Sunday 7/15: Sinclair Lewis and The Big Buffalo
Any road trip has its highs and lows. Our last cross-country road trip bottomed out somewhere in Nebraska. Actually, it bottomed out in Nowhere, NE. By lows, I don’t mean anything catastrophic. You just have those days where the scenery never changes and you drive for six hours and it still seems like you’re in the same spot.
Sunday is a low. We set our course for Minnesota, North Dakota and, finally, South Dakota. In our never-ending quest to hunt down local haunts and legends, we make a pit stop in Sauk Centre, MN. Yes, the birthplace of Sinclair Lewis. Oh, you didn’t know that’s where Mr. Lewis hailed from? Me either. And, if you can’t name one of his works, you’re not alone there either. He won a Nobel Prize, was an alcoholic, spent 10 days in a psychiatric institution and died in Rome. I learned that from Wikipedia, not Sauk Centre.
In Sauk Centre we stop to grab a few photos of the allegedly haunted Palmer House Hotel. The hotel looks like any other allegedly haunted hotel on the outside. It also looks like your average non-allegedly haunted hotel. Either way, I grab a few quick shots. We think ,”This would be a great place to leave a few ScareFest passes for a giveaway”. After all, there are paranormal groups here all the time. This hits a primary demographic for ScareFest fans.
Lee goes inside. The inside apparently doesn’t live up to his standards. I think the phrase was “smelled like someone’s attic.” He can’t find anyone around to discuss the giveaway. The only person that appears to work there was an older gentleman who had no interest in talking with him. He steps out from around a corner, looks at Lee and walks up the stairs without a word. Sorry, Palmer House visitors, there’s no free ScareFest passes waiting for you there. That’s the extent of our dealings with the haunted Palmer House. On a side note, we bypassed Sinclair Lewis.
From Minnesota it’s a straight shot across North Dakota. Remember way back when I said you can’t see one Dakota without the other? I was terribly wrong. I’m sure the North Dakotans are great people. However, their roadside attractions leave much to be desired. That is with the exception of the World’s Largest Buffalo. Road Trip Rule #3A states that “One can not, under any circumstance, drive past the World’s Largest anything without stopping for a photograph.” I choose my rule-breaking carefully, so this is one rule that I always abide by. I can proudly say that my family was photographed with the World’s Largest Buffalo. I’m sure it’s something they will remember all their lives. Or, something they will be embarrassed to tell their friends about. Either way, I win. Two important notes about the World’s Largest Buffalo: 1) His name is Dakota Thunder. 2) He’s anatomically correct.
Thankful for this little diversion, we hop back on the devil’s path through North Dakota, but something tells me there’s not much more than this to see off the interstate, either. After a few more hours, we cross the line and leave the monotony of North Dakota in our rear-view mirror. We can now check ND off the list of “States To See” and Sharpie it in under Nebraska on the list of “States To Never See Again”.