Day 7: Corn fields and odd museums in Iowa

Thursday morning we left Ellen and Peter’s cosy house in St Paul and headed south towards Iowa, a drive dominated by corn fields and odd museums.

Just before we left the state of Minnesota we took a detour to the town of Austin, home of Hormel Foods. Hormel produces many different meat products, but is particularly famous for spam, a canned meat product which the American forces loved to hate during WW2. It’s also well known in Great Britain, probably because it was cheap food served in many schools.  Monty Python used it in one of their famous sketches in a cafe that serves spam, spam and spam with spam. The company has a spam museum in Austin, which tells the history of the products,  and which made us curiuos as to how it actually tastes, so the nice lady at the museum sent us to the Piggy Blues BBQ Cafe further down the main street, where we had there 3 Little Piggies burger: Spam, pulled pork and bacon in a burger served with thin crispy slices of potato. Not bad at all.

So with full bellies we set off southwards into Iowa on small country roads. When we were planning this trip Ole said he particularly wanted to drive out over the prairie and see large corn fields, and today he got lots of corn fields!

On our way through the small town of Traer we suddenly spotted a sign advertising a salt and pepper shaker museum, and of course we had to see that! It turned out to be one little old lady’s (Ruth Rasmussen’s) collection of more than 16,000 shahers in any shape you can imagine, from animals, Santa Clauses, prairie wagons, ink bottle with ink blot, the Obamas and the Clintons, gas station pumps etc etc.

However we didn’t have all that much time to enjoy the shakers, because we wanted to make it to the neighboring town of Gladbrook and their Matchstick Marvels museum before it closed. This was a collection of big models of ships, planes, rockets, animals and buildings such as the Paris Notre Dame and the US Capitol made out of matchsticks by local artist, Patrick Acton. Many of his models have been bought by Ripley’s Believe It or Not and can be seen in their museums around the world. Amazing handiwork!

From here we went to the town of Winterset where we drove through one of their famous fine old covered bridges and had dinner at the Northern Cafe, both places we could recognize from the film “The Bridges of Madison County” with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Driving on further westwards we watched the most beautiful sunset over the prairie before arriving at Karen’s house in the small town of Atlantic where we had booked her basement Airbnb apartment. It turned out to be quite a big apartment with living room, kitchenette, bathroom and two bedrooms, and there was homemade lemon cake waiting for us! We had told Karen beforehand that the purpose of our stay was to visit the nearby Danish villages and without being asked she had checked out opening hours of museums restaurants and written little post-it notes to us with the information – great service!

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