• Jeff Fox: On the road, it can be rough

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  • It took 16 months, but I finally got my map.
    Having forsaken the Land of Sky Blue Waters many years ago to come back home to the Queen City of the Trails, I have proven the Minnesota years taught me nothing.
    Yes, people live there because summer means highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s, and if you’re lucky you’ll hear the far-off warble of a loon now and then. It doesn’t get any better than that.
    But much of life is predicated on timing, and I have an uncanny ability to find the wrong place at the wrong time. Last year a friend talked me into a ballgame – against the Royals, no less – at the new Target Field right there in downtown Minneapolis. An outdoor field, at last, after all those years of mediocre sporting experiences – baseball, basketball, football – at the Metrodome.
    It was outdoor baseball on a fair summer day in Minnesota. What could go wrong? Well, other than 95 degrees and 200 percent humidity, nothing. We had a grand time, sweltering and chugging overpriced lemonade as Jim Thome of the Twins hit a 972-foot home run off Felipe Paulino and the Royals lost.
    That’s fine. It’s what they do. I was with friends, and it was a nice weekend in the Twin Cities.
    But no maps.
    I don’t have a GPS device, frankly don’t need one and am a little worried that we’re devolving into a species that cannot go from Point A to Point B without permission and explicit direction from a computer. I know where north is, and I can read, so I get around. The great states of the union are complicit in this low-tech conspiracy, handing out free maps at the border to all comers.
    So one keeps a fresh supply in the car. I might get to Oklahoma, Minnesota or New Mexico every two or three years, so I make the stop for a free map, a clean restroom and a pleasant smile from the attendant also offering guides to every city and tourist trap all the way up to International Falls. I figure all those years the Land of 10,000 Taxes ought to afford me a map now and then.
    Unless, of course, the state government is closed, as it was in July 2011. This is what happens when grownups cannot play well together: The government shuts down, and the vital free flow of maps comes to a halt. Luckily, I found my way home.
    The other thing one would learn living in the Land of Endless North is to think twice before a trip there in November. The snow flies early. But there was a family thing, so – old map in hand – we set out. OK, Minnesota isn’t that hard to find, assuming you can make your way to I-35. And the government is open again, so by golly I did stop and get a map. I resisted the spiteful temptation to take two.
    Page 2 of 2 - There was the family thing, but there was also a little free time, so I can report that REI, the high-end outdoor gear co-op opening a metro area store next fall, is entirely cool. I can’t wait.
    I notice the company’s website gives store locations in latitude and longitude, that is, GPS coordinates. These are, after all, outdoors people. Maybe they’re trying to tell me to update my game. Of course, REI sells lots of maps and GPS devices, so I guess they win either way.
    Jeff Fox promises his Twitter followers that he’s entertaining and informative. He’s @Jeff_Fox. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net.

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