Insights Where You Least Expect Them
I just got back from my longest work-related car trip to date - Fargo to Pierre, SD - and I'm amazed at the lessons I learned along the way.
The first thing I learned is that Mapquest may not be the best source of directions. I also learned that even with directions, my sense of direction isn't all that great - and sometimes that's OK.
From the map it looks like the route is pretty straightforward - west to Bismarck and then south. Or so I thought. Since that looked pretty easy, I didn't print out the directions or the map and just had it in my head that that's how I would go. So I planned a much-needed visit with my good friend Bonnie in Bismarck, with a stop to see my friend Chris and then I'd make copies of my handouts at Staples in Bismarck before I left and be in Pierre by 5:30 or so.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans, right? Well, I got a late start, and left my house at 7:50 instead of 7:30 as I'd hoped. One thing I forgot is that summer is the season of road construction so I had a couple of minor slowdowns, but it wasn't too bad. I got to Bonnie's by 10:30 and we had a wonderful visit.
From there I headed over to Chris' office. Chris has a really cool company called The Rainmaker Group, and I'm very fortunate to be an affiliate of this company. Chris has always said that if I need to finish any work or have a place to park while I'm in Bismarck, I'm always welcome there. So I stopped by to finish up my handouts, and snapped this photo of Chris' license plate (I had to send it to Phil!) before I headed over to Staples to make my copies. In talking to Chris and his associate Don on the way out, they informed me that the road I needed to catch to head to Pierre was 22 miles back east before I could head south. Another glance at the Mapquest map confirmed that I had looked too quickly and thought Pierre was directly south of Bismarck. Oh well, what's 22 miles?
So I headed over to Staples. One thing I forgot about is that making 20 sets of 30-page handouts takes some time, so I had another 90-minute delay. Fortunately there was a Cold Stone Creamery across the street!
With handouts in hand, I headed back to I-94 to my 22-mile redirection to Highway 83 south with a straight shot to Pierre. What a cool little drive through southern North Dakota! I ended up driving right past Strassburg, ND, the birthplace of Lawrence Welk. Things were humming along until I got to the South Dakota border.
All of a sudden I was stopped behind a pickup, which was stopped behind a car, which was stopped behind a gravel truck. As I looked ahead, it looked like they were carving the road out of the prairie. We were stopped so a pilot car could take us over the left side of this new road, which was covered with fresh oil and gravel. We waited there for about 20 minutes, and then were guided slowly through the tar to the other side of the construction zone.
From there it was like a different world. There were rolling hills which, because of the extremely dry conditions, looked more like sand dunes. As far as I could see there was nothing but prairie. I knew what Laura Ingalls Wilder must have felt like. Most of the other cars and pickups eventually peeled off and went their separate ways and it was like I was out in the wilderness by myself. Until I came upon an orange and white striped barricade with a sign that said "Road Closed" with a detour sign pointing east, leading to a gravel road. Great.
So I followed the sign for about 10 miles over washboard gravel roads until the sign pointed me south again, and then back west to catch the original road. Now I'm back in the desert-prairie, with no one around. No towns, no farms, just an occasional horse or cow or buffalo herd. Checking my cell phone I noticed that I didn't have a signal for about an hour, which was even eerier.
Now the old me would have been frustrated and upset - with the people at Mapquest who told me this was the route to take, with Staples for taking 90 minutes to copy my handouts, with the South Dakota highway department for making me take a 22 mile detour over gravel roads - but I was not upset. It was very strange. Sometimes I just need to do a check-in with myself and see how I'm doing and I'm still a little amazed at this new me. After all, I'd spent most of my life being upset and then wondering why things didn't work out the way I wanted. Hmmm.
When I eventually pulled into my hotel parking lot at 8:30 - just 3 hours later than I wanted - I had a new outlook. I got my stuff together for the next day's presentation and went to bed.
The next day the presentation was great, the people were wonderful (thank you to everyone at South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks!) and I learned so much! I attended their organization's annual picnic and met some great folks. I learned about conservation wildlife - tracking otters and chasing mountain lions and hunting and fishing and even about the Sturgis, SD motorcycle rally which explained all the Harleys I had seen in the parking lot of my hotel (Sturgis is about 2 hours from Pierre).
When I left Pierre yesterday I decided to take a different route home. I traveled north on 83 to Highway 12 - about 60 miles or so - and then headed east on 12. This new route took me directly through the town where my sister and her family live, so I stopped and had lunch with my sister and my niece. This new route even gave me a long stretch of 4-lane highway right up to I-29 which I took north right into Fargo.
When I go back to Pierre in a couple of weeks, I'm going to take I-29 south to 12 and straight into Pierre. But I'm grateful for the detours, the scenery, the stop in Bismarck "on the way" out there. It showed me parts of South Dakota - and parts of me - I didn't realize were there.