Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meandering to Town on a Minnesota Spring Day

I had a great drive into Bemidji last Tuesday.  The alleged reason for spending the gas to get to Bemidji for the second time in a week was to pick up our turkey poults.

But the exciting part of the trip was the beautiful spring weather we had that day, and the scenic route I decided to pursue.  Bemidji is about 70 miles SE of our house.  Generally we either head almost straight south to Fosston and catch US Hwy 2 into Bemidji.  Occasionally, we will turn to the east before Fosston and take MN 92 into Bagley where we catch US Hwy 2.  But today, ... today I wandered.  I figured if I kept a general southern and easterly turn of roads, I would get to Bemidji eventually.

My adventure started  8 miles south of our house.  The tar road heading south ends there, and drivers who want to avoid gravel driving must turn either east or west.  I chose today to stay on the gravel and continue south.  I soon crossed the Lost River and continued following the slightly wending road for a few miles until it hit the tar heading south again.  It's not really very adventurous so far, but it's about as exciting as one can get on that first leg of the journey.  And it suited my mood.

When I got to MN 92, I headed east, as I would, were I going to Bagley.  But I turned off before getting to Bagley and headed toward Leonard.  I really don't know where I went or how I got there, but I ran into US Hwy 2, just west of Solway.  I was a bit disappointed that I found the main road so soon, but the backroad drive was very nice while it lasted.  I had the radio turned to the station playing classic hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

When I got to Bemidji, the first thing I did, since it was past lunch time, was head into Leukens Deli for a salad, some fruit, and a yogurt.  I took it "to go" and tried to find a scenic place to park.

After several minutes of wandering the city streets, I ended up at Diamond Point Park.  We had picnicked there two summers ago with the Larsons from Iowa.  It is a very pretty park and many people were out that day, enjoying the spring weather.

While I was eating my salad, a pick-up pulled in next to me.  Out of it, eventually, managed to come an elderly couple and a younger man perhaps in his 50s or early 60s, who I took to be a son of the couple.  The older man had to shuffle quite a bit even to walk, and the others helped him along.  He was dressed against the slightly nippy spring breeze with a winter coat and hat.  It soon became clear that this elderly man was not up to much of a walk, but that he planned to enjoy the nice day by waiting for the other two near one of the picnic shelters.  The son walked him to a bench under the shelter, and appeared to encourage him to sit down.  But this man was having none of that sitting business on such a nice day.  As the other two continued on their walk, he stood near the bench, or wandered here and there never getting too far from the bench near which he had been delivered. 

The older lady was in a pair of brightly colored jade green sweat pants, a kelly green sweatshirt, and a quilted red vest.  She seemed so vivacious and excited for her walk.  She kept spreading wide her arms and letting the wind ruffle the sleeves of her green sweatshirt. She reminded me of a brightly colored bird, strutting around in the spring.

After I ate my lunch, I joined all the other park goers who were out to take the air.  I had enough time for a half hour walk, and since there was so much to see, I kept up a brisk pace.  I went first to the north-western most corner of the park and cut back along the shoreline toward the university.

It was during this part in my walk, when I met my erstwhile friends, the elderly mother and her son who had left the older gentleman to enjoy his sunshine in a less athletic fashion.  The mother was still spreading wide her arms, turning this way and that, just beaming with the pleasure that only someone coming off eight months of winter can fully appreciate.  We exchanged pleasantries regarding the glorious day and I continued on my way.

The Little Mermaid  Copenhagen
I continued past the swimming beach where a few mothers with young children were vainly attempting to keep the kids from wading in the ice cold water.  One youngster had hopped across some open water and was sitting on a rock, looking very like the Copenhagen statue of Hans Christian Andersen's, The Little Mermaid.

Once a walker passes the point, the shoreline turns toward the south.  Along the walking path, there are clusters of Adirondack chairs, positioned facing the lake.  In one such cluster, a brave Northern Minnesota girl was huddled against the breeze coming off the lake.  She was in a skirt with tights, plus a oversized sweatshirt with a winter hat.  She was reading her book, all nestled into the Adirondack chair.

I continued on my way, leaving the park and following the bike path that snakes between Minnesota State University, Bemidji, and Lake Bemidji.  I have always thought the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has one of the nicest university campuses there is.  And I still do.  But the university in Bemidji is also very happily situated.  Along the walkway, benches are placed every so often, to enable those seated thereon to view the lake.  There are picnic tables here and there, and fireplace with a stone chimney on a little patio beside the lake, outside of the building I believe to be Hobson Memorial Union.

The area had a very distinctly campusy feel to it.  The students walking about were of a wide variety of ethnicities; clusters of students were involved in serious discussions; students were dressed in a wide variety of clothing styles.  It was all very reminiscent of any number of college campuses I've been to.  

But there was one point of variance that reminded me of the Minnesota Gurls spoof of Katy Perry's song, California Gurls.

Someone walking on the campus in Madison, WI, might expect to see any number of water based contrivances on Madison's Lake Mendota.  The students there rent or own canoes, kayaks, or row boats, among other water craft.  But here in Bemidji, I saw a group of students sitting and relaxing, passing the time, in...yes...a fishing boat.  I don't recall ever having seen, among the students at any other college campus I've been on, a group of young people socializing on a fishing boat, complete with a Johnson motor, and pivoting fishing seats.  I thought it an excellent tribute to the Minnesota spirit of those youth and of Minnesota in general.

After I finished my walk, I continued on to L and M Fleet Supply to pick up our turkeys and a few more fleetish odds and ends.  And then I headed home.

And ah, the glory of the return trip.  I can't even begin to tell you where I went, but I headed north just after I got out of town.  And again, I meandered in a zigging and zagging pattern, this time reversing to make my way north and west.  The sun was shining, the radio was playing, the birds were flying (or floating on one of our many lakes), the cattle were out and about, and it was all so very pleasant.

I came upon MN 92 just south of Clearbrook, and went straight across 92, to continue my backroads excursion.  Soon after crossing 92, I met an Amish carriage.  It seemed symbolic, somehow, of the mood I was in, but it juxtaposed strangely with REO Speedwagon on the radio.

When I got the intersection south of Gully and north of Cross Lake, when I'd have had to turn north or south to stay on the paved roads, I hit pay dirt.  Metaphorical pay dirt.  I chose the unpaved roads and continued meandering.  I took the next road to the north and after a few miles it wended its way between several small, serene Minnesota lakes and farm sites.  It was wonderfully refreshing.  Just driving and gazing and breathing in the beauty of this earth God has given us.  Another silly juxtaposition, but I think it was here that Cyndi Lauper's, Girls Just Wanna Have, fun came on the radio.

I have a friend who never listens to anything on the radio.  On all the long country drives he has to get anywhere, and throughout all his long days sitting in the tractor in his fields...he never listens to anything.  He enjoys the peace and quiet of his own mind and heart, looking out at the world and thinking his thoughts.  I felt a bit as though I ought to have had that attitude with all the beautiful things to look at that day, but I didn't.  I really enjoy my music.  But I was humored the other day by the interesting ways in which the music interacted with what I was experiencing.

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