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Day 33 – Goin’ to Kansas City

It was almost evening on Day 32 when I left the Mississippi River behind me and headed west, chasing the sun. I had hoped to make it to North Dakota before dark, but it was clear that I was too late for that goal.

The headwaters were close enough to North Dakota—another state I had never visited—that I knew I should make the detour over there. I wouldn’t be able to stay, since I wanted to be in Kansas City the next day and Oklahoma the day after that.

Some might think it is a shame to only visit North Dakota in the dark. But, many people think it is a shame to visit North Dakota period. The state is slightly larger than Missouri but has a population slightly smaller than Jackson County, which is where Kansas City is located.

So, not many people choose to live there. Not many choose to visit, either. It doesn’t have much top-of-mind-awareness. Quick: name one interesting fact about North Dakota.

Not an easy task, is it?

I did discover at least one such fact: North Dakota is home to the world’s tallest structure. Southeast Asia might have passed the U.S. by building skyscrapers taller than the Sears Tower, but North Dakota has them beat for the title of world’s tallest man-made thing. The tallest structure is a TV tower between Fargo and Grand Forks—a 2,063 foot erector set broadcasting KVLY to the 14 people who do not yet have cable or a satellite receiver.

I tried to get a photo of it, in the dark, from about 8 miles away. The string of flashing red lights, warning any planes or low-flying satellites about the presence of the gigantic stick, seemed impressively tall even from that distance.

Even though I rested my camera on a steady object, though, the photo turned out oddly and eerily abstract.

As I drove south along the eastern edge of North Dakota, in the dark, I was still able to see what there was to see in the area. Namely: nothing. I am pretty much an expert on nothing, considering where I grew up, and North Dakota was one of the more extreme examples I have seen. Other than Fargo, there were hardly any house or city lights to be seen, and the landscape was flat enough that you can see a really long distance.

At a Starbucks in Fargo, where I stopped to do some correspondence, I asked the barista what there was to see or do in North Dakota. I figured that I already knew the answer, but was surprised when she started naming off a long list: museums, minor league sports teams, zoos, local music joints, the International Peace Garden, and the birthplace of Lawrence Welk.

I thanked her for her help, but then continued on my way South in the dark. There might be things to see and do in North Dakota, but nothing that I wanted to see or do so badly that I would spend an extra day there.

I spent half the long night at a rest stop in North Dakota, but woke up well before dawn and drove into South Dakota before getting tired again and stopping for a nap. So, I never did see North Dakota in the daylight. But, I am sure it looks pretty much like what I saw in South Dakota.

I’m goin’ to Kansas City
Kansas City, here I come
I’m goin’ to Kansas City
Kansas City, here I come
They’ve got some crazy little women there and I’m…
Well, I try to stay away from the crazy ones

I have friends in Kansas City, and one of them stated that I had to go through Kansas City on my trip to visit them.

Well, if I have to.

This friend also offered to set me up with one of her friends in Kansas City, a girl who had been complaining that there was a shortage of good dating prospects in the city. This was my chance, perhaps, to get one of the crazy little women mentioned in the song. I politely declined, partly because starting a long-distance relationship sounded like an unnecessary hassle, and partly because I wasn't sure that I wanted a crazy woman.

Before meeting my friends for supper, I stopped in the city for an overdue haircut. I asked the female stylist what she thought of Kansas City. She laughed.

“Well, I’m moving away from here as soon as I can make arrangements, if that tells you anything.”

“Really? Are you moving somewhere in particular, or just anywhere away from here?”

“Oh, yeah; I’m going to St. Louis. I have friends there.”

“Why do you want to leave Kansas City so badly?”

“Well, so I can find a husband, to put it bluntly.”

“So…you can’t do that here?”

“No, this town sucks. It’s the worst place in the country to meet singles. Like, I’m not just saying that; someone did a study, and Kansas City rated as the worst big city to meet singles at.”

Interesting. The only two people I had talked with in this town, so far, had both mentioned the same problem. Perhaps that’s why the little women are crazy there.

I left to meet with my four college friends who live in KC, all of whom are married and were married before they ever moved to the city.

After fun times at Buffalo Wild Wings with Stu and Amanda and Trey and Alexis, I spent the night at a church camp.

Alexis is pretty much the person in charge of the camp, and was gracious enough to volunteer a place to stay. Since it is basically a summer camp, I pretty much had the entire place to myself. I was the only resident of what amounted to a large hotel building, and had access to another empty building halfway across the camp just in case I wanted to use the clothes washer and dryer in the back.

The only other visitors at the camp that night were the African Children’s Choir. Surely they are not really from Africa, I thought, after seeing their bus. You don’t drive a bus over from Africa.

As Alexis explained to me, though, the kids actually were from Africa, and did not come from a good situation there, either. They were brought to the U.S. and toured in the choir as a humanitarian effort. There were not any parents along on the trip, and I got the impression that none of the kids really had any parents.

How sad. But, it sounds like it is not at all unusual.


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© 2006 by Kevin McConaghy. All rights reserved.