Discovering Bob Dylan’s Youth: A 2006 Travelogue

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A journal of a trip from New York to Minnesota in the Summer of 2006 to visit where Bob Dylan grew up.


Day 0: Heading to Minnesota

Sunday, July 30, 2006

My daughter Katie and I are are about to hit the road for our road trip to Minnesota to visit the early Bob Dylan sites and see a few colleges on the way. The plan is to cross the US/Canadian border above Niagara Falls and then cut across Ontario to Michigan. From there it is straight north to the Upper Peninsula, hang a left, cross upper Wisconsin and on into Minnesota to Duluth. That’s almost 1000 miles, but also some awfully pretty scenery. Updates as I get internet connections. Have a good week.

Day 1: Made it to Lapeer

Monday, July 31, 2006

map to Lapeer, MI

Last night I hoped that we would make it to at least London, Ontario, or possibly to Sarnia, right across the US/Canadian border from Port Huron, Michigan. We did better than that, getting all the way to Lapeer, Michigan, just east of Flint. This means we covered a distance of about 323 miles which puts us in good shape to have more time to explore today. (The map shows a starting point near our home but not exactly.)

The border crossing at New York was a bit slow, but no big deal. It took a considerably longer time to get across the border into Michigan with volume being the main problem. This was late on a Sunday night, so I think we had a lot of people who were vacationing in Canada who were returning home. However, given that we were warned to look for slow traffic about 10 miles before the bridge, I’m guessing that the wait can be very long at times, especially for trucks.

There is some question as to how much the weather will cooperate for us today. It is supposed to be in the mid 90s with severe thunderstorms at times. My plan is to cut north from here and go up through Saginaw, possibly stopping one or two places along Lake Huron, and then crossing the Mackinac Bridge mid-afternoon. We may do some more exploring in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, weather permitting, but the overall plan is to get as close to Duluth as we reasonably can. Last night we finished driving at 11:45 PM. I have no intention of going that late today, so if we can find a good stopping place around dinner, I’ll consider it a good day.

Katie made up a Bob Dylan play list for us to listen to as we drive. She’s playing the songs in chronological order from when they were recorded, not released, by album. She’s got a fairly complete collection and we have over 30 hours of driving to do, so we should make some good headway, though we are only into 1964.

Day 2: “Michigan seems like a dream to me now” *

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

We drove over 550 miles through Michigan today, but that was two states ago. Katie and I didn’t stop at dinnertime as planned but pushed on through all the way to Duluth, Minnesota.

map to Lapeer, MI

In total, we went about 660 miles today, with the longest extent across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then some of Wisconsin. The traffic wasn’t bad overall, though I had to pass about a dozen RVs that were muddling along. I could have sworn that they sped up in passing zones and slowed down afterwards.

As expected, the Mackinac Bridge was a tremendous experience and since most of it was slow because one lane was closed due to construction, we got a great view of the straits and Lakes Michigan and Huron. After we came off the bridge, we got onto Route 2 W and that is the stretch you can see on the map right at the top of Lake Michigan. There are miles and miles of beautiful beaches there. We didn’t go swimming, but we did stop to walk down to the water and splash a bit.

From there it was literally driving mile after miles through sparsely populated, forested areas with the occasional town appearing. Marquette was the largest town, a city actually, that we saw before got to Duluth.

It was an extremely hot day. It hit 93 before we took the bridge and then dropped 10 degrees while we were along the shore. As we moved inland it started to rise again, hitting a high of 103. It stayed above 100 for about three hours, and was still above 90 at 9:00 PM.

About 20 miles east of Duluth, the heavens opened up with torrential rain and frequent lightning. I had to slow down quite a bit, and it delayed us about 30 minutes. It’s not easy trying to find a hotel in the rain, especially when you don’t have a reservation. As far as I can tell, we got one of the last 4 left in the city. It’s a smoking room, but it’s not too bad.

We’re in good shape to spend a lot of time poking around Duluth before we head out to Hibbing and the Iron Range. I’ve been told that there are some excellent secondhand bookstores in Duluth, so we’ll try to find them first off. We’ll then try to see some of the high points before heading north a bit to Minnesota 61, also known as Highway 61. That’s definitely a photo opp with Katie. In fact, we have to visit it more than once, of course.

Before I sign off for the night, I want to mention two signs I saw today. The first said “Prison area. Don’t stop for hitchhikers.” My first thought was a rather bad impression of the security of the prisons in Michigan. My second was that this was bad marketing for the next exit, because I certainly wasn’t going to stop for gas either.

The second sign was a simple one that mentioned that we were crossing 45 degrees north latitude, halfway between the equator and the North Pole. That was just nice to know. I’ve been north of this point before, but I don’t think I’ve ever driven across it and it gave me a nice sense of position that is easily lost on a long day of driving, especially in the middle of about two million birch trees (and I like them, really).

* Paul Simon, America.

Day 2: Slowing it down and thoughts on maps

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

After traveling almost 1000 miles in less than two days, Katie and I have decided to slow down the pace and take a full day here in Duluth, Minnesota. I’m writing this as I look out the hotel window at Lake Superior with a large cargo ship of some sort resting in the water.

Ship on Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota

For this trip I’ve played with several different mapping websites, though not all that are available. Rand McNally looked pretty good but limited me to ten stops along the way. The paying version might give more options, but I wasn’t going to put up the money to find out. You can find it at “Plan a Road Trip.”

Here is a complaint that I had with a couple of the services: do not assume ahead of time that I know all the stops I plan to make and the order in which I plan to make them. This is because 1) I might forget a stop as I am laying out the trip and 2) I might decide to add one later.

This trip that Katie and I are on is a roundtrip from home (it better be) and Rand McNally lets me specify that. However, when adding the stops along the way it only allows me to say whether the stops are before or after the destination. It makes the assumption that they are in order which, I will admit is not unreasonable, though the interface is a bit awkward.

What I would really like it to do is optimize the routing from the starting location to the destination, through all the indicated stops, and suggesting the order in which the stops should be made. This might be hard and it might be wrong, since it might guess incorrectly (imagine all the stops within a single city). In any case, some close is certainly doable. There should at least be a drag and drop interface that allows me to move the stops into the correct order.

To its credit, Yahoo Maps Beta lets me do just that from the trip panel on the left hand side. The only suggestion I would like to make for Yahoo Maps Beta is better printing of the maps and cumulative distances from stop to stop. When I print out the directions, it shows me the distances between stops but not the total distance so far. That should be simple to add. On the left hand panel, it only shows me the total distance of the trip, not the stop-to-stop distances or the distance subtotals. Again, this should be easy to add.

Both Yahoo Maps and Google Maps have good APIs to build AJAXy applications and I plan to experiment with them. Both of these are at the center of many mashups and you can see some of them at Google Maps Mania and the Yahoo Developer Network.

I would certainly like the opportunity to use a map as a primary user interface and have photos, blog entries, and podcasts connected to locations. Regarding this, it would be cool to have a little travel business where you could interactively build such a trip digest. This would work both from cell phones as well as when I am online.

I might call a special number, give my userid, password, and trip id, location (either place description or longitude and latitude for your GPS-enabled folks) and then record a podcast. That then gets associated with a particular location on the map and the people I allow can listen to it. Ditto for photos and blog entries. Extend this to other similar scenarios such as kids at camp or traveling on school trips abroad, and I think you have a business people will pay for. I might!

Perhaps this is available today somewhere – please add any info that you know about.

Day 2: “And they were both out on Highway 61” *

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Highway 61 north of Duluth, MN

The crossroads of Duluth is where Lake Avenue comes up from Lake Superior and intersects Superior Street, running parallel to the lake shore. Superior Street is where many of the older buildings house newer stores, restaurants, and banks. Moving west to east, though it feels as if you are moving north, the street gets funkier, definitely taking an alternative bend. This was the beginning part of our morning outing, with the planned destination being a used book store twelve blocks away and up the hill from our hotel.

I insisted that we stop in a music store, though my big purchase was a guitar magazine. Katie spotted a huge Dylan poster she had not seen before high up on the wall. It was not for sale, being left over from the previous owner and too much a part of the spirit of the shop. That led to our exploring two other establishments looking for the poster, but we could only find copies of Bob photos already hanging from Katie’s walls. We opted out of purchasing any of the $27 tie-died Dylan t-shirts, and continued the expedition.

By the time we got to the bookstore, we had already visited two others, so we didn’t stay long. There was a very friendly black cat who wanted to adopt us (no thanks, we’ve got four), a turtle, and some birds, but we were ready to get back to the hotel and find lunch. We did pass the hospital where Bob Dylan was born, though I didn’t know that until after we returned and I did some online research. In fact, I’m not 100% sure it was the same hospital in the same place, since 65 years have gone by.

Map between Duluth and Two Harbors

Later this afternoon we headed out to the car for a ride along the Lake Superior shoreline. I-35 turns into Minnesota 61 northeast of the city and then splits for about 20 miles into an express and scenic route. The latter is a small road that was the original route along the lake and on up to Canada. We took this as far as Two Harbors, stopping a couple of times for photo opportunities with road signs.

Two Harbors is the historic site of the terminus of the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad. Here railroad cars filled with ore from the Iron Range would unloaded their cargo so it could it then be loaded onto freighter ships for delivery to steel mills elsewhere in the Great Lakes region. In case you were wondering, the Edmund Fizgerald, the freighter in the Gordon Lightfoot song, was loaded in Superior, Wisconsin, just south of Duluth and sunk on November 10, 1975, on its way to deliver ore to Zug Island in the Detroit River.

Across from the iron loading slips, a lighthouse with a secondary light at the end of a breakwater juts out into the lake. There is a gift shop and a Bed and Breakfast, as well as a tour of the lighthouse. Katie and I skipped this and walked out to the end of the breakwater where we could look back at the point and imagine what the operation looked like in the early 1900s.

Katie at Two Harbors

By this time it was getting late and we headed back into the city. Tomorrow is going to be a long day: we’ll first drive west to Hibbing and then south to St. Paul late in the day. We’ll spend Thursday evening in Madison and Friday evening in Cleveland near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If all goes well, we’ll be home for a late dinner on Saturday.

* Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited.

Day 3: Duluth to Hibbing to St. Paul

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

We spent the entire day in Minnesota, traveling from Duluth on Lake Superior, up to Hibbing in the Iron Range, and finally down to St. Paul on the Mississippi. Hibbing was the real destination for this entire trip, with everything else just thrown in because we were passing through, more or less. So in Blues terms, today was the turnaround and we’ll be spending much more time on the road until we get home on Saturday.

Map of travel on day 3

Hibbing is where Bob Dylan and family moved to when he was 7, but is also the birthplace of Roger Maris, the baseball slugger who broke Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record back in the pre-steroid, natural talent days. There is quite a bit about Dylan in Hibbing and virtually nothing about Maris.

We did the walking tour prepared by the Hibbing Library for Dylan Days, the annual celebration of Bob’s birthday on May 24. This year was special because he turned 65, an event I previously noted in the blog. Since Dylan moved away from Hibbing when he was 18, a lot has changed in the town since he was a youth.

For example, he attended the Alice School in the elementary grades and it is now just a parking lot and the playground for a newer school. Many of the sites have newer businesses in them though there are occasionally some indications of what they were four decades ago.

The highlights of our extended tour were the town library, the high school, the former Dylan residence, the Howard Street Booksellers, and Zimmie’s Fine Bar and Restaurant.

In 2002, the town library put together an exhibit of general and local Dylan artifacts and these are in the basement. The door was locked, but it was quickly opened after the man at the front desk used the PA system to ask someone to unlock the door. I don’t think everyone in the library was looking at me, but I felt like it. The exhibit itself has covers of many of his LPs, early photographs, the door of Bob’s father’s store, the sash from Bob’s bedroom window, and various articles from the local newspaper about Dylan. It is really quite good and has a great hometown feeling to it.

The high school was quite a surprise. First of all, it is huge. We tentatively went in the front door where we could immediately see that it was unlike any high school we had ever seen before. The marble steps and columns and the ornate plaster ceilings made it look much more like a metropolitan museum than a school.

We were soon met by a sweet older woman who explained that she was on the school board and asked if we wanted to see the auditorium. The auditorium is where a young Bob Dylan and band shocked the audience by channeling Little Richard during a talent show. The library reminded me more of the Library of Congress than what we had when I attended high school.

The auditorium holds 1800 people though the current enrollment is only 1200 due to declining population in the region. The large high school with high ceilings is a financial challenge for the community to maintain and heat during the long northern Minnesotan winters.

Katie and I then walked down to the former Zimmerman home. In honor of Dylan Days this year, the street fronting the house was temporarily renamed Bob Dylan Drive. It’s tough to describe the house beyond its being blue and stucco, but I’ll put up some photos in the next entry.

The Howard Street Booksellers stocks almost every in-print book there is about Dylan as well as having a large selection of books about the northern woods area. We bought a couple of Bob books that we didn’t own (The Old Weird America, by Greil Marcus, and ‘Do you, Mr Jones?’: Bob Dylan with the Poets and Professors, edited by Neil Corcoran). Mind you, I say “we” but these are really Katie’s and they will reside in her room.

Finally, our tour of downtown Hibbing ended at Zimmy’s restaurant, a veritable shrine to Bob. We had a nice lunch (though the Reuben Hurricane Carter sandwiches won’t be confused with anything from the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan anytime soon) and bought a couple of souvenirs.

Before heading south, we drove a bit north to the Hull Rust open pit iron mine, the largest one in the world. These Iron Range mines did and do feed the steel mills that are still serviced by the freighter ships that cross the Great Lakes.

Tomorrow we’re going to look at some colleges here in town and a bit south and then head over to Madison, Wisconsin, to spend the evening. I’ve never been to Madison but I’ve wanted to see it ever since I read Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, the best book I have ever read (and reread).

Day 3: Some photos

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Here are a few shots from where we were yesterday:

This was the view up Superior Street from our hotel window, looking toward the northeast. You can see the various bridges connecting buildings so that people can move around more warmly in the winter. Looking up Superior Street in Duluth, MN
This was the first Hibbing sign that was a viable photo opp. It’s on the exit ramp from Highway 53 going to Highway 37. The sign to Hibbing via Highway 37
Here’s part of the Dylan exhibit in the basement of the Hibbing Library. The door behind Katie is from Bob’s father’s store. On the table out of sight are newspaper stories that detail, among other things, how the Dylan home was put up for sale for almost twice its estimated value, with an ad running in Rolling Stone magazine. More than one person told us they wish the town had just bought it then. Dylan exhibit in the Hibbing Library
This is Katie in front of the house. Katie in front of the Zimmerman/Dylan house in Hibbing, MN
This is me around the side of the house. That is the garage door that is painted to resemble the cover of Blood on the Tracks. Bob in front of the Zimmerman/Dylan house in Hibbing, MN
Finally, here is a shot of the Hull Rust open pit iron mine, looking more like a natural canyon than a man-made dent in the earth. The mine extends for quite a distance to the left of the scene in the photo. The town of Hibbing was originally located where part of this canyon is now, but the town was relocated when a rich iron vein was discovered underneath it. As you drive into the viewing area for the mine you can still see the old house foundations and some of the original streets and street signs. Hull Rust open pit iron mine

Day 4: A day on the Mississippi

Thursday, August 3, 2006

I was born in New York State and, after bouncing around several New England and Middle Atlantic states, I live in New York again. When I think of the Mississippi I think of Mark Twain, Huck Finn, New Orleans, and the middle of the country. I tend not to think of Wisconsin or Minnesota, though it is in that latter state that the great river begins and then, farther south, forms the border between the two states.

Map for Day 4

We started Thursday in St. Paul. It was a nice break for Katie and me to be in a large city after nearly 1400 miles of traveling around the Great Lakes and in the north country. We’ve been very lucky with the weather and heat this week. The day where it hit 103, Monday, was the day when we were in the car driving north and west. So there was three days of high heat in the midwest, followed by three days in the east, and we drove through the transition day. It’s generally been in the low 80s and pleasant.

After poking around St. Paul, Katie and drove over to the Dinkytown area behind the University of Minnesota. It was here that Bob Dylan spent his formative college days and weeks, not attending classes, but listening and playing music. We passed through the area to get a sense of it and then turned south.

This trip is nominally about looking at a few colleges for Katie since she will be a junior in high school next year. Katie was born in Princeton, NJ, when I was a grad student. Her mother, my wife Judith, was a history professor, so Katie knows a bit about the academic life and academic communities. We live in a college town in upstate New York. So these visits are not to learn anything in depth about the academic qualities of the places but really just to see them and get a feel for what they look like and where they are located. We have a long way to go on the college search route, and we’re just getting started.

South of St. Paul we pulled into Northfield, MN, to look at the twin colleges of St. Olaf and Carleton. They are really only twin in that they are both in the same town but are otherwise quite different. St. Olaf has new buildings and is set apart on its own campus on a hill west of Northfield. Carlton is more interleaved with the town and some residences mingle with the college buildings around the outskirts. Based completely on looks, we preferred Carlton.

In the early 90s when I was finishing my second and final stint in grad school, I toyed with the idea of applying for an assistant professorship in math at Carlton. I didn’t, but it was strange to walk around the town and college yesterday and think about an alternative life if everything had aligned to allow me to take that other fork. So I had another reason for visiting Northfield that went beyond Katie’s future collegiate life.

The town of Northfield is quite lovely and appropriately historic. We had lunch at a “hot hoagies” place (a hoagie is a submarine sandwich, also called a grinder in some places). As I mentioned a couple of days ago when I was discussing our visit to Duluth, we’ve been on the lookout for used bookstores and we lucked out in Northfield. Two weeks ago a new store opened there, Monkey See, Monkey Read, and we could still smell the finish on the new bookshelves as we looked through the collection. Katie picked up a couple of paperbacks by Steinbeck and I got a gardening book. It’s well worth a stop if you are anywhere in the area.

Red Wing Juvenile Facility

After lunch we headed east but a bit north to get over to Red Wing. Red Wing is a large town on Highway 61 known for many things, but for us this stop was mainly to take a quick look at the juvenile detention facility that was the focus of Dylan’s song called the “Walls of Red Wing.”

Oh, some of us’ll end up
In St. Cloud Prison,
And some of us’ll wind up
To be lawyers and things,
And some of us’ll stand up
To meet you on your crossroads,
From inside the walls,
The walls of Red Wing.

When I stopped at a gas station for directions, the attendant first denied that there was a prison in Red Wing, but we soon figured out what I was talking about. The facility is south of town on Highway 61 and really doesn’t encourage stopping and taking photos, so I didn’t it. Nevertheless, it’s a fine looking building and grounds, though that’s an opinion they inmates probably do not share.

If you are keeping track, this was our second time on Highway 61 on this trip.

Katie on the Mississippi

From Red Wing we took Highway 61 southeast to where it meets up with I-90. The Mississippi gets so broad at times that several areas are called lakes, such as Lake Pepin north of Lake City. I did not do prior research about this part of the drive, and so the stunning and often craggy bluffs on the western side of the river were a big surprise to me.

I only vaguely knew what a “bluff” was and, in any case, I thought they were a lot shorter. These are very tall hills that have been eroded into distinctive shapes by the rain, wind, and occasionally the river over the last few million years. Earlier in the day I had had the option to cut back inland through Rochester to get down to I-90 but I’m glad we took this scenic drive instead. I suppose I’ll visit the IBM facility in Rochester some other time.

It’s the surprises on trips like this that you remember more than what you planned to see, in my opinion.

From here on out it was mostly putting on the miles to get to Madison. We turned due East on I-90 and cut south after the Wisconsin Dells (whatever they are – post-trip research required), and came down to our hotel west of the city. Katie and I had dinner at a Vietnamese Noodle place and we were back in a college town.

Today we need to do over 550 miles to get ourselves to Cleveland for the night. We’re going to head over to the University of Wisconsin to explore a bit and then hit the highway. I’m going to skip Chicago, so that will pull us a bit west and south of the optimal map route but will also cut down on some of the nasty truck traffic. It will be a late dinner tonight, but we’re getting used to that.

Day 5: Four states and now four hours from home

Friday, August 4, 2006

Map of Day 5

Katie and I did the long drive from Madison, Wisconsin, to Cleveland, Ohio, skipping around Chicago by dropping down to LaSalle, Illinois. This was longer in miles but I suspect pretty smart because there is usually a tremendous amount of traffic near Chicago and right now there is a lot of road construction.

As it was, we jumped off Route 80 for several miles because it was at a near standstill. Katie and cris-crossed the highway twice before finding a place where we could get back on. We crossed from Illinois to Indiana on local streets which was very strange. On one block, all Illinois license plates, on the next, all Indiana. They have two Target stores about five miles from each other, but in different states.

Bob in Madison, WI, with IBM India backpack

We did almost 560 miles today and it is just after 1 AM here, back on Eastern Daylight Time. If I have time in the morning, I’ll put up some impressions and photos from Madison, otherwise I’ll do it after we get home tomorrow evening. In the meanwhile, here is one showing me by the lake at the University of Wisconsin with something I picked up in India on a trip earlier this year.

By the way, there is a ferry between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Muskegon, Michigan that cuts out a tremendous amount of mileage and all the traffic near Chicago. If I ever need to get back to Wisconsin and will be driving, I’m going to seriously consider taking that. I didn’t know about it until this week and it was booked solid for autos today. It would have probably saved over 100 miles of driving and a lot of aggravation. It’s rather pricey but would have been worth it.

Day 5: Madison

Friday, August 4, 2006

This was a very long travel day, in part because we left Madison, Wisconsin, so late. We had no particular reason to visit Madison other than it was between Minnesota and home, but I did want to take the chance to see the University of Wisconsin since it was on the way.

Map of Madison, WI

Katie and I have not had very early morning starts because we have travelled well into the evening on several days. Besides, this is a vacation and I am purposely trying to not feel rushed. Still, we didn’t leave Madison until 12:15 PM and since we were moving east and would cross the Central/Eastern time zone boundary, we would lose yet another hour. And all we had to go was 560 miles.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is squeezed between Lake Mendota on the northwest and Lake Monona on the southeast. We spent most of our time within a few blocks of the Wisconsin Union on Lake Mendota. This is a large complex that hosts theater, restaurants, and provides access to several outdoor activities, including rentals for getting out onto the lake.

I’ve previously mentioned Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, and much of the early activity in that book takes place in Madison, including a rather scary sailing outing on Lake Mendota. So I wanted to see the Lake and I wanted to see what the university looked like.

The photo of Katie is next to the lake. Click to see a larger image and some of the common political sentiment at the university.

I love the architecture of older universities and I generally really dislike what newer colleges look like. To put it bluntly, but I think factually, they just don’t build them like they used to That said, some universities such as Princeton have been pretty sensible with newer construction. The architecture of older universities often means beautiful brick or stone Gothic buildings, plus a lot of ivy.

Clearly a lot of remodeling has had to be done during the years to improve the plumbing and electrical infrastructure in these old buildings, as well as improve accessibility. More recently, better support for computer networking and laboratory equipment has had to be wedged into older college buildings.

Therefore newer buildings often are built “right” from the start, but they are often built “ugly” as well. UW at Madison has many fine older buildings insofar as we could tell in our brief tour. The lake location is stunning and strongly affects the visual character of the campus. We saw only a small fraction of the campus, but we evidently found a highly attractive part.

Before college bookstores started being managed by large corporations, I felt they were a good barometer of the quality of the schools. For many of them today, you can look at the texts for classes and get some idea of the quality of those classes. Beyond that, everything else might be in a bookstore in your local mall.

I don’t know how the UW Madison bookstore is managed, but it reminds me of the best bookstores I saw twenty years ago when I was in grad school. It has a broad selection of logoed clothes, but also a great collection of notebooks and pens.

Katie at UW Madison on Lake Mendota

This may seem like an odd way of measuring a bookstore, but a place that pays a lot of attention to giving people a good choice of what they write with and what they write on exudes a certain high level of attention to the academic process.

Moving slightly inland and away from the union, State Street provides the usual set of retail and food stores students and faculty need. Paul’s Used Books has an extensive collection, but our parking meter was running and we didn’t stay there too long. Katie and I were both impressed by the outdoor carts selling international foods including East African, Chinese, Thai, Jamaican, and Mexican foods.

We didn’t try any of them, but others were certainly partaking. I’ve learned that it’s not smart to try new foods from “interesting” places before starting a long drive, particularly one where I would be in the car for over 8 hours. This was a shame in this case, but I suspect I’ll be back.

Day 6: Rockin’ our way home

Saturday, August 5, 2006

We’re home! This is what the trip looked like in rough terms. It was a bit more than 2400 miles.

The complete trip

We saw all five Great Lakes, encircling Lakes Michigan and Erie, plus drove along and crossed the Mississippi River. We passed through eight US states (NY, MI,WI, MN, IL, IN, OH, PA) and the Canadian province of Ontario.

We accomplished what we set out to do: see some of the upper midwest and Great Lakes region while visiting some of the places where Bob Dylan lived before he became famous. And I got to spend some quality time with my 16 year old daughter, united in a common, if unusual, traveling purpose.

We exhausted the trip playlist for Katie’s Dylan music collection late on Thursday – we only listened to Dylan from Sunday night through Thursday night. Rather than immediately repeat ourselves, we moved on to Bruce Springsteen, Gram Parsons (solo and with The International Submarine Band), The Mammals, The Old Crow Medicine Show, Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes, and the Traveling Wilburys. I know Dylan was in the Traveling Wilburys, but it was a group thing, so it was ok during our break.

Katie in front of Hibbing High School

We started Saturday morning in Cleveland. Our hotel was across the street from Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. The Indians are away this weekend in Detroit, so the neighborhood was rather quiet except for some homeless people. The website for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gives the impression that parking is not particularly easy near the Hall, so we decided to leave the car at the hotel and walk the mile down to Lake Erie. As it turns out, we shouldn’t have bothered because 1) it was quite a bit of a walk, and 2) we could have found parking much closer.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located right on Lake Erie close to the Cleveland Science Center and the stadium where the Cleveland Browns football team plays. Saturday was a beautiful day in the low 80s with low humidity, so we had great weather for the final stop before heading home.

We had never been to the Hall before, but our real destination was the special exhbit called Bob Dylan’s American Journey: 1956-1966. This is a traveling exhibit and began life at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. It ends its stint in Cleveland in September, and then goes to the Morgan Library in New York City until January.

Katie and I both thought the exhibit was superb. It wasn’t just a bunch of signs on the walls but rather was a collection of photographs, recordings, handwritten letters, films, instruments, and other artifacts that set the context for Bob Dylan and his musical development during the decade covered.

It was particularly exciting for us because when we saw one of Dylan’s high school yearbooks and a photo of the school we could say “we were there on Wednesday!”. (See photo of Katie.) The exhibit stands up very well by itself in detail and exposition and was a very fitting way to end out little Dylan journey in the Summer of 2006. We’re planning to go back to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame some time in the next year with the rest of the family to see the remainder of the exhibits in more detail.

So that’s it. I’m back to work with a business call at 10 PM tonight and the blog will return to more of its usual “open” related topics. This travelogue was an experiment for me and I think it served my planned purpose to keep my family and friends up to date with what Katie and I were up to this week. I’m certainly not going to do this for every trip, but it’s given me some ideas for future journeys, online maps, mashups, and communication in general.

Incidentally, we stayed in 5 different hotels in 6 days and every single one of them had free WiFi. I hope I’m seeing a real trend here. I would have paid for Internet access, but being able to pull into a town and easily get on the Web definitely encouraged me to write more and upload photos regularly.