Day 456: Sin in Berlin

The thought on Laetitia’s mind as she walked into the Emerald Victorian library with a steaming cup of Door County Roasters’ medium roast was how pleased she was that, despite years of trying, medical science had found few deleterious effects from drinking coffee. Indeed, coffee is loaded with antioxidants that may provide significant health benefits.

She listened to a collection of Bob Dylan songs as she sat in an overstuffed chair thinking about where to go for the day’s trip. “Mr. Tambourine Man” was playing. She listened to the lines:

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

She, of course, couldn’t “forget about today until tomorrow.” She had a tour to run, but she had decided on the day’s destination. They would go to the circus.

Laetitia brought her group to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. During the nineteenth century, more than 100 traveling circuses wintered in Wisconsin. The museum features a collection of more than 200 circus wagons and has ten performances daily during the summer with acrobats, aerialists, tigers, elephants, magic tricks, clowns, and jugglers. The group went on a boat trip in the Wisconsin Dells, but skipped the town with its overblown commercialism.

In the motel bar at Baraboo, Laetitia overheard a conversation between the bartenders about two unhappily married folks from nearby Green Lake, who always sneaked off to Berlin for their illicit encounters. It gave her the limerick of the day, which she presented at dinner.

When Harry and Jane went to sin
They always drove up to Berlin
Where they needn’t be wary
Of meeting Aunt Mary
At the bar of the Holiday Inn.

Day 442: North Country Girls

When Bob Dylan wrote the Girl of the North Country, he might have been thinking about Ely, Minnesota. Laetitia brought her group to the former coal-mining town of 3,800 inhabitants, which is now one of the gateways to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness. Tipples, head-frames, and other remnants of the eleven mines that once operated in the area can still be seen, but tourism is what the town is about today. There are numerous outfitters providing canoes, clothing, and gear for those who have come for a Boundary Waters excursion.

Laetitia took her group to the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center. Afterward they went to the Dorothy Molter Museum. Dorothy was a nurse who came to what is now the BWCA in the 1930s to work at a resort. She ended up staying and, when the owner died, operated the resort until 1975. When the BWCA was created, her property was condemned, and the law required that she leave, but as a result of massive public protest on her behalf, she was allowed to stay until she died in 1986. She was known as the “Root Beer Lady,” because she offered root beer made from concentrate and lake water to BWCA visitors who stopped at her cabin.

From the Dorothy Molter story one can imagine that the women who live around Ely are somewhat unique. There were also the Chainsaw Sisters, Michele Richards and Marlene Zorman, who started a saloon by that name 18 miles from Ely in what some might describe as the middle of nowhere. The named derives from the fact that both at one point previously worked for the Forest Service using chainsaws to clear trees. Their saloon was very popular with groups on the way to the BWCA, snowmobilers, and with visitors who drove out from Ely to have a drink in a unique place. The saloon was in business for 20 years, but is now closed.

After arranging to meet at a designated restaurant for dinner, Laetitia stopped at a local bar. She distilled the afternoon’s gossip into the limerick of the day about a local woman who epitomized the adventurous spirit of the women of the north woods.

A lass from the village of Ely
Is well known for giving love freely
Adrift in canoes
On a bed wearing shoes
Or a Harley while doing a wheelie.

Day 440: Fibbing in Hibbing

In the United States, there are two places where continental divides converge to create triple watersheds. One is in Glacier National Park in Montana; the other is in Minnesota near Hibbing, where the Laurentian Divide and the St. Lawrence Seaway Divide meet. Chippewa Indians referred to the place as the “Hill of Three Waters,” having noted that from this spot water flows in three directions: south to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River watershed, east to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and north to Hudson Bay.

Laetitia and her group started the day at the Continental Divide Marker and then visited nearby Hibbing. The town is named after Frank Hibbing, a native of Hanover, Germany, who prospected the Vermillion Range and found indications of extensive ore deposits. Later, when the mining industry developed in the area, Hibbing was home to the world’s largest iron ore mine.

The group visited the house Bob Dylan grew up in on a street that is now called Dylan Drive. Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth in 1941 and grew up in Hibbing, where his parents were part of the town’s small Jewish community. He got involved in folk music at the University of Minnesota and later performed at a variety of clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village before he got a manager and his music career began to take off. Laetitia’s grandmother was a Bob Dylan fan, but she preferred his music from the 1960s, before he went electric.

At happy hour that afternoon, Laetitia was thinking about doing a limerick about Bob Dylan, but decided at the last minute to use some other gossip she heard about a local Lothario wannabe who seemed to be all show and no go.

A callow young fellow from Hibbing
Of his prowess was constantly fibbing
‘Til an amorous conquest
In which he failed the test
Made him the object of much ribbing.