There was the second trip to the Northern Lights Roadhouse in Beaver Bay where the cashier remembered us from two nights earlier and was thrilled to welcome us to her bustling restaurant.
And as much as people make of the scenic joy of driving along Hwy. 61, we learned a couple of off-the-main-road secrets that will serve us well when we want to take things a bit more slowly.
The area along Hwy. 61 comes with all kinds of options. It's about 150 miles from Duluth to the Canadian border at Grand Portage. There are dozens of hotels, restaurants, parks, waysides and attractions along the way.
Our list isn't meant to be comprehensive in the least, but more a sampler of what's available.
In fact, one thing we learned from sitting around an evening campfire and talking to people we met along the way is that everyone has a place or two that they're dying to share with others.
These are ours.
The log homes are beautiful and have big windows overlooking Superior and lakeside decks with barbecue grills.
High season (mid-June through late October, Christmas and several other holidays) weekend rates range from $99 for a guest room to $369 for the two-story, three-bedroom log home that has two fireplaces (one gas, one wood) and sleeps eight. The log homes are closer to the lake than the log cabins; the Web site features a map of the place.
There are also lake homes for rent down a separate drive. Prices vary by season and sometimes a minimum stay is required.
There are more choices every year at Lutsen, some of them along the water and others at the top of the steep road that leads to the skiing and summer recreation areas. Bluefin is about 9 miles south of Lutsen in Tofte and has lodging ranging from simple rooms to multibedroom units.
A trail extends from Bluefin to Godin's Sugar Beach Resort, a more traditional place a short hike south.
There are plenty of small family-run places along Hwy. 61, and 10 visitors could list 10 different favorites. A few worth knowing about are the Cliff 'n Shore (1-218-834-4675), right by the new Silver Creek tunnel, with three cabins, seven motel rooms and a nice beach; Dodge's Log Lodges (1-218-525-4088), between Two Harbors and Duluth along scenic North Shore Drive; Godin's Sugar Beach (1-218-663-7595) and Solbakken Resort (1-218-663-7566) near Lutsen.