In June, We’ll Set Our Watches Back 100 Years; And Bike Along Storybook Streams
If you’ve traveled in the remotest part of Switzerland, the Engadine, a bike ride in southeastern Minnesota’s bluff country will stir instant recall. They are places alike, both inviting but out of the mainstream, seemingly fixed in another time, resisting the allure and tensions of change.
In the bluffs the traveler will hear the quirky moans of the forests of the high slopes, stirred by the wind. Not far from the trail or road is a stream, swishing and bubbling and marginally frolicsome but in no special hurry. In towns like Rushford, Harmony and Fountain, life slows down or sometimes backs up a little Out on the farm flanking the road a team of horses works a field. It might have been the opening scene of an old Henry Fonda film, but the man with a broad hat and beard, guiding the horses, is an Amish farmer. You may see him again, riding his horse-drawn buggy into the town of Harmony, near limestone caves that you can still explore, not far from the Iowa border but very far from the hot-breath tempos and the glass obelisks of the metropolis. So for a week, June 11 to 18, you’re invited to step back and travel in a part of Minnesota where long ago time ceased being tyrannical; and when you get up in the morning, ready
for the day, you can hear the silence broken by the sounds of egrets overhead.
This will be the 36th Jaunt With Jim, which annually brings together some 150 cyclists for what has become a reunion as much as a bike ride but retains its annual nvitation to any of the curious who would like to join us.
The Gift of Silence
There are not many stop signs on the roads in the southeastern Minnesota bluffs. This is a part of the world that seems comfortable with itself and with the hidden glens of its hills above the Mississippi River. It wears its age gracefully, its old mills and occasional ghost towns and the apple orchards that are part of its commerce. Add the palisades above the town of Lanesboro. Add the widening Mississippi at La Crescent and Winona, evoking the blend of today with the times of the pioneers. These are the river towns that preserve the relaxed tenor of the past without trying to keep it private
Since we have bicycled in the bluff country before, why return? The better question might be, why not?
The civilized way to bike the bluff country is to travel on the widely admired bike paths of the Root River trail where they are available, which means 80 per cent of the time on our route. The original trail and its expanded links weave together the towns of Fountain, Preston, Harmony, Peterson, Lanesboro, Houston and Rushford. We’ll visit all of them and overnight in Harmony, Houston and Rushford in addition to the apple orchard haven of LaCrescent and the college and art center of Winona, two of the jewels of the Mississippi River directly beneath the highest of the bluffs.
Most of the riding is in the valleys at the base of the bluffs. There’s a day out of La Crescent when the route moves up for a few miles to a spectacular overlook above the Mississippi where you’ll stop for refreshments to enjoy the airiness and the woods
and the meadows; and take all the time you want on the way to Winona. We camp overnight in community parks or school grounds, take many of our meals together, bring duffelbags for transport of our equipment from camp to camp, and set one day aside as a kind of R&R recess. But on that day we also also offer one or two optional events open to all.
The registration price covers the cost of the duffelbag shuttle service and the Penn Cycle maintenance van, ably handled by Pat Rivers and John Witt, the use of public grounds and services, the annual T-shirt and incidental services connected with the ride. The cost of this year’s ride is the same as last year, $170. A registration form is provided in this newsletter.
Add an Early Evening River Cruise and Pizza Party
The daily distances are basically humane. In deference to the younger riders, who occasionally have to woof and strain to stay within range of the septugenarians, we’re averaging 45 miles or so a day, with optional extra miles to satisfy the inexhaustible. Most of the people who enjoy group bike rides are by nature sociable and vocal folk whose wry gifts for assessing a day on the road are most easily stirred by an off-hours boat ride. So we will have a boat ride on our second day in LaCrescent, June 15, when we have chartered a modern river boat for a supper cruise on the Mississippi featuring an all-you-want pizza party. The total charge for the boat experience, covering cruise, transport across the river to and from the dockside in LaCrosse, WI, plus pizza and beverages including some temperate quaffing of beer, is $25.
The registration form provided here covers the cost of the bike ride services, $170. For the river cruise the charter service prefers that all who are interested in the ride make their payments to Jim Klobuchar’s Adventures, to be consolidated into one payment from JKA to the charter company. So if you are interested in the cruise, include a check for $25 in addition to the check for $170 for the ride, both made out Jim Klobuchar’s Adventures. Meals on the ride are extra, but are often prepared economically by civic or church groups.
All are welcome. But largely in the interest of The Conductor’s sanity, it’s strongly suggested that you mail your payment(s) sooner than later. We had some disappointed people last year because 150 is about the limit of what is practical on our bike ride, and there may also be some limit in the number that can be accommodated on the
We’ll gather in the late afternoon and evening of June 11, a Friday, at the high school in Chatfield MN southeast of Rochester. For your cars there will be ample parking for the week in the high school parking lot and plenty of room to tent in grassed campus nearby. We’ll have breakfast at the school June 12 and after 15 miles or so join the bike trail at Fountain and spend our first night on the trail at Harmony. From there our stops will be Houston June 13, LaCrescent June 14 and 15, Winona at Winona State University June 16, Rushford June 17 and return to Chatfield June 18.
Instructions on how to reach the school in Chatfield, together with ID markers for the duffel bags will be mailed to all registrants well in advance of June 11. Day to day itineraries and T-shirts will be provided before breakfast at the school.
In packing those bags, please have mercy on John Witt, the driver who loads them. This is a bike ride, not an expedition to K2. At Harmony you’ll have the option, at nominal cost, of exploring Niagara Cave, a major attraction of southeastern Minnesota two miles west of Harmony, our first overnight on the trail.