My wife and I are on a mission to visit all the oversized local landmarks throughout Minnesota. This blog chronicles those visits and covers other related topics.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fallen Heroes: The Mighty Og

The Mighty Og is (or was) the upper half of a giant gorilla made out of wire and paper, at least that is my understanding. It is also my understanding that his name was originally O.G., as in "Oh gee, that's half of a big ugly gorilla." At some point his name became Og. He was originally located at Rawhide City, a tourist attraction near Mandan, ND.

Picture of Og at Rawhide City. RoadsideAmerica

Reportedly, Og was purchased by an implement dealer in Harvey, ND when Rawhide City went bankrupt, as to keep Og in the state of North Dakota. He had planned on putting him on the roof of his building but did not because he was told it would void his roof warranty. Eventually he was given a spot along Highway 52 outside of Harvey to put The Mighty Og. There he rested, with a pole in his head that had a hornet on top of it for the Harvey Hornets, until a storm destroyed Og. From what I can tell, I'm guessing that storm was in 2005 or maybe 2004.

More pictures located here

Monday, November 26, 2007

Giant Replica Runestone

November 24th, 2007 - Alexandria, MN

Giant Replica Runestone

We were being very Minnesotan on this day. Few things are more Minnesotan than looking at an oversized replica of a Viking artifact when it's 32 degrees outside and quite windy (but we weren't cold because we are hearty Minnesotans and hearty Minnesotans are never cold, rather it was "brisk" out) and then going for ice cream. It can be 20 below and Minnesotans will still line up for ice cream. It's the key to Dairy Queen's success as a Minnesota franchise.

I talked a bit about the Kensington Runestone earlier when I posted about Big Ole. In brief, a large stone was found by a farmer near Kensington, MN with Viking runes carved into it in the late 1800s. The stone provides evidence that the Vikings were here before Columbus. Many people believe this stone to be a fake. The Runestone Museum makes a strong case for the stone.

The inscription in English, according to the Holland Translation, is:

On the front of the stone - We are 8 Swedes and 22 Norwegians on an exploring journey from Vinland through the west. We had a camp by a lake with 2 rocky islands one day's trip north from this stone. We were out and fished one day. After we came home we found 10 of our men red with blood and dead. Ave Maria save us from evil.

On the side of the stone - We have 10 of our party by the sea to look after our ships 14 day's trip from this island. Year 1362.

Giant Replica Runestone

This replica is 5 times larger than the real runestone and is made from granite. It was commissioned by the Alexandria Kiwanis Club in 1951. Both the replica runestone and Big Ole went to the 1964 New York World's Fair.

We saw the power of the runestone first-hand. On November 4th, we were at the Minnesota Vikings game against the San Diego Chargers. The actual Kensington Runestone was on display on the plaza before the game (we didn't know this until they announced it before kickoff) and was on the sideline during the game. The Vikings dominated the Chargers with exceptional defense and a record setting performance by Adrian Peterson. That's right, the runestone was there as the Viking rookie set the NFL single-game rushing record. What more evidence do you need than that?

Tip: If you are visiting this replica stone on a Sunday, prepare yourself for the possibility of encountering church traffic.

Warning: Old People Driving Slowly

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I wonder how long it would take to cook a 5,000 pound turkey? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Soundtrack: Mr. Big Stuff

Mr. Big Stuff - by Jean Knight

I'm sure most of you know this one. I guess it's a classic. I think we all know what it's about too, Oreo cookies.

Here's a terrible video someone made to Mr. Big Stuff. I mean it's terrible. For some people it might be can't look terrible, others train wreck terrible, and yet for others hilarious terrible.

Here's something for you straight out of 1986. I don't know about you, but I could go for a Coke.

The list so far:
Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota - Weird Al Yankovic
Stevie Nix - The Hold Steady
Mr. Big Stuff - by Jean Knight (or Heavy D & the Boyz)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fallen Heroes: The Last of the Happy Chefs

I was all set to do a Fallen Heroes post on the Happy Chef, but decided to try to confirm whether or not the Mankato Happy Chef was gone. I went to and emailed them. They promptly responded Monday morning with this:

"The only statue left is the one in Mankato."

I don't normally post a picture of a Minnesota "target" until we visit it and photograph it, but I will make an exception this time. If you are unfamiliar with the Happy Chef, this is what the statues look like.

Picture from RoadsideAmerica

Happy Chef is a family-style restaurant chain founded in 1963 and based in Mankato. The chain grew to as many as 56 restaurants across 7 states. Many of them had their own Happy Chef statue. The statues stood 36 feet tall and had a button that would play a recorded message when pushed. Today there are only 16 restaurants left in Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota and only one statue remains.

A few Happy Chef statues managed to survive and find work elsewhere. A Happy Chef from Cedar Rapids, IA found work as a baseball umpire in Ryan, IA.

Image provided by Roadside Architecture

Another got a job as a chimney sweep in Kansas.

Picture thanks to Dorsia

There is a nice article from 2005 about Sal Frederick, the founder of Happy Chef, here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Soundtrack: The Hold Steady

Stevie Nix - by The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady are my favorite band right now, so I just had to find a way to fit them in. In their song Stevie Nix they reference the Thunderbird with the line "The carpet at the Thunderbird has a burn for every cowboy that got fenced in." That's good enough for me!

The Hold Steady are based in Brooklyn, NY but they have very strong ties with the Twin Cities, which is evident in their music. The lead singer, Craig Finn, is from Edina and played with guitarist Tad Kublar (of Janesville, WI) in their former band, Minneapolis's Lifter Puller. I believe the keyboardist, Franz, is also from Minneapolis.
The Hold Steady on MySpace
Stevie Nix performed Live at First Avenue
The Hold Steady live might not be for everybody. Plus, his voice is extra scratchy in this video.

The list so far:
Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota - Weird Al Yankovic
Stevie Nix - The Hold Steady

Friday, November 9, 2007

South Dakota Map

South Dakota is home to the World's Largest Pheasant, a couple Muffler Men, Dinosaur Park, President's Park, and, my favorite, these tire guys.

Picture from

Oh, they also have that Rushmore place, but national monuments don't really belong on a list like this. Check out the Big Stuff map for South Dakota here.

If the picture above shows up as a red X, there are two things you can do. 1) Click on the RoadsideAmerica link below the picture and you will go to the RoadsideAmerica page about it. B) Right click on the picture, click on Properties, and copy the Address. Then paste the address in your address bar. This will show the picture and then if you click Back, the picture will show up on this page.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Soundtrack of Our Big Stuff

Besides being totally dorky about these big things, I'm a little bit of a music dork too. And being a music dork, I make theme cd's from time to time, like a math & stats mix (since I'm a statistical analyst) and a pharmacy mix for my wife and a few ultimate frisbee mixes over the years, so I can't help myself but to make one about big stuff. I figure I have some time to build such a soundtrack, so I'll post a song or a band/artist here and there that have some sort of connection to big stuff. When I say "some sort of connection" I mean anything at all, no matter how thin, that I can construe to a relationship with this theme. Heck, I might even end up posting something that I am just really into at the moment. I'll try to avoid that though. I will also try my best to link to a myspace page or band website so you can at least hear something by the band, even if it isn't the song I posted about.

I'll start this list with the big obvious song that is actually about one of the big stuffs.

Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota - by Wierd Al Yankovic

There is a Youtube video of him performing it live HERE. He doesn't start singing it until about the 2:20 mark and I don't think they got the whole thing.
Somebody made a pretty good scrapbook type video for this song HERE.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Map Update

I was looking at pictures on Anglerove's Flickr page (one of my research techniques) and found that there is a large cow, similar to the Bongards Cow, in Austin, MN. I think they are from the same mold. The only apparent difference is the paint job. The Austin cow is named Buffy and is brown and white rather than black and white. There is just a little bit of information on Buffy on the Austin Convention and Visitor's Bureau webpage here: (You have to click on "Points of Interest" and then click on "Other".)

I have added Buffy to the map.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fallen Heroes: The Indians at the Thunderbird

Fallen Heroes is a feature I'm starting that I hope to be able to come back to from time to time and it hopefully will fill in the gaps nicely between big stuff visits. Fallen Heroes looks back to big stuff that once stood proudly but now are no longer on display.

We begin at the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird is a hotel/motel in Bloomington, MN. It was built in 1962 near the airport and very near Metropolitan Stadium, the original home of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. Metropolitan Stadium is long gone and so is the Met, home of the North Stars which stood nearby. They have been replaced with the Mall of America and an IKEA. The Thunderbird is still there, but is now owned by Ramada.

The Thunderbird used to feature two twenty-some foot tall fiberglass indians. (Pictures below are courtesy of Mykl Roventine.)

These indians were removed in the spring of 2006 when the Thunderbird was being remodeled. Some reports indicated that these two were trashed; sometimes these things get moved to other locations. It would be a shame if they were trashed. Nobody wants their life to end in a dumpster in a motel parking lot. This picture on indicates foul play. No oversized fiberglass indian would go anywhere without his moccasins.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Montana Map

The Big Stuff map for Montana is complete. There isn't much in Montana, but they do have the World's Largest Talking Penguin, a couple Muffler Men, and something called "The Creature", among a few others.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

We're all caught up!

I have posted all of the attractions we have been to so far, which means we need to go out and see some more big stuff. In the meantime however, I will try to keep the blog updated with other big stuff related topics.

Thanks for reading and please stay tuned. (Is that what you say about blogs? Stay tuned?)