Man, do I loooove Airbnb. After driving from the middle of South Dakota today for 7-8 hours, I've finally landed at this great, circa 1809 place tonight in Minneapolis for $35 and here's what I get, all to myself:
Just as I was finishing dinner, a nice fellow named Jeff came up the stairs. He's on the road for business and stays here all the time. While I washed my dishes, he was putting his things in the fancy fridge, including some fancy beers, and I asked where he'd gotten them. (With the heat and the long day of driving, I'd been fantasizing about a cold beer to drink on the deck and watch the storms come in. But it appears, if 50 percent of the women wearing full-body chadors indicates anything, that I'm staying in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood and I'll be damned if there wasn't a beer within an hour's drive. I'd contented myself with some sparkle water, but here was good ol' Jeff offering me a nice Pilsner from back East in Pennsylvania. I went and drank it on the deck as the rain started at about 10pm.)
Anyway, like I said, today was a lot of driving. It started with the dreaded "taptaptap" and the anxious-slash-aggressive "Housekeeping!?" war cry. Shit, I'd overslept again. I've started to take the checkout times where I stay as rough guidelines, and am becoming something of an expert at wangling another hour from the housekeeping staff. My days have been crazy (1. explore, 2. write, 3. sleep) and I tend to stay up really late to write my daily entry here. Then the fucking 10am checkout rolls around after 6-7 hours. I won't miss that at all, I'm tellin' ya. On my way out of the hotel, I deposited a long black beetle into a grove of pines near the hotel. He'd been in my room when I got there, so I captured him in a paper cup, gave him some water, and kept him overnight like when I was a kid.
First thing out of Oacomo as I got back on I-90 East, I crossed the Missouri River. I spotted an unlabeled but well-maintained dirt road just over the bridge and drove down to see what I could see. It was weird--here I was right on the Missouri River all of a sudden. Like, I could've walked right into it. There were no signs, warnings, buildings, or instructions of any kind. It was just there, lapping against its banks like more of a lake than a river. So different from California, where each piece of natural beauty is micro-managed to death. The sign makers there do very well. Here's a picture of the Mini at the Missouri River:
We went back up to the road and drove for hours, watching silos, hay bales, and flat meadows roll by. The fields disappeared into the horizon, planted with corn and soybeans. Red-wing blackbirds and swallows wheeled across the road, dodging the passing cars. Huge Expeditions, Navigators, Cayennes, and Range Rovers, along with the usual assortment of kid-filled minivans and trucks, barrelled down the road at nearly 100mph, forming long freight trains of humanity on the way to somewhere in a hurry. Uncharacteristically, Mini and I dawdled along at 75 in the slow lane. I can't believe how content I am just to sit and observe my country. Seriously, it's a real surprise to me.
In an unintentionally cool little town named Windom, Minnesota, there were two things that compelled me to stop and take a break. One was a flat bed trailer full of plaster figures that ranged from a satyr shooting a bow to a tall, green alien fellow to a life-size (?) statue of the legendary Minnesotan creature known as Sasquatch (aka "Bigfoot" and "Yeti"). The unusual assemblage caught my eye as I was driving through town, so I stopped to puzzle over it. A phone number on the trailer promised more information and other figures if anyone had the interest. There was also a Dairy Queen across the street, so I went in there and got my first soft-serve cone with sprinklers in, oh, maybe 40 years.
Wetlands and corn began to dominate the landscape. Oh my God, would California environmentalists absolutely bust a nut over what happens to wetlands out here. Cows wallow in them, trucks drive through them, and none have posted signs or orange biological study tape around them. They're ubiquitous and treated as nothing special. The vegetation around the wetlands seems healthy and strong. Life is profligate here.
As the town of Mitchell came into view, a sign warned me that I shouldn't miss "The World's Only Corn Palace!" I did, though. I went through my complex and ingenious (if I do say so) set of car exercises listening to 98.3, South Dakota's Greatest Hits! Soon after I crossed into Minnesota, there was a sign saying Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood home of De Smet (De Smet?) was only 30 miles south. I passed that, too, but remembered how much I'd enjoyed her Little House House of the Prairie books when I was a girl. She had a big influence on me and my sister.
One thing I like about this part of the country is that the left lane of a highway really counts for something. It's strictly for passing, and woe betide you if you don't observe the local customs. If everyone is happy going the speed they're going, you'll see a long line of cars in the slow lane following each other with a respectful amount of space between. So far, the drivers from Nebraska are the only total dicks on the road. They think they're Indi racers or something. Today I was passing someone going 85 in the fast lane, and a huge-grilled, black-on-black SUV suddenly came right up behind me and parked itself perhaps a foot from the Mini's bumper. With my bit of racing experience, which has gotten me accustomed to 600hp cars riding my bumper in the straightaways (I get them in the corners), I wasn't intimidated. But do keep an eye out for Nebraska plates if you're traveling out here! Speaking of which, I haven't seen a California plate in a few days now.
With the humidity up in the 80-90-percent range since eastern South Dakota, my curly hair has now roughly doubled in size. But I'm gonna save a fortune on lotion! My skin is softer and happier than it's been in years. (Yes, I still have the wrinkles so far.)
Well, it's raining out and it's pretty late again. I've got the window open next to me on the couch and I can't begin to describe how good it sounds and smells. I'm on a quiet little street here in Minneapolis and the big trees around the house are dripping down on the Mini outside. I knew if I got him a car wash today, it would rain.