I got up early enough to say thanks and good-bye to Michelle before she went off to her first day back at work, and got out of Minneapolis by 11AM. I-94 is a few blocks from her house, and it was a straight run all day on that route, as far as I could make it. I usually prefer to take the old scenic roads, but time presses and I have to maintain maximum speed.
Finally, the car and its issues faded into the background. I was sailing along at 75-80 with no discernible weird noises, and it felt great crossing the great plains of ND with their scattered cylindrical tootsie-roll hay bales and lush green grasses under a bright blue sky. I stopped at a no-brand gas station along the way, with several grey-haired mechanics in blue jumpsuits. One asked about the car, I expressed some doubts about making it all the way. "Let me hear it, I'll tell you if she'll make it." I started it up, he listened, and declared that it sounded fine, all cylinders firing well, and that I'd certainly make it. His vote of confidence bolstered my damaged faith, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the long ride to Bismarck even more easily after that.
In Bismarck, I stopped at another Day's Inn for the night. Tried to find "downtown" and some classic diner, but it's all so spread out, and as soon as the street numbers go to double digits, it's deserted. So I wound up in old reliable Denny's. Amazing place, this country out here - every person I see is extraordinarily obese, except some school-aged kids who must be into sports (who are husky rather than fat). The sight of all the rotund Denny's customers at tables with immense heaps of food in front of them was a chilling reminder of the condition of society.
Tomorrow will be an even longer drive if I make it to Cody Wyoming, so I'll try to get up earlier so as to drive in daylight.