Great Lakes & Upper Midwest: First Conversations

After a few years of slumber, the second installment of the CWU project began in Duluth, MN on July 17, 2015. This tour will encompass Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. I've named it "Water, Steel & Grit" in a nod to the importance and natural beauty of the lakes, the traditional but challenged manufacturing industry of the region, and the determination and work ethic that folks around here are known for.

Week one was awesome. I have to just say it: Minnesotans are some of the nicest folks I've ever met! I guess it takes a certain positive attitude to endure those gnarly northern winters. Below are some brief introductions to the folks I spoke with during my first few days on the road. I am so thankful to all of them for taking the time to share their thoughts with me.

Over the next few weeks I will post two or three more pages like this with short clips from the conversations that form the basis of the project. The best way to keep tabs on CWU's daily progress is the project's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds, all of which I try to update every day that I'm on the road. I use the platforms to present different aspects of the same day, so check out all three to see which you like most!

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Spread along the westernmost shore of Lake Superior, Duluth has always been a hub of water transportation. It seemed fitting, then, to hear about optimism from retired Captain Tom Mackay, a dinner-boat captain who has probably logged more hours on Duluth's waterways than just about anyone else. Here, Captain Tom describes his response when he hears his friends complain about the state of things.

Heading southwest from Duluth the beautifully-maintained Munger trail passes throu