Hundreds converge on the small town as part of fundraising bike tour through the region
ORR – Roy Carlsted rode his bicycle 60 miles before opting to catch a ride for the last 20-plus miles to Orr.
“I kind of slagged off,” he said over a beer at the Orr Municipal’s beer garden.
But as the MS TRAM’s elder statesman, the 89-year-old has no need to apologize. Most would have retired to a rocking chair at his age instead of cycling their way across the northern half of Minnesota.
Carlsted was just one of nearly 800 cyclists taking part in this year’s MS TRAM, which is taking a meandering route from International Falls to Duluth. Along the way, the group is also raising funds to battle multiple sclerosis. The goal is to raise $850,000 to fight MS and the group is already more than halfway to their objective.
The group left International Falls on Monday morning and traveled more than 80 miles before reaching Orr where they spent the night and more than tripled the local population.
“They were a really nice bunch of people,” said Orr City Clerk Louise Redmond, who added that many cyclists complimented Orr’s volunteers on the welcome they received.
“A lot of them plan to bring their families back here on vacation,” said Redmond, who said the visit also gave the local economy a nice boost with area restaurants and motels filled on Monday. Both Calvary Lutheran and St. Mary’s Catholic Church hosted meals and were able to generate some funds, as did the American Legion.
The only hitch in the day came toward evening when rain fell and the band that was scheduled to perform had to cancel.
Even that didn’t dampen the bikers’ enthusiasm, with groups heading to the Orr Muni to perform karaoke, including one talented biker who performed on harmonica and sang.
Monday not only marked the first MS TRAM stay in Orr, but also went down in history as the longest single-day ride in the event’s 21-year history. The previous record, according to ride marshal Steve Reynolds of Owatonna, was 72 miles. This year’s TRAM featured an 84-mile ride on the first day.
For Yvonne Novak, taking part in her first MS TRAM, it sounded a bit daunting.
“I was a little nervous,” the Duluth 47-year-old admitted. But the overcast day and lack of wind made the ride easier than she anticipated.
Even so, she planned to hit the bed early. “We’re starting at 4 a.m. the next morning” to beat the heat, she explained, while waiting for the champagne chicken dinner to begin at Calvary Lutheran.
Terry Gallagher is also a relative newcomer to the MS TRAM. The Apple Valley cyclist took part in last year’s ride and enjoyed it enough for another go this year.
He praised the scenic beauty of the area and the warm welcome that cyclists have received. “Every town we stop in is just awesome,” he said. “Orr is a heck of a little town.”
Tim Fisher is veteran of the MS TRAM and has taken part in all but two of the rides.
An avid cyclist, he parks his car from February to October and travels everywhere by bike. “I put 7,000 miles on my bicycle each year,” the 65-year-old said.
“I have six friends with MS so this is something that I’ve got to do,” he said of his involvement in the MS TRAM.
Carlsted is also a veteran cyclist. In his younger days, he took part in RAGBRAI, an annual bike ride across Iowa. He’s slowed down since then, he said, but even a triple-bypass couldn’t keep him off his bike.
He credits his good health to a large vegetable garden. “I eat a lot of fresh vegetables,” he said, supplemented by the occasional hamburger from McDonald’s.
Carlsted is such an icon of the ride that several cyclists were sporting buttons with his likeness and the message “I’m riding with Roy.”
Although some reserved motel rooms, booked an overnight stay at a resort, or rented a room from a homeowner for the night, the majority of the cyclists bunked in tents covering the former Orr School football field.
Reynolds, who had spent a night in Orr during a bike tour with Jim Klobuchar one year, recalled his last stay on the school grounds within a stone’s throw of the railway tracks.
“I swore when that train went by at night it was going through my tent,” he laughed.