After 1100 miles bike-touring around Minnesota, we reached Rochester MN, home of the 2009 Midwest Tandem Rally (MTR 2009).
The MTR is in a different location each year, chosen by the bike club that volunteers to hold it that year. MTR 2009 attracted 288 teams, a little over 600 people as some family teams consisted of two tandems, or a triple with three riders on one bike, and even a few riding quads and other combinations, such as that third family of four with a tandem pulling a trail-a-bike pulling a 'child chariot.'
Our friends Don & Erica made it by bike, ferry & Amtrak from their home in Victoria BC to Winona MN, where they hopped off the train and back onto their bike, headed west, while we biked east from Rochester 'til we met halfway for the ride back. We didn't quite make the Ice Cream Social, but had a good dinner and rested up for the rally the next day.
Everything went very smoothly at the rally, and we enjoyed fifty-mile rides Saturday and Sunday with our 600 new friends, beginning with a police-escorted mass start each day -- that's just part of the crowd a few minutes before we started out from the Rochester convention center.
Saturday's ride was all on smooth, paved, quiet back roads with a rest stop and lunch stop at the one-third and two-thirds points, good opportunities to take pictures of and to talk with folks from all over the midwest and to comment on some of the more unusual tandems, such as the recumbent tandem trike in the second photo.
Chicago started a trend when they named their tandem club CATS - Chicago Area Tandem Society. Soon there were the Greater Ohio Area Tandem Society (GOATS), the Hoosiers Out On TandemS (HOOTS),
the Couples On WheelS (COWS, from Wisconsin of course), and the club with the most inspired name: Paired Iowans Going Somewhere (PIGS).
Sunday's ride took us to atmospheric Mantorville with the 1852 Hubbell House down Main Street from the 1915 Opera House, where we had a group portrait taken of our little Puget Sound contingent,
and another historic --or was it hysteric -- place Don decided to check out.
The Kahler Grand Hotel did well as our host, and even provided secure parking for all our Big Rigs. It's across the street from the Mayo Clinic and many if not most of their guests stay at the Kahler during treatment for themselves or a family member. The hotel staff told us they appreciated having all us ultra-fit and healthy guests around for a change.
In two days the Rally was over, and we moved on to the Post-Rally Event.
Twenty-four teams had signed up for another 3 days of riding in the Root River valley at the Post Rally Event, and we had a pleasant 47-mile ride there from Rochester with Don and Erica, complete with a picnic lunch alongside the Root River. Another couple, Tom and Sherry, volunteered to carry the panniers for us, Don and Erica, so it was another day with an unloaded bike, always much more fun to ride than when the bike has its usual 25 pounds of luggage on the rear rack. The last part of our ride came 11 miles down -- literally downhill for almost the whole way -- on the Root River Trail, the focus for our next three days of riding.
Especially scenic was a section where the railroad that once existed here had cut through a limestone outcropping. Oh, the beauty of these bike trails!
Each day began with breakfast at Pedal Pushers, a restaurant that featured produce and meat from local farms and decor from the 50s.We had two group dinners as part of our package, one with wurst and sauerkraut and a polka accompaniment,
the other on a deck overlooking the Root River and the trail.
Lanesboro is a quaint little town that time forgot until the state bought up the abandoned rail line through the valley and turned part of it into a trail. It was so popular that the trail was extended into a Y-shape with 60 miles of paved trails radiating from Lanesboro.
With that many teams, folks stayed at a variety of places around town. We stayed at Brewster's Red Hotel with its nice view down main street,
but there were many other interesting places to stay as well -- six years ago we spent a night in a converted chicken factory, which sounds odd but was very comfortable and, pardon the pun, chic. Though there are lots of cyclists about, many folks also come here for canoeing and kayaking on the Root River or for just relaxing in those wonderful B&Bs.
Each day we had mapped-out routes of about 40 miles, and got to explore the area around Lanesboro after a brief gathering to discuss the route. The first ride was particularly interesting as it started by climbing on a quiet road out of the valley past swirling rows of corn and soybeans -- who knew they could be so artistic? At the top of the ridge we then rode past Amish farms and farmers in their buggies before having a picnic lunch and a long easy ride back down the valley on the Root River Trail.
With so much fun to be had, the three days of riding seemed to be over in no time. At last it was time to say goodbye to the Root River Trail, new friends, and to Minnesota itself --
but not without a last look at some of the rustic beauty that too few people get to see anymore, at least not at the calm pace we've been enjoying.
We have one more day in this beautiful state down a part of the trail we haven't yet seen, then across the Mississippi River to explore the bike trails of Wisconsin. We're headed straight for the oldest and one of the most famous rail trails in America, the Elroy-Sparta, and we'll write next from there!