Backroads of Minnesota–Your Guide to Minnesota’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures
text by Shawn Perich
photography by Gary Alan Nelson
160 pgs, $19.95
Voyageur press, Copyright 2002
MMM readers need another coffee table book like they need a dented fuel tank. Coffee table books are full of pretty pictures, but short on useful routes, maps and travel friendly details. We were pleasantly surprised with Backroads. The folks at Voyageur Press have printed a great resource for riders.
Backroads is written to introduce motorists to the natural features and beauty of Minnesota. The author breaks our state into six zones, and provides several day routes in each section. While obviously biased toward auto drivers, the routes are more than suited to motorcycle riders. Mr. Perich illustrates each route with geologic history that enriches the ride. Ever wonder why Southeast Minnesota has those wonderful twisty coulee roads? You’ll find out inside.
The author further illustrates the routes with Minnesota history. Two hours from the metro area, just south of Franklin on the Minnesota River, you can see the remains of (then frontier) Fort Ridgely. Here, you can still see ruts in the prairie, worn by the wagons of both soldiers and settlers. As you ride through the State Park of the same name, you can contemplate the adventure of those pioneers and yourself.
MMM’s editorial staff collectively has over thirty years of motorcycle riding experience in Minnesota. There are few roads that one of us has not yet explored. Despite this knowledge, we discovered unknown-to-us items in Backroads. Look for us at the Jeffers Petroglyphs this fall. They are stone figures carved into the glacial granite by a Native people long gone. How did the town of Black Hammer get its name? Where can you ride through the seven-foot grasses in a virgin prairie? These are a few of the treats we discovered in this book.
If you appreciate nature and the wilderness, you have seen the wonderful photography of Gary Alan Nelson. Published in Outside magazine, National Geographic, the Sierra Club and others, Mr. Nelson’s images are an excellent complement to the route descriptions. If you enjoy the scenery while riding, then the photography in Backroads will help you pass our bike-free winter.
We liked how each section of the book contains several routes, with schematic maps for ride planning. Each route description is loaded with things to see and explore, as well as containing some dining and lodging information. Of additional interest to riders, there are condensed road directions listed in the margin at the start of each route. Minus points for the coffee table book size, as it prevents stuffing Backroads in your tankbag. While the size is a concession to the beautiful photography, we’d like to see a smaller spiral-bound edition geared toward the rider.
Backroads makes an excellent book for a newer rider, or especially a rider new to our state and contains many excellent routes. You can run them individually, or string them together into a tour. MMM recommends this month’s selection. Three out of four cylinders.
Autumn–Great route possibilities for fall color appreciation.
Winter – Stunning photos to carry you through till your first Spring ride.
Spring – Enough incentive to motivate you to get that bike out even earlier.