I've been eyeing the many gravel grinders that my area of the country puts on for a while now, but I usually don't get the chance to participate due to working weekends. However, many of these events post GPS data covering the routes they follow, sharing some of the best gravel in the state (that riders have discovered and shared so far). Southeast MN's bluff country, and the Arrowhead region are the areas I get the most excited to ride/explore. The southeast is full of a mixture of lazy rivers flowing between bluffs, and country farm scenes, and the Arrowhead is just plain North-woods goodness, and gets you decidedly out of town.
In the beginning of October, my friend Jonathan and I took an afternoon to ride a section of the Ragnarok 105. We picked the southern section that followed along the Zumbro River. It was a pretty drab, blustery day, but we had a good time.
The event rides themselves usually see a mixture of bikes, from carbon cross racers, to Fargo/Karate Monkey types, to an occasional rider punishing themselves rolling a fat bike. I'd sure like to try the light and fast cross version if I get the chance, but for now I roll on my heavy-ish Surly KM. Jonathan was kind enough to leave his Kona Jake at home and ride his mountain bike to even the field.
Through the day we rolled through riverside bluffs, open rolling farmland, and small country towns, all the while on gravel "highways", byways, and the best- the occasional minimum maintenance road.
I can't even remember how many miles we got in, but that's often a sign you're paying more attention to having fun, so that's fine. I would like to complete a full "dirty" (off pavement) century via one of these routes sometime. Just need to put in on the calendar I suppose. They would make a great overnight tour as well.