Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our annual road trip in thirty-two episodes, from Indianapolis to Minnesota/St. Paul to Fargo to home again. In our grand finale: one last round of outtakes from everywhere and everything else we saw besides Minnesota, all kinds of little bonus moments in between the shots in the previous chapters. Sure, I could’ve simply done a more thorough job of vetting photos the first time around and made the previous entries twice as long, but then what would I do for outtakes?
Day Five’s return trip from the nuclear missile command center back to Fargo was draining and featureless. Our evening plans took us to the complete opposite of that: Fargo’s cozy, artful downtown. Lots of brownstone buildings from times past redone at ground level with contemporary storefronts, hiding the occasional flourish here and there, all largely deserted on a Wednesday evening. The whole place was practically ours.
Conscious survivors of the 1980s remember the uneasy Cold War days, when tensions between America and the USSR were at their peak. Each side had their credos, their agendas, their grudges against each other, their spies, their cross-purposes, and their active, massive, scary nuclear arsenals in case the other side got any deplorable ideas. Movies like WarGames, Fail-Safe, The Day After, Dr. Strangelove, and 60% of all post-apocalyptic sagas mined our fears of mutual assured destruction for cautionary tales, humanist allegories, and disturbing visuals, all the more frightening to us youngsters because we couldn’t be sure that the adult politicians in charge wouldn’t do something stupid and trigger the end of the world.
Both countries still have their differences today, but relations aren’t at anywhere near the same state of hateful paranoia, so everyone’s cut back on their standby nuclear stockpiles. Out in the middle of the North Dakota flatlands, there’s one distant, decommissioned hideout codenamed Oscar-Zero where the U.S. military once stationed a handful of men 24/7 to oversee the controls and prepare to throw the world’s deadliest switches in case the American President declared Game Over.
Today you can bring in the whole family for a visit. There’s a guided tour and a gift shop.
We realized during the planning stages that Day Five would have some of the longest, potentially least exciting driving stretches of the entire trip. We’d already spent four hours on the road from the Twin Cities to Fargo before lunch, but we had another destination on the afternoon itinerary, some ninety minutes further still.
We’d seen the beautiful sights of South Dakota on our 2009 road trip, but this was our first time stepping into its upper twin. Both were granted statehood on the same day in 1889, but the parts we saw didn’t look much alike.