RV Cycling Fitness Bonanza! The Root River Trail


Root River Trail 0Usually, Stef writes most of the fitness content, but this was such a find, I just have to speak up.  We were recently in Houston, Minnesota for the weekend.  Stef was hosting and attending a wedding shower.  I was welcome to stay, but you know… ick.  So I headed out on my bike.

I needed a ride that would last for several hours.  This would not only allow me to miss all the clucking at the shower, but would also ensure that I was able to skip out on all the preparation and decorating (which I’m sure I would have done wrong), AND miss the cleanup as well (I’m brilliant like that).  Someone suggested I check out the Root River Trail, and I’m SO GLAD they did.

Plenty of this on the Root River Trail.

Plenty of this on the Root River Trail.

The Trail

The Root River Trail – if you’re not familiar with it, is a paved trail system that meanders along the Root River in southeastern Minnesota.  I was able to get in a ride of 87 car free miles that afternoon, and it was the best workout I had that week.

Root River Trail Trees

 

It was in the 90’s, with 100% humidity that day, but the trail was mostly shaded like you see here.  That made it pretty tolerable.  I started in the town of Houston, and went all the way to the other end of the trail, in Fountain, Minnesota.  Basically, I rode the trail from East to West and back again.  If you’re going to ride it, I recommend riding in the same direction, because you start out going up-river, which is also slightly up hill.  That way, when you return and you’re getting tired, you’re going slightly downhill.

I lost count at 20, so trust me, there are lots of bridges on the trail.

I lost count at 20, so trust me, there are lots of bridges on the trail.

But don’t think that the ride is a climb.  It isn’t.  I only managed to pick up about 1000 feet of climbing in 43 miles.  That’s really not much.

 

The Towns

And don’t think you have to blast through the entire thing either.  The trail is dotted with small towns along the way.  They show up about every 8-10 miles.  Like this one:

Just over that bridge is Lanesboro... I didn't dally.

Just over that bridge is Lanesboro… I didn’t dally.

What you see there is Lanesboro.  It’s one of those towns that has a bunch of stuff that I don’t understand why people like it.  Like shops that smell like old lady soap and they sell coffee and metal signs with kitschy sayings painted on them.  And shops that sell sandwiches with cutesy names that make it clear there’s no bacon on them.  And…  Well, basically… shops.  Stef tells me it’s quaint and cute and that there’s a theater there.  So if you’re into that sort of thing, you might like it.  Me – I kept riding.

Now, when you get near to the towns, you’ll find a lot more people on the trail.  Walkers.  Joggers.  People staring at their cell phones and not paying attention.  People on weird rental bikes that looked like a wheelchair tricycle.  All that kind of thing.  You will need to slow down near the towns for safety’s sake, so don’t count on hammering your TT pace through the towns.

 

The Camping

Here’s the other thing about this trail that made sure I mentioned it here on The Fit RV.  I counted no fewer than NINE RV parks along or very close to this trail.  So if you’re RVing in the area, you’re probably staying near it.  This means NO EXCUSES for not getting a workout in.  Here are the RV parks and campgrounds I recall (or could Google) near the trail.

 

The Bugs

I do not recommend this trail for people who are highly allergic to insect stings and bites.  Not unless you buy your Epi-pens at Costco.  I was stung at least three times on this trail.  The first time, a wasp/hornet/yellowjacket/whatever flew into my helmet while I was riding along at about 20 mph.  It started stinging me, and I started clawing, scratching and frantically mashing my helmet on my head until I could stop.  So in addition to a sting, I cut up the top of my head.  I couldn’t see it, so I started snapping pictures of the top of my head so I could see what was up.  (Warning – bloody head picture follows.)

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Root River Trail Bloody Head

The horror! The horror!

This is actually the second time I’ve had something fly into my helmet and start stinging me.  BOTH TIMES I wound up chewing up my head trying to get it out.  It seems like I should be learning by now, but I haven’t come up with a good way to practice the skill…

And then I was stung twice more when I stopped in Rushford by a park bench, a trash can, and a sign that said “Trail info – take one.”  Either wasps had randomly built a nest in the trail info stand, or it was someone’s weird idea of a booby trap.  Either way, it sucked, and I got stung twice.

All the stinging was traumatic enough that I felt I deserved a milk shake at my turn around in Fountain.  So here’s that.

Root River Trail Milkshake

(this milkshake not endorsed by Stef)

I burned about 2300 calories that day (total, not net, because if you add in that milk shake, I probably gained a couple hundred…).  You certainly don’t have to do that much in order to enjoy the trail.  With the exception of the insect attacks, the entire day worked out wonderfully:  I arrived back to find the bridal shower had ended, the ladies were gone, the cleanup was done, and there was leftover food and cake.  Perfect!

If you’re RVing in southeastern Minnesota, I highly recommend you check out the Root River Trail.  It’s probably right outside your campground.



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    17 thoughts on “RV Cycling Fitness Bonanza! The Root River Trail

      1. Stefany

        Ted where in the world do you find these zany stories?!?!? OMG. With that rant I wrote about those buffalo (assisted by James) trying to kill me on a Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park bike ride, I’m screwed.

        Reply
    1. Glenn Lawson

      Some years ago I worked in Saudi Arabia and used to get up very early and go on a 33km cycle ride. Early, while the locals were still sleeping, because the roads were a lot safer. One day a bee or wasp flew into my mouth and stung me on my tongue.

      Reply
    2. Cindy

      Your lovely bride makes great video and helps us beginners out greatly. Have you ever thought about doing one with the bikes? I do know how to ride one but shifting thru the gears basic and how to have an enjoyable bike ride in nature i.e.dirt trails

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Not a bad idea. I’ll talk about it with her.
        The trouble we run into with bikes is filming while riding. (I’ve nearly wiped out several times trying!)

        Reply
    3. Lynn Carr

      And if you stop in Houston visit Barista’s Coffee Shop in an historic barbershop building right by the entrance to the Nature Center where the trail ends or starts! Another Houston attraction is the International Owl Center with real live owls in attendance! Also there is tubing, canoeing and kayaking on the Root River as it lazes its’ way down to Hokah. Don’t forget to stop in and visit the Public Library with free internet and a cosy spot to sit and read the newpaper or a book!

      Reply
    4. Ted

      Perhaps you could try a few drops of peppermint oil in your helmet to ward them off. Plus it might have a cooling effect.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        It happened so quickly, I don’t think any repellent would have had time to work. I think the wasp was just as startled by the whole ordeal as I was, and that’s why I got stung.

        Reply
    5. Alain

      Gives a whole new meaning to the expression ” A bee in your bonnet”!

      I’ve had horse flies get under my cycling helmet and bite. Nasty little buggers. Since I started using a thin skull cap under my helmet to protect my head and neck from sunburn, I think I’ve reduced that problem.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        It’s only happened twice in thousands and thousands of miles. But maybe a cap or head-sweat type skullcap would be the answer. Or at least it would be another layer they had to work through to sting me…

        Reply
        1. James

          Welding shops (air gas) will usually hand out nomex skull caps for free. They aren’t too hot to wear, because welding generates enough heat, and are fire proof. For your slightly down hill re-entry. Terminal velocity in an aero dynamic position is 150-180mph. Just shy of your TT pace. Right?

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