"the town I grew up in is the one/ that has left me with my legacy visions/ it was not a rich town..." - Bob Dylan, "11 Outlined Epitaphs"
My motto is: "any excuse for a road trip." In the summer of 1998, some stars aligned and I found myself traveling the country for a wedding and a visit to friends. The wedding was in West Virginia, the friends in North Dakota. With some imagination, Hibbing, Minnesota and Grand Forks, North Dakota could be be considered to be "on the way" from West Virginia to my home in Colorado Springs. I used my imagination and planned a visit to Dylan's hometown and my friends. My dog came along for the trip - we share the same motto. His favorite pose is shown in this picture. Did someone say "Go for a ride?"
I rolled into Hibbing late one night and made the sort of error I'm famous for. I passed by my motel and decided to take a quick look around the town before settling in for the night. I must have made a few bad turns because an hour later I finally found the motel again. Hibbing by night is any small town on the edge of nowhere.
Early the next morning my dog and I set out for Hibbing. We quickly found ourselves in the middle of a busy little town. Hibbing was in the middle of "Hoops on Howard," a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for local high schoolers. The streets were swarming with young men and women, their friends and parents, and assorted other strangers. The sounds of basketballs bouncing on asphalt and backboards filled the air. This wasn't the Hibbing I'd come to see. I had been looking for a quiet Saturday morning walk along old, deserted haunts. That wasn't going to happen so I made the best of it and decided to enjoy the crowds. My dog is gregarious so we weaved our way through the people and took in the sights.
We wandered along the same route that Shelton (No Direction Home) reports Dylan took one winter night - Lybba Theater, east along Howard Street, and south on 7th Avenue past Hibbing High School. I arrived at the nondescript two-story house that Robert Allen Zimmerman grew up in. I'm not making this up. The telephone rang inside the house as I stood on the sidewalk outside. That just about blew my mind. I smiled and thought maybe Bob was calling to say he'd be there for dinner. I did not disturb the household but I did take one step across the threshold between the sidewalk and the walk to the house. The house has no street numbers. Doesn't need them, I suppose. There are things to see in Hibbing but you need a map.
More walking along the streets of Hibbing lead me to the town hall and the library. Much to my disappointment, the library was closed. I made a note of the library hours for future visitors and continued to wander the streets. I'm sure I looked a little out of place to all the other visitors to Hibbing. I had a dog, I was wandering around with a small fanny pack, my camera was at the ready, and I was wide-eyed at things like the Moose Lodge and Zimmy's Grill. I'd left my dog tied up outside so my visit to Zimmy's was short and limited to a gulping down a drink and buying t-shirts. Zimmy's is basically the only commercial Dylan related enterprise I could find in Hibbing. I'm told they have visitors from around the world. They could make a fortune selling Dylan postcards but I have a feeling Mr Zimmy wouldn't be too happy about that.
A visit to the Thrifty White Drug store for Hibbing and Minnesota (not Dylan) postcards, a lunch from the (now) Lybba Deli, and a respite in Hibbing Park was my afternoon. I found the people of Hibbing to be very friendly and helpful. I talked to a few older folks about the location of the L&B Cafe and assorted other topics. An inquiry to the postman led me to the post office. The clerk there hand-stamped my assorted postcards with a "Hibbing" postmark.
I left Hibbing without visiting what, I infer, the locals feel is their biggest tourist attraction - The Big Hole In The Ground, a strip mine that grew to engulf the old town of Hibbing. I drove around Dylan's Hibbing one last time on my way out. I was glad to have been there, glad to have experienced some of its smallness, and I was happy to be leaving. I slid Time Out of Mind into the CD player and headed for North Dakota. I couldn't help but wonder how the young Zimmerman felt as he pulled out of town. If you see him, say hello. I don't think you'll find him wandering the streets of Hibbing. Well, perhaps he'll swing through for a cheese burger at Zimmy's when he plays Duluth this month...
11 October 1998