When I saw that the road we were on was labeled the “Great River Road,” I thought of the road of the same name that we encountered in Louisiana, where all the wonderful plantations were. Then we realized that we were still on the same road. The Great River Road is a collection of state and local roads which follow the course of the Mississippi through ten states of the United States, so yes, we are continuing the trip we started last fall.
The river towns of Minnesota are somewhat different, of course, but charming in their own way. Our first stop was the town of Kellogg, which is noted for LARK Toys, and the largest independent toy store in North America. LARK stands for Lost Arts Revival by Kreofsky and family, who began making wooden toys in their garage in 1983, and which became a huge worldwide hit. You may have seen their trademark toys. Simple and fun.
But they have everything else, too – except for electronic toys, the absence of which we snobbishly endorse. Lots of toy memorabilia too, which was great fun to see. They also have a great children’s book section, with the complete collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder, naturally.
And then there is a wonderfully novel carousel, which has the most whimsical collection of animals – most not usually found on merry-go-rounds. Some of them were very scary!
We lunched in a town we just found by accident, but loved immediately – Lanesboro. This town is more lively than Milwaukee (our benchmark city), but with only 800 inhabitants. The reason is that they wisely recognized how special their little town is, took steps to preserve it, opened a nature trail along abandoned rail beds, and now you can’t stay close to the place during the season, despite the fact that this is also the B&B capital of Minnesota. We knew we were in good hands at the Pedal Pushers Cafe, and new people never stopped pouring in the door. Swedish meatballs and pulled pork anyone?
Smart folks running this town. It’s lovely and alive, with that lovely Scandinavian/Amish combination of flavors one finds so often.
So where, you ask, did the heartbreak come today? Ah – herein lies a tale.
For a year – a full year, I swear – Don has been tantalizing me with the promise of a trip to the Spam Museum in Austin MN. What more could my readers ask of me, I thought? Helen Keller’s pump? Meh. Kermit the Frog’s birthplace? Okay. Elvis’s booth at Johnny’s Drive-In? If you must.
But the Spam Museum? Here, I thought I would strike gold. I could see the comments coming in fast and furious, and the international verbal thrusts and parries delighting all and inciting even more discourse.
Today, my friends, my hopes of offering you a glimpse into this surely amazing collection of Spamabilia were dashed when we learned that this museum closed on Saturday for an entire year, while it is relocated. Closed last Saturday. Seven days ago. Why? Because the Hormel empire, which owns this brand (that really belongs to the world) needs the space for its corporate offices. Now, I know we would all chose Spam over corporate officers any day. But such is my sad story.
HOWEVER, there are some redeeming notes. First of all, you can still see the Spam parking spaces for visitors. Outstanding. And the building hasn’t been torn down yet. We could cling to the windows and peer longingly at the empty room. Yes, that is Don weeping at the locked door. Look at this thing! That had to be one magnificent museum, right?
And, there was our discovery that the Spam store had been relocated about 5 miles away! With 15 minutes before its closing, we managed to screech up to the door and revel in its glories. Eat your heart out, fellow Spam lovers! (Relax, I believe they do have a web site. It’s not too early to order your Spam Museum Christmas house. I believe it lights up.)
So a day like any other day – great highs and deep lows….