The names of the towns on our bike ride in June evoke Minnesota’s northwoods and its pine forests spreading to the horizons: Blackduck, Big Falls, Deer River, International Falls, Kabetogama and more. Add the wildness of its streams and its settler history. Register Here
There is something unambiguous and instantly revealing about those place names. They roll off the tongue with an easy identification that tells you exactly what this part the world is all about. It invites the wanderer and the explorer in us– and the bike rider.
To the woods and water and the logging era add one more slice of geography: The mining country that enriched northern Minnesota for more than a century, and still does. And from there on to the Canadian border.
So let’s go, “Riding to the Border.” You’re invited to this 37th annual Jaunt With Jim, a bike ride that happily ignores generational gaps and last year was honored by the Adventure Cycling Association of America with its Pacesetter Award for bringing the gifts of the Minnesota and Midwest countryside to thousands men and women and nurturing the lasting friendships of their biking community.
The dates are June 10 to June 17, beginning with an overnight pre-ride campout on June 10 in the town of Blackduck. There was a time when this ride, back in the 1970s, was advertised in its Neanderthal years as “500 miles in 5 Days.” Within a few years the gentle wisdom of sanity intervened. We settled into the more civilized daily distances that now average somewhere close to 50 miles, sometimes a few miles more, often less, with optional routes available to the lion hearts who demand something a little longer.
This we can happily provide. But basically the ride is a reunion of the clans, always with a standing invitation to new faces and new appetites. We camp in the towns where we overnight, often at a school campus or city park. We like to engage with the townspeople and almost invariably find that the feeling is mutual. To shuttle your duffel bag containing your tent and traveling gear we retain a truck and trailer driven by the over-the-road legend, John Witt. And to meet any maintenance need for your bicycle the Penn Cycle people (read Pat Rivers) have been doing this professionally for us for years and will again. We normally use bike trails where available but this year, you’ll be riding through a remote countryside on quiet roads (but PAVED), perhaps as close as we will come to experiencing a genuine Minnesota wildwood. You will find it flecked here and there by little bridges and town halls that lift you back into another time and pace.
You’ll see some of this on our first day from Blackduck to Deer River, and again the next day riding through white pine and Norways, dappled with cottages flanked by a small lake, and a few miles down the road a country gas station and café emerging from the woods. Then for one overnight interlude you can immerse yourself in Minnesota’s mining history (and revival) in the town of Nashwauk on the edge of the great Mesabi Range that fed the steel mills of America’s expansion for more than a century.
You’ll ride northward through a dense forest congenial to small wildlife—and to passing bicyclists. We’ll lunch in a country sports bar familiar with our folks from a few years ago and then overnight in the town of Cook, not far from the shorelines of one of them most admired of all northern Minnesota vacation sites, Lake Vermilion.
One day’s ride from there we’re at the Canadian border and two nights in International Falls on the American side of the Rainy River. We’ll camp in the Paul Bunyan city park from where you’re free to explore this fascinating lumber town as well as Fort Frances in Ontario across the bridge. On your free day you’re also invited to an excursion on the waters of Rainy Lake in Voyageurs National Park. It’s a rewarding cruise that gives you an appreciation of the breadth and diversity of the country we’re traveling through and introduces you to an island where they once found gold in—of all places—northern Minnesota.
If you’re considering a couple of hours in Canada, please be sure to bring your passport, which is now required of American citizens traveling to Canada. That extra day, in short, is basically a refresher, a stroller’s day, one that still allows you time to stake out a few tables in the park and party with your pals. In fact, you can do all of that.
This doesn’t mean you are spared the basic requirement of getting up at a reasonable hour in the morning. Traditionally this is always a kind of growling ceremony tastefully reinforced by The Conductor’s whistle inviting you to enjoy the gifts of the rising sun. The ensuing insults to the whistle blower clearly should be in good taste—and occasionally are.
From International Falls we’ll ride south past Littlefork through a broad and lonely moor that would have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle but not many housing developers. Yet it is fascinating in its pure remoteness and then pleasantly relieved by the swishing whitewater of the Big Falls rapids, where we’ll lunch before again riding through seldom traveled woodland that takes us to the vintage logging days hamlet of Effie, and from there Bigfork for a final night out before the return to Blackduck..
The registration form on this page is your invitation to the ride. The cost of the bike ride services is $180 for the seven days. Meals on the ride are extra but often prepared by local organizations and offered economically to our group. We like to take many of our meals together, meaning quality food at reasonable price and a chance to trade the usual amazements from the road. Experience of the last few years tells us that 150 or so is the maximum number that can comfortably be handled by the communities and our providers. For this reason to assure yourself a place on the ride it’s probably wise to make your reservation early. Information on the pre-ride campsite in Blackduck and duffle ID tags will be mailed to you well ahead of the trip.
Mail your registration checks of $180 per person to Jim Klobuchar’s Adventures, P.O. Box 47063, Plymouth MN 55447. We (I) understand that Jim Klobuchar’s Adventures cannot be held responsible for injuries or illness incurred on the trip. If you wish to join the Rainy Lake cruise include in the mailing a separate check for $20 made out to Convention and Visitors Bureau. Be sure to include the form below with your mailing.