If coronavirus hadn’t ruined everything, I’d be regaling you with stories of our day trips along the Costa Brava in Spain, our attempt at via ferrata in tiny Andorra, and our cycling adventures up and down the French Pyrenees. But lucky for you, Minnesota has something those lofty European destinations do not.
It has the Spam® Museum.
We don’t often travel within Minnesota. We travel out of Minnesota, usually heading south to Des Moines, then west through interminable Nebraska toward the Rockies. Every time we do this, we pass a sign for the Spam® Musuem, and every time—without fail—the Spam®-loving husband threatens to take the exit. I put up the usual resistance: We’ve just gotten started! We have twelve more hours of driving ahead of us! It’s out of the way! Don’t you dare! Then we have a little laugh over our age-old joke and continue on our way, watching the sign get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror.
This time, though, the Spam® Museum was our destination. Located a few hours away in Austin, Minnesota, we thought we’d make a day-trip of it. Naturally, because the husband was involved, this had to include cycling. Pulling out his trusty Cycling Minnesota book, he found an Austin-based 33-mile route, we loaded up the bikes, and away we went.
The husband loves to visit small towns, and Austin has all the quirk and kitch one would expect of small-town America:
It has clever signs.
It has something unexpectedly small . . .
. . . as well as something unexpectedly large.
It has the latest innovations in privacy fencing.
It has decorative train cars goin’ nowhere.
It has interesting choices in furniture.
And of course, Austin has the requisite patriotic benches on Main Street.
Out past the Austin city limits we had some quintessential small-town experiences.
We found out where the Zieglers live.
We had fun riding back and forth over the yellow road line, which in this case happens to be the state line. Standing in Minnesota or Iowa . . . hard to say which is more exciting.
And of course, it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t get chased by dogs.
Due to “faulty information,” the husband’s 33-mile route ended up being 45 miles.
There was a massive headwind and, though I know this sounds meteorologically impossible given the semi-rectangular, polygonal route, I swear 80% of our ride was straight into it. Also, the extra time in the saddle rendered my sunscreen application inadequate and thus my poor, overworked legs paid the ultimate price.
Finally, we rolled back into town and risked a public indecency citation by getting changed in the car. Two blocks later, we found ourselves outside the crème de la crème of tourist destinations, the pièce de résistance of Austin, Minnesota: the Spam® Museum.
And in a scene straight out of National Lampoon’s Vacation, this was on the door:
Prompting visions of this:
It’s worth pointing out that the Spam® Museum is free, so of course they’re not fussed about closing it. The Spam® Museum store, however, is wide open for your shopping pleasure.
In hog heaven—literally—the husband walked around in a heady daze.
In addition to every flavor of tinned meat you can imagine, of which the husband bought a case, was merchandise beyond your wildest dreams. If you can stick a logo on it, it’s here.
The one thing that could have been interesting—the elevated conveyor belt of tinned Spam—was turned off.
Me: Any particular reason it’s not turned on?
Saleswoman (with a shrug): No. We just decided to turn it off.
Finally, the saleswoman wished us a “Spamtastic day” and the husband, grabbing his armload of acronymed meat, verily skipped back to the car. I got in beside him and turned the ignition, feeling defeated. But I was grateful for two things: a) the husband didn’t buy the $80 logo-studded Hawaiian shirt. (“Expensive, but worth it,” said the deranged saleswoman.), and b) coronavirus prevented the store from serving us “Spamples.” (Her word, not mine.)
As we made our way home, the husband took over the sound system and forced me to listen to the best of Weird Al Yankovic. I succumbed to the inanity and tried to sing along through the laughter, though I did get a bit misty-eyed at this one:
Now the husband’s insisting that, as long as I’ll do anything for a post, we’ll be off to the town of Darwin next. Something about a big ball of twine . . .