Sunday, June 10, 2007

You Betcha

Hey everyone, this is Kevin breaking Gabe's monopoly on the blog. As I am the only native Minnesotan on the trip so far, I have been assigned the task of trying to explain what it is like to travel through the state that I, for the time being, still call home. Living in Walla Walla, Washington for the last four years I have heard nearly every single cliche about Minnesota and Minnesotans. Most of which are derived from one of two sources: Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion or the Cohen Brothers' film Fargo. While both capture some elements of the typical Minnesotan mentality--enthusiastic sociability, our peculiar accent, and our constant obsession with the weather--both, in their separate ways, exaggerate and caricature them for comic effect. Obviously, I somewhat resent these essentialist exaggerations because there is more to being Minnesotan than being a country bumpkin that thinks of nothing except ice fishing, hockey, and lutefisk.

Over the last two weeks, however, what has become apparent travelling through the more rural areas of the state is that the "Minnesota Nice" mentality actually has a strong grounding in reality. The three of us and our gear are pretty odd sight to come across in a county park, or portaging around various dams, or walking around small, out-of-the-way towns. Yet that hasn't discouraged many people from inquiring as to who we are, where we are going, what our stories are, sharing some of their own, offering genuine encouragement, and often offering to help out in any way possible. A now typical example: as we pulled up to Little Falls to portage, an elderly couple in a very large pick-up truck that happened to be driving by turned around instantly and offered to shuttle us around the town's dam, saving us a three trips of walking. Taking a detour wasn't enough, as both the husband and wife helped move our water containers, packs, life jackets and paddles the fifty yards from the parking lot to the river's edge. As a Minnesotan that likes to self-identify as a cynical misanthrope, such widespread patterns of behavior are a pleasant, albeit slightly disarming, surprise.

In terms of the trip, the last three days we have been off the river buying extra supplies, reorganizing gear, visiting friends, and letting our bodies recover. Tomorrow we meet up with the fourth member of our group, Ryan Stoa, in Winona, Minnesota. We are hoping to be back on the water Tuesday morning. The river below the Twin Cities will become something else entirely. Between St. Paul and St. Louis, the Army Corps of Engineers have built 27 locks and dams to transform the river into consistently viable shipping lane. We will now have to share the river with recreators, barges, and all the other trappings of interstate commerce. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.


markie said...

Kevin, nice to hear from you...yet another good writer. i'm confused tho. has there been only 3 of you thus far? 3 in one canoe or one guy alone? and who is the chris mentioned in the beginning? will someone please clarify as we followers want the whole picture! thanks!

Gabe said...

hi danny's mom,

chris is an IT person at Penn who helped to set up the blog, and who fixes broken links for us when things go wrong that we cannot fix from the river. so far, only three of us have been on the river. we are driving down tonight to meet up with Ryan Stoa, the fourth member of our party, in Winona, MN. From there on out, there will be four of us. Hope that helps. Best,

wanda1234 said...

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