Imagination is King

#Merica Tour, Stories from the Road, Segment 23
(For links to previous segments, scroll to the bottom)

It’s a hot, sunny morning outside in St. Paul as Brent and I sit in his kitchen, running through our options. It’s my last day in town, our road trip was a complete success as we arrived back safe and mostly sound, and my laundry is currently dirtying up Brent’s washer since my clothes have done some serious living lately. But my flight doesn’t leave MSP until 7 p.m., giving us ample time to plan a local venture.

Imagination is King“Do you remember the candy store?” Brent asks.

“The yellow one?”

“That’s it.”

“Is it open?”

He laughs. “It’s open this time.”

A year, maybe two ago, we drove through the rolling hills of Minnesota on our way to a candy store that sounded too good to be true, but Brent said they had the best root beer. After a lazy day adventure, we arrived to find the giant store was closed and wouldn’t open for the season for another week. So, of course we hung out in the parking lot and watched through the windows as workers restocked shelves and readied displays. I was preparing my argument for knocking on the door “just to have a look and not to buy anything, I swear,” when Brent reminded me we had a Wes Anderson movie waiting for us at a historic theater. I have yet to step foot inside the candy wonderland.

“Or we can go to the State Fair,” Brent tosses out there.

“Everything on a stick? Hmm, that’s tough,” I say. “But, I want to do both.”

“You can’t do both.

We negotiate this, based on Brent’s argument of Time-Space-Relativity in relation to getting to the airport on time and my argument of Sure We Can.

“Well, we’ve been to the State Fair before,” I say. “But I’ve not been inside the giant candy store.”

Candy store it is. And after a hearty breakfast of junk food, we’re on our way.

Back in the Jetta—you’d think we’d be sick of it by now—we remind each other what happened the last time we tried to go to the candy store, about finding a sinking barn that we decided looked as if a giant had stepped on it. And then there was this long, lolling road through two fields where we could see what I can only describe as a giant armadillo up ahead.

I laugh as the scenery rolls by. “I remember saying, ‘Is that an armadillo?’”

Brent agrees. “From far off, I had no idea.”

Turns out, it was not an armadillo, which are not native to Minnesota, but a massive snapping turtle with an armored, spiky tail and a shell nearly two feet tall. The turtle was crossing the road–and making good time about it, too. Brent stopped the car to give the turtle room, and we just stared in amazement. We had driven most of the day without another car in sight, and now suddenly there were about five cars behind us, all of us waiting for this giant turtle because Brent had stopped the car mid-road. When the turtle got by the Jetta (the same Jetta), I cheered, “Go, turtle, go!” which prompted this massive creature to turn around fully and look at me, eye to eye. I half expected him to wear little glasses and say hello. We drove on, and Brent and I spent the rest of the trip to the candy store coming up with the perfect name for such a turtle, a dignified and masterful name: Mr. R. Sullivan. And the mind of this writer began weaving a children’s book.

Back at present, we drive along Highway 169, following a long span of bright yellow farm fence that leads to the yellow barn.

Imagination is KingMinnesota’s Largest Candy Store, which is part of Jim’s Apple Farm, is barely contained in a long yellow barn that seems as though someone expanded it, one section at a time, about six times. The heat of the day is surging and we’re excited to get inside to some candy and air conditioning, but we take some time to check out the pumpkins and to threaten each other with the watering hose in the parking lot before finally setting foot inside.

Imagination is KingAnd what awaits us is astounding. Immediately to the right are rows and aisles and tables and shelves of brightly-colored candy, sectioned off by type from hard candies, caramels, flavors of taffies, chocolates, lollipops, gumballs, European candies—over 3,000 types of candy from around the world–as far as the eye can see. In front of us is a section of homemade pies, jams and jellies, brittles, and fudge, and also a section of meats and jerkies. To the left is a section of glass grocery refrigerators filled to the brim with multicolored sodas.

Imagination is KingThe story goes that what began as a family-owned business, Jim’s Apple Farm, expanded into selling candy to offset a couple bad apple years. (Hopefully with the Minnesota-developed Honeycrisp, those days are far behind us.) And now, it’s still family-owned, cash-only, sans website and sans telephone though it does have a Facebook page, and the business has grown and grown.

Imagination is KingThe building is filled with happy nostalgia (Pac-Man Band-Aids!), delicious discoveries (orange fudge!), and new favorites like candies in the shape of Pixar’s Minions. There’s even a shelf of puzzles in their own section among the candy. And in the corner sits a full-size TARDIS, the Doctor Who time machine that travels between worlds. Brent and I, clutching our prized candy and root beer, run to it and act out crash scenes and do our favorite monster impressions.

Imagination is KingEverywhere we look is something we remember from childhood, something that evokes a memory big or small. For me, a slogan I memorized at a Pennsylvania amusement park (Idlewild?) comes to mind: “Where Childhood is Eternal and Imagination is King.”

Imagination is KingAnd in the middle of what feels like an action-packed candy store, I pause and muse that Brent, with all of his reason and rationale, and I, with my heart leading the way, both explore our surroundings with childlike wonder. And with that acknowledged, I dive back into the fray.

–We’re not done yet! The final episode is coming soon!

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a blogger, poet, and traveler.

 

(For previous Stories from the Road, click here: Segment 22, Segment 21, Segment 20, Segment 19, Segment 18, Segment 17, Segment 16, Segment 15, Segment 14, Segment 13, Segment 12Segment 11Segment 10, Segment 9, Segment 8Segment 7, Segment 6, Segment 5, Segment 4, Segment 3, Segment 2, Segment 1)

Marshmallow Fields

balesWhen I told a friend of mine about the road trip to the candy store where I met the giant turtle, Mr. R. Sullivan, on the way, she had this to share:

She and her husband were driving through the countryside one afternoon and they saw a field with, I think, hay bales (as opposed to straw because they’re not the same). The bales were wrapped tight with white plastic. In the afternoon sun, she dreamily looked at them and said, “Those look like giant marshmallows.”

“Take a picture,” her husband said. “We’ll tell the kids we found where marshmallows grow.”

A good road trip opens the imagination.

~
Follow the blog! And check out my first book, Upside Down Kingdom, on Amazon.

Mr. R. Sullivan

With life going crazy lately, yesterday seemed a good day to take to the open road. Oh, was I right.

Along the way to a candy store that reportedly has the largest collection of candy and root beer this side of the Mississippi, we saw what looked like an armadillo attempting to cross the road. We don’t have armadillos this far north, so it was a real find. Turns out, it was a giant turtle. We slowed to go around him, and as we passed, I called out the window, “Go, turtle, go!” which prompted said turtle to turn himself around to look at me. Fascinating.

Further down the road and still talking about the turtle, we passed an old farm outbuilding that looked like a metal cylinder except that the roof had caved in. It looked like a large tin can on its side that had been smashed by a giant. As we found the highway we’d been seeking for 40 miles, we’d finally agreed on a name for the turtle: Mr. R. Sullivan. We have our reasons for this, based on the majesty of the turtle and his insistence on turning to look at me.

Finally, in the distance, we saw a giant, butter-yellow colored building—the candy store did exist! But, pulling into the parking lot, we saw a large sign that said, “Opening Thursday.” This being Tuesday, it was not a good sign.

We’d spent a couple hours on this road trip, en route to a fabled candy store–and we did find it. Thus, mission success. And, let’s face it, discovering the land of the giant-smashed building and meeting Mr. R. Sullivan made it the greatest trip to nowhere, ever.
~
Follow my blog adventures! And check out my first book, Upside Down Kingdom, on Amazon.