Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. I wanted a do-over.
We knew Day Six would be our last day in North Dakota and Minnesota for the foreseeable future. Based on our preconceptions, pop culture history, and the accents of people I used to know in the area, we figured we ought to visit at least one attraction with vaguely Scandinavian influence before heading back to the Midwest.
Behold: the majestic Hjemkomst!
This fully functional replica of a 9th-century Viking ship was the brainchild of a junior high guidance counselor named Robert Asp, and required a six-year team effort to build. Asp suffered from leukemia but lived long enough to enjoy the August 1980 maiden voyage around Lake Superior. He passed away later that year, but in 1982 his four adult children fulfilled his dream of sailing the Hjemkomst from America to Norway.
The ship has been on display at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center since 1986, just across the Red River from Fargo. The plain brick building looks like a suburban library with a gigantic white tent on the roof.
Over 11,000 feet of white oak was prepared for use in the Hjemkomst, slowly carved and assembled as a weekend project for Asp and company.
A staircase allows visitors to rise above the ship and peer inside, where the Hjemkomst looks pretty ship-like. Maybe that part isn’t stunning, but still.
Various displays and artifacts tell the story of its intricate construction, the efforts to set up its voyages, and the 1982 three-month expedition that carried the Asp family east to the heart of Scandinavia itself.
Also on the Center grounds is a replica of the Hopperstad Stave Church, built in 1998 and modeled on a 12th-century Norse predecessor. It stands as a heritage symbol for the Red River Valley area, and is available for small-scale event rental.
The Center has other exhibits besides the great big faux-Viking cruiser — history of the area, things about Vikings, archaeological souvenirs, and so on. We unfortunately had an appointment to keep elsewhere and didn’t have the time to peruse the other displays in depth.
Sure, we paid full admission, but mostly we wanted to see the giant Viking homage. We got our money’s worth, and we trust the Center put the rest to good use.
And with that, we departed the Fargo/Moorhead twin-city area and bade farewell to North Dakota. While navigating around road construction, we spotted one last artful bison and took it as the Peace Garden State’s way of waving goodbye to us.
The Hjemkomst might be permanently docked, but our own voyage would remain…To Be Continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]