Duluth's popular Piedmont ski trail is more than classic cross country skiing at its best...it's a pun-ridden pop culture history lesson, firmly rooted in the 1970s. My teenage sons have no idea what they're missing, and I sound pretty lame as I try to explain.
So at a soft turn in the trail, there's the hand-lettered sign "Gentle Bend." Who remembers the tame black bear sitting in the bow of the airboat skimming through the Everglades? Sure "Gentle Ben" was broadcast in the late 1960s, but must have run as afternoon reruns in the 1970s. I can't pass that sign without the theme song popping in my head...or was that the Mayberry RFD theme?
At least two more early 70s TV shows pop up in puns on Piedmont. What do you feel like the first few times you go skiing each year? A little sore like Eva Gabor would after she climbed the telephone pole to make a call?
When the trail runs through an open marshy area and tall grasses creep up to the trail, go back to another 1970s TV show, "Kung Fu." How often have you done your best imitation of Master Po telling David Carradine, "When you can take this pebble from my hand, Grasshopper..."?
Two more signs are tributes to 1969, on the cusp of the 1970s. One is at the top of a wonderful long straight downhill that lets you glide through the forest like on the seat of a stars-and-striped motorcycle. Another is right at the bottom of another long hill, perfectly placed where most skiers come to rest after a long descent.
But my new favorite sign, perched right at the crest of a big dip in the trail, the one that got all these 1970s remembrances going this afternoon, took me right back to the era of Farrah hair, Lip Smackers and ski sweaters:
Just how many folks out there really remember Dippity Do?
The 1970s were the years that nordic skiing really got going in Minnesota. Do you suppose all those Finns who built the trails were actually inspired by bad TV to get outside and do something righteous?