Grand Forks, ND
Show #2 of the “Black Ticket” tour took me on my first trip to North Dakota. I made a point to target states I haven’t been to before, and while there are some I’ll miss, I am able to knock out both Dakotas this trip.
It was an early flight out of Seattle to Minneapolis, followed by a long drive to Grand Forks. Every hotel for about 50 miles was booked, so I made my reservation for Fargo, which meant an hour drive after the show, but an hour less on the road Sunday since I would be driving through Fargo anyway.
I checked in on my way through Fargo and grabbed a bite to eat at ‘Pizza Ranch’ when I hit Grand Forks. My friend Jake had raved about Pizza Ranch the same way he had about Taco Johns. Pizza Ranch was basically Izzy’s and Taco Johns was pretty much a slightly upgraded Taco Bell.
The GA floor in North Dakota was considerably larger than Madison. (It’s used as a college football stadium where the show in Madison was in a basketball arena.) I was still able to snake my way up to about 3 people away from the stage by show time though. The show itself was a more ‘traditional’ setlist than the Minneapolis and Nebraska shows I’d missed, but I did hear ‘Dream No More’ which was a new one for me! You’ll never hear me complain about seeing my favorite band, but it wasn’t their best show. The handful of flubs and miscues were a rare indication that it’s early in the tour.
Getting out of the show and making my way to Fargo took a little time, but once I was on the freeway it was clear sailing, enough so that I had people tailgating me after midnight when I was already going 95 MPH! I hit over a 100 earlier in the day; everyone drives fast – Not frantic or unsafe, just fast. It makes sense really, because there wasn’t a damn thing to see on the drive!
Sunday wasn’t about Metallica, it was about scuba and Jason Vorhees!
I saw a video earlier this year about a mannequin of Jason Voorhees that was at the bottom of a lake in Minnesota. On my flight back from Chicago on Monday, the memory hit me like a jolt. I pulled up the location on my phone and sure enough it was in the middle of where I was going! My original plan had been to spend Sunday driving through Nebraska and Iowa (for my all 50 states quest,) but this sounded like way more fun!
There was a problem though.
I called the nearest dive show, and because Jason was over 100’ deep they wouldn’t take me. I would need my Advanced certification. Well shit. My flight was in 4 days, so getting that done sounded near impossible. But, I lucked out! The dive shop on Bainbridge Island could fit me in for a one-on-one series of classes starting the day after I got back. YES! It cost me, but how often does an opportunity like this come up? And besides, I’d need the certification at some point anyway.
I met my dive guide, Cory, at the dive shop early to pack up our gear for the afternoon dives. Cory gave me the rundown of the area on our way out there and as we drove down the secluded gravel roads to the old mines. Technically these ‘lakes’ are actually flooded iron mines that were allowed to fill up (or rather they stopped pumping the water out,) when they got what they needed. Cory and I talked equipment and contingency planning for the dive, including what to do if my regulator decided to ‘freeflow’ because of the cold water. (Which is rare.)
We ran into Curtis Lahr at the Louise mine. He was the guy who originally filmed the statue and posted it on YouTube. He’d actually just been down there and said the viz was good. Curtis and his friend were shocked to hear I’d come from Seattle to see it. I was the furthest guy so far.
After gearing up, we hit the water. A cool, crisp, 40 degrees. Who am I kidding? It was fucking cold! It wasn’t so much my body, it was the exposed parts of my face. Going down was surprisingly difficult. It wasn’t the cold, it was my ears. I’d underestimated what seeing Metallica the night before would do to my ear drums. I couldn’t equalize going down, so I had to take it extra slow, adjusting up a few feet, then down, to get the pressure (and pain) to subside. I didn’t want to risk my ear drums, because you know, more Metallica, but I had to see Jason!
Visibility going down was about as “good” as you could get there, but it’s still less than 10 feet. Cory was hanging close, but giving me the chance to see things going down. I saw an old snowmobile, a sailboat, “Sparky” (a fake skeleton on an old electrical box) and “The Mermaid” (a crude, not nude, old looking mannequin at the top of an old pump pipe). Cory traced the pipe with his light and gave me the signal.
Jason was at the bottom of the pure dark.
I descended slowing, fighting with my ears, excited, but cautious. Stay safe and take my time.
Cory’s light glanced across the top of a greenish-crème head and mask the deeper I got. I could see more of him as I got closer. My own dive light traced his hulking figure as I reached the near bottom at about 120’.
Jason Voorhees was directly in front of me. I’d done it. I shined my light directly at his mask, then down to the machete. It was time for a selfie. But what was that noise? (You can hear down there.)
I checked my octo. Nothing. Then I realized my mouth and mask were flooding with air. My regulator had gone freeflow.
I swam over to Cory and he motioned to his octo. It was my first freeflow and I was over 100’ down, the only light a swinging flashlight in the pitch opaque. I held onto Cory and the octo (training, kids!) but unfortunately was breathing in and out too quickly. Cory was working to shut off my air while my mind started to spin like a kid spun too hard on a merry-go-round.
I’d never experience narcosis before but recognized it really quickly. I closed my eyes and worked to slow down my breathing, which beat looking at a swirl of spinning darkness. It worked and my mind was my own again… But why were we going up? I reached up and let air out of my BC as we got further up trying to slow our ascent. We popped out of the water and my first words were “Oh no! Are we fucked?!” (I was worried about decompression sickness.)
Cory explained we hadn’t been down there long enough and that we should be good, but we did go back down to do a safety stop anyway. As it was, the ascent was close to 2 minutes. (My camera was running the whole time.)
I hadn’t gotten my selfie, but I had gone face-to-face with Jason Voorhees and lived. And to think this place has a “Death Curse”.
My ears were still struggling, so we stayed under 40’ for our next dive.
Monday the 10th was a flex day ahead of Sioux Falls, SD. I spent the majority of the day walking around the city before a Twins game that night.
I grabbed a ‘Juicy Lucifer’, Hell’s Kitchen’s version of a Jucy Lucy, grabbed an overdue haircut and another shower, then walked to Target Field for Twins/Yankees. Aaron Judge is on the DL, but it didn’t stop the Yankees from winning easily, 7-2.
I’d only been to Target Field once before. It really is a nice park. It reminds me a lot of Nationals Park.
Postgame I had walleye and chili at The Loon, a local bar down the street.
Sioux Falls, SD
The drive to Sioux Falls from Minneapolis felt like its own day. Wow, take a little longer!
I’d started the day with a pecan roll at Hell’s Kitchen (walking past Aaron Boon on my way out,) and continued the sugar rush at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. By the time I hit Sioux Falls I was ready for a real meal! I met up with Jake, who gave me a quick tour of Sioux Falls, including Sioux Falls, then we grabbed some burgers in town before hitting the show.
The setlist was relatively ‘standard’, but there was good energy from the crowd. (I’ve decided that if the band hasn’t been anywhere near a city in years, that this kind of set is the one you’ll get.) The band played the set near flawlessly, missing the few bumps and miscues from the first few shows.
After the show we grabbed Taco Johns at my insistence so I could give it another shot. I had the Potatoes Ole’, which Jake swears by. For midnight or so, it tasted good, but it’s still just a slightly upgraded analog of Taco Bell.
Another long drive back to Minneapolis by way of a Jolly Green Giant statue and it was back home, the September leg of my part of the tour in the books.
October? Well, that will depend on a few baseball teams!