Towards invisible barriers

The 14-hour drive started at 5 a.m. in Montana, where I’d lived until that morning. My headlights couldn’t see far into the predawn snowstorm, and the car was skewing a bit sideways across the icy bridges.

My nervous cat, depositing a layer of hair onto everything, howled at me from the passenger seat. The distinctions between the interstate and the ditch blurred, and it would be dozens of miles to the next town. I drove eastward.

By daytime, the hyper-attention required of me during the storm had fried my nerves. My mind kept leaping into the coming night’s sleep, which was still nine hours away in Minnesota. Interstate 94 through North Dakota, notoriously straight and uneventful, just sort of unfurled and passed beneath me like a treadmill. I’d already checked out, but there were hundreds of miles still to go. The cat howled.

The sun was setting in eastern North Dakota when I started contemplating a hotel stay. I’d had enough.

But I passed an invisible barrier. The radio picked up the Vikings game on that Sunday. I’d broken through into the Vikings Radio Network. The home market. The first boundary separating my new adopted home from the rest of the world, with a stronger radio signal at each town.

I listened as I crossed the border to Minnesota and later into the Twin Cities. It was a little thing, that radio signal. But it was the difference between looking back at a rough morning and driving ahead to a new home. I slept well that night; the cat howled.

 

—Matt Hudson

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