Note: For varying reasons, my husband, grandson, and I took a cross-country road trip June 25 to June 29, 2020. I’m belatedly publishing my journal entries.
June 28: Our last night on the road, we stopped in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. On our way to the hotel, we picked up a pizza from a lakeside restaurant. For a moment, I had a fantasy of normal life. The two-man band at the outside bar was playing Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.,” a song I love. I wanted so much to go in, have a drink, sway to the music, chat with the locals — as if there were no pandemic keeping us all apart, just music, pizza, beer, and good times.
Then the band finished the song that I will always associate with another apocalypse — “tall buildings shake, voices escaping singing sad sad songs.” Standing outside on the sidewalk with the dog, I was the only person who clapped. Because the bar may be open, but it is empty. Just because the orchestra is still playing doesn’t mean the ship isn’t sinking.
We had a long day driving across Montana and North Dakota — always a relentless stretch. “North Dakota killed me,” said a German biker we picked up one year at the Cowboy Bar in Medora. He was trying to ride cross country, but the long empty highways of the Peace Garden State (?!) did him and his bike in, and we wound up giving him a ride to Billings. We stopped in Medora as usual this year, but instead of breakfast at the Cowboy Bar, we made lunch at a park outside of town — which was just as nice in its own way. The town was too full of tourists, too empty of masks. Like Utah, Montana, and Wyoming, North Dakota has seen a rise in coronavirus cases.
But as we entered the Midwest, we began to see a shift. The ideology of freedom was replaced by the practicality of health. Minnesotans were wearing masks, or at least not looking at you strange if you were wearing one. Unless, of course, they were singing sad sad songs.