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The long and winding road now has pit stops

So, I need to warn you: This week's column deals with a subject that some readers may consider taboo. Don't worry, it's not about horror films, dead deer on the side of the road, Proctor or anything gross and disgusting like that. No, what I'd like to address is something far more intimate and it pertains to anyone traveling Minnesota's scenic North Shore. But it's good news, nothing earth-shattering like that giant chicken in Two Harbors becoming a box of McDonald's nuggets. OK, I've given you ample time to mentally prepare yourselves, so here we go: There are more public restrooms on Highway 61.

A few weeks back, our family took a day trip to Grand Marais to check out its annual art festival of fused glass, rock candles and pictures of the lake. We saw many wonderfully creative items that day, but no sight was as welcome to our eyes (and bladders) as these new rest stops along the highway.

In years past, it was crucial to make a pit stop at the Gooseberry Falls Visitor Center and "empty the holding tanks" because your options past Castle Danger were limited. (On a side note, how did Castle Danger obtain that name? Perhaps those pioneering fur traders used the tops of high rock cliffs — which resemble castles — to take care of business. That would certainly make the bottoms of the cliffs a dangerous place to be ... ) Sure, there was the occasional North Shore gas station or Tofte-resident-not-at-home's bathroom you could borrow, but that was risky in many ways.

But now, if Gooseberry is overrun with sweaty, frantic tourists, you have options. You don't have to fight the brown bears for a spot in the woods. (That scenario is why we purchase a park sticker, by the way, enabling us to smugly drive into the state park portion of Gooseberry and use a state park porta-biffy, which is like a regular porta-biffy, but with lady slipper hand sanitizer.) Several new rest areas have sprouted up along this well-traveled Minnesota byway, and speaking from experience, they provide much-needed relief to summer travelers.

We were able to enjoy our dinner at Hughie's Tacos before heading home, confident in the knowledge that we no longer had to zoom at breakneck speed to reach Tettegouche in order to "rest." Everyone must love these new wayside stops! Well, everyone except the grump who spray-painted "What a waste of taxpayer money, MN. Shame on you" inside the men's room door in Beaver Bay.

He should have stayed in Proctor.

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater, and visit their website at He encourages Minnesota to build more rest stops on every highway throughout the entire state. Other than flying cars, that’s the best use of taxpayer money.

Brian Matuszak

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at