Exploring the Far North: A Northern Minnesota Motorbike Experience

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Rainy Lake International Falls
Chad and Chuck park the bikes in entrance of the Wet Lake mural, which graces an outdated brick constructing in downtown Worldwide Falls.

Most of us love the sensation of anticipation main as much as a multiday bike journey. This specific Minnesota bike trip one was extra memorable than most as a result of my son, Chad, was capable of be part of me on a visit that will take us north from Minneapolis to the Canadian border at Worldwide Falls. We had three days for the trip and solely a unfastened plan. We had a course, and we knew we wished to take a look at some cities that have been new to us, however in any other case we’d make it up as we went alongside.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride

Scan QR code above or click on right here to view the route on REVER

We have been mounted on our Harleys – I used to be on my 2017 Road Glide Particular, and Chad was on his 2011 Softail Blackline – and we have been evaluating some new gear: Freeway 21 gloves and boots for me and a sissy bar-mounted backpack and Shinko White Wall SR777 tires for Chad’s Blackline (see Chad’s Shinko White Wall SR777 Tires overview).


Beginning the Minnesota Motorbike Experience: Rain and Runic Artifacts

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride International Falls
A Traditional Minnesota welcome register Worldwide Falls.

As we pushed off on our mid-August trip, the skies have been unsettled. A verify of the climate confirmed we’d be capable to keep away from some rain by heading west for some time earlier than heading north to our first vacation spot, the city of Alexandria. By following my Harley’s navigation system, we took a backroads path to get there, however our slower tempo meant we didn’t outrun the rain totally. After a couple of missed turns, Chad gave me “the look” – what we name the Head Wag of Disgrace – however we have been out to trip, and we have been using!

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
We caught this photograph in Ranier with these two pleasant longtime residents and parade watchers.

Alexandria, which is nestled between lakes with names like Darling, Victoria, Geneva, Latoka, and Le Homme Dieu, has resorts and actions that make it a preferred vacation spot for vacationers year-round – and full-time residents too, for the reason that city is among the quickest rising areas within the west-central a part of Minnesota. The city was named after Alexander Kinkead, who established the primary townsite in 1858 alongside the stagecoach street. A Viking artifact from 1362 was unearthed in 1898 within the close by city of Kensington and is exhibited in Alexandria on the Runestone Museum.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Kensington Runestone
The Kensington Runestone was unearthed in 1898 and dates again to 1362, offering proof that Vikings visited America lengthy earlier than Columbus. (Photograph by Mauricio Valle through Wikimedia Commons)

Only a runestone’s throw from the museum, towering over Broadway and 2nd, is Large Ole, a 28-foot-tall Viking statue initially constructed for the 1964-65 World’s Truthful in New York Metropolis. This was the primary cease on our trip, and we have been already stunned by what we have been seeing. That’s what I really like about bike journey: encountering – and having fun with – the surprising.

See all of Rider‘s Minnesota bike rides right here.

From the Heartland to the Headwaters

From Alexandria, we adopted State Freeway 29 – a part of the Viking Path – north via cities corresponding to Miltona, Parkers Prairie, and Deer Creek to Wadena. We continued on U.S. Route 71 to Park Rapids, a city within the Heartland Lakes Area. The Heartland State Path, a multiuse paved leisure path that was one of many first “rails to trails” initiatives within the U.S., runs for 49 miles from Park Rapids to Cass Lake. Park Rapids can also be a preferred vacation spot for tenting and fishing, and there are lots of seasonal cabins close by.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
Rolling grassland alongside the Wet River, which separates the U.S. and Canada.

One other 20 miles north of Park Rapids on U.S. 71 is Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest state park, which was established in 1891. There are greater than 100 lakes throughout the 32,000-acre park, and its most well-known function is the headwaters of the Mississippi River. For anybody visiting the park, the headwaters space is a must-see, and it has a customer heart with instructional reveals and a restaurant.

Strolling down the path towards the official headwaters, you may wade throughout the foot-deep babbling trickle that has a mean circulate charge of simply 6 cubic toes per second. After draining a lot of the U.S. between the Appalachians and the Rockies over the course of two,552 miles, the Mississippi River finally discharges greater than 593,000 cubic toes of water per second into the Gulf of Mexico.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Mississippi River headwaters
It’s only a quick hike to the headwaters submit marking the origin of the Mississippi River.

Itasca Park can also be the northern terminus of the Nice River Street, which runs the size of the Mississippi River for greater than 3,000 miles via 10 states. It’s an epic journey that I did with a couple of buddies in 2021.

On the best way out of the park, we hopped on a 10-mile one-way street known as Wilderness Drive, a scenic street that winds via woods and meadows and passes by a number of lakes. Our relaxed method to discovering the world was paying off, however we couldn’t assist feeling a little bit responsible as we thundered previous the occasional bike owner or hiker on our rumbling V-Twins.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Great River Road
The top of the Nice River Street in the event you started in New Orleans.

From Bemidji to the Border

We ended our first day’s trip in Bemidji, the place we stayed at a lodge proper on the shores of Lake Bemidji, the northernmost lake feeding the Mississippi River. I stayed in Bemidji at the beginning of my Nice River Street run, and it was good to be again in such a enjoyable city. By this time, we had a pair hundred miles below us and have been a bit chilly and soggy.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
Chad and Chuck in Bemidji with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Bemidji, a reputation derived from an Ojibwe expression, Buh-mid-ji-ga-maug, which means “a lake with crossing waters,” is called the “First Metropolis on the Mississippi.” Additionally it is the curling capital of the U.S. and the alleged birthplace of Paul Bunyan. After the wilderness of Itasca State Park, town of 15,000 felt like a contemporary metropolis. Bemidji can also be house to Bemidji State College, and college students have been shifting in in the course of the weekend we have been there. Numerous loud co-eds and tired-looking mother and father. We have been able to get again on the street and away from the crowds.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
The Wet River separates the U.S. from Canada.

With the lodge’s complimentary breakfast below our belts and a blue sky above our heads, we adopted a northeastern trajectory on U.S. 71, recognized in Minnesota because the Voyageur Freeway, passing via cities like Blackduck, Northome, Large Falls, and Littlefork. In Pelland, the street makes a pointy flip to the east because it follows the southern shore of the Wet River, which serves because the border between the U.S. and Canada. Voyageur Freeway, although pretty straight and flat, was in good situation, and we loved the rolling fields with farmhouses and barns.

Though Chad is a Minnesota native and I’ve lived within the state for greater than 30 years, neither of us had been to Worldwide Falls, a metropolis often known as the “Icebox of the Nation,” with a mean of 109 days per yr with a excessive temperature under freezing.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
A border info constructing.

Worldwide Falls has a border crossing to Canada – on the opposite aspect of the river is Fort Frances, Ontario – and it serves because the gateway to Voyageurs Nationwide Park, which is located on the southern aspect of the 360-square-mile Wet Lake. It’s additionally house to Smokey the Bear Park, the place there’s a 26-foot statue of America’s favourite forest advocate made by fiberglass sculptor Gordon Schumaker, who additionally made Large Ole.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
Some pleasant recommendation from Smokey the Bear.

After testing the lengthy strains of automobiles ready to cross into Canada, we have been prepared for lunch. A web-based search led us to the small neighboring city of Ranier and the Cantilever Distillery. Sitting outdoors within the solar with nice meals and repair actually hit the spot. Whereas consuming, we started seeing males in kilts, some toting bagpipes. Little did we all know it, however the annual Ranier Days parade was about to start.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Cantilever Distillery Ranier
Within the city of Ranier, we had an ideal lunch on the Cantilever Distillery overlooking the Ranier Days parade route.

On a gorgeous summer time afternoon, the people-watching was nice, and it was heartwarming to see the keenness and neighborhood spirit that also thrives in small-town America. Proof of this being a close-knit neighborhood was apparent with neighbors greeting neighbors. We struck up a dialog with some longtime residents who have been stunned we had by no means been there earlier than and inspired us to make it a daily cease.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
A pre-parade bagpiper assembly.

After the parade, we took a stroll right down to the lakefront to take a look at one of many dockside mild towers. Put in operation within the Forties, towers like this offered wanted navigational help on this worldwide waterway.

Again on the bikes, we returned via Worldwide Falls with the purpose of following the Wet River west via Baudette as much as Warroad. From State Freeway 11, Canada was nearly at all times in sight to our proper. In Baudette, we have been greeted by the enormous Willie Walleye statue and an indication proclaiming the city the “Walleye Capital of the World.”

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Willie Walleye Baudette
Willie Walleye greets these coming into the city of Baudette, the “Walleye Capital of the World.”

Someplace alongside the 40 miles from Baudette to Warroad, which breaks away from the Wet River, Chad thought I had misplaced my marbles as a result of I stored stopping to wander into fields of sunflowers that have been greater than 6 toes tall. My son could be very affected person, and ultimately I acquired my fill of the flower forests. Warroad, a small city of 1,900 residents on the western shore of Lake of the Woods, is called “Hockeytown USA” since it’s the hometown of a number of Olympic, NHL, and collegiate hockey gamers, and the Warroad Lakers have received a number of girls and boys state championships.

From Warroad, you may take a aspect journey to the northernmost street within the decrease 48 states in a spot known as Angle Inlet. Nevertheless, to get there, it’s essential to trip north on State Freeway 313 and cross into Canada, so be prepared to point out a passport or different type of permitted border-crossing identification. You then have to cross again into the U.S. to achieve Angle Inlet, after which again into Canada to return to the U.S. Not together with the time it takes to cross via border safety twice in each instructions, the route is a 2.5-hour roundtrip. We didn’t have the time to do it on this journey, however we plan to return subsequent summer time.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride
Previous navigation tower on Wet Lake.

One other Lake of the Woods journey that’s on our radar for subsequent summer time is constitution fishing. Rods, reels, bait, deal with, and a licensed constitution captain present every thing that’s wanted for a enjoyable, enjoyable fishing journey, so all we’ll should do is drop our kickstands and climb aboard.

For our return trip to Bemidji, my navigation system routed us onto a few roads the place the pavement ended, and we needed to backtrack to tarmac, eliciting a couple of extra Head Wags of Disgrace from Chad. Finally we related with State Freeway 1, which runs alongside the southern shore of Purple Lake, the biggest lake in Minnesota, and thru a part of the Purple Lake Reservation, house of the Purple Lake Band of Chippewa. The street across the lake is gorgeous, and we welcomed the cooler air. We have been greeted with a few pleasant waves as we thundered previous varied properties alongside the route. Rounding the bend on the southern shore, State Freeway 89 returned us to Bemidji.

See all of Rider‘s North Central U.S. touring tales right here.

Heading Residence

We wished to take an attention-grabbing route again to Minneapolis, so we adopted a special a part of the Voyageur Freeway: U.S. Route 2 south of Bemidji and over to Cass Lake. Persevering with east on U.S. Route 2 would have taken us via the Leech Lake Reservation and over to Grand Rapids, one other cool, motorcycle-friendly Northern Minnesota city with breweries, wine bars, and all kinds of leisure actions. The city’s web site offers route information for seven scenic rides that includes rolling hills, glowing lakes, and deep woods.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Minnesota State Highway 11
Sunflower fields line Freeway 11 alongside the border with Canada.

However our lengthy weekend was operating quick, so we continued south on State Freeway 371 via an space that’s quintessential Minnesota – a leisure paradise of lakes and lakeside cabins, a few of which might qualify as mansions. Down round Nisswa, we stopped for lunch and a chilly one at Large Axe Brewing.

Northern Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Big Axe Brewing Nisswa
Large Axe Brewing in Nisswa – a welcome cooling off spot on a scorching summer time day.

This city holds particular which means for Chad and me. Our household has spent many Fourth of July holidays there fishing on Gull Lake, enjoying golf, and staying at Grandview Lodge. In Little Falls, we picked up U.S. Route 10 – nonetheless a part of Voyageur Freeway – and rode via Royalton, Sauk Rapids, and Becker. The journey house bolstered what I really like about residing in Minnesota. Our license plates boast “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” however the true determine is 14,380, they usually all showcase the fantastic thing about the nice outside. From the friendliness of the folks to the attention-grabbing historical past and boundless leisure alternatives, Northern Minnesota has one thing for everybody.

See all of Rider‘s touring tales right here.

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