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Help me welcome special guest Amy Rea to this edition of Mugshot Monday. As I mentioned earlier, she’s one of my favorite writers. She’s a fellow wanderluster who writes about food and traveling off the beaten path at WCCO’s Wander Minnesota and The Heavy Table. She actually wrote one of my favorite pieces possibly ever about enlisting the help of residents of the Mala Strana Assisted Living home to taste-test kolacky from New Prague, Minnesota-area bakeries. Here’s her mug and story:

A few years ago, while traveling around MN doing research for my book Backroads & Byways of Minnesota, I stayed a couple of nights in Grand Marais, one of my favorite places in the state. The first morning there, I ate at the (now sadly defunct) Wild Onion Café, which at that time was just across the highway from the harbor. It was a beautiful August morning, and I sat outside, watching the sailboats bob in the water, the gulls flying about, and ate the best blueberry pancakes ever. The blueberries and syrup were both local, and so delicious. It was such a great breakfast that I broke one of my self-imposed travel rules: while conducting research, never eat at the same restaurant twice. Always visit as many as possible. Which makes sense, right?

Amy Crea Mugshot Monday
However, at the point at which I’d gotten to Grand Marais, I’d made several road trips for research, and they’re always insane. I’m usually on the road before sunrise, covering as many miles while making as many stops as possible (in a kind of “if it’s 2 p.m., this must be Two Harbors” kind of way). It’s not uncommon for me to drive 400-500 miles a day, with as many as 30-40 stops each day. By this time, I was getting very tired and cranky about not having time to actually relax and enjoy myself.

So my second and last morning in Grand Marais, I returned for more of those blueberry pancakes. I sat outside again and was rewarded with a dramatic change of scenery, as the brilliant blue skies from the day before gave way to a fast-moving fog that covered everything in the harbor, making tall sailboats not much more than shadows—and then the fog disappeared as fast as it had come. I had pancakes and a show. After breakfast, knowing I had to get going if I was going to see everything I needed to see on my way to Ely, I went back into the Wild Onion and bought this mug. It never fails to remind me of a few calm, beautiful moments on an otherwise hectic journey.

Amy C. Rea is writer and author who lives in Minnesota. Check out her book Land of 10,000 Lakes: an Explorer’s Guide and Backroads & Byways of Minnesota and read more of her adventures on and Heavy Table. Connect with her on Twitter at @Amycrea.