We headed out, climbed aboard the waiting bus and were already thankful, at 9 a.m., for the air conditioning. The bus dropped us off at the largest state fair in the U.S. (by daily attendance; it's the second-largest by total attendance, behind Texas, whose fair runs twice as long).
Wow. What a sight. People streaming in on a Monday morning. We wandered around until we found a place for breakfast, but Doug had a list of Minnesota foods he wanted to find and try--some "karkalesh," as the kids called any local food we'd never seen before when we were on a Gibson Road Trip. We managed to track down lefse and walleye-on-a-stick, and bought a bucket of chocolate chip cookies from Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar, which are supposed to be eaten at the all-you-can-drink-for-$1 milk stand.
We wandered through the agriculture building, which looked like a smaller, less opulent version of the emerald city, and had a wonderful time talking with one of the judges, a man Doug asked to explain to us the difference between blue-ribbon corn and the rest of corn.
Ron Kelsey, a former HS agriculture teacher who grew up one of many kids on a farm, showed us how the corn is made up of two kinds of kernels: those from the ends (the "rounds," which you don't plant) and those from the flat part of the corn (the "flats," which you plant). He explained how the tassels send the pollen down onto the corn to pollinate the corn through the silks, which are hollow to send the pollen down into the corn to create the kernels. Farmer like it to rain around the time this is happening, to keep the silks sticky so that the pollen will be attracted and do its job. Ears of corn with perfect rows, all the kernels pollinated and full seem to be the winners.
He smiled when he heard we come from Fairfax, Va., because his brother lives there. He said his brother traveled with the presidents, Eisenhower through Clinton, first in the Secret Service and later, I believe, as a photographer or videographer. The corn we were looking at was surrounded by several corn and soybean sacks, which, he explained, were printed with non-color-fast ink so that farmers' wives could then wash/bleach out the color and use the fabric for towels and washcloths. He told us that flour sacks were made out of color-fast ink in pretty patterns, so women could use them to make dresses.
He showed us a sack from a farm in Iowa that his brother had accompanied Pres. Eisenhower and Nikita Kruschev to in the 1950s. He said Kruschev had insisted that Iowa corn was better than Russian corn and wanted some corn to take back to plant. Kelsey told us that no one knew this, but they gave him the rounds instead of the flats, and he's always wondered what happened when the Soviet corn crops failed.
After meeting Ron Kelsey, we wandered some more through the agriculture building, found the food building, where Doug had his Minnesota treats, and made our way over to the livestock. By this time, it was brutally hot in the sun, and any walking on the pavement was miserable. The livestock buildings were hot, but not awful. We were amazed at how beautiful the hides of the cows looked closed up, and wondered why they put sheep in little coats (turns out to keep the wool clean). We went into the arena building and saw the sheep dog trials ("That'll do pig), just in time to watch a dog disappoint the crowd by missing a great opportunity to move the sheep over a little bridge.
We saw the cows, horses, pigs and sheep and then decided we'd had enough heat for the day and made our way back to the gate and the shuttle bus. But first we stopped and got our all-you-can-eat-for-$1 glass of milk. Well, two glasses for me.
After a long rest back at the apartment, we headed out again into the heat, but this time in luxury of an air-conditioned Camry, to see Minneapolis. We drove across the river, and then
along the river on another beautiful road, with lovely houses on the left and the Mississippi river on the right. We went into downtown Minneapolis and visited the flagship Target store for some more road trip supplies, then to dinner in a cute residential neighborhood (there are LOTS of those) for another burger with tots.
We decided a trip to the twin cities wouldn't be complete without visiting the Mall of America, so we did. But we simply drove the perimeter of the mall and never got out, realizing after we got there that we both hate malls and didn't want to actually go inside. So now we can say we've been there.
Next up… Mason City, Iowa. Home of the Music Man.
But, first a note from my sister Eleni:You must tell everyone to click on the "TripWow" button next to your map at the top, to watch the awe-inspiring slide show that makes your trip look like THE EVENT OF A LIFETIME! Ken Burns will be so jealous when he sees YOUR documentary!
We decided to visit the Minnesota State Fair in the morning, before the heat really set in, so we looked in the special supplement from Sunday's paper that Toni had given us and discovered to our delight that one of zillion free shuttle bus routes is about two blocks from our house. "Luck of the Gibsons," said Doug.