Wanderlust is real. It’s the constant longing to take a road trip. The moment you get back from one, you’re itching for the next. The desire constantly nags and all-consumes. If you can relate, you probably have wanderlust too.
This weekend, I took a miniature road trip to Mankato, Minnesota located about 1.5 hours southwest of the Twin Cities. This was not just a road trip, this was a literary quest.
Growing-up, one of my most treasured books were Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy, Tacy and Tib series. I loved reading about the girls’ adventures and identified with their strong-wills, curiosity, and mischievousness. Author Maud Hart Lovelace was born in Mankato, Minnesota in 1892. The Betsy-Tacy books take place in a fictional town called Deep Valley, however, Lovelace based Deep Valley and the characters on her own life.
The scene I love the most is Betsy, Tacy, and Tib making “Everything Pudding” while Betsy’s parents are away. They throw everything they can find into one pan resulting in an inedible disaster. This inspired culinary experiments with my childhood best friend in which we made everything pancakes at my house and everything bread at hers. My parents threw out our mustard flavored pancakes and insisted we use recipes moving forward. We threw out the everything bread before her parents caught us.
The Betsy-Tacy Society works to preserve Lovelace’s literary legacy. They own and operate the real life childhood homes of Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy) and Tacy. You can view the outsides of the homes for free like I did or go on a tour by making reservations during the week arriving during Saturday hours (1-4 p.m.). Both the Betsy-Tacy Society and Mankato CVB offer guides for going on your own literary tour.
Here are some highlights:
The Hill Street Bench is located a block up from Betsy and Tacy’s houses on Center Street. This is where Betsy and Tacy met to share stories and eat dinner.
Sumner Hill Road curves up the hill from Betsy and Tacy’s homes. This is what Lovelace described as “the big hill.”
I’ve found that the places I remember from childhood are much smaller than I remembered, such as our old sledding hills and parks. In this case the Big Hill is actually really really big. There’s a neighborhood at the top.
The trees are so thick that you can’t see the city below. In the photo above, you can just make out the white strip of the freeway to the right. It looks like the private properties have really nice views.
Tib’s childhood home is located several blocks away from Betsy and Tacy’s homes. It’s also privately owned. You can learn more about the history and sale in this Mankato Press article.
This is the intersection on the other side of the big hill where Mr. Meacham’s house used to be located in the neighborhood Lovelace called “Little Syria.”
In Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, the girls trek over the big hill to an immigrant community from Syria. They meet a dignitary named Mr. Meacham and befriend a girl named Naifi. According to this Mankato Press article, Mr. Meacham’s mansion was located at this intersection. In 2009 the owner donated it to the fire department to use as practice fighting a fire. The article notes that the Betsy-Tacy society couldn’t afford to renovate this property.
Mankato Road Trip Refreshments:
No matter how long or short, every road trip needs at least one stop for refreshments. If you’re driving between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mankato, you’ll pass down the main street of St. Peter soon before you reach Mankato. It’s a bustling college town home to Gustavus Adolphus.
The coffee shop is very popular. You can find scratch-made baked goods, savory breakfast and lunch items, and a wide variety of beverages. Tumeric milk is one of my favorite caffeine-free drinks. River Rock’s Golden Milk is sweet and spicy. The daily hand pie featured eggs, potatoes and sausage baked in a light, flaky crust.
Frieden’s features soups + baked goods including giant cookies, muffins, cupcakes and breads and dinner rolls. I couldn’t resist the “Buy three get one free” muffin special. Each jumbo muffin only costs $1.99. The muffins are fluffy and moist. This weekend, we enjoyed a blueberry and peach muffin.
Have you ever been to Mankato? Feel free to share any thoughts below in the comments section!
Links of Interest:
- Betsy-Tacy Society Facebook Page
- “The Little Syria of Deep Valley” –The New Yorker
- “Growing up Together: Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy Books” -New York Times