In what's been a bad year for crashes in Minnesota, motorcyclists are being warned to take extra care this weekend as 30,000 bikes hit the road for the annual Fall Flood Run.
The charity run, celebrating its 50th year, will set off Saturday along the Mississippi and St. Croix River valleys between the Twin Cities and Winona.
But the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is urging riders to take every precaution they can to protect themselves, given that state roads have seen more than their share of fatalities this year.
According to the latest DPS statistics, 51 motorcyclists have died on Minnesota roads this year, already surpassing the total number of 46 who died throughout all of 2014.
"We ask riders to make smart, safe choices to keep themselves, their passengers and others safe when they are on the road," Lt. Tiffani Schweigart of the Minnesota State Patrol said. "Riders need to make their own safety a priority this weekend and always."
Police said they will have extra patrols out during the event to "ensure a safe riding environment." They advise riders to wear a DOT-approved helmet and brightly-colored protective gear, and reminded them not to speed or drink and ride.
The Flood Run's origins go back to 1965, when 12 motorcycle riders in the Twin Cities went the 90 miles to Winona to help sandbag the town that was deluged by floodwater.
The following year the riders were invited back to have a party as there was no flood, and it quickly became an annual event held on the third Saturday of every April, with an annual fall event held in September later added, the run's website says.