Our 2021 Road Trip #39: Chasing Royalty Across State Lines

Super Mario wall Fargo!

Who among us has not known the stress of a Goomba nipping at their heels?

Day Eight began and ended in very different places, yet not so different as we compared notes between a pair of murals that have nothing to do with each other unless you dig too deeply beneath the surface.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

We ended Day Seven and began Day Eight in Fargo, North Dakota, which we last visited in 2014. We didn’t have much time for evening sightseeing, but after breakfast we wandered a few blocks to catch the very cool mural in our lead photo that didn’t exist at the time of our previous stop — an alley-side recreation of the iconic 8-bit landscape of Super Mario Bros painted in 2018 by local artists John Atkinson and Lauren Starling, a.k.a. the usernames “DarkElvis83” and “IckyHiccup” registered at the top of the “screen”. We had to see that. A few other objets d’art revealed themselves along the way.

Mario wall Fargo!

Anne tries gently pushing the block for coins, for fear that one might fly out and hit her in the head.

bison Nights in the Valley!

“Nights in the Valley” is one of 39 bison statues in a 2006 citywide collection called “Herd About The Prairie: A Virtual Art Stampede”.

bison "Heartbeat of the Red River Valley"!

“Heartbeat of the Red River Valley”. Each bison is 100 pounds of fiberglass and painted with its own imagery.

In the Heights marquee!

Another marquee for my ongoing collection; not the first time we’ve run across showings of the underrated In the Heights on this vacation.

marquee marriage proposal!

Same marquee, other side. Last time in 2014 this theater touted live performances of The Great Gatsby.

Sadly we didn’t have time to linger. We soon crossed the border into Minnesota and after 240 miles of driving — broken up with stopovers in Fergus Falls and Alexandria — we detoured into the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen. Their star attraction is Paisley Park Studios, onetime workplace of the Artist Formerly Known As Prince Whom Everyone Never Really Stopped Calling “Prince”. The Artist passed away in 2016, but visitors can now take timed tours of Paisley Park on a variety of pricing and access levels.

By the time I realized we could work Paisley Park into our itinerary, most time slots for that day were taken and the remaining ones weren’t great. We’ve also learned from past experience that prefacing an appointment with hundreds of miles of driving can make for one heck of a gamble (like that nail-biting incident when we scheduled a tour of West Point, ran afoul of mountainside road construction and arrived mere minutes before the tour bus took off). But at the very least, we thought it’d be keen to pull up to the studios and see what could be seen from the cheap seats.

The answer: next to nothing. Paisley Park is highly fenced on all sides and has a security checkpoint at the entrance. One does not simply walk into Paisley Park. We did an about-face and returned to the highway.

Paisley Park, Chanhassen, Minnesota!

Anne got this glancing shot, the best we could do without parking by the roadside and potentially incurring the wrath of the royal guards.

We had to settle for the next best thing, which was a cool thing unto itself. Two miles east of the studios is a 20-foot-tall Prince mural, painted in 2016 by New Zealand artist Graham Hoete. We were fine with that.

Prince mural, Chanhassen!

Special features include purple rain, doves crying and possibly going crazy, and it’s totally possibly one is doing the Batdance and its name is Darling Nikki.

Prince flowers!

Flowers left at the mural, probably by another fan who also couldn’t get into Paisley Park.

I can’t begin to imagine what it would’ve been like to meet him in person. Not that he would’ve done conventions or made himself available for jazz-hands photos with us. That would’ve required quite the strange journey on many levels. If only that could’ve been the reality anyway. But our Prince is in another castle.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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