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It's all Eric Church's Fault, aka The Great Lakes Road Trip of '22 (this will be a work in progress)

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

Many months back I had this grand idea of a multi-week road trip up into the Great Lakes region, again, to spend sometime in Superior National Forest and trying my hand at astralphotogrpahy. A few days go by and I see Eric Church is performing in San Antonio so I picked up two tickets as I've been a lifelong fan of live music. Fast forward with some life interference and some big expenses (new Wolf oven, week in Boston, Alaska, etc.) and I had to make the adult decision and postpone the Great Lakes trip for another time. I hate having to be responsible, but it was the right thing to do.

I broke down and told Terri we were going to San Antonio to see Eric Church while we were talking to the older couple at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville to see Keb Mo (and Christone "Kingfish" Ingram the next night 😎) and she was obviously excited. It is fairly rare that I share with her where we are going as I like the surprise element. Then two days before the show, and hours before I couldn't cancel the rental car, Church decided to cancel the show to watch a basketball game 😡! I lost the money on the hotel reservation on this one and was understandably pissed off, but as it was beyond my control I had no choice but to just roll with it.

My wanderlust is a constant underpinning of my identity and soul and becomes nearly impossible to suppress, so it was no surprise that the Great Lakes road trip of '22 was back on. Back to Google Maps as I have found I really like roaming the maps of the region I'm interested in and zooming in to see what oddities and cool places pique my interest. I was working my way up the West coast of Lake Superior and saw this little line of a road just above Grand Marias, MN (translated from French it means big swamp, no kidding). Looked just like a forest service road but was quite long and led deep into the forest and there was a USFS campground at the end of it. Perfect. Turns out that road is known as the Gunflint Trail and it has its own bloody website 😳. Quite famous drive and beautiful in is own right, but more of that later.

The reason for the timing of this trip was tickets to see Foy Vance at the Athenaeum Theater in Chicago. Chicago was the closest place Foy was playing and there were few things that would keep me from making that show. I have been a fan of his music for years and even use the song Make it Rain as my alarm though my Sonos system throughout the entire house when I am forced out of bed long before the sun rises.

Backing out from the date of the concert two weeks put us leaving Pensacola on May 7th. Our first stop was to be Lake Itasca State Park in MN as it is the headwaters of the Mississippi River and since that river has played a role in many portions of my life it is a place I like to visit. We had original thought about getting on the road way before the sun came up and making some headway, but we had some friends over Friday night and thanks to a bottle, or seven, of wine the conversation was amazing and time became nothing more that a pulsating kaleidoscope of light and sound and before I realized it the hour was quite late. Truthfully no vacation should start the bloody early anyway.

With the pups loaded, the back of the truck packed with gear, and phones charged we were off at the leisurely hour of something like 9am. Lake Itasca is a mere 24 hour drive from my house and that last time I went Abbie, my sorely missed first German Shepherd, and I made it in a single push so I knew, well I thought I knew, what we were in for. We were just a bit outside of Chicago on I65 and had stopped to let everyone out for bit and while I was waiting for Terri I reloaded Itascsa State Park into my iPhone. When I saw a six hour closer route I should've been suspicious but we will blame fatigue, lack of coffee and a sore backside so I went with it. We ended up three hours away from where we needed to be in some kiddie play land that actually showed the correct name on the the map. Ugh. By the time we corrected that issue and finally arrived at Itasca I had driven for 30 out of 33 hours! 😳

Thankfully the Universe stopped laughing at my mistake and we were just one of four couples in the entire park! Itasca is MN oldest and busiest park so this was unheard of, but the snow hadn't fully been cleared so the park was only open to existing reservations. Absolutely incredible luck to have almost free rein of the place. We arrived late in the day and quickly made camp and got some much needed sleep.

The headwaters of the Mississippi is likely the main attraction for Itasca but Preacher's Cove and Wilderness Drive are certainly worth a visit. Wilderness Drive is a 16 mile oneway meandering route through portions of the park. Sadly

we didn't get to see any wildlife but enjoyed the relaxing drive none-the-less.

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