Sunday, August 30, 2009

To St. Peter, MN and Back

BUNNY FOUND THAT THERE is a pharmacy museum in St. Peter, Minnesota. We're both fond of those ancient supplements and their highly stylized labels and promises, so off we went to Soderlund Village Drug in search of show globes.

And a free cup of root beer at their soda fountain.

The 68 mile trip south on HWY 169 is an easy one with fun stops along each way. On the way to St. Peter we stopped at Jim's Apple Orchard in Belle Plaine. It's a hard stop to miss, both because of size of the brightly painted place, and because of the extremely large variety items they have to offer.

• 56 kinds of licorice
• Jalepeño pickled eggs
• Candy, boy have they got a ton of candy
• Homemade pies (you can see them cooling from the oven)
• Strudel
• Bacon

Oh! And 24 different brands of root beer. Among tons of salsas, sauces, and pickled veggies.

Bunny bought an apple strudel stick, homemade walnut peanut roll, and a Fitz's strawberry soda. I bought a jar of pickled jalepeño hard boiled eggs. They just seemed like something I had to try.

From Jim's Apple Orchard it's only 26 miles to St. Peter.
Soderlund's Drugstore
201 S 3rd St.
Monday - Friday 8:30am - 7pm
Saturday 8:30am - 2pm
Sunday Closed
There is a small parking lot and plenty room for 2-hour off-street parking.

Bunny and I found this to be less of a pharmacy museum in the traditional sense and more of a display. The back wall of the now modern pharmacy is devoted to this display and is definitely a worthwhile stop if you're already in the area.

There are tall shelves containing various old liniments, salves, pills, bottles, and show globes. The old-fashioned soda fountain has a few stools where you are welcome to sit and enjoy a free cup of 1919 root beer; the museum self-guided, though I am sure the staff would be happy to answer questions.

St. Peter is a cute town, many of the businesses on the main street just a block east of the museum are located in well preserved old brick buildings. There are a couple of pizza places, one of them offering .99 slices, a couple of bar and grills, and a few stores. Bunny and I decided to get on the road home and see where else we could stop and eat lunch.

Not far from Jim's Apple Orchard is a restaurant called Emma Krumbees and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this establishment still had, for the most part, its old-fashioned flair. There are plenty of seating in booths covered in light-blue/sea-foam colored vinyl. Rounding out the end of each bank of booths are adorable horse-shoe shaped lunch counters with individual seating. They have a large selection of food; Bunny got the fruit cup yogurt parfait, and I got an egg-salad sandwich and cup of chicken and dumpling soup. The food was delicious and definitely had a homemade taste.

Home again home again jiggity jig.

Want to see more photos from this trip? See them here on my flickr page!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Brighton to New London Antique Car Run

ON SATURDAY AUGUST 8, AS A PART OF New Brighton's Stockyard Days, was an exciting event involving pre-1920s cars racing along a 120 mile route from New London to New Brighton, Minnesota. Since all of the cars are unable to go faster than about 18 miles per hour (not because it's not allowed, but because these cars flat out won't go faster than that), the run takes all day.

It's really more of an endurance test than a race.

This year's run started out in a déluge of rain and the starting gunshot in New London was postponed from 7am to 8am. Many of the cars do not have roofs or windshields, so when the rain didn't let up by 8am, drivers donned their rain gear and putt putt putted toward the finish line anyway. Unfortunately the rain caused one participant to bow out of the race.

The antique car run is a relatively new tradition for Minnesota, dating back to 1987. The original antique car run, however, originated overseas and dates back to 1896.

Over 30 pioneer motorists set off from London on the 1896 Run to endure the rough roads to the Sussex seaside resort but only 14 of the starters actually made the journey, and some evidence exists that one car was taken by rail and covered with mud before crossing the finishing line!
The next run was staged in 1927 as a re-enactment of the 1896 Run and organised by the motoring editor of the Daily Sketch. The Run has taken place every November thereafter, with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol rationing was in force. From 1930 to the present day the event has been owned and professionally organised by The Royal Automobile Club.
In the Minnesota version of the race, the cars are not allowed to cross the finish line in New Brighton before 3pm (there doesn't appear to be any kind of a concern about that happening). In the meanwhile there is a county fair atmosphere to keep people occupied. This year included a petting zoo, possibly the best petting zoo I've ever experienced. Among many of the usual animals, there were also fainting goats, a wallaby, a Zebu, a lemur, and a Z-Donk.

There were also rides and fair food -- Bunny tried a deep fried PB&J -- as well as a Dixieland band playing in the bed of an old-fashioned truck.

Drivers are encouraged to stop at various points along their route. I imagine small towns along the way have their own festivals and traditions surrounding this race, and perhaps even entice the drivers to stop and eat. I'm sure a few of the stops are unscheduled, as well, in order to make repairs or crank the engines.

I should also note that just down the road from the finish line is the New Brighton History Museum, which is very much worth visiting. The building used to be a train depot. Visitors are also welcome to climb aboard the caboose behind the museum.

See more photos here on my flickr page!

South Dakota Part 1: Souix Falls, Corn Palace, Badlands National Park

MAX "BUNNY" SPARBER, OUR FRIEND ALIE, AND I took a whirl-wind road trip to South Dakota. About 1,279 miles round trip between July 24 - 26, 2009.

My goals on this trip:
• Visit Badlands National Park
• Find cowboy boots at Wall Drug, get free ice water
• Visit Mt Rushmore National Memorial

Everything else we'd end up doing I'd consider it a bonus. Turns out we were going to have plenty of bonus rounds.
We arrived in Sioux Falls, SD in the late afternoon and, since this is Alie's old stomping ground, she showed us a nice area downtown to window shop and eat. Then, we saw the Big Sioux river and had some "old fashion" [sic] ice cream.

My excitement grew exponentially when we started heading west from Alie's parents' house in Sioux Falls at around 9 or 10 in the morning on July 25th (after a quick stop at Queen City Bakery where I bought a homemade, lemon-flavored marshmallow). That's when the terrain began to change and the adventure of going west really hit.

The land turned from rows of corn and soy beans to fields of soft, grassy hills cut with bluffs and sprinkled with cattle. I was hoping to see Bison, but the only ones I would end up seeing were fiberglass or cement.

Alie spotted a billboard advertising a garage in an upcoming town. I don't remember the name of the garage, but their billboard touted excellent "toe service." These roadside signs along the way are great. I didn't do any research beforehand and they really made me realize how many fun activities South Dakota has to offer -- and all with the feeling of good old-fashioned fun, too. I hadn't eaten my lemon marshmallow yet, so I know my ever-increasing excitement was not a result of too much sugar.

We stopped at a wayside rest and I grabbed a localized map and a couple of free magazines so I could read the short histories of where we'd be visiting. I walked as far back behind the building as I could so I could no longer hear the traffic, just the wind blowing through the field. It really got to me and I decided that, at some point, I want to spend some time on a ranch riding horse and being a cowboy.

We continued on, taking a quick detour to Mitchell, South Dakota to see the infamous Corn Palace, where, according to their website, each year they use over 275,000 ears of corn to redecorate the façade. There are tours and shops here, but we just had time to hop out of the car for a quick photo before we continued westward.

We had a pleasant surprise in Mitchell
-- we found a F.A.S.T. Corp. bison!

And then, after 200 miles of being silly in the car and eating from our bag of goodies (so we wouldn't have to stop when we got peckish), we reached Badlands National Park. We paid $10 for a pass, which is good for a week, and stopped at the first and second lookout points.

I was awestruck! I could have stared out over the alien terrain for hours. Trails where water from the last rainfall still remained on the hills, cutting into the dusty, layered mounds like veins. The wind was hot and the sparse greenery was of the tough, bristly sort that stays close to the ground. There were license plates from all over the country, and accents from all over the world. It would be this way at Mount Rushmore as well!

Our second and final stop in the Badlands, in addition to being spectacular, was also amusing. It was like the Badlands and the children at this stop were engaged in the Battle of Skinned Knee. Since the land is so sandy here, there isn't much traction -- especially when climbing. Children were especially ill-equipped to dealing with this fact. So when they'd go to climb a hill, their feet would slip out from under them, their knees would meet the tiny granules of rock on the ground, they'd slide slightly down the hill they were attempting to climb, and then start to cry. I heard one mom say to her little child as they walked toward the hills: "Better be careful, every other kid here is crying." It was surreal to experience this small pocket of brightly dressed people in the desert, especially with the din of at least a dozen crying children from all different families. Surreal and highly amusing.

We continued climbing and turning and turning and climbing the narrow road through the Badlands. I'd like to spend more time here at some point, as there are activities here throughout the day, such as nature talks, as well as into the night. They have a night-sky talk; I bet it's stunning to see the stars from here.

Here's Part 2: Wall Drug, Rapid City, Cosmos Mystery Area, and Mt. Rushmore!