Ten thousand lakes and 520 stores-not including the four major retailers. Minnesota and The Mall of America appeared to us to have it all.

Fortunately, it is also home to some of the most fervent Mopar fans this great country of ours has to offer. In addition, it offers a great portal to Canada, whose Mopar population per capita seems to exceed that of even Auburn Hills, Michigan.

All of these factors, plus the fact that my aunt and uncle live near the Twin Cities, played big in our decision to select the Mall of America as one of the departure sites for this year's series of Return to Brice Road caravans.

But we didn't come to shop-despite the fact that their is rumored to be a DaimlerChrysler store right there inside The Mall of America. We came to cruise.

Wednesday morning I anticipated to be the very first Mopar-here, on the hallowed ground that at one time my beloved Vikings braved cold winter days in order to display their greatness on the gridiron. All that the purple Prowler, provided by DaimlerChrysler and MSX International, needed was golden yellow stripes. I wished I had my Viking helmet, but the lack of cargo space prevented that from happening

However, I would not be the first Mopar to arrive in anticipation of the caravan, but rather it was Tery Plester, his parents, and his '69 Barracuda convertible. Tery, quite proud of his exploits, hadn't missed a Mopar Nationals and wanted to take part in the festivities with Mopar Muscle.

Soon, a host of Mopars would arrive, Dan and Dale Kasowski and his '74 'Cuda, Gary Miller with his '69 Dodge Superbee in tow, Karl Brown and his '73 'Cuda, Jeff Olsson and Andrea DeWanz in their parts-hauling Grand Cherokee, Jim and Jim Jr., Moldeschel and their '71 'Cuda convertible, Hkon Strom with yvind Stvedt and Thor Ruud with and his rental Dodge Grand Caravan proudly wearing the "N" symbol of their native Norway-and then it was noticed. "Check out how many 'Cudas we have-one, two, three, four. Three are convertibles and here in the almost Great White North?"

The morning pleasantries were reminiscent of a scene from Fargo-"Would you like a pop, Jer?" Soon we determined it was time to make the 90-minute beeline to Muscle Car Restorations in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where John Balow had gathered foodstuffs and fun exclusively for our viewing.

Appropriately, for those topless in the caravan, we couldn't have asked for better weather. Highs in the middle '80s begged that the top stay down on the Prowler and we made haste for Muscle Car Restorations.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by John, his wife Jan, and the whole crew from MCR. Additionally, NHRA Super Stock driver Al Corda was on hand as was his Hemi 'Cuda. And while it was not a convertible, we all got a chance to visit with Al, discuss Super Stock Eliminator, and take a peek at the Hemi Dart replica that John is crafting for Corda.

With our stomachs stuffed to the brim, there was no way we were going to need to stop and check out the local dairies as we headed south through the Wisconsin Dells in our effort to make Naperville, Illinois, by nightfall.

Overnight, however, showers came to Chicagoland and we were greeted with slick roads for our departure for Koller Dodge. Here, the parts department offere up a morning snack and Keith Johnson provided goodie bags for all in attendance.

We also picked up new participants, and with 9 a.m. approaching, all of us loaded into our Mopars and attempted to avoid the crush of traffic, in the rain, near Chicago.

After an hour of steady drizzle and heavy traffic, we finally headed south on Interstate 65 enroute to The Paddock in Knights-town, Indiana. While the on-and-off showers put a damper on any top-down cruising and photography, it did give Mopar Muscle's advertising sales rep Susan Clark a chance to check out the Prowler while I rode shotgun.