The day stared with a fast 5K by Victoria out of Deer River.

I took over on bike, covering the remaining miles to Grand Rapids. Fought a headwind as I rode south, but relief came as I turned east. Heard the first cicada of summer in Cohasset!

We stopped along the way at Tioga Beach on Lake Pokegama to meet Sandy and Jeff Bromenschenkel, our hosts for the next two nights. They live at River Mile 1201 on the Upper Mississippi – a beautiful property that overlooks a landscape free of any sign of human habitation. They’re active, recently retired and connected to the river. The Bromenschenkels are legendary figures to Mississippi River travelers. They open their home to passing paddlers – offering food, shelter, electricity, transportation, internet! and kind words. Their incredible generosity can’t be described, only experienced. Stop and visit them next time you’re passing through – you’ll understand.

Jeff and I rode the last segment together as the landscape transitioned from north woods to modern city, ending on a nice trail system that delivered us to the YMCA where we met our key Grand Rapids collaborator, Joni Namyst, who led us to a quiet conference room in back for our community interviews.

Sandy, Jeff, Victoria and I were joined by Scott and Frieda Hall. John Latimer came shortly thereafter and the conversation that followed was absolutely amazing. With little prompting, the group recounted their personal histories and the journeys that led them to this place – from as far away as San Francisco and St. Louis. 

They talked of natural, cultural, economic, recreational and even spiritual connections to the water, land and community. They talked of the movements of the seasons and the routines, rhythms and rituals of their lives. 

We also learned about curling. Not rules and technique, but something more profound – that a group of friends sliding a heavy stone across the ice in winter is as important as the music of the spheres.

In Grand Rapids, I know that to be true.