Today was a relatively short ride of 70 miles from Sioux Falls into Worthington, Minnesota. This is only our fifth state of the trip, but in the next 9 days we’ll have traversed 3 more states, ferried across Lake Michigan, and entered Canada. So things are happening faster on this half of the ride.

The ride itself was uneventful. We had a partial tailwind, which was fortunate since the wind really blows out here. Wind farms dotted the landscape. Everywhere I looked today all I saw was green. Farmhouses nestled into groves of trees looked more “homey” than those dotting the harsher browned out landscape in prior states. Many had neatly tended lawns, planted vegetable gardens, and beds of annuals and perennials. An Australian women on the trip was agog at how pretty she felt it all was, declaring that this is what she imagined the trip was going to be like and had finally found “it”. But for me, while I have not been here before, I have seen and been to places like this before. I have loved the Western landscapes that to me were unique and different. The thought that the riding from now on will now take place across “familiar” landscapes, and all that Western stuff that I yearned to see before the trip is now behind me, made me nostalgic for that already.

Minnesotans are very friendly people. Many descend from Germany and Scandinavia, including relatives of Audrey Oehler (my ex wife’s mother), who grew up near the Twin Cities and was one of the warmest and most genuine people I have known in my life (sadly, she passed away in 1994). Many Minnesotans are Lutherans–solid, straightforward, “salt of the earth” kind of people. The kind of people who say “ya,you betcha!” But at present their politics and social instincts are mixed.

Minnesota is known for a politically active citizenry (nearly 78% voted in presidential election in 2008 versus national average of 61%), and populism has been a longstanding force among the state’s political parties. Both its current US Senators are Democrats, and its Representatives are mixed from both parties. Minnesota has gone to the Democratic Party in every Presidential Election since 1960, with the exception of 1972. It is the only state to not vote for Ronald Reagan in either of his presidential runs. And of course there are legendary Democrats like Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy who hail from MN. But, it is also home to Michelle Bachman and the often mentioned potential running mate for Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty. So, its politics are mixed for sure…

I provide that background because in 2010 Republicans took control of both houses of the state legislature and voted to put a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot in Minnesota that would define marriage strictly as the union of one man and one woman. Minnesota law already does not permit same sex marriage! But what these sorts of Constitutional amendments do is effectively make it harder for the next generation legislature to simply vote in marriage equality. It would theoretically take another vote of general population to “fix” the constitution. Major corporations doing business here (General Mills, e.g.) have come out against the amendment, incurring the wrath of marriage equality opponents. “Winning” (i.e. defeating the amendment) in November would not make same sex marriage legal, but it would hopefully be viewed as representative of the views of the people of MN and send a warning shot to the legislature that unnecessarily created a divisive issue like this. Polls have shifted in the past 6 months from predicting that the amendment would pass, to now looking like it will fail.

So, that’s the education on the state of play of marriage equality in Minnesota. I am optimistic that this amendment will be voted down in November, and hope to speak to as many people as possible over the 3 days that we are here. I gave out cards at lunch and dinner, and spoke to a reporter that stopped by the hotel this afternoon to write a story on the group. She promised it would be out over the next few days, but I won’t post the link until it happens. Fingers crossed…

Welcome to Minnesota!