Let me start by saying that I find myself looking forward to reading the comments every night as much as many of you say you look forward to the daily posts. I get almost as many emails from those I know who are reading and between the comments and the emails you the readers have made it fun for me too. I don’t know all of the people commenting but I do know a bunch of you and the diversity of the readers and commenters really amaze me. I would love to have them all in the same place, sit back, listen and watch. I am glad thatÂ I can take you out of your daily grind, even if just for a little bit and have you ride with me.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t know what my father knew when he named my brothers and me after the outlaw Younger brothers, but he did, Jim, Bob and Cole. Brother Jim hasn’t weighed in on the comments yet, but he is aÂ psychiatrist and is probably busy trying to psychoanalyze all of this and I am sure that would keep him busy for quite awhile. I don’t need much of a reason to go someplace but on this years Sturgis trip I decided I would like to go east, figured out about how far I could go and still make the last two days of Sturgis and picked Minnesota. Pulled out a map and started googling Minnesota History which is a great way to explore new territory. The James/ Younger outlaw stories of the Northfield Minnesota Bank robbery came up many times and brought back old memories of studying my namesake before.Â I thought it would be really neat to take a picture of me on the scooter (iron horse) with my mask on and maybe even some play gun pistols in front of the Northfield Bank. Now that you are set up….. I entered Minnesota ( I like saying Minnesotio) and was so tired of seeing old barns and corn that they were both starting to lose there color and the corn was growing so fast it was starting to block the view of everything else.
Sooooo, I withdrew some money legally out of the nearest ATM and decided to fore-go the Northfield Bank Heist idea. Maybe the church in Sioux Falls got to me, but the Bank heist didn’t turn outÂ very well for Cole Younger in 1876 and I was having second thoughts about my idea with the mask and play guns. The map showed lots of green and blue to the north and none of the roads were straight and I had a new idea forming in my head now. It didn’t take long until the ride north started taking on better scenery.
Last year the ride to Sturgis followed Route 66 from Amarillo to St. Louis and the goal then was to stick my feet in the Mississippi River and then make a left turn and head to Sturgis. The new idea this year was not to just stick my feet in the Mississippi but to walk across it. When you spend most of you life in the west you just assume the headwaters of all the major rivers start at some spring or glacier high in the mountains. I had never even thought about it much, but where does the Mississippi start, where are its headwaters? I started tracing it back on the map from the Twin Cities until even with my magnified glasses on I could not tell where it started.Â Following it on the map into Northern Minnesota and everything on the map just kind of blurs and turns blue, what the heck is going on? Back to the Internet. 2o miles north of Park Rapids Minnesota it said, so I set my destination for Park Rapids.
It was dark, cold and raining when I finally made it to Park Rapids and found a place to stay. The place I stayed was on the Fish Hook River but I have never seen a river so still and quiet. It was a beautiful setting and the reflections on the water made some great pictures
The next morning I took a walk across this bridge
I walked across and on the other side was a boy fishing. “Catching anything” I asked. “Yes I caught a catfish, I think, it had stingers, that’s a catfish isn’t it?”
“Yes, I think that’s a catfish, what’s your name?”
“Owen” he said.
“Opie?” I said.
The headwaters of the Mississippi river start in a lake. History has it that every 20 years or so, some explorer would claim to have found the headwaters and then name the place after himself. Eventually someone was smart enough to actually ask the local natives and Ozawindib of the Ojibwe tribe lead Henry Rowe to the headwaters which was the overflow from Lake Itasca. I think part of the confusion then, was the same confusion I had trying to find the source of the river on the map. When you come from the south following the river you expect the source to head south, but it flows north before it actually bends its way back south gathering up all of the other runoff and turning into the mighty “Old Man River”.
Once I found the Itasca State Park and entered from the east, I took the road of all roads north to the headwaters, found the parking lot and started hiking for the river source. It was crowded and even though it would have been nice to have been there without all the people, I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one who was crazy. I peeled off my boots, rolled my pants up and slowly entered the river.
I could feel the current pushing me and the gravel bottom felt good on my feet, talk about being in tune with mother earth! I stopped looked out over the lake and watched the river begin 10 feet in front of me. Memories of the river in St Louis last year came flooding back to me.
Wow, this is incredible, this is where it all begins, the mighty Mississippi River! This is what I came for and worth every rain soaked mile. Come on now, would you have done this with me if I hadn’t drug you along? They say if a raindrop falls here in this spot, it will take 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico, about the same time it seems to be taking me to get to Sturgis. As Horace Greeley once said, “Go West, young man”, I saddled up and did. Sturgis or Bust.
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