Sunday, July 9, 2017

(45) Michael Dowling, A Most Inspiring Figure

Michael Dowling, a most Inspiring Man

July 8, 2017
Marshfield, Wisconsin to Montevideo, Minnesota

This morning was the third morning that we awoke in a motel. We have had some difficulty finding suitable campsites, and the weather does not always cooperate. Yesterday, for instance, we had planned to camp but at approximately 3 o'clock in the afternoon the heavens opened up. We were heading west on the Yellowstone Trail through Wisconsin and had to slow to about 35 miles an hour because of the heavy rain. Many other drivers simply pulled off the road and waited for the rain to subside. Perhaps I should've done so as well, but I was concerned about somebody from behind running into me.

After seeing how wet the rain had made things we decided to get a motel room. The funny thing was when we arrived in Marshfield, Wisconsin not only had the rain stopped, but the sky was clear and things were dried out. Oh well, the motel bed was nice and soft.

Wisconsin Farm
This morning we woke up and left Marshfield driving west towards Altoona, Wisconsin. Very soon, we found ourselves in the Dairyland that we had expected from the time we entered Wisconsin. The dairy farms were neat and orderly.

Back in Amish Country
We also found ourselves back in Amish country. We slow down several times for horse and buggies that shared the road with us.

Amish Traffic Jam
When we reached Altoona we spent a couple of pleasant hours with John and Alice Ridge.

John and Alice Ridge
John is the president of the Yellowstone Trail organization. He and Alice devote countless hours towards mapping the Yellowstone Trail and providing detailed information both on the website and in response to any and all questions. The maps on the Yellowstone Trail website are second to none. They are both detailed and easy to follow.

John and Alice just returned from a trip west to verify Yellowstone Trail alignments. Unfortunately the records of the Yellowstone Trail are not complete when it comes to highway alignments. John has gone out into the field and used his knowledge of the trail and his observations to provide more detailed records and maps. For John, being close is simply not good enough. John is a retired math professor and for him the answer is either correct or incorrect. I marvel at the knowledge that both he and Alice have of the Yellowstone Trail and other old highways. I'm also grateful for their hard work and determination.

Coffee and Kringle
After we talked old highways, we had the opportunity to socialize a bit over coffee and Kringle. Kringle is a delicate pastry that is filled with butter, brown sugar, and nuts. It is delicious with coffee.

After coffee we said goodbye to John and Alice and continued west on the Yellowstone Trail. We drove from Altoona to the Minnesota state line. We decided not to drive through Minneapolis, but instead skirted it on Interstate 494.

Norwood Minnesota

After escaping the Minneapolis Metropolitan region we rejoined the Yellowstone Trail, driving through Waconia, Glencoe, Olivia, Granite Falls and are spending the night at Lac qui Parle State Park where they raise voracious mosquitoes. The state park was overpriced and inadequate. The electrical hook up did not work. The mosquitoes, however, were working overtime and harassed us all night!

Michael Dowling

Dowling's Bank in Olivia, Minnesota
Dowling writing with only a thumb to hold his pen,
We stopped in the town of Olivia to take a look at the building that housed the bank owned by Michael Dowling. One of the things that I enjoy about studying old highways is the personalities behind the highways. Dowling was truly an inspirational and exceptional figure. During the blizzard of 1880 Dowling was riding on the back of a wagon and was bounced off the wagon and into a snow bank. The blizzard was such that the driver of the wagon could not hear Dowling's cries for help. Dowling stumbled around in the below zero temperatures before seeking shelter in a haystack. In the morning he found that his limbs were frozen. Two legs, one arm and four fingers on his remaining hand and arm were amputated. Despite this Dowling went on to be a successful figure in Minnesota politics, he was a successful businessman and he "blazed the Yellowstone Trail West to Yellowstone National Park and East to Plymouth Rock."

He was an inspirational speaker and told World War I amputees not to mourn on what they had lost but the focus on what they had. Dowling often said to friends: "Thank God I'm not a cripple"
We are camping tonight west of Olivia, and I can't help but think of Michael Dowling and what he accomplished and what he overcame.


  1. Saw a google picture of Main St. in Olivia that I believe shows the bank in the distance. Quite the story of Dowling. BTW, did you see the Colossal Corn in Olivia! Kitschy but fun!

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