BAM cyclists embark on tour
A merry band of 275 pedal pushers arrived in Park Rapids this week to travel the area's trails and back roads on a four-day circuitous journey.
The Bicycling Around Minnesota group, arriving from 16 states and Canada, is making a reprise visit to Park Rapids.
The loop ride - heading to Walker, Pequot Lakes, Wadena and back to Park Rapids - was initiated six years ago. Thirty bikers arrived for the first BAM tour in 2006.
This year, the ride filled in two days, BAM's marketing coordinator Kathy Horton said. "It's gained a reputation for being fun."
Early Thursday morning, the American Legion dining room was at capacity, riders eating breakfast and greeted by mayor Nancy Carroll and Chamber exec Katie Magozzi before heading out on the journey.
The Park Rapids diplomats promised root beer floats for all at ride's end - drawing cheers.
"This is a tour, not a race," tour director Mary Derks reminded the riders before departure.
Riders leaving Park Rapids did not simply follow the Heartland Trail but meandered on "roads less traveled." They departed Park Rapids heading north on CSAH 1 to 40 and 50 to Dorset, where they proceeded to Nevis, with a stop at the emu farm, and on to Akeley to consume lunch with Paul (Bunyan).
They proceeded south on CSAH 12 to Ten Mile Lake, heading back to Walker via road and trails for the night.
A luggage truck carries tents, clothes and chairs. About two-thirds choose to camp; a third sleep in motels. Host cities provide sites for showers.
"This is a great ride," said Don Munden, 59, of Albert Lea. Loop routes, he explained, are more enjoyable than those that require transport back to retrieve vehicles. And the four-day timetable is a plus.
"It's a great vacation," agreed Glenn Lane, 61, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He met Munden on a ride several years ago.
This was Lane's first visit to Park Rapids, who's impressed with the geography moving from prairie to forest. Lane was sent an article on the area's trails a few years ago. "This is great, worth the trip.
"You forget everything," he said, while increasing appetites and sleeping well.
A return to traditional beds has them waking up with backaches.
"It's very relaxing," Munden said of camping.
"People say we have way too much fun," he joked.
The ride is a collaborative effort with Explore Minnesota and the Department of Transportation to promote tourism, Horton said.
The riders return Sunday from Wadena, pedaling back roads to Menahga, the lunch stop for the day, and on to their destination - Park Rapids.