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Somewhere Near Fargo

The new American middle of nowhere.

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SOMEWHERE near Fargo- “They have Target out here,” my wife said.

“I don’t think they have anything out here,” I countered.

She then pointed to a Target truck speeding down the highway in front of us. “That is how we know we’re still in civilization.”

We’re around two hours out from Fargo, the new American euphemism for “middle of nowhere” on our way to getting even farther “out there.”

North Dakota is next.

“There is nothing in Montana compared to New York,” my nephew Seth told me on the phone the other day. “But people in Montana say there is nothing in North Dakota.”

The hotel we stayed at in northern Minnesota. 


Liquor store where I picked up a much needed case of New Belgium beers. 

The United States is more nothing than it is something. People in other countries often don’t understand this. They think American is all big cities, high-streets, and rodeos. It’s actually mostly rural, mostly poor, mostly sub-educated. Midwestern highway rest stops tell the true story of this place: fat guts, dirty brows, hanging jowls, muttering grade-A certified dumb shit.

This is the America that I know… and like.

“Can you put on a country station?” my wife asked.

She regrets not getting the Bills trucker hat.

City life tempers a person — it puts you in large pool of competitors and puts you in your proper place. No matter how good you are, in a big city there is probably always going to be many others who are better. City life makes you humble; city life makes you realistic.

In the countryside the fishbowls are much smaller, the fish that you measure swords against are much fewer in number and smaller in size. It is easy to get an overinflated concept of self when living in the countryside. It’s easy to be a top dog in Big Butte, Montana. It’s easy to grow up feeling that you are exceptional, something special, and you hold onto big dreams that should realistically be extinguished.

In small towns morons go through life thinking they’re geniuses, doofs never discover that they’re not comedians, and conspiracy theorists never see the day when they’re unceremoniously debunked. .

My psychosis is perhaps rooted to the fact that, yes, I come from a small town. However, I have yet to grow out of it …

Crossing into Montana wasn’t an affair to celebrate. We still had a long way to go. My joke at the onset of the trip — “Once we hit the Montana border we’re half way there” — wasn’t too far off.


We realized that we could shave an hour off our journey by taking a more direct route in the north rather than the interstate. We didn’t realize until it was too late that we were about to travel for hours along a windy, thin, shoulder-less road through remote countryside. There was no cell signal. Nowhere to pull over. Where the tarmac stopped the ditch began. There was hardly even any driveways or houses. It was pure effing scary nothing. I never did come up with a plan for what I would do if we broke down.

Montana has one of the highest rates of highway death in the country. They put up white crosses on the side of the road where people have died. Montana also has one of the lowest tax rates.

Sure, you don’t need to allocate revenue from the government coffers to build shoulders on the sides of highways or to put up stoplights but …

We pulled into a small town called Jordan and got a room at the Garfield Inn.


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Filed under: Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Road Trip

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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