Fargo, ND: Gateway to the West

Flip side Postcard Number 1
(Those postcards look familiar, yes I know. They were used on a previous entry. It’s encouragement to fill out the postcard I have given you along the way!)

The trip up from Sioux Falls was pretty uneventful. Traveling by way of Routes 81, to 11, to 34 to 18 to some other little roads and finally to Broadway St., it was a long drive with few towns or gas stations. From Salina, KS on, fueling stations have been sparse. I regularly questions locals as to what’s ahead in the next town-often stopping if even at three quarters a tank. Except, someone from Circle, MT just gave me a gas can yesterday-but I don’t want to get ahead of the updates….

I rode into Fargo quite cheerfully, around 6pm. It was August 17- the day being my one month on the road anniversary point. Also, I have waited patiently for about 12 years to visit Fargo. And this has nothing to do with the Coen Brothers movie Fargo-which, by the way, wasn’t even filmed there. There were only four states left for me to visit in this country-North Dakota being one and now being done!

As a gift for the P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER anniversary, Phillip gratuitously offered to pay for my lodging at his favorite hotel, the Hotel Donaldson. IMG_1576
And I graciously accepted. I suspect he had a hunch about my physical and mental condition being a bit ragged by then. Me and Audrey scooted up curiously, covered in road dust. Now this was quite a grandiose palace, and as I unsaddled Audrey, I hoped there were no highfalutin characters inside. My room was nicer than my apartment, or any apartment I might ever have. And not a pretentious nice, but a really decadent, artistically pleasant kind of nice. The artwork caught my eye and I perused an informative folder that detailed all the local artistry throughout the building. This excited me-to see that this hotel was actually a community hub. The CD’s laid out in the room, next to the BOSE stereo, were all local musicians. Fighting the urge to nest for the evening on the plush bed, I grabbed the camera and headed out for a walk. At this point, I felt a bit like a reporter from the Travel Channel, but I was grinning ear to ear to be in Fargo and have such a swell place to boot.

I had a couple hours of sunlight left to snap some shots. The first guy I ran across was parking his car, which was packed with instruments. I inquired if he was in the jazz band playing in the lounge. He was. And it turned out he had jammed/partied with some favorite local musicians of Charlottesville, VA-the Hackensaw Boys. A nice coincidence to meet someone who had a connection to my hometown-a world separated by six degrees. Don’t ever doubt how interconnected we are-and what possibilities you might share with a seemingly total stranger! Greeting strangers like friends is how I avoid being lonely on the road!

The downtown area really impressed me. I was searching for a salad somewhere and staring at a sculpture when some nice girls stopped to tell me the point of the painted buffalo. IMG_1558
It’s part of a city art project. They also told me Fargo has more restaurants and coffee shops per capita than anywhere else. But everyone says that it seems. Anyhow, people were really cordial everywhere I went. The evening walk took me well around and through the parameters of downtown. Fargo was founded in 1871 and has a lot of character. It was obvious that the area had been revitalized, but tastefully so. I was informed that private investors and city planners all work well together at long range urban planning. Hope you aren’t bored-but urban planning is exciting stuff to me! I enjoyed that the historic integrity was mostly still intact. It seemed as though many buildings were renovated versus razed. I could feel some old Western culture present amid the tasteful, shiny, modern touches and lighting. I bet early downtown Fargo saw some wild times during its heyday as a railway stop. I also suspect that the Hotel Donaldson (HODO) is a big contributing player in Fargo’s revival. Sightseeing concluded, I went back to explore inside the HODO.

I pushed open a heavy door into the packed low lit, smoky lounge. My only complaint-heavy doors. And I’m not a wimpy spring chicken either! Immediately people made eye contact with me. A classy gentleman at the bar, Tony, clad in pink shirt, introduced himself and a great conversation was born. It turns out he is involved with film making. His latest project is a docu-drama about Fargo, so he spends a lot of time there, otherwise he lives in Chicago. He told me all about the interesting characters that make up the town. It was nice to pick his brain a bit for movie advice. He and the friend he introduced me too were truly engaging fellows. They both took postcards and I hope to get a response from whomever they send ’em off to. I said goodbye and went over across the lobby, into the fancy dining room.

Kate, the server closing up for the night, took this picture of me, pretending to play the piano. We wound up talking for almost an hour. All of the employees at the HODO were so supportive and intrigued by my trip. I also enjoyed hearing their unique stories and appreciated that they all took time to be so candid. I didn’t get to meet the owner of the Hotel Donaldson, she was out of town, but everyone applauded her for creating a family at the HODO. It really shined through too. Of course-I never could have afforded a room there-but the rest of the place was pretty accessible to anyone. I went to the upper floor, also full of locals having a good time. There were some nice views of Fargo from the top.

Before hitting the sack I rolled one last time through the HODO lounge. Igor and Ted gave me big smiles and an invitation to chat-so I obliged. These locals are splendid! While chatting with them, the manager Ben came over to the table and said the HODO had heard about P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER and stood in full support. Generously, he said that the chef had been informed to prepare anything I wanted the next day for the road. I asked how he knew about the trip and he said Kate, the server had mentioned it. Kate walked up just then to return a completely filled out postcard to me! My first month anniversary and the first postcard return! Bonus! It was all very surreal. I hope to see many more postcards make it back to me!

I retired up to the room but couldn’t sleep for the sheer lavishness of it all. My pillows had been turned down-something the campground always forgets to do. I nibbled on the chocolate cookies left for me and read the weather report that had been placed by the bed. At some point I passed out-it all seemed like a dream anyways. I might have jumped up and down on the bed too……

The next morning I poked around some shops looking for a Fargo sweatshirt. It was safe to say I would need one for the road ahead through colder state and plus, I heart Fargo. I never found one though. The chef prepared me a salad and sandwich for the road and couldn’t help wishing they supported my cause enough to offer me a free room for the night.

Before leaving town I needed to pick up a box I had mailed to myself, of extra postcards and stickers. Crystal had sent me a package too, with a dazzling seat cover for Audrey. New Accessory!
It’s fleecy and cushy for my cushion and adds vivid color to my black bike. The peace signs are perfect for the tour-a deep bow to Crystal for her generosity. It was cool to have a present waiting and fortunately, the boxes were located after some searching. The pick up point was a certified Genuine dealer, but the place, Scheels, is more like a sporting goods Disney World. There is even a ferris wheel inside.
Having left the cosmopolitan area of Fargo, I wasn’t too impressed with the rest of what I experienced in Fargo. Fortunately, a kind guy led me to the road I needed to get out of town. I opened up the throttle and headed towards Devil’s Lake. A beautiful ride was waiting and my frustration with some sales people quickly dissipated.
Ferris Wheel in Sporting Goods Store
Thank you to everyone who shared in my long awaited sojourn to Fargo. It was great-you betcha!

Banter that occurred while in Fargo or around the area:

ME: “Do you have any Fargo sweatshirts?”
THEM:”Could you be more specific?”
ME: ” A sweatshirt that says Fargo…”

HIM: “You drive that thing on roads?”
ME: “(as scooter is by a highway, gassing up) No sir, sidewalks only, if its not raining. ”
*note, scooter has VIRGINIA license plates*

5 Replies to “Fargo, ND: Gateway to the West”

  1. Dude – you didn’t take any shots of Moorhead! 😉 I hope you at least had a chance to scoot Moorhead a bit – the 8th Street Rush, the Woodlawn Round, the Main Ave March… Wish I could have been around to ride with ya! Cheers!

  2. BTW if you make it back through Fargo, make sure you stop by the Sidestreet Pub on 3rd Ave and say hi to Steve. Cheers

  3. Unfortunately, I think it may be more exciting to visit Fargo than to actually live here. I’m sure that’s the same wherever you’re from though. Glad you had a good time.

  4. I loved reading your post about my adopted home town of Fargo! I’m a Chicago boy who wandered into town 18 years ago — and never left. I met a local girl and fell in love with her and this great midwestern town.

    Good luck to you! Peace!

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