Friday, October 7, 2011

Litchfield, Minnesota

Friends: For much of its length the Mississippi River forms a dividing line between states. It doesn't begin serving that purpose though until after it meanders through the middle of Minnesota on over to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul near the state's border with Wisconsin.

I met up with the mighty Mississip near the center of the state in the small town of Little Falls. I was able to follow it for ten miles on its western bank, past the homestead of Charles Lindbergh, where he lived a Tom Sawyer-youth building rafts to cross the river with his dog and playing in the woods. The house he grew up in is part of the 110-acre Charles A. Lindbergh State Park, the family's former homestead, established in 1931, four years after Lindbergh's historic flight, in honor of Lindergh's father, a five-term Congressman from 1907 to 1917. His home has been largely restored, as it was greatly vandalized by souvenir hunters in the first months of his great international celebrity. He was Time magazine's first Man of the Year and remains its youngest, narrowly retaining the distinction over last year's honoree--Mark Zuckerberg.

Lindbergh was only two-years old when Little Falls dedicated its library in 1904--a Carnegie that still serves its intended purpose, though it has been swallowed up by a huge addition in 1999. I didn't even notice the original building until I asked the librarian if the old library still stood. "Its behind you," she gestured. And indeed it was, its brick walls forming one of the rooms of the library. The old library contains a "Lindbergh Room" for special events. On the wall is a 45-star American flag that was discovered in the walls of the old library when the addition was undertaken.

The library stands on a large park-like parcel of land graced with large trees, explaining why I hadn't noticed the old library when I biked up. The new canopied entrance from local stone was also impressive enough to distract me from looking around and noticing the original building alongside it . A wooden beam above the original entry was etched with "Carnegie Library". Just below, chiseled into the cement, was A. D. 1904. Beside the entry was a U.S. Department of Interior plaque designating it as a Historic Place.

I had expected to reach my next Carnegie in Litchfield about 70 miles south early this afternoon, but with the fiercest winds of the trip holding my speed to under eight miles per hour, I was lucky to make it before closing time. Litchfield has a new library, though it honors the old Carnegie with a painting of it in its entry and a Carnegie Room for special events.

The original library is several blocks away past a Burger King and is now privately owned. It has been renamed "Library Square" and is home to three businesses--Grand Concepts Hair Salon, The Work Connection Employment Center and Divine Home Care. It has a small glass addition that is an affront to the original building to accommodate them all. There is no Carnegie on the building, just "Library" above the double-pillared entry.

The winds blew all last night, a rarity, foreboding another all-day battle in the saddle. I was lucky to be camping in a gully protected from the wind, though the trees surrounding me shed twigs and leaves on me all night. There was no early morning lull in the wind, as is normal. This is the fifth straight day of strong winds from the southeast, quite uncharacteristic for this time of the year.

Leaves and corn husks and other debris have been flying past me on the road all day in a mad rush as if the apocalypse was nigh. A farmer in a pick-up flagged me down and commented, "You've got ten pounds of shit packed on a five pound bike. Can I give you a lift to the next town?" He seemed genuinely concerned for me pushing into the near gale force winds. I told him I had come over 2,000 miles already and that I could manage, but thanked him for his offer.

Road signs were shimmering in the wind as if they were kites wanting to go airborne. It was garbage day for this region and all the empty garbage cans out along the road had blown over. The wind was a deafening roar in my ears. Luckily the towns were just ten miles apart, almost an hour-and-a-half of riding between each. It sure will be sweet when the wind finally lets up and I can pedal along without having to give it all my attention and effort. My five days of tail winds across Montana are now evened up with the head winds of Minnesota.

At least it is good news for my roommate. Those tail winds of Montana made it look as if I would return much earlier than anticipated, disrupting her plans. She's had the apartment to her self for six of the last seven months. It is always an adjustment when the wanderer shows up and disperses his gear all over the place, not bothering to pack things away knowing he will be off again before long.

Later, George

1 comment:

Deborah said...

LOL The homebody roommate looks forward to your return! I enjoy keeping a cozy place for the Wanderer to return to whenever necessary :)