For a couple of reasons I'm not driving at night as much as I used to and occasionally Lorna takes the wheel even in daylight hours. The world as seen through a passenger's eyes is different than a driver, who primarily has to look at the road. Yesterday I was riding shotgun as we drove from the 60 miles from Albert Lea to Mankato to have lunch and spend a little time with Lorna's Aunt Dorothy. I say Lorna's aunt, but after over 40 years, her relatives have become my relatives - our Aunt Dor.
All the roads we took were asphalt two-lane back roads which service the small towns and grain elevators of south central Minnesota. We picked up Mn 13 half a mile from Oakwood and turned north, headed toward New Richland. It is typical farm country, the fields still laying untended, waiting to dry out enough to be tilled for Spring planting. A few miles north of town we passed through a new large wind farm constructed by our local power company. The three bladed windmills are 120 feet tall, from a distance looking a flock of giant storks slowly waving their wings trying to get airborne in the breeze. Recently I read that there are more people employed in wind generation than in the coal industry. Who knew?
At New Richland we turned left onto Mn highway 30, a chalkline of a road snapped across the flat, black farmland. It's a road that disappears at the horizon - the road that goes on forever, forever or Mapleton, whichever comes first. Along the way we flushed a big Redtail Hawk off a power pole near the Prairie Comfort Cemetery, a long abandoned final rest, about a city block square of grass out in the middle of nowhere, the church long gone, fallen to into the ground or maybe hauled away decades ago to be converted to farm storage. Prairie Comfort isn't much. It doesn't have the symbolic Lutheran pearly white iron gates that so many have. Just a sign. It's just cut stone markers rising out of a patch of overgrown prairie grass. Somebody cares though, because the brush hasn't taken over - some great-great-great grandson must cut the grass once or twice a year. A short distance up the road on the right is a goat farm with little goatish cottages scattered across the pasture, each with a goat standing proudly on the roof. I love goat cheese, but I've never really considered that somewhere in the wide world out here, someone is getting up early every day of the year to milk those goddamned goats! (their adjective, not my own).
Rather than going on forever (or to Mapleton) we turned right on Mn 83, maybe the longest speed-bump in the world. Before we got to the village of Waldorf we passed a wooded farmsite which has become a junkyard. The yard and woods around the house are filled with old trucks, cars and farm machinery, head-high piles of miscellaneous, and over-following into the fields a dozen onetime underground fuel tanks, all of these with the pale faded paint coated with a heavy dusting of brick red rust. Acres of it. This is hoarding on a grand scale. After Waldorf the road continues through the villages of Pemberton and St.Clair, then starts wandering a little before hitting Blue Earth County Rd 82, which we took north into Mankato.
In North Mankato we turned left on Mn 14 which sweeps down into the Minnesota River Valley, across the bridge and back up the far side to high ground. The valley is wide far beyond the scale of the river at the bottom, much wider than the Mississippi River Valley. It was created at the end of the ice age when Lake Agassiz broke through the ice dam and emptied into the Minnesota River and eventually into the Mississippi. This was not a valley created by slow erosion over time. It was sudden and spectacular. Considering that Agassiz covered parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and most of Manitoba and Ontario north to Hudson Bay, for a few weeks of it's life the Minnesota was one hell of a river.
That's about it. We got to Dor's in time for a meal of glazed ham, garlic potatoes, and beans - and a chocolate covered cream-puff for desert, spent some time in her apartment talking family affairs, then headed for home after a pit stop at Barnes and Noble, just in case - so we don't run short of books in the next week or two.