Monday, July 18

Seeing the World for Fun and Profit...

I needed a weekend out, I needed to get away from everything for little bit. So last week I requested for two days off, and made plans to catch a few drum corps a round the Minneapolis area. Saturday got away from me so I decided to head down Sunday morning.

I awoke at six in the morning. I was on the road by eight. My soundtrack for the trip was the third desk from the cowboy a bebop series, “Blue”. The city itself is An amazing mix of jazz, contemporary, classical, and just weird shit. For this trip it was just perfect. There's a strange synchronicity between music and what happens to me when I listen to music. Especially when I’m driving. Maybe it’s just that the music itself is made a soundtrack that makes it easier to pick out things are happening around me, or maybe it's simply the tumbers of the universe coming together once in a millineum to radiate with a single clarity. Regardless of weither it's a grand design or simply the grasping of straws this trip was endlessly...remarkable.

Driving down to Minneapolis I’ve done thousands of times. The trip to the cities is very normal. It’s a three hour drive from Fargo to Minneapolis much of it is across hills and trees and lakes. ND itself is flat mostly unremarkable, and pretty barren. Minnesota itself is covered in trees and lakes with hills that quickly rise and fall. It’s a beautiful land, but it's a familiar land.

And yet, something happened to me this trip, something different.

St Peter lies about 60 miles to the south of Minneapolis. I know the highway have taken it p dozens of times but for some reason the entire way down to saint Peter was... well different. I couldn’t recognize anything on my from Minneapolis to Saint Pete. It was strangely... unfamiliar. I actually stopped halfway to saint Peter’s to make certain that I was on the right road.

And that’s never happened to me before, not Minnesota at least. Minnesota’s my playground, it’s a land that no matter where I’m at I always feel like I know were I’ve been. This time was completely different, this time I felt like I had not been there before. And then strangely excited me, it gave me the sense of an adventure.

And I was really in need of a good adventure.

I reached St. Peter at 12:30. It was a longer drive then I expected. I stayed for a few hours, took in a drum corps show, chatted with some friends, and got my first sunburn of the year. Perhaps my first sunburn for much longer then that.

I realize that I need to get out of the house far more often.

I left St Peter Minnesota and about 6:00 in the evening, after visiting a friend and hanging out at one of my favorite bars in the world.

Patricks on Third is a drum corps sports bar. There are bugles on the walls, the bar is littered with pictures from drum corps throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. I can not step foot in southern Minnesota without least having a beer and Patrick’s. Patrick’s is a Mecca for me It’s just a place to come home to. I stayed there for were about three hours. Saw some people that haven’t seen years, in reality enjoyed myself.

I had two choices one was to go north the same way I had come or The head east into South Dakota. I had done to the bad but on its last fall it’s always a healthy place for me to be. There is something about the South Dakota badlands, the black hills, that puts me at ease. So I decided to head the east.

And I’m very glad I did.

It took me two hours to reach Luverne Minnesota in the the south eastern tip of state. I realize that a trip to the badlands would probably not work into my schedule, so I decide to head north on Minnesota State Highway 75, and follow that up to Moorhead Minnesota. Heading north out of Luverne I discover a hole where the road should be. I don’t mean a pot hole, or a bit of road construction, I mean quite literally there is a HOLE about 10 feet deep and mile long where the road SHOULD be. No markers, no real notification that there IS road construction. Just a sign saying “road out”. I wander around the town for a few minutes trying to find a detour around this…gaping lack of highway, and come upon a family going for a walk. Politely I ask directions, and like a true Minnesotan, they offer them up with a warm smile.

My detour takes me a half mile east, and directly to the foot of the Blue Mound State Park.

The blue mound is one of those natural wonders that people just don’t tell you about. It’s not a huge forest, or massive rock formation, it’s a cliff half exposed through quarrying.

But it’s magnificent.

Approaching it from the south, it’s a 100 foot cliff, with specks of rose and lavender protruding forth from a prairie of green. There’s a road that snakes to the top of the cliff, which showcases these, beautifull, quarry faces. The bedrock that makes this natural structure is Sioux Rose Quartzite. A pinkish stone that, in it’s raw form, sparkles like multifaceted gems in the sunlight. There’s a large open quarry of it visable from the road, and easily accessed by foot. Walking amongst it makes you feel like you’ve visited another planet. This strange new red landscape, full of jagged rocks.

I turned around and the view was spectacular. Standing from the top of a 100 foot cliff you can see this little Norman Rockwellesque town, nestled in the midst of a sleepy valley.

It’s one of the few times that I’ve been taken aback by a scene, and felt the world was strangely….perfect.

I take out my map of Minnesota and scan it hungerly. I notice two more state parks that I’ve never been to, and I make it my mission to see them before sunset. Ave Maria hops up on my playlist just as the sunset lights up the summer sky.

It’s 8:30 by the time I leave Luverne Minnesota. Heading North on Highway 75, the land becomes…

The land is something that I’ve seen only in dreams. The hills around northern Minnesota are steep, like ocean waves during a hurricane. Driving them feels like a roller coaster ride, constantly ascending and descending these dare devil grades. The land in southeastern Minnesota belongs to the western. In a fit of blessed synchronicity the Bebop soundtrack rolls up something that belongs to a spaghetti western. Whistling cowboys and a jew harp twangs away to a lone gun slinging guitar. Here the land curves towards you gently, half circles slowly arc from the horizon. Cattle graze in fields overlooking gentle valleys.

It’s all too…perfect.

Never before have I seen a place on earth like this. Even in pictures. The gentle sloping land curves like a woman. The land looks to be mostly cattle, the grass, is golden in the late evening sun.

The sky itself is growing orange from the sunset. Clouds are suddenly alight with the color of ripe mangos. Vibrant pinks and reds dance across the sky, and I realize I’m fighting for sunlight as I’m speeding towards Pipestone Minnesota and Split Rock Creek State Park. I detour five miles off of Highway 75, and come to an oasis of trees and water on this sea of rolling prairie. I enter the park gates just as the sun touches the horzon, and realize that if I want to make my last destination, I’ll have to cut my trip at little more then seeing the enterance to eden.

Haistly I turn around, noting the yellow coneflowers blissfully painting the land surrounding the gates to the park. “Next time”, I tell myself, “next time I’ll venture further into this wilderness.” The light is waning, Silos stand like black sentries against a vivid orange sky. Monoliths on the prairie watching over the green cornfields and amber wheat and barley fields that patchwork the land.

On my radio I hear a small jazz trio playing an upbeat tune. The bass hops playfully as I speed 10 miles up the road to Pipestone.

My car throws long shadows onto the walls of corn that blanket the land. The entire land slowly changes, the sky is changing from orange and golden yellows, to dark royal purple. The land changes from golden yellow, to blue green. Bales of hay stand like pillows on a grassland.

I find pipestone just as the sun leaves the horizon. I’ll have at best 20 minutes of twilight before the land becomes a dark backdrop of midnight blue. I miss the entrance to the park, and find myself on a gravel back road. Night is decending on me quickly, but as I turn a corner, I find myself looking at one of the most amazing sights.

Pipestone is nestled amongst a river that runs through those gradual curves. The park appears to be a historical sight…the last true “fort” before entering the prairie. And looking over this land, in the glow of the twilight, I can see a history that spans 200 years.

Settlers looking westernly over what would appear to be a sea of grass. Trees barely speckling what lays ahead of them. Nothing ahead at all really, except never ending prairie. On the side of a gentle sloping hill, the town of Pipestone is the last essence of civilization. Everything to the west is new, and unfamiliar, and untamed.

Darkness settles quickly. I head west determined to make my way to South Dakota and Interstate 29. Minnesota after dark takes a more sinister feel. The clouds obscure the moonlight, making driving on anything that’s not a major road treacherous if one is not familiar with the path. The paved roads themselves can be little more then reflective lights on a dark night.

Somehow I find the South Dakota border, and the familiar ribbon of Interstate that I’ve driven dozens of times. I make my way into Brookings South Dakota for fuel. It’s 11:00, two hours to Fargo, and I’m debating just sleeping at a truck stop.

A song that sounds an awful lot like something that Sting would perform comes on the radio,

“We couldn’t save them
so now we just pray them
words that we couldn’t say

Funny, aint it
Games people play
Scratch it, paint it, one and the same.

We couldn’t find them
So we try to hide them
Words that we couldn’t say.”

I think of someone and smile.

I’ll head home tonight.

I’m 100 miles from Fargo when the moon finaly appears through the clouds. Up till now I’ve simply been staying within the glowing lines of the road markers. Now, the landscape of South Dakota comes out to play in the night. Rugged, rustic, familiar. I’m home. I cross the North Dakota border at midnight. The Shooting Star Casino welcomes me with a neon glow and the promise of nickel slots. Slowly the familiar towns come and go. Hankenson, Wapeton, Kindred…

The glow of the city of Fargo can be seen 10 minutes before you can even hit the city borders. It’s dead orange hue hanges close to the horizon. It’s an oasis of light on a landscape of black nothingness.

I pull into town at 12:30, starving. I realize that I haven’t eaten anything more then a hamburger and a bowl of clam chowder. I stop at a Perkins restaurant, and order a glass of orange juice and their “double bacon eggs benedict”. I realize that whomever created hollandaise sauce deserves a Nobel Prize. The smokey, salty taste of the ham and bacon fights against the thick egg yokes and hollandaise sauce. I haven’t felt this pleased over a meal in a very long time.

I devour my food hungry, listening to a foursome of college girls gossiping aimlessly about their lives. I smile for no apparent reason. Across the restaurant is a couple on the last leg of a first date. She’s laughing at all his jokes, he keeps flirting across pancakes.

My meal is gone before I even realize it. I tip the waitress a fiver.

Ten minutes and I’m home.

One day, eighteen hours, and I feel like I’m a king of the world.

Every man needs an adventure. Every man needs a chance to find himself amongst the wonders of the world, uncertain of the path that he should take. Every man should discover that the only way to get anywhere is to simply chose his direction and go. Far too often have I found myself in familiar surroundings, in comfortable landscapes. Far to often have I felt trapped by those familiar surroundings and comfortable landscapes. For me, I can only feel free when I do not know what it is that I shall find around the next bend.

Make your path, and move. Some times where you end up isn’t where you intend, but the reward can be just as great. Find the unknown, and discover the peace that lays in the uncertainty of life.


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