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Becker County woman completes long-distance bike rides in all 50 states

Detroit Lakes resident gears up for another Minnesota bicycle journey

Nancy McDaniel has completed bicycle rides in all 50 states and is gearing up to tackle another long-distance ride in Minnesota this month.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Nancy McDaniel recently finished a bicycle journey that began about 40 years ago.

“I’ve joined bicycle tours in all 50 states, and in three provinces in Canada,” the 72-year-old Detroit Lakes resident said, noting the tours averaged 350 to 400 miles.

Nancy McDaniel prefers the hybrid bike, which offers a smooth ride on pavement and rough surface roads, for long-distance rides.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“The planned rides are in sections of a state and they showcase the best parts of those areas,” she said. “For me, my favorite was the jagged peak of Mount Olympus; I cried the first time I rounded the bend.”

While the scenery on the rides often takes McDaniel’s breath away, bicycling has added true value to her life.

The Tamarac Wildlife Refuge volunteer recalled she was a self-conscious and overweight child. When she was 7 years old, her father upgraded her brother’s Coast to Coast vintage rider and gave her the hand-me-down.


“My brother was very determined, and I’d watched him try to ride that bike, fall and come into the house with nose bleeds,” she said. “I grew fearful of the bike.”

Her dad saw the bike was not getting used and offered McDaniel some advice. He told her to use the back step to find her balance on the bike and once she found it, to simply start pedaling.

“I waited until no one was looking and tried it,” McDaniel said. “I took off and kept going. I was so excited to achieve that because I finally felt like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.”

Biking around the block led to riding around town. When she became an adult, her husband, who has since passed, helped her find a new favorite vacation — bike tours around the state.

“This was back before cell phones; he was a ham radio operator,” McDaniel said. “They helped communicate between checkpoints at a bike race. He offered to help and suggested that I join the race. Well, I’m not a racer and move at my own pace, but I decided to join. I never expected to get third place (in the mountain bike class).”

During the race, she befriended a biker savvy to longer tours. McDaniel learned about one that was happening in Minnesota and decided to join.

“It was my first long distance ride and it actually went through Detroit Lakes,” she recalled. “After that, I was hooked.”

As a nurse, McDaniel dedicated some of her vacation time each year to a bike ride, often sticking closer to her home in Wisconsin.


“I did at least one ride a year while I was working, but after I retired I would do a few,” she said.

Nancy McDaniel has a collection of bicycle ride shirts and other memorabilia from her rides in all 50 states.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Each ride gifted McDaniel with friends and inspiring beauty. It also inspired her children to ride, which tightened their bond as her two boys became adults.

Her youngest suggested they tackle a ride in Colorado for his 21st birthday. Her oldest son, after he ended his service with the Army, joined on West Coast adventures. Moving several miles an hour on the road gave them moments that became memories. As her voice quivered, she stopped, collected herself and explained that has been the most wonderful gift bicycling has given her.

In 2017, McDaniel moved to Detroit Lakes to be closer to her 102-year-old mother. It was in her new hometown that she crossed out the remaining states on her list — Maryland and Pennsylvania.

McDanielMedals pic .jpg
Nancy McDaniel has hundreds of medals hanging at her Detroit Lakes home. The 72-year-old joins long-distance bike rides, snowshoe races and 5K runs.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

McDaniels is picking random bicycle tours nowadays, and is set to take another Minnesota adventure in mid-June.

“You can tell how good a ride is by how quickly it fills up,” she said. “For the ride in Minnesota that Jim Klobuchar started (Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s father), it is limited to 250 riders. Registration opens in February, and it was full in a few days.”

For those interested in long-distance bike rides, McDaniels recommended www.bikereg.com . She said the website covers the nation with planned three-day routes and longer events.

For those considering starting the fun and healthy habit of bicycling in the lakes area, McDaniels said the Heartland Trail extension and original segment in Park Rapids are well worth a ride, as are the Central Lakes Trail and Paul Bunyan Trail.


And when looking for expert biking advice, she said one need look no further than the DL Bike Shop on Washington Avenue.

McDaniels has traveled a lot of miles since that hand-me-down Coast to Coast bike, and she's looking forward to a lot more. She wants to keep biking "as long as I can," she said with a smile.

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