Leaving downtown Bemidji along the edge of the lake, the GRR makes a series of backcountry loops past tree farms and at least 6 of the state’s 10,000 lakes, crossing US-2 twice before snaking into Grand Rapids 100 miles later. The road hugs red pine- and aspen-wooded shores and crosses the ever-widening Mississippi eight times, while numerous signs point to unseen resorts, which in Minnesota don’t offer luxury so much as proximity to good fishing. Fishing is serious business hereabouts, as is evident from the frequency of signs advertising “Leeches—Minnows—Nightcrawlers.”
If you’re just passing through, one place to set aside some time for is about halfway along, in the hamlet of Bena. Right along US-2, a 65-foot-long muskie, with a 14-foot-wide mouth, welcomes customers to the popular Big Fish Supper Club (218/665-2299, Tues.-Sun.). As seen in that classic Chevy Chase road-trip movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, the friendly café is open for dinner and drinks year-round.