When you are spending two straight days in the car, you have to find interesting places to stop and explore along the way.
Granted, this is virtually impossible while on the northern route across Pennsylvania, where there is nothing at all.
But we were able to do some stopping and exploring while heading back through South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa on the epic family road trip.
The first destination was the Minute Man Missile National Historic Site. It’s not much to look at, unless you take the guided tour out to the silo several miles away.
But the two small buildings just off I-90 had some neat displays, including a model of a young student performing a “duck and cover” drill under his desk.
In hindsight, “duck and cover” might not have worked that well in the event of a real missile attack.
But we watched a short film and learned that it took the simultaneous turning of two keys to launch a missile, and those keys were far enough apart so it took more than one person to turn them.
|The Gnome of Victory and Celebration and a friend duck and cover.|
|When there are mushroom clouds outside the window, it is not a good day.|
Presumably, this would have prevented one honked off employee from launching a Minuteman. But I guess it also required two people be in the launch room at all times – three, if you were going to allow bathroom breaks.
Next we stopped in Jackson, Minn., and Fort Belmont, where we encountered Lars Larson, the Iron Troll.
You’ve not heard of the Iron Troll? Read on. This was pulled from the Fort Belmont website:
“Lars Larson Rasdal Hjornevik, ‘Jenntuften (the iron troll)’ which he was called after his trial of strength, lived at Tufte, Norway in the mid-1800s. This is the story of Lars. All can remember a huge rock at the Hjornevik farm, that stood at the end of the house. The stone was round and very hard to get a hold of. One Sunday afternoon when the people came from church, they got Lars to lift the stone. Lars lifted the stone several times. No one could believe it. There were many people who came just to see this. The stone was very large, weighing 1,032 pounds, and he had to bend over and lift it up to his chest. This happened in 1860 before Lars immigrated to the United States at the age of 33.”
Either Lars was really, really strong, or the people of Jackson were really, really gullible. I know which one I’m picking.
We stopped again in Brandon, Iowa, to see Iowa’s largest frying pan.
No kidding. This thing was 9-feet tall. The story goes that the turnout was so huge at the 2004 Cowboy pancake breakfast that the townsfolk decided they needed a really huge pan to commemorate the successful event.
|Yes, that is Iowa's largest frying pan.|
I did not see Iowa’s largest spatula, so I suspect the pan is useless for anything other than attracting tourists. It does that task effectively. Crafty Iowans.
Stopping once more in Iowa, we visited LeClair, which is along the Mississippi River. Some members of our party went to a quilt store. The others took their Gnome of Victory and Celebration and went exploring.
The Mississippi River is in fact there, and it is in fact wet. The Gnome can attest to this, and he also sinks as water fills his several holes that were a result of the jackalope attack.
We walked up the river a little bit and found the Buffalo Bill Museum. Cody, we learned, was born in LeClair.
We poked our heads in the museum, saw the $5 admission fee and decided to buy some postcards and pose for photos with the buffalo statue outside.
No offense intended to Mr. Cody, but once you’ve seen the Iron Troll and heard his rock-lifting tales, Buffalo wasn’t that interesting.
So, we regrouped, had lunch and crossed into Illinois for the short, last leg of our epic extended family trip.
Thank you, Mom Nelson, for providing an adventure that created memories that will last a lifetime.
And, there was a surprise waiting for us when we finally arrived home in Michigan the next day.
Word of the Gnome’s unfortunate attack reached Florida, and a new, fully intact Gnome of Victory and Celebration now awaits the next adventure. Thank you, Mom and Dad!