the mighty Mississippi disappears in the rear view mirror,
there’s not much to look at for the next thousand miles except
corn. An insane amount of corn.
It goes on and on and on and
then, the corn turns to wheat. An ocean of wheat.
Amber waves of grain. Then, a few hundred miles farther West, the
wheat turns to tumbleweeds and we can drop the mid,
we are now in the West.
break up the monotony along the way, or perhaps because of
it, there are signs. Millions of signs. This is the home field
of the billboard.
Every business garishly competes for attention.
Out there, you’ve got to
have a gimmick. See the World’s Largest this, five-legged that,
First Ever this or two-headed that. Almost any collection becomes
a museum, farm implements, bob wire, cars,
signs and… well, just about anything. Of course, some are more
legitimate than others.
we spied the signs for The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota,
we jumped at the chance to canned-ham it up!
Like moths to
a flame, soon we were pulling off the highway toward the light.
Situated right next to the Spam packing plant, the first thing
we (or anybody with a working olfactory organ) noticed was
the unique and not-so-savory smell.
whole museum dedicated to a canned meat? Our wondering eyes
had to see, we never pass up a cheesy tourist diversion.
Passing by the bronze pigs being led to slaughter,
through the front doors, we were greeted by three thousand
Spam cans stacked in a stunning display in the lobby.
This museum is no cheesy collection.
Hormel folks have done a fine job of capturing the history
of their preserved meat-food product through displays of packaging,
ads and pop culture
Hall after hall of the stuff while the infamous Monty
Python Spam-Spam-Spam-Spam song plays over and over (and over) again.
Ah memories… the dancing can ads, the smell of frying mystery
meat, the bloody fingers nearly severed by the twist key top’s ribbon
of razor sharp metal… good times.
attention is given to the love-hate relationship between
GIs and Spam.
From what we could gather, the good ole US
of A would never have had a chance back in WWII if not for
this magical blend of ham and pork by-products shoved into
An entire exhibit is dedicated to an unseen
soldier in a tent bitchin’ about all the spam he and his
fellow men-in-arms must consume in the field.
folks, if an army moves on its stomach
and Spam was keeping those bellies filled… it follows that we
would all be speaking German if not for Spam.
Something to ponder
as we headed towards the next roadside distraction, I mean attraction.
had it that The Jolly Green Giant resided in Blue Earth, Minnesota.
Once again we found ourselves veering off the interstate and
down the exit ramp to investigate. Catching a glimpse while
scanning the horizon for the towering vegetable spokes-model,
we made our way toward the green Goliath.
In 1978, the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota paid $43,000 to
erect a 55-foot fiberglass statue of the Jolly Green Giant.
The erection was to commemorate the linking of the east and
west sections of Interstate 90 and the local Green Giant plant
(now owned by Seneca Farms). It was unveiled on July 6, 1979,
much to the delight of all future I-90 travelers.
out on the super-slab we headed into the Dakota territory
to get plumb western. But before we could put on our hats
and boots, we had to see one more tribute to corn country,
the World’s Only Corn Palace. Mitchell, South Dakota
has held the honor of home to the Corn Palace for over a century.
in 1905, the townsfolk of Mitchell made a play to wrestle
the state capitalship away from those uppity bastards up in
Pierre. Their big idea? Build a Corn Palace, that’ll show
’em! A cornucopia castle complete with domes, towers and murals
all covered with kernels of corn depicting scenes from a new
theme each season. The corn crazies
are coughing up $130,000 each year to decorate the mansion of maize
much to the delight of the half a million Palace Subjects visiting
Palace doesn’t just sit around doing nothing while wearing
its corn coat. The hall is the home court of the Dakota Wesleyan
University Tigers and the Mitchell High Kernels basketball
teams as well as the host of the Corn Palace Festival, the
Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and (we saved the best for last)
the Corn Palace Polka Festival.
If we were
ever going to make it across the vast expanse of the great plains
we had to put some miles behind us. We simply couldn’t stop at
every Ride the Jackalope, See the Two Headed Snake or World’s
Largest Prairie Dog that we passed along the way. But one thing
had demanded our attention for many hundreds of miles, it had
to be seen.
Back in 1936,
their drug store with signs offering
Free Ice Water and it worked. As time went on, the billboards
were put up further and further away from the store in Wall, South
Dakota. At their peak in the 1960s, there were highway signs in
every state of the union, over 3,000 in all.
still cover over
500 miles of Interstate 90, stretching from Minnesota to Billings,
Montana. Wall Drug spends an estimated $400,000 on the signs every
year, always on wood because, as Ted always said “Painted
wood isn’t as fun to shoot at as enameled metal.”
of this hoopla leads to the mother of all crap shops. In addition
to the free water (yup, they still serve it) there are a couple
restaurants and more crazy souvenirs than any tired tourist
could possibly ponder.
Wall Drug is quite possibly the premiere place to buy all
David & Veronica,
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