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Northern Minnesota is Paul Bunyan Country

View MN and ND on countycollector's travel map.

For the first time since the middle of February, I finally got out on the road again for a bit of county collecting. I debated whether it was wise to do any traveling given the restrictions and recommendations against taking non-essential trips. Things appeared to be getting back to normal in June, so I made the decision to start exploring again. My county collecting travels involve many hours alone in the car meaning interactions with others are relatively minimal.

My planned trip to Washington and Idaho in June fell through, but rather than reschedule that for July, I decided to forego the 5 hour flight for something shorter. With the requirement of wearing masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, I didn’t want to spend more than a couple of hours in the air. For the same reason, I didn’t want to go somewhere that would require a connection. With the number of nonstop destinations from CMH somewhat limited, I settled on MSP which I could reach on Delta in under 2 hours. Though I had already completed the eastern and southern parts of the state, a couple dozen counties in rural northwest Minnesota presented an excellent opportunity especially at a time when avoiding large population centers is advisable.

Other than having to wear a mask and the reduced capacity on board, the flight was unremarkable. Delta is again serving beer and wine (no cocktails) in FC and Comfort+, so the mask requirement does have at least one loophole. I was surprised by small number of passengers in the airports. The last time I flew was in February and things were still relatively normal back then. Occasionally on returning home on a late night flight, I’ve seen empty airport concourses and all shops closed up tight. It’s strange to see that in the afternoon and evening when such places are usually bustling. No one rushing to make a close connection. Nobody shopping for the latest bestseller. Only a few well-spaced patrons in places where one can find a bar or restaurant that is actually open. No telling on how soon that will change.

The drive around northwest Minnesota was wonderful. While not quite as scenic as the northeast part of the state, there were still plenty of lakes along the way. Minnesota, known as the ‘Land of 10,000 lakes’ actually has over 11,000 of them. I have no idea how many I saw, but I do have a count of another claim to fame of this upper Midwestern state. Over the course of my 4-day trip, I spotted 4 different status of the American folk hero, Paul Bunyan. Minnesota is not the only state to have statues of Paul Bunyan, but it might have more of them packed into a small area that anywhere. From Brainerd to Jenkins to Akeley to Bemidji, I stopped whenever I saw one. One postcard I found called this part of north-central Minnesota “Paul Bunyan Vacationland.”
In addition to parts of Minnesota, I also covered most of eastern North Dakota, spending a night in Fargo, Grand Forks, and again in Fargo. Both hotels in Fargo (Delta and Element) offered mobile keys, and for the first time ever, I had zero interaction with anyone from either property. Under normal circumstances, this might not be ideal, but with Covid-19 a concern, it wasn’t such a bad idea this trip. Check-in/out was via app; phone unlocked the room. I didn’t bother with whatever limited breakfast options that may have been available. Points and nights credited fine.

Beyond the larger-than-life lumberjack, there were some other curiosities along the way. At the northern end of US 75 is a now-closed border crossing into Canada. The abandoned US Customs station is still there. It’s quiet, almost eerily so, though the eastern edge of Emerson, MB is visible beyond the barricade across the road. Those wishing to enter Canada now use I-29 in North Dakota. For the curious, do an internet search for Noyes-Emerson border crossing.

Another fascinating sight is the replica stave church in Moorhead, MN just across the river from Fargo. It might be worth a visit to the adjacent museum if you want to get a look inside or to see the Viking long ship also on display. Many in both North Dakota and Minnesota are proud of their Scandinavian heritage and it is not uncommon to see towns with names like Oslo and Scandia.
Over the course of the trip, I collected 39 counties, 28 in MN and 11 in ND. It would have been 40, but one postcard from Minnesota failed to arrive. I’m still hoping it shows up, but now roughly two weeks after returning home, those hopes are diminishing. If I do have to return to Otter Tail County, it won’t be too far away from counties in North or South Dakota I still need to visit. Here are the before and after maps showing my progress. For details on what the colors mean, check out my earlier blog entry County Collecting Basics.
Throughout my trip, I did my best to adhere to the proper social distancing guidelines. Even so, upon returning home, I decided to get tested for Covid-19 on the slight chance that I might have been exposed to the virus while on the plane or elsewhere in my travels. My results came back within 24-hours and, as expected, they were negative. While quick and painless, the test was decidedly uncomfortable. I think if I had to get tested every time I return home from out of state, I’d rather not go anywhere at all.

I would like to get out for some additional county collecting later this year. Whether that is possible is hard to predict. If so, you can read about it here. If not, I guess the next post will be my annual Year in Review. I’m hopeful there will be a few more trips before then. Time will tell.

Until then…

Happy Travels

Posted by countycollector 22:54 Archived in USA Tagged minnesota north_dakota county_collecting paul_bunyan

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Aha, I saw this County Collecting blog and thought “woohoo, a sign of normality” - but not quite, more a sign that normal things can be done but in a new way! Great to see you’re adding to your totals, but a “boo” to the US postal service for losing another postcard, leaving you with a “mopping up” trip to rectify their shortcomings. All the same, another good dose of Americana for us travel starved Europeans!

by BrightlyBob

Travel is not quite normal yet. It is possible to go some places, but the added 'inconveniences' do make it a bit more difficult. I'm disappointed that my one postcard still hasn't arrived (and probably won't), but it's not so far from places I will be visiting in the future that makes all that much difference. It would have been nice to mark Minnesota complete. Over the years, I've mailed 2602 postcards and only 13 have failed to arrive. That means 99.5% have arrived which is pretty good. BTW, of those 13 that failed to arrive, I've gone back to 11. Those 'second attempts' were all successful. I have to chalk it up to part of the process I guess.

Glad to know you enjoyed the post BrightlyBob :)

by countycollector

It's nice to see that your county collecting hasn't been a total wash this year. I never really thought about it, but I'm not surprised that you came across multiple homages to Paul Bunyan - both figurative and literal giant of American folklore. As always, thank you for sharing your experience. You covered quite a bit of ground!

by TuscarawasJones

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