A big loop

Took a circular route today selling books. South to Twin Valley, Lake Park, Detroit Lakes, then up to Park Rapids, and finally to Bemidji. Dumped 50 of them off at various stores. Oddly, the drugstore in Park Rapids sells the most books of them all. Odd because I am not in their paper, I don't know many people there, and PR is 80 miles from home the way the crow flies. The way the crow would have to walk would be even farther.

But what a beautiful drive! From Detroit Lakes to Park Rapids on MN Hwy 34--it is hills, lakes, birch, pine, spruce. Same from Park Rapids to Bemidji, with a few more open fields. I get out there so seldom. There is almost never an excuse to go east, since all commerce and doctor's appointments are west in Fargo or Grand Forks. But when I do take the time to go east, it is an almost exotic thrill. The roads curve. The woods are deep.

Lakes country lacks the dominant presence of farming and industry that one finds in the ever-so-flat, ever-so-fertile (yet ever-so-sterile) Red River Valley to the west. The east has cabins. Nooks. Ponds. Mysterious roads that disappear into a little hole in the woods. Little shacks belching smoke.

Ended up in Bemidji, a once quaint town which has exploded with retail expansion in the past five years. A Wal-mart supercenter, Target, Home Depot, Office Max, and so on--all brand new, with an outlet mall on its way. Bemidji had an effective local mafia which kept out the chains for a couple of decades, but their grip on things has apparently loosened. I guess Wal-mart played hardball with the Bemidji boys, paying $15 million for the piece of property where they built the Supercenter. How did Wal-mart find a seller willing to risk ending up in the bottom of Lake Bemidji wearing concrete shoes? Well, they bought the site of the State Department of Transportation headquarters--and built the agency a spanking new headquarters up the road aways. Message? Don't mess with Wal-mart.

Actually, I'd rather deal with Wal-mart than those Bemidji boys.

Met a friend for supper at one of my favorite restaurants, the Union Station in Bemidji. It is famous (to me, at least) for its spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. The recipe migrated from Stats, a restaurant next door, with the chef. Took me a while to discover where it went.

Alas, the service was awful tonight. Each waitron thought the other had our table and when I finally howled, neither apologized--and the host, a cocky college-aged twink, just stared at us as if it was our fault that we hadn't been served for fifteen minutes.

Easy to forget the delay once you get some food in front of you, but oh man does lacksadasical service burn me! Especially when nobody takes responsibility.

But over all, a good day. Who can argue with 48 degrees in November? And if you read this in the next couple of hours and are in NW Minnesota, look outside! The stars are dazzling tonight. Orion is starting to show in the lower eastern sky, one of winter's comforts. I am of the opinion that when we have a clear, clear night in Minnesota (1 in 20, or so) you can see just as much or more than you can see at the Kitt Peak Observatory at 9,000 feet in Arizona.