Tag Archive | Minnesota

Refreshed…

Did you miss me?  Did you notice I’ve been away?  Well I’m back!

I’ve been on vacation!  My first real vacation since before the pandemic, and my longest vacation since my road trip in 2018.  I ran away for a full 10 days, and I made the most of my time away!  It was glorious!  I barely checked my work email, and nobody from work called.  I had so much fun exploring the Midwest, roaming around finding little nooks and crannies.  I cannot even tell you how much I have missed vacation!

Today was my first day back at work, after arriving home late last night.  Don’t worry, both Cora and Yellow have forgiven me.  Cora wanted pets as soon as I walked in the door last night.  Yellow took until mid-morning today to decide to give me a chance, but once he got a taste of those pets, he was all in…

I’ll be back to posting soon.  I’ve got adulting to do, since I have no groceries and the place needs a vacuuming.  How does the house get dirty when I’m not even here!?  Meanwhile, meet Big Ole!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Four Daughters Winery

Day 17, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I had not intended to see much of Minnesota on my road trip.  I mean, in the perfect world, I would have visited much of Minnesota on my trip, as I had never been there before, but… it is not a perfect world, and there was not unlimited time on my trip to go everywhere.  Sadly, I had to pick and choose.  From Austin and the SPAM Museum, I headed east and then south to drop into Iowa.  And found an unexpected gem.

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery

The Four Daughters Winery is on Highway 16, one of the highways I traveled to get to Iowa.  I wasn’t expecting to see a winery, and I hadn’t done any research on Minnesota wine, but there it was.  I drove past it, noticing what it was, and ended up turning around to go back.  A winery – with a restaurant, and it was lunchtime!  It was clearly a sign.

I went in and chose a spot at the bar – the tasting included your choice of six white or red samples (not SPAMples this time) – I chose the whites.  You could also select two samples of their ciders (but I was so very enthusiastic that she let me taste more).

Four Daughters has some fantastic wines.  Their sparkling Brianna is delicious, and their Tea Time Loon Juice, a black tea infused cider, is amazing.  The sangria is a light, refreshing, summer time sipper.  I bought all three, and I’m sad that Four Daughters doesn’t ship to Washington…  I long ago drank them all…  I am going to have to make it back to Minnesota.  Not to mention I had their pork tacos for lunch, which were so delicious – and paired perfectly with the sparkling Brianna.

Pork tacos

That’s the thing about road trips – sometimes you just find a place you want to stop at and explore.  I was so glad that I did!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: The SPAM Museum!

Day 17, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Austin, Minnesota is home to the SPAM Museum, and who wouldn’t want to visit there!??  Austin was a cute small Midwest town with a nice little downtown area, and after I packed up and got on the road, I checked it out.  The SPAM Museum is home to all things SPAM.  Did you know that the name SPAM actually is a contraction of the words Spiced Ham?  It was introduced by the HORMEL company in 1937 and the original SPAM is still produced today, although there are many other varieties in the line up now.  During World War II it was a popular ration item, due to its canned nature, and the fact that it was a shelf stable meat.  In the UK, soldiers began saying that SPAM stood for Special Processed American Meat.

SPAM is produced in Austin, Minnesota, so that’s why the museum is here!  Hormel has been in business since 1891, but SPAM took off during World War II, especially in the Pacific Island countries.  If you have ever been to Hawaii and had Loco Moco, you know what I mean…

The museum is free to visit, and has exhibits on all things SPAM.  The history of SPAM, worldwide SPAM recipes, SPAM in advertising, SPAM in pop culture.  They have a whole display of musical instruments made with SPAM cans.  I never knew SPAM was so influential!  Some of the exhibits explain the various regional SPAM preferences.  Varieties sold today include Classic, Hot and Spicy (Tabasco seasoned), Black Pepper, Oven Roasted Turkey, Chorizo, Cheese, Garlic, Macadamia Nut, and Classic in spreadable form…  There’s a SPAM for everyone – except vegetarians.

For Monty Python fans, the movie SPAMALOT plays on an endless loop.

When I was there, there was even a bacon-fueled themed Harley Davidson motorcycle parked in the lobby; even though it isn’t directly SPAM-related, it is powered by a Hormel product.

I admit I never knew very much about SPAM.  Besides trying it in Hawaii, I’ve never been a SPAM eater.  Somehow this iconic classic never made it to my dining table – I’m very disappointed in you Mom and Dad!  There are employees wandering around with SPAMples though, so you can try the various flavors of SPAM with no commitment!  I have to admit the Black Pepper one is pretty good.  I also learned that SPAM factories produce 44,000 cans of SPAM per hour.  And did you know that Hawaii eats more SPAM than any other state?  8 Millions cans per year!

My foray into SPAM lasted about an hour, after which time I selected a couple of SPAM postcards, and of course, a SPAM stemless wine glass.  There’s something awesome about drinking wine from a SPAM wine glass!  I must one day do a SPAM wine pairing night.  Now there’s an idea for a party!

If you have a chance to visit, check it out!  And be sure to pose with Jay Hormel outside.

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Pipestone National Monument

Day 16, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I spent a lazy morning on my last day at Split Rock Creek State Park – I did some route planning and relaxed on the dock and got some photos of the muskrat who kept swimming by.  After leaving, I felt rejuvenated and ready to begin again.  I was off!  My destination was Pipestone National Monument, in Pipestone, Minnesota.

ME!

Pipestone National Monument is a sacred site for the plains Native Americans, including the Lakota, Dakota, and the Sioux, due to the red pipestone that is prevalent in the area, and is carved to create prayer pipes.  The Sioux took control of this land around 1700, but ceremonial pipes found in burial mounds show that this area has been quarried for centuries.  Pipestone is a type of metamorphosed mudstone, which is prized because of its soft properties, which allow it to be easily worked into the ceremonial pipes.  It is also known as Catlinite, after it was described by the American painter George Catlin in 1835.

Types of Pipestone

The land that the monument occupies was acquired by the federal government in 1893, and the last tribe to quarry there, the Yankton Sioux, sold their quarry rights in 1928.  On August 25, 1937, Pipestone National Monument was designated, and Native American quarrying rights were restored.  Today, approximately 67,500 people visit the monument each year.

The nature walk at Pipestone National Monument

The monument has restored over 250 acres to the native prairie grasses; there is a 3/4 mile nature walk where you can see some of the historic quarries and a waterfall.  It is beautiful and peaceful.  Another section of the park, that is not open to the public, contains lands that are currently being quarried.  You have to be Native American from specific tribes in order to obtain a permit to quarry pipestone there; many of the artisans who dig for the stone are third of fourth generation carvers.  There is historic evidence of the visitors here over time; some graffiti is from the 1800s.

Me at Pipestone

 

Historic graffiti

One area on the nature walk contains The Oracle; you can peek through a hole in a sign and see the face of an elderly man jutting from the quartzite stone cliffs. Unlike in The Neverending Story, The Oracle did not open his eyes or shoot laser beams from them.  Whew!

I enjoyed Winniwissa Falls, and even captured “Bigfoot” in one of my photos there – you be the judge!

I found Bigfoot!

I also saw a Green Heron, and my first ever Thirteen Lined Squirrel!

Inside the Visitor’s Center I checked out the exhibits of petroglyphs and the history of the site, and I watched a man carving pipestone into pipes.  They are truly beautiful; the finished product is rusty red with a smooth finish.

A carved pipestone pipe

After leaving Pipestone National Monument, I stopped by Blue Earth, Minnesota for selfies with two iconic figures from my childhood – the Jolly Green Giant and Sprout!  The Jolly Green Giant is 55 feet tall and has been here since 1978.  What a fun, quick stop!

The Jolly Green Giant! Him, not me…

 

Sprout!

 

I stayed the night at Oakwood Trails, in Austin, Minnesota.  It is a family owned campground on the back 40 of a farmer’s soybean and dairy farm – they were such friendly, kind people!  It was a nice campground with very few mosquitoes, which of course I really enjoyed.  The bathrooms were nice too!  Highly recommended!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Split Rock Creek State Park

Day 14, Sunday, July 29, 2018 – Day 16, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

After the Corn Palace and lunch at a Taco John’s (this was on the recommendation of a friend – I wasn’t that impressed), I stopped at a rest area.  I did some Googling and found a small state park in the middle of nowhere, not far across the border in Minnesota, and near my next destination of Pipestone National Monument.  A call to the state park reservation line revealed that they had a site for the next two nights.  Score!  I was going to decompress and just relax for a bit!  Instantly, I started to feel better, knowing the pressure was off.

Minnesota! My 5th State!

I made my way there, driving down back roads by farm fields, and heading off on a gravel road to the park.  I was a little unsure, thinking there surely couldn’t be a state park here.  But soon enough, I arrived.

Split Rock Creek State Park is on a man-made reservoir that was created in 1938, when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) dammed the creek in order to provide a lake and recreational area to fish during the Great Depression.  It was small, and beautiful.  My little tent site was right on the lake, with a dock that I could walk out on, and lay on to enjoy the sunshine.  The fish there were so plentiful that they were just jumping out of the water.

I took a nap when I got there, to shake off the fatigue that I had been feeling all day.  Then I set up camp and checked out my surroundings.

Split Rock Creek State Park is small, as state parks go.  There was an RV area and a tent area and a total of 55 sites; the tent area had no more than 10 sites.  I liked my site a lot, as it was just steps away from the lake and that little dock.  The lake had a little trail that followed the lake for a while, and there was a swimming area that was completely deserted the entire time I was there.  In fact, there was very little going on here; there was only one other tent camping family for the first night of my stay.  I never saw the camp hosts the entire time.  The busiest creatures there were the muskrats, which seemed to be plentiful. I saw at least four during my stay.

The dam is made from Sioux Quartzite, a red rock that is local to the area.  The dam and a nearby bridge made from the same Sioux Quartzite are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I spent two quiet and relaxing days there.  I didn’t say much more than hello to a soul there at the park.  I set up my tent to have a respite from the mosquitoes and the periodic rain showers, but slept in my car.  I wrote in my journal, relaxed on the dock, and took walks by Prairie Lake.

I enjoyed watching the muskrats working on their lakeside homes, cutting down reeds to build.  I loved seeing the fish jumping out of the water to catch bugs, even though I was never able to catch that with my camera.  I watched a snapping turtle checking me out from the middle of the lake, even though I couldn’t see what he was until I blew up the photos from home.  Deer ran in front of me while I was walking, I saw lots of bunnies, a woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Mourning Doves, and a Great Blue Heron.  It was peaceful and quiet, a true oasis tucked in among the farm fields.

I watched the sunsets each evening from the little dam over the creek.  Those sunsets were stunning!

Watching the sun sink lower in the sky, shooting rays in every direction, reminded me of the purpose of the trip.  To let go of the hard parts in my past, to be renewed, and to find joy.  And I did find joy there, tucked away in that tiny little oasis in a corner of Minnesota.  More than I possibly could have ever known.