As we said at the end of our last post, we are having more days of driving and fewer days of sightseeing as we begin working our way east and south. But that doesn't mean we're not going to still have some fun along the way along the way.
When we left Medora, ND, we drove about two and a half hours to Menoken, ND, where we stopped at A Prairie Breeze RV Park. A Prairie Breeze was built by full-time RVers and has all pull-throughs because the owner doesn't like to back in. About half the sites have full hookups with 50-amp electric and the other half have water and electric only. There is free Wi-Fi. The roads and pads at A Prairie Breeze are a mixture of dirt and gravel, and there is grass between the sites.
The sites are arranged so each RV enters the pull-through from opposite directions. The sites are fairly narrow, but they are extra long. This gives you some leeway in positioning your RV, but you still must be within a reasonable distance of the hookups. The hookups, although they are not shared, are side by side. We don't care for this arrangement because it puts the driver's side very close to the RV beside you. With slides extended and with wires and hoses deployed, it's difficult to walk between two adjacent RVs. You also have to share living space with another RV on your door side. However, with all pull-throughs, this is still a good place for a one or two-night stop. The photo below shows out site at A Prairie Breeze RV Park.
A Prairie Breeze is conveniently located just off I-94, which means there is some traffic noise. We also heard quite a few trains, although they weren't nearly as frequent or as close as they were at our last stop.
There were a few seasonals at A Prairie Breeze RV Park including the trailer in the photo below that reminded us of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz movie, "The Long, Long Trailer." We're not even sure what you would have pulled that with back in the day. It is heavy enough to have three axles.
We spent two nights at A Prairie Breeze in Menoken to catch up on laundry, to relax, and to make a Walmart run into nearby Bismarck. One fact interesting to note is that the Walmarts in North Dakota area are not allowed to have pharmacies because of the state's pharmacy ownership laws. We're glad we didn't need to have a prescription filled!
Our next stop was about a three and a half hour drive to Barnesville, MN, where we stayed at a nice city park called Wagner Park. Wagner Park had a gravel road, and the the sites are all well-manicured grass. Since we arrived on a Sunday, there weren't many people there and we were able to pull through the field and leave the car attached since we were only staying one night. Wagner Park has full hookups with 50-amp electric. The hookups are side by side, and the electrical boxes are shared, which means not everyone will get 50 amps. However, as we said, the park wasn't crowded when we were there and there was no problem finding a site with no one beside us. All this only cost $20/night. City parks are great camping options and can spoil you when you have to pay more for less at state parks and private campgrounds. The next photo shows our site at Wagner Park.
From Wagner Park, we had about a three-hour drive to a county park in Maple Plain, MN, which is about 15 miles west of Minneapolis. The park is called Baker Park, and it only has electric hookups. It wasn't hot and there were no sewer and water hookups to do laundry, so we took a site with 30-amp electric which saved us $3 over a 50-amp site. The main roads at Baker Park are paved, but the roads around the camping loops and the sites themselves are a mixture of gravel and dirt. The sites are nicely spaced with grass between. The photo below shows our site at Baker Park.
Baker Park was pretty quiet when we were there in the middle of the week, but it's easy to imagine they might get a little zooey weekends. The big problem with Baker Park is the dump station. It is built on a hill, so it's difficult to completely empty your holding tanks. There is also a 4-foot high, landscape-timber retaining wall beside the dump station, so it's hard to get close to the dump receptacle and still have room to walk between the wall and your RV.
Stopping this close to Minneapolis gave Margery an opportunity to visit with a friend she hadn't seen for over 15 years. They met for breakfast in Wayzata, a quaint town that was once was the location of summer homes of many Pillsbury executives. It is so nice to see old friends in their environs and to hear how God has been working in their lives.
From Baker Park, we scheduled a relatively short drive of only about two hours to Austin, MN, which is the home the Spam Museum. Spam is the famous (or infamous) canned meat made by Hormel Foods. We rarely stop for sightseeing in the motor home, but our hope was to stop at the Spam Museum, then make a one-night stop at the Mower County Fairgrounds right in Austin and to not have to unhook the car. We'll tell you how that worked out a little later.
There is a parking lot for cars at the museum, and there is ample parking right along the main street in front of the museum where RVs can park. We parked right behind a driveway so no one would block us in.
The Spam Museum is one of those quirky places we have read about in RV magazines, blogs, and travel articles for years, so we decided to stop to check it out. The photo below shows the outside of the museum.
The Spam Museum doesn't take itself very seriously. What else can a product whose name has become a slang term for unwanted email do but play along with some of the jokes. The museum starts out with its cartoon mascot, Spammy, right inside the door.
There was a short movie about Spam. Contrary to popular urban legends and jokes about mystery meat, Spam is made from pork shoulder, ham, and added spices. The name is a combination of the words "spiced ham." Today, there are 9 main varieties of Spam, plus a spreadable version. There are also a couple of varieties available packaged as slices.
After viewing a movie about Spam, we entered the museum where there was a history of how Hormel got started. George Hormel moved from Buffalo, NY, to Chicago in 1875 to work in a slaughterhouse at age 14. In 1879, he began to travel as a wool and hide buyer. He settled down in Austin, MN, in 1887 and started a meat business with a partner. In 1891, George broke away from the partnership and started his own meatpacking business. The photo below shows a wagon from the early days of George A. Hormel & Co.
Hormel's business grew during the 1910s and 1920s. By 1935, Hormel was making Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Hormel Chile in addition to hams, bacon, sausages, and chicken. In 1937, Hormel introduced Spam canned luncheon meat.
Spam was pretty successful right from the get-go, but it really got a boost during WWII. Hormel doubled its production capacity to send over 1 million pounds of Spam to countries like Britain, Russia, China, and France under the Lend-Lease program. The Lend-Lease program was an agreement where the United States sent huge amounts of war materiel, food, and supplies to Allied nations in exchange for, among other things, military bases. Hormel also supplied Spam to our own GIs. It was a good source of protein that didn't need refrigeration.
In the section of the museum about Spam production, there was a display of employee gear. Paul spotted some V-Gard hard hats manufactured by his former employer, MSA. Paul worked on the molds for many of the components used in the helmets in his early years with the company, and he worked on new product development for head protection in later years.
Today, Hormel Foods has production facilities in 12 cities across the United States. Wholly owned subsidiaries add several more cities to the list, and Hormel International has joint ventures and license agreements in at least 9 or 10 foreign countries. In addition to Spam, Hormel makes numerous products such as ham, bacon, deli meats, sausage, chili, prepared dinners, and more. Some other Hormel brand names you may recognize include Dinty Moore, Chi-Chi's Salsa, Stagg Chili, Herb-Ox Bouillon, and Jenny-O Turkey.
The section of the museum on Spam production also had a work station where you could pack simulated cans of Spam and time yourself. There are empty cans, bean bags to simulate the Spam, snap-on lids, and elastic labels. Margery went first...
...then Paul gave it a try. He thought with his years of manufacturing experience, he could find a more efficient way of packing the cans; but it took him longer to pack 6 cans than it took Margery. Getting the labels stretched over the cans was the hardest part.
The tour ends in the gift shop. In addition to souvenirs like Spam T-shirts and mugs, they sell a full selection of canned Spam. We used to eat Spam when we were kids and when we were first married, but we haven't bought any for years. When we read the label, we were reminded why. There are 16 grams of fat per 2 oz. serving (three servings per can). However, they do have a "Lite" version with half the fat and a little less salt. That might fit our low-fat diet restrictions a little better, so we may pick up a can the next time we go to the grocery store.
Earlier in the post, we mentioned we planned to stay overnight at the Mower Fairgrounds in Austin a few blocks away from the Spam Museum. When we got to the fairgrounds we couldn't find the campground. Some fairgrounds don't have a formal campground, and between events they just let people use the electrical outlets located along the midway that the vendors use during fairs. We drove in through the open main gate, but we couldn't find an office, and we couldn't figure out where we were supposed to camp. We asked some workmen, but they didn't know where the camping was either.
Therefore, we went to Plan B, which was to proceed to the town of Albert Lea, MN, about half an hour to the west. We would have to drive that way when we left in the morning anyway. We always try to have a Plan B when we don't have reservations.
We pulled into Freeborn County Fairground where we were greeted by a small sign with an arrow that read "Camping." That was reassuring. The camping area even had a host couple who showed us to a site. They had a big rib cook-off starting the next day, so they didn't have many sites to choose from. We were fortunate to not have to go to Plan C. Plan C was to drive another half hour to Forest City, IA, where they have a nice city park where we stayed several years ago when we visited the Winnebago Plant.
The Freeborn County Fairgrounds has gravel roads, all-grass sites, and full hook-ups with 30-amp electric. Although the water and sewer hookups were located about every 12 feet at the back of the sites, the electrical boxes were located on poles about 60 to 75 feet behind the sites, so we had to use our 30-amp extension cord in addition to the motor home power cord. The next photo shows our site at Freeborn County Fairgrounds. As you can see, the sites are a little narrow, but it was fine for one night. Unfortunately, the internet satellite was blocked by a tree, and we could not get online. We had to rough it without internet access for one night. At least the satellite TV worked. TV comes from a different satellite that is in a slightly different direction than the internet satellite.
Bright and early the next morning, we took off south on I-35 toward Des Moines, IA. We'll tell you all about our next couple of stops in our next post.