).
From the Rum Shack we continued on to the most magical place on Earth…. Don Olson’s Adventure Cyclist Bunkhouse. That place was so magical it deserves it’s own post. Here’s a teaser picture to hold you over:
To be continued….