Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Observations while caught in St. Paul traffic July 25, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Southwest bound into St. Paul on Interstate 35E. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2017.


CREEPING SOUTHBOUND ALONG INTERSTATE 35E in St. Paul early Sunday evening in a snarl of traffic due to a lane closure, I studied my surroundings. And people watched.

I waved to the elementary-aged girl flapping a mini American flag out the window of her family’s maroon van sidled next to ours. She smiled. I smiled. And I wondered if her dad couldn’t wait to get out of the metro Minnesota traffic mess and back to Iowa.

I watched, too, as a motorcycle driver sped his bike, American flag flying from the back, onto the shoulder, skirting lanes to get ahead of four-wheel traffic.

Soon several vehicles followed in the right lane that had emptied of traffic about a block before the right lane closure. The zipper merge worked up until then. I could see an accident waiting to happen as the impatient motorists flexed their muscles, bullying into the left lane with concern only for themselves and whatever hurry they had. Drivers like that endanger all of us with their excessive speed.

I dug two peppermint life savors from my purse, rolled down the passenger side window, tried to relax in the near traffic gridlock. I’ve never determined how people can handle this daily congestion while driving to and from work or wherever.




Randy diverted my attention to a sign posted on the Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota building next to the interstate. We laughed at the suggestion that joint replacement could transform the average patient into a buff biker.


Tents like the one above hugged the fenceline above and along Interstate 35E just south of Interstate 94 in St. Paul.


Then I noticed a string of one-man tents hugging the fence along and above the interstate. I have no clue why anyone would camp in such a location. What was that all about?

As much as I dislike traveling through the Twin Cities metro, I always spot something intriguing. And I always land back home in Faribaault incredibly thankful that I don’t live in the Cities.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


23 Responses to “Observations while caught in St. Paul traffic”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    The tent is in an interesting place. Most “tent cities” are under overpasses not on top in plain sight like this one. I wonder if it was a “work” area and it was providing shade for a worker? That seems highly unlikely and you have my interest piqued. Inquiring minds and all. 🙂

  2. I do city traffic driving, but not via freeway – thank goodness. One-man tents – Probably a homeless camp. My one nephew was born at that Children’s Hospital. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    And I wondered if her dad couldn’t wait to get out of the metro Minnesota traffic mess and back to Iowa.

    I grew up there and every time I return, I can’t wait to get back to Almost Iowa.

  4. Kiandra Says:

    I grew up in the cities in South Minneapolis and often would see homeless people making homes near the highways and major roadways. I think those tents are their homes, I’m guessing the tents are to protect them from the summer sun.
    The cities can be a lot but as you said , also intriguing!

  5. Don Says:

    Having just returned from vacation and traveling (multiple times) that very stretch or highway I remarked to my passengers the very same thoughts as yours (or close to those words) ” I’ve never determined how people can handle this daily congestion while driving to and from work or wherever. The cities may be a nice place to visit now and then but living there is just not for me!

    I drove by your town a week ago while driving to Owatonna and the Cabelas store and as much as I wanted to take one of the exits and see your town along with the downtown area with its old and architecture and such, Murphy’s Law unfortunately had to intervene and the rental car decided to pick up a nail in the rear tire and a slow leak developed. The rental agency tried to find a replacement vehicle close by but since I had to have a larger vehicle due to the number of people with me I had to drive back to the airport in Minneapolis to exchange vehicles thus using up valuable time, crummmm. I loved the area and the fields of corn, beans, alfalfa etc. all of which my grandkids had never seen before. The weather was clear and although the temperatures were hot and muggy by Alaska standards it was very enjoyable! You truly live in a wonderful area.

    • Oh, Don, it would have been wonderful to meet you and your family. But I understand. Driving south of the metro must have felt like returning home to Mountain Lake, especially with the fields.

      We will welcome you and your wife back to the Midwest whenever you are ready to return.

      Other than the tire issue, I hope you had a fantastic trip and a memorable time with family.

  6. Don Says:

    Yes Audrey we all had a fantastic time and made some wonderful memories! All of the family is wondering when we can move/return. My grandson who is 9 years old bought a bird book so he could identify all the different birds he was observing and the youngest grandson who is 6 thought the warm nights with no sun shining and catching fire flies was the greatest, even better than video games. The simple things in life are the best aren’t they……………………..

    • This comment just makes me smile. I love how your grandsons appreciated the lack of night-time sun and enjoyed catching fireflies. As we drove home from bible study in the country on Monday evening, we noted the infinity of fireflies flashing light in the road ditches edging fields. It was an enchanting sight.

  7. pkpm519 Says:

    The tents are usually homeless people. They try to camp close to where they might find some help at an intersection. I live just up the hill from where you were taking these pictures…just west of the Cathedral of St Paul.

    • Ah, that Cathedral is spectacular.

      Thanks for the heads up on these tents belonging to the homeless. I will watch for the tents again when we drive this interstate. It makes me sad to think that people have to live in tents.

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    I hope you discover and share with us the purpose of the tents. I find that intriguing. I always love these posts with random and candid shots. One never knows what interesting and unusual sights you will see!

    • The only clue I have is from a reader in St. Paul (see the comments) who thinks these tents house the homeless. That makes sense to me given the location hugging a fenceline along a busy and noisy interstate. If only I’d had my “good camera,” I could have gotten way better shots. I cannot wait until I’m cleared to use my DSLR camera. I miss shooting with it.

  9. Jackie Says:

    The cities traffic is horrific, Like you, I have no idea how those who live there can stand the crazy traffic, single lane traffic back ups, and crazy drivers. I’m actually a better driver in the cities, so I so the driving, I can sometimes become just as good as some of those other crazies 🙂

  10. Your city pictures are always interesting but I’d never want to live there

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