We were driving from our rental cottage yesterday to do another hike, still thoroughly enjoying our change of scenery trip to Western Minnesota, when I spotted this directional notification:
A normal person with no particular business to conduct in Hanley Falls, Minnesota would probably not notice the sign, or would just acknowledge it mentally for a second or ten and then forget it by the time the next town rolled up. But, of course, normal isn’t my default operating mode, so my brain instead went: “Oooooo!!! The Fall are one of my very favorite musical groups ever! And beyond group leader Mark E. Smith (RIP), one of the longest-serving, most influential and beloved members of The Fall was bassist Steve Hanley!! Whose brother, Paul Hanley, also played drums and keyboards for the group during arguably one of their finest creative periods!! And the Hanley Brothers each wrote books about their experiences in The Fall, and they are among the very best books ever written about the group!! I love The Fall and the Hanleys are amazing!!! So I must go to Hanley Falls and take pictures and pay homage!! Because of course I must!! And this makes sense!!! Huttah!!!!!” (My brain gets very enthusiastic about things).
When I got back to our cottage, I looked at the map and noted that it was just a 3.75 mile drive up a gravel prairie road to get to Hanley Falls from the cottage’s grove, so I told Marcia that I planned to get up and head over there this morning, while she relaxed and slept in. (My brain does not allow me to do that relaxing thing in the morning, ever). Marcia nodded and smiled and patted me on the head, knowing well after 30+ years together that these are just the kinds of things that I do, while being my very best me. Or at least my very weirdest me.
So I got up at about 5:45 AM today, sun up in the east, birds happily chirping around the cottage, made some coffee, did my morning reading, and headed out to get me some exciting music nerd pictures. Zoom zoom! But then, about a half mile away from downtown Hanley Falls on its east side, I made a left turn, and suddenly encountered this:
Hmmm. Well, not all that big of a deal. The old joke is that the Upper Midwest has but two seasons, “Winter” and “Construction,” so you see this sort of thing a lot. Because the region is also predictably platted on the grid system, when you encounter a block like this, you generally just go a mile up the road to the next numbered cross street, and then you can come at your destination from a different angle. So I turned around and headed back toward the South, intending to enter the town on that side. A few minutes later, though, there was this:
Double whammy!! Well, once again, there’s the grid system, so all I needed to do was to head west and turn back north and, voila, I’d come into town that way. It seemed so simple and obvious, but, of course, we have a theme going at this point:
By this time, I’m starting to wonder just what’s going on. Has Hanley Falls been overrun by zombies or CHUDS? Is it a hella contagious COVID zone? Has the corn become sentient and militarized? Or is this where they moved the Roswell alien after its autopsy? Curiouser and curiouser, for sure. There was one more road coming into the town from Wood Lake in the east (where I took the original “Hanley Falls, 4 MI” sign photo above), so I doubled all the way back there and tried once again, presuming that maybe the signed, paved road would be the one that got through. But, uh, nope:
At least this time I could finally divine the nature of the problem: a major piece of highway construction that actually requires drivers to go way north to Granite Falls, then turn back around way on the other side of Hanley Falls, approaching it from the northwest, while I sat at the southeast. I didn’t really want to drive that far, but I also didn’t want to bail on my mission, so I noticed a cemetery near this road block, parked my car there, and decided that I would walk into town. Seemed a reasonable approach. I just needed to get over this:
Sure, it was a little marshy and wet at the bottom, and a lot muddy and slippery at the top, but I made it up, and enjoyed the scenic view of my lonely car sitting by itself below me:
Onward I pushed, sliding down the mud on the other side, where I was greeted by a sign welcoming visitors to Hanley Falls’ greatest attraction for normal people, even though it wasn’t doing much good right now, when nobody could drive up to and past it:
I jogged across town toward its north side, trying to look non-menacing as I traipsed through a small community where folks probably don’t see a lot of gangly, mud-covered strangers loping with purpose through their neighborhood at 7:00 AM on a Sunday morning. But, eventually, I found what I was seeking, stood below it, and snapped:
Ta-da! Great success! Mission accomplished! Nerd factor alpha! Hooray Hanley Falls! After patting myself on the back, I schlepped back over the construction barriers and was home at the cottage before Marcia had gotten up and going. The early nerd gets the worm, or something like that. It pleases itself, if nothing else. So here’s looking forward to the next absurd adventure that captures my fancy. I’ll be sure to share it with you here when it’s done.