Just Down the Road – Part 2

Sometime ago I wrote about a couple of short weekend road trips that some gearhead friends and I had made. The destinations were pretty much in my back yard, just down the road from where I live. You can read that post by clicking here.

This time around, the trip was something of a detour rather than a destination. Since my Chevy II remains garage-bound, I was behind the wheel of my daily driver. But it’s a trip I intend to repeat once the old wheels are new again. The point is that you don’t have to head across the country to find scenery and history.

Welcome to the backyard.

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JUST DOWN THE ROAD near Montevideo MN, these vistas overlook Lac Qui Parle, or the “lake which speaks”, a French translation from the native Dakota language. One of them marks the original site of Fort Renville, a pre-territorial trading post:

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And a bit further down the road, you’ll see this:

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Lac Qui Parle Mission, Chippewa County Minnesota

The Lac Qui Parle Mission is a reconstruction, built on the site of the original 1830’s structure. It was a WPA project, now maintained by the Chippewa County Historical Society and open to the public. Here are a few shots of the building’s interior and the historical background displays within.

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Standing on this hillside, gazing at the original hearthstone from an 1830’s settler’s cabin that lies half-buried in the earth, I can literally feel the history. If for no other reason than because of the old cars we drive, we should be tuned into that. We search for it. It’s our “yearn to turn”! Give us a side road, show us the interstate off-ramp, send us on a quest to uncover roadside America and we salivate. Just the thought of rolling down another unexplored road is enough to set us up for a run. Though we might dream of someday making an epic cross country motorhead marathon, the reality is for most of us that’s just not gonna happen. So what then?

Try a day trip like this one, or a short weekender. The delight of discovery is still there and you won’t totally digest the vacation clock or the budget. Look around. You might check with your local historical society to see if there are any sites of interest near you. Plot a course. Roll with your compadres. You never know what you might find, just down the road.

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Dig the drive!

For more about the Lac Qui Parle Mission, go to the Minnesota State Historical Society’s website by clicking here.

Link to Lac Qui Parle State Park by clicking here.

Cruise the backroads on the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway. Click here.

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