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Genealogy Road Trip 2021 Vol 2

Great American Road Trip Vol 2 August 19 - Greetings to everyone from Rochester Minnesota. We’ve been constantly in motion since our last report. August 16 - 17: A few last words about the Badlands; this place must be a slice of another planet that broke off from Mars or Mercury, drifted through space and landed in South Dakota sometime in the past million years. While more desiccated than the Grand Canyon, native people found an abundance of bison and others homesteaded. The thermometer reached 100F +. Needless to say, we didn’t hike much. Took a million photos and said hello to Prong Horn, Deer along the highway and waved to distant Buffalo herd. It’s not all crazy rock and dirt. There’s lots of prairie grass. We’ve got to come back and camp IN THE SPRING OR FALL when it’s a temperature that humans can breath in. Additionally, the3` sky in SD is now filled with smoke from fires from Montana. Spent the night in a KOA in Interior, SD (pop. 97). The camp’s food has a 3-star Michelin rating. Its free pancake breakfast, prepared by gourmet chefs “Bob and Jim”, was outstanding. That morning we overheard the owner say that camp grounds are experiencing a BOOM time. So many new first time campers across the country. He’s booked heavily into next summer already. We met one guy straight out of the movie Nomadland. He travels in his RV year round, getting work at the parks he stays in, just like Frances McDormand’s character. August 17: Wall Drug. Everyone must go there at least once in your life. I didn’t think I’d ever see a place tacky-er than Gatlinburg TN. Oh, how wrong I was. They are efficient though. Serving thousands of people a day (and at least a thousand while I was there for an hour) they keep the prairie food flowing. It wasn’t the worst hamburger we’ve ever had but the word “hockey puck” comes to mind. Arrived for lunch in Mitchell MN, home of the infamous Corn Palace. A dream fulfilled. Built early in the 20th century to celebrate the wonders of the local economy and be a venue for local basketball, concerts, conventions and rallies. Many a local politician have launched their career from here. Picture a huge building that is a cross of the Kremlin (onion domes) and a Mid-Western high school basketball court. In the 60s, having spent many a Saturday night watching them on TV, Janice was thrilled to see that Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren played the venue. (Uh one… and a two…) Arrived in Rochester by dinner time. It’s been two years since seeing Spencer and Emily. What a joy! Had dinner a great restaurant (outdoors thank goodness. Rochester just got a mandate from the mayor for all workers and patrons in stores, restaurants, etc. must wear masks). And the Mayo Clinic? OMG. It’s not a building or two in Rochester. It’s virtually every building you see downtown and many in the outlying area. Basically the Mayo IS Rochester. If you don’t believe me just google a picture of the Rochester skyline. All the building you see downtown are the Mayo Clinic with a few hotels scattered in between. August 18: Amazing Day. We borrowed Spencer and Emily’s bikes and road 20 miles on the beautiful Douglas trail. It begins at the edge of Rochester and strikes out into the corn and soya fields, barns, and country dirt roads. Shaded and green. We are definitely not in the West anymore. With our blood pumping in euphoric anticipation, we drove the 24 miles west to Austin which is the home of the Hormel Corporation and yes…The SPAM Museum. For Janice, it was like going on a Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. We arrived just in time to get join a guided tour through the museum. SPAM has a noble and storied history beginning in the 1930s. Hormel invented the first safe way to can meat. This was critical for our ancestors who lived through the depression and the American troops during WWII (K-Ration consisted of SPAM, 1 Hershey bar, and 2 cigarettes). Margaret Thatcher said the SPAM was the meat that won the war. Guam and Hawaii have the largest SPAM consumption at over 15 cans/yr/per capital. We spent time in the gift shop where many of the tchotchkes have some pork reference. Neal had to pull Janice away from the SPAM-themed ceramic plates. Some of you lucky ones will be getting SPAM merchandise for Christmas. What could possibly top that? Spencer invited us to his climbing gym, a first for us both. We climbed 30 foot walls with Spencer belaying. Unfortunately there is no photographic record but the self-described acrophobic Janice was like lightening going up the wall. She is now known as “Spider Woman.” Janice and Neal

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