Celebrating communities coast to coast with National Bike Month, we wanted to share what residence of Winona, MN are saying. A Bronze Bike Friendly Community, this area offers many bike-related activities for you to enjoy any time of the year while visiting.
Located in Southeast Minnesota along the Mississippi River, the city is a very comfortable place to explore on two wheels. Thanks to Pam Eyden, who profiled the following cyclist, we think you will agree that Winona is a place to consider while visiting with your bike. Don’t miss the fun, also check their May Bike Month web page www.visitwinona.com/may-is-bike-month to find out what’s happening.
Fun biking around Winona and the 6-day 500-mile ride, Profile #1
Enthusiastic as a kid about riding her bike, Deb Hegland rides 500 miles in Six Days and loves it! Whether alone, with her husband Bryan or with friends, she gets out as often as she can. When together they both enjoy riding the roads at home and away. This winter Deb and Bryon went to Australia, where they did city tours on e-bikes.
Biking in the Habitat for Humanity Minnesota 500 Ride, every summer, is another high point of Deb’s year. This will be her eighth year of riding for the charity. Her goal is to do 20-consecutive years. “I wish I’d started earlier,” she laughed. Eight years ago, a friend talked her into signing up for what was then a seven-day fundraising ride in support of Habitat for Humanity and its aim of providing safe, affordable housing for all who need it.
Riding 500 miles in seven days sounds daunting for the average recreational bike rider. Her husband was skeptical because Deb had never done anything similar before. “He said, “fine, sign up. Just don’t sign me up!” Deb recalled. “He fully expected that I would call and want to be rescued part way through the ride.” Her daughter expected the same thing but that didn’t happen. Early on, Deb was overwhelmed and considering dropping out.
Then she was befriended by a woman who knew the ropes. “She taught me everything!” Deb stated. Everything meant riding 90-miles a day, pacing yourself — it’s a ride, not a race — washing shirts in a sink at night and sleeping in school gyms alongside dozens of “new best friends” as Deb calls them.
Deb owns her own business and works out of her home, a perfect situation for someone who likes to create her own schedule and freedom to ride and train when she wants. “I will never retire because I love my business,” she said, “but I really love to have fun,” she exclaimed.
The Habitat Minnesota 500 Ride will be held July 14 – 19 (it’s now just a six-day ride) this year in northern Minnesota. Despite recuperating from ankle surgery, Deb said she and her husband, who joined the ride after that first year, will be there. They don’t want to miss the fun, and she suggests that you don’t want to miss it, either. — Pam Eyden
A family on wheels, biking around Winona, Profile #2
When they first met in Utah years ago, some of Sundra and Patrick Menton’s first dates were on mountain bikes. “He was already into it,” she said, “so I started riding, too.” They married, moved to Winona and now have two kids, Avri and August and biking is a total family activity.
“We ride wherever we can ride together,” said Sundra. Sometimes that means riding around Lake Winona; sometimes it’s gravel country roads, and sometimes it’s the Root River Trail out of Rushford, MN. At the end of that ride, there’s ice cream for a treat — a sure incentive.
The Menton’s taught their children to ride using “balance bikes,” pedal-less
bikes that toddlers can walk, stride, push and glide on. Kids seem to learn faster how
to steer and keep their balance than when they start with tricycles or training
wheels, Patrick said.
Avri has just finished her first year on the Winona Composites/Winona High School mountain biking team. She knows the trails up on the bluffs behind Holzinger Lodge and at Bronk Unit’s Cherry Hill pretty well by now. Her brother August just joined the team. The family will be taking their vacation to Bentonville, Arkansas, this spring. The town has become a mountain biking mecca because of its many miles of constructed mountain biking trails in nearby hills, ravines, and forests.
Patrick, who works as Winona’s assistant recreation director, is an enthusiastic supporter of the new “Bluff Traverse” trail system Winona is planning to build. It will connect the town with the blufftop, and offer both hiking and biking trails for people of all skill levels. “We have all the trailers and gear we need,” he said, “but when Winona’s new trails are built, we’ll be able to ride from our house, around town and to the top of the bluffs without driving.” — Pam Eyden
Fun anytime, biking around Winona, Profile #3
Kay Peterson, a client services coordinator at Winona Volunteer Services, loves bicycle riding. She has six bikes — a road bike, a fat-tire bike, two mountain bikes, a winter bike with used snowmobile bar mitts to cover her arms, and her everyday bike, which she calls her “horse.” She rides her horse to work, a four-mile round trip most days.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” Kay said. “I started when I had an old car that burned gallons of gas just to drive short distances. It was a waste of money! I thought, ‘This is such a small town, I’ll try riding everywhere.’ After I started, I was hooked.”
She rides all year, even in the depths of winter, when wind chill temperatures are way below zero, in blizzards, ice, snow, wind, and rain. She’s got the gear, she’s got the clothes and swears she never gets cold. Or not very cold.
Biking clears her mind, she said. New ideas come to her while she’s wheeling down the street. In the summer she also loves gardening. “Biking and gardening are always competing for my time,” she laughed.
A few years ago a friend persuaded her to try mountain biking. She soon came to love the challenge and the thrill of it. Her favorite trails are at Cherry Hill, in the Bronk Unit (location). “It’s a hidden gem,” she said.
She encourages friends and clients to get on bikes and ride. In an effort to get bikes to people who need them, she coordinates the Winona Volunteer Services Bike Program. Adventure Cycle and Ski accepts donated bikes, fixes, and tunes them up, then the Bike Program donates them to qualified people who need them. The program has given away 160 bikes in the last ten years. — Pam Eyden
Bike around Winona, Profile #4
Emily Krall, 31, likes biking for the freedom and for the convenience of it. Manager of Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse, in downtown Winona, she usually bikes to work, at least when the weather’s good. She lives just a couple of miles away and could easily drive or walk, but biking is best. “I haven’t timed it, but biking is probably faster than driving,” she said. “Besides, the great thing is I don’t have to find a place to park! Before I got my bike I got lots of parking tickets. I work full time — having to move my car every two hours all day is no way to live.”
She also rides her bike to do errands, like to pick up a few things at Target. She carries purchases home in her backpack, which works fine, she said, because she’s not a person who likes to buy a lot of new stuff. She prefers the side streets and always rides defensively. “I trust that no one will hit me, but I watch everything,” she stated.
Bike touring after work
After work, she enjoys touring around Lake Winona and out to Prairie Island on a 13-mile loop near the river that passes the Minnesota City Boat Club and the airport.
Access to the natural world is one thing Emily loves about Winona. She recently moved here from Greenville, North Carolina, a city of 80,000, where the traffic was bad and biking was difficult. “Greenville wasn’t bike-friendly at all. I had to drive a couple of hours just to find a place to ride in nature. Here it’s so easy! There aren’t a lot of bike lanes in the town, but Winona is surrounded by so much beauty!”
Emily bought her bike on Craigslist for $150 from someone whose family had had it for three generations. It’s a classic Schwinn, with original green paint, original logos, and original seat. She mostly rides alone now, but will soon have company. Her four-year-old daughter is about ready to ride along. — Pam Eyden
Getting around Winona by bike, Profile #5
When Jo McGrath moved to Winona, from Rochester in 1997, friends told her to bring her bike because the town was flat and bikeable. She can’t remember why she was skeptical, but she did as they advised. Twenty-one years later, she’s still riding. She never bought a car. “I have a big bike with three baskets. That’s all I need,” she said. “If the weather’s bad or the trip is long, I can put my bike on the bus — although not if the baskets are full.”
Jo, who retired from work as a nursing assistant and personal companion, now volunteers one day a week at the Catholic Worker’s Bethany House. She lives on West Broadway and rides her bike to town several times a week — to the Bluff Country Coop, the library and farmers market. She also rides over to the river to see how the floodwaters are doing. “I just do the normal things,” she said. “I stay off of Broadway and take Seventh St. instead, which is easier.”
Using Winona’s quiet neighborhood streets to get around
She used to go on biking adventures with her husband and she also rode with the bike group at the Winona Friendship Center. One of her four daughters leads bicycling tours in Europe, but biking is just a part of everyday life for Jo. She’s happily riding her bike to the Center in Winona to play ping-pong. “As a child, I had training wheels on my bike until I was in seventh grade!” she said. “I didn’t give them up until my friends wanted to go on a picnic at Mayowood. Then I learned. I was not going to ride with training wheels on my bike that day!
“We all have to be aware of each other. Bikers can do crazy things, so can walkers and drivers. I believe in mindfulness. Of course, putting it into action is another thing!” she laughed. — Pam Eyden
A mountain biker, Profile #6
Sheldon Morgan discovered the sport of mountain biking in the late 1980s and has been doing it ever since. Now he rides his mountain bike at least eight hours a week and travels to other parts of the country for trail events and races, besides organizing rides here in Winona.
Winter he rides fat-tire bikes in the snow
To work at his office in downtown Winona, where he consults on IT projects, he rides his everyday bike — a 20-mile round-trip commute. I ride more miles on roads, but more hours on trails,” Sheldon said. “I mostly ride on roads when the trails are wet.”
Mountain biking is number one for him. Trails put him closer to nature, which he enjoys. Riding through the woods is solitary and challenging. Endorphins and risk are also addictive.
“Even riding the same trails, you can always improve your speed, your grace, and your not-falling!” he said.
The Hillbilly Gravel Grinder
In early May he organized the Hillbilly Gravel Grinder, a 100-mile ride on the gravel county roads of Winona, Fillmore and Houston Counties. About 25 people started out at 9 a.m. and most completed the route by 6 — nine hours, including breaks. People enjoy the county roads because there isn’t as much traffic. “I ride for the mental stability and the exercise. I like to run, too, but I can’t run as long or as far as I can ride,” Sheldon said.
Winona’s mountain bike trail design
Over the years, Sheldon has developed an interest in and expertise in trial design. He and a partner formed a business, Dirty Deeds Earth Services, LLC, to help with trail maintenance and design at Holzinger Park, which, he says has “old school” trails, not well designed to counter erosion. He’s also helped the city at Sugar Loaf and has designed and created single-track mountain biking trails at the Bronk Unit of Minnesota’s Richard Dorer State Forest. This area, called Cherry Hill, is one of his favorites in the area.
Trails at Holzinger and Sugar Loaf will get a new, close examination for sustainability during the Winona City park planning process this summer.
Trails can be great therapy for kids
Sheldon believes mountain biking could be great therapy for kids who’ve lost touch with their roots and with nature. “There’s a lot of stress on teenagers these days. It’s higher than ever, because of social media and access to all kinds of media,” he said. “They need to re-engage with the world.”
Sheldon points out that parents and peers can do a lot to encourage kids, first maybe by getting on a bike themselves. “The city has to provide the infrastructure, but parents and peers bring will kids in.” That’s how he learned. “My whole family was very active in outdoor sports. It’s in my DNA, I think?”
He and his 26-year-old ride together, as they have for years. They go on mountain bike journeys together, riding and camping, and taking a break once in a while for rock climbing.
Biking, rock climbing, running and kayaking — he loves it all. “And it’s all right here in Winona!” he exults.
National Bike Month
May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to give biking a try. National Bike to Work Week 2019 will be held from May 13–19. Bike to Work Day is May 17!