I hit the road on a cold and windy day, leaving Minneapolis with my F-150 loaded down. My first stop was at the lake house in Miltona where the fire alarm was going off beeping and sounding, WARNING. CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED. OMG, what’s that all about. I had workers waiting to finish some water damage that the new roof created, and they couldn’t work in the house, plus it was -10 degrees, which might have been more the issue.
Paul from L&O Plumbing and Heating solved the problem for me pronto, and by the time he was done I was ready to leave Minnesota and my problems behind me, so I struck out for Fargo, ND. I figured I’d get a jump on the first leg of the trip. When I got to Fargo, the last vestiges of light were waning into a golden sunset, and the temperatures were plummeting. I checked into the Baymont Inn, noticed the parking lot full of older pick-up trucks, and the bar was filled with guys who were thawing out from the now -18 degree temps.
I holed up in my room, eating chips and beef sticks from the Miltona Meat Market. I had put several Rapid Covid Tests into my Yeti cooler to protect them from freezing. I figured I might need them along the way, and I didn’t want to be searching for test kits in unknown places. Test kits are hard to find, and my neighbor’s son works at a pharmacy in Mankato. His place had kits so I drove the 75 miles south of the cities, and got a supply. I didn’t want them to freeze, thus the Yeti.
At 1 am I woke up and looked at my phone. It was -25 degrees. I hadn’t brought the Yeti in, and I tossed and turned worrying about the test kits in my truck in the -25 weather. I finally threw on my coat, scarf, snow boots, mask and hat to retrieve my Yeti and test kits. My worst fear was realized when I got the the back door and a guy was standing there. He didn’t have a cigarette in his hand, but I figured he was there for a smoke. He was in baggy shorts and a sweatshirt. A teardrop tattoo was strategically placed on his right cheek, just below the outer edge of his eye.
I carry a pepper spray on my keychain, and I had it in my pocket. I pictured my frozen corpse laying next to my Little Blue Truck, struck down before the trip had really begun. I looked at the guy and said, “I didn’t expect anyone else to be awake in the middle of the night. Would you open the door for me when I come back? I forgot my ice chest in my car.” He said, “Sure thing.” I said, “It’s darn cold, Isn’t it?” He said, “You can say that, you can.”
I hit the remote start on my truck, then hit the unlock. The truck started right up, I grabbed my Yeti, and the guy was holding the door open for me when I returned. As I entered and stomped my snowboots off, he says, “Would you like me to carry that for you?” Nice, I thought, but Hell, no! “No, thanks, but I can get it. We both started walking away from the door to our rooms…I was internally praying that his room wasn’t near mine… and as I headed up the stairs, he kept walking straight. And our little encounter ended without incident, without my frozen body thrown under the truck, without even a whisper of threat. Another nice guy.
When I opened my Yeti, fearing the worst, I found the two water bottles I had put in still at room temperature, and clearly my Covid tests were not frozen solid. I fell sound asleep until 7 am.
My adventure hadn’t ended. When I got into my truck, the low tire pressure lights were on. I thought, Oh, no, I hope I didn’t pick up a nail. It was still -25. I drove across the road to the Cenex gas station, and tried to fill the tires with air. Everything was so cold! Even the air. It took so long for the tires to inflate. It was so cold my cheap air pressure gauge cracked in half. And before hitting the road, I wanted to make sure they stayed inflated, so I drove around Fargo for a spell. As the tires rolled they warmed up—to the point I had to get out and release some air. But they retained their pressure, and an hour later, I hit the road again west.
Across North Dakota I stopped at United Tribal Technical College on the south edge of Bismarck. This is the location of the old Fort Lincoln where the Issei (first generation) Japanese were taken during World War 2. I met with the Community Relations guy, Brent, who gave me the grant proposal for a Japanese American Internment Memorial that they will be building and dedicating later this year. Ft. Lincoln is where my grandfather had been taken in February 1942.
My feet were getting hot in the truck as I was wearing my sheepskin Manitobah Mukluks I had gotten in Canmore, Alberta. I swapped them out for my hiking boots—still sturdy, but not so warm. As the miles ticked by across the expanse of North Dakota, I could only think that what I really wanted was to swap my boots out for ski boots, but that wasn’t going to happen for a while yet.