TERAJI: My trip to Minnesota: The Land of Nice…and SPAM!

Typical art at the Mayo Clinic: Art glass chandeliers by Dale Chihuly.

It’s the time of year for vacations, so when I heard that my husband was being sent by his boss to attend a computer conference in Minnesota called “Cold Fusion.Objective” at a brand new hotel located in the Great Mall of America, it was an opportunity to visit a part of our great nation I had never seen.     

So there we were, two Gilroyans venturing where they had never gone before. I had been warned by other Gilroyans before I left that Minnesota is not like California. As I arrived in the largest mall in the United States, I was not surprised to see indoor roller coasters and a robot made of Leggos that is three stories tall. I was more surprised by the lady I bumped into while I was shopping, who turned to me and said, “Oh, excuse me, Hon.” 

Yes, that’s right. I bumped into her, and she apologized to me! What was going on here?

When I walked into one store, the proprietor called out, “You have gray hair!” in a loud voice. What? I prepared to be offended. Then I was startled to realize he had said, “Great hair!”

Everywhere we went, there were mall guides who asked us if we needed help finding anything and who offered us maps of the mall.

In Minnesota, even the water was nicer. The tap water was better than bottled water, delicious and ice cold. My hair was even nicer in Minnesota—it styled more easily and had a softer feel to it.

When a few raindrops began to fall, every driver on the freeway instantaneously slowed down. Not one person tried to get around anyone else. On the Minnesota news that night, the anchor was discussing a negative incident in the local news, and she ended with, “And you know Minnesotans take care of each other!”   

When we went on the road to go explore the town of Hampton where my six of my ancestors had settled when they immigrated from Germany, we stopped at a local diner. As we ate, two highway patrol officers come in and greeted an older gentleman eating at the counter. 

“We hear you had some problem back there down the road a ways, sir” one of them said.

“Oh yahoo, I just got a little confused.”

“We heard you were driving down the wrong side of the highway for awhile.”

They proceeded to have a friendly conversation, then walked outside together after a bit, where the other officer began to indicate the best ways to get turned back around if one does end up on the wrong side of the road. They laughed, shook hands and parted ways as if they were old friends. 

We were in the Land of Nice, experiencing niceness on a level we had never known

existed! I felt like a Walleye fish (the state fish) out of water.   

In the Minneapolis residential areas, we spotted signs that read, “Twenty is Plenty.” No matter how slow I drove as a tourist trying to figure out where I was going, not one person ever honked at us.   

Then as we continued down the highway, we saw speed limit signs that read, “Minimum Speed 40 Miles Per Hour.”

Minimum speed?!

This column highlights connections, between those of us in Gilroy and connections that Gilroy has with the rest of the world. We went to meet up with Minnesota locals who had been recommended to us by our friends in Gilroy. They told us places to go and sights to see, and introduced us to a unique pizza parlor called, “Pizzeria Lola,” owned by Korean Minnesotans, where we ate gourmet thick crust Korean BBQ pizza.  

We toured around Minnesota to see the sights. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester has an amazing art collection; we visited all 19 floors, and each floor has art glass and objects from a different part of the world.    

The Spam Museum in Austin tells the story of the great success of Spam as part of a family business. It includes a market that shows products going back to 1895; a G.I. in a tent telling the story of how Spam got our soldiers through the war; a video about the Spamettes; a drum and bugle corps that became one of the first all-girl bands to tour the nation and have their own TV show; a thank you letter from President Eisenhower and a glass wall with thousands of names of veterans inscribed on it who went to war from the factory where Spam was made.

Sure, it was fun visiting places like the Mayo Clinic, the American Swedish Institute, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Spam Museum, but I have discovered an even greater appreciation for my Gilroy friends who hail from Minnesota. They take nice to a whole new level, and now I can better understand where that comes from.