Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Bring in a billboard, a pregnant burrito & more along I-94 November 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:27 AM
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IN THE PAST YEAR, I’ve begun to really pay attention to billboards. Prior to this, I viewed these mega ads primarily as visual clutter.

A string of billboards near Alexandria, photographed while driving eastbound back to Faribault along Interstate 94.

But now this open air, in-your-face advertising has evolved into a diversion from a long and weary journey along a familiar route. For me, that tedious trip has been the 600-mile round trip to and from Fargo, North Dakota, four times since February. (Our son attends North Dakota State University.)

At first the drive was interesting. I haven’t traveled all that often across this region of Minnesota along Interstate 94.

Abandoned stone house along I94 near Avon.

Now, though, I am so familiar with the sites that I can tell you exactly where to find the abandoned stone house I wish would be restored (near Avon),

Freeport, “The city with a smile!” is marked by this smiling water tower.

…the location of the vintage smiley-faced water tower (Freeport)

The most entertaining of all the billboards along Interstate 94 between Faribault and Fargo is this one for Kentucky Fried Chicken just west of Alexandria. Seriously, I’d like to see anyone dragging this billboard coupon into KFC.

…and even where you will spot a particularly interesting billboard coupon (Alexandria).

The billboards along I-94 from Monticello west begin to draw my eye as the land eases from urban to rural. They are a diversion, markers of towns and cities along the route and a source of entertainment and, sometimes, amusement.

I totally cannot tell you the exact location of this billboard for Zorbaz on the Lake along I-94. But the “pregnant burrito…a bundle of joy” slogan just does not work for me. But I suppose since I noticed the message, the billboard is effective.

What is it about these restaurant advertisers? A sub as big as a billboard? Oh, yeah, read the small print. Snapped this sign near Melrose/Albany.

Just east of Fargo/Moorhead, you know you’re in farming country. And, yes, I counted all 14 insects on this billboard.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “Bring in a billboard, a pregnant burrito & more along I-94”

  1. Erin Says:

    I love that stone house, too! I know exactly where it is! There is a round barn in Sartell that I would love to see restored. We have a newly elected City Council member that is trying to make it a reality!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’d love to hear more about that round barn in Sartell. What is the vision for it? Is it privately, or city, owned? That style of barn is such a treasure. There is a state-wide organization which supports barn restoration. It’s Friends of Minnesota Barns.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Yah, I probably wouldn’t eat at that Burrito place, tasteless advertising if you ask me! It’s fun to see these unique billboards, I just might have to pay more attention to the ones around here, I’m like you…. I see it as visual clutter. The stone house on the other hand would certainly grab my attention, such a beautiful place and a treasure it would be if it were restored!

  3. Matt Says:

    Ah yes that stone house near St. John’s… I’ve always been fascinated by it.

    Check out Fisher’s in Avon next time you’re driving by during the warmer months… It’s a classic bottle club!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      OK, I have quite a number of readers familiar with the location of that stone house. Can anyone out there tell us anything about its history?

      So many things to see and do…, now a bottle club in Avon.

  4. Interesting finds on your road trip – loving your photos – thanks for sharing! I love road tripping and try to plan going one way and coming back another way if possible to keep it fresh – ha:) Have a Great One!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You never know what you will see when you keep your eyes open. We always follow the same route to Fargo because we’re typically on a tight schedule to get there and back. Perhaps one of these trips we will have time to meander.

  5. Neil Says:

    East of Fargo on 94, the billboards are merely visual clutter. An “occasional” sign can help ease the monotony of the drive. Head west of Fargo on 94 sometime, where they become a true eyesore! This is where the prairie truly opens, where there is rarely a tree to block your view of the horizon. Except that the view is ruined for about 50 miles by an endless barrage of billboards! Perhaps North Dakotas Blue Laws ought to be extended to billboard advertising!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And take that from someone who’s lived in North Dakota, right, Neil? I agree that billboards most definitely can ruin the landscape. At least the ones in Minnesota seem to be primarily in the more populated areas along the interstate.

  6. You’re so good at coming up with so many different ideas for posts! I take photos…but then forget to post about them. I’ve got to get on that!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. Photo taking breaks up the long journey. Just have to make sure vehicle windows are clean and that is not always the case. Plus, you have to anticipate shots and that’s now always easy. I can’t begin to tell you how many I’ve missed.

      And just, FYI, I have many, many photos in my files that I forget about too and some I don’t get posted in a timely manner. For example, I have yet to post most images from our day trip to southeastern MN in early October. Those will be forthcoming.

  7. ndmidwife Says:

    So I literally just Google that stone house d/t my ongoing love for it, and found your post. Love to hear more!

  8. Tang Says:

    Just so you know – the “abandoned” house alongside I-94 isn’t abandoned. It’s owned by a relative of mine, who lives in the white-ish gray house behind it and to the left slightly. It’s not livable but it’s definitely owned.

    • Thanks for that info. Semantics here. My use of the word “abandoned” referenced its condition given the boarded up and/or busted out doors and windows. It’s a beautiful home of fine craftsmanship, at least from the exterior.

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