Claim to Fame: First city on the Mississippi and “Curling Capital” of the USA.
During our first week out on the trail the hardest part has been giving up those simple pleasures we've all grown accustomed to. I'm talking showers, temperature controlled rooms, real food, and that thing normal people sleep on. If I'm not mistaken I think it's called a bed, but what do I know, I'm a river person now. When all that gets taken away you can bet your bottom dollar you'll go out of your way to stumble across anything that looks like a town. Lucky for us Bemidji, Minnesota was right along the river.
According to the map our slice of paradise didn't look like much more than a footnote. We thought we'd get lucky if they had a country store. But you know what they say, looks (especially when it's on a tiny map) can be deceiving. Our day started when we emerged like smelly mermen from the lake, and washed up at the city’s tourism center. We were a little thrown off as they seemed to have quite the affinity for Paul Bunyan (I'm talking everything from a statue to “artifacts”). Once inside we met the first angel of our stay. That title belongs to Carol, the center’s supervisor. Once I explained why two homeless looking men were in the park she immediately offered to let us lock up our stuff (including the canoe) inside the lobby. Now the center would be opened for another two hours, which meant our scratched up beauty was just hanging out next to the Paul Bunyan display case as visitors strolled by. That in and of itself would have made the day, but it gets better!
The mission then centered around getting to the post office. If you remember, I forgot the seat backs in New Hampshire, and Tom and Liz were nice enough to send them along. It was Trent’s job to pick up the box, and while in line he apparently made a friend. Because when he came out he explained the woman next to him in line was willing to give us a ride anywhere in the city. We ultimately declined because we still had no idea where we were staying. That proved to be the biggest mistake of the day because the Super 8 motel we later decided on was over two miles away. Lucky for us, we picked the best hotel (I just upgraded it) in the city.
It was here we met Ken (the motel’s supervisor), and after we explained why we were in Bemidji he immediately offered us a ride back to the tourism center the following morning. We ABSOLUTELY jumped on that offer, and not only did Ken deliver he also threw in a tour of the city. Turns out Ken doubles as the tennis coach at Bemidji State, and after showing us the campus he took us to Diamond Park. There you can scout out Lake Bemidji, (which is not calm by any stretch of the imagination) and decide if it's safe to paddle across. The meteorologist had called for a storm later in the day, but as Ken assured us, right now we'd be ok if we followed his route.
Once Ken dropped us off we were reunited with Carol (remember her?), and she was even more hospitable this time around. Not only had she dug up some more maps for the next leg of our journey she let us use her personal printer to print the ones the center did not have. We then asked if there was any way we could repay her, but like a true hero she just said she wanted us to finish the trip safely.
This journey has a number of big cities still left on the itinerary, and by that I mean all of them. We're talking St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans just to name a few. However, I think it's
safe to say we'll always remember our stay in Bemidji (or as Ken told us “Burr-midji” in the winter).