The Great Chicken Rally having been reduced from an all you can eat ‘n’ sleep 3 nighter to a garden variety rally and no other rally within a two day ride, I’d decided to spend Memorial Day weekend in the empty city of Minneapolis fixin’ up my “cabin in the hood”. But back to plan B… At the urging of the city’s housing inspectors I’d paid the previously documented visit there the weekend before to do some mandatory “haying”, only to discover that a not real bright vagrant had moved in.

So saturday morn I hooked up the infamous little el cheapo trailer to the Golf TDI with a good selection of tools in the back and headed for the Minneapolis. Found that my “guest” who’ve I’ve never met but now have a complete rap sheet for as well as a list of his upcoming court dates and prescriptions didn’t take the hint and moved back in. To top it off, the ingrate even unplugged the charger on my battery powered lawnmower! So I preceded to move out some of the conveniences he’s been enjoying and loaded the trailer with the wood stove he’s abused, the lights, and anything else he might find comforting. Having accomplished that in rapid order, I moved on to REI in hopes of finding a few items at almost reasonable prices thanks to REI’s seasonal sale.

Now imagine if the Sierra Club tried to run a big box store, and that’s REI. The parking lot is too small, even for the fleet of poorly parked Priu and Suburus parked or looking to park there. A few politicly incorrect moves found a spot just right for the not quite 25′ long Golf and trailer, and a few horn blasts moved the mob aside while I backed ‘er in tight to the curb first try. Now for the real jostling, as best ultra liberals can manage it…

REI’s first digs in Minnesota was a former supermarket in a strip mall, wasn’t much for looks, but it worked pretty well. Not that much square footage, but they carried and even displayed over a dozen each tents, sleeping bags, etc.. For a several million member co-op with a several hundred million dollar slush fund of membership fees, that just wasn’t good enough. So they bought an empty K-Mart to be green and recycle, then proceeded to tear most of it down and build it into something more in line with their fantasies… The result has a climbing wall and spires but what looks to have no more actual display and stock space than the old strip mall digs.

And even less actual diversity of product, with the exception of “sporty” clothing… You’d swear some of the Harley “Motor Clothes” marketing mavens got laid off and migrated to REI. The “logic” is the same… Clothes “turn” fast, are cheap, and make a high profit per square foot. What square footage is left that isn’t covered with fancy backdrops allows the carrying of a handful or tents with maybe one or two set up and a sea of thousand dollar bicycles but no components. So wandering through this marketing driven wilderness, I found the roof rack displays rather lacking depth of inventory and pretty picked over too, with the load stops for my Thule rack MIA as well as some other cheap accessories. There was no shortage of Kayak carriers that cost as much as my Costco kayak though. Found but one item on my long list though, Thule crossbars so I can put my big ol’ Thule box on the R65LS’s sidecar frame.

Then began the long march to the checkout, as I vainly looked for a decent sale price on a kayak or anything else useful. But despite searching all the “car” racks and half the store, the bars were all I found of any usefulness and affordability. So after half an hour I finally got through the checkout. Then skipped the line of lemmings in the aforementioned Priu and Subies and found a loading dock escape route. Grabbed lunch and a few things at Costco, then on to Fleet Farm as I headed outa town.

Now Fleet Farm has gone from funky and wholesome farm store on steroids to the gun nut antithesis of REI under the “leadership” of heir Stewart Mills. At least until the family decided to sell it and cash out before Stewart could run Fleet Farm completely aground. Stewart’s right wing politics probably cost a billion or three of the company’s sale price by driving away Berkshire Hathaway as a buyer, but a Wall Street raider consortium bought it so it’s a good source of good stuff until they dismantle it. So within sight of the AR-15s I found some tempting kayaks and car rack cradles for them at much less as REI’s sale price, and american made to boot!

Made a mental note on the kayak stuff, grabbed a few odds ‘n’ ends and headed home, rain cleared up and was home by sundown. Got a floor pass but no vote at the Minnesota democratic party convention this weekend, but with no statewide races this year it’ll be boring. And despite the temptation to check back and see if my “guest” has returned and if so lock the garage door in the up position so he can more fully enjoy the summer’s heat and mosquitos… There’s rallies in southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Kansas this weekend that are callin’ me…

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