In frigid Duluth for work, I quickly learned about this northern state's wry sense of humor. Where else would you find bridges called "High" and "Bong" but the state with the most unusual of elected officials, from a comedian (Al Franklin) to a wrestler (Jesse Ventura), in this politically progressive state?
Taking a ride along Skyline Drive, just beneath Enger Tower, I came upon Rice Point.
Rice Point separates Duluth's outer and inner harbors of Lake Superior. From here, you can see the aerial lift bridge (built c. 1905) with the two lighthouses to the far left then the John A. Blatnick Bridge (originally called the "High" Bridge before being renamed for the U.S. Congressman who served Minnesota's 8th District) straight ahead, and the Richard Bong memorial bridge to the right.
The bridges connect Duluth with its Twin Port, Superior, Wisconsin.
When the first SOO (aka Sault but pronounced "soo") lock opened in 1855, joining the other great lakes with Lake Superior, Duluth became important internationally for lumber and iron ore. With the opening of St. Lawrence, Duluth became the world's most inland seaport, 2,340 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
The "High" Bridge (now Blatnik), which opened in 1968, crosses the St. Louis River and rises 120 feet above water to allow for the shipping channel. Frozen solid until now, there were ice skaters on the inner harbor 2 weeks ago, but the icebreaker ship the Coast Guard Cutter Spar came through this past week to allow for shipping to begin again. Last week, Spar encountered nine vessels stuck in ice in Whitefish Bay. Along with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon and the heavy icebreaker Mackinaw, Spar assisted the early season ships to reach port.
This climate attracts those of sturdy stock. Representative Blatnik, born of immigrant parents (Slovenia), worked as a chemistry teacher, served in WWII as the chief of Office of Strategic Service missions, and was elected 14 times on the Democrat-Famer-Labor Party (Minnesota's version of the Democrat party, these are referred to as "DFLers").
The Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge, aka "Bong Bridge," spans St. Louis Bay connecting Duluth with Superior, Wisconsin via Highway 2. Named for WWI "Ace of Aces," Major Dick Bong was one of the most decorated American fighter pilots of the war. Sadly, he was killed in North Hollywood, California, while acting as a test pilot for new jet fighters. He was newly married and only 24.
Another set of sturdy stock produced one of Duluth's most famous sons. Immigrants from the area of Russia that is now Ukraine Zigman and Anna Zimmerman became one set of grandparents, and Ben and Florence Edelstein Stone (formerly Solemovitz), from the area that became Latvia, another set of grandparents, for Bobby Zimmerman who became the legendary Bob Dylan. He was born at St. Mary's Hospital, the hospital where I'm working … which made me feel a special affinity for him. I'd always admired his prolific style and being one of the rare people with a Nobel Prize in Literature and an Academy Award for Best Music as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in addition to the ten individual Grammy Awards, and Golden Globe he received during his career.
Duluth, striking in its natural beauty on Lake Superior, and challenged by the severe climate, has reached great highs with the structures they've created and the innovation in industrialization they've participated in, and the progressive nature of its people. When you get to the northern United States, it's worth a visit.