BAM 2023 is headed to Minnesota’s lovely bluff country in southeastern Minnesota. The ride is a loop tour that starts and ends in Lanesboro, with overnights in Rushford, La Crescent and Houston before returning to Lanesboro.
Day 0 – Wednesday, Aug. 16: Lanesboro
Begin and end your four-day adventure in historic Lanesboro set in the Root River valley against a backdrop of bluffs. “Lanesboro is like living in a postcard!” That is how a recent resident artist described her stay in Lanesboro.
Come early or stay late to take advantage of the many things to do in this small community bustling with activity. Check out the 60-mile Root River Trail System winding along the Root River and rated the #1 trail in the state, browse art galleries, shop in unique retail stores, step back in time and learn about the Amish way of life on a guided or self-guided tour, or enjoy a play at The Commonwealth Theatre Company. If you want to try your hand at fishing, the Root is one of the best trout streams in the state. Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center is home to a mountain bike trail and great paths for hiking. The Lanesboro Golf Course and Rivers Bend Golf Courses are nearby if you are looking to take a swing. If you would rather relax and enjoy a quieter evening, various outdoor venues offer dining and made-from-scratch delicacies, unique cocktails and local beers and wines.
Nearby communities offer adventures as well! Experience a cave tour, go fly fishing or canoeing through a local outfitter, or take a short warm-up ride on the Root River Trail to the Aroma Pie Shoppe, home of Whalan’s world famous pie shop!
Mingle with your fellow riders at the campsite over a beverage or relax on a bench by the stream, check your bike and riding gear, and get psyched for the adventure ahead!
Day 1 – Thursday, Aug. 17: Lanesboro-Rushford
63 miles, 2700 feet of climb
And we’re off! Today we explore several of the quaint Root River communities. Visit Fountain, the self-proclaimed ‘Sinkhole Capital of the U.S.’ to see a few of the 10,000 sinkholes in this area untouched by glaciers and now a mecca of karst geology, hardwood forests, abundant wildlife, and numerous springs, brooks, and streams. Stop in the Fillmore County Museum containing over 15,000 antiques, planes, Minnesota’s largest collection of antique agricultural equipment, an 1860s log cabin, and a restored one-room schoolhouse. RoadsideAmerica.com says it best when it notes: “Most county museums can be dull, but not this one.”
From there, it’s on to Preston, Minnesota’s Trout Capital, followed by Harmony, home to Minnesota’s largest Amish settlements. Enjoy a stop at an Amish bakery for some freshly baked pie, cinnamon rolls, cookies and more – a hit with past riders!
We’ll traverse some quiet winding roads on our way to the Peterson State Fish Hatchery which provides trout to stock northern Minnesota lakes. The lovely town of Peterson provides a perfect opportunity to stop at one of the small cafes for some pie or ice cream.
Our host town for the evening is Rushford, set among impressive limestone bluffs and along the Root River. Fuel up on ice cream or homemade lefse (a Norwegian delicacy) from Norsland Lefse, explore the downtown, play pickleball at the campsite or go kayaking, canoeing or tubing down the Root River.
Day 2 – Friday, Aug. 18: Rushford – La Crescent
60 miles, 2400 feet of climb or
46 miles, 1800 feet of climb
Start your ride by immersing yourself in the beauty of a sunrise stroll through a full-bloom 1-acre flower farm and hopyard. The proprietors of Sweet 16 Farm will answer your questions, tell a few stories and give you a behind the scenes peek at what all goes into growing and harvesting flowers.
Experience the serenity and beauty of the area as we make our way to the Mississippi River. Riders on the long route will enjoy a sweeping descent and be justly rewarded with views far and wide of the Mississippi River Valley. All riders will ride along the scenic Mississippi River into La Crescent, the Apple Capital of Minnesota, our host town for the evening where beautiful bluffs and the mighty Mississippi River dominate the landscape.
Visit the La Crescent History Center and Apple Museum, go for a splash in their outdoor pool, take a hike, or venture a few miles across the border to LaCrosse, WI – a bustling river town. In the evening, hear from the owner of Rock Filter Distillery, a small batch organic whiskey and bourbon distillery in nearby Spring Grove about their operations and taste a sample or two of their award-winning spirits.
Day 3 – Saturday, Aug. 19: La Crescent – Houston
58 miles, 2700 feet of climb
Experience the beauty of the Mississippi River as we ride alongside it on the Great River Road and Mississippi River Trail (MRT) for several miles before turning inland to see some of the 59 magnificent quilts being displayed on local barns in and around Caledonia.
Once in Caledonia, the Houston County Fair will be in full swing. Watch the dairy show or horse show which features bull weaving and barrel racing, tour the historical buildings, grab a bite to eat at one of the food stands or quench your thirst with a milkshake. If you’re still hungry, stop at the Caledonia Bakery for one of their delectable cinnamon rolls or a handheld pie on the way out of town.
Our next stop is Schech’s Mill—the only original water-powered mill in the state. Here you will see firsthand how flour is made. You will even get a small bag of flour to take home with you (and don’t worry, we will transport it for you). Schech’s Mill grinds product for the Rock Filter Distillery.
Our host town for the evening is Houston, tucked in the beautiful Root River Valley along the National Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway. Houston boasts one of the best trailheads in the state—watch for the recycled bike art. If you have a few more miles in you and love bluegrass music, head to the annual Southeast Minnesota Bluegrass Association’s (SEMBA) Bluegrass Festival (cost on your own) right on the Root River Trail.
A must-do in Houston is the International Owl Center where you can see and learn about owls and meet Alice, the Great Horned Owl. Be entertained in the evening with some fun and interactive owl games – what a hoot!. You’ll also want to stop at the Houston Nature Center to see their wildlife exhibit area and other displays.
Day 4 – Houston – Lanesboro
54 miles, 2800 feet of climb
Start your day off meandering through a winding, peaceful bluff-lined valley on our way to Spring Grove, the first Norwegian settlement in Minnesota. Grab a bottle of locally made Spring Grove Soda Pop to quench your thirst. You’ll want to try one of their delicious pure cane sugar flavors – Root Beer, Lemon Sour, Strawberry and Rhu-berry to name a few.
We’ll then wind our way back to Lanesboro, the tour’s end, finishing with a nice downhill into town. Showers will be available.
*Routes are subject to change based on construction in the area or finding another hidden gem that we want to incorporate.