Minnesota and Wisconsin (Day 8-9)

After Roosevelt National Park, it's mostly driving on pitted highways, at 55 m.p.h., through the Badlands and into the south Lake Superior zone of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Buffalo Bill morphs into Paul Bunyan, or, the ranches and Wild West drop off and forests and log cabins enter view.

My observations can only be perfunctory with so little time to stop and see, but the entire swath strikes me as tough, tough land. The bedrock physical environment is cold, stony, with the kinds of forests made for dense clouds of black flies. Meanwhile the overlying culture, if culture is the right term, expresses itself in pro-life messaging, gun shops, off-road riding, and a mixture of "The Lord Cometh" signs and flags so dull and tattered they'd probably strike other Americans as blasphemous.

I keep wondering as we travel through, has all resistance to this empire-serving worldview been exterminated, because I can't find a trace to the contrary. 

For instance, we pass plenty of signs for "Indian reservations," including Standing Rock where the pipeline protests occurred over the final months of the Obama administration, some 100 miles south of us. Here at least I expect to see something, a little wayward graffiti, a sticker, but if it was once there it's been erased. And what's left is the same old hostile packaging by whites: smoke shop motifs, Hollywood dead Indian and noble savage stuff. Nothing dignified, nothing from the Lakota, Sioux, or Cheyenne themselves.

If in Southern California a kind of quietism and venality prevails among those best positioned to stand up and oppose the terrorism of Republicans, in this part of the country it feels more like an environment of direct threats which prevent deviation.

At least that's how it feels in the smaller places. In Fargo, the largest city along the way, we only have to step over a group of young women scrawling pro-life slogans in chalk on the sidewalks. Then we hit on a handful of hip bars, though in each someone tells us right at the door, at 6:30 p.m., to leave because of the minors in our tow. In a health food store we chat with the employees and they help us locate a place to eat that isn't a chain and maybe even has a vegetarian option. That turns out to be a great punk-inspired pizzeria. The beer is good. The kids get a bit woozy on it.

We sleep somewhere I can't remember, only that all the TVs in the common spaces are tuned to Fox and Friends and everyone is decked out in camouflage, I guess to hunt people like us.

Nearer the border crossing, in Marquette, Michigan, it starts to feel more like home, with all kinds of patina-rich mills and red brick. This here is a "pocket dock," in case you're ever on Jeopardy. It was built in 1857 and loads ore onto boats. No longer in use, though, it lords over the harbour, oxidizing, ghostly, smack in the middle of everything.        

And a little of the downtown.

And finally something that isn't Republican, tucked away at the back of a building in an alley.