A total of 275 bicyclists from 19 different states and Canada pedaled their way across southeastern Minnesota last weekend on the Biking Around Minnesota (BAM) tour.
According to tour director Mary Derks, BAM is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote tourism in the state of Minnesota and encourage biking as a means of transportation. BAM offers bike riders a unique adventure each year by rotating the route to highlight a different area of the state for each ride.
This year's ride began in Preston on Aug. 14, and by noon on Friday cyclists were gathering in Ostrander for lunch served by the Ostrander Lions Club.
There are many reasons people participate in BAM and other bike tours.
"It's beautiful riding the trails and along the river," said Jim Wilson of Lincoln, Neb. "Riding is my main fitness activity, and I like the alone time, just riding and being able to get out in the country and enjoy the scenery."
Wilson usually goes on bike tours in Nebraska, but after missing a couple tours this year, he decided to look at tours in other states. That's when he learned about BAM.
In addition to enjoying the sites and beautiful countryside, Wilson enjoyed meeting new people.
"It's interesting to meet a lot of people and meet a man from France, and hear how he met his wife from Minnesota," he said.
Wilson was speaking of DJ Lamour, who was sitting across from him while having lunch in Ostrander.
Originally from France, Lamour met his wife on an airplane. They fell in love, married and the biking couple now lives in Minneapolis.
"I know Minneapolis, but I don't know the state of Minnesota," Lamour said with a strong accent as he explained why he and his wife, Sue, came on the BAM tour. "I said, I don't know how the south is and I think to ride around the south of Minnesota, would be a very nice. It would be a good opportunity to see the landscape and everything."
Lamour was surprised at how hilly the first half of his journey in southeastern Minnesota was and glad to hear the second half of the ride, from Ostrander to LeRoy and from LeRoy to Austin, would be on much more level terrain.
"I thought Minnesota was flat, but it's not so flat," he said.
"I was surprised by how beautiful it is — green, and I like that," he continued. "I like that when you bike, you are not going too fast and you have the time to look."
Lamour's wife added she enjoys biking because, "it's easy on my knees and on the rest of my joints, and it's fun. We get to see a lot of countryside. It is way more beautiful than I thought it would be, and it is very hilly."
Several riders commented about how hilly the first half of the journey had been and about the wind.
"It was a very windy day," said Mrs. Lamour. "We were able to catch on to a group of people and we took turns taking the lead; that makes a huge difference. You don't notice till somebody goes in front of you and it's like, wow!"
Despite the extra effort needed to get from one destination to the next, the hills and wind didn't stop these bikers from enjoying every minute of their adventure.
"It is beautiful," Mrs. Lamour said. "One of the things I love about biking is you get to see so much stuff that you don't see when you're driving, because you're going too fast. I am enjoying all the people around, too.
According to Lions Club member Marge Lenz, "We wanted to sponsor this (lunch) because we enjoy bike riding in our area down here and our president, Mary Anderson, thought it might be a good thing to do."
"The Lions are a service organization, said Anderson. "This is a fundraiser for the Lions Club and part of our community service.
"We had four menus to choose from, and we picked the make-your-own sandwich buffet with fruits and veggies and cookies and bars for dessert. Gleason’s did the pasta salad and Ody's did the meats and cheese."
After lunch riders headed to LeRoy to spend the night and were back on the road after breakfast to head for Austin.
Cyclists rode approximately 70 miles each day, stopping at various cities and experiencing much of what southeastern Minnesota has to offer.
"We have had great support this year from the local communities," said Derks. "They have really gone above and beyond to help us out and to promote their towns.
"We had Amish buggy tours in Peterson, she said. “We had tubing down the Root River, and we stopped at a fish hatchery this morning."
"All the towns have just gone out of their way to make this a really enjoyable trip for us this year,” Derks concluded.