Sept. 28, 2007 -- Bemidji, MN.
It's cold already. Early risers have to scrape frost from their windshields before they can hit the road. Frost? No. Make that read ICE. Seriously.
Later in the morning, hoping the permafrost is forgiving, we make our way to Lake Itasca, where the famed headwaters of the mighty Mississippi have such a humble beginning that true believers can walk across the stream. Allegedly.
The Mystery Woman is determined to repeat her derring-do of 35 years ago and hop, skip and jump across the river. You'll recall this is the same woman who showed no fear in asking a group of motorcycle gang members if she could borrow a knife.
She has a mystical connection to the river and will not be denied.
We meander through the state forest where the fall leaves blaze with colors that are so beautiful they challenge description.
About 600 feet down the dirt path, there's a clearing. It's official, Lake Itasca empties into a small stream designated as the start of the Mississippi. For a few miles, the river actually flows north. True statement.
The Mystery Woman, still 35 years old in spirit but not in conditioning, makes it into the Mississippi with a hop, skip, jump -- and plop.
She nearly drowned. From laughing so hard. The scene from top to bottom would have made it to the finals at America's Funniest Videos. And me without a video camera.
But she was getting chilled so we cobbled together some mismatched clothing, put her in the car, turned on the heater and headed south toward the Twin Cities.
When we stopped for lunch, I asked the Mystery Woman if the waitress had anything to say about her attire.
Yes, she sniffed, they all commented on how dry I looked.