Dakota Thunder vs. Salem Sue

North Dakota is weird.

Don’t get me wrong. I like weird! I’m the guy who drove miles out of his way to check out Carhenge, after all. I’m simply making an observation.

If you’re wondering what makes North Dakota weird, let’s start with the state’s odd obsession with giant animals. During our weekend visit, we paid homage to both the world’s largest buffalo and the world’s largest Holstein cow.


Dakota Thunder, the pride of Jamestown.


Salem Sue. Don’t ask me to explain the veins because I have no freakin’ idea.


You could see Sue from miles away on the interstate. We had to pull over and check her out!


DT looms large over the landscape, too.

I haven’t bothered to verify either of those claims, but make no mistake about it, each is unequivocally pretty damn big. I’m not sure which I liked better, Dakota Thunder or Salem Sue. Both were located on ridges with sweeping views of the surrounding prairie, so that was a draw. And they both satisfied my kitsch-loving heart equally.

Overall, we had a good time. Lots of driving, but also, lots of hanging out with our blogging friend Karri and her best friend, Ryan. We hit the road Friday at 1:00 for the six-hour trek to Jamestown. The first 3/4 of the trip was over two-lane county roads with a ratio of about 100 cows to every person. The good news? I was able to drive 80 mph most of the way, which shaved about half an hour off our travel time. We didn’t hit an interstate until we got to Mandan and connected with I-94. Jamestown was about another hour from there. We finally rolled into town around 8:00, having lost an hour to the Central time zone. Karri and Ryan beat us by about 30 minutes.

After checking in and freshening up, Tara and I walked over to a taphouse (fancy name for “bar and grill”) conveniently located between their motel and ours. We timed it perfectly because they were just walking up to the place when we got there. I’d told Tara I wanted to mess around with them and asked her to play along, but my wife cannot keep a straight face to save her life. I introduced her as “Tu-Rah” in a high-pitched voice and hoped to keep up the charade for at least half an hour, but “Tear-Uh” started laughing right off the bat and outed me. The jig was up before it even got started.

I need to teach my wife how to develop a poker face. A p-p-p-poker face.

You never know what a person is going to be like in real life after only knowing their online persona, but Karri and I go back more than 15 years (!) and I was pretty confident we’d get along just fine. Sure enough, we found her to be very outgoing and bubbly. Sure, she talked funny (being Canadian and all), but she was our kind of people. She and Tara really hit it off. Ryan’s a good guy, too. It’s hard to explain their relationship to outsiders; Karri is married, but not to Ryan. She visits him in the U.S. for three weeks at a stretch twice a year (he lives in International Falls, Minnesota – the icebox of America) and he makes the trip north to hang out with her and Pat, too. It’s an unconventional friendship but completely innocent and works for them. She calls them her “mantourage,” lol. Ryan seems quiet and reserved, but man, he’s got this deadpan humor that catches you off guard when he decides to let loose. At one point he said something so goddamn funny I literally spit my beer out. Karri pointed out later that he was actually reading aloud something I had written, but he was doing it in a funny voice and I just lost it. He and I are similar in many regards – certainly from a humor standpoint.

It’s a good thing we all got along so well, because we spent an awful lot of time together. Closed down the taphouse Friday night, then met up for breakfast at Perkin’s Saturday morning and didn’t part ways until 13 hours later (minus a 30-minute break to freshen up). We drove around Jamestown, visited Dakota Thunder, went shopping at Goodwill (because what else is there to do in North Dakota?), killed a few hours in a little pub downtown, and hung out in their room for a few more hours talking and laughing. We ended up ordering Domino’s for a late dinner before finally calling it a night around 11:00. Said our goodbyes then because we were hitting the road bright and early Sunday. Long drive home and all.

We took a longer route home because we were initially planning on detouring through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but when we got there it was overcast and cold AF and actually started snowing a little, plus Tara had forgotten her camera and Rapid City was still another four hours away. We’re planning on coming back and making a weekend of it – taking our time exploring the park as well as the Enchanted Highway and spending the night in Dickinson. Possibly this summer if time permits, but we’ve got a house to move into and lots of work to do there, so we’ll see how that pans out.

We finally got home around 3:00 and still had to do our grocery shopping, so we drove to Safeway, but not before swinging by our house first. The For Sale sign had an “Under Contract” banner on top and that was a beautiful sight to behold. The sellers cashed our earnest money check and our realtor has a signed purchase agreement, so it’s all pretty official now. We’ve scheduled a home inspection for Wednesday morning, so barring anything unforeseen (knock on wood) things will really start moving fast.

Once we were finally home for good we fired up Saturday Night Live (Adam Sandler killed it BTW), plopped down on the loveseat, and relaxed for the first time in days. And then some very weird things started happening…

First, the living room lamp turned on by itself. It’s got a three-way bulb and you actually have to turn the switch three times to get it to cycle through all the settings. The weird thing is, it turned on to the middle setting. I thought maybe the bulb was loose so I checked that, but nope – it was screwed in pretty solidly. A little while later, right in the middle of SNL, the TV switched itself to Netflix. “What the hell is going on?!” I asked, perplexed. As soon as the words left my mouth, there was a loud bang from the kitchen…but nobody was in there. We just looked at each other, perplexed. Tara joked that it’s the owner of the house we’re buying. She did just pass away, after all. I’ve had experiences of this sort in my life before, but never in that apartment. Tara swears she heard strange noises in the middle of the night, too. Hmm…

It’s my last week of work here at PSI. Everybody is in really good spirits because we just landed a huge five-year government contract worth a LOT of money. It’s the elusive big break they have been seeking for 10+ years and will completely change the face of the company. Kind of bittersweet that I won’t be around to see them reap the rewards, but at the same time they will be adding a lot more staff and you never know how things will shake out in the long run. I’m happy for them and also happy for me, for landing this great new job opportunity.

It’s a win/win for us all.


MegaKota? Mega NO, duh.

Have you heard about the online petition to merge North Dakota and South Dakota into a single state and call it MegaKota? Some guy in Fargo must have been really bored, because he started thinking about how badly he wants Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state, but hates the idea of changing the flag, because having 50 stars is neat-o. His solution? Combine the Dakotas and give them a really stupid name. Because that’s far less disruptive than hiring a seamstress to sew a 51st star onto the flag.

It’d be pretty cool to have a state called MegaKota so yeah.

The guy does have a way with words. I can see why his petition went viral. So yeah.

I think the whole idea is MegaStupid. Then again, I’ve got a more vested interest than most of the population. You think I want to go through the hassle of changing my address in a million different places, getting a new driver’s license, new license plates, etc.? I just went through all that six months ago! Besides, we aren’t the only states that could merge. How about MegaLina? Or MegaGinia? Or, for that matter, why not ColoRaska or IdaTana or New JersAware? Literally any two states that touch could be combined into one larger state in order to prevent the despoiling of our precious flag.


As usual, the comments on this article are even more entertaining than the story itself. One rocket-scientist-in-training writes, “How can it be called the United States if some of our states are divided in half?” By that logic, Einstein, how can it be called the United States if some of our states are divided by a freakin’ ocean!? Much like, ahem: Puerto Rico.

It’s all starting to feel like a vicious circle. A MegaCircle, if you will.


Mind you, I don’t think any of this will ever actually happen. These petitions to split up and/or combine states gain a little traction and then inevitably peter out. Like the idea to turn California into three separate states (shot down by the state Supreme Court last July) and the desire to create Jefferson out of southern Oregon and northern California. There’s even an independence movement afoot to create a whole new country called Cascadia out of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, but good luck ever seeing that come to fruition.

But at least we live in a country where people can dream big, right? They won’t get arrested or have their citizenship rescinded or anything.

They’ll just be ridiculed in blogs.

Connecting the Dot’s

The moment we arrived in South Dakota last summer, we were inundated with pretzels.  They popped up everywhere we went, ubiquitous bags with a bold red logo. We had never heard of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels before, but it quickly became apparent they were a “Pride of Dakota.”


I am not exaggerating: they were everywhere. Gas stations. Hardware stores.  Gift shops. Meat markets (and by that I mean butcher shops, not pick-up joints). Meat markets (and this time I do mean pick-up joints). At first, we didn’t bite. Literally. A pretzel is a pretzel is a pretzel, right? They’re crunchy and salty and, if I’m being honest, kinda boring. Not nearly as satisfying as a potato chip or a Triscuit or a Cheez-It. Hell, they even play second fiddle to Pepperidge Farms’ Flavor Blasted Xplosive Pizza flavored Goldfish crackers, and stickler for spelling that I am, that’s saying a lot.

Then one afternoon we were out shopping. I can’t remember what I was standing in line to buy – probably a miter saw or case of spark plugs or somethin’ – and there was a bowl of Dot’s next to the cash register with a sign that said, EAT ME.

After smirking a little, because I’ll always be a 12 y/o at heart, I decided to give ’em a try. See what all the fuss was about.


These pretzels, guys. They are indescribable. A flavor xplosion much more intense than anything Pepperidge Farms ever bagged up. The secret to Dot’s? SPICES. There’s more than just salt flavoring these amazing little corkscrew-shaped nuggets from heaven. The exact mixture of spices is a secret – Dot won’t divulge that info (yes, she’s a real person, from a small town in North Dakota you’ve probably never heard of, who decided that regular pretzels were boring (see above) and figured she could come up with something better, so she puttered around her kitchen, experimenting with different seasoning combinations until she got it just right (and isn’t that the most North Dakota thing ever!?)) – but there’s definitely a hint of ranch dressing in there (hello, buttermilk!), and garlic and onion, and a touch of cayenne to give them a slight burn. It’s a complex flavor profile that will have you wondering why nobody else thought to MacGyver up pretzels before!

With all those secret herbs and spices, Dot is like the Colonel Sanders of the snack world, minus the all-white wardrobe.

I’m not saying these things are particularly good for you. Anything that contains carboxymethyicellulose can’t be! But one bite in and you won’t care, because you have just found Utopia, my friend. A land of unicorns and rainbows and the most delicious pretzels in the world. Forget the 72 afterlife virgins you’ve been promised if you’re Muslim; you’d trade them all in for one bag of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels if you could. These are true Paradise.

Suffice it to say, we count ourselves among Dot’s biggest fans now. There is always a bag (or five) in our cupboards. And, we’ve been spreading the Dot’s love! Sending them to family and friends far and farther. Just today, I had four bags delivered to my former Fuel coworkers back in Camas, Washington. Apparently the moment Hana opened the UPS box, 20 colleagues descended upon her en masse, demanding their share of pretzels, too. And now there are 20 more Dot’s fans in the world, only they’re kinda out of luck, because the snack is a lot harder to find in the Pacific Northwest. If you walk into a hardware store in Portland looking for pretzels, you’re going to be stuck with nails and electrical tape and stuff. How boring! One more reason I am #teammidwest now.

If you’ve never tried Dot’s, I feel sorry for you. But fortunately, there’s this marvelous invention called the internet. Dot’s has a website (which I linked to above). Dot’s accepts all major credit cards. (And no, Dot’s did not pay me to endorse their product – though I wouldn’t turn down a few free bags of pretzels for all this publicity.

D’ya hear me, Dot?