Day Two

May 31, 2007

St. Cloud, MN to Dickinson, ND

This morning my head, neck and shoulders ached from a lousy pillow. By the time I finished showering, my wife was awake. I asked how long she would be, and she said, "Just a few minutes." This is where years of marriage served me well. Though my wife gets ready faster than many women, I knew "a few minutes" was way too optimistic. While searching for a restaurant the night before, I had seen a Supercuts. I hadn't had time for a haircut before we left Chicago, so this was a perfect opportunity. I told my wife I'd get a haircut and then return to pick her up. Supercuts wasn't where I remembered it, but then I recalled that I saw it when I made a wrong turn in the City of Shithooks. Then it was easy to find again. There were no customers waiting, and Rebekah gave me a quick cut. I was back at the motel within half an hour. Alas, my wife still wasn't ready. After breakfast at IHOP, we left St. Cloud at the awfully late hour of noon.

We cruised non-stop through the rest of Minnesota. I was in an uncharacteristically giddy mood, and we continued the Minnesota music festival with Soul Asylum and Semisonic. With the 70-mph speed limit, we were able to go 75-80 mph with traffic, which was sparse and courteous. I noted that drivers showed good lane discipline -- no left-lane squatters.

There is a huge gap between rest areas on I-94 in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota, about 110 miles as I recall. We sped through Fargo and into the wide-open, flat expanse of eastern North Dakota. Since I couldn't name any North Dakota musicians aside from Lawrence Welk, I chose Soul Asylum's live After the Flood CD. At least it was recorded in North Dakota (Grand Forks). Besides, my wife loves it, especially the cover of " Rhinestone Cowboy."

The civic boosters along I-94 have a fetish for oversized animals. Jamestown has the World's Largest Buffalo. Steele has the World's Largest Sandhill Crane. Finally, New Salem has the World's Largest Holstein Cow, situated on a hill in a far better position than the animals of Jamestown and Steele. Having already seen the World's Largest Hereford Bull in Audubon, Iowa on another trip, I didn't stop to take pictures of the North Dakota behemoths.

The speed limit on North Dakota's interstates is a merciful 75 m.p.h. We listened to Johnny Cash next as we sped across the state. My wife was amazed how green North Dakota was, but in August it would be brown. West of Bismarck, I played a Ray Wylie Hubbard bootleg. My wife wasn't impressed with his songs, but she enjoyed his introductory stories. I left I-94 to collect two counties and it started raining. We had an exciting drive on a wet gravel road where I learned of a peculiarity in the Mazda 6's design: it's quite easy to throw a blinding splash of water across the windshield when driving through puddles.

Our resting place for the night was the Nodak Motel in Dickinson. It was clean, comfortable, and affordable. The owners' English springer spaniels had puppies eight weeks ago, and my wife bugged me incessantly about buying one. Needless to say, bringing a puppy along on a three-week road trip would be a recipe for disaster. After we checked in, we tried to get dinner at a local place, the Dairy Barn, but service was too slow. After standing for five minutes in a line that didn't move, we opted for the Country Kitchen by I-94. There I ordered my second breakfast of the day at 9 PM Mountain Time.

Alert readers can tell that I took these photos the next morning...

Those fancy city hotels don't have cleaning stations for hunters!


Notice the red dirt accents on our car from the gravel road mentioned above.


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