ELK RIVER TO MINNEAPOLIS
Early morning in Elk River, Minnesota, long road to Minneapolis.
Of course the Davies had a full breakfast planned for us—an amazing cinnamon nut bread, bacon, eggs over easy, buttered toast, fresh strawberries, juice, coffee, it goes on… We could barely move to get going toward Minneapolis, Minnesota, but somehow Tom managed to shove off from the Elk River Lutheran Church. About 3.1 miles in, we swap roles and I’m now on bike. I get partways in with a little navigation help from Tom along the way, and then he takes over on bike. Finally it is my turn to take the final leg on foot into Mill Ruins Park. Of course it’s another day where it’s been too long without a bathroom stop, so my urgency translates to a super fast run—I clock a 7:30 pace for the last 5K into town.
We have arrived! The city at last. But our first task is to hop in the van and jaunt over to the neighboring city of Saint Paul for our first interview on the day with Hokan Miller. We are meeting at Indian Mounds Regional Park, the airport beacon to be exact. Apparently this is one of Hokan’s favorite spots. Here we learn so much, about life ON the river, FROM the river point of view, as so much of Hokan’s life was spent as a deck hand or pilot of a tow boat, moving the barges around the Saint Paul Harbor. We learned about his time living in a house boat with is wife Penny near the Saint Paul yacht club, where his wife had a floating restaurant nearby.
Hokan is from Bayport. He’s made his home now in Saint Paul. We asked about the rhythms and routines of life as a deckhand, pilot, and in his bank job today… he explained it by referencing a painting.
He wanted to walk a bit. Referencing his neuropathy, he said he might tip over. Said he was better walking than standing, so we walked. We walked across grass, not on the trail. Downhill then uphill.
He wore a hat, jeans, long sleeve shirt—work clothes. He was taking time from work to speak with us. He wore wool socks and hiking shoes, and he kept removing his hat to brush his hair aside. It was a windy day.
He talked of the geomorphology of the river, the shape of it. We talked for some time, and in some detail. There’s much more to say here, and the story of Hokan continues tomorrow…. In Saint Paul, on the river.
Later that night we convened at the Mill City Museum right in the Mill Ruins for a storytelling event. It was a small crowd, but people were responsive. The highlight was a reunion with my old college classmate Beth Amer, now Baden, who had heard the MPR feature on the project and realized after twenty years of not being in touch, that it was me they were talking about! What a joyous surprise! The river brings so many things.