The other day a reader sent me a link to a story that was truly “Midwestern”. It was about a bar. A bar on a lake. I don’t mean next to a lake, but literally, ON a lake. Ice Hole Bar, located in Lake Lida, Minnesota, opened this winter. The bar caters to fishermen (and curious outsiders) wishing to warm their bones with a little barley pop and assorted spirits. It took me about three seconds into the article before I had new weekend plans. I had to see this.
My boyfriend Blake, always enthusiastic about a new Midwestern adventure, said he would accompany me on this hour trek to Lake Lida. We set off towards the lake and soon realized we were lost. The dense fog and lack of GPS guidance spelled disaster. We must have gotten twisted around while gawking at every frozen lake we passed and the breathtaking trees covered with Hoar Frost (definitely just learned this phrase) that looked straight out of Narnia. I soon began to panic. Where the heck were we? Just as I began to recommend we give up and head home, the fog began to part and across the frozen landscape appeared a golden shack of hope. We were here. Or… well… sort of. I told Blake we could just park near the shore and walk out to the bar. Though I saw trucks driving out on the
frozen water I didn’t want to take my chances. Ice was not for driving on. Of course Blake ignored me and claimed the only way we could get the true Midwestern experience was to drive my little blue car out onto the lake. As I screamed with protests and threatened to jump out of the moving vehicle, down the boat launch we rolled and onto solid ice. We krept forward. Silence. No cracking. No creaking. Ok… let’s do this.
After about a quarter mile we arrived at our destination. We parked my little car next to two
giant trucks and got out. That first step on a frozen lake might be the closest I ever get to feeling
what Neal Armstrong must have felt taking his first steps on the moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for Midwestern kind”. It took a while for my brain to register what my eyes were seeing. With the combination of fog and frost, it looked as if the entire landscape had been painted in shades of white and grey. The only thing interrupting the whiteness were tiny fish houses dotting the barren landscape. It reminded me of a little frozen shanty town. After a few quick photos we decided to wet our whistle inside the bar… purely for anthropological purposes of course. After all, how can you really understand the culture unless you experience it yourself, right?
We opened the door into a room about the size of a small trailer. There were a few bar stools, two bench seats and a handful of folding chairs. An electric fireplace was mounted on one end of the bar and a flat screen TV (complete with Direct TV) was on
the other side. Towards the far end of the room were two ice holes with line dangling in and a bucket of bait close by. We grabbed a drink and were soon told to pull up a chair next to some fellow patrons. It didn’t take long for us to strike up some great conversations with the locals. For the next two hours I had died and gone to Midwestern heaven. I learned about different local fish, swapped hotdish recipes,
raved about NDSU and their amazing football season, and even baited my own hook. (Don’t worry DNR… I didn’t actually fish). Eventually the conversation took the inevitable turn to how in the world we ended up in Fargo and my favorite experiences so far. Of course that very moment was already heading towards the top of my list. People laughed as I talked about my first time driving in heavy snow, my confusion with the phrase “I suppose” and how I cried after watching the movie Fargo for fear that it was a good representation of the state I was about to move to. The only downfall of the entire trip: I made the mistake of taking off my coat and revealing my JMU t-shirt. “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WEARING THAT FOR IN HERE?” Whoops.
It was soon time to say our goodbyes and make our way back to Fargo. We shook a few hands, snapped a few photos and hit the road. On our way back we couldn’t stop raving about the past few hours. Our favorite part: The fishing? The beer? Driving on the ice? No way. Like all things that make the Midwest so enjoyable, it was the people. After all, it isn’t everywhere that even in the middle of a frozen lake, you can find warmth.