Roadtrip: Day One

I apologize in advance for the readability of this post. I’m pretty well burned out after the driving today and this feels like just a lot of thoughts thrown out there instead of anything coherent.

Last night I spent some time wrapping up my packing and making sure I didn’t forget anything. I probably did but I haven’t figured out what yet so it can’t be that big a deal can it? I got to bed around 12 a.m. in the end, still excited about starting out on the trip.

I was planning on leaving this morning by 9 a.m. at the latest. Well, I ended up waking up slightly earlier than I expected. About 4:30 am or so. I woke up and actually went to roll over to go back to sleep but a song was stuck in my head. It’s the ending credits song from “Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

 

This song is pretty much the anthem of this road trip, and the movie was one of the inspirations for it. If you’ve not seen the movie I would highly recommend it. It made me realize there’s a wide world to see. It won’t come to me, I have to go to it.

This song was stuck in my head and I kept going over the things I needed to make sure I didn’t forget. So naturally I couldn’t get back to sleep. At around 4:45 a.m. I said screw it and popped out of bed. May as well start early since I wasn’t getting any more sleep.

I got myself ready and everything packed in my car by 5:45 and I was on the road by 6. I put on the music and started to let the miles roll by.

I can’t quite explain how driving on the open road makes me feel. I get a big smile on my face and I start laughing because I’m so giddy. Today was no exception! I was barreling down the highway singing at the top of my lungs and smiling from ear to ear. Probably for the best that I’m going on this trip alone.

A few hours down the road I made it to my first stop, Fargo. A co-worker and I searched up a couple restaurants in Fargo the day before for my first meal on the road. I ended up going to C.J.’s Kitchen

 

I got the biscuits and gravy, something any self-respecting southerner or midwesterner should recognize. Unfortunately it wasn’t really anything special. It was good, but not something you’d go back specifically for.

After breakfast I was back on the road! For about 200 feet, I needed gas. This is where my favorite part of the day happens. The gas station I stopped at was called ‘Loaf and Jug’. It was attached to a payday loan place (Ugh) called ‘EZ Money’. As if payday loan places weren’t sleazy enough. Anyway, I saw a kid who was about 10 years old walk in to the payday loan place. I kept an eye on the door while I was gassing up because I have to say that’s not something you see every day. A couple minutes later the kid came out with a small stack of bills in his hands. My eyebrows went up until he fanned them out and I saw they were all ones. I had to keep myself from laughing at this point, he had about $10 in ones fanned out in his hands.

Next this kid saunters over to Loaf and Jug and goes in, a minute later he comes out with two King Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup candy bars. At this point I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. I told this story to my friends immediately after I saw it and one of them had the perfect response. “What a baller.”

Now I actually was back on the road, I punched in ‘Theodore Roosevelt National Park’. Google Maps is super helpful though. As I start the navigation it informed me that the park is closed today, and Sunday. Seriously, how the hell is a national park closed on the weekends?

I kept the GPS for it regardless, I would just figure out what to do when I got to Medora, it was 4 hours away anyway. I have to say that the majority of the ‘Blah’ North Dakota gets for its sights is well deserved. I stopped at a couple rest stops and there wasn’t a whole lot to see. One did have a view that impressed me though.

There’s a thin length of land with railroad tracks running through the lake here. A train actually passed through a minute or two before I got to the point. I wish I had gotten there in time to snap a picture of it!

This one place being the exception rather than the rule. There are a lot of flat farmlands with not a whole lot to see. But when you start to get in to the western edge of the state, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

 

After stopping here I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to bother going to Medora. I wanted to get as far as possible today so I didn’t have a huge drive tomorrow and I figured Medora may just take more time out of the drive. I finally decided to at least check it out.

Boy that was a mistake. Medora looks like the stereotypical tourist trap. It’s basically an entire small town built around the tourist industry. It has a ton of small shops lining the main street. It also had some museums to check out from what I could see. But, to be completely fair, I didn’t stick around to give it a chance. The place was packed with tourists and it definitely did not look like my kind of place. It was all the excuse I needed to punch ‘Glacier National Park’ in to Google Maps and get on my way.

As you continue west through North Dakota the landscape begins to get a little depressing. Oil derricks begin to dot the landscape, big propane tanks, industrial-looking buildings. It seems North Dakota’s fracking industry has taken a bit of a toll.

As I was coming up on the North Dakota/Montana border I remembered that a friend suggested I stop at the Flying J gas station and convenience store.

 

Problem was I remembered that as I was barreling past the exit. I drove about four or five miles down to the next exit, turned around, crossed back in to North Dakota, and stopped in at the Flying J! It’s basically your run-of-the-mill convenience store and truck stop. But it sells little souvenirs that were pretty neat so I picked up a couple things for the people back home.

After that stop I got back on the road and crossed over in to Montana, for realsies this time!

I’m actually finding it hard to say anything about Montana at the moment. It may be that I’m just toasted from the drive but the landscape hasn’t been especially interesting. It could be the route I took. I had a choice of going through the middle of the state or going north. I chose north because, for some reason, my mind associated north with mountains. That is definitely not the case.

Unfortunately I also do not have any pictures of Montana yet. Mainly because most of my pictures have been coming at rest stops and scenic overlooks. I did not come across any of those on my route through Montana so far. Probably because I’ve been on a state highway instead of the interstate.

After something like 14-15 hours on the road I finally pulled in to a town in Montana called Havre. I’ve checked in to a hotel where I’m writing up this post and I plan on absolutely crashing here soon. I have 3 to 4 hours of driving tomorrow to get to Glacier! I’m trying to decide if I want to do that drive and then take my time and hang out at Glacier the majority of the day then get a hotel room out there for the night then get back on the road on Monday. I’ll probably make that decision on the spot, seems to be how I’ve been running this roadtrip so far.

This concludes day one of the roadtrip, it was a doozie. I’ve been in three different states today and have driven over 900 miles!

Here’s to tomorrow.

 

Alexandria: It was a pleasure.

As I said in one of my previous posts, I’ve been getting itchy feet. The winter has been long and unrelenting. Every time we thought it was over, Mother Nature would decide to dump a bunch of snow on us.

Back around Christmas time a co-worker suggested a destination to me, an antique comic book and toys shop in a city about two hours away called ‘Hidden Treasures’.

I took the suggestion and filed it away, life and work at the time were a little too hectic.

Well, a few weeks ago the itch became too much for me and decided it was time to set out for Alexandria and Hidden Treasures.

I decided to make the trip on a weekend so the Friday beforehand I mentioned to someone what I was doing for the weekend, going to this cool little comic book shop about two hours away. They asked “Isn’t there a comic book shop here?”. I laughed but knew she was half-serious. I told her that the shop was unique and I definitely wanted to check it out, but that’s only half the reason.

It seems almost every trip I go on it’s not about the destination, it’s about the getting there. Sometimes it’s unexpected and sometimes I’m planning and hoping for it.

Without getting too off-topic, a few summers ago I took a road trip to Montreal, Quebec to see my brother and his newborn boy. I purposely took a route pretty much through the center of Canada because I wanted to see that wilderness. But nothing was so breathtaking to me as as turning off Trans Canada 17, on to 11, and seeing a lake curl off to the distance on my left and stony cliffs rising to my right.

So I finally hit the open road mid-Saturday morning, a smile plastered on my face as soon as my GPS went from ‘turn right in half a mile’ to ‘Exit right in 82 miles’.

Rolling fields and frozen ponds passed by, I couldn’t help but think what it would look like once spring and summer take hold and turn everything green.

The miles rolled by, I sang along (terribly) with the radio, and generally enjoyed the early spring sunshine.

When I finally got to Alexandria I had to smile, it had that small town feel with a single main road running through the ‘historic downtown’. The GPS pointed me to a parking lot the next road over and I was finally out and stretching my legs. In the wrong direction unfortunately. I couldn’t find the place for the life of me.

Finally I got turned the right way and through a little exploration I was able to find it on the side of the building, the doorway tucked in to a bit of an alcove, Hidden Treasures indeed.

When you open the door you immediately get the scent of incense that wafts out, and as you step in you’re greeted by a table full of knick knacks and shelves of old children’s books. I could have spent an hour or two just digging through this stuff seeing if I could reclaim some of my childhood but I wasn’t there for that.

Immediately to the left of the door you squeeze past the counter and are greeted by the sight of comics. Boxes and boxes of comics. I took a second to take it all in and thought about taking out my phone to grab a picture but heard a quiet “Excuse me.” as someone squeezed past. This place was absolutely tiny, and absolutely packed with comics and memorabilia. If you’re standing at a table looking through a box of comics you’ll routinely feel someone brush past you.

I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted when I got here, I just had a request from my co-worker to keep an eye out for a particular comic. “Great Morons in History: Featuring Dan Quayle”. Unfortunately they didn’t have it!

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They didn’t have it at the shop, but at least the owners got a good laugh when I showed them what I was looking for.

I was just aimlessly digging around in the comic boxes when I saw something that reminded me of a friend. That gave me the idea to keep digging until I found a comic for each friend that just spoke of them to me.

I apologize now for not having gotten any pictures of these myself, I’m still a blog amateur and it just slips my mind to take pictures of cool things! Or, also quite often, I feel awkward about just taking out my phone and snapping pictures of things. Hopefully I’ll get over that for your sake.

 

Each of these comics had some aspect to it that reminded me of a friend and I just had to get it for them.

All told, I spent probably an hour and a half or so in the shop just digging through the comic boxes and looking at everything they had. They had a still-in-the-box Star Wars Imperial Scout Trooper and speeder bike that I was sorely tempted to pick up just because the nostalgia hit so hard. Finally, though, I escaped with my wallet mostly intact.

I decided to grab lunch before I got back on the road to head home and stopped in to a restaurant literally right around the corner, a little bar and grill called Raapers. I sat down and looked over the menu but, at this point, I really didn’t feel like making any decisions for myself so I asked the waitress what she would recommend.

That’s how I ended up with this delicious monstrosity.

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The Awesome Blossom burger from Raapers

I promise there is actually a burger in there somewhere. It was a bacon cheeseburger with fried onion rings stacked on top and then what they called sidewinder potatos. They were a spiral cut potato almost like a thick cut curly fry. I actually ended up taking off the majority of the onions just so I could fit the thing in my mouth.

After lunch I fought off the biological imperative for a food coma, rolled myself back in to my car, and got back on the road to head home.

I got in to work Monday morning with a comic for my co-worker in hand and let her know I thought the place was amazing. She says “Did you check out the used book store there too?”.

I guess I have an excuse to go back. As if I needed one.