Bike Tour 2009 - The Lucky 13 Lakes and Dragon Flies Tour

Jim and Tom's 13th bike tour


It's been cold and dry all spring. However, now it's turning cooler and wetter. Jim and I are pretty certain we will be seeing some rain.

Here is an overview map of our journey.

00_Mpls-Bemidji.jpgTuesday, July 16, 82.8 miles, Avg 14.2 mph, 5h42m riding time
Minneapolis to St. Cloud, MN 01_start.jpg

Jim and I rise about 6:00am and are raring to go after a nice pancake breakfast.

We start riding about 7:15am and see a fair number of cyclists and joggers on the Minneapolis paths around the lakes. It's cool and cloudy. We ride around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun and get on a bike path that takes us to a wooden bridge that crosses some railroad tracks. As we look east we can see downtown Minneapolis.


Wooden Bridge

I stop at a Lifetime Fitness club and let them know I'll be gone for a few days and I'm just checking in to get my 8 uses for the month and, therefore, my $20 discount. I figure a bike ride to Bemidji counts as a workout.

We ride along the frontage road of Interstate 394 and then head into some nice leafy neighborhoods of Plymouth.

Soon we are on the Luce Line bicycle trail that goes by Parker Lake.


Parker Lake

We then ride Viksburg Lane to County Road 6 to Dunkirk and head north to the tiny hamlet of Hamel.



Then a straight shot north on County Road 116 to Fletcher, MN, where we see nice weeping willow trees.


Crow River

Now 116 heads northwest to the Crow River. So far we've had a nice tail wind.

After the Crow River is St. Michael and Jim and I ride through subdivisions looking for abandoned homes due to the recent subprime mortgage crisis. All-in-all it doesn't look too bad even though I know this area has suffered.

The next town is Albertville and then we come to Monticello where we have a wonderful DQ lunch. After lunch we cross the Mississippi River in Monticello and head north on busy County Road 11.


Mississippi in Monticello

Here we pass by an irrigation pivot in some farmer's field.



Then we head toward Becker, MN and come across this gem.


Old Shell Station in a farmer's field.

We ride through Becker which has a Furniture World, a University of Minnesota Sand Agricultural Research Center and this.


Becker, MN

We also come across a fender bender traffic accident in town that is generating quite a bit of local excitement.

After Becker we get on a nice smooth County Road 8 that has low traffic and a nice shoulder. County Road 8 also has a hazard.



We pass a number of cabins along Long Lake and still have a great tail wind. It is also starting to sprinkle. We debate waiting the rain out but decide it's only another 10 miles to our hotel. Soon we enter the outskirts of St. Cloud and make our way to the Mississippi River where we see this sign.


No bikes across the Mississippi in St. Cloud.

Of course we ride across anyway - there's no other way to get there. After we arrive at our hotel it starts to rain harder. It was a good thing we didn't try to wait out the rain as the rain was steady and constant all night.

Wednesday, July 17, 76.5 miles, Avg 14.4 mph, 5h18m riding time
St. Cloud to Brainerd, MN

After a nice buffet breakfast we start riding about 8:30am. The weather is cool (low 60's) with an ESE wind. We ride back over the Mississippi (on the no bicycle bridge) and past the wonderful smells of the Country Hearth Bakery. We ride past Highway 10 but cannot find the route to County Road 1. So, we ride back, along the frontage road, to Benton where we cross Highway 10 again to the first cross street. Then it's back across Highway 10 one more time and we finally find County Road 1. Soon we are heading north on County Road 3 and back on track. This stretch is into the wind but mostly flat and smooth, with almost no traffic. This is where we bump into some local art.


Machinery Art

Shortly after Popple Creek the road curves slightly more north and we come to County Road 13. Unfortunately 13 is a gravel road and this forces us to detour to Gillman, go back on Highway 25 and meet up with County Road 11 at Jakeman. County Road 11 is a nice smooth road with low traffic and we now have a tail wind again. It's also very straight, flat, and dotted with dairy and poultry farms. This lovely garden is also encountered along the way.



Near Morrill we head east on County Road 26 for a short distance and then head north again on County Road 37. As we approach Center Valley some of Jim's friend's call him over.


Jim and Cows

Country Road 39 takes us west to the town of Pierz where we have lunch. Pierz is a town of 3000 people and has no chain restaurants. It's all still locally owned. We have a lovely lunch at "OLD BANK" where they offer several homemade soups that hit the spot on a cool day.

After lunch we head out of town toward County Road 43 and come to a curious intersection.


153rd St.

I wonder how I can be 153 block from some place? Also, there is another street sign kitty-corner from where I am standing.


Hawthorn and Hawthorn

How can this be 153rd St. and Hawthorn and Hawthorn runs perpendicular to Hawthorn? Never mind, we're leaving - and as we leave we see this farmer spraying a field.


Farmer spraying field

Soon we come to field with feed covered in white plastic.


Covered Feed

We continue west on County Road 43 until we come to County Road 45 and start heading north again. This road has more rolling hills and more cracks in the road. Good news is that there is no traffic. After a few miles we come to this amazing rock quarry.


Groovy Rocks


Closeup of Groovy Rocks

These rocks remind me of rocks I've seen in Montana. As we approach Brainerd (home of the brain-deads) the traffic picks up some. We also see a few cyclists as we enter Brainerd where we spend the evening.

Thursday, July 18, 90 miles, Avg 13.9 mph, 6h27m riding time
Brainerd to Park Rapids, MN

After breakfast we start riding at 6:45am on this calm, cloudy, cool, and humid morning. It's about 60 degrees. We rode to 7th street and wind around a bit before we find Laurel that leads us to the bridge that crosses the Mississippi.


Mississippi Brainerd

Shortly after crossing the river we enter the Paul Bunyan Trail.


Paul Bunyan Trail

First we come to the Oberstar Tunnel and then to the path that leads to Merrifield and Nisswa. We pass by several clusters of pretty flowers.



This dock seems to have seen better days.


Old lake dock

We then head to Nisswa and stop for a few pictures.


Nisswa totem pole


Jim and Paul Bunyan


Tom and Babe

This part of the trail is nice and smooth and we pass by several scenic lakes. There are just a few cyclists and bladers as we head north a little worried about the possibility of rain. There are also a lot of dragon flies on the path that wait until we are right on top of them and then fly up and hit us.

When we get to Backus we meet Colonel Cobber.


Colonel Cobber

Mindful of the weather we ride straight through to Hackensack. This part of the Paul Bunyan trail is a little rough. In Hackensack we meet Paul Bunyan's girlfriend.


Paul Bunyan's girl friend Lucette

We leave the Paul Bunyan trail after Hackensack and head west on County Road 6. This starts out as a nice smooth road with a good shoulder but gets rougher after a few miles and we lose the shoulder. It is a pretty remote road though with low traffic and some hills. The Paul Bunyan trail is pretty flat and straight being an old railroad bed. This part of the route is an interesting change.

We wind around Ten Mile Lake and the road turns into County Road 12 when we enter Hubbard County. This brings us to Ackley where Jim meets Paul Bunyan again.


Jim and Paul Bunyan in Ackley

In Ackley we hop onto the Heartland bicycle path. We had originally planned to stay in Walker, MN this evening but found out the Moondance Country and Western Festival was being held there and it was impossible to find lodging.

Plan B has us head to Park Rapids along the Heartland Trail. This trail is smoother and in better shape than the Paul Bunyan trail. There are still plenty of dragon flies. After several miles we come to Dorset, home of the giant Tiger Muskie.


Tiger Muskie in Dorset

We ride the rest of the Heartland Trail into Park Rapids.


Park Rapids

We ride around Park Rapids and encountered no rain today. A big pleasant surprise for us. Park Rapids has a nicely preserved downtown area with some unusual center of the street parking areas. That evening there are very heavy rains with strong winds.

Friday, July 19, 82.6 miles, Avg 13.3 mph, 6h12m riding time
Park Rapids to Bemidji, MN

On our last day of riding we have breakfast at our hotel (C'Mon Inn) and start riding around 8:00am. The roads have dried off pretty well after all the rain and there is no wind.

We retrace our route on the Heartland Trail and head toward Walker, MN. First, we stop in Dorset again.


Jim in Dorset, MN, again

A sign of the storm last night is that a tree fell across part of the bicycle path.


Heartland Trail hazard

We are making good time on our way to Walker and once again there is a rain threat for around 1:00pm. Here you can see Jim in action.


Heartland Trail action shot #1


Heartland Trail action shot #2

At the end of the Heartland Trail we pick up the Paul Bunyan trail again and head toward Walker. As we approach Walker the sun starts shining *yippie*


Walker, MN

Under the city docks we see a large muskie.


Muskie tail in Leech Lake


Muskie head in Leech Lake

We sit a spell on the docks and enjoy the lake and the sun. We also eat a few snacks. The lake is like glass this morning, with several gulls and ducks swimming.. A friendly local stops by to chat with me and tells me about the Migizi (Mi-gee-zee) bicycle trail near Cass Lake.

We ride by some Condotels as we leave the lake and head back to the Paul Bunyan Trail.


Here's looking at Tom


Here's looking at Jim

We ride by some Leech Lake resorts and cabins and come to an area of marshes. Just before Cass Lake, we take the turnoff we were told about, and get on the Migizi Trail. This is a seven mile near wilderness riding experience.


Migizi trail

After the Migizi we head to Cass Lake and take a quick tour of the city before having lunch at the local DQ.


Cass Lake

As we leave Cass Lake we see this POW MIA reminder.


POW MIA sign near Cass Lake

We ride back country roads the rest of the way to Bemidji and cross the Mississippi one more time.


Mississippi River near Bemidji

The roads are a little rough and the wind is against us but our journey is nearing an end. We ride around Lake Bemidji and head north to our hotel.

The next morning we visit Paul Bunyan one more time, and interact with some of the local street art.


Paul and Babe and Jim and Tom


Doin' da art thing in Bemidji by Tom


da art thing in Bemidji


Doin' da art thing in Bemidji by Jim

Total Miles: 362


Make sure you go to Bemidji someday.

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