What happens twice a year, you start out in the morning and go all day long, and when it’s finished you feel tired but happy? No, it’s not “whoopee night.” It’s the semi-annual Flood Run. In spring and again in the fall, the Flood Run has become one of the larger bike runs along the Mississippi River attracting hundreds.
One of the goals of the flood run is to provide riders with yet another reason to put on some miles, meet other riders and oh yes, have a good time. The other goal of the Flood Run is to raise money for Gillette Children’s Hospital from the sales of wristbands, sponsorships and vendors along the route. In my opinion the Flood Run organizers accomplish these goals.
Traditionally the Flood Run starts from a designated spot in the Twin Cities metro area. This year, on April 20, the launching pad is the Beach Bar in Lake St Croix Beach, Minn. Bikers can start at any point on either side of the Mississippi River between the Twin Cities and La Crosse, Wis. This region is well-known for its winding roads and postcard-like panoramic views. Last year our group met in Winona before taking Highway 35, the Great River Road, north. After having had a good breakfast at the Wing Dam Saloon in Fountain City, we continued north and this is how the day unfolded.
In Alma we used the Kwik Trip for a fuel stop and to unload some of the coffee that we have been carrying for 20 miles. We went to visit with the bikers at the Red Ram Saloon in the middle of town. Seymour’s Cycle Shop, across from the Red Ram, is open during the Flood Run weekend. This year on the run my wife got a new hooded sweatshirt with the shop’s catchy graphics. But we were there to ride so we jumped back on the bikes and headed north again.
Our next stop was Pepin. Just as you get into town you will see the Garden Pub & Eatery. This place looks like a shelter with three open sides, no walls. It was a bit cool so we sat underneath one of their patio heaters. We didn’t get too comfortable because we needed to saddle up and hit the road. Riding through Stockholm we were tempted to stop in at Gilly’s Pub & Grill. The place was full of bikers hanging outside and on the deck. We had no time to stop, since we wanted to get to Maiden Rock where the bike and people watching are superb.
Maiden Rock is one of the major stops along the Flood Run route. Hundreds of bikes of all makes, colors and sizes will pass through or stop in. You can park your bike on the streets (if you are lucky), an empty parking lot just off of the main drag, or ride on down to the shores of Lake Pepin and park there. There you will find an alley of vendors and a band playing music, free. (Last year we caught Kat “Scarlet” Hase and her band Northern Comfort — great rockin.’) The three bars in town do their best to keep up with the demand for food and refreshments. Each of the bars has a food stand behind their buildings. The grills are smoking, the refreshments are iced down and the scenery is fantastic.
Our favorite perch is on the corner of Highway 35 and the road down to the lake. From there we get a chance to see the endless parade of bikes. Old Harleys, new Harleys, Triumphs, vintage bikes, trikes, Boss Hoss’s, big Goldwings and lean mean sport bikes are all part of the show. At about mid-afternoon we decided to slip into traffic and ride south to Nelson, Wis.
Nelson is one of our usual stops. We like to nose around the vendor booths by the Top Hat bar. Before leaving, we treated ourselves to an over-scooped ice cream cone at the old Nelson Creamery. Back on the bikes we made a run for the border, Minnesota that is. We crossed up and over the mighty Mississippi River on the Wabasha bridge. From this height you can really catch some river scenery. We blasted down the four lane Highway 61 headed back toward Winona. Next stop was Bucks Bar in Minnieska.
The road in front of Bucks Bar had bikes lined up on both sides, plus two rows right down the center. No four-wheel traffic allowed during the Run. You can look over the river from there all the way to Wisconsin. We took plenty of pictures before leaving, wanting to get home before sundown because the temperature was dropping fast. What a day; what a Flood Run. We can’t wait for spring to do it all over again.
Hope to see you all on the run this year.
This article was written by Mike Chitko and first appeared in Thunder Roads magazine.