The I-694 bypass out of the twin cities was easy enough to drive through but still with enough rush hour traffic to render my full attention to the road. To cross the entirety of Minnesota in one single day would be easy to do but not when I wanted to get away from the interstate and go deep into the county highways all the way into North Dakota. After a few miles on I-94 I finally veered off the interstate into the more interesting US Highway 10 in the direction of Little Falls. Crossing the Mississippi river in Monticello was like crossing into another time. The massive railroad tracks kept following the highway and the long freight trains that seemed to extend for miles kept shadowing the highway like long lost friends.
I got into Little Falls just a little past noon and with enough time to take a stroll through the historic downtown district before lunch and revisit some of the old places I had visited a few years ago. The old bars that line up Broadway were all still there but unfortunately as I made my way to the Broadway Sports Bar, of which I had fond memories, I found that it was closed and that it was now named Johnny C’s. I wondered for a bit what had become of Bob, the previous owner, and recollected on the desperation on his face the last time I saw him, sweeping the snow off the sidewalk outside the bar.
I made my way across the street to the Whiskey River Saloon, more for the name than for anything else, for a cheeseburger and coke. While I waited for the burger I took a peek at an old jukebox by the front door. I found it interesting that Willie’s “Whiskey River” wasn’t part of the songs available. The bartender announced my food was ready and promptly disclosed that the jukebox was just for show and it didn’t function. I ate my cheeseburger and took my half full Styrofoam cup of coke with me as I took another short stroll through Broadway in the direction of my car.
I crossed the Mississippi river once again to leave Little Falls before turning west to US Highway 27 to Long Prairie. For twenty four miles there was nothing but silence. The soft wind that was barely audible was the only sound save for only a few semi-trucks going in the opposite direction. The scenery almost unchanged all the way through and in front of me only the highway that sometimes seemed to disappear on the horizon. After another eighteen miles on US Highway 71 I had to merge briefly onto I-94 before crossing into Fergus Falls and out of the interstate into North Dakota.
Finally out of the interstate I’ve begun my one hundred mile drive on US 210 that would take me straight into the Minnesota/North Dakota border and the twin cities of Breckenbridge and Wahpeton. With the buzzing of the interstate still ringing in my ears I opened the windows and slowly the light breeze and the sound of the tires on the asphalt became a welcome relief to my banged-up ears as I crossed into North Dakota.
As I drove the rural 2-lane road with only a few cars and trucks driving in the opposite direction it seemed I was going against the current. With miles of straight road stretching as far as I could see I begun to loosen up and feel connected to the road. I looked to my left and all I could see was farmland and pasture and scattered farmhouses with their typical grain storages and mills. I looked to my right and it was more of the same. For miles that’s all there was. I felt comfort in knowing that I might as well be lost and I wouldn’t know it. The unpredictability of the scenery reassured me. I was getting so used to it that I felt a strange connection it.
The sun was slowly starting to hide behind a few scattered clouds but I didn’t care. The thought occurred to me that by letting myself get lost in those surroundings could mean I could blow by my exit. But the fear of getting lost stopped being a concern if it meant that I would eventually find my way. I felt I should know where this road lead me. All I needed to know was that it was moving west. I felt so confident in those surroundings, so reassured of myself among those already familiar farmlands that I let myself be a part of it if only in my imagination and all of a sudden, as the sun begun to set, I felt at home.
September 17, 2014 (Super 8 Motel)