Weather: Sunny, warm, and windy.
After a long week riding the frantic freeways of the Twin Cities, Frogwing and I were both ready for a breather.
This past weekend found us cruising leisurely up old U.S. Highway 61, into the vacationland of Northern Minnesota. My Dad has a trailer up there, on a high spot in the swamp near McGregor. To get there, we usually follow old 61 on it’s many modern alignments: 361, 23, County 61, and so on, in a relatively straight line to Moose Lake. There, we turn left and head west on various roads until we get to Highway 65, which takes us north to McGregor. But it’s that vague section between Moose Lake and Highway 65 that we explored in detail this time.
While planning the trip, I used Google Earth and flew over my intended route. I wanted to see which roads were still unpaved, and draw up a detailed set of turn-by-turn directions that I could follow when I got up there. In practice, it couldn’t have worked more smoothly.
While flying in virtual space over this lush countryside, I found a little town called “Automba”. It didn’t look like much from the old satellite image, but you can miss a lot from that perspective. Further research revealed this description of the area from a rather strange, spiritualist website:
Summer Solstice Celebration 2006 Retreat will take place on Deeâ€™s land, which is located in Automba, MN. 100 acres of open land and woodlands filled with animals, birds, fairies, and other enchanted beings. Together we create a sacred space to explore, share, grow and heal together.
Allll-righty then! That sounds like fun. I’ve never had a fairie splatter itself on my visor before. Are they larger and messier than normal bugs?
Wiki-pedia says the township itself boasted a population of 137 at the 2000 census, but when Frogwing and I rolled down the gravel road into “town”, we found this:
That’s quite a discrepancy. I wonder which count is more accurate? Did they count fairies in the census?
Then it was on to Lawler, which is only a few dirt-road miles away. Lawler is famous for only one thing, and it’s called “Jackson’s Hole”. I couldn’t get a decent photo of the place this time, because it was high noon, and the light was all wrong. Besides that, there were so many pickup-trucks towing boats parked around the place that Frogwing and I had a hard time finding a place to park.
I really need to get a good shot of Lawler, one of these days. The rest of the town is in tumble-down decay, but Jackson’s Hole stands proud as the only roadhouse of it’s type for miles around. Famous for wonderful burgers, it has a reputation as a rowdy place during certain sporting seasons. The crowd of fishermen I found inside were typical, slightly loud, and hungry enough to keep the little lady in the kitchen hopping. She made several burger runs while I was there, and they really did look tasty.
Unfortunately, I had stopped earlier for homemade enchiladas at another place, and couldn’t eat another bite. I guess that just gives me a reason to go back someday.
When Frogwing and I arrived at the trailer, Dad was waiting. We talked for quite awhile, and soon it was time for dinner. Rather than fire up the grill, we decided to go into town for the wonderful prime-rib special at The Fireside. This was consumed with gusto, as we both got caught up on family happenings. Then it was time to go back to the swamp and start our customary Saturday-night campfire.
We spent the evening sipping whiskey and telling lies… It was wonderful. Way out there, away from the crowds and traffic of what my Dad calls “The Jungle”, we could relax and get to know each other again. The fire turned to embers about the same time as the light faded from the sky, and we went to bed, happy campers.
That picture up top was actually taken during our ride home, at a resort called Liberty Beach, on the shore of Lake Mille Lacs. I decided to take the Highway 47 route home, and investigate the fishing resorts for some friends of mine who write me occasionally from England. They have been talking about vacationing here for years, and maybe what I found on Lake Mille Lacs will be enough to finally get them to cross the pond.
During the ride home, we passed this old gas station, which now seems to have become somebody’s house…
Nobody was home outside, and I didn’t feel like bothering anyone inside. The “Closed” sign in the window was enough to send me on my way. My guess is that the old fuel pumps were sold at auction, or maybe even on eBay, and they don’t really want or need any strange visitors asking history questions.
The rest of our ride home was… interesting. I found lots of other places to explore, and you can be sure that I will make this trip again in the near future. But my time tonight is almost up. The girls are clamoring for my attention, and Amy is making burgers for dinner.
I wonder if they will be as good as the ones I missed at Jackson’s Hole…