Saturday, May 30, 2009

Journey Across America, Day III

Thursday morning we are up early, and then plow through morning traffic towards Wisconsin. The tolls keep piling up as we cross Illinois, but end when we reach Wisconsin. However, those slick travel plazas also end, leaving us to exit the highway into strange towns when we need gas or food. One plaza is named for WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle, and this prompts me to contemplate how we journalists have become a simpering pile of stenographers worried about our 401Ks. Pyle, who died in the war, was a real reporter.

I drive for three solid hours, then pull over at a truck stop. We buy a bag of cheese curds and wheat thins for lunch, and i call Kon and wish him a Happy Birthday.

Miranda then takes the wheel for more than four hours, which is too long to go without stopping. We get to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and decide to drive through the city into the western suburbs before stopping. But traffic is heavy and this takes longer than expected. We finally pull off the road when we see a Quiznos, but it turns out to be closed. We spot a grocery store across the street and park there.

Miranda goes in first, while I stay outside with Cappy. But Miranda takes longer than expected, and I am dying to hit the can. So I go around to the side of the building, and relieve myself on the pavement. I look up to realize that I am actually standing on a hill in full view of eight lanes of I-90 traffic. I also have to hold my right arm straight out to keep Cappy from jumping into the spray, so it looks like I am signaling a left turn while peeing. This becomes the iconic scene of the trip so far.

When Miranda comes out, I run inside to buy some chicken wings, and we hit the road again. I tell Miranda about my outdoor evacuation, and she is silent for several miles.

We stop for gas in Sauk Centre, Minn., hometown of novelist Sinclair Lewis, eviscerator of small town mores. There are lots of signs announcing this connection, even though Lewis was brutal in his assessments of such places.

We had planned to put in an 11 hour day and stop in Fargo, but when we get there we decide we have a little more energy and push on for Valley City, ND. We reserve a room at a dog-friendly Super 8, but I am disappointed to find no national chain casual dining restaurants. I eat a charmless hamburger at a truck stop, while Miranda subsists on half a chocolate chip cookie. Our dinner costs $8, and the room is $80.

We fall asleep early after 12 hours of driving.

the photo shows North Dakota from our car window.

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