WARROAD, Minn. — They’ve been pedaling or paddling since early August, and now, a couple from Minneapolis are almost done with the first leg of their quest to travel the perimeter of Minnesota by bicycle and canoe.
Tony and Kathy Momsen launch their 18½-foot Venona Odyssey canoe loaded with two Trek 520 touring bicycles, a small makeshift canoe trailer and various camping gear into the St. Croix River in St. Croix Falls, Wis., on August 2.
Since then, they have pedaled or paddled in southern Minnesota on an east–west route that eventually took them to the Red River and north to Kitson County near the Manitoba border in northwest Minnesota.
On Wednesday night, September 8, they were camping in Warrod. His target is to reach Rainy Lake sometime in the next one week.
The journey to this point has been “really good,” Toni Momsen said over the phone to Warrod.
“I told Kathy today, I think we’ve only seen bad weather or some kind of bad weather on seven or eight days out of 37 days so far,” said Momsen, 63, a semi-retired graphic artist and web designer. . “The road has been great, and the waterways have been good too, so it’s been a good journey.”
The south shore of the vast Lake of the Woods was big on the next day’s agenda, and Cathy, 66, a ceramic artist, was on a task to find a better map of the large lake. They planned to paddle from Warrod to Rocky Point on Thursday, 9 September, and probably complete the trek along the south bank to the mouth of the Rainy River the next day.
If the wind is too strong, Momsen said, they’ll tie the canoe to the trailer behind his bike, and they’ll pedal their way east and along the Rainy River to Rainy Lake. They will continue their journey next spring or summer on a route that will take them into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Voyager National Park and down the North Shore through Duluth and eventually into the Twin Cities.
He said the logistics work is in progress for next year’s visit.
“Our original idea was to start and end all in one season and then it’s absolutely effortless,” Momsen said. “We were originally going to start at Boundary Waters and do Boundary Waters first, but the fire changed that.”
The inspiration for the trip came from a podcast he heard about a cyclist who had pedaled around the perimeter of Texas, Momson said.
It turned the wheels, so to speak.
“We had never pulled a canoe behind a bike, but we used to ride around on a trailer with a canoe, and I have seen people pull a kayak behind a bike, so I thought it was possible,” Momsen said, adding that he Bought a hitch. Designed specifically for towing with bicycles from a company in Guelph, Ontario. “And then when I looked at a map, I realized that, except the Rainy River, all the rivers run clockwise around the state so you can do it downstream.”
The number of places he has never added to the appeal, says Momsen.
“There were a lot of things that would have been new for both of us,” he said. “And Kathy and I have done a lot of bike camping and canoe camping and it really seemed to fit.”
From St. Croix Falls, they headed across the Mississippi River in Prescott, Wis., and down into La Crescent, Minn. From there, they move to Houston, Minn. where he picked up the Root River Trail, a 40-mile hike. Rail-to-trail route.
“We thought this was a great opportunity for us to warm up with the trailer and all of our gear and accessories,” Momsen said. “We had 40 miles of flat, easy exercise.”
Their cycling route in southern Minnesota included communities such as Preston, Austin, Blue Earth, Fairmont, Pipestone, Hendrix, Marietta, and Ortonville. After two days of paddling at Big Stone Lake, he cycled past the Bois de Sioux River, which was dry, Momsen says, and resumed paddling at the mouth of the Red River in Wahpeton, ND, the Red River. His journey northwards included three days of pedaling. And six days of paddling. He spent two days biking and canoeing at the Red River State Recreation Area in Grand Forks east of the Highway 175 crossing west of Hallock.
This past week’s trip includes overnight stays at Bronson Lake, Badger, and Warrod. They’ve tried to stop and enjoy the sites as much as possible, says Momsen. Undoubtedly, their modes of transportation attract people’s attention.
“Half the time, you meet someone and they have a story to tell,” Momsen said. “We enjoy it. It’s been great – lots of lovely cities, lots of nice places.
“We both really liked Grand Forks; We had never been there.”
Despite the load, their equipment held up well, Momsen says, although canoeing in rough waters can be dicey with full-size bicycles onboard.
“It feels like a regular visit,” he said. “Don’t think it’s crazy. There’s a certain fluidity to it that I love. You don’t have to deal with shuttles — you just paddle across so much of this river and then you’re out and about for a few miles.” ride a bike.
“I don’t know if I’ll take another trip exactly like that, but it’s been really fun.”