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.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #36: Kaiju Americana Trilogy

Jamestown giant buffalo!

If all real buffaloes had been this size, the history of the American frontier would’ve gone very differently.

One of the all-time greatest songs about road trips is an album track by “Weird Al” Yankovic called “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota“. It wasn’t one of his classic pop-single parodies, just a wacky 7-minute riff on ’70s lite-country crooners that aptly captured the essence of roadside attractions in all their abnormal Americana glory. Over the past twenty years we’ve seen our share of eccentricity and ingenuity on the run, but in one respect we’ve found the reality comes up a bit short: there are not garish, campy, world-record-setting colossi standing in all fifty states. We’ve seen a lot of “big”, but not much “biggest”.

Clearly we should’ve driven more deeply into North Dakota sooner. A 131-mile stretch of I-94 through the heart of their unassuming state skirts past no less than three such mega-animals in three different towns. Sure, their national park was pretty and a few statues of historical figures were fine, but they shriveled in comparison to the frivolous joy of this towering trio, none of whom have ever been invited to star in their own Syfy Original Film.

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Our 2021 Road Trip #35: North Dakota Statue Stopover Trilogy

Young Theodore Roosevelt statue, Dickinson, North Dakota.

Taken together with other Presidential statues in this series, we see the Young Teddy/Old Teddy gap is nowhere near as wide as the one between Young and Old Elvis.

Tired of endlessly pretty panoramas from the Western U.S.? You say we should get back to some roadside art? Have we got some chapters for you!

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Our 2021 Road Trip #34: The Rough Rider’s Roofless Rumpus Room

Boicourt Overlook!

When you’re still enjoying the scenery after seven days but verging on Badlands burnout.

The best advance investment we made for the sake of this vacation was an America the Beautiful Parks Pass. For one flat fee that felt exorbitant at first, pass-holders get one-year admission to any and all the national parks, monuments, and other qualifying attractions within your reach before time’s up. Anne did the math and realized our itinerary would indeed pay for itself if everything worked out and none of our destinations shut down.

The pass got us into Yellowstone National Park, our primary objective. It got us into Pompeys Pillar National Monument, which was on our return route. The next day, it gave us the clout to check out a third locale of natural splendor in North Dakota that exceeded the pass price and began netting us some savings. Any more national parks/monuments/whatever that we visit between now and June 2022 are basically free. We should probably take advantage of that. If the pandemic would shoo, that’d really help us out. Or if someone could open another national park conveniently here in Indiana, even better.

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2014 Road Trip Photos #33: Season Finale, Last Call for Outtakes

Bi-Centennial Money Car!

One of the many vehicles that missed the cut for Part 29 was the Bi-Centennial Money Car, a ’76 Cadillac covered in pennies. Some things you’re really curious about, and then some things you realize you’d rather not ask.

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?

Right this way for the end of all 2014 things!

2014 Road Trip Photos #25: An Evening Stroll Through Downtown Fargo

Fargo Billboard!

To me, this is cooler than any billboard in my hometown.

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.

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2014 Road Trip Photos #24: American Doomsday Machines

Bunker Entrance!

Down here in the bunker, during Armageddon you might not have needed 3 million SPF sunblock.

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.

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2014 Road Trip Photos #23: North Dakota Flatland Interlude


You know you’re truly on a road trip through the most peaceful parts of the American heartland when you can take photos while you’re driving without frightening your spouse to death.

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.

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