Pedal Pushers

Lanesboro, deep in southern Minnesota’s bluff country, may be the state’s most bike-friendly town. But the trails leading out are the real draw.

You’re supposed to be in bed, tucked in the garret of some Victorian bed-and-breakfast, drooling on the hand-stitched pillowcase. That’s why you can’t rent a bike in Lanesboro before 9 a.m. And what are you in a rush for, anyway? Lanesboro, population 788 (depending on whether the Arnesons have returned from Scottsdale yet), is the kind of town where you could stand in the middle of Main Street for as long as a person would care to before a cattle truck eventually rumbles through. Or, more likely, a passel of gaily clad cyclists.

On a sunny Saturday, sometime after brunch, I pluck a bike from the rafters of one of several bicycle (and canoe and kayak) rental shops downtown and inquire about a bike lock. How foolish. How “Mindianapolis,” as the local DJ says mockingly on the morning show. By now, the antique stores are opening up, along with the Cornucopia art gallery and Das Wurst Haus, where the oompah of an accordion mingles with the scent of sausage. And beside every business stands a couple of bicycles, as untethered as birds.

I bike out of town on the Root River State Trail, created some 25 years ago and now linked to the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail. Together, the paved paths cover some 60 miles of rolling countryside, crossing 48 wooden bridges, and connecting half a dozen towns where the Amish peddle jams from their buggies and small cafes slake cyclists’ thirst. I cruise past old red barns, beside cornfields, and under shady trees that bend over the trail as if in benediction. I’ve never seen more two-wheeled contraptions per capita, from road bikes to recumbent bikes to the occasional Segway. I stop for pecan pie in the hamlet of Whalan, a mere bend in the river. I park the bike and dash into the corn to surround myself in pastoral bliss. And by the time I head back to Lanesboro, the crickets have emerged.

After dark, cyclists gather on the patio of Riverside on the Root to refuel on steak and pasta as a folksinger serenades and the river burbles below. They compare sunburns, aching with the exquisite soreness of pleasure, not work. Then, two by two, they cycle away, ready to start over again the next day. Only, not so early.
 


MNMO’S GUIDE TO LANESBORO

WHERE TO STAY

Belle Rive Bed and Breakfast, $150 per weekend night and $125 Monday–Thursday, 507-467-2407, bellerivebandblanesboro.com; or Anna V’s Bed and Breakfast, $115–$135 per night, 507-467-2686, annavbb.com
 

WHERE TO EAT

Kari’s, Scandinavian dishes with local foods, 507-467-3381, karisinlanesboro.com; Old Village Hall Restaurant, fine dining with a great wine list, 507-467-2962, oldvillagehall.com; Das Wurst Haus, homemade brats and root beer, 507-467-2902; Riverside on the Root, live music on the patio, 507-467-3663, riversideontheroot.com
 

WHAT TO DO

The Root River State Trail can be accessed right downtown, with entrances heading west or east; the Lanesboro Area Visitor Center sits at the east entrance offering maps and information (more details at Lanesboro.com). Three outfitters on or around Parkway Avenue, the main drag downtown, offer bikes for rent—or canoes and kayaks if you’d prefer to get right in the river. To see Amish country, head to nearby Harmony for guided tours.

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