Places, Stories from the Highways, U.S. Highways

Highway 61 – Bob Dylan Way, Duluth

“Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of  country blues, begins about where I began.” – from his memoir,  Chronicles, Vol 1 – by Bob Dylan
Back in 2006, the city of Duluth, Minnesota dedicated a 1.8 mile route through its downtown to its hometown boy, Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan Way  just happens to be a part of the old U.S. Highway 61 (now the Scenic North Shore Drive and State Highway 61), which Dylan himself says in his 2005 memoir, Chronicles, Vol. 1 is “where I began”. It’s also the title to his sixth studio album, Highway 61 Revisited.

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman at St. Mary’s Hospital on East 3rd Street in Duluth on May 24, 1941. While he moved 75 miles away (along U.S. 53) to Hibbing at six years old, Duluth holds the highway that means so much to him.

“I always felt like I started on it, and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors. It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.” – from Chronicles, Vol. 1. 

In Duluth, there are three artistic manhole covers designed by three different artists dedicated to Dylan’s life along the route:

This Yin and Yang guitar manhole cover was designed by Mark Zapchenek and can be found in front of the Fitger’s Hotel at 600 E. Superior St.
Artist Laurel Sanders, inspired by Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, designed this manhole cover with a pair of boots, a hand lighting a candle and a guitar. It’s installed near the Duluth Depot at the corners of W. Michigan St. and S 5th Ave. W.
This manhole cover was designed by graphic artist, Heidie Geyer and made by David Everett out of melted radiators . This one is at the corner of 13th Avenue East and London Road.

Armed with information about the project on the internet, we walked the streets of downtown Duluth to find these on a recent stay in Duluth. Since Hubby is a big time Dylan fan, it was a fun walk in what we think is a great town.

Today, Highway 61 runs over 1500 miles in nine states (it’s been decommissioned in Illinois) between New Orleans and Wyoming, Minnesota where it turns into State Highway 61 and follows the shore of Lake Superior to Grand Portage, Minnesota. Highway 61 is also known as the “Blues Highway” and is chock-full of music history throughout the route. I can vouch for this being a fantastic road trip by the way, and one that can be seen and heard about through Dylan’s songs on Highway 61 Revisited.

Further Reading:

September 14, 2010 – Artists bring Dylan’s music to manhole covers destined for Duluth – MPR News –

Mark Zapchenk.com

Bob Dylan  | Rolling Stone 

The Late Voice – Google Books

The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan – Google Books