We’ve had a couple of good days of riding. After running in front of some pretty serious weather going into Grand Forks, the last two days have been much less stressful. The visit to the bike shop and new tires have taken some concern away as well.
Lots of people have told us we have a couple of treats ahead in Bimibji and Duluth, both in Minnesota. We’ve been told about the beauty of these places which are apparently regular weekend getaway places for the state. We have certainly moved away from the agricultural industry to an area of lakes and rivers, game reserves, and fishing shops.
Tonight, we’re in Bemidji and it is a beautiful town. Set on a lake, a university at its center with wide tree lined, bike friendly streets, this town has a lot going for it. But there is trouble in paradise. We heard about the trouble almost 200 km away, in Grand Forks. The story was repeated last night in Langdon. Today we saw first hand the source of the trouble and have heard the story more than once from different perspectives.
The trouble has to do with Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. Bemidji is one of six U.S. cities that claims Paul and uses him as a draw for tourists. There is a huge statue next to downtown in a park with a gazebo and a small visitor center/museum. at least it should be a park. Right now, it’s a construction site with sheets of plywood screwed together to give access to the statues. When it rains, the whole area would be mud. Today, none of the construction equipment in the area was working to make it better.
It seems, someone in the planning department thought it was time to update the park. Work began, changes were made, landscape stone put in place and the sh..t hit the fan. You don’t mess with tradition. There was huge public outcry with lots of reasons why the updates needed were not cutting it. The city caved to pressure, took it all out, tried again, failed again, removed it again, and now seem to be stuck in limbo. Nobody is happy and tourists like us wonder how they could leave their icon in such a mess.
They can get things done though. Just a hundred meters away is a beautiful memorial to Chief Bemidji which is pretty frank about the mistreatment of the natives in the area. It was dedicated two weeks ago.