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STORM! En route to Fargo, N.D.
updated: Apr 17, 2010, 9:00 AM
By John McCafferty (aka McSeas)
|Gathering storm on the northern prairie.
Woke up to a pleasant rain falling in Bloomington, Minnesota. Fine with me. I'd take a leisurely drive over to Fargo, North Dakota.
"Fargo" - almost an iconic name after that funny, eerie movie. Now if I just knew what "iconic" meant . . . Something to do with images, and the film's name certainly brought images to mind. I especially loved the wind-swept, snowy road out of town.
That's the sort of thing you think about on a rainy morning in Minnesota, while traffic swirls into the city for work, and you swirl out of it, for play.
I swerved a tad on the onramp to I-94 west in order to save a foot-long terrapin/turtle/tortoise that was stopped, gawking, on the curve. I didn't feel a bump and saw it in the mirror. OK. How long would that thing last on the highway? Oh well, must be millions of surviving relatives around, with all those 10,000 lakes Minnesota is noted for.
VERY pleasant driving. Farm land, pasture land, but with rolling hills and woods here and there between the lakes.
Stopped and bought a gooey chocolate muffin and coffee from the big woman manning a little store at an intersection. Lots of big Swedes in these parts. Asked her if it was gonna rain hard.
"Ooh yah", she said in that Wobegon accent, "and sooon."
Intoxicated by chocolate, I took a wrong turn. I realized after a couple of miles that I was headed back to Minneapolis (muttered curses, shaking of the head). Lost all of 15 minutes finding another off ramp and turning around.
The sky was even darker as I passed Big Swede's store again. Too bad - I was enjoying the rural rapture zipping past my window. I was about halfway between St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Morehead/Fargo, North Dakota, sister cities on the state border. Then I noticed an odd darkening of the sky over yonder to the northeast (I thought). I had gotten turned around again, in my mind. I realized later that I was properly headed west, toward North Dakota, and the storm was approaching out of the southwest. I STILL see it in the north. Strange.
What was stranger was the huge ball-shaped cloud, if you could call it that. It was black, like the all-time worst dust storm over the Oklahoma panhandle the day I was born. April 24, 1935, brought me and a wall of dust a mile high that suffocated birds caught flying in it.
The black ball, this one no doubt very wet, blended into the dark gray sky and moved closer. "How long till that monster gets here?" I wondered. Answer: One minute.
WHOA! It hit the car!
It was so sudden I hadn't time to think about what to do, if anything. I slowed way down, since the wipers were inadequate and I couldn't see through the wall of water in front of me. But there were big truck lights behind, dazzling me with reflection as I slowed. Was that guy gonna ram me? He probably couldn't see any better than I!
Panic-stricken, I could only keep slowing down to stop. The pounding noise added to my nervousness. Didn't dare move much to the right shoulder or I might roll down an embankment and REALLY ruin my trip! I inched sideways and slowly came to a stop. So did the trucker, who must have seen my taillights. There I sat, dark water in front of me, shining water cascading down the back window. Minnesota surfing!
The wind increased to a shrieking, howling velocity, and my little Dodge moved up and down. I was about to levitate and be blown off the road like a hamburger wrapper, for God's sake!
It felt like an earthquake inside a carwash. Not being a praying person, I went into some kind of Zen state, and marveled at the fire hose effect of the storm on my windows. Great balls o' fire, I'd NEVER seen anything like this. Not even in Texas.
The riot of nature eased off after 10 minutes, maybe 15. Trees out yonder were bending nearly double as the wind continued, but the deluge slacked off. Stiffer trees blew down long ago, I guessed.
The sky lightened and I could make out the grill of the truck behind me. It pulled away and continued westward. A young woman drove slowly by in the left lane. She was hunched over the wheel, white knuckling it, mouth still agape and eyes wide. I got up the courage to carry on.
I saw that a muddy, sloping shoulder was only a foot away, so my parking instincts had been good. I was even starting to smile. I turned the wipers back on and resumed this strange trip. I reported in on my little tape recorder and found some tunes on the radio.
Fargo or bust!
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