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Monday, April 30, 2012


SPIA is parked under the distant McDonald sign...looking back south into the town of Morris, Minnesota as I walk north on Highway 9 toward the town of Tintah, Minnesota, our final destination for the day.

Walked two legs today: early morning: 20 miles; afternoon: 16 miles

Morning was overcast looking like about to rain and blow. It did neither.

Around 11:00 am, the sky opened up to puffy drifting cumulus with the Sun sweeping away all the low hanging stuff.

Turned out to be an enjoyable day for walking.

Large canal ditches line both sides of Highway 9.

Lots and lots of heavy farming equipment was up and about today...

This machine is spraying fertilizer in preparation for planting.

It has been quite wet until today...every farmer seems to be out in the fields rushing to get seeds into the ground before the predicted 48 hours or so of rain.

This equipment is planting twelve rows of seeds in one pass.

I learned today (from John, whom we meet below) that every field in this region is precisely controlled by GPS instrumentation...first from satellite and then from land based GPS towers.

As the driver is about to plant (or later in the year, harvest), the equipment is aligned by GPS to the ground towers...the field is identified and the driver pushes the GO button...then sits back and watches as the equipment (tractor) is driven precisely controlled by the GPS towers.

In the fall, harvesting is accomplished using the same GPS system.

This is a high speed sprayer. The long arms out front pivot to the sides, covering a wide swath of the field in one pass.

After completing our first walk from Morris, drove SPIA north on Highway 9. Did not intend to stop in Herman, but saw a tiny Cafe, so did a U turn and went inside.

I was treated to a steaming bowl of chili - on the house...thank you.

Please say HELLO to Nick.

Nick is owner of the local newspaper and interviewed me for nearly 1/2 hour.

Please say HELLO to Dan.

Dan and Nick are friends, living in/near Herman, Minnesota.

Dan and I were lunch customers when Nick came in to chat with me, apparently informed of my presence by other lunch customers.

After Nick's interview, we drove to the tiny village of Tintah, 36 miles north of Morris, where we have parked for the night on the street next to Tintah City Park.

I left SPIA parked as I walked south on Highway 9 for another 16 miles, before returning to Tintah, where I stopped in at John's Bar to visit and down a cold Coors Light.

John's Bar...where I was the only customer until visits by two local farmers.

At one time, Tintah sported a sidewalk along Highway hidden under overgrown grass.

Please say HELLO to John, owner of John's Bar.

John and I chatted for over an hour, during which John shared some videos documented by his Son, detailing the harvesting of Sugar Beets.

It was John who enlightened me regarding local crop rotation. Corn is by no means the only crop grown. Crop rotation is critical to keep the soil balanced year after year. The rotation is:

Wheat, followed by Corn, followed by Soy Beans, followed by Sugar Beets.

Sugar Beets is by far the most valuable crop...but also takes the most OUT of the soil.

Please say HELLO to Noel.

Noel, like many of John's customers, is a local farmer. We also chatted for quite some time before Noel excused himself...seems most local farmers are working through the night to complete planting before the expected rains come tomorrow.

In the morning, SPIA will remain parked as I walk north on Highway 9 toward the town of Breckenridge, Minnesota, 23 miles distant.

At Breckenridge, we will change to Highway 210 / 13 West, crossing the border into North Dakota. Our next large city will be Minot, North Dakota, where we pick up US 2, which will take us all the way to Washington State.

ETA at the Peace Arch, USA / CANADA crossing is still July 15, 2012.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


It was cold...not a breath of wind...fog hovering at ground level as I set out at daylight this morning from Benson, Mississippi, bound for Morris, 25 miles distant.

Made three legs today: 14 miles; 8 miles; and 8 miles.

The wind suddenly picked up while returning to SPIA on leg #1, causing me to miss a step resulting in hyper extending my left knee...a potential moderate injury which requires some rest...nonetheless, I continued to walk on it all day. Climbed onto SPIA's roof to repair a leak that developed a couple days ago...also not good for that knee.

Weather forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms the next 72 hours...

Initial image above is the Chippewa River rushing under the railroad trestle (bridge).

Last evening, Reed told me that the CASE (farm machinery manufacturer) Company has moved its COMBINE (Harvesting Machine for grains - wheat, corn, etc) to the town of Benson. They are in need of a couple hundred employees, but cannot find them locally. A second company is also looking for employees...a scarcity here in Benson, Minnesota.

Our initial walk took us to and beyond the village of Clontarf, Minnesota, about 6 miles distant from Benson.

Returning to SPIA, we drove to the town of Hancock, Minnesota - 15 miles distant -, where we parked SPIA as I walked BACK toward Clontarf for 2 + hours.

Along the way, two freight trains passed, ghosting through the thick fog which did not dissipate until well after noon.

The above image clearly shows the train head above and two down low...all trains in America have this headlight arrangement.

We are only 55 miles from reaching the border of North Dakota.

Above is a full scale North Dakota map with our planned route drawn in orange.

We will cross into North Dakota Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

Larger detail of the first few miles of our North Dakota route....the orange line in the blue at bottom right is still in Minnesota.

Leaving Hancock after completing another 8 miles, we drove the 10 miles to Morris, where SPIA has found a safe overnight parking spot next to the local McDonalds...where I bought lunch:

Big Mac + Fries + Med. Chocolate Shake = $7.50...outrageous. Must do better or our $$ will be gone by mid-month.

Morris is another of the smallish villages that is losing residents.

Main street - Highway 9 - on a Sunday afternoon.

I checked in with a local Policeman; he was pleased I did so and will let his colleagues know of my passing through.

One of the more interesting business buildings...


This fellow looks serious.

Please say HELLO to Donny.

Donny interrupted his penal work to explain that half the town doesn't even know what his business is quite dark on his street at night, so he is in the process of installing a bigger pole to install a Lighted Digital the hopes it will improve his business at OLD NO 1 BAR AND GRILL.

...and, please say HELLO to Amy, Donny's charming wife and partner.

Amy tells me she is checking City Regulations to see how far from the Building & Street Donny can install his new sign. Hope Donny's hole is in the correct place.

Amy also shared that her 6 year old daughter is at the moment out in the woods next to their home trying to find and catch the Fawn (baby deer) that has been coming into their yard...she caught a rabbit which was encouraging, but is determined to get her Fawn.

Knee should heal by morning; must keep moving to reach the Peace Arch by July 15.

Am somewhat reluctant about US 2...checking the maps, there are many long stretches of desolate country...taking 2 or 3 days to reach the next town. Guess we will find what kind of meddle we are made of...not the first such challenge we have faced during our quest.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


SPIA and I enjoyed a comfy night parked in the BP Gas Station in West Willmar. Was up at 5:00 am, wind rocking SPIA and pounding a tattoo on the roof.

Turned on SPIA's propane furnace and nearly went back to sleep...only to think about all I would miss if I didn't get out and shake some, I rolled out, made up my bed, prepared my porridge (hot oatmeal), dressed, and leaving SPIA in the empty / CLOSED gas station, began walking West on US 12 in the windy cold rain.

3.5 hours later, I returned to SPIA, drove to the NEW Willmar...that place a mile or so South of old town, where 1.5 miles of Shopping Center after Shopping Center lined Highway 23.

Stopped in at a number of big box and little box stores looking for a leather punch...all to no avail.

I must say, the sales persons I met were a bit in a fog...neither friendly nor disrespectful...kinda just not altogether together.

I felt uncomfortable and was not displeased to drive west out of Willmar to the town of Kerkhoven, where SPIA parked while I walked another 3.5 hours (12 miles); still needing 7 miles to reach the town of Benson, Minnesota, our evening destination.

US 12 West, leaving Willmar.

Seeing this sign, I knew we were in the North Country. One sees this sign only when a roadway is subject to closeing because of drifting snow blocking the road somewhere up ahead.

US 12 passing through Kerkhoven.

Lousy picture, but I include it because of the sign reading: GLACIAL PLAINS COOPERATIVE.

Yesterday, I theorized that the glaciers of 10,000 years ago had a lot to do with the topography...including soil composition and 10,000 lakes - of Minnesota.

A rather interesting photograph of black soil contrasting with umber marsh grass...the two main elements to be found in this part of Minnesota.

This sign is placed at the entrance of every town along the Minnesota Highways I have walked.

A good idea to let drivers know they better get on the brakes.

Look at Kerkhoven from West to East as I returned from my second walk of the day.

This establishment, I am informed, is owned by the town of Benson, Minnesota...a nice business for the township to have. SPIA is spending the night parked as you see her above.

After parking, I walked BACK East to pick up the 7 miles we needed to reach Benson.

A railroad runs through the middle of Benson, effectively cutting it in half.

It was suggested that I consider dinner at Duffy's Tavern (really called Duffy's Bar and Grill), as having unusually excellent food.

Although my Debit Card was near empty...and still 4 days to "payday", I decided to visit Duffy's and at least look around.

On the way to Duffy's, I met up with this cute apparition, dancing on the street corner, enticing passing motorists to attend the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars - of which I am a member -Saturday Night Fundraiser festivities.

Asking permission to photograph the apparition, it immediately leaped over to the light pole and did what any normal male dog would do...I don't see anything running, I it started to run in circles...No No...I didn't see any stream of pee...I'm good, it replied, but not quite THAT good.

...and what might your name be?...I'm called SPOT. Well, I'm Bruce, walking America...your doing WHAT?...walking America...I walk lots doing this gig, but never America...etc. etc.

We hit it off immediately.

Handing it my SAM & ME business card, it removed a "paw", revealing several artistically painted finger nails and a delicate white been practicing that Pole & ME trick?...oh, that...yep...said I was good.

I reluctantly shook paws, pinched "her" nose, and walked the final block to Duffy's.

Duffy's is a darkened Den, buzzing with chatter from the many folks sitting around tables scattered across the large double room. I took a "high" table with stools - arrogantly placing myself where I could not be missed from any direction, and ordered PRIME RIB, end-cut, well done...OK OK, I know in "good" restaurants, I would have been chased out with a broom, but they considered the fact that my Server recognized me - I was in my "foul weather" regalia - because it was still blowing, raining, and the temperature was dropping from the previous high for the day of 42 F.

My daughter and I saw you early this morning as we drove to were walking East a couple miles from Willmar. Where you walking to...from...(and so it went)

Please say Hello to Linda.

Linda was my Server this evening at Duffy's. She was so attentive and fun to chat with...but insisted I could not use my American Express Credit Card, and my Debit Card was near empty.

The Debit Card cleared OK, but left me nothing to give Linda a tip. Just want you to know, Linda that I owe you.

Please say Hello to Reed Afinson.

As I was stacking up my empty dishes for Linda, Reed stepped over to my table, asking if I were really walking America. Several minutes later, Reed introduced himself as the Owner of the local Benson Newspaper and PRESIDENT of the National Newspaper Association.

Reed had just driven back home to Benson from - I believe he said - I forget, but someplace on the banks of the Missouri River, a very long drive from Benson; and, instead of heading right home, stopped to chat with me.

Reed was taking notes all the while we spoke...dumb me, I had nothing to write on (I know, Karen, I MUST carry your gifted notepad and pencil).

To say the least, Reed and I had a very interesting conversation about a number of topics...mostly before I know who he was and what he represented.

I am pleased and humbled, Reed, for your visit and sharing your time instead of rushing home after your long exhausting day of speaking engagements.

...and, last but not least, please say Hello to Dan (l.), Matthew, and Marsha, sitting at the adjoining table as Reed and I visited.

When Reed left to rush home, Dan asked...are you really walking America...and so it started all over again. The three of them had just been served their dinner. After I gave a quick overview of SAM & ME, Dan would ask another question. This back and forthing went on for the entire time they were eating...and for some time after.

I was so pleased to spend time with such kind and interesting folks at Duffy's...visited on a whim...sometimes the most pleasurable and fruitful...especially after slogging wet windy cold roadways all day.

Thank you all.

In the morning, SPIA remains parked while I walk West on Highway #9, toward the town of Morris, 25 miles distant.

To share the evening weather of Benson, it is very cold, still as a hiding mouse, with heaviness in the air as thick fog wafts through the streets and down the railroad tracks on my way back to SPIA. SPIA's propane furnace has been turned on since I returned...temperature inside is 60 F., but the chill lingers along the floor...oops, the furnace kicked in just as I wrote those words...

Will make up my bed, read some Kindle, and snuggle under Karen Estey's gifted goose down Duvet.

Nite Nite