If you are one of those people who has spent the last ten years of your life asking yourself the question: "where does SPAM come from and why is it here?" then a visit to Austin, the birthplace of SPAM, is certainly in order. Set in an out-of-the-way corner of Minnesota, this town of 23,000 or so (Amazing but true!) will go down in the history books associated with those infamous blue tins.
Learn more about George Hormel, SPAM's founding-father (yes, and of Hormel Chili and Dinty Moore too) and his meat in a can on a trip through the SPAM Museum; Monty Python followers will note that Hormel's product was the inspiration for the title of Broadway production, Spamalot. For a brush with history, stroll through the Mower County Historical Center, recruiting a guide to see inside some of the old buildings on-site.
Those bound west along Interstate 90 will cross I-35, running north to south, just outside of Albert Lea. Though travelers are often only passing through, this is a fine place to stop for an afternoon or bunk in for an overnight stay. During daylight hours, find a handful of historic sites, from old log cabins to memorabilia from some long gone age.
This is also a fine opportunity to stretch road-trip cramped pins. Myra-Big Island State Park has trails suitable for mountain bikers, casual walkers or more serious backpackers. Rent a canoe for some time on Albert Lea Lake, or hop a summer boat cruise and leave the steering to someone else. Come snow, cross-country skiers fizzle along through powdery landscapes, a fine way to get a spot of fresh air before voyaging on to other Minnesota destinations.
Austin is 22 miles east of Albert Lea and 88 miles (along main roads) from Mankato.