August 23, 2011

Backroads & Byways of Minnesota

I'm all for just showing up some special where and following special whims, but sometimes--before you spend hours in a car or hundreds on accommodations--it's nice to talk to someone who has experienced a place, who can say See this and Eat here and Attend that with a degree of authority. For those of you interested in exploring Minnesota, Amy C. Rea is the woman to talk to. Not only does she write at two great blogs--Flyover Land and Wander Minnesota--but she's also just authored the guide book Backroads and Byways of Minnesota: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions. It's pretty clear: she knows her MN.

As I looked through the book, I kept thinking about the time that went into its making. Minnesota is no small state.  Rea covers just about all of it in sixteen different chapters. That's a lot of driving, folks. A lot of  pavement and gas stations and bad weather. But thank goodness she took the time and had her adventures, because we future travelers are the better for it. I was particularly interested in the two chapters about Lake Superior's North Shore and the one about La Crescent to Wabasha. Although I've been to the North Shore a dozen times, Rea's insights and restaurant recommendations made me realize there's a lot I've missed, and as for the Apple Blossom Scenic Drive--what have I been waiting for?

In the book's 230 pages, there's also mention of Betty's Pies, Palisade Head, Sawtooth Mountains, Father Baraga's Cross, Wild Onion Cafe, Grand Portage National Monument, International Wolf Center, Soudan Underground Mine, Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway, Kabetogama Lake, Warroad, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Keg and Cork, Woodtick Musical Theater, Koochiching State Forest, Nisswa Turtle Races, Nya Duvemala, Gammelgarden, Hok-Si-La-Park, Welch Village, Pickwick Mill, Slippery's, Traverse des Sioux, Heritage Tree, Wanda Gag House, Kaiserhoff, The 1898 Inn, Commonweal Theater, Birch Coulee Battlefield, Jeffers Petroglyphs, Blue Mounds State Park, and Lange's Cafe and Bakery.

Sounds a bit like poetry, doesn't it? When you read the names, don't you see something? An image? A story?

Whether you've lived in Minnesota your entire life or have never been within five states of its border, Rea makes about a thousand great arguments for fueling the car and hitting the pavement in search of its secrets. Her book has been a great reminder for me that just as the world is wide, so can a mile be off even the most familiar highway.


  1. Wow, Emily, thank you!!! {blush} I hope you can put the book to good use!

  2. I was studying a map of Minnesota the other day and I noticed a small area that goes north of the 49th parallel, mostly like with an island (a reservation I think). Never knew the lower 48 had anything north of the 49th parallel. Who would've thunk?

  3. The Northwest Angle, Wild Bill. And there's a golf course there!

  4. Bill -- Amy has it right. I actually wrote a post about the book "In the Lake of the Woods" by Tim O'Brien last fall(ish) that deals in part with this area. I've never been, but it looks downright breathtaking.

    And Amy -- of course! I really have enjoyed reading through it. It's lead to several daydreams and many plans for future adventures. :)