Big Changes in Small Town Minnesota

What constitutes big news in small town Minnesota??

Well, if you live where I do (besides all the local small town political bickering that goes on) it’s big news when something new (something with a highly visible physical profile) starts changing the landscape of the places we frequent here in town. 



We are a “two gas station town”.  There is Yocum’s Holiday which is right off the interstate and Broadway Market which is located “deep” in town (By “deep in town” what I really mean to say is “eight-tenth’s of a mile”.)

(A) is Yocum’s and (B) is Broadway.  Broadway seems to have established itself as the “teen hang out central” for the kids in town (including my own #2 of 5 and #3 of 5 – who enjoy biking to Broadway with a couple of bucks for a pop and a treat and to see who else is “hanging out”.)


Throughout the summer, I heard rumblings of a possible new gas station in town.  It seemed odd to me as we are already doing pretty well with the two, but any new business in town (especially in this economy) is a good thing! 

Somewhere along late September, I was driving through town, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed big changes in the parking lot of Radermacher’s Fresh Market, and Jordan Ace Hardware (our local grocery store / hardware store that share a parking lot).

Alien Pod?  Cryogenic Hypobaric Chamber?  Alien Pod?  Cryogenic Hypobaric Chamber? 

I saw what I can only describe as either two giant alien pods, or two giant cryogenic hypobaric chambers - one slightly smaller than the other. 

Once the realization that a well publicized (well, tabloid publicized) infamous user of cryogenic hypobaric sleep chambers, along with his faithful sidekick “Bubbles”  (hence the slightly smaller cryogenic hypobaric chamber) were not going to be making a overnight stop here in our town – I recalled the earlier talk of new gas pumps being installed.

Intrigued, I decided I was going to document the progress of this new “attraction” in town… From two cryogenic hypobaric chambers dumped in the parking lot, all the way to functioning gas station.

Over the next few days, the only noticeable progress was the removal of the top layer of asphalt from the parking lot, a series of plumbing fittings assembled around the perimeter of the hole, and a sump pump sucking rain water that has (and would continue to) accumulate in the hole.

From a distance  moving in a little closer  moving in a little closer  plumbing behind the fence / tanks in the background    getting closer  future home of the tanks

After what seemed like an unusually lengthy wait for something… ANYTHING… to happen, one morning (out of the blue) a backhoe showed up and was digging.

Let the digging commence!  Let the digging commence

The backhoe spent several days doing what it does best – and then as quickly as it came, it was gone…  Along with the missing backhoes, the cryogenic hypobaric chambers were also absent (at least as seen from the road).  Upon closer inspection, the cryogenic hypobaric chambers were no longer “chambers”, but entombed cryogenic hypobaric sarcophagi – buried nearly a dozen feet into the ground, carefully nestled into their tomb with what appeared to be specialized fill all around them.

Entombed!  Entombed!

Not long after the cryogenic hypobaric sarcophagi were forever entombed in their resting place, the first “familiar” signs of the impending gas pumps started showing up.

Finally!!  PUMPS!

Once the pumps started showing up, and really getting my curiosity piqued, the project seemed to stall out again (at least for a bit).  I suspect the “powers that be” had some plumbing connections, and pressure / leak testing to finish up before finally putting a final layer of fill over the top – forever hiding the cryogenic hypobaric sarcophagi from the world (and finally allowing me to stop writing (and your having to read) the words “cryogenic hypobaric sarcophagi” over and over again).

Finally, the day came.  The hole was filled, and several small blue “portholes” showed up where (I suspected) the pumps would later be installed.

Things are disappearing!  Things are disappearing!

Here is where I (as a reporter of all things interesting in town, and the author of this photo archive) failed you.  See, “Life as a Father of Five” has a few drawbacks… Time limitations among the top of the list…  Between the time the “blue portholes” showed up and the final photos I have at the bottom of this post, I had not taken any further pictures of the progress…  

A little disappointed?  Yes.  Yes I am.

But like I said, having seen the pumps standing, installed “at the ready” – but without any activity around them, I was curious to what was next. 

One day in early November I had to run into the Hardware Store (it was with my dad while installing our new front door).  It was there in the lot that I ran into the Store Manager.  I asked him when the pumps were going “live”.  I was quite surprised to hear that the tanks were filled, the pumps were turned on, and there was nothing really preventing me from using the pumps (except the presence of a couple of State Regulators – who just happened to be putting their final blessings on the pumps as we stood there jawjacking….)  The manager advised me that the pumps should be up and running and the store was holding a “grand opening” that very evening!

Since I was busy (with the door) and did not need any gasoline, I missed the “Grand Opening” event – but two days later found myself driving by (while dropping a friend of #4 of 5’s back off at home after a sleep-over the night before) and realized I was out of fuel.

Up and running!  Radermacher's Fuel Express

With the two girls in tow, I pulled into “Radermacher’s Fuel Express” and pumped my first tank of gas from the beautiful, shiny new pumps!  In the darkness of night, with all the fresh new lighting on in the pump area, I’d almost call the scene “beautiful”!

(No, that’s not a tear you see welling up… I have something in my eye, now leave me alone about it!)

Just to give you a timeline for this post - the first photos (of the cryogenic hypobaric chambers – oops, I said it again) were taken on 09-28-2010, and these final photos were taken 11-06-2010.

Ahhh…  Nothing like big news in small town Minnesota, huh?


  1. I was in Mankato visiting that weekend. I smiled the whole time I was there . . . I miss my small town southern MN.

    My favorite part of your post? The final picture with the proud Radermacher's name displayed. I LOVE towns where things are still named after actual people. It makes me smile :-)

  2. I have not been back down to 'Kato since the fall flooding totally ripped up highway 169..

    Did you see the photos???

    How were the roads??

    We are due for a trip down there (we try to do a Christmas Shopping trip down there - so much less crowded than the cities!)

    Thanks for the kind words!

  3. I am from a tiny town myself and that is huge news. We only have one gas station and it's been there since, well it's ALWAYS been there. If something new ever came to town, it would probably shut us down for a day or two as everyone would have to inspect it. Come to think of it, our town is so small, I don't think there is physically any room for anything new. I love the small town though and wouldn't know what to do with a big city life!

  4. David,
    I might have erred regarding pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, but you should know that Michael Jackson - as strange as he was - NEVER slept in a cryogenic hypobaric chamber. He used a hypobaric chamber flooded with a high concentration of oxygen. No freezing involved.

  5. Wow! So that's how gas stations are born. I didn't know you needed to bury two giant Oscar Meyer hot dogs first.

  6. LOL, I find it funny that a new gas station is "big news". I make fun of my wife all the time because she's from a small town in the country, where a new gas station would definitely be the talk of the town. So I guess if I laugh at her, I must laugh at you as well. :-)

  7. The smallness of your town beats the smallness of my town. While a new gas station would be newsworthy, it would also be a little redundant. I think we already have a half dozen. We are getting a Cafe Rio, however, and THAT has been big news.


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