Pie Pie Pie Pie Pie Pie Pie Pie Pie – Day 114

Pie, Pie, Pie, Pie, Pie, Pie, Pie

Day 114 – July 23, 2003 – Wednesday

Today was a pie day! We purchased nine pieces of pie today, and I personally sampled seven. We’ve now had 134 pieces of “pie” in 114 days.

The day began as all Wednesdays begin with our weekly radio talk show. DJ Dan McGrath called right at 7:11 am. We talked about Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the pie at the North Dakota State Fair.

We drove all across the state of Minnesota today on U.S. Highway 2 — from East Grand Forks to Duluth. Minnesota has tremendous natural beauty with 15,000 lakes. We saw Lake Itasca today; it’s hard to believe that it is where the Mississippi River starts, but it is. Minnesota was the 32nd state admitted to the Union, and the 32nd state for us to visit on our trip Round America. We planned it this way. 🙂

U.S. 2 is an east-west U.S. highway that spans 2,579 miles across the northern continental United States.

There’s not a lot to see or do on Highway 2, but we did have four specific places to try to hit for pie, and we managed three of the four. The fourth went out of business five years ago.

We drove through Climax, Minnesota – probably an exciting place to live.

We met Terry at the tourist information office in Fisher’s Landing. There are 15,000 lakes in Minnesota. There are 65 towns in Minnesota that have lake something in them. My Minnesota license plate photo says “10,000 Lakes,” so it looks like Terry needs to call someone about a recall of every license plate in the state.

We passed by the Bagley Wildlife Museum was closed. The sign indicated there were over 750 stuffed animal bodies inside. We love animals too much to look at dead stuffed ones.

We passed by Paul Bunyan’s Animal Land a few miles after we crossed the Mississippi River. We knew nothing about it; we just passed it. The Mississippi is the same color up north as it is down south — ugly brown.

We had a very good Cherry Pie at the Maid-Rite Cafe in Bemidji, Minnesota. We also had our first-ever “loose meat” sandwiches (“the hamburger too good to be a patty”). We met the owner, Judy, and her very cute granddaughters, Bethany and Abby. Judy confided that she made her pie crust using Crisco.

We took a detour off Highway 2 to the tiny town of Palisade, Minnesota (population 91) because we heard the pie was great. Boz had an excellent Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and I had a Banana Cream Pie that was okay, though not nearly as good as most of the cream pies we’ve had. Our waitress was very nice but we didn’t learn her name.

We then took a detour past Duluth to drive north on Highway 61 to Betty’s Pies in the town of Two Harbors. Betty’s has been recommended to us by people from all over — absolutely the most recommended pie place we’ve encountered. The first time we heard about Betty?s Pies was from the ladies we sat next to after the Pitchfok Fondue in Medora, North Dakota.

Betty Lessard opened the business in 1956 as a smoked.fish stand. She started baking her famous cookies and pies for something to do because the fish business was often slow. Soon, the baked goods outsold the fish, and in 1974, Betty changed the name of the place to Betty?s Pies and stopped selling fish altogether. Betty sold the business in 1984. In 1000, Betty’s Pies moved into a new, 3,000-square-foot “Pie-2K” building and went from seasonal to a year-round business.

We pulled up to Betty’s Pies a few minutes before closing time at 9 pm, and the place was packed. Angela took excellent care of us. We had half sandwiches that were excellent, and then we got after the pie. We saw pie being eaten at every table in the good-sized restaurant, and we saw folks carrying whole pies out the door. Betty’s makes 250 pies a day! There were 24 different pies available (one of the best selections we have seen on the trip), and we settled for 5-Layer Raspberry Chocolate and Chocolate Mint. We chose them primarily because we continue to try to have pies that are different from anything we’ve had. These pies were unlike anything we’ve had or seen on the trip thus far — excellent pies made extremely well. The best way to describe them is to say they are like multiple layers of pudding inside a world-class pie crust.

We brought slices of Strawberry Pie and Lemon Angel Pie back for Rachel and Susie at the Comfort Inn in Duluth, and we brought Blueberry Peach Pie and Great Lakes Crunch Pie back to the hotel room for a late-night snack and/or breakfast. I tried them both tonight, and they were excellent. I liked the Blueberry Peach Pie the best. The Great Lakes Crunch Pie is a multi-berry pie with granola and brown sugar on top rather than crust. I’d have loved it with a regular crust. While we don’t rank any of the Betty’s Pies that we sampled among the Top 10 pies we had on the trip, the selection was certainly among the best, and the 5-Layer Raspberry Chocolate and Chocolate Mint should certainly receive pie recognition for being totally unique in the world of American Pie. Betty’s was also doing the biggest pie business we have seen, and they’ve been doing it for 50 years!

A few World’s Largests passed before us today. World’s Largest Ox Cart near Crookston, World’s Largest Northern Pike in Erskins, and World’s Largest Loon in Loon Landing. We saw the big statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe in Paul’s birthplace, Bemidji, Minnesota. In Two Harbors, we saw a 35-foot tall statue of what looked to us to be a giant holding an oar while wearing a shirt and boots but no pants. We don’t have the slightest idea what it was supposed to be. We also saw a restaurant built inside a fish in Bena.

Grand Rapids, Minnesota is the hometown of Judy Garland. We stopped to see the World’s Largest Collection of Judy Garland Memorabilia, but the museum had closed early for the day. We did see replicas of the famous ruby slippers. We were mighty happy when our detour to Palisade took us right by Judy Garland’s childhood home located on the outskirts of Grand Rapids.

For the last week or so, it seems we spot deer crossing the road just in front of our car every evening as the sun is going down. Late today, it was a momma deer and two little ones. We really kept our eyes peeled for the last few hours of each day as the two-lane roads are often in deer territory.

As always, we met a number of nice people today. We met Terry at the Minnesota Tourist Information Office in Fisher Landing. We met owner Judy and her very cute granddaughters, Bethany and Abby, at the Maid-Rite Diner in Bemidji. We met Rachel and Susie at the Comfort Inn in Duluth. We met Angela at Betty’s Pies. We met Steve, a former missionary, at a Conoco station in Two Harbors, and then we met Julie in the lobby of the hotel in Duluth.

From our pre-trip research, we learned that Minnesota happens to have a significant number of Worlds Largests. Unfortunately, our choice of Highway 2 took us by only a couple of these. Wisconsin also has a significant number of “quirky” things to see, but not along our route. Boz and I have decided we will have to come back to Minnesota and Wisconsin another time to see more.

The Windsor family lived in Duluth, Minnesota for six months when I was five years old. My Dad tells a great story about the experience that I will share tomorrow; we plan to try to find the home we lived in back then. I was also President of a company with a big office in Duluth from 1992 to 1997, so we may drop in to see some old business associates there.

We were reminded repeatedly today how much we love good pie. And it is always inspirational to see a business that has become a huge success in a tiny place. While not on the scale of Wall Drug (attracting millions of people a year to a drug store in a town with a population of just a few hundred people), Betty’s Pies sells 250 pies a day to customers who visit its restaurant. Twin Harbors has a population of just 3,613. That multiplies out to 547,500 slices of pie per year or 150 slices of pie per year for every man, woman, and child living in Two Harbors.

Random Comments:

We passed two cars today. Passes #28 and #29 in 114 days.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this web site. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:Highway 2 — Maid-Rite Cafe — Palisade Minnesota — Betty’s Pies — World’s Largest Ox Cart — World’s Largest Northern Pike — World’s Largest Loon — Paul Bunyan and Babe — Bemidji Minnesota — Restaurant in a Fish — World’s Largest Collection of Judy Garland Memorabilia — Judy Garland’s Childhood Home