What We Did This Summer


We cleverly decided to visit the Midwest during the warmest part of the year, August, for reasons that, at the moment, escape me. For the first two weeks we got away with exceptionally unusual nice weather. Iowa and Nebraska had always looked brown and dry, with air that baked one’s brains. This year everything was gloriously green and cool. We became complacent and paid for our naïveté’ soon after we left Wisconsin and entered Minnesota. Every day the temperature shot up higher. The eighties in Wisconsin became nineties in Minnesota, and in North Dakota the thermometer indicated temperatures over 100. 

It was mid afternoon, around three o’clock when we reached Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, and the temperature had reached 107. Just outside of town we noticed that there is a state park that has a large lake after which the town is named. We were hoping that an evening breeze off the water might cool the campsites down a bit. Before pulling our trailer out to the park, we decided that we would buy some fresh lettuce, tomatoes and sweet corn for dinner along with some hamburger to cook on a grill.

We skipped the chain supermarket on the outskirts of town, deciding that we wanted to support a local grocery store. The GPS indicated a store well away from the Interstate, but it had not counted on the massive construction project that blocked several streets on the way. We were diverted by several detours on the way and by the time we were getting close to our destination, the GPS was getting downright abusive with her “Recalculating route.” One could hear the undertone, “Get it right, dumb shit.”

It was disappointing that the grocery store was just another chain that sold everything either wrapped in plastic, frozen, or canned. Plus, considering all the cornfields that we’d passed, there was no sweet corn. But Sheila had noticed a small place on a corner that had a sign that indicated that it had local produce. 

The local market was not far from the supermarket, but there was no direct route because of the street construction. Nevertheless we did not have to put up with sarcastic remarks and insults from the GPS and were allowed to make our way in peace. 

The market was a cute little wooden structure with a flower garden on the side. We were cheerfully greeted by a young American Indian woman as we entered. However, it became immediately obvious that the main fresh products were pots of flowers, not vegetables. She had some potatoes and beets, but no tomatoes. Corn might be coming in a couple of days.

Ok. We decided to pick something up at the chain mega grocery near the freeway. Still no ears of sweet corn. The lettuce was Dole, the hamburger was plastic wrapped, and the tomatoes were fresh —— from Canada.

Devil’s Lake, the body of water, not the town, is the largest lake in North Dakota and is growing.  Got something to do with climate warming I think. There are a large number of dead trees on the periphery of lake, standing in the water. It is a great place for buzzards to hang out and makes for a spooky sight. A state park occupies a large corner of the lake and wild land around  it. The place is renowned for its fishing.


The ranger wanted to know if we wanted to camp by the water, and, if so, there were very few sites left as the place was filling up with boats and fishermen. There were a few places by some trees that looked good to us, but I asked about mosquitoes. She replied that we shouldn’t worry about mosquitoes, but flies.

She was right. It’s difficult to guess why there were so many flies, but they didn’t bite, just seemed to like us, especially our eyes and ears. 

Sheila checked her WWW resources the next morning and found that there was a coffee shop in the town and also had baked goods. Not wanting to have breakfast with the flies, we drove back into Devil’s Lake and dodged the construction to check the shop out. It was then that we noticed how poor the residents seemed to be. People seemed to be wondering around aimlessly at 7:30 in the morning or sitting on concrete curbs smoking. The place looked dismal and hopeless, but there was a bright spot. There was a bar that opened at eight a.m., and there was a man who was standing, waiting for the door to be unlocked. A sign indicated that it would open at 8:00 in the morning and it did not close until 7:00 a.m. 


Next: Endless fields of hay, soybeans and corn. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

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