Week 7

The seventh week of our expedition began in Montana and ended in Minnesota.

We continue our journey on the violet colored Hwy 2, leaving the touristy mountainous part of Montana making our way East.

2. We get to the classic American prairies that I read about in my childhood by (Main Reed). It is quiet, smells of grass, soil, and at times of cow dung.

3. This land is the land of real farmers and cowboys who have been passing on their profession to their children for over 200 hundred years.

4. In memory of the people who died on the roads of Montana, neat white crosses on red poles are put along the roads. Here, a car flipped and caught on fire from a head-on collision.

5. Before the expedition, I promised myself that I will not go over the speed limit. On the roads of Montana, my promise has been broken for the first time and hopefully my last. It’s hard, if you will, to overcome the temptation to push the gas pedal all the way when all you see ahead is an endless straight road rolling over hills and where an oncoming car appears about once every five or ten minutes and a car behind, well never. When all you see is the wilderness and above the big blue sky, you don’t even notice how the gauge on the speedometer climbs higher and higher. Driving at 160 kilometers per hour is also more comfortable than by the limit; the motor isn’t weighed down uphill and doesn’t have to switch gears an extra time.

6. On the East side of Montana, the prairies turn into sandstones not for long.

7. Every state has its own different historical markers situated neatly on pullouts along the way. For a traveler, it is an excuse to take a break, stretch, and enlighten oneself at the same time. On this board for instance, the story is told of the mines built for mining Yogo Saphires in this region. Someone spread the word that it is possible to mine for gold here; the miners came and mined all over. It turned out that there wasn’t much gold at all but they found some sort of blue stones that no one paid much attention to at first, throwing them out along with the rest of the rock until someone realized what these hazy glass particles hold in themselves and are constituted of. The mines began working with new strength and operated for 29 years until the scientist discovered a new method of making these stones artificially. The mining era expired but the town and villages stayed.

8. We eat and rest quite often in our car but do not miss a chance to do this outside whenever possible.

9. It is surprising that we can drive for hundreds of kilometers without passing by a single village even though the fields are clearly divided into parcels or acres and most of them are taken care of, planted, and if not that, they are full of cows and contain watering systems. This is a pointer to the many ranches around the area.

10. Most of all, we like stopping for the night in secluded and out-of-the-way spots whether it be a forest, a riverbank, or a field. We simply drive out a bit further from the road and enjoy nature and the peacefulness of it.

11. We enter North Dakota.

12. Unfortunately, the most favorite and even the most interesting task can become mundane or just the fact that you eventually get used to everything that was once new, interesting and beautiful. For instance, we drove into Roosevelt National Park. If I came here straight from the plaines of Donetsk, Ukraine or even from a megapolis such as Seattle, I would have stood quietly with the rest of the tourists and enjoyed the scenery. But, I drove through Arizona and Utah, and I was in the canyon where I saw the Horseshoe; show me something bigger! I do understand with my mind that it is very pretty here or at least somewhat interesting but still, I take out my camera, make one photo (if it doesn’t turn out, then it doesn’t turn out) and go back to my car. Lets continue on. And just now, as I am typing this text and look at the photo, I understand that I do not like this kind of approach and this kind of mindset will not work with our expedition.

13. Because there are things to see and places to stroll in this park.

14. Few may know that the most experienced pilots, those best in aviation history (usually former war pilots), work on crop-dusters. Here, the pilot trains on a regular Cessna making circle after circle above a field of potatoes and laying out deep bends a few meters from the high electrical towers.

15. The craving for ‘giganticism’ in Americans appears not only in huge homes, cars, yachts and burgers. It turns out they also like gigantic sculptures. In North Dakota, in the middle of the fields and prairies a great monument is erected for the ‘feeder’ of the crowds.

16. We came to the city of Mandan on purpose which is to attend a rodeo and together with the cowboys, celebrate the birthday of the country; Independence Day of the USA. The rodeo impressed us in the very best way (yes, yes, we will share about this later on).

17. Before the show/competition began, we were strolling around the park taking photos. Suddenly, I heard from behind, ‘Ruslan? I recognized you! I follow your blog and know that you two are traveling. I happened to see you and decided to introduce myself. Would you like to stay at our place for the night?” A Russian person in North Dakota, in Mandana, my blog reader, who also came to the rodeo, saw me amongst the huge crowd of people, recognized me and decided to introduce himself. A coincidence… sure.

18. After the horses, bulls, calfs, and sheep performed their part, and all the cowgirls and cowboys got their prizes, the fireworks began. To be more precise, they began earlier, during the day and continued through the rodeo, but towards the end turned out into such an ordeal, it was as though it wasn’t a celebration, but capturing of The Reichstag in itself. Again, it is impossible to express this all with a photograph. But I will try. This is what a fireworks looks like if you take a standard photo of it; careful, clean, boom boom, sh-sh-shih, and the sparks fall down.

19. But, this is only two official outbursts. All around hundreds of people light up their own which blows up, booms, whistles, crackles, and smokes chaotically. So, the photo that can best describe and show our sensations and feeling is this one, the one that didn’t work out very well but nonetheless, it is even better because it is more precise in capturing the atmosphere.

20. 4th of July; it is not only a day of fireworks but a day of Chinese lanterns.

21. Most of Americans are people who party without limits. Party animals. This group came in a motor home, made a designated territory for themselves, put out the lawn chairs, all took a beer in their hand, situated themselves comfortably and entrusted the younglings with the pyrotechnics.

22. At a certain point the kids overdid it and the explosion was so loud and intense that we almost fell over on our faces. Evidently, what was supposed to explode with a terrible thunder up in the sky, exploded on the ground instead. The guy in the back is unfazed by the explosion and continues to chat on his cellular.

23. I was uncomfortable in asking but I can only assume and estimate how much money people spend on these toys. They are purchased by boxes, keep in consideration that some of them are more powerful and noticeably louder than the official city firework. Here, for instance, the expenses were around $1,000 to $1,500. Near the motorhome with the observers, judging by the “cartridge cases”, the expenses were around $4,000-$5,000. As I mentioned above, party animals.

24. Footprints of the visualization of the proverb “throwing money to the wind”.

25. This evening we ended by sharing a meal at our new acquaintances home, Sergey and Oksana, in the company of a guest from Ukraine, Andrey. A bowl of Russian borsch, a hot shower, and a wide bed for a traveler who is used to little sandwiches, sinks at gas stations and sleeping in a car is most appropriate and highly appreciated. Thank you, guys.

26. The next day we arrive to the popular town of the the cult film by the Coen brothers, Fargo. For some reason they use half streets here.

27. The university of agriculture and other similar studies of North Dakota. A distinct feature of the campus: various loud air conditioners/heaters at the height of a one story home and the width of a truck are not assembled somewhere behind the building but right at the entrance. It seems as though esthetics are not of interest to the stern Dakotan students.

28. In the northern cities, the balconies are secured with nets to keep mosquitos away. This we saw only in Hawaii.

29. Fargo is no different than any other small city in America. On the main street with the big name of Broadway, potted flowers hang and railroad tracks lie through the center of town. Specifically because of these tracks, the city of Fargo flourished and was named in honor of William Fargo, the director of the Northern Pacific railways.

30. Retro light signs have been saved throughout Fargo.

31. Christianity in all ways and forms laid the base of the U.S. One will come across a church building in every city, town, village, field, or in the deepest woods. Of course, most of the buildings turn out way more solid and firm than the organizations that built them. And these signs by the entrance testify to this fact “Sunday Service at 10:00”. The rest of the time this splendid construction is collecting dust, while aging in solitude.

32. The railroad in the U.S almost disappeared in the 1960s’ when the airplanes and automobiles took away just about all of its passengers. The USPS saved it then. In the 1980s’ the railway was yet under another threat of loosing business except this time due to the railroad magnates themselves who lowered the industry into corruption and chaos. This time Congress got involved and put things in order. Since then trains bring revenue, mostly from transporting cargo. Passengers also use them, but mostly as commuter trains. There is a famous route Seattle-Chicago, but it is more recreational than practical. That’s why this train station in Fargo looks neglected – trains stop here only a couple times per every 24 hours, and I highly doubt it will become anyone’s point of destination.

33. As it happened often in the beginning of 20th century, everything in Fargo was in a jumble: stores, factories, restaurants, storages, horse barns, and fashion houses. The traces of bygone muddle are still seen to this day.

34. Away from the central streets, Fargo is sad and boring. But again, as any other small town in the middle of nowhere.

35. The electric sodom in the alley ways.

36. The government institutions bring out a sort of dreariness and a flashback to my former soviet homeland.

37. The backside of buildings such as this can be seen in any town of any state. So far I have not found an explanation to this couldn’t-care-less attitude.

38. For those of you who still do not understand why bad roads still exist: it is because they are present there, where maintenance crew and their bosses don’t give a damn about the outcome of their work. There are no other reasons for bad roads.

39. A pleasant touch seen quite often in many cities: an informative station. I doubt they are very interesting to the locals, as they pass by attending to their personal lives, but for us guests wondering unhurriedly through the streets, such informative excursions into the city history are always a plus.

40. The tallest building of the city center is a hotel. Also a distinctive feature of the “one-storeyed America.’” – all of the offices are usually situated in old two to four-story buildings and only the hotels (often out of place) rise above the harmonious and quite architecture of the sleepy towns.

41. Because of the fact that the car in America is obviously not a sign of luxury but simply a method of transportation, for many people its state of appearance is not important, even the exterior.

42. And again we have a citadel. With loopholes of windows, unapproachable walls and an observatory tower. A church club, in rules and regulations of which it says that it was created in the way so that anyone at any time of day and night could come here and get help. Yeah right.

43. Colorful bisons with blue human-like eyes are displayed all over the town of Fargo.

44. Another distinctive feature of any American city located in a valley is a water tower.

45. The veterans-retirees happily mingle with the passersby.

46. We continue collecting “alarms cocks.”

47. In Fargo we were faced with something that was doomed to happen to us sooner or later. In the morning, still not fully awake, we forgot to shut the cargo box on the roof of the car. It opened in the middle of the windy city and our belongings began to slowly but surely leave their designated place. A random gentleman hollered to us at a stop light that our clothing has getting scattered. We turn around, drive for 100 meters and on the opposite side of the road we see a police officer run across the lawn waving us down. “Please take your things,” he says. “Your blanket, your backpack, is this all? I drove only two blocks. Maybe you had something else?” I think we found everything. Now we have a blanket that was in the car of a Fargo police officer.

48. In general, North Dakota looks something like this in the month of July.

49. We enter the sate of Minnesota.

50. There are many forests and lakes here. The nickname for the state is ’10,000 lakes’ even though there are 11,842. Only the ones included in this number are those that have an acreage of ten or more. It is not surprising that Minnesota takes second place for fishing after Alaska.

51. We make our way to a store with an ambiguous name “Toys for Men.” The antiques were collected across the whole country by the owner-traveler.

52. Tema Lebedev would have like this place very much.

53. On the second floor by the window awaits a local, impregnable princess for her prince on a white stallion.

54. The man collects license plates from different states and countries.

55. When he found out that we live in Hawaii, Dick asked us to send him an extra license plate if it was possible. We had one and it’s already on its way.

56. The city of Bemidji has a fan clocktower.

57. And a very frightful submarine.

58. One of the greatest rivers in the world: fourth in length, and ninth in overflow. It passes through the territory of ten states and enters the Gulf of Mexico stretching to 3,770 kilometer. But, you can’t tell by just the looks of it. Please make your acquaintance with the Mississippi in its infant stage.

59. Another spot of our overnight rest was memorable for its tics. One even had a chance to make its way onto my shoulder and began to dig his way under the skin. I took it out and threw it away but forgot to take a photo.

60. We went searching for another tick-model but with no luck. They all suddenly disappeared (perhaps it was getting too warm and sunny).

61. In the U.S., a cyclist has the same rights on the roads (except on freeways) like any other form of transportation.

62. We approach the city of Duluth. The name itself is famous from the TV series, “Fargo,” (which I strongly recommend).

63. The most cold intolerant people work in Duluth. The whole city center is crammed with covered walkways that connect one street with another.

64. The central street is a mishmash of colors, styles and time periods.

65. A commercial gardener gets his water from a fire hydrant (the antennae is for being able to find the hydrant underneath the snow during winter months) on the street named after a famous native of this city, Bob Dylan.

66. Live broadcast at a local television station.

67. Obesity and overweight: a scourge in today’s America, as in any country.

68. Duluth is located on the edge of the largest (by surface area) freshwater lake, Lake Superior.

69. An ingenious protection from the wind for those who come to enjoy the scenery.

70. The bus stops in Duluth, as in many other cities of the northern states, are faced away from the road, also for the maximum protection from the wind.

71. The effort that went into modernizing the city doesn’t look too convincing.

72. Even more unconvincing are the efforts made by road workers trying to patch up a paved road with asphalt and concrete. A rare occasion of slovenliness right in the city center.

73. The city library. So far, in all of the cities we have visited the libraries are divided into two categories: they are either in classic and empire style or modern with high-tech. It is as anything in between these styles was never a given to the architects of american libraries.

74. In the meantime, we make our way to the outskirts of Minneapolis where we are awaited with riddles from our car and an out-of-turn recess in the company of our friends from a very long time ago.

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