There was indeed a Bleat yesterday; just forgot to arrange the redirect on my phone, and that’s understandable, right? Back in Fargo, up late talking with Dad and Daughter, learning new things and hearing details about old ones. Also, there was another reason - and I’ll leave that for Monday.

Mr. Cliffhanger, that’s me. Anyway, it’s here, and there was a Diner at the end, too.

So. Up to Fargo for the last trip before Daughter goes, a chance to see her Grandpa. He’s 93, so he couldn’t drive down here to see her. By which I mean - as I think I mentioned - they’re a driver short this week at the station and he has to drive one of the transports to deliver 4000 gallons of jet fuel, or something equally combustable.

We headed out at ten, intending a leisurely road trip with lots of stops. St. Cloud, then Treasure City for the tour of kitsch. She’d been here before, a long time ago, but remembered it as a place of wonders. To her eyes now it’s a hilarious jumble of junk, but wonderful junk.

We began with the Petting Zoo.

It's seen better days and they have not been days within recent memory.

Inside she said she remembered a miraculous fountain - a tap that hung in the air, and dispensed a stream of water into a cup. She was baffled by it then; however did it work?

“It’s back there,” I said, pointing to a corner of the store. Walked her back. There it was. Still unsold. Ten years since she’d seen it, probably.

We bought some things, of course - a T-shirt, which she can wear in Brazil and field questions about the American Roadside Experience.

I imagine she'll have some stories to embellish.


Back on the road. Stopped in Staples for gas, but sat in the car while the song ended. We played the radio all the way up, 60s and 70s station to my surprise - not even my era, the former, but you can’t help grow up in the era and not have the songs seep into your brain. The soundtrack of the older kids at the Y who were having Clubs, or the older kids at the drive-in having Dates. Sang along when possible. Kept up a running conversation about everything all the way up. Did I mention the road was dry and the sun was blue, and the fields were lush, and it was the best possible day for this? It was.

Trolled through Staples, which was depressing; stopped at Verndale to look at the WW 1 memorial. Toured the downtown of Wadena, then ate at McDonald’s, quietly speculating on the lives of everyone there. Back on the road, with a stop at New York Mills, home of the national philosophical exercise known as the Think-Off. They posit a question, people send in their thoughts, and the best come to New York Mills to debate their take on the idea. The logo is Rodin’s Thinker sitting on a tractor.

I felt like I was showing her this for the first time, and the last. Didn’t think please remember, because what mattered most was just doing it.

Pulled over at Central Park. Turn left to see Downtown New York Mills; turn right to see a friendly local on a bike.

The description bears repeating:

The Centennial Monument, located in Central Park, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of New York Mills and the historical significance of the geographical setting of New York Mills, MN.

The monument, which is situated precisely on the Continental Divide, is flanked by the five flags which have flown over the area. These are the flags of England, France and Spain, the current American flag and the American flag of expansion with its 15 stars.

There is a fountain in the monument, which symbolizes rain falling on New York Mills. The smaller of the two plaques on the monument reads: "As the Water Falls and Divides Upon this Stone, the Rains Falling Upon this Park flow both North and South to the Seas.”

The larger bronze plaque further explains the monument's purpose: "This marker is erected on the height of land which divides North America into vast drainage areas. The land on your left drains to the Gulf of Mexico and the land on your right drains to the Hudson Bay. For one and one-half centuries the divide also delineated the realms of nations seeking dominion over the continent's immeasurable resources.”

The plaque goes on to explain that the west-side of New York Mills was within "Rupert's Land" granted by King Charles II in 1672 by "Governours and Adventurers Trading in Hudsons Baye." In 1818 the land drained by the Red River, which lies south of the 49th parallel, was released by the United Kingdom.

The east-side of New York Mills was within the Louisiana Territory, which was under the rule of Spain and France at alternating times from the 16th century until 1803, when ceded to the United States by Napoleon.

A lot of history. And the town wasn’t there to note any of it. The land passed back and forth, and then the settlers came with plows and seed.

Now they also make recreational watercraft.

Next stop, Perham. It's a confident little town with some solid industry, a downtown that serves the lake culture, and an Annual Turtle Festival. This pocket park . . .

. . . is now better, with a mural and a statue of a Turtle.

I note this place because I had to do a conference call for a new client for the podcast; I will be doing spots for them next week, and we had to go over copy and backstory. The client was in New York, I think; our ad rep was in California. I warned them I was in Perham, in a park, by a turtle. About four minutes into the call a freight train came through, horn blaring in full scream.

They got a damned authentic Heartland Moment, I'm happy to say.

Off to Detroit Lakes, where we stopped at the Antique Mall. I found some matchbooks; she found some 70s earrings. The usual jumble, ovewhelming and exhausting; 80 booths, crammed with stuff saved by farm folk.

DAN-DE must have bene taken.

Then Fargo.

Headed around downtown, took a long look at the old downtown - packed, traffic jams, all parking taken, busy. As it was when I was a kid, and not as it was when I left. We took Main to West Acres, an area of town that will always be grungy and industrial. It’s usually here that the accumulated Weight of Fargo starts to settle uncomfortably, and you’re 15, 16 again, subtly pushing your parents away, taking up with the all-important friends, bound in a hundred ways to a place and not quite sure how many strings to snip this week. ALL seems right and NONE seems right as well.

It did not spoil the Best Day Ever. In fact it just got better. But that’s tomorrow.



Not some Dalles, but THE Dalles. The Dale, as in over-hill-and. The Sluice. Whatever the origin, it’s a peculiar name. Towns ought not have articles. Last week we looked at the standard downtown stuff of varying sizes and eras; odds and ends today.

We start with a classic:


That’s an old used-car lot, and if I had to say I’d pronounce it an OK Used Car lot. They had the blue-and-yellow color scheme. The OK lot was a Chevrolet invention, guaranteeing consumers a car that been rigorously inspected and pronounced OK.

An absolutely ordinary Federal building of no great distinction, turned out by the hundreds until the crash hit:

A town needs something like this. It gives the place stature and history.

Old signage from the era of wheeled chairs on sheets of plastic and metal drawers that clanged shut like a prison door.


"Mail-Well Envelopes," for those who have been disappointed by envelopes that mailed so poorly.

So they have a problem with jellyfish, it seems:

Rather desultory remodeling, but the signage is nice. Except for the Konica addition. Were people bursting into the store to ask if they had Konica gear, and management grew tired of the constant queries?

If you don’t like the time at the top of the tower, look down a bit and we’ve got another one for you:

It looks like City Hall had to go into the garden business to make ends meet. It’s a bar now.

Clock Tower Ales is located in the second Wasco County Courthouse built in 1883 and home to the last public hanging in 1905 (wish we had a photo of that). Join us in Historic Downtown The Dalles, Oregon for fine pub grub

Er, no

It's difficult to restore something to its original condition when such an immense alteration has changed it forever:

You can get around a lot of things, but there's something about those glass blocks that defies renovation or restoration. The glass over the door was removed a long time ago, and the effect - as always - seals off the interior and makes the front look dim and old.

All righty, students: let’s guess. The style doesn’t tell us what it was, necessarily - doesn’t seem like it’s a library or government building. Say, what are those letters on the corners - B, and E?

Might that mean there’s also a P and an O?


OUMB, or Obligatory Ugly Modern Bank:


Come here for your money. Not all of it. Come back tomorrow for some more. But not all of it.

Another OUMB:

The sixties lost the plot towards the end.

Finally, for comparison: Then.



From pinterest, a picture of the bygone days, with all its contradictions and anachronisms and mix-and-match styles . . .

. . . and here it is today.


Have a stroll around. You’ll find a lot I didn’t highlight.


Tomorrow: tales.


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