The Saratoga Sun -

Trouble in the Twin Cities

The Ramble Report

 


It doesn’t take long for misfortune to find me on this journey. It’s January, 2015, and I’m on the first leg of a long Greyhound voyage from Chicago Ill. to Rapid City S. D., where I’ll be visiting a friend I haven’t seen in years, in a place I’ve never been anywhere near. So begins another day in my itchy-footed life.

Following a 10 p.m., snowy departure from downtown Chicago, my bus rolls dutifully Northward to Milwaukee, Wis., then Minneapolis, Minn.

Not fast enough though. Sub-zero blizzard conditions keep our speed low, and an overmatched heater makes for a long, cold trek. Reading Paul Bowles’ take on the Sahara Desert does little to keep my toes warm, and when I do finally take a shot at sleep my leather jacket isn’t quite large enough to use as a blanket. Rest comes in fitful fifteen minute increments as the bus creaks and moans its way to a late arrival.

The sun’s coming up as we pull into St. Paul, and it’s full-on morning by the time we park in the Minneapolis terminal. As the vehicle’s pneumatics hiss, our driver announces what I’ve already begun to suspect: We’ve missed the day’s single connection to Rapid (locals don’t bother adding the “City,” I’ve discovered from my seat mate, Anson). Us passengers will be stuck here till the next bus leaves at 6:30 the following morning.

Had the driver said something about this earlier?

On this point, I’m somewhat confused. The driver’s voice was low and garbled on the PA, and I’d spent the last several hours spun on fiction, sleep deprivation and a few nips of whiskey to stave off the cold.

Whatever the case, it’s moot. I’m here, it’s 8 a.m. and I have to figure out somewhere to stay. It’s problem-solving time.

Opening up my laptop I put out a general S.O.S. on Facebook, fire an email off to an acquaintance I think is in the area and phone Ben (the buddy I’m meeting in Rapid), waking him up. Ben, an old pal from my college soccer team, suggests getting in touch with Kate. She had played on the women’s team at our school, and Ben sends me her number, saying he was pretty sure she lives in the Twin Cities these days.

Miraculously, Kate isn’t teaching this particular Friday morning, and though it’s been years, she’s excited to have a totally unexpected houseguest. Arrangements are made, and after helping my seat mate Anson get in touch with some cousins of his in Sioux City, Iowa, I say goodbye to my fleeting friend, throw my duffel bag over my shoulder and leave the Greyhound terminal for Kate’s apartment.

The sky outside is gemstone blue, and a vicious wind scythes between the city’s moderately-sized skyscrapers. Built with just such days in mind, many of these 15-20 story edifices feature bridge-like enclosed walkways linking building to building. Staring at these strange connectors suspended 15 or 20 feet above me, I idly wonder how many blocks a Minnesotan could walk without stepping outside.

As punishing as the mile-and-a-half walk is, it’s also undeniably invigorating to me. I love the angle and intensity of the early morning sun, the challenge of navigating a new town with a sketch map I’d drawn myself minutes before, the fact that I could go from stranded and adrift in a place I’d never been to safely harbored in an old friend’s home in the space of an hour.

This feeling I get, while battling terror with efficacy, subduing the unexpected with a flourish of improvised countermeasures - this is the essence of why I travel. There’s nothing like it to keep you sharp, and alive and young.

 

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