McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Days 24 and 25- Minnesota to Home

Our drive today into Minnesota from Sioux Falls was a quick one. ha Just 15 miles or so outside of Sioux Falls to the East and you’ve arrived in Minnesota. Another state Kegan and I hadn’t been to before! So, now the only states I haven’t been to are: North Dakota, Rhode Island and Alaska. For Kegan, it’s North Dakota, Alaska, Delaware and most of New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine)- we’ll be fixing that on our Northeast road trip either next summer or Summer 2023 hopefully

Our first stop in the morning was in Blue Earth, Minnesota at the Jolly Green Giant statue, park and museum. Blue Earth is the home of Jolly Green Giant – which was started in 1903 as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company. In 1925, a new variety of pea was created- the Princes of Wales- which was huge and wrinkly. Instead of apologizing for the size of the new peas, they leaned into it – calling them “Green Giant” peas. In the 1930s they got a marketing makeover and the Green Giant scary caveman character turned into the Jolly Green Giant- a friendly approachable guy in a leafy suit.

They renamed themselves the Green Giant Company in the 1950s and eventually were purchased by Pillsbury, then General Mills, then to B&G Foods in 2015 for 765 million! This giant statue came into the picture in the late 1970s. A local radio show host used to interview out of town guests who were passing through the town and he’d give them canned vegetables as a little prize for doing it. ha When the I-90 Interstate came through, the number of out of town visitors was dropping dramatically and he noticed! So, he came up with the idea of a giant Jolly Green Giant statue to attract people off the interstate and back into town. Seems to have worked 🙂

They have a little music park to the side of the statue with all sorts of bongo sounding drums and pipes. Norah loved it so much we took a photo of the company label on a couple items to see if they can be purchased for a home backyard! haha

Back on the road, but off quickly to see a really random and odd Godzilla statue

Just up the road from Godzilla was a Happy chef restaurant. Local one and only remaining restaurants from an entire chain- with a giant chef out front from the 1960s that supposedly talks- but we didn’t know there was a button to press to make him talk until after we were gone! Poor research, Erin!

Trucking on up to Minneapolis, we passed the World’s Largest Candy Store, so of course… we stopped in! This place was packed to the gills. and it seems like its in the middle of nowhere. ha No idea why there were so many people visiting this place.

Fun 3D painted mural

We ended up with 4 bottles of root beer, Fox’s Jam Creme cookies from Ireland, Crab flavored potato chips, a couple Haribo gummies that are hard to find here, cinnamon gummi bears, Walker’s Shortbreads, Japanese cracker peanuts, a few things Norah wanted to try- like Zotz fizzy candy I loved as a child- and I got a couple small sugar free things to try. I usually hate all fake sugar but 3 months removed from any candy or sugar I thought I might give it a try.

Our destination for the day was The Mall of America in Minneapolis. I had never been here and I remember years ago people used to plan whole weekend trips around going here for back to school shopping or just spending time at the mall. We had just figured we didnt have a lot of time to actually see the city and we are just here for tomorrow morning’s tickets to Paisley Park to see the home/studio of Prince before jetting home.. so Mall of America sounded like a fun afternoon for Norah.

They have an entire Nickelodeon theme park inside the mall
4 levels of shops, games, restaurants. 3 different parking garages
A brick and mortar Amazon store totally deserved to be photographed. ha We have come full circle.

I gave Norah some choices on what to do- Nickalodeon rides….arcade games… Fly Over America ride… She chose arcade games.

I was very disappointed that over half of the game machines were out of order. Literally over half, not an exaggeration. I’d say 30 games didn’t work. Also, we were there over an hour and all the signs talked about cleaning and CDC guidelines, etc. Not one machine was touched by anyone with cleaning supplies. ha It was a mess of a place. But you may think, “hey – this must just be an exception. Maybe it’s just an off day” You would be wrong. Let’s continue. ha

So, we couldnt find anything else Norah wanted to play, so we gave the card with credits still on it to another family and headed to Fly over America before they closed for the evening.

We stood in line to buy tickets 10 minutes, then got ushered into a series of 3 other lines, to finally get on this simulation ride where it is supposed to seem like you are flying over major landmarks in America. About 30 minutes, we finally get in and I hear a girl working say “are they supposed to be in row 3?” and another guy says “Row 3 is a last resort”

Hmmm…Ok…. we go in, we get seated and the gates in front of us drop and the ride starts forward. and then dies. We sit there in silence for 5 minutes. Everyone else’s seats (except Row 3 where we were) moves back to normal… but ours stays there and our gate stays lowered. Finally someone manually lifts the big heavy metal gate and rolls our set of seats back.

I tell Kegan “make sure when this starts again- if that gate doesnt drop, you pull your legs up- make sure Norah does too!” I can just see some malfunctioning ride in a mall run by 17 year olds chopping off someone’s legs. And their previous comments about “row 3 is a last resort” didnt have me feeling good.

Someone finally comes by and says “you can either stay for the next show and see both America and Hawaii or we can give you a refund.” (Never asks us to get up or leave or explains any issues… ha) So we quickly said “refund please!” and headed to the exit.

So…. with $61 back in hand (a ridiculous price for a ride, by the way) I told Norah she could use it to buy something else since we couldn’t do that and she was a little bummed. So, she went in a little toy shop and was looking around for something to buy. The shelf fell off the wall when we were standing there, by the way. haha This place is literally falling apart.

So, I started searching- there has to be a better toy store in this whole mall- and I’m reading off a list of stores and Build-A-Bear is mentioned. Immediately- THIS is the store we need to go to! ha I was surprised, she has never been into dolls or really that into stuffed animals and I thought we were through this phase….but apparently not!

She picked out Isabelle from Animal Crossing. She got to watch her get stuffed, then she added cotton candy scent, talking, a heart inside the body and got her a pair of boots. She has been thrilled with this “bear” ever since. Guess we should have taken her to Build A Bear sooner. Who knew?

We hurried up to Shake Shack on the 3rd floor for a quick dinner. It was 6:45 and the malls closes at 7 on Sundays. We got our food and inhaled it in about 4 minutes to get over to our reserved Escape room time!

This was by far, the coolest and most techy escape room we’ve ever done. Norah is obsessed with these now and any time she sees one, she’s all about it. We did the Mission to Mars where everything was electronic, screens, an escape pod, we had to restore Oxygen, Communication and Power before we could lift off of Mars and return to Earth. We escaped in 45 minutes (out of 60) but we did get 4 hints from the guy outside the room. 3 of them were things we were already working on but weren’t working right, like we were supposed to move a laser point with a joystick, but it didn’t move… but 1 was a legit hint we would have been stuck on a lot longer.

After the Escape room, it was 8:15p or so, so we headed out to our hotel near Paisley Park for our tour the next morning.

My overall thoughts on Mall of America – I’m sure it was amazing in its heyday… but now its just a rundown version of its old self. Needing a lot of maintenance and upkeep that no one is willing to do because its a for-profit business and I’m sure like all malls in the country, they aren’t seeing the patronage of 25 years ago. I’m sure eventually it will go the way of the dinosaur, too and we’re just slowly watching it get there. It was disappointing. But… maybe it is a good symbol for America. Great plans and big ideas, executed poorly to maximize profits to the rich while doing just the minimum to keep them above breaking safety laws. ha Yeah. It’s actually very fitting come to think of it!

Day 25 – FINAL DAY

We booked a 9:25am tour at Paisley Park to see the home/recording studio and general weirdness of Prince. Kegan loves Prince and specifically asked if we could go by Paisley Park on the road trip. haha So… here we are.

I’d love to show you a lot more photos, but they legit take your phone, make you shut it off, lock it in a sleeve and give it back to you- then they wand you to make sure you don’t have any other electronics. Like- legit odd. So, the inside looks a lot like the outside. White- tall- 80s modern… I was disappointed that the tour only showed one main atrium area with a couple offshoot areas, Studio A, then a dance studio room converted into a shrine to Purple Rain, then a room converted to hold all of his custom shoes- which seemed to be what most people were there for. Then, we were led on into a stage area and lounge club. All areas that anyone public could have gone to anyway if they were a music club member or saw a show here. There was no private quarters or anything that felt like it wasn’t just a commercialized reason to get people to come give their money. I was totally disappointed in the lack of information given about his music or his lifestyle. Everything was very “Prince was awesome” but no info on why he was awesome… or any specific songs recorded in a certain space…no oddities given… which you know there are TONS of weirdo comments that could be made about anything to do with him. There are tons of stories out there already that could have been told- a couple I’m aware of. Kevin Smith- famous director for Clerks/Mallrats/Chasing Amy, etc… he was asked by Prince to make a documentary about his life. He spent a good year making this, editing, etc… sends the final cut to Prince for review.. and his team says basically “ok. thanks. send us everything you did, all the film, etc. Here’s your check.” Prince never wanted to release it. He just wanted to see the documentary and have it for himself! ha. There are tons of stories about calling in his personal chef at 2am, asking them to have a 5 course meal ready for 20 people by 5am. Dave Chappelle’s Chappelle Show has an interview with Charlie Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s brother) about back in the 80s meeting Prince and his crew at a club and getting invited back to Paisley Park to play basketball. Charlie Murphy says they changed into basketball clothes and Prince and the Revolution came out on the court still wearing all their over-the-top get up and heels from the club. ha Then after Prince BEAT them at basketball, he made them all pancakes. haha I have no doubt every bit of this story is true.

The tour just felt generic, I guess. Or like they were embarrassed of his eccentricity to the point that they just didn’t talk about any of it. That’s what made him HIM. I don’t think he would have approved if he were alive. They played a clip of “unreleased” music that was EXCLUSIVE *eyeroll* that literally was playing on the Sirius Prince Radio channel when we got back in the car.

They did give us our phones back right at the end in the studio/stage area so I snapped a few things.

Kegan tried to buy some vinyl in their gift shop, but they didn’t have either of the two albums he wanted. So, with our tour over, we set the GPS for home- a 9.5 hour drive from here- with one last stop on the way- The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota!

Tons of history about Spam and how people eat it in other countries. How it fed the troops in World War II…very well done free museum.

We were really dropping in to hopefully grab weird random Spam flavors like Jalapeño… or Pumpkin Spice (supposedly that was a real thing! ha) or even just the Portuguese sausage or asian Spam sold elsewhere…..

Nope. Not a single fun Spam can to be had. Highly disappointing.

We did still end up with a flat of Spam in Hickory Smoked, Regular, 25% less sodium and 1 can of turkey Spam to try.
And I bought this comfy looking thin Spam hoodie. its fun ha

So… that was our last stop of any importance! We left there around 1:30pm and got back home around midnight.

The cats were very happy to see us. We had a house-sitter that watched them and gathered chicken eggs and kept them watered.. but they were still very happy we were home.

We had originally planned to have an extra 5 days on this trip, but had to cut it short when I learned Norah had 4-H project turn in on Wednesday this week and not Saturday. Oops.

So I had to cut off all of the Iowa and Illinois stops. We are still hoping to go back to Mason, Iowa and do the last 4-5 days sometime soon, but Norah starts school Aug 9th again, we have a fall break trip to New York City booked for October. We are going to Florida for a week in November, looking like Spain for Spring Break or Christmas Break – still up in the air. Lots of fun travel on the horizon. We’ll figure out some time to get it done!

Thanks for following along our adventures! I love that people tell me they enjoy reading this. It’s such a good record of everything we do and see for our family to look back on, but I love seeing anyone else enjoy it, too!

Until next trip!

1 Comment

  1. loved reading about your trip! the best!!! 🙂

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