This story is a reprint from Issue #88, September 2006. With the 2016 Minnesota 1000 coming up June 10-12, I thought this was an appropriate piece to pull from the archives. If you want to ride the Minnesota 1000 go to teamstrange.com for registration info.
By Victor Wanchena
We in Minnesota are rather fortunate. Our state is blessed with the Minnesota 1000. The Minnesota 1000, or MN1K as it is sometimes known, is arguably the finest 24-hour endurance rally held in the country. Endurance rallies in one form or another have been around for a couple of decades but has really grown in popularity in the past 10 years. The concept is very simple. The riders are given a route sheet with various locations on it. These are known as bonuses and are each worth point amounts. Each bonus will require you to do something to prove you were there. You might write down the inscription on a historical marker or bring a photo of location or simply get a gas receipt from a particular town. The number of bonuses is always high enough to keep you from visiting them all. Instead you must plan the most effective route that gains you the most points. It is not a race but a test of riding skill, endurance, machine, and planning.
The night before the start of the MN1K is the Liars Banquet, a pre-rally gathering with plenty story telling. Often times a first route sheet is given out or other tidbits of information. Holding to tradition there was a first route sheet. Included on it was a bonus that we could grab that night at Betty’s Bikes and Buns in Minneapolis. The rain began again as I left for Betty’s. It was a mighty thunderstorm that swept across the metro and had flooded many of the streets surrounding Betty’s. One intersection I went through was under a foot or more of water. I wondered if this little test had been ordered for us; a water crossing and the rally hadn’t officially started yet. I headed home for some route planning. I got a general sense of where the bonuses and points were but didn’t set my plans in stone as there would undoubtablely be a second route sheet to ruin any serious planning.
The rally masters didn’t disappoint, Saturday morning brought a second route sheet at the riders meeting. It had new bonus locations and some combo bonuses; get a combination of certain bonuses and earn additional points. After reviewing the route sheet I had a plan. I would head toward southeastern Minnesota then cut across the bottom of the state dipping into Iowa for a couple of bonuses and then heading for the finish through southwestern Minnesota. I was ready and waiting at 8:00 am for the starting bell.
First stop was Welch, MN for a photo of the post office. I had nice run down the Welch Village Road; the road was its usual twisty fun. Then it was on to Mezeppa, MN. Outside of town is the site where Rallymaster Bart had been hit, head-on, by a car. Instructions were to note the fire number at the driveway near the crash site. In a sort of twisted homage to Bart my bike decided to tip over in this driveway. I was noting the number on the route sheet when I felt the bike begin to move. The soft dirt had given way under the LT’s 800+ pounds. It gently lay over like it simply wanted a nap. It was way too early for naps.
Next on my list was the scenic overlook at Alma, WI. Located on a bluff above town we were to find and note the quote on a plaque located in the park at the overlook. I was in a hurry but had to take in the view for a minute or two. First dilemma on the rally, I was planning to go to Elba, MN and climb the fire tower outside of town, but a chance encounter with a couple of other rally participants changed my mind. They said it was more than a fire tower as there was no road to the base of the tower, instead 600 some steps up the bluff that the tower sits on.
So after bailing on Elba I headed instead for Money Creek, MN and the cemetery there, and then on to Caledonia, MN, home of the Earthwalkers. It seems three brothers from Caledonia walked around the world. Only one made it all the whole way, who knew?
It was on to Decorah, IA for a 20-minute visit with friends of the Rallymaster. This bonus was only open till 1:30 pm making time of the essence. The directions were 10 miles on twisting gravel roads. I made it with time to spare but wouldn’t if I’d tried Elba. I found a quicker way out than the main road, but now had another dilemma. If I go back and get Elba it meant backtracking or I continue with the rest of my original plan. I decided to skip Elba, and headed straight for Dave’s Cycle Shop in Spring Valley, MN. I had actually bought my Ural from Dave and knew right where it was. A quick photo of the sign outside the shop and I was on my way.
Heading west now, I pulled into chaos at the Spam Museum in Austin, MN. Apparently the Rallymaster had omitted the part about it being Spam Jam ’06. The place was a zoo but I knew right where the gift shop was and procured the required purchase and something extra for myself, more Spam please. From Austin I went straight west on the interstate for a photo of the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN. A 60-foot fiberglass man in green tights, yikes!
Now I dropped into Iowa to the town of Estherville. Outside of town was a marker commemorating a large meteor that had crashed there. Up till now I had avoided rain but a few storm clouds gathered. It wasn’t much rain but it reminded me of the quote by rally veteran, Will Outlaw, “A rally without rain is just a ride.” Very true. Then over to Sheldon, IA and to the airport to record the tail number on a cold war era jet.
It just getting dark as I pulled into Flandreau, SD for a token from the casino. Women in line for the cashier cautiously asked about my riding gear, obviously I looked haggard by now. I half expected security to escort me out. As I rode out of Flandreau I was treated to a spectacular sunset, the sky afire with reds, orange and purple.
It was completely dark as I pulled into Slayton, MN for a gas receipt. The night got deeper as I headed to the Birch Coulee Battle site outside Morton, MN. I rode around the site for a while trying to find the marker I needed to take a picture of. From there I was going to find a marker of some settlers killed during the Sioux Uprising. The directions were a little nebulous but I had seen the county road I needed just outside Morton. As I pulled on Renville County Rd 15 I saw the sign proclaiming it a Rustic Road. Crap, that meant only one thing, gravel. The direction stated the marker was located 6.5 miles west of County Rd 1 on 15, how far could 1 be? After 6 dark miles of washed out gravel I found 1, just another 6.5 miles of the same crappy gravel. It turns out that County Rd 15 is know as the bottom road, as it runs along the Minnesota River and is rather scenic. This was wasted on me at midnight in the fog that had developed. All I could really see was that to my left was nothing; to my right was a hillside, in case of a crash, head right. Eventually I found the marker along side a creek, but now I had to find my way out. Fortunately my GPS assisted with that and I found my way back to the main highway.
Next I was on my way to Cosmos, MN to get a picture of a Lion shaped drinking fountain. That in the bag I worked my way up to Kingston, MN for a photo of yet another historical marker.
Those behind me I headed for home. The bonus was the always-popular rest bonus. All you need to do for this is get a receipt from the same town timed at least three hours apart. This gives riders a needed excuse to get off the bike and rest for a while. As I planned my route I figured that I could nab my rest bonus at home, a risky gamble. The danger is that once your head hits the pillow in your own bed you will have a tough time leaving it. I clocked in at 3 am and went home for a shower and a nap. I woke a couple hours later refreshed and ready for the finish.
There was one bonus in Hanover, MN, not far from the house. I knew the bridge I needed a picture of, so it was easy points. On a little gamble I headed south to Bongards, MN and a picture of a big fiberglass cow. I knew the back roads down to Bongards and was able to pick up the bonus and make it back to the finish with 15 minutes to spare.
The aftermath was a little surprise. I hadn’t been riding that hard this year. Putting on just a little over 1000 miles, but more importantly had really just gone out for a nice little ride. When the points were figured out I ended up with 85XX, which was enough for a 2nd place finish in the Touring class. That was a surprise. Thanks again to Teamstrange for another great event and to event host Leo’s South.