Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Hockey Garage, Williston, North Dakota

What you are looking at is the only place in Williston, North Dakota, perhaps for quite a ways around, where a person can buy skates, or have those skates sharpened.  Think about that for a minute.  25,000-50,000 people in the frozen north, one guy selling ice skates out of his garage.

Before Christmas, we decided to buy Nicholas some skates; we wanted to sign him up for skating lessons.  We werent alone.  Of course we went to Walmart.  As I write, they have an entire section for bicycles, and a wall full of skateboards, but no ice skates, and not much to do with sleds either.  Temperatures in Williston lately have ranged between -30 and -7, with a wind chill well below that.  This will last until March or April.  Situated next door to Canada, this is the land of hockey, boys hockey, and girls hockey, too.  At some point in the year, some places in town flood parts of parking lots to make ice rinks.  The local college, Williston State College, was 2013 NJCAA Hockey National Champions.  This is a hockey town.

So, after Wal-mart, we tried a few other places, some of the sport shops (they sell running and golf gear, but no skates).  No luck.  We were shocked.  Seriously, no ice skates?  I would think there would be ice skate kiosks, ice skate vending machines, boutiques.  Finally, we were resigned to "well, I guess we'll just drive to Minot or get them online".  That's when a friend said "just call the guy with the skate garage".  We said, "what?", and our friend said, "yeah, the guy that sells the hockey gear out of his garage."

So, it turns out, this is no mere guy that sells hockey gear out of a normal garage.  When I went there the second time to get skates for me too, the skate garage guy told me the story... Apparently, Home of Economy (this is like the Walmart of North Dakota, but better; imagine Walmart with an entire section of cowboy boots and eclectic stuff) used to have a huge skate section; he was the manager.  When they had a change of ownership in 1999, the new owners said "no skate shop", and suddenly the guy was out.  He tried to find another venue, but nobody was interested.  Enter Duffy's Hockey and Sport from Minot.  They connected with the guy to supply equipment, and the Hockey Garage was born.  And now, he is on the only one in Williston, and quite a ways around, selling and sharpening skates.

As I was standing there watching him sharpen the skates, Ron Raymond (aka The Skate Guy) told me "hmmm..... I guess there must be some new skating lessons.. I've had all these folks in here with little kids buying skates all of a sudden."  Go Ron!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Geographical Center of North America - Rugby, North Dakota

Everybody has a center.  Centers are important.  Without a center, we may feel lost, adrift.  We may have several centers in our life, or in our lifetime:  a spatial center... home, work, school, church or mosque. A temporal center, a time in our life against which we judge all other phases in our life.  An emotional center, Love.   A spiritual center.

Places have a center too.  Types of centers can be economic, cultural, political or historical, or in this case geographical.  Sometimes, the geographical center is in a place otherwise unknown, unvisited, or otherwise disconnected from the identity of the entity that it centers.  In the case of a city, with city limits that might change over time, the geographical center could shift location, sometimes quite a bit depending on the areas annexed into the city over time.

Consider North America as a Continent, with the USA in its middle, one of or perhaps the dominant economy in the world, home to great cities, New York, LA, and still home to cowboys and bison, mac and cheese, silicon valley, the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, American sports.  At its northern end, Arctic Canada and its native inhabitants, with a heritage stretching back in time thousands of years of life in the arctic or subarctic regions; French quebec, English Victoria, Hockey. According to Wikipedia, Canadian geology is one of the oldest in the world.  At its sourthern end, Mexico home in ancient times to at least two great civilizations:  Aztec and Maya, home in modern times to one of the largest cities on the planet:  Mexico City.  You dont get to be the biggest city on earth by accident.  Historical connections to european exploration, colonization, music, connecting to Central and South America to the south, soccer, tequila.  And in this vast mixture of cultures and identities, where is the geographic center?

Rugby, North Dakota, population 3000, 300' on the north side of the highway.

Traveling across North Dakota on Highway 2 between Minot and Grand Forks, we came around a random curve in the highway and reached a sign that said "geographical center of North America".  Set amid farmland, fences, trucks traveling to and from the oil fields of western north dakota, a little midwest town along the highway, there was a sign.  Immediately behind the sign, standing there quietly and demurely since the 1930s, a quiet obelisk of river rock to mark the Geographical Center of North America.  

Many people may have stopped at the "Continental Divide", the spot right above the Eisenhour tunnel.  Where the rains split and flow to the Pacific or to the Mississippi.  But how many have been to the Geographical Center of the entire Continent.  I thought "we MUST stop here and see this.  This is incredible".

So, starting up the sketches again, I thought I would start from the Center, literally.

Where is the Center of your town?  City?  State?  Continent?  What does this Center mean to you?  If you read and enjoy this blog post, send me a sketch of the Geographical Center of your Continent or Place, I'll post it on the blog here.
I look forward to receiving some sketches.