Category Archives: Destinations

Minnesota River bottoms, Bloomington’s natural trail network

John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

It was the summer of 1849, the first Bloomington Ferry began operations next to the Minnesota River bottoms. It carried people from the Bloomington shores to Shakopee. Exactly 40 years later, the first Bloomington Ferry Bridge was opened. Following that, versions of that bridge carried people, carriages, and motorists across the river for over 100 years. The current pedestrian bridge is a beautiful arch, spanning the Minnesota River and connecting Bloomington to the Highway 101 trail to Shakopee. The Bridge is also the starting point for The Minnesota River Bottoms trail. The River Bottoms are some of the metro areas last natural trails, popular for mountain biking, hiking, fishing and bird watching.

Minnesota River Bottoms

Bikes on the Bloomington Ferry Bridge, near the trailhead of the Minnesota River Bottoms

What are the Minnesota river bottoms

The Minnesota River bottoms are worn in by the riders, hikers, and runners who frequent them

The “River Bottoms” to locals, is a trail network stretching from the southwest corner of Bloomington, all the way to the trails of Fort Snelling State Park. These trails are worn in by the riders and runners who frequent them. While under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, they are not maintained by any government entity. Due to the fact that the “River Bottoms” aren’t maintained by any organization, the trails often take on a “path of least resistance” or direction. It is not uncommon for new trails to spring up after heavy rains and high river flooding. While riding, expect exclusively dirt trails with some log crossings, sand sections, and occasional overgrowth. Warning, pay particular attention for the Urtica Dioica plants, or stinging nettles, growing on infrequently used trails from June through August.

Wildlife of the Minnesota River Bottoms

Bikers, birdwatchers and hikers can enjoy the wildlife sightings along the banks of the Minnesota River.

Bikers, birdwatchers, and hikers can enjoy the wildlife sightings along the banks of the Minnesota River.

The River Bottoms are great for all types of recreation. It’s not uncommon to see hikers, bird watchers and people fishing along the banks of the Minnesota River. I have enjoyed sharing with my son the sights of Bald eagles and Beavers who make the watershed their home. Additionally, being a natural area, the River Bottoms are home to countless animals.

What to expect

There are a few popular entrances to the River Bottom trail, Lyndale Ave, Crest Ave, and Old Cedar Ave. These entrances offer ample parking and a clear trailhead. Once you start down the trail you will see that nothing is paved but worn-in enough to be firm under your tires. While a mountain bike is best for these trails, wider tires on Hybrids and adventure bikes navigate well. If you need to cross a stream, there are bridges or a ferry (at 9-mile creek) to get you around. Because the River Bottoms are so smooth, they are an ideal place to take kids mountain biking.

The Minnesota River bottoms are worn in by the riders, hikers, and runners who frequent them

You will find runners who frequent the natural settings of the Minnesota River bottoms

When to ride

Spring, summer, winter or fall the Minnesota River bottoms is a natural haven for cyclists

The best part of the River Bottoms is that it is one of the first places to dry out each spring. It is also one of the first places to freeze when winter rolls through. Avoid this trail in early spring as the trails thaw and after a strong rain. Other than that, these trails are sandy enough to drain quickly. One of the best things about the river bottoms is riding fat bikes. There in the winter, in fact, fat bikes can trace their development directly to the river bottom. When the snow falls, the river bottoms are the perfect mixture of flat trail, bermed turns, and accessibility to create a near-perfect winter track.

We in the twin cities are lucky to have a place like the river bottoms to ride. The fact that it is left free to change and natural is unique in a metro area. To that point, there are user groups that are working against the eventual possibility of developing the river bottom area. Whatever your opinion is on development, get into the wilds of the River Bottoms and enjoy this local treasure.

Anoka, a fun place for a fall trail ride especially around Halloween

With many trails rolling in and around the city of Anoka, the charm of this riverfront community is everywhere that you turn, especially in the fall. One of nine towns of the Twin Cities Gateway, Anoka is the Halloween Capital of the World and offers a vast network of bike-friendly roads and trails. A perfect place to start your ride is the park alongside the confluence of the Rum River as it meets the Mississippi River. Here it’s easy to explore with your bicycle the community history and attractions which are near the trail and historic downtown Anoka.

A great destination for the whole family riding the trails and bike friendly roads in the Twin Cities Gateway.

A great destination for the whole family riding the trails in the Twin Cities Gateway.

 

 

 

Fall trail ride especially around Halloween ar fun

Along with the many paved trails to ride in the area, the history and Holloween decor is another reason why you should consider visiting Anoka in the fall. Stop by the local Chamber or call and ask about the festivities surrounding the week of Halloween.

Each October, planning a fall bike ride here adds to the fun

Anoka has many happenings throughout the year that you’ll definitely want to check out. But in the fall, the most memorable event here is the Anoka Halloween celebrations where you will find spooktacular events, late October.

Known as the Halloween Capital of the World, the city brings out all the stops with everything from the largest pumpkin contest to a scavenger hunt. There are also two main parades: Light Up the Night and the Grand Parade that takes place before Halloween.

The finale of the Halloween Capitol of the World is the Grand Day Parade - the largest in the state.

The finale of the Halloween Capitol of the World is the Grand Day Parade – the largest in the state.

Area trail to explore any time of the year

Riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) into Anoka.

Riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) from Elk River, back into Anoka.

Two major trails in Anoka are the Rum River Trails and the Mississippi River Trail (MRT).  Looking at the Anoka Bike Map here provided by the Twin Cities Gateway. The Rum River Trail offers a scenic view of the river and several historic artifacts as the paved trail passes through the downtown area and connects to the MRT. Along ‘Old Man River’ there are connections to the Mississippi River Trail on both sides of the river.

Expand your options with a multi-modal tour

If you are staying in the area for a few days, consider a multi-modal tour. Board the Northstar Train, with your bike, to a station upstream or below along the MRT and ride your bike back. Just buy a ticket and hop on board. The train will drop you off close to the Mississippi River Trail so you have plenty of time to ride your bike back to Anoka.

Then, when you arrive check out some of the dining establishments there to fuel your body before or after your ride. Here are a couple of my favorites before, after or in between a ride.

Hans’ Bakery

The bike ride to Hans’ Bakery, about a mile south of the downtown area, will excite your sweet tooth with a delicious assortment of legendary pastries. This establishment started as a diner by German immigrants. Now as you step through the door it’s like you have been sent back to a simpler time with a menu tasty items are on a chalkboard. The only modern amenity they have is an I-tablet to ring you up if you select to pay by credit card.

With many specialties, al well-known favorite is the Texas Donut. The name speaks for itself and comes in a couple of different versions. No political jokes here, but it is larger than most peoples’ hands.

Avant Garden

This little cafe tucked into the historic downtown area is a great place to stop by if you’re looking for a supreme coffee fix that is local. This establishment has everything you would want from a popular cafe too. In addition, their own unique daily sandwich options, your selection can be enjoyed with a Coke from a glass bottle, making it extra special!

Historic homes to see while visiting Anoka

Ticknor Hill Bed and Breakfast, in the Twin Cities Gateway

Each year, mid-summer, the Anoka Heritage Home & Garden tour will take you on a very memorable journey covering Anoka’s history. A time when the gardens are in their prime. For a fall visit, ride your bike south of the downtown area into the historic Slabtown, Whiskey Flats, Swede Town or Fireman’s Grove neighborhoods. With many homes in the area decorated with Halloween decor swing by the Ticknor Hill Bed and Breakfast, on the National Registry of Historic Places. Then the Woodbury House is home to the Mad Hatter Restaurant and Tea House. These are just a few of the historic treats that will tease you to come back in the summer and explore more of the area.

So come and discover Anoka’s history, food, and bike-friendly attributes for your next adventure. You will find plenty of lodging opportunities in the Twin Cities Gateway to make your stay memorable.

by Russ Lowtian, the editor at HaveFunBiking.com

Not realizing why old buildings and streets were laid out the way they were, a Magical History Tour changed all that.

A magical fall bike ride and history tour of the south Twin Cities Metro

It is amazing the things you don’t know about an area you have been pedaling around by bike, for many years. Though you may have wonder why an old building or a street is designed the way it is? But it’s not a top priority and you put off finding the answer. That all changed when I had the opportunity to tag along on a special ride of the Hiawatha Bicycling Club.

The ride called the Magical History Tour was lead and narrated by Joe Metzler, one of the club’s many ride leaders. Joe is an architect and enjoys the history of the building landscape in the Twin Cities. On this 24-mile tour, Joe took us through neighborhoods in southwest Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and Edina.

Gather for the Magical History Tour in south Minneapolis.

Gather for the Magical History Tour in south Minneapolis.

A History Tour of south Minneapolis

With close to 20 riders on the tour, Joe stopped periodically to share some unique facts about the buildings, streets, and structures along the way.

Joe,, leading the group head north to the tours fist stop.

Joe, leading the group heads north to the tour’s first stop.

Leaving from the Lyndale Farmstead Park, in south Minneapolis, MN, our first stop was at a porcelain-steel prefabricated building used to sell hamburgers. From there the history tour meandered a few blocks further north, straddling Lake Street to view a 1907 needle manufacturing site, purchased by a greeting card company that renamed the building. Further along, the tour stopped at a fountain on the north end of Lake of the Isle. Originally built to honor fallen horses of World War I, it’s still a mainstay attraction to the parkway. After visiting a few homes, associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, Joe lead us into St. Louis Park.

The first stop on the tour was White Castle #8

On the history tours first stop the group learned more about White Castle #8.

On the history tours first, stop the group discovered several interesting facts on White Castle #8.

Located at 3252 Lyndale Avenue. in south Minneapolis, the porcelain-steel prefabricated building was modeled after the Chicago Water Tower. In the picture above notice the octagonal buttresses, crenelated towers, and parapet walls. The structure was designed to be dismantled and then reassembled when needed. However, after moving it the 3rd time to its current location it was moved in one piece. See more on the history of this site here.

Here Joe share information on the many uses of the Buzza Building.

Here Joe shares information on the many uses of the Buzza Building.

The Buzza Co. Building at 1006 W. Lake St, Minneapolis

This building was purchased and renamed after the second-largest greeting card company in the early 20’s country. After the business folded around 1942. Then the building was been used by the War Department; followed by Honeywell, the veteran’s administration and later by the Minnesota military district, dubbing it “Little Pentagon”.  See more on the history of this site here.

After stopping at the Purcell-Cutts House you will want to come back for one of the scheduled tours.

After stopping at the Purcell-Cutts House you will want to come back for one of the scheduled tours.

Purcell-Cutts House (Lake Place) at 2328 Lake Pl, Minneapolis

Considered by many a Prairie Style masterpiece the design of this 1913 residents was intended as a house for “modern American family life”. The home is now owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and is open for tours the second weekend of each month. See more on the history of this home here.

The Peavey Fountain, a gift to Minneapolis for watering horses is a gem to the Lake of the Isles Parkway.

The Peavey Fountain, a gift to Minneapolis for watering horses is a gem to the Lake of the Isles Parkway.

Peavey Fountain on Kenwood Pkwy & W. Lake of the Isles Pkwy

This was a gift to the city in 1891, from Frank Peavey a local grain broker. The fountain was to provide drinking water for horses. After World War I the fountain was rededicated to honor horses from the 151st Field Artillery, killed in action. See more on the history of this fountain here.

A pictuques setting for a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home.

A picturesque setting for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.

Neils House at 2801 Burnham Blvd, Minneapolis

One of only two homes in Minneapolis designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This home, built-in 1950-51, was the only house Wright designed that used marble wall cladding, or “culls” leftover from other building projects. See more on the history of this home here.

Tour riders found a charming neighborhood round-a-bout on their way to the next stop.

Tour riders found a charming neighborhood round-a-bout on their way to the next stop.

The history tour moves on to St. Louis Park

Pedaling to the southwest, into St. Louis Park the group of inquiring minds used the south spur of the Cedar Lakes Trail to stop at a park. Here they viewed the beehive barbeque and a tower in the background dubbed “Peavey’s Folly.” The next stop on the ride was to McDonalds #93. This restaurant location St. Louis Park was the second to open in Minnesota, in 1958.

More info on the tour

In Lilac Park the group viewed one of the remaining Beehive Grills here.

In Lilac Park the group viewed one of the remaining Beehive Grills here.

Lilac Park (originally part of Roadside Park) at SE corner of Hwy 7 & Hwy 100, St. Louis Park

The last of five parks along “Lilac Way” (now Hwy. 100), these parks were originally built in the late 30s by WPA artesian stonemasons. The fireplace here, along with another located in Graeser Park, are the only two remaining beehive fireplaces in the nation. Find out more here.

Riding out of Lilac Park back to The Cedar Lakes Trail.

Riding out of Lilac Park back to the Cedar Lakes Trail.

Peavey-Huglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator east of Lilac Park of Trail

Due to skyrocketing insurance rates from the constant threat of wooden grain terminals catching on fire, Frank Peavey had the Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator built-in 1899. The 122-foot structure was dubbed “Peavey’s Folly,” by skeptics who expected it to crack and explode. Now a National Historic Landmark it is on the grounds of the Nordic Ware company, just east of Lilac Park. Find out more here.

McDonalds #93 at 6320 W. Lake St, St. Louis Park

In 1958, this location was Minnesota’s second, and the world’s 93rd McDonald’s ever built. At the Gala Grand Opening, there was a line that stretched more than a city block long, waiting for hours to be served. You can find more info here.

Having fun on the HBC bike tour

Having fun on the Hiawatha Bike Club bike tour.

The history tour now rolls into Edina

Now pedaling along Minnehaha Creek the group discovers how Edina got its name when stopping at a mill site that once operated here. Another interesting stop was the Grange Hall. Both the building and organization were established to improve life on the rural farm and a place to socialize. This practice was helpful for the women at the time who had little opportunity to interact with others outside of the farm. After visiting a few more historic buildings in Edina the ride now turned back to the northeast, following the old Minneapolis Streetcar (right of way) that once stretched all the way out to Lake Minnetonka.

More info and stops along the tour

The stopped here at the Grange House.

The stopped here at the Grange House.

Grange Hall at 4918 Eden Ave, Edina

Even before Edina incorporated as a village the Grange Hall served the area with many historic events, including the final decision to name Edina. This is one of the few remaining Grange Hall structures standing in the State of Minnesota today. You can find more info here.

Cahill School at 4924 Eden Ave, in Frank Tupa Park, Edina

One of Edina’s oldest surviving buildings, built-in 1864, the Cahill School continued to serve children of all ages until the 1950s. It is one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses in the State of Minnesota. Find more info here.

Stop at the park where remnants of the old Edina Mill can be seen.

Stop at the park where remnants of the old Edina Mill can be seen.

Edina Mill at West 50th St and Browndale Ave, Edina

The Edina Mill was one of the first gristmills to be built on the Minnehaha Creek between 1855 and 1876. The mill and the tiny settlement that sprang up around it was originally named Waterville Mills. After being sold in 1869, the new owner gave the mill and the city its present name. Edina was a nickname the new owner had for Edinburgh, Scotland, that appeared in a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Find more info here about the mill and how Edina progressed.

The oldest house standing in Edina, The Grimes House is a rare, well-preserved example of cottage architecture from the early settlement period.

The Grimes House is the oldest house standing in Edina.

Grimes House at 4200 W 44th St, Edina

Built-in 1869, it is the oldest house standing in Edina. Stopping by and viewing it from the street, it is a rare, well-preserved example of cottage architecture from the early settlement period. The Grimes who settled here also established a 16-acre ‘Lake Calhoun Nursery, which is the present-day neighborhood of Morningside. Find more info here.

The tour circles back into Minneapolis on the old streetcar route

If you look carefully, while out in front of the Grimes house, you can see traces of the old streetcar right-of-way that provided public transportation, back and forth, from Minneapolis, through Edina and out to Lake Minnetonka.

Streetcar Right of Way through the Linden Hills Neighborhood, Minneapolis

Through this neighborhood, you can still see remnants of the old streetcar right-of-way line. The Linden Hills neighborhood was at the end of the line for commuters coming from the inner city of Minneapolis. Then in 1905, the line was extended out to Lake Minnetonka, making Linden Hills a transfer stop between the two rail lines. See more info here.

A brief stop in an area once covered by cottage homes.

A brief stop in an area once covered by cottage homes.

Chadwick Cottages at 2617 W 40th St, Minneapolis

The two cottages here were originally built by Loren Chadwick in 1902 and combined in 1972 as a single dwelling. The individual cottages were typical of the size home being built in the early 1900s as a resort area. This is the reason the neighborhood was known as “Cottage City”. See more info here.

Here stopping on this bridge, where the streetcar tracks run below, the group had a chance to see a modern day trolley pass by.

Stopping on this bridge, where the streetcar tracks run below modern-day trolley passes by.

Interlachen Bridge at William Berry Dr. over streetcar tracks, Minneapolis

The oldest reinforced concrete bridge in Minnesota covered by a stone veneer. The bridge was built using a system patented in 1894 by a Swiss engineer. Steps on the west side lead down to a streetcar stop known as the Cottage City stop.

Pond Cabin Site/Lyndale Hotel Site at 3450 Irving Ave S, Minneapolis

Overlooking the eastern shore of Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) the Pond brothers built a cabin when they came to Minnesota to convert Native Americans from the Dakota tribe to Christianity. Then on this same site in 1877, the Lake Calhoun Pavilion (later named the Lyndale Hotel) was built with the streetcar line passing by. In the ECCO neighborhood in the Minneapolis, the original streetcar alignment crossed 36th St. on an overpass and continued along the top of the bluff, passing the Lyndale Hotel and overlooking the lake on what is now a walking path. The resort was a popular stop offering guests a dancing hall, billiards and a wide variety of recreational activities centered around the lake. Find more information here.

Even with cool temps in the mid-forties everyone was smiling as they returned to the starting point.

Even with cool temps in the mid-forties, everyone was smiling as they returned to the starting point.

This brought this Magical History Tour back to the park where the ride began. Joe says, he has a couple more Magic History Tours in mind that he plans on leading, through the club next year. If you would like to go on one of his rides, check the Hiawatha Bicycle Club ride calendar periodically.

by Russ Lowthian, HaveFunBiking

Here these cyclists are enjoying Minnesota's peak riding time on the Red Jacket Trail, near Mankato.

Fall colors are still prime in southern Minnesota this weekend

As the Fall colors continue to lose their brilliance or drop, throughout the northern half of the state, many southern sections of Minnesota are just peaking or still in their prime. To find a perfect fall colored adventure this weekend check the Minnesota Fall Color Website, brought to you by Explore Minnesota and Minnesota State Parks and Trails.

Trail options with fall colors in their Prime

From the site, it looks like southern and parts of western Minnesota are still offering a kaleidoscope of prime fall colors for your bike touring pleasure this weekend.  Here are a few areas to check out.

Cannon Valley: This 19.7-mile trail between Cannon Falls and Red Wing is a popular Rail-to-Trails attraction here in Minnesota. It’s a beautiful, shady ride above the Cannon River with a picnic area in Welch, its midpoint. It is maintained by a trail association and there is a daily fee of $3. See more at Cannon Falls Tourism at the west trailhead and Red Wing Tourism at the east trailhead, near the Mississippi River.

Douglas: This is a 12.5-mile rolling trail ride through rolling farmland between Pine Island’s city park and the northern outskirts of Rochester. For more information see Rochester Tourism.

Great River Ridge: This 13-mile paved trail connects the southeast Minnesota towns of Plainview, Elgin, and Eyota and is near Whitewater and Carley state parks. The first half follows a winding creek. Also, the five miles from Elgin to Plainview are slightly uphill and follow the highway. See more at Plainview/Elgin/Milleville Tourism.

And still more Southern Minnesota Trails

Shooting Star: This 22-mile trail follows the Shooting Star Scenic Byway from Austin to LeRoy. LeRoy is on the Upper Iowa River near the Iowa border and continues towards Austin, just south of I-90. Then, in the eastern half, the trail goes through Lake Louise State Park. After passing through Adams and Rose Creek, the trail rolls into Austin’s bike-friendly atmosphere. See more at Austin Tourism.

Winona’s Trails: The terrain around Winona is looped by spectacularly beautiful bicycle trails and routes aimed at a variety of riders. Whether you are out for a scenic ride with the family on the 5-mile paved trail around the lake or the bike-friendly street routes in town, there are great backgrounds. The Mississippi River Trail leading in and out of Winona will have colors that can add excitement to your adventures and memories, and this is even true if you decide to sample the mountain bike trails here. For more, see Winona Tourism.

South and Southwest Minnesota trails

Root River/Harmony-Preston Valley: Between Fountain and Houston, the 42-mile Root River Trail, in the lovely bluff country, is one of Minnesota’s pride and joys. Then add the 18-mile, Preston to Harmony trail section and you will find more spectacular colors on this rolling terrain. For more, see Root River Trail Towns Tourism.

Blazing Star: This paved trail currently runs from the lake with the same names as Albert Lea to Myre-Big Island State Park. The total trail distance of paved is approximately 20-miles. Along the route, you can enjoy the natural environment that includes wetlands, oak savanna, big woods, and prairie. Also, the park is a great birding spot, especially during fall migration. See more at Albert Lea Tourism.

And one Western Minnesota trail option

Luce Line State Trail is a 63-mile long rails-to-trail route that starts in the Plymouth and stretches out west 30-miles west, on a limestone surface trail, to Winsted. From Winsted to Hutchinson the trail is paved, See more at Hutchinson Tourism.

Ride safe and enjoy the colors!

Join the fun this Sunday, October 7th for the eight annual Mankato River Ramble. This year's ride offers three loop options, a 16, 30, or 42-mile route featuring great Rest Stops, ride support, delicious food and beverages, live music and much more.

Mankato River Ramble, the last major Minnesota bike tour of 2019

Join some 2,000 bicyclists on Sunday, October 6th for the ninth annual Mankato River Ramble. This year’s ride offers three loop options, a 16, 30, or 42-mile route featuring great Rest Stops, ride support, delicious food and beverages, live music and much more. Routes can be easily combined for those who want to add on additional mileage.

The whole family will like the scenery along the Minnesota River Valley.

The whole family will like the scenery along the Minnesota River Valley.

River Ramble Registration

Even though early registration has closed, day-of registration is open and available. If you have not pre-registered you can come between 8 and 10 a.m. to Land of Memories Park (100 Amos Owen Lane, Mankato, MN 56001) to sign up and begin the ride. See more info here.

Tasty treats, like the pie stop, makes the ride extra delicious.

Tasty treats, like the pie stop, can make the ride extra delicious.

Volunteers needed

The Ramble wouldn’t be possible without the help of 140 volunteers and sever spots are still open. Volunteer sign-up for the 2018 Ramble at www.bikeriverramble.org/volunteer. Volunteers help with putting up signs, helping with registration, passing out treats at rest stops and encouraging riders. Volunteers get a free Ramble T-Shirt and will be celebrated at the volunteer appreciation party at the Mankato Brewery with amazing food from Pub 500.

“Our volunteers are the ones who make each ride what it is. We couldn’t have a successful event without all their donated time. They set the tone of each ride and we are grateful to always have so many generous volunteers at the Ramble each year!,” said Dorian Grilley, Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN).

The Ramble is a fun place to gather and ride with old and new friends!

The Ramble is a fun place to gather and ride with old and new friends!

The Mankato River Ramble is a fundraiser for the Greater Mankato Bike & Walk Advocates and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. Proceeds after expenses from the event benefit these two organizations. The ride is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Mankato Clinic and the Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic, as well as the support of more than 50 other sponsoring organizations.

More delicious food upon your return and its included in your ride fee.

More delicious food upon your return and its included in your ride fee.

More photos from 2017 Mankato River Ramble can be found online here.

About the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN)

BikeMN is working to make Minnesota a state where bicycling is a safe, easy, fun and cool choice for everyone. The mission of BikeMN is to provide leadership and a unified voice for bicycle education, advocacy and efforts to make Minnesota more bicycle friendly so that more people will ride bicycles more often. More at www.bikemn.org.

About Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates (GMBWA)

GMBWA encourages individuals and families to walk and bike as part of a healthy lifestyle. Greater Mankato Bike and Walk Advocates work with city, county and state governments, businesses and nongovernmental organizations to improve the community’s infrastructure and opportunities for walking and biking. The ride began in 2011, thousands of dollars of profits from the Ramble have gone into signs, outdoor kiosks, and mountain bike trail construction, and other improvements in the Mankato area.

A Minnesota fall bike/birding hotspot in the Twin Cities Gateway to enjoy

As fall approaches and many of the migratory birds are starting to gather for their departure south on the flyway we wanted to share a few bike/birding hotspots we found in the north Twin Cities Metro Area. While ground-truthing a few bike maps in the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide we noticed some migratory wildlife haunts perfect for viewing the fall migration that you may want to check out along the paved bike trails.

As migratory birds start gather for their departure south on the flyway this fall.

As migratory birds start to gather for their departure south on the flyway this fall.

An area once inhabited by Dakota and Ojibwe tribes, today the nine communities in the Gateway offer excellent viewing opportunities in the parks along its lakes and the Mississippi River. These parks provide nature enthusiasts with several places to enjoy bird watching. Why here? From these areas alone you are able to spot an impressive list of waterfowl, along with hawks and songbirds that are still around. Starting with many spots along the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), the Rice Creek Trail and the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary (BWS) check all the Important Birding Areas (IBA) out:

Bike/birding hotspots along the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River, north of Minneapolis, is an important IBA waterfowl area that is adjacent to floodplains areas easily accessible to the MRT bike trails passing through Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley. This IBA area also connects to the Rice Creek corridor and its adjacent floodplain on public lands. With the bike trail following the stream, it flows out of the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes, near Lino Lakes, towards the Mississippi where you will find many birding opportunities. According to the National Audubon Society website this IBA lies within an area that has a very high population density and an area that is one of the fastest-growing areas in the Twin Cities area.

A viewing spot on the Mississippi River Trail near the Coon Rapids Dam.

A viewing spot on the Mississippi River Trail near the Coon Rapids Dam.

The Mississippi Flyway is not only a tremendously important flyway for waterfowl, but it also attracts raptors and other migratory birds. Warblers can be seen in abundance along the river because of its rich source of insects during both the spring and fall migrations.

Bike/birding hotspots along the Rice Creek Trail

A group of birders set up viewing along the Rice Creek Trail.

A group of birders set up viewing along the Rice Creek Trail.

The Rice Creek IBA is another Important Birding Area and consists of two parts: The Ramsey County Open Space, also known as Arden Hills Army Training Site (AHATS) and Rice Creek North. This stretch, you will find sizeable populations of birds and other animals in a supported variety of marsh, grassland, and wooded habitats. See the National Audubon Society website on this northeast section of the Rice Creek flowage.

The Blaine Wetland Sanctuary

Back in the center of the Twin Cities Gateway, the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary (BWS) offers over 500 acres of wetland and upland habitat for viewing. A boardwalk through the sanctuary, extended from a parking area connects the existing paved trail to East Lake Park. Walk or ride your bike, with viewing equipment, along with the boardwalk and trail.

For more information on these birding hotspots and others, contact Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Department at (651) 748-2500 or see www.co.ramsey.mn.us/parks for more information.

Nearby places to stay and connect to the trails while birding, see these Twin Cities Gateway lodging properties. For maps showing bike trail access from your selected hotel, check here.

Have Fun!

With record attendance the first few days of the 2018 Minnesota State Fair, using a bicycle to get there can reduce the hassle factor out of visiting the fair. Plus, it is also a great way to burn-off those extra calories from all of the fun things to eat on a stick.

Remove the hassle factor going to the Minnesota State Fair and see more!

With record attendance, the norm at the Minnesota State Fair, using your bicycle is a comfortable mode for getting there. If you are planning on attending this year’s ‘Great Minnesota Get-together’ bicycle parking is still free. Ride your bike from home, park your car a few miles away with your bike along or incorporate the Metro Transit Bus for a multi-modal commute. Commuting by bicycle can take the hassle factor out of the annual get-together. Besides, it is a great way to burn-off some those calories from all of the fun things you can eat on a stick.

RIDING YOUR BIKE TO THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR CYCLIST CAN CHOOSE BETWEEN THREE SECURE BIKE CORRALS TO PARK THEIR BIKE WHILE VISITING THE GREAT MINNESOTA GET TOGETHER.

RIDING YOUR BIKE TO THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR CYCLIST CAN CHOOSE BETWEEN THREE SECURE BIKE CORRALS TO PARK THEIR BIKE WHILE VISITING THE GREAT MINNESOTA GET TOGETHER.

This year the fair started on August 22nd and runs through Labor Day, September 2nd. So there is plenty of time to go, plan your mode of transportation to get there and what you will see.

A hassle-free way to get to the Minnesota State Fair

Riding your bike to the Fair cyclist can choose between three secure bike corrals to park their bicycle while visiting. As in the past, riding your bike to the fair can be fun and reduce the hassle of traffic congestion getting there. This year ride your bike, take a shuttle bus or both by multi-modal commuting. Each day, those who commute by bicycle to the fairgrounds, from 6 a.m. to midnight, will find three (3) secure bike locations. They are located at:

North Bike Lot: Hoyt-Snelling Gate (#2)

West Bike Lot: Randall Ave-Buford Gate (#16)

South Bike Lot: Como-Snelling Gate (#6) is a popular location. This bike corral fills fast so if it is not too inconvenient, plan your route to one of the two above locations.

AT THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR , CHECK THE LATEST IN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY EXHIBITS IN THE ECO PROGRESS CENTER.

AT THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR, CHECK THE LATEST IN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY EXHIBITS IN THE ECO PROGRESS CENTER.

Here is a map, from St Paul Smart Trips, showing the best bicycle routes to ride your bike comfortably to the fair.

Bike related things to do and see at the Minnesota State Fair

The Shoe Clip Light is an ideal item bike commuter safety

The Shoe Clip Light is an ideal item bike commuter safety

Now that you are at the fair walking around you can think about what you might want to purchase. Maybe a shoe clip light at the both under the Grandstand so you are more visible when out riding at night? You will find out more on where to purchase this item and other fun things on the free Minnesota State Fair App, (Apple App Store or Google Play store).

At the Minnesota State Fair, check the latest in environmentally friendly exhibits, like the e-bikes, in the Eco Progress Center.

IN THE ECO PROGRESS CENTER SEE THE LATEST ON ELECTRIC ASSIST BIKES.

IN THE ECO PROGRESS CENTER SEE THE LATEST ON ELECTRIC ASSIST BIKES (e-bikes).

Need a new Minnesota Bike Map? In the Education Building, look for the Minnesota Department of Transportation booth where you will find the latest maps free of charge.

Like parades?

AT THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR PARADE, ITS FUN TO SEE THE UNI-CYCLISTS RIDING AMONG THE FLOATS AND MARCHING BANDS.

AT THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR PARADE, ITS FUN TO SEE THE UNI-CYCLISTS RIDING AMONG THE FLOATS AND MARCHING BANDS.

At the Minnesota State Fair parade, its fun to see the uni-cyclists riding among the floats and marching bands. Each day at 2 p.m. on Cosgrove Street you can watch the Minnesota State Fair Parade. If you are lucky you might see the Twin Cities Unicyclists Club performing.  These single wheeled bicyclists always do some fun tricks as they pedal along the parade route. As the parade ends near the Eco Progress Center you can check out the latest exhibits in environmentally friendly living.

Fun foods at the Minnesota State Fair to try

YOU WILL FIND PLENTY OF FUN FOODS TO TRY AT THIS YEARS MINNESOTA STATE FAIR.

YOU WILL FIND PLENTY OF FUN FOODS TO TRY AT THIS YEARS MINNESOTA STATE FAIR.

You will find plenty of fun foods to try at this years Minnesota State Fair. Every year there are many fun and wacky foods entrees to try at the fair. This year is no exception looking at the latest published list of new foods to try. Items that have caught my attention to try include:
Bada Bing Sandwich, A Carnitas Taco Cone, and the No Bologna Coney, to name a few.

Hope this helps you plan for your next visit to the Minnesota State Fair. If we missed something you may have discovered? Please let us know, please leave a comment below.

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Border Bike Ride makes it easy to explore towns in Iowa and Minnesota

The Border Bike Ride allows all levels of cyclists the opportunity to ride on two trails, with several communities along the way. The fun begins in Riceville, in northeast Iowa, at the trailhead and welcome center of the Waspi-Great Western Line (WGWL) Trail on Saturday, August 24th. With many route options, recreational riders of all levels have several opportunities. The 56-mile route option crosses the border into Minnesota and to visit communities along the Shooting Star Trail.

The Border Bike Ride options

A multiple bike route event with a choice of:

  • Two family routes (22 miles round trip, entirely on the WGWL Trail)
  • Intermediate Routes (40 miles or 50 miles, on WGWL Trail and county hard-surface roadways)
  • Advanced Route (56 miles, on WGWL Trail, Shooting Star Trail, and paved county roadways)

Ride highlights

Border Bike Ride crosses the Wapsipinicon River twice.

Experience a biking environment that includes the following scenic views:

  • With miles of winding trail, the former WGWL railroad bed travels through the towns of Riceville and McIntire and twice crosses the Wapsipinicon River. Along the way also experience an 800-foot boardwalk that hovers over the flood plain that borders the river.
  • Also along the trail, take a peek at two ghost towns of the former villages of Acme and Bailey.
  • An added opportunity may include exploring the side trail that runs through the park next to Lake Hendricks.
  • As you pedal, travel next to Mennonite and Amish farms with a views dairy cows and draft horses grazing in the pasture. You will also pass by several Mennonite greenhouses that supply the area resident and visitors with flowers, fruit and vegetable products.
  • Seasoned cyclists on the 56-mile route will cross the border from Iowa into Minnesota with pleasant views of lady slipper flowers, Lake Louise State Park and the Upper Iowa River while riding along the Shooting Star Trail.

Some of the sweet treats along your ride

The delicious Heavenly Apples will be included with registration and served at Bailey station. Further along, enjoy homemade bars and ice cream at Lylah’s Marsh from 2-5 p.m. Then upon your return, ice cream sundaes/floats will be available for purchase at WGWL Trailhead/Welcome Center, from 2-6 p.m.  With maps provided you will find further refreshments and treats available at bike sponsor stations along the routes.

Registration

Border Bike Ride fun

Register online at https://borderbike.wgwltrail.com/. The cost is $12 to ride and $22 to ride with an event shirt.  Please note, event shirt is only available if pre-ordered by August 9th for Summer Farewell Border Bike.

Bike on your own or in a group.  Group departures from the WGWL Trailhead (110 East Main Street Riceville IA 50466) are at the quarter past the hour from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Shuttle available upon request.

Ride Benefits

Proceeds support the existence of the Wapsi-Great Western Line – a linear park preserving the past for the future, giving active people a safe place to run, hike and bike.

Riders on the18th Annual Gitchi-Gami Trail Association North Shore Bike Ride, August 18, will enjoy shoreline views of Lake Superior as they pass through a state park or riding over a serenading waterfall as it cascades into the lake.

Get close on the Gitchi-Gami Trail Association North Shore Bike Ride

Get up close and personal on the 19th Annual Gitchi-Gami Trail Association North Shore Bike Ride. On Saturday, August 17th, enjoy shoreline views of Lake Superior as you pedal the Gitchi-Gami Trail (GGST). Occasionally along the way passing through a state park or riding over a serenading waterfall as it cascades into the lake. This year with the usual: Snacks, T-shirts and sag support on four ride lengths, that includes a family-friendly 8-mile option.

Gitchi-Gami ride lengths

The full map of the Gitchi-Gami Trail

Starting at Gooseberry Falls State Park, the start time is 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday morning with recreational ride lengths offered at 8-miles, 28-miles, 34-miles, and 55-miles. The 55-mile ride is the only course that will use connecting roads. on the ride. All other options stay on the trail.  Click HERE for a mail-in registration form!

The 8-mile family ride option

A scenic view of the trail along Lake Superior

A scenic view of the trail along Lake Superior

Follows the GGST for 4 miles from Gooseberry to a rest stop at Twin Points wayside, where there will be treats and special events for families. The ride returns on the GGST to Gooseberry.

The 28-mile ride option

Entirely on the GGST, from Gooseberry through historic Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, continuing to the rest stop at the Beaver Bay Wayside, and returning on the trail. Because it is an “out-and-back” ride, bikers can turn around at any time to return to the starting point.

The 34-mile ride option

Rider on Gitchi-Gami Trail as it winds through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Rider on Gitchi-Gami Trail as it winds through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

 

55-mile ride option

Another new route this year! Follows the GGST to Beaver Bay Wayside, continues on the trail over the Beaver River Bridge and left onto the NEWEST segment of trail alongside West Road. Continues to Silver Bay where you will make a loop north beginning by turning left on Penn Avenue. Turning right on to Lax Lake Road you’ll bike to Hwy 1 and the Eckbeck rest stop, continue to Hwy 61, where you’ll head uphill at Outer Drive/Penn Avenue and pick up the Gitchi-Gami trail again near Rukavina Arena back to Beaver Bay, and then back to Gooseberry on the trail.

Registration can be completed online (through secure PayPal payment) at the link above or by mail, using the form on this page. Cost of the ride is $45. They offer a $10 discount to members if you would like to join.

Questions? Contact  annualride@ggta.org

Lodging opportunities and more scenic experiences to explore

Consider staying in Silver Bay, the Heart of the Northshore, on the top end of the GGST ride route, for plenty of things to do pre- and post your bike ride.

In its 32nd year the pedal Van Buren ride will be hosting their annual bike ride visiting several Civil War historical villages along the way.

Pedal Van Buren tours through 10 Civil War historic villages in SE. Iowa

Again in its 33rd year, the villages of Van Buren County, in Iowa will be hosting their annual Bike Van Buren ride August 17-18, and there is still room. Join over 200 bicyclists as they tour the countryside visiting several Civil War historical villages along the way. Ride participants can select the 42 or 66-mile route on Saturday and a 42-mile’r on Sunday. Along with SAG support and refreshments, a fun poker-run will be a part of the ride both days.

Bike Van Buren is a ride the whole family with enjoy.

Bike Van Buren is a ride the whole family with enjoy.

If you want to experience pedal Van Buren

The host villages will welcome the bikers with free refreshments and outstanding hospitality! All of the routes will lead you through some of the most beautiful countrysides in Iowa! Fill out the registration form/waiver for Bike Van Buren online at www.villagesofvanburen.com to save time. Walk-up registration will be held at the Keosauqua City Park, Saturday 7 to 8:30 a.m. and Sunday only rider registration is 7:30 to 8 a.m.

Meet old and new friend while touring the villages of Van Buren County

Meet old and new friend while touring the villages of Van Buren County

Bike Van Buren route options

Two routes will be offered on Saturday (66 miles & 42 miles) and 1 route on Sunday (42 miles). Riders can create their own route as well. All routes will begin and end at the Keosauqua City Park and all are clearly marked with large colored arrows. Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness, of Burlington, will provide technical support and several SAG (Service and Gear) wagons will be in-route with the riders at all times. Phone numbers for staff support crews are provided on the maps riders will receive upon registration (Riders are encouraged to carry a cell phone). All support crews will be equipped with free cold bottled water, courtesy of Dutchman’s Store, in Cantril and limited first aid.

Route options cover some quite county roads that meander from on village to another.

Route options cover some quiet county roads that meander from one village to another.

Lunch and sights to see on the ride

Riders will have the option to purchase a lunch band at registration ($8 adults, $5 youth).  Registered riders will take advantage of 100% complimentary refreshments at each of the nine hospitality stops. Hospitality stops average 8-10 miles apart and will include some fascinating historic sites such as the Bonaparte Pottery, Stockport Depot and Pearson House Museum Complex.

A little gaming fun is included on the ride

A Fun Poker Run will be part of the event on both days. Riders will try to build their best hand of poker by drawing cards at designated hospitality stops. The best hand on each day will win $100 cash. Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness in Burlington will provide prizes for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place winners.

Tour the Underground Railroad after the 1st day’s ride

Saturday’s ride will conclude at the Pearson House Museum Complex. Here ride participants can tour the Underground Railroad safe house. The tour shows places where escaping slaves hid under the floorboards, during the Civil War, on their journey to freedom. The Pearson House will also be open on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. On Saturday evening, in the Keosauqua City Park from 4 to 7 p.m. Goehring Brothers BBQ will be serving mouth-watering pulled pork & brisket plate dinners. From 5 to 6 p.m. the Tarnished Brass Band will perform and everyone is invited to bring a lawn chair and enjoy the evening!

Hope to see you on the Bike Van Buren Ride!

Hope to see you on the Bike Van Buren Ride!

For more information contact: Villages of Van Buren 800-868-7822 / 319-293-7111 www.villagesofvanburen.com