Chapter 2 introduces a new character. One who it seems we will be reading about for a while: the Dakotas. As the Narrator and his riding group leave Minnesota and head into the Dakotas, the predominant impression is one of repetition, of monotony. Infinitely straight roads, a flat, level landscape that stretches into vast distances, an unbroken horizon…there is a rhythmic harmony to this repetition which strikes me as “Zenish.” Anyone see “Fargo” recently?
As a child I was obsessed with maps, specifically map of the United States. I had several atlases and even a 48-piece puzzle of the contiguous states when I was very young. I used to put that thing together over and over and the continual practice turned me into an American geographical expert who could name state capitals and visualize the country’s layout on a level way beyond even most adults.
I was always struck by the Great Plains and how…flat they looked. Seems you can tell a lot about a region’s natural geography by the roads and civic boundaries. As the Narrator pointed out in chapter 1, the roads which are winding on a map were usually his favorite for they were the most scenic and untouched. Winding roads usually hint at hills or mountains; same with county lines. If the county lines are ragged and twisty, usually the area is not flat. Take a look at a map of the Midwest and the county lines are straight and angular. It’s like looking at groups of boxes pieced together, side by side, in order to form larger square-shaped states.
Here is a small chunk of the Dakotas viewed as a roadmap in the vicinity of Fargo (the most recognized name in the region thanks to the Coen brothers).
Yep, no hills there!
I set out to find photos posted through the internet which might capture the spirit of the Dakotas which the Narrator, his son, and the Sutherlands are biking through in their quest to reach Montana. Here are several I thought were beautiful.
Nathan and Kelli Bike Across America!!
I think the Narrator would love the bicycling approach of this couple and the immersion it allows into the natural environment.