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BAM pedal pushers to commence, end this year's ride in Park Rapids

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Six years ago in the Twin Cities, a group of organizations gathered and created an event. This event would accomplish three common goals: to celebrate a love of biking, and encourage Minnesota commerce and tourism.

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Biking Around Minnesota was born.

That first year, the tour was scheduled to leave Park Rapids and travel to Walker and Longville before returning to its start. There were only 30 participants, with three breakfasts and a dinner provided.

This year, the tour "returns to its roots," according to its website. The ride, from Aug. 23-26, will begin in Park Rapids, and continue on to Walker, Pequot Lakes and Wadena before ending in Park Rapids.

According to Lisa Austin's assistant Kathy Horton, all available registration spots were completely filled in two days, with a waiting list.

In 2007, the tour began again in Park Rapids, and traveled to Bemidji, Walker and Wadena. The number of riders had tripled from the previous year, going from 30 to 90 riders. Four breakfasts and two dinners were provided.

In 2008, the tour began in Granite Falls and continued to Benson, Ortonville and Montevideo before returning to Granite Falls. That year, BAM became a nonprofit corporation, allowing for all breakfasts, lunches and dinners to be included with registration. The number of riders that year increased from 2007's 90 to 120.

In 2009, the tour began and ended in Rochester, with overnight stops in Lanesboro, Winona and Wabasha. Two hundred riders participated that year.

In 2010, the tour began in Cloquet, and continued on to Two Harbors, Virginia, and Eveleth before returning to Cloquet. Over 200 riders were in attendance.

Last year, in 2011, the tour began and ended in Mankato, with overnight stops in New Prague, New Ulm and Sleepy Eye. The new goal of 275 riders was met in early April - four months before the ride itself.

In addition to enjoying the scenic views of Minnesota from the seat of a bike, activities and events have been orchestrated for the riders at various stops on the tour this year.

Stops will take place at Itasca State Park, an emu farm, Forestedge Winery, Leech Lake Brewing Company, the Lakes Area Bluegrass Festival in Pine River, a paddle boat ride on Pelican Lake, Staples' Railroad Days, the New England Prairie Days Festival and Finn Fest.

To learn more, visit the tour's website at www.bam biketour.org.

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