Thursday, November 11, 2010

Minnesota and Iowa


Mississippi River


The mighty Mississippi flows from all they way up north in Minnesota. I didn’t know that, but this is what it looks like in the morning light.




McDonalds has become our office, sort of. We have started to make it a routine to stop in the first one we see of a morning and stay sometimes a couple of hours. You see, they have many useful things; IMG_7046Firstly, between the restaurant and our car we have 2 leather armchairs, a radio, 2 laptops, a power source for them and 2 phones. Thanks to Ronald and his gaff we have a break room, cheap and good coffee, a bathroom,an effectively inexhaustible supply of food and most importantly free internet! (the one in Grinnell, IA doesn’t and that’s where I'm sitting now. Shame)



We do our  blogging, email, research, route-planning, downloading and uploading from here and we only pay a buck for our big coffees. Good stuff



Home of the Mayo clinic and the reason we came here. The book said they run tours, but we failed to notice that the book said ‘at 10am’. We got there at 11:30 and were disappointed. it worked out ok in the end though because when we called them we were told that they don’t do tours these days anyway. Onward to SPAM!

Spam Museum in Austin, MN








There is one, yes. I struggled to believe it when we saw the flyer but it’s true. There in Austin, Minnesota near the factory lies the SPAM museum complete with ‘wall of spam’.IMG_7079

This is a fun place, but it doesn’t touch on the question of exactly what is SPAM. We were told that it’s luncheon meat, that GIs loved it in WW2 and that the name comes from a competition to come up with a name for this new-fangled meat product. It means SPicey hAM in case you were wondering. Someone won 100 bucks for coming up with that but we do not completely know what the meat is. We were told that it contains pork shoulder, and 'ham meat’ I do not know what that means, and I assume it simply means that it’s meat from a pig so I will leave it at that.


I do know that 44,000 cans of spam are produced every hour from the 2 plants in the US. That’s an astonishing amount pink pig meat. I also learned that the #1 largest consumer state is Hawaii and that they even have a spam festival yearly to express their appreciation for the fatty cube.

The whole museum, it must be said  is excellently done. They have managed to divert your attention away from what the stuff actually is, to its kitsch value, its cultural niche, the vast international appeal and the rate it's produced. It’s a light-hearted place and if you want to know SPAM’s history, see a few cool old cans, artefacts and play with a few of the many toys and games there then it’s well worth a visit. There’s even a game-show game where you answer questions via a console to a projected game show host.

IMG_7074I lost interest quickly and wanted to get back to the SPAM can packing game in which you stuff cans with a little pink bean bag, to simulate the meat, attach the lid, bake it, label it and repeat 6 times in as short a time as you can. I did it in 1:15 in which time the factory next door produced 546 cans. I was totally outclassed!

We left via the inevitable gift shop which was full of stuff with SPAM written on it. These ranged from golf tees, to shirts, hats, pencils and all manner of such stuff. We bought a squashed penny with a SPAM can design to add to the collection. We are suckers for those things.

We camped in a sweet spot in Iowa. A state park campsite right by the lake. The first campsite we visited had a prominent ‘road closed’ sign over the entrance road so we drove past it and had a look around, but we didn’t like the look of it and slid away.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you are near Ames, Iowa. I stayed there with a family back in the 1960's when on a Moravian College Choir tour! All I remember is it was COLD! Nice people, too...
    Wonder if there is a Moravian Church there? That's where we would have performed. I think the couple I stayed with owned a Dairy Queen! (But that might have been in Chaska, Minnesota...)