She drives a hot, silver-bullet of a car, an Audi TT, that makes you want to drive, drive, drive for days through the winding forest roads of northern Minnesota on a road trip into the unknown.
But, we had to stop to fill up at this gas station designed by the one-and-only Frank Lloyd Wright.
I remember my first visit to Fallingwater in southern Pennsylvania -that feeling that I had just walked into a place of pure, distilled intention: every piece of furniture, every corner, every window, every stair functioned as a whole to complete a masterpiece; I was walking through the mind of a brilliant visionary.
My experience at the Phillips 66 Gas Station in a small town in Northern Minnesota wasn’t quite as moving, but we had to appreciate the structure, none-the less. (We were impressed that the gas station attendant pumped the gas for us, but we soon realized he probably didn’t pump for the average Joe; seems he just wanted to touch Thelma’s sleek sports car.)
Located at the corner of Route 33 and Cloquet Avenue, this historic landmark in Cloquet, Minnesota “attracted notice far beyond Cloquet with its unique 60-foot illuminated roof-top pylon, glass observation lounge, and cantilevered copper canopy.” The station opened in 1958 and it is the only working gas station that Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to build.
We wished the owners would care enough sweep the floor in the lounge area of the observation deck and add a welcoming chair or two, as the original plans included, but this is, after all, a working gas station where cars get fixed, and gas gets pumped, and tires get changed: authentic, functional art. Seems Wright’s original plans called for overhanging gas pumps (gas pumps suspended from on high: imagine that!) which would have eliminated the need for service islands. However, local codes prohibited their installation.
And then we were off: the Dynamic Duo, the Sunshine Sisters (as some of our classmates call us) off to Mexico Lindo to join the other members of our art class for margaritas, quesadillas, and shameless flirting with cute, Mexican waiters who cared more about the Mexico vs. Argentina soccer game (as all true-bloods should) than bringing us more nachos and guacamole. But we didn’t care.
We were Thelma. We were Louise. The whole crazy lot of us.
I think I could easily live here. There’s a mysterious comfort in the towering pines, the wildlife of bears and deer and wolves, and a deep, deep forest that feels, in some primal way, as if I were coming home to a familiar place I’ve never been.
('Pines in Evening Sun' by shamash. Cloquet Forestry Center, Cloquet, Minnesota)