People Of The Pacific Northwest 1: People & Places From Bemidji To Portland

Two full days of driving preceded my arrival to the Pacific Northwest, the region whose lives I am exploring this summer.

But though these days were mostly in the car, I captured amazing scenes and enjoyed several interactions with the people along the way. Today I combine these encounters and captures from the Upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest to offer some snapshots of the lives and locations spanning much of the nation.


July 2: Day 1 of Voices of the Pacific Northwest

Bemidji to Bozeman or bust:


Meet Tony and his boy Dawson.

In the booth next to mine at a McDonald’s in North Dakota, I turned to ask a man what town I was in.

“Jamestown,” said Tony.

He then asked what brought me through his part of the country. I told him about my writing and YouTube channel. He promptly invited me to share the booth with him and his son. The mechanic from a small town an hour north of here had questions about how to start a website for his repair shop.

After pointing out my own father having an auto repair shop in a small town, Tony then shared another common thread at the table: his son Dawson’s YouTube channel. The young man had gotten 50,000 views from his video he created about a video game. 

“Wow! Nice job,” I said, encouraging Dawson.

Appreciative of the time shared at this McDonald’s and the work I’m doing sharing about the people of America, Tony finished our interaction with a question:

“You need a little gas money?” he asked while getting up.

“Well…I… I don’t really receive donations,” I said looking downward.

Tony took out his wallet, and handed me some money for the road.

I’m pleased the first people to feature from this journey are this fine pair from North Dakota.


After several hours, I made it to Bozeman, Montana.

Big Sky country indeed…and the pot at the end of the rainbow.


July 3: Day 2 of Voices of the Pacific Northwest

From Bozeman to Portland: another day, another 750 miles to go.


Meet Katie.

After enjoying idyllic Montana scenery this morning between Butte and Missoula, I knocked on the door of a nearby home to learn about life here. Katie answered the door (along with her four young, blonde children.)

She and husband Jethro raise their Mennonite family in the western part of the state, “where God was leading us,” she said. (Katie and Jethro have known one another since children at the same church-school in Indiana.)

“Is there a strong Mennonite presence here?” I asked.

“Yes, there are 18 families,” Katie answered.

She answered other questions I had about their way of life: They have internet for email, research, and ordering things, but they have a filter blocking many sites including Facebook and YouTube. They don’t vote, but they pray for the country. They celebrate the Christian holidays; they don’t celebrate Halloween. They are against smartphones.

In addition to the negative material this family wishes to avoid, they also moderate technology so their kids minimize their screen time and get outside and play.

With a backyard like this, I’m guessing the kids aren’t complaining. Thank you, Katie for contributing yours to the #VoicesofthePacificNorthwest.


Meet Dan.

I offered a ride to the older fella walking along the freeway yesterday. I was hoping for a cool story about life as a drifter, but he denied being one. Instead, he shared how he was dosed with radiation in his youth, has super powers, and works for the CIA (who are also after him). Interestingly, he agreed to let me videotape the conversation without any concern. Not sure what I’ll do with the footage, though.

Sometimes when encountering strangers you get genuine stories of life; sometimes you get ones of paranoid delusion. #VoicesofthePacificNorthwest


It was dark when I finally pulled into Portland. I made it. Next I got to dive into this first destination to discover the people and culture here on Day Three.

But first, some more captures of the U.S. along the way.


Next week I share about the people and places in and around Portland, Oregon–a gem in the Pacific Northwest; a hub of energy, spirit, and a variety of perspectives.

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2 Responses

  1. Erik Fritzell

    I enjoyed your initial piece about heading to the Northwest. As a native of Grand Forks (and summering a good deal in Bemidji) who spent about a dozen years in Oregon, I offer two suggestions for good stories that may resonate with folks back home. Find Jim Bergeron on the Oregon Coast. He’s from the Cass Lake area and has a great perspective on connections between the two regions.
    Secondly, I have heard that many of Bemidji’s founding families went to Bend, Oregon when the timber ran out in this area about 1910-15. Is that true? Are there still traces?

    1. It’s funny you mention that, Erik. I bumped into two fisherman at one of the freshwater lakes near the coast. They worked in real estate, but talked about the forestry industry connections between Oregon and Minnesota. They themselves go to Minnesota for fishing small mouth bass on Rainy Lake. Unfortunately, I’m out of Oregon now–writing this from Seattle. But I do hope to return to Oregon in the near future. I want to dive deeper into some of the social topics unearthed. And if I do, I can also look into the tips you provide. Thanks!

What say you?