by Andrew Ellis, HaveFunBiking
The inaugural Root River Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour, last July, explored the small towns along the trail system in Southeast Minnesota. Riding the scenic roads and the popular trail was an experience Twin Cities-based biker Mike Rogers won’t soon forget. He had spent the past few years pedaling around trails tucked away in his Minneapolis neighborhood. Now, he wanted to get away from all the noise and inconveniences city bikers have to deal with.
Pedaling the Root River Bluff & Valley Tour was a Moving Experience
Scouring the Internet for something outside the city limits, he came across the Root River Trail website in southeast Minnesota. It was far away from the busy big city streets so he could focus on biking and enjoying the surroundings. He was only nervous about hitting the new trails on his own, because none of his friends ride. Then he stumbled across the perfect solution.
He found the perfect three-day weekend solution. A bicycle tour that took place right after the fourth of July, and where a bunch of people get together for a three-day trek. With this organized ride, not only would he not have to fear getting lost, he would meet some new friends. “It seemed like a win-win,” he said.
The Inaugural Bicycle Tour Took Place in Bluff Country
The tour he found was the inaugural Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour that took place in Bluff Country. In 2016, the ride started in Whalan, about two hours south of the Twin Cities in Southeastern part of Minnesota. Each day covered between 50 to 68 miles on paved roads and trails offering participants a few endurance-testing hills.
“There were definitely a few hills that made me question how I was going to make it,” he says. “But those challenges made me a better biker as a result.”
Bike tours like the Bluff & Valley Tour aren’t just about pedaling to the next destination; it’s what you see along the way. Visiting several historic attractions as the route meandered to its next overnight destination was one of the trip’s highlights. One of those high points was stopping at the Fremont General Store. This historic location was built in 1856 and is still in operation. The tour also experienced the milling culture of Rushford and the Amish farmlands, still cultivated by horses as you make your way to Harmony. The tour allowed Mike a chance to experience a part of Minnesota that he knew nothing about.
The Bluff & Valley Ride Was The Perfect Bicycle Tour
Mike also discovered many of the small towns along the Root River trail system are largely unchanged from when they were officially founded. So that friendly small town hospitality vibe is still going strong today. With the absence of big chain stores, longtime locally-owned businesses heighten each town’s unique vibe.
Mike said, “There was so much history on this tour. As I pedaled along, I would occasionally reflect back to other towns I’ve visited. Many of them were so unique that I might want to go back and spend some more time revisiting those areas. One in particular was in Fountain where the Fillmore County History Center Museum and Genealogy Library are located.”
Then there’s the bicyclists he rode and shared all those experiences with. While the Bluff & Valley ride was only three days the group he rode with struck up a close connection. It wasn’t that hard as mostly everyone camped or lodged at the same places overnight and ate together.
“People from Washington State, Iowa, Winnipeg, Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were on this tour so you got to meet a lot of interesting people, and hear their stories,” he says.
Most riders camped out but there were a few hotel options for those who preferred making their own lodging reservations. The makeshift campsites were in local parks and schools, and Rogers says he loved camping outside under the stars, just like the pioneers.
“There something so calm about sitting under the stars at night, it was a great way to settle down after a long day of pedaling,” he says. “It actually made me make a point to find more tours like this.”
2017 Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour Registration is Open
He’s actually kept in touch with a few of the bikers he befriended during the tour. They’ve ridden together a couple times on the weekends, and have already registered for next year’s Bluff & Valley Bike Tour. And for those who may scoff at the $295 price tag he say it’s well worth it.
“I don’t believe I thought about the price the entire time I was there, because I was too busy having a great experience with great people,” he says.
Not only did Mike sign for the 2017 Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour, but he was able to get some friends to join him. “I can’t wait for round two in Bluff Country, I know we’ll have a blast,” he says.
For more information and to sign up for the 2017 Root River Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour, click here.