Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Gotta Be Hibbing Me!

Donna was right.  Hibbing was just a leisurely 3 1/2 hour drive north from Minneapolis.  The highlight of my drive to Hibbing was that the classic rock station in Hibbing was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of John Cougar Mellencamp's "Scarecrow" album: August 17, 1985.  Randy McIntosh was the 9th caller and won a copy of the CD.  He had to stop his tractor so that the DJ could hear him when they talked.  He went nuts.  "You guys are the best!  I can't believe I won!  I had this cassette a long time ago but I lost it."  I was jealous of Randy.

Hibbing is the home of Kevin McHale and Bob Dylan, among others.  Aside from calling those two GQ models their native sons, Hibbing also still has huge iron mines nearby and, of course, the Greyhound Museum.

I stopped in for lunch at Zimmy's, a restaurant on the main strip in Hibbing that takes its name from Bob Dylan's real last name: Zimmerman.  It was like a Cracker Barrel, with knick knacks hanging all over the wall in rustic fashion, but instead of soap boxes and old farm implements, there were guitars and Bob Dylan pictures and posters.

The menu was also a big nod to Mr. Zimmerman.  I thought about ordering the "Love and Theft" Coconut Chicken or the "Bringing It All Back Home" quiche, but I went for some fish.  It was all you can eat fried pollack and I was starving.  It was absolutely delicious, probably straight from one of Minnesota's alleged 10,000 lakes.  I shouldn't have ordered that third piece, but I always feel like I need to get my money's worth when I'm paying for it. 

Here's the marquee out front.  I'm guessing Angela was a waitress.

After lunch I drove to the museum.  I was the third car in the parking lot.  It was a Tuesday, but I'm guessing this was probably par for the course.  I immediately walked over the the brick path to see if I could find Tom and Donna's brick.  Most of the bricks there were given in memory of a deceased or retired driver or by a local business in a gesture of benevolence/advertising. 

I need to tread carefully here, because the people that run this museum are very nice.  They are all volunteers, some of whom have been working there for years.  I respect their dedication to this project, but the museum could use a little bit of a face lift. 

I met a guy named Mike who was willing to show me around the museum.  It's usually $5 for an unguided tour, but when he heard what I was doing, he just walked me around free of charge. 

Mike was quick to point out that this museum was really the brainchild of an 85 year old guy named Gino.  Gino wanted to tell the story of how the bus line got its start here in Hibbing.  He started the museum 30 years ago and has gotten donations from all over the world.  There are really old buses and replica buses.  There are conversion buses and state of the art cruisers on display.  There are drivers' uniforms (I couldn't find whatever it was that Donna said she donated) and posters all over the wall (I couldn't find the poster of Donna.  Mike said it was probably in storage).

Mike said that he works at the museum because, like Gino, he wants to see tourism increased in Hibbing.  Mike serves as the head of the parks department and some historic or zoning board.  "Gino's getting up there and he's not going to be able to run this forever.  I just kind of got tapped for this.  I didn't necessarily ask for it", he explained to me.  "So, you're kind of the heir apparent?"  I asked him.  He laughed and said, "yeah, but Gino will probably outlive me."

I will confess that I wasn't as invested in the tour as I should have been.  I was about as excited as I was during the 6th grade field trip where they took us to some farm and showed us how people used to make brooms.  As Mike talked about the iron mines, I drifted off and started thinking about how long it would take me to get back to Minneapolis.  The fried pollack didn't help with my energy level.

Mike tried to get me interested in buying a $35 book on the history of Greyhound but I told him that my project was a little more anthropological in nature.  I did buy a few things, but I don't want to mention it here because these special little gifts may currently be in a Fed Ex box headed to Nashville for Erica and the boys.  It will be like Christmas morning when that thing arrives.

One last crazy note about the museum: There is a bus out in display in the back that was used to transport workers to Saudi oil wells.  There is Arabic writing on the side and Mike explained that somebody drove the bus to Hibbing all the way from California.

Upon it's arrival, Gino, who loves woodworking, decided to make a display to put out by this bus.  He created what looked like a nativity scene out of plywood.  The Joseph and Mary figures are leading a camel around by a leash. I just looked at it and nodded as Mike was telling the story.  

Greyhound hasn't given the museum a nickel in the last five years.  But, hopefully, there will be a resurgence some day in Hibbing.   


  1. Glad you hooked up with Mike for personal tour. Zimmy's sounded like interesting eating place. Good pic of Tom and Donna's brick. Sorry Donna's poster was "in storage."

  2. Thanks for this update Mike. Now I don't have to go to Hibbing, or the Greyhound Museum, myself. Your story provided me with sufficient information on these places.

  3. I found your narrative hysterical! If you are going to write a book, you should include the description of this visit!
    I'm sorry that you missed Northfield MN (famous Jesse James bank robbery and Houdini Museaum) - maybe next trip.

  4. The fact that the Scarecrow album is now 25 years old make me feel very old. Mellencamp has a new album coming out this week, and he's hitting the media circuit. But this morning, NPR is playing his new album during Morning Edition. (NPR!)


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