If you live in Minnesota you have to know about Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox (Twins fans know that Babe participates in a footrace — losing most of the time — during every Twins home game). These immortal characters are responsible for creating our logging industry, re-orienting rivers, creating lakes, in short making our state what it is today.
Today we journeyed northward on the Paul Bunyon Expressway aka highway MN-371:
Large statues memorialize our heroes in the major tourist centers of Pequot Lakes and Bemidji. Sure, many Minnesota cities have tried to lay a claim to Paul and Babe. Such mercenary practices must be scorned and ridiculed. The facts don’t lie — Bemidji will always be their real residence of record — it has the largest and best statues too. My travel partner and I were proud and honored to have photos taken with Paul and Babe in Bemidji today:
After that it seemed that nothing could top the day. As usual I was proven wrong as we passed through many notable towns: Hackensack, Leech Lake, Walker and Karlstad before reaching the Canadian border. Oh, you have never heard of Karlstad. It is the moose capital of Minnesota, or at least Northwestern Minnesota. This fact is celebrated with statues, water tower art and the world famous moose gardens:
Karlstad is the last major American outpost on highway MN-59 before hitting foreign territory.
Some of my fellow Americans think Minnesota is actually part of Canada; point in fact I know folks who live along the coastal areas of the US of A who think Canada is really the 51st state. Must be the lyrical way we all speak, or perhaps it is the endless forests, corn and wheat fields that dominate the landscape. Does it matter, hey?
Just before we entered Canada we recalled the advice from some drunk Blue Jay fans we met at a recent Twins game. We filled up with American gas cuz it’s cheaper — by over a buck a gallon. And we were able to make use of a delightful rest area just a mile or two before the border:
Everything was going swimmingly as we approached the border guard station. We pulled up and greeted the Canadian guard. He asked for our passports. We dutifully handed the id to the guard. Just before I handed them over I noticed two holes in the cover of my passport. This led to a huge out-of-body moment–we had just traveled over 400 miles — my dear travel companion had brought the wrong passport for me.
The guard noticed this right away. I believe his comment was, “Do you know you have one expired passport; going back to Minneapolis is kinda far to fix the problem”, he was not smiling. I was in the midst of some heavy duty squirming in my fancy bucket seated hybrid — removing my shades at his request. He looked me over and asked some mundane questions about weapons, fresh produce and the like. I offered him my driver’s license and with a pleading tone in my voice and told him we were simple tourists heading to Winnipeg, Calgary and Banff. “We’ll be back in the states in a week or so.”
He took our id and went back into his post — I thought I heard a snicker accompany his trailing comment, “I’ll check the system…”. While he was doing his duty I confronted my fellow traveler. She admitted (for the millionth time) that she’s not a detail person. I astounded — she thought this was only a detail? Certain that I would be consider persona non grata my spine stiffen as the guard returned — did I mention he was not a smiler? Well, he still wasn’t and didn’t. But, he had good news. The Canadian government would allow us in. He warned me that Homeland Security could decide to “flag” me due to the ineligible id.
I asked him if my country (tis of thee–see NSA I know the words) would let me back in with this improper id. For the first time I saw evidence of a smile. You know the kind: nee, yah, ha, ha, ha…just like Snidely Whiplash. He cavalierly wished me luck and responded with sure, after-all you are an American citizen? I was thinking out loud — oh well, back on the naughty list at Home Land Security.
Just then I felt a pat on my head. My gal said, “There, it wasn’t so bad. We’re in right?” Then she started to laugh–the tension was broken and I laughed too. Still, in the back of my mind I wondered if they will let me back in. Wonder if it’s hard to obtain Canadian citizenship?
We eventually got to Winnipeg late in the afternoon. Found lodging and ate dinner (pad thai with shrimp) at a delightful Thai restaurant called Sukhotothai which is located in the Osbourne District of the city.
Tomorrow we explore Winnipeg!