An Iron Range journey into John Hughes territory

Tomorrow morning I’ll be on the plane that buzzes above my woodland house every morning as it approaches the Range Regional Airport in Hibbing. We don’t have many commercial flights in and out of the Iron Range. It was a big deal when they added the third daily flight this year. The red winged aircraft usually flies close enough to the ground to be identified as the Delta link flight not worth repainting from the old Northwest colors. All of this creates a sort of Casablanca feeling to the spectacle, even if tomorrow I’ll really just be flying to a work conference in the suburbs of Chicago and not fleeing Nazis into Spain. A boy can dream.

I got the e-mail from my boss a few weeks ago. Subject header: “Interested in going to Chicago?” You bet I was. I’ve been working from my deep wilderness home half time for a few years now and my office is in Hibbing, a great Range town that remembers your great-grandfather’s first name and drink preference. I could use the break. While I’ll greatly miss this bustling household, the trip is a good opportunity for some professional development, a term that I’m pretty sure wasn’t uttered when I was growing up. A little bit of research uncovered that I wouldn’t be sipping martinis at the top of the John Hancock Building, however; I’d be attending workshops in Oak Brook, a suburb about 27 miles from downtown. My house is 27 miles from Hibbing. (A parallel not lost on me).

Oak Brook is the the site of McDonald’s “Hamburger University” across from which I’ll be attending my conference. My hotel is a little over a mile away on the other side of a golf course. One of my colleagues who’s been there before told me not to expect to see any sidewalks during this trip.

Anyway, I’m going to this suburban land as a stranger and, while my days are full, my nights are wide open and I don’t really know anyone — not even Mayor McCheese. So you might see some interesting (possibly nontraditional) postings around here or on my Twitter feed @minnesotabrown. There’s a chance I may try to ride the train into the city. If I don’t I’ll be catching up on some writing, perhaps a follow-up to “Suburban Blues” from my book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.” And fellow Rangers, when you hear the rotors of those engines at sunrise, know that I am on the plane, and that I’ll be back soon.

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