Ė Homer Simpson

Grand Marais, MN to St. Paul, MN: Route 61 South through Little Marais to Slip Rock Lighthouse S.P.; continuing to Duluth, to I-35 South to SR-95 East to US-8 East to St. Croix Falls, back on US-8 West to I-35 South to St. Paul. (

Skipping the free continental breakfast at the hotel, I head over to the Worldís Best Donut Shop. Thatís not just my assessment; itís the name of the place and the truth. Sure, I had some doubts, but they went away as soon as I took my first bite. I got a raised glazed, a regular cinnamon, and a hot chocolate, all for $1.74. God Bless America.

The Worldís Best Donut Shop is located on the corner of Broadway and Wisconsin in the town of Grand Marais. This is one of those places you hope to find in your travels, and then dream about visiting again. A family business for 30 years, they know how to do it right here. They have two kinds of donuts: regular and raised. Both come in the usual donut flavors. The raised variety is a meal unto itself. These donuts are so good that Homer Simpson would sell Bart, Lisa and Marge just to get his four fingered hands on one.

This is my kind of place. They keep track of where their visitors come from and have a running tally on the wall: the Donut Eaters Attendance Record. So far this year, theyíve had donut eaters from every state except West Virginia. The lady behind the counter tells me that most years West Virginia is last because those people down there are "cheap about their gas." They also keep track of foreign visitors. Everyone who comes in can write their name down on a sheet and get a number assigned. When you come back next year, if you remember your number you get a free donut. Limit one per customer per year. My number is 2658.

With thoughts of donuts still dancing in my head, I head south back down shore drive, taking my time enjoying the road I rushed up yesterday. Skirting the jagged, glacier worn Sawtooth Mountains, this winding road follows the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, passing lighthouses and cascading streams. I stop at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park where a restored lighthouse sits atop a 130-foot cliff that juts into rocky shoals. First lit in 1910 after 215 men drowned during a disastrous shipping season, it now serves only visitors.

After a quick stop in Duluth, I head down the boredom of I-35. On a motorcycle, most people donít have a radio to break up the monotony of the interstate. I spend the time counting miles and exits. I realize for the first time that the exit numbers are the same as the mile markers. Boy, donít I feel stupid. But they donít do that on many roads back east.

At Exit 147 I turn off onto route 95 and slip over the St. Croix River to St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. Turns out St. Croix Falls has no falls. They did until the Northern Power Company built a dam and hydroelectric plant here. But they do have the Visitor Center for the St. Croix Riverway, and inside they have the NPS cancellation stamp. Good for me, bad for the falls.

My stop for the evening is the home of Jennifer Arlinsky, in the better half of the twin cities, St. Paul. Jennifer and I have known each other for more than half of our lives. When we were 15 years old, in the summer of 1983, we met at the lake house of our mutual family friends, Chris and Paul Kardon. Paul was one of my dadís partners and has known Jenniferís father since they were six.

Jennifer and I really hit it off that summer and when she went back to Michigan we tried to stay in touch, writing letters. But Iím a horrible letter writer and soon we lost track of each other. Iíd hear about her now and again through Chris, and every once and awhile Iíd think about where she was and what she might be doing. Then, about two years ago, at Chris and her daughter Gabrielleís combined 90th Birthday Party (Chris was 60 and Gab was 30) I got to see Jennifer again. We hadnít spoken in 14 years, but thanks to the wonder of e-mail our friendship has continued.

Jennifer went to college here in St. Paul, and she never left. Now she works for U.S. Congressman Bruce F. Vento, a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat (at least that's what Jennifer says!) We take a tour of the city and even drive by the Governorís mansion. Governor Jesse "The Mind" Ventura, that is! Dinner at Grand Shanghai (great Chinese) and dessert at the Grand Ole Creamery (both of Grand Street, get it!). The Black Hills Gold Ice Cream (Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel, Pralines, and Oreos) at the Creamery should be illegal.

Quick interjection from Jennifer: "Just wanted folks to know that Daniel is an excellent guest. He kept the bathroom clean, hung up his towel and actually folded the sheets this morning when putting my futon couch back to its couch-like state. Additionally, he is very entertaining and even paid for dinner. In the last fifteen hours I have learned more about BMW motorcycles, the Iron Butt Rally and riding gear than I ever thought I wanted to know. I must admit that after reading Days 2 and 3 of the Iron Butt Rally reports I am hooked and will have to finish out reading about this event as well as Danielís trip. Damn him. Thanks Daniel for giving me a little air-time here (and, yes, this really is Jennifer and not Daniel simply pretending to be me!) Oh, and by the way, about the exits and the mile markers being the sameÖmid-westerners are very sensible people."

Miles Today: 296.1
Total Miles: 5935
Time on Motorcycle: 5 Hours 1 Minute
States Visited today: 2 (MN, WI)
Total States Visited: 18
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 1
NPS Stamp totals: 48 Stamps, 15 States
Weather: Looked like rain, then it felt like hell.
Calories in one Raised Glazed Donut: Who Cares?

"Now Youíre Up North" Ė Dairy Queen sign in Grand Marais, MN

As I approach Duluth I remember that it is the home of the AeroStich Riderís Warehouse. This is a legendary motorcycle touring supply shop and the place where they make the famous "Stich", a popular rainproof riding suit. Check out their web site at http://www.aerostich.com. When I walk in, one of the sales people asks me if Iím from the Iron Butt Rally. Turns out, the rally master has made this a bonus stop for the second leg, from Washington to Maine. Between 8 and 8:30 AM, three riders have stopped by, collecting their get out of jail free card, and signed the bonus sheet. COOL! Iíve been in the presence of greatness, almost. This is about as close to the rally as Iíll get during my trip.