Day 100 -- Saturday, August 8

I don't know where I picked up the notion but somehow I've always pictured the Dakotas as being rather desolate and barren, almost desert-like. In fact, they are comprised primarily of farmland and make for a pleasant drive.

I headed north from Sioux Falls and into North Dakota. Fargo, where I stopped for the night, is an odd place. The whole town, as I far as I could ascertain, is outskirts. No matter where I drove, it seemed to me that I was on the edge of town. The town did have one thing to offer, though. In the heart of the old downtown section is the Fargo theatre, a dandy. Its exterior seems to have suffered through a misguided attempt at modernization but the inside provides a beautiful and atmospheric Art Deco setting (or is it Art Moderne?) for moviegoing.

I caught Howard's End and, although I'm a bit late in doing so, I heartily recommend it. It's another classic from the Ivory/Merchant team. The acting is uniformly fine, the story is involving. I can't imagine anyone who can watch a film and not decry the absence of car chases not loving this movie. Anthony Hopkins, one of our finest actors, turns in some of his best work and Vanessa Redgrave, though her turn is brief, is quite moving. If you haven't yet seen it, catch Howard's End, and pronto.

I haven't passed on a Lesson of the Road Learned the Hard Way in a couple of issues but here's one to remember: Five dollars can be worth a hundred dollars on the road. I had reservations, as I rolled into Fargo, at the Motel 6. Twenty-four dollars would safely tuck me into a bed there, but as I entered town, I saw a sign for a place, the Sunset Motel, where a room was mine for only $18.95. Looking to save a couple of bucks, I gave them a call, found they had a one room left and booked it.

The Sunset turned out to be a rather tiny establishment. They're in the process of expanding but that did me no good. They had no alternate room to provide me when my assigned chamber proved inadequate. The problem? The air conditioner in my room was an antique, an early model; it might have had historical importance, for all I know. Perhaps it belonged in a museum. Of one thing I'm certain, though: it didn't belong in a motel room where a weary traveler was attempting to rejuvenate and refresh for the next day's journey. This ancient Fedders emitted a racket much louder than an idling 18-wheeler and just a smidgen softer than a 747 at takeoff. Had I stuck with the Motel 6, it's likely they would at least have been able to offer another room under such circumstances. But, hey, I saved five bucks, right? Yeah, right.

Continue on the American Odyssey.
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