Collage correspondence, part 4: Minnesota

From my last campsite in the Upper Peninsula it was only a short drive into Duluth, Minnesota, where I stayed with my friends Aga and Chris for a few days. My timing was perfect — torrential rains soaked northern Minnesota while I was in town, and cleared up as soon as I went camping again. After spending some time along the north shore of Lake Superior, I headed to Lake Itasca, home of the Mississippi River headwaters, then down to Minneapolis to visit friends. I spent a couple more days in Minnesota after that, visiting my grandfather’s grave and camping on my way back to Iowa.

Postcard collage of Russian ship in Duluth, with kayaker in the foreground

Dear Cristian — Thanks for backing my Kickstarter project! I spent a few days in Duluth, Minnesota … My favorite thing to do in Duluth was to watch the ships come in off Lake Superior. They’re absolutely enormous, big, slow, and impressive boats. And they all have impressive, aspirational-sounding names like The Majestic Zenith or Intrepid Pioneer. I think that’s to make up for the fact that the owner companies have boring names like “International Freight Consortium, LLC.”


Postcard collage of lift bridge in Duluth

Hi Gunther — Greetings from Minnesota! I spent about four days in Duluth and left this morning. The highlight there was watching a big freight ship pass through the canal and under the bridge shown here. I stayed with my friends Aga and Chris in Duluth — they live in a neat old house that Aga (who is originally from Poland) has fixed up. Tonight I’m camping again … The sun is down and the forest is noisy with the sound of bugs and frogs. Instead of staying in a campground I drove down a logging road until I found a clearing. It’s simple but it works!


Postcard collage of man, motorcycle, sidecar, and the word "Soooth"

Hi James — Greetings from mosquito country! I’m camped in a small, recently logged clearing in Minnesota’s north woods. I spent this afternoon working on postcards, and I’m spending this evening fending off a swarm of mosquitos. I’m not sure where they came from all of a sudden, but here they are. Beyond the clearing is a birch and pine forest and some hills, and still farther beyond that is Lake Superior. Maybe the mosquitos were buzzing all day and I just never noticed until I stopped working on collages. It’s one of those days when I’m so wrapped up and absorbed in what I’m doing that I lose track of myself. Here it is nearly 10 pm and I haven’t had a proper meal since breakfast this morning in Duluth. Anyway. Sun is down but the sky is still light. Time to get ready for bed.


Postcard collage of old muscle car and Lake Itasca

Megan — Not only is Lake Itasca home to the Mississippi headwaters, it is also home to countless abandoned and submerged muscle cars from the 1960s and ’70s. Nah, just kidding, it’s full of fish, and the surrounding forest is full of ticks. I pulled maybe seven off of Skillet after a run. We did maybe 15k. So that means roughly zero point five ticks per kilometer. Pretty good odds if you like ticks!


Postcard collage of Manitoba Time and lake Itasca, with mysterious Canadian clock on rear

Hi Ed! I hope you’ll forgive me for sending a Manitoba-themed postcard — not because there’s anything wrong with Manitoba, but because I didn’t visit Manitoba on this trip. It feels like I’m faking recent experiential knowledge of Manitoba if I don’t make my non-visitation clear. I did once visit Manitoba, but that was like 10,000 10 years ago. Sorry about the typo. I was just reading about Paleoindian cultures, and I had long timeframes on my mind. Anyway. Behind the “Manitoba Time” text is Lake Itasca in Minnesota. It’s a great place. In Manitoba the clocks tell time using cryptic runes like hats, cameras, and polar bears, but in the good old United States fo America (which includes Minnesota) we use ordinary numbers.


Postcard collage of bear on tree looking at licorice with text "big loads overnight"

Hello Karrie! How are you? What’s new? Do you like licorice? I forget. I hope so, though, because this is a licorice-themed collage. Thanks for backing my Kickstarter project! Because of the generous support of patrons like you, I’m able to manufacture out-of-this-world stories about all the cartoon bears who live in Minnesota and like to scale trees just to get a better look at the gigantic licorice candy that grows wild in the great northern woods. Last halloween there was a guy dressed like some licorice and a bear ate him. Common rookie mistake. Do not dress like licorice, Snickers bars, or honey when visiting bear country.


Postcard collage of bear in lake, with yellow truck and text "adaptation blueprint Minnesota"

Printed caption on back of postcard: “With well over 10,000 lakes, there’s never a problem for anybody to find a place to cool off.”

Dear Mary — I have some problems with the above statement. It’s sort of like saying, “With a $14 trillion GDP, it’s never a problem for any American to find money.” Sometimes the problem is not abundance, but access and opportunity. What if the bear wasn’t born near a lake, or if a highway blocks him from it, or if another, bigger bear is already monopolizing his lake of choice? Now a lot of conservatives won’t like this plan, but I propose a big government program designed to improve summer fun access for all bears. Anyway, Minnesota is great. I have seen one million lakes and zero bears.


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