Friday, October 28, 2016

Day 4: MN to SD on July 4th

On the Road Again

We left Chicago by 5pm after tacos.  This was my first chance to use my Mobil gas card, a generous gift from my Uncle Mark who worked at ExxonMobil for many years.  As you might guess, we don't always see eye to eye on politics, but he's always been great to me--and I appreciate the free gas.  Thanks, Uncle Mark.

We drove about 4 hours through Wisconsin and into Minnesota and found an America’s Best Inn to stay for the night.

At America's Best we thought we'd introduce our "road toaster" to the toaster in the small free breakfast kitchen.

We woke up in MN, played tennis at a local high school court Missy found at “find a court” or some website, and then got on the road.


Our first stop was Austin, MN home of the world headquarters of the Hormel Company and the SPAM Museum.  This was a very fun stopover.  

At the entrance to the SPAM Museum we were greeted by the charming and enthusiastic Guenie who gave us the lay of the land and told us about two special kinds of SPAM only available here and in Hawaii (Portuguese) and the Phillipines (Tocino).  

There are lots of varieties of SPAM.

And, you can measure your height in SPAM cans, of course.  Looks like I may have Missy by about a half a can.

A big thrust of the museum was how SPAM has fed the troops during just about every war.  Here's an unrelated picture to close us out.

A Bit of Small Town Patriotism...and Loose Meat

Since it was July 4th the whole time we were exploring the history and versatility of America’s most questionable lunchmeat there was a parade down Main Street, right outside the museum door.  

After checking out the parade, we headed over to Tendermaid Hamburgers for loose meat hamburgers and shakes.  

The staff were super friendly and told us all about the history of the Hormel company in the region—including a big union strike in the ‘80s that sharply divided the town.  Hormel maintains its world headquarters in Austin and so has thousands of employees that have been an economic lifeline for the region.  They also support a cancer research center in partnership with the nearby Mayo Clinic.  The company seems like a good corporate citizen, although the story of the strike suggests there may be more there than meets the eye.

Here are our friendly servers.

And, a shot of the actual loose meat burger, which, to be honest, wasn't that flavorful.  They scoop the steamed meat out of the center bin and it could have used some more fat or salt or something.

Sioux Falls

We left Austin after lunch and headed west on Route 90 towards Sioux Falls, where we arrived late afternoon.  The actual falls were listed in Trip Advisor as the number one thing to do in town, so we went to check them out.  When I asked Missy how to describe the falls for this blog post she said “they sucked, and you can quote me.”  She spent 20 minutes utterly confused wandering around looking for some impressive falls, but there wasn’t much to see.  Bottom line is that it’d be fine to skip these on your next cross-country road trip.

Corn Palace

Continuing on Route 90, our next stop was the somewhat-famous Corn Palace, which was constructed as a monument to prairie life, and where they build a different corn mural on the outside every year.  There's a theme every year and this year's was "Rock of Ages."  This was another disappointment—fine to skip.  [Although my roommate Jeremiah who has Midwestern roots was horrified when I said so, so perhaps this reveals our haughty East Coast bias.]  Missy piped in with “this sucked too, South Dakota is making me love Minnesota so far.”  That said, we did get to see “corn Elvis” so now I guess we can die in peace.

Corn Willie:

And, Corn Elvis:

After the Corn Palace we were ready to grab some dinner and find a place to stay.  Our goal for the day was to get close to the Badlands, and we were now just outside the park area.  Missy was craving something green but our options were limited so we settled for a family restaurant called Marlins.  

The crowd was older and all white—we were wishing we could have taken a survey and learned the percentage of Trump supporters.  Ironically Missy enjoyed her meal there whereas my burger and fries were terrible.

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