By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
At 9:30 on a sunny and cool Sunday morning, the drive into Rapidan on 190th Street is a peaceful one. Just one or two other drivers on an otherwise empty country road.
Approaching the middle of the tiny town, however, traffic picks up. One-by-one, dozens of bicyclists shoot out from around a downtown corner to join the 190th Street caravan to the Rapidan Dam Cafe, where sustenance awaits.
The happy bikers were on the Pie Run route of the second Mankato River Ramble event, which combines off-road paved trails and quiet country roads into a ride that many cyclists said was absolutely beautiful Sunday morning, aside from the 29-degree start to the day.
Bonnie Paulsen and Donna Weiss of Gaylord took part last year, too. They remembered the ride fondly.
“It was 80,” Paulsen said, reminiscing over the friendlier weather.
Sunday’s temp did have an impact on the smoothness of the ride, said the women, who are avid cyclists and have biked in numerous events even longer than the 42-mile Ramble.
“It does (have an effect) because you have to have more clothes on,” Paulsen said.
Of course, the pie at the Rapidan Dam Cafe helped make up for it. About 1,500 riders were invited to take a rest stop outside the Dam store and enjoy a slice of the restaurant’s famous homemade pies. Hundreds of blueberry, apple and riverberry slices were laid out for cyclists to choose from.
Paulsen and Weiss were careful in their selection of blueberry and apple.
“We had the biggest pieces of pie we could find,” Paulsen said.
Greg Lessard and Pat Kelly, Key City Bike volunteers and year-round cyclists, said the ride into Rapidan was beautiful. Lessard even said he preferred Sunday’s weather to last year, when they volunteered as ride marshals.
“There’s less sweating involved,” Lessard said.
Like Paulsen and Weiss, Lessard and Kelly chose the 42-mile route of the Ramble, which would take them along the Lake Crystal Loop. Others were on the 26-mile Pie Run route, which would take them back to Mankato.
Both routes took cyclists over the scenic Red Jacket Railroad Trestle, with panoramic views of the LeSueur River.
Put on by the Greater Mankato Bike-Walk Advocates and Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, many cyclists said they’d take part in the event year after year — especially if there’s going to be Dam Cafe pie involved.
“I think that second piece of blueberry will be enough to get me home,” a rider shouted at a Ramble volunteer before hopping on his bike and heading back to Mankato.