Turtle Races; Paul Bunyan; Mississippi River Headwaters

Nisswa MN is celebrating their 53rd turtle racing season. How do the turtle races work? Racers gather in the center circle and release their turtles when a whistle blows. We watch while the turtles make their way to the outer circle. The first turtle to the outside ring wins! The races, held every Wednesday, attract about 400 people a week. Despite my pre race “chat” and the mid race water dousing, my little green friend took a few s-l-o-w steps and watched the race very close to the starting line . . . . . TWICE. Both of my races resulted in terrible results. Thank goodness there was an A&W root beer float as a consolation prize.

And if that wasn’t kitschy enough . . . .

We bicycled on the Paul Bunyan bicycle trail to visit a 30 and 1/2 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue just to sit in the palm of his hand. Many towns claim to be the birthplace of this north woods “giant” and it is curious to see how he and his sidekick blue or are celebrated. But the real celebration was that bike rides here in Minnesota are epic. There are literally hundreds of miles of “rail to trail” systems which are maintained as state parks. They are maintained, mowed, signed, and within a 3% grade because of train constraints. They are paved over a thick rail bed so there are no frost heaves. This day was a 27 mile ride and we are certainly enjoying this bike friendly place.

And finally, we found the headwaters and first trickle of the Mississippi River at Itaska State Park. We learned “Mississippi” is an Indian word that means water that covers a large area, so I guess they named that right. We learned that a drop of water that enters the Mississippi at Itaska State Park travels for 90 days before it arrives in Gulf of Mexico. The river was 2 feet wide and perhaps 1 foot deep, perfect for little kids on a hot summers day.