I've recently become quite intrigued with the history of Route 52. Think of it as kind of a northern tier counterpart to Route 66, glamorized in an old television show and, more recently, in the animated movie Cars. (Funny coincidence: I was born in Minot, grew up in Anoka, and for the past 21 years have lived near Evansville. At one time U.S. Highway 52 passed through all three towns.)
So you can imagine my delight when earlier this summer a friend told me about Old 52 General Store, in Sabin, Minnesota. Sabin sits squarely on historic Route 52, which runs adjacent to the store in the heart of this little town. You've never heard of it either? Just Google it, and you will learn that Old 52 stocks and ships (to almost anywhere) over 550 kinds of glass-bottled soda, from obscure little bottlers in small towns across the U.S. (As a kid, I lived a couple blocks from a small bottler; it was fun to peek in the windows and watch bottles being filled with Orange or Grape Crush.) Remember grape Nehi, the favorite beverage of Radar O'Reilly on Mash? You will find almost any flavor soda you could possibly imagine on the shelves of Old 52.
But what makes it fun is the whole experience. Just going there can trigger the imagination. Driving down a dusty two-lane truck route into this tiny town, I'm sure it looks much the same as it did when 52 was the main route, in the days before Interstate 94. When you walk in the front door, the staff are ready to greet you: underscore friendly. You've stepped back in time, and - besides the unbelievable selection of bottled pop - you'll find retro toys and candies that delighted many a kid of the forties, fifties and sixties. Now before you start to browse (allow yourself time to be self-indulgent) order a real malted milk, made the old-fashioned way and served in the metal containers with frosty sides. Folks seem to steadily come and go through the front doors - at least, they did on the summer day that we visited - and casual conversation will quickly reveal guests who have come from other states, just for the fun experience and wide choice of (often obscure) sodas.
So if you're looking for a fun day trip or a stopping point while traveling, I hope you'll visit the Old 52 General Store. Sabin is about 10 minutes on 52 from Moorhead, and even closer to I-94. Tell them Steve sent you!