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by Gus Breiland
It started with an email invite, breakfast up north, just north of Grand Marais on the Gunflint Trail, promising the greatest pancakes on the planet. This is why I am on my motorcycle at 5am riding towards Duluth. I intended to be on the road at 4 am but my bed was awfully warm and it was eye opening cold this morning.
Normally I have some personal demons I wrestle with when I am riding at night. This morning was no different and at Hinckley I was seriously considering turning around and calling it a day. It was cold, I was tired, it is now 6am. But I continued on with the promise of good food and good conversation while joining friends at the 2nd annual Woodstock North at the Trail Center Lodge, 30 miles north of Grand Marais on the Gunflint trail.
Darkness retired as the sun woke the land. As I crested the hill in Duluth I was looking over a glass smooth Lake Superior holding the sun in the sky. It was 7am and the sky was clear, the air was still and crisp. Ahh, I was looking forward to this leg of the ride. To feel the warmth of the sun as it beat back the lonely chill of the morning. There were 5 parts to day. First was the isolated cold darkness of Minneapolis to Duluth. Second was a beautiful morning of fully colored trees and the NorthShore as I worked my way up to the Gunflint trail. Third was breakfast. Fourth was the obligatory stop at Aerostich and finally, fifth, the ride home.
600 total miles for a pancake? On a day like today, it was worth it and after breakfast, there are few days that will keep me from going again. Halfway up the Gunflint trail is a little outpost called Trail Center Lodge. With a knick-knack / convenience store in the front, and a restaurant in the back the lodge is a simple food refuge in a beautiful part of Minnesota. Also available to travelers are a few cabins run by the Trail Center Lodge. Through winding roads and the bright yellow of fall ash trees, the Trail Center Lodge is a warm inviting restaurant welcoming friends and conversation 7 days a week.
On the ride up my mind was preoccupied with a line on their menu next to their pancakes that read “Eat 3, get them free”. Hmmmm. In the picture they looked big but how big can they be? I think “Holy Cow” is in order for when you see the size of these things. I thought about maybe bringing a few home and drying them out. They would make great spare tires for my scooter. I would say anywhere from 12-14 inches in diameter with a minimum thickness of an inch. I was glad that I only ordered one. Plus some french toast, coffee and bacon.
The pancakes were wonderful. A good hearty meal. The french toast had a hint of cinnamon and the bacon was thick and crisp. I would never be able to abide by the rules of the Atkins diet as bread and bacon are necessary staples of my diet.
All around the table were tasty vittles. There was the Trail Breakfast with everything but the kitchen sink and the Walleye and Eggs seemed to be a favorite with the riders I sat with. I had joined a pack of crazy bikers a few miles north of Two Harbors and brought up the rear the rest of the way to breakfast. A little party had met in Duluth including Andy Goldfine of Aerostich, Jim Winterer, known high miler and poet, though he doesn’t know it and the Ahlers. This fine family is responsible for bringing Trials to Duluth (www.worldroundusa.com).
We all ate heartily and well. 2 eggs and toast will run you $2.25 up to $7.95 for the Walleye and eggs. This isn’t just a little fillet however. I thought the pancake was big until I saw this breaded heap of fish across the table and started drooling. The pancake was $1.75 a piece or free if you ate all three. That is right, you could save a whole $5.25. You had better rent one of their cabins however and hibernate off that meal. I am glad I didn’t attempt it as I was riding home that afternoon and tend to like staying awake while traveling on 2 wheels.
After sitting and filling up on wonderful food it was time to head out to the bike and start my journey back. With around 300 miles to go and a few sights to see, I was off on my own again. The sky was clear and the earth was warm. If you are a dirt rider and like well groomed logging roads, head on up. You have access to a ton of riding, shelter and great food.
I took a little side trip down Pine Mountain Road and after 5 or so miles I had to turn around realizing that I was not prepared to explore that day. These roads go on for miles as do the trees, hills, and wildlife you encounter. It truly is one of the most beautiful places in Minnesota and relatively easy to get to. It just takes a little time. As I headed south, watching the leave watchers and RV parades take in one of the last threatened good weekends, I stopped off at Split Rock Lighthouse for a few obligatory photos. Since I was so close to Betty’s Pies (I had a little extra room now) I stopped off and had a bite and of course I needed to see what I just had to have at Aerostich in Duluth before finally turning south to head home.
I watched the sun rise and fall that day. It was a beautiful crisp autumn day that was filled with my 2 favorite things, food and riding. After pushing thought the morning chills I was able to experience one of the few moments in a lifetime where all the planets align in your favor. It was a perfect day and as for Trail Center Lodges cooking, they have gained a new customer. I may not be able to eat there every weekend, but I can sure try a make it an annual ride.
By the way, they apparently also have a wonderful lunch and dinner menu but I didn’t have a chance to sample those yet. Guess I will have to return in the spring…winter…or, what are you doing next weekend? Wanna ride North?