What a fine time I had today! I spent this warm-but-comfortable summer day driving the small highways and backroads of central and northern Minnesota, weaving through the hills, passing countless lakes and puttering through sleepy little towns. The countryside alternated between forests, neatly-kept farm fields and marshes and the driving was fine. They call Minnesota The Land of 10,000 Lakes and I must have passed at least 8,000 of them today, although some might more aptly be called ponds or even puddles.
I've not once awakened while on this cross-country trek and thought, "Oh no, I've got to drive again today." I really expected the fun of motoring to wear off for at least a day or two at some point, but it hasn't happened. Still, there were times when I could easily have thrown in the towel before reaching my day's planned destination but not today. Today I covered over four hundred miles in ten hours of travel and never felt fatigued or bored.
Minnesota is the clear winner of the BRETTnews State with the Most Big, Goofy Statues Award. I saw eight today and have at least six more to visit before I'm through. It all started some 40 miles after I crossed the border from Fargo, North Dakota into the Gopher State. In Rothsay, I marveled at the fine detail and workmanship of the World's Largest Prairie Chicken. This was followed in semi-rapid succession by the World's Largest Pelican in Pelican Rapids, the World's Largest Loon in Vergas (this claim is contested by the town of Virginia, Minnesota; alas, I won't make it to that burg in the northeast section of the state to compare and contrast the loons), the World's Largest Turkey in Frazee, and the World's Largest Tiger Muskie in Nevis.
And that's not all. Minnesota is Paul Bunyan country as well; in fact, the town of Bimidji has declared itself the birthplace of the huge lumberjack. There, I stood in awe before a statue of Paul and another of his blue ox, Babe. The museum/visitor center in Bimijdi also boasts Paul's immense baby slippers (huge moccasins), his boxer shorts and assorted other personal effects. A few miles northeast, the town of Blackduck offers for tourists' perusal Paul's rifle (oddly, the gun is not that much bigger than his boxers back in Bemidji. Hmmm...). Blackduck also provides, for the big goofy statue aficionado, not one but two huge black ducks.
Kelliher, so the denizens of this tiny hamlet claim, is the final resting place of the great man in plaid. In Paul Bunyan Memorial Park, on the edge of town, one can see the marker at his huge mound of a grave. It reads: Here lies Paul and that's all.
Oh, but that's not all. In Akeley stands a really big statue of Bunyan. He kneels on one knee with a hand lowered, allowing visitors to take a load off their feet and put it into his palm. In nearby Hackensack stands Paul's girlfriend, Lucette Kensack, and believe you me, she's one hunkawoman. I've got more gigantic touring ahead of me but I'm sure you'll agree that the above represents quite a day's work.
I charted a course for Alexandria, where I planned to hole up for the night (there's a giant viking statue there but it'll have to wait until tomorrow). On the way, I discovered, in a town called Wadena, another great old movie theatre, the Cozy. It was built in 1914 but underwent fairly extensive renovation in 1938 so it has an art deco feel to it. The marquee is the coolest I've ever seen, the auditorium is still a beauty and the theatre boasts a still-functioning balcony. A section of the lobby has unfortunately been turned into a video store but at least they haven't multi-plexed this grand old place. Stop in when you're in the area and be sure you take note of the popcorn machine. It's a classic.
Night was falling as I neared Alexandria and the bugs were so thick, my windshield was almost opaque. The insects looked, in the beams of my headlights, like the first tiny flakes of an oncoming blizzard. By far the biggest bugs I've encountered on the trip were in Montana; they splattered on the windshield like tiny water balloons filled with Dippity Do. Central Minnesota, however, takes the prize for sheer numbers.
On occasion, when ready to settle in for the night, I'll stop in a 7/11, Pak'n'Sak or Git'n'Go to buy a beer. Now, I don't expect to find a Red Stripe or a Tsing Tao in North Platte, Nebraska but a Heineken or Beck's would be welcomed. Often as not, though, in these little burgs, it's Bud, Miller or Busch and that's it. Alexandria takes the cake,though. I stopped in two gas station/convenience stores that not only didn't carry imports, they had nothing but light beer. Granted, they had several brands - Bud Light, Miller Light, Miller Genuine Draft Light, Schmidt's Light, Busch Light - but all light nonetheless. Very strange. I ordered my dinner to go at an A&W restaurant and spent the remainder of the evening watching old movies on American Movie Classics in my room at the Andria Motel.
Continue on the American Odyssey.
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