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Cyclists roll through Park Rapids as part of Tour of Minnesota

Two hundred riders embarking on 350-mile journey around northern Minnesota for annual bike tour.

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Two hundred cyclists on the 2022 Tour of Minnesota ride pedaled through Park Rapids this week. It was part of their 350-mile journey.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise
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Cyclists from all over the United States, Canada – and even some from Central Africa – gathered on Sunday to start pedaling a 350-mile journey for an annual Tour of Minnesota bike ride.

After setting off along the Paul Bunyan Trail from Brainerd on June 19, and biking 66 miles north to Walker, the 2022 Tour of Minnesota group was met with heat advisories and tornado warnings within the first couple of days.

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Tour of Minnesota cyclists are riding all manner of bikes, like recumbent and ebikes.
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise

On Monday, June 20, they biked along the Heartland Trail from Walker to Park Rapids, making stops in Akeley, Nevis and Dorset.

On Tuesday, the cyclists made their way from Walker to Bemidji and camped at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds, having the opportunity to traverse the area in the evening.

From 7-year-olds to participants in their 80s, the cyclists hit the trails again on Wednesday morning for a 63-mile trek to Park Rapids. They set up camp at the Park Rapids Area High School.

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Some cyclists elected to pitch tents at the Park Rapids Area High School, while others stayed in local hotels.
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

While most of the riders camp out in tents, they also have the option to stay in hotels, if they don’t feel like roughing it.

Most meals are provided for the riders as local service groups and churches cater to the group in each town.

Thursday was a day of rest and exploration in Park Rapids.

Staples is the next destination, where they will complete the last stretch of the tour back to Brainerd on Saturday, June 25.

Keeping the tradition aliveThis seven-day bike tour, originally known as the Klobuchar Ride or “Jaunt with Jim,” was started in 1974 by Jim Klobuchar, a longtime columnist for the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis and father of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

The cyclist, adventurer, writer and leader of the bike tour passed away in 2021, but his tradition lives on.

Klobuchar set forth three main goals for the Tour of Minnesota. He wanted it to go to different cities, small towns and vistas all over Minnesota, bring economic development to small businesses and lastly enjoy the heritage and culture each town has to offer.

Assistant Tour Director Rich Gordon started participating in this ride in 1990 with his dad at age 24. This year, the Star Tribune sports statistician and former journalist stepped into a leadership role, alongside current tour owner and director Doobie Kurus.

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This is the third Tour of Minnesota for Tim Reading and Mary Harris of Des Moines, Iowa. Both are retired.

“We’re made truly lifelong friends through this ride,” Harris said. “We actually meet and go to each other’s houses.”

Reading, a veteran, is originally from the Mankato area. He said it’s a “fantastic” way to meet people with a common interest from all over the nation.

They do one or two long-distance bike rides each year – in Minnesota, Upper Michigan, Kentucky and elsewhere.

They opted to stay in tents on this tour.

Reading said, “When you camp out like that, that’s half the fun. It’s social. We can ride bike and put on miles anywhere, but it’s the social aspect of it, where you get to meet all these different people.”

Harris said they went to the pub, ate pizza and then filled up with ice cream in downtown Park Rapids before heading to the Rotary’s dragon boat demonstration on the Fish Hook River.

Anthony Schmit, 14, the youngest biker on the tour, traveled from Omaha, Nebraska with his dad and younger brother for their yearly week-long bike ride.

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The unofficial oldest rider at 80 years old, Jim Victorsen from Maple Plain, Minn., has been doing the bike tour for about 36 years alongside his wife and a couple of friends he's made over the years.

For more information about the Minnesota Bike Tour or details on next year's registration, visit their website at tourofminnesota.com.

Additional reporting by Maggi Fellerman of the Bemidji Pioneer.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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