day 4 maple bay minnesota to mcleods corner michigan

just after sunrise on the Great Plains

The whole trip has been unseasonal. Sunny 70F weather, low 50's at night, perfect for sleeping outside. The day starts at dawn as always with a decision - where to go today. A detour south or north is the only choice - I rarely make more than a 90 degree detour. Decide that I want to get to Ottawa in 2 days - the point of this whole trip is to visit ailing parents. I'll dawdle on the way back. Now the only choice is do I want to see Lake Superior on my left or right? The north shore is a spectacular drive - Group of 7 country - but I did it on 97 and 98 trips. Its been so long since I drove south of Superior I can't remember when - could have been in early 70's in Econoline van days or even with the folks in the 50's, in those ancient days when my dad could still see where he was going and remembered why.

I'm tempted by Hibbing MN detour to see Dylan's home town but instead detour thru the Lake Winnabygones area of Prairie Home Companion. Coincidently get it on NPR radio as I pass thru - ironically broadcasting on location from Seattle. National Public Radio is almost as good as morning CBC in the Gzowski days and has better regional programming in some states. Its usually located on a university campus and broadcast locally from a dozen different state towns. Its a constant dial hunt to find the strongest signal when you're on the move - 88.5, 90.2, 89.3 - always in that range. On the return trip the Adirondack boat-building feature from NY has my complete attention. A few years ago a Sioux anthropologist had me transfixed with her account of the controversies over the Little Big Horn battlefield Natl Monument - tragedy or great victory? Radio is an intrinsic part of these long road trips.

At Duluth I take the south fork to Sault Ste. Marie. Duluth has an appealing look and size as I pass thru. I rarely stop in large towns and never large cities - unless I have a good reason - like visiting Gruhn Guitars in Nashville. I've got the quick entry and exit of Nashville down now - done it twice - all the good stuff is in a 6 block area of the old downtown - the Ryman - home of the original Grand Old Opry, Ernest Tubbs record shop, Gruhn Guitars and its wall of vintage Martins, and Tootsies and the Orchid Lounge thankfully still seedy bars, where Loretta and others got up to play for people on bar stools. I make a note to look up the population of Duluth - my guess is 50 to 100 thousand - it'll be my upper limit for future quick town visits.

I detour 50 miles to Silver City MI because it looks like route 64 hugs the coast. It does - but 50 feet from the shore with a wall of scrubby trees obscuring the view. East of Marquette MI has some great drive-bys of the Lake and some choice lakeside camping with big Superior surf - but there's still a few hours of daylight left so I pick out a tiny red tent on the map 80 miles ahead. I don't find the one on the map but stumble on the best campsite of the outbound journey. Some sort of county campsite again, 5 miles inland off the highway. Spectacular sunset vista inspires me to fire off a half-dozen postcards sitting at a picnic table on the east side of a lake at the waters edge smoking Camels and sipping Jack Daniels. The sun takes its time going down.

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