Postcard From The SPAM Museum - Spam, Spam, Spam

SPAM Museum entrance
Yes, there really is a SPAM Museum - you know, the oft derided, no respect canned meat kind of SPAM. Located at 1101 N. Main Street in Austin, Minnesota, it is 16,500 square feet of SPAM history, SPAM games, SPAM videos, SPAM branded gear and SPAM gifts.

To borrow words from the SPAM web site, "Few experiences in life are as meaningful and meaty-filled as those you'll have at the magnificent SPAM Museum. Referred to by some meat historians as The Guggenham, Porkopolis, or M.O.M.A. (Museum Of Meat-themed Awesomeness), the SPAM museum is home to the world's most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts."

To be honest, even though I've had a few fried SPAM sandwiches in my time, I had no idea there is a SPAM museum. Like most people, I never gave it much thought. But I couldn't pass up an opportunity to check it out when I saw a brochure at a highway rest stop as I was driving into the state of Minnesota and determined it would only be about a 30 mile side trip.

Parking spots are clearly marked

It was fun, it was informative, it was filling (free samples of SPAM) and if you are in the mid-southern part of Minnesota, worth a short detour if for no other reason than to be able to tell your friends you were there!

Pig farmer and his pigs statue in front of the museum

In front of the museum is a SPAM lunch wagon featuring "
Deep Fried SPAM Curds." No, I didn't have any and no, I
don't know what they are. I don't really want to know.

SPAM burger at the SPAM Wagon. Um, no thanks.

Interesting SPAM facts

How they make SPAM
A SPAM ad from the 1930's

The SPAM store in the museum. From SPAM post cards to
SPAM pens to SPAM coffee cups and so much more. If you
can't find a SPAM product here, it doesn't exist!

According to a store employee, their biggest seller lately is
SPAM-labeled shirts!

3-Legged Willie

Robert McAlpin Williamson was born in Clark County, Georgia in 1804. His mother died shortly after his birth and his father left him to be raised by his grandparents. When he was 15, he came down with what was then called tubercular arthritis in his right leg. A bone infection disease, tubercular arthritis causes very painful swelling of weight-bearing joints and almost always results in deformation of lower legs. Robert was bed-ridden for months and when he recovered, his right leg was paralyzed and shrunken to uselessness below the knee.
During his illness and months of recovery, he studied math, Latin, literature and the law. He became a lawyer and was admitted to the bar when he was only 19 years old. After practicing law for a little over one year, Robert left Georgia and traveled to Alabama and New Orleans. Rumor has it he became involved with a married woman in New Orleans and fled to Austin, Texas in 1827 after severely wounding her husband in a duel.
After arriving in Texas, Robert became friends with Stephen F. Austin (the "Father of Texas") and William Barrett Travis, practiced law and founded a newspaper, The Cotton Plant. He also became good friends with strong drink and late nights in bars and saloons. It was about this time that Robert did something with his useless leg that would earn him an interesting nickname and assure his place in Texas lore. He hired a local woodworker to carve a peg leg for him which he attached to his right knee and folded the useless part of his leg behind him. He had his clothes tailored with three legs - one for his good leg, one for his peg leg, and one for his bad leg. With his good leg, bad leg, peg leg, and walking stick, he made a memorable site. Soon everyone started calling him "3-legged Willie." Nobody enjoyed the name more than Robert himself and he began to introduce himself as 3-Legged Willie.
Noah Smithwick, Austin's blacksmith, told the story of how 3-Legged Willie came pounding on his door very early one morning - very early for Noah, very late for 3-Legged Willie, who was returning home from an all-night carousing. When Noah opened his door, Williamson stood there teetering and said in a loud voice, "Look here, Smith! A man has fallen down and broken his leg. Would you be so kind as to lend a hand?" In his inebriated state, 3-Legged Willie had hung his peg leg in a gopher hole and snapped it in two.
One morning after another night of liberal imbibing in one of his favorite saloons, 3-Legged Willie happened to come upon an orphaned buffalo calf and decided on the spot to catch it and make it his pet. The calf was only about half-grown, but it was plenty big enough to handle himself. Willie made it home where he grabbed a rope, jumped on his horse, quickly rode back and roped his intended pet. Unfortunately, the young buffalo wanted nothing to do with Willie and he promptly head-butted him, knocking Willie to the ground about 6 feet backwards. Willie, not one to easily be denied, got up, dusted himself off, and approached the buffalo once more. Again Willie ended up on the ground several feet away from where he started. This happened twice more by which time Willie evidently sobered up enough to realize this particular buffalo wasn't going to be his pet anytime soon. He decided to remove his rope and let the animal go, but the buffalo wasn't about to let Willie get anywhere near him for any reason whatsoever and butted him several more times. By now, Willie was plenty fed up with this nonsense. He mounted his horse and removed one of the heavy iron stirrups before riding close up on the buffalo and jumped on his back. While the buffalo jumped about bawling and kicking and bucking all over the field, Willie hung on for dear life with one hand and beat the animal on the head with the stirrup in the other until the poor beast fell and was finally killed. Willie pulled out his knife, butchered it right where it fell and took the steaks home.
After Texas became a republic, Willie became one of the very first circuit-court judges. His was a large circuit which included Gonzales County, an area with little to no law. The rough citizens who lived there had even refused to have a courthouse built so what little court that got held was conducted in the shade of a large live oak tree.
Willie, or "Judge Williamson" as he was now called, decided to bring law to Gonzales county whether it wanted it or not. He rode into town one day to preside over a trial of several local cowboys who had been arrested by a Texas Ranger. He strolled over to the live oak tree, laid a plank of wood over several whiskey barrels and sat down on a nail keg. He leaned his walking stick and shotgun against the tree, placed his law-book and gavel on the plank and pronounced court to be in session. By now, a large number of spectators had gathered around and evidently decided to let Judge Williamson know how they felt about their regard for a court. They began shouting, whistling, and making a general loud ruckus. The louder the judge called for order, the louder the unruly crowd became.
Soon enough, Judge Willie had had enough of such nonsense. He reached beside him, picked up his shotgun, cocked the hammer and laid it on the plank of wood in front of him with his finger on the trigger. Things got real quiet real fast. In a scary calm voice, he said, "This court is coming to order. If it doesn't come to order right now, I am, by God, gonna kill somebody and I am not particular who I kill." Court came to order right then and every time thereafter when Judge Williamson held court in Gonzales County, it came promptly to order.
Judge Willie became even more of a Texas legal-system legend when he had a drunken lawyer arguing a civil case in his court. The defense lawyer didn't have much of a case and was hoping his eloquence would sway the judge to find in his client's favor. As he continued to argue his case during the afternoon, he kept refreshing his evidently dry mouth from a brown jug he kept at his table. The more he refreshed himself, the more rambling and twisted his reasoning became and the louder he got.
After listening patiently for most of the afternoon, Judge Willie became exasperated and asked, "Counselor, where is the law to support your contention in this matter?"
Perhaps due to the liquid in his brown jug, the lawyer forgot who he was standing in front of. He reached under his coat and pulled out a foot-long Bowie knife, waved it at the judge and said, "This, by God, is the law in this case!"
Judge Willie promptly reached under his coat, pulled out a horse-pistol with a bore big enough that a large man could stick his thumb into it and pointed it straight at the lawyer's head. The hammer was back and the judge's finger was on the trigger as he declared, "And this, by God, is the Constitution. You, sir, are overruled." It is said the front of the lawyer's pants suddenly became wet as he quickly sat down behind his table.
The legacy left by Judge Willie is as a fair and honest judge who possessed a good amount of common sense, but not someone to be messed with. Perhaps we could use a few modern-day Judge Willie's.

Route 66 - Santa Monica and The End of the Great Adventure

From the Mitla Cafe to Santa Monica is mostly just L.A. traffic and sprawl so we cheated and jumped on I-10 for the rest of the way. We eventually made it through horrendous stop-and-go traffic to the intersection of Lincoln and Olympic Boulevards, the official end of Route 66. Of course, just a few short blocks away was the unofficial end, Santa Monica Beach and the pier, so on we drove.

Santa Monica Beach and Pier - where Youngest-daughter
scared at least 5 years off my life
Cars, cars, cars and people, people, people everywhere! It took us about 20 minutes of circling around and looking before we were able to find an available spot in a public parking lot right next to the beach. Paying to park is done via one of those upright kiosk machines that takes cash or credit cards. We discovered that this kiosk had trouble taking a credit card and it didn't give change so we had to scrounge around and finally together came up with the correct amount. I suggest you take enough cash, between $6 and $15 per day or about $1 per hour just in case there are still problems with accepting credit cards. After the machine spits out a permit for you, don’t forget to place it on the dash of your car. During our time there we twice saw police riding around the lot checking for permits on the dashes and giving tickets to any without a valid permit showing.

Toilet/Changing Rooms on Santa Monica Beach
The beach was really nice with a lot of different activity equipment installed. There were also a good number of toilet/changing rooms. They didn't exactly smell like fresh petunia’s, but they were not as dirty as I expected. The beach was wide with deep sand – a very nice beach. The slipped disc in my lower back  was again acting up and my injured foot was paining me a lot that day, but I was determined to walk out to the ocean and at least get my feet wet. Youngest-daughter wanted to change clothes so she went on ahead of me to the changing rooms while I took the parking permit back to put it on the truck’s dash.
This is what caught Youngest-daughter's attention and
caused me a lot of anxiety
With my physical hurts it took me several minutes to make it from the parking lot to the changing room area and I was grateful for the bench thoughtfully placed close by so I could sit while waiting. I waited, and waited, and waited. I started to get anxious knowing it doesn't take that long for her to change clothes. It didn't take much longer of her being a no-show for me to start getting extremely desperate, the kind of desperate that only a parent gets when they are afraid something bad has happened to their child. I hobbled around the changing rooms several times looking everywhere and hysterically started looking for a lady I could ask to check the ladies rooms or a policeman to lock down the whole damn beach and issue an Amber alert, an all-points bulletin to find my baby girl! Bring in every cop, bring in the Marines, bring in the Navy, bring in Homeland Security, send up the drones! Somebody better find my baby and they better do it quick!

Just as I spotted a lady nearby to look into the ladies rooms for me, my totally unawares and unconcerned little female offspring walked up behind me, tapped me on the arm and said, “Hey Dad.” Oh Lord, I almost wet myself right then and there. She had been some yards off to the side at a patch of grass watching some people doing acrobatic stuff and then had gone in to change. I wanted to put my arms around her and hug her tight and I wanted to put a knot on her head too. The hug won out, but just barely.
Youngest-daughter getting Pacific Ocean for a keepsake
She took the clothes she had changed out of back to the car (with me watching her the whole way!) and grabbed an empty 2-liter plastic bottle we had saved specifically for this occasion. We walked toward the ocean, or I should say she walked beside me as I hobbled through the deep sand. I’m not an ancient age, but I certainly felt like it right then. I silently cursed the gods who decided that after 3 years of a pain-free back, it was time once again for it to flare up during our trip.  After a few minutes, we made it to the edge of the beach. I sat down, took off my shoes and together, we waded into the water. We could now say we had absolutely made it; Route 66 from beginning to end! For proof, Youngest-daughter dipped the empty bottle into the water and captured 2 liter’s of Pacific Ocean to bring back home.

The author at "The End"

Our great “Daddy-Daughter ‘Mother Road’ Trip” was ending, but wasn't quite over yet. We still had to make it back home 1,650 miles away. After a few hours on the beach and pier, with the clouds rolling in making everything gray, we decided that was a perfect sign for us to end the fun, get on the road once again and go east this time. We had been gone almost 2  full weeks, we missed the Mamma-woman, Youngest-daughter missed her dog, we were looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again, we were tired of driving, and I was really looking forward to getting back home to my chiropractor to get my back fixed. We tried to beat the rush hour traffic, but evidently, until you get 100 miles away from the ocean in LA, there is no beating rush hour traffic because it is always rush hour traffic!
How Youngest-daughter spent most of the trip back home.
The adventure was over.

Staying on the interstate going back, we spent that night in Barstow, CA. We awoke early, grabbed some fruit and dry cereal from the free hotel breakfast and headed out as the sun made its appearance. I quickly settled into the “Everybody get out of the way cause Daddy is driving and determined to put a lot of miles behind us” mode. Youngest-daughter normally is a great sleeper in the car, but this trip was her first to be the navigator and with all the twists and turns Route 66 presents, there’s not really any time the navigator is not needed so awake she stayed. She had performed her duties wonderfully and now that there was no navigating needed, she was free to sleep. She proved to be a truly gifted car sleeper as the miles kept piling up behind us.

After spending one more night on the road in Oklahoma, we safely pulled into our driveway. Mamma-woman, Riley The Wonder Dog, and even our two very aloof cats came out to welcome us home. Our once-in-a-lifetime trip was over. I could check off another bucket list item. Daddy and daughter had not only survived 2 weeks of 24-hour togetherness and a journey of almost 4,000 miles, but had grown even closer. We had set a goal, persevered and completed it. She had learned how to accurately read a map and give directions; had learned the words to a lot of ’60′s and ’70′s songs; had seen first-hand some things she had read about in her history classes; had seen and learned about America’s heartland; had heard new stories told by her dad and had learned a lot more about her family members who came before her. I had shared with my daughter something I had always wanted to do; had learned my baby girl really is growing up even if I don’t want her to; had learned she has a good, interesting personality all her own and definitely has her humorous side; and now I know when she sets a goal, she is strong enough and has the determination to reach it. We have something very special the two of us will fondly remember all of our lives. Thank you, Route 66. Your mystique and magic lives on.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: