When I told Audra I wanted to bike the 31 miles from Park Rapids to Walker and back, she told me I was nuts. We biked from Park Rapids to Akeley and back the previous year. It was a much shorter route, though we picked a hot, windy day for the ride. By the halfway point, we hated it. On that ride, I said I wanted to make it to Leech Lake and back.
In May of this year, when we were planning on making the trip to Audra’s cabin in Park Rapids, I once again declared my plans. “Park Rapids to Walker and back,” I said. “Boy, you crazy,” or something of the sort was the response I received. Two weeks later, Audra said she would join me on the ride. It would be her longest bike ride yet.
The Heartland Trail begins (or ends) in Park Rapids. It is a paved route atop an old railway, which makes it flat with little grade. The trail weaves between lakes and passes through tiny towns along the way. One of which, Dorset, is considered the ‘Restaurant Capital of Minnesota’ because it has four restaurants for just a population of 27 people. Another town, Akeley, has a massively creepy statue of Paul Bunyan. Needless to say, the route has character.
We geared up on a Sunday morning. Each of us had two water bottles. I also brought along a Blackburn Designs Outpost top tube bag for a large quantity of gummy bears. This proved to be a smart decision. Rain was poised to move into the area all day. We scanned the radar all morning, then finally decided to see how far we could make it before getting wet. Before we knew it, we were on our way. If you’re going for a long-ish ride, it is important to keep up your pace. Stopping too often or riding too slow can make for long miles at the end of a ride. It’s best to just push through it.
Walker came quicker than we thought. It’s a small resort town on the south side of Leech Lake. Leech is one of the biggest lake in the state. By our estimations, Leech is 15 miles across at it’s longest. Resort towns also make for restaurants. And where there are restaurants, there is beer. We grabbed a table on a patio overlooking the lake and fueled up for the return trip.
It was 55 miles before the miles seemed long. This was a good thing, especially since we only had a few miles left. I shared with Audra the decal on the top tubes of all Niner Bikes. “Pedal Damn It,” the decals say. We decided to make something similar, but it would involve donuts. This talk of donuts allowed our final seven miles to pass without tiring. The power of donuts.
Any 100K ride is something to be proud of. This was Audra’s first and I’m happy I could share it with her. The next long ride we have together is for a bike camping trip, which will be about 30 miles each way. But for now, we’ve got an excuse to eat as much pizza as possible.