“The End of the Road”
“The end of the road” was exactly what it sounds like, it was a dead end in a road about one block north of the house in which I grew up. At the end of this road was a wheat field. Off in the distance, there were trees. Beyond those trees was the fairgrounds. This was the edge of my hometown growing up. Most people who ever saw “the end of the road” never paid any attention to it, because it was just a dead end. But, to a bunch of kids, this was the coolest place in the world to hang out for a few years. Some of the greatest memories of my life are from “the end of the road”.
When I tell people I’m from North Dakota, they tend to ask if I grew up in the country. My answer has always been, “No… but I grew up one block away from the country.” At the west end of the block I grew up on, the backyards met fields. This was the edge of town at that time. Since then, things have changed a lot. The small town I grew up in is now a growing city. I haven’t gone back to visit in over a year, and I fully expect to not recognize most of the city next time I’m up there. When people I meet nowadays ask where I’m from, I tell them Fargo, North Dakota, because people who aren’t from that area have never heard of West Fargo. Yes, West Fargo and Fargo are two separate and very different cities. I always used to make a point of telling people I am from West Fargo… “the GOOD city”. I was proud to be from West Fargo, not Fargo. Since most people I meet now know nothing at all about North Dakota, I have learned that it’s pretty much pointless to explain the difference between the two cities, so I now just say “Fargo”. And no, it’s nothing like the movie.
I grew up in a time that seems like yesterday, but also seems like a completely different universe. As fairly young kids, my friends and I would go to “the end of the road” and spend several hours there most days. This was back before everybody had cell phones. Our parents weren’t there watching everything we did. We all told our parents where we were going, and off we went. Nowadays, I can’t imagine kids that age would be able to do that, which is very sad to think about. Some of the greatest times of my life never would have happened if I had been born just a few short years later.
For as long as I live, I will never forget summer afternoons at “the end of the road” with friends. We always brought baseball gloves and balls, footballs, and anything else we could think of to play with that day. For over a week every June, those afternoons faded into evenings with beautiful sunsets, and the music from the nightly concerts at the Red River Valley Fair providing the soundtrack for those incredible memories.
Many times, there was a group of us who went to “the end of the road” together. Sometimes it was just a couple of us. Eventually, I started going there by myself when friends were busy. The times I spent there alone watching the sunset and letting my mind wander fed my already wild imagination, which led me to enjoying time to myself just sitting quietly and thinking as I got older. I never thought about this until right now as I am typing this, but those times I spent alone as a kid watching the sunset and thinking at “the end of the road” are actually what probably led me to start blogging all these years later. I learned as I got older that I couldn’t bottle things up inside of me. I needed some way to express my thoughts and feelings, and writing became that outlet for me when I started college.
Of all the great memories I have from “the end of the road”, my favorite memories were always when the fair was in town. Since I very rarely got to go to the concerts at the fair back then, I really looked forward to listening to them from “the end of the road”. Being less than two miles from the fairgrounds, the music was loud and clear, especially when the wind blew from the west. Although my friends didn’t all share my taste in music, they still seemed to have fun. I probably enjoyed those nights the most because I was creating great memories with friends while also listening to some of my favorite artists.
I have always been a dreamer, so, in my mind, I was able to make some already great memories even better by just letting my mind wander. I’m not sure if this is exactly normal for a 10-12 year old kid, but I remember evenings at “the end of the road” listening to concerts and imagining how great it would be to have a girlfriend to share those memories with. With an amazing sunset view, music playing in the distance, and perfect summertime weather, the only thing that seemed to be missing was someone special to share it with. As I started traveling when I grew up, the memories from “the end of the road” and the thoughts in my head from those times stuck with me. I started searching for quiet places everywhere I went where I could not be completely surrounded by people, and just enjoy being in the moment.
Now, many years later, I still have those same thoughts all the time. Whether I’m at the beach, at Disney World, or somewhere else, I always try my best to find a spot where I can just unwind and let my mind wander. I enjoy the beauty of the sunsets every night, but still can’t help but think how much better it would be to have someone special to share those moments with. Someday. Someday…
As my friends and I started to get a little bit older, we gradually started to spend less time together at “the end of the road”. We started to actually buy tickets for the concerts at the fair every summer, and life came busier for all of us. Each time we went to “the end of the road” at that point, our group seemed to get smaller. The last time I went there was by myself when I was 14 years old. It was December 31st, 1999. New Year’s Eve in North Dakota is usually ridiculously cold and there is normally a lot of snow on the ground. That year, there happened to not be any snow on the ground yet, and that day was unseasonably warm. While I didn’t go to “the end of the road” that day planning on that being my last time going there, I knew it would at least be one of the last times. My friends and I were older and had started to out-grow a lot of the things we had enjoyed in the past. Also, the field that began where the road ended had been sold. Construction on a housing development would be starting soon, and the road would be extended.
To this day, whenever I get a chance to pass by that spot, I still picture “the end of the road”. It is now just the middle of a city street. Only a few people in the entire world will ever know where that spot was where my friends and I created so many amazing memories. Most people will never know about the great times we had there. Most people wouldn’t care. My friends may not remember those times in the same way that I remember them, but I know that they still cherish those memories, as well. It’s pretty crazy to look back now and realize that the place that, in so many ways, has led to me becoming the person I am today no longer exists. “The end of the road” may be gone now, but those memories will live on for the rest of my life.