Minnesota as Metaphor

Satisfaction guaranteed or your children back.

–Sign in front of an elementary school in Brandon, Minnesota

Phil Neumark, a friend who believes I can ride a bike much farther than I do invited me to join him for a short mountain-free stretch of his cross-country tour from Astoria, Oregon to Boston. So here I am bicycling through Minnesota finding metaphors as I pedal.

Farmers are using  state-of-the-art technology: lasers to ensure straight rows of corn and soybeans, agricultural prose, planted as close together as possible for maximum productivity; and satellites to help run tractors that drivers only have to turn.

Minnesota is a beautiful, ubitquitously fertile place, a sea of green produce and the pigs and cattle that consume it in the service of a nineteenth-century model of nutrition ripe for change. A symbol of the new model: small growers growing organic produce for farmers’ markets, agricultural self-publishing.

There’s a farm machinery store in Worthington with a $100,000,000 inventory, which can add up when a single monster machine costs half a mil. Bet the manufacturers sure want that store to stay in business, no matter how slow  business is. It reminded me Borders, perpetually troubled, but the recipient of publishers’ prayers.

I passed a sign that said “Reading 5” and wondered what I would find if I could wander off the beaten track: a library, an independent bookstore, or just a comfortable armchair with a reading light shining over my shoulder and a copy of Anne of Green Gables? 

Mankota tonight, Rochester tomorrow.

Phil’s blog with pix: thisisamericabybike.blogspot.com

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