WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(Click map for full size)
Aberdeen to Northfield
Subject: Wanderlust 25 - Northfield, Minnesota
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 21:28:03 -0700

        Immediately east of Aberdeen, I mean like 10 feet past the city limit, the land looks like Minnesota. It is not surprising that state boundaries were situated according to some geographical delineations, like rivers or mountain ridges, but it is surprising how untrue those boundaries are to the similar aspects of the land. At times like this (remember, now, I am still locked inside a helmet ...) I imagine what the US would look like if the state lines were redrawn according to geographical similarities. Obviously, MN would extend into SD, and SD would take the non-mountainous area of MT. LA would take part of TX, TX would become two separate states, CO would start at Denver and end at Salt Lake, NV would be unchanged.
        Hey, this idea is no worse than the gerrymandering that occurs with each census? Remember, Thomas Jefferson thought there should be a revolution every 20 or 25 years just to keep government honest ... geez I hope I get to a curve in the road soon. :)
        On an impulse I turned quickly toward the Scenic Byway sign just over the Minnesota border. Minnesota isn't kidding when they say "byway". It was by way of every direction except the one you want to go. All the roads in the little river valley were somewhat circular. If you saw my GPS track, you'd think I was duck hunting.
        This is where the GPS really came in handy. Does anyone NEED one? Of course not, but this time when I knew I was lost - I knew exactly where I was. With that and the area detail on the built-in map, I could decide the best direction to head to recover without backtracking ... and that only led to one dead end. :)
        Ah, you have to expect some surprises when you are wandering.

        Some interesting aspects to the language difference in Minnesota carry over to their signage. On the byway there were signs that said "Trucks must not meet on bridge". Where I come from, that sign would say One Lane Bridge. One is a fact, the other is sorta saying "you'll be sooooory, you betcha".
        How DO Minnesotans draw ooout their "o"s like that? No one thinks they have an accent when they are among their own, but the Minnesotan language even has its own structure. Every sentence is cushioned with a opener and a closer. The clerk at the gas stop said, "Sooooo is it gonna rain on ya then?" And if you are comfortable enough with the structure, you can even leave out the substance and open a conversation with "Soooo then?" I love it. I don't speak it, but I love it.
        Coursing through southern Minnesota, it seems this is the Capital capital of America. It is not unusual for towns to have a slogan, indeed it seems every town in central California is "Gateway to ...". Here, the basis is "The ___ Capital". I saw The Cooperative Capital, The Corn Capital, and Watson, The Goose Capital. However, not seeing any birds in Watson ... is that a noun or a verb? Later on I observed Northfield is not a Capital, but an alliterative collection, so said the serious sign sitting silently as a sentinel on the side of the silo: Welcome to Northfield - Cows, Colleges, Contentment.

        One of the things about motorcycling I have described before is the enhanced opportunity to smell the environment. (Leaving aside the cows for a moment ...) The terrain and its use is much more varied in Minnesota than in South Dakota. As I rode along I could smell the fresh turned dirt (what is that 'other' smell? like cabbage?). As I passed through the shadow of a large tree I could smell the 'greenness' and the moisture difference in the shade (what IS that other smell? like sauerkraut?). Then I slowed for the downhill into Henderson, Minnesota. And all I can say is what luck I have. In the Minnesotan language, that would be: Soooo, am I lucky or what, then?
        I found myself in the middle of Sauerkraut Days - parade, sauerkraut festival, crowning of the Sauerkraut Queen. Ah, what a bright fine day. Sunshine, beer and brats FREE KRAUT!, and a polka band oompahing away in the shade tent. What Minnesotan wouldn't be happy? I asked for a little more kraut on my brat and you would have though I announced I was going to settle here and marry the Sauerkraut Queen. People were excited that a stranger (my "o"s gave it away) liked kraut.
        Ah, you have to expect some surprises when you are wandering.

        Burping brats (and what IS that smell? :), I rode east until I could smell the countryside again and decided to stop at the next town. It was another pleasant surprise to find the town I had long known of but never visited. Yes, the original First National Bank of Northfield building still stands at 4th and Division, but the museum was already closed. Nonetheless, I think it is fitting that I - a Long Distance Rider - bunk down for the night in the town featured in the movie The Long Riders.

Soooo, goodnight, then?

FuelPlus 319 miles, 5:59 hours, 54 mph average
Aberdeen US12 lost MN7 US212 MN22 MN19 Northfield
Plans (subject to change) Great River Road, diagonal Iowa, Kansas City

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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