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July 31, 2008 |
Dear Mr. Keillor,
One of the casualities of the high price of gas is the pure pleasure of getting in the car, putting on some favorite music or radio show, and driving off to the country back roads.
These aimless adventures always perked up my spirits and chased away for awhile the burdens of the world.
The west part of Marin and Sonoma counties offers rural pleasures of dairy farms and gentle rolling hills.—a refreshing diversion for the mind and senses.
Do you have any favorite routes when life closes in a little too tight?
Rohnert Park, Ca.
West Marin is great for an old prairie driver, with those hairpin turns on the coastal highway—no guard rail, the ocean surf hundreds of feet below, your passenger stamping her right foot on an imaginary brake—and I've driven it a hundred times from SF north to Stinson Beach and through groves of eucalyptus past the old tiedye compound of Bolinas and up through the dairy farms around Pt. Reyes and north. (It sort of staggers a Minnesotan's imagination to see Holsteins and fabulous scenery together, like running into Lutherans in France—didn't know it could happen.) For driving near home, we flatlanders like to cruise along the Mississippi south from St. Paul. There's a very pretty road on the Wisconsin side and a faster one on the Minnesota side. The little town of Stockholm WI is worth a stop and you cruise on down to Pepin and cross over to Wabasha MN which is worth poking around in and then head back home. Now that I am part-owner of a little restaurant in Avon MN, I like to head up there and the backroads are the preferred route, of course—I like to take Highway 55 which follows the Soo Line railroad out of Minneapolis (my grandpa worked for the Soo Line) and clears the suburbs eventually and reaches Buffalo and then Annandale where the Soo Line held their big employee picnics and Watkins, birthplace of Gene McCarthy, and Paynesville where the Sanctified Brethren used to hold summer Bible conferences and then you head north on county roads toward Avon which is nestled in lakes. You drive through rolling farmland dotted with ponds and strung with river valleys and long before you get to Avon, you are over whatever was troubling you. The trip I was hoping to take this summer and cannot—because work beckons—is the long drive west through South Dakota and the Black Hills and into the Shell Mountains and then onto the amazing high plateau of Wyoming which is one of my favorite states to drive. It's so enormous that 70 miles an hour feels like a crawl and you edge up toward 90 and you're still crawling. A vast sky and the great plain and it's even more stunning when you pull off onto a gravel road and go for a walk. Especially at sunset or on a clear night under the stars. I would be bitterly disappointed if my life did not include at least three more driving trips across Wyoming. The drive north from Rock Spring to Jackson Hole is also spectacular and there is a thrilling drive from Red Lodge MT down to Cody over the mountains, but it's not for relaxation, it's for pure excitement like the coastal road in Marin.