Calling it the “Year of Cycling 2013 — Mississippi River Trail,“ the association wants to create a stronger cycling focus in the heartland with the bicycle trail as its backbone.
The Mississippi River Trail is a 3,000-mile bicycle route that follows the shores of the great river from its headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. The route follows low-traffic roads and local bike trails as it winds its way through 10 states.
It was chosen as one of 16 National Millennium Trails for reflecting a defining aspect of American culture.
To celebrate the Year of Cycling, the Mississippi River Trail association is planning 10 signature events — 1 per state.
It’s also enlisting help of local bicycle clubs, merchants and towns along the river to create happenings “where riders can come together to discover and coalesce around the Mississippi River and its vast outdoor recreational resources.”
Some of those events already are posted on the Year of Cycling event calendar. You’ll recognize at least one of them, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Depending on the route, the mass bicycle ride either started or ended at the Mississippi River for the past 40 years.
The group also hopes to raise awareness of the importance of cycling as a tourism draw and an economic stimulus for communities along the river.
A few years ago, I interviewed Bob Robinson, the author of “Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail.” In his travels along the waterway, he passed through many small towns that sprung up to service the flatboats and steamboats that plied the river with commerce.
Today, those small towns are ideal for catering to bicyclists traveling the back roads and bike paths that make the trail.
If you’ve ever thought of bicycling across the US the short way — from north to south — then this might be the year to do it. There will be a lot of awareness about bicycling along this route this year.
The Mississippi River Trail website has maps and details about the route.
Also, there’s Robinson’s “Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail.”