Much of van time is spent listing our 10,000 things, and though we are all supremely confident that there are, indeed, 10,000 of these things, our list has not reached the higher numbers yet. I neglected to share any things in the last entry, so I’ll make up for it now:

10,000 maniacs is a thing.
The land of the 10,000 lakes is a thing.
The land of the 1,000 dances is a thing.
The Cracker Barrel clap is a thing.
The promise of Karaoke is a thing.
Karaoke as an actual tour stop gig is a thing.
Attempting to pronounce the word ‘gig’ like a kiwi is a thing.
Space Alien’s Bar and Grille is a thing.
Exceptional sarcasm is a thing
“Really?” is a thing.
The Rocket’s disappointment in Britney’s disappointing showing is a thing.
Patrick even said something about it is a thing.
Preserving the fate of the free world by preventing a fly from migrating in the van from Chicago to Minneapolis is a thing.
Daddy Wrall killing another fly and it falling directly into the trash is a thing.

First rest stop stop proves that Minnesotans are great and nice and all that (Minnesota nice is a thing, after all.) And Daddy Wrall buys a “Nut Goodie,” which Trick promptly nicknames “Nut Goodle” (pronounced like doodle). Speaking of which, Trick would have you believe that he’s the quiet, inconspicuous bass player of the group, but don’t believe it: he’s as funny as any of us. At every juncture, he’s cracking wise and keeping us on our toes.

I may have mentioned the Cracker Barrel Clap (I certainly did above) and here’s that story again, hopefully not for the third time: Once upon a time, the Miss Fairchild trio had been driving across the country and every once in a while, Daddy Wrall would mention Cracker Barrel as his food stop of choice. Neither Sam nor myself had ever eaten there, but we were open to it. A couple of weeks passed and discussion of CB had waned, until one day in Wyoming, when Daddy Wrall and I had our first conversation about the place:

Me: “Cracker Barrel sounds kind of good right now”

Wrall: “I was just thinking that!”

Me: “Oh my god… Look!”

At that moment a Cracker Barrel sign appeared on the crest of the hill, prompting simultaneous and immediate applause from the both of us. Sam awoke from his slumber to applaud with us, probably a carry-over from falling asleep in high school assembly, when us students would wake up during the ovation and immediately join so as to remain inconspicuous. Anyhow, thus was born the Cracker Barrel clap: The only correct response to any Cracker Barrel sign is immediate and moderately sustained applause. Back to T.J. for a second: he refuses to participate a single Cracker Barrel moment. Apparently it put his stomach off a bit, and boycotting the game is his protest. I say, good for him! Way to bring out his inner Thoreau. The other product of this game is that we now feel comfortable referring to any clapping as “a Cracker Barrel.” For instance, if something good happens, one might say, “That deserves a Cracker Barrel” as a way of inspiring a ittle group ovation.

The scenery in Minnesota and North Dakota was mostly corn and soy beans, dotted occasionally with a dilapidated barn or a remote control irrigation system, but we find a lot of humor and conversation in the signage. One sign we’ve seen that has caused a bit of debate is the one that says, “We Do Cows (.com)”. I’m a little afraid of going to that website to see what it’s about, but it left us with something to discuss for the last couple of hundred miles. We’re on our longest driving day of the entire trip right now, so there isn’t much to report, really. Misters Wrall and Nice have been sharing a bench seat while they watch Chapelle’s Show on an iPod. There have been no major blowups. It’s cold out here. We stopped for lunch and played with the hacky-sack again. My descriptions from yesterday have been solidified, perhaps I only need to add that Todd “The Rocket” joined in today; we’ll just call him Lefty and leave it at that.

We also have two nights off from performing, which is great for me and my sore throat and cough. [Wow, that water next to us is really pretty (we’re driving about ten or twenty miles west of Bismark right now) and it’s labeled! “Scenic View.” Yes, indeed, I believe that is a correct label.] Oh, and one other thing I should mention for worried families out there: the speed limit has increased to 75, but Bessie doesn’t like it and she’s keeping us in check right around 70. So, we’ll be in that range for the rest of the trip. Maybe there will something to report from Billings. We’ve been hoping to catch some karaoke there, as there is apparently a destination karaoke bar in that town, but it will be tight. There is a chance we can swing into the bar to get one song in at the very end of the night, but I’m not sure. It might depend time zones and such, because we aren’t speeding up to make it. Yay for new states, though! None of us have ever been to North Dakota, and only Sam has been in Montana. This is fun.

In the photos you will find:

1. A photo of Todd’s Auto and Tire Repair from Richardton, North Dakota. I guess they knew we would show up one day with The Rocket in tow.

2. A pretty bird sculpture that likely more of you know what it is called than us. We took a picture in blissful ignorance anyhow.

3. Us entering Montana. Even if you can’t really read that sign, you can probably see that it’s in the shape of this state.

6. The five of us posing for a nice bench that didn’t mind snapping a shot.

On a sadder note, we found out that Joe Zawinul passed away today. You may know him from Weather Report, or from writing “In a Silent Way,” the famous Miles Davis tune from the album of the same name. We didn’t have too much of his material to choose from with no access to the cd collection, but we were able to muster up a copy of Black Market and hear some of his work with Miles. What a phenomenal musician. (Thanks for leaving us with so much good music, Joe.) If you get a chance, go put on “In a Silent Way” after you read this. Give yourself a solid twenty minutes.