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Chugga-Chugga Cha-Ching: Amtrak Borealis Line Turns Pretty Profit on Robust Ridership

Plus meet our biochar king, litigious music fests, and a lovely obit in today's Flyover news roundup.


This Borealis pic represents the leftward lurch toward socialism that pro-rail policy promotes.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Chugga-Chugga Cha-Ching!

Racket's Keith Harris is a noted fan of the new Amtrak Borealis train, having authored this wonderful travelogue during its first week of twice-daily service between St. Paul and Chicago. Turns out he's not alone in his choo-choo enthusiasm. After launching on May 21, the 411-mile rail route carried 6,600 passengers through the end of the month—good enough for a $100,000 profit on $600,000 in revenue. There were 18,500 Borealis riders throughout the first full month of service, according to Amtrak.

“The number of rides in the first month clearly demonstrates the need for this route,” MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger says via press release. “We are optimistic numbers will remain strong and the Borealis service will continue to provide a safe, sustainable and accessible transportation option.”

Of course, the regressive dorks at the Center for the American Experiment used this rail success story to rail against the proposed Northern Lights Express route that would link the Twin Cities with Duluth. (Our beef with the NLE? Not fast enough, invest even more!) Elsewhere in the world of transit, per the Strib: That laughable, Strib Ed Board-endorsed Minneapolis-Rochester hyperloop grift the Met Council briefly entertained died a quiet death last week.

Minneapolis Apparently Home to Biochar King

If you're anything like me, you learned what biochar is today—perhaps via the passage that follows! According to Utah State University...

Biochar is a charcoal-like product that contains no petroleum. It is made by heating biomass such as herbaceous or woody crop residues, non-salvageable timber and slash, or animal manure, in a contained system. There are many potential uses for biochar including water treatment, land reclamation, and carbon sequestration. 

Why does this matter to you, the average Twin Citian? Because the city of Minneapolis will soon be home to one of the first municipally owned biochar facilities, Heatmap reports, thus making carbon sequestration program manager Jim Doten "the Biochar King of Minneapolis."

This fall, the city in scheduled to open a $1.5 million, 4,200-square-foot biochar production site at 670 25th Ave. SE, according to Woodworking Network. Helmed by Doten, the operation will boast a biomass pyrolyzer that can heat 3,600 tons of annual wood waste to 700 degrees, producing up to 500 tons of sweet, sweet biochar. The city says that biochar can then be used to boost soil quality, feed plants, reduce soil pollution, and treat stormwater runoff.

Big Music Fests Continue Legal Assault on MN Block Parties

Can you imagine a world without lawyers?

Last summer we brought you the goofy legal saga surrounding Cowchella, the annual reading, food, and music event from Cow Tipping Press, a local literary nonprofit org that advocates for writers with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Lawyers representing AEG, the duopolistic concert giant that owns music festival Coachella, sent CTP threatening letters over the similar name, so this August 1 the event will be rebranded as Déjá Móó (details here).

Now, it seems, lawyers repping another giant music fest, South by Southwest, are legally bullying the little guy—newish neighborhood block party North by North Loop. Henceforth, North by North Loop will be known as the NBNL Festival "thanks to a cease and desist from South by Southwest," organizers write, adding: "We are flattered." Scheduled for September 8, this year's (North Loopily priced) NBNL Fest will feature the Suburbs, Landon Conrath, Makr an Eris, Laamar, and others rocking the block outside of the Graze Provisions + Libations food hall (get yourself a Wrap wrap).

Read the Beautiful Obit for Mary Lucia and Paul Westerberg's Mom, Mary Lou

It has been a brutal month for the Westerberg family. On July 1, Laurie Lindeen—the Minneapolis rocker (Zuzu's Petals), writer (Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story), and ex-wife of Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg—died unexpectedly of a brain aneurism at 62. Then, the following day, Mary Lou (Philipp) Westerberg—mother to Paul and local media personality Mary Lucia—also died, and her beautiful obituary is making the rounds online. Fans of Paul and Mary are speculating about which talented sibling wrote the funny and heartfelt obit; Looch confirmed to us today that she's behind it.

Here it is in full...

Westerberg, Mary Lou On July 2, 2024 Mary Lou Westerberg (Philipp) shuffled off to Buffalo in her home which is exactly what she wanted. Preceded in death by her parents Stephen and Frances. Husband Hal. Beloved siblings, Paul, Robert and Peggy (Brother-in-law Tom McNamee). Also, her oldest daughter Anne Ellingson. Survived by her children, Julie, Philipp, Paul and Mary Lucia. Grandson Johnny and many nieces and nephews. Marylou worked in banking her entire adult life. She played piano, loved shrimp Rangoon; and autumn apples. A daily crossword puzzle enthusiast, she also loved word games. Her favorite music was Chuck Berry. Her signature fragrance was Estee Lauder's Youth Dew. She took great care in her appearance applying makeup every morning with her coffee at the kitchen table. Her greatest love in life was baseball. A lifelong Twins fan. It really was everything to her. Though none of us have taken a DNA test, the possibility that some of her children might be fathered by the Boston Red Sox's Ted Williams remains a running joke. She was a complex woman of great strength and a strong will. She referred to The Wizard of Oz and It's a Wonderful Life as sentimental fantasy crap. At the time of her passing she had active crushes on Rudy Gobert, Bryan Buxton, and some dude whose name we don't know from Dancing with The Stars. Her last at bat she hits a deep fly ball to left field, way back, she's rounding third stopping only briefly to check her lipstick, she's coming home sliding over the plate cleats first taking out both the catcher and an umpire. SAFE!!!!

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