The 2021 Polar Run Rally (TPR) kicked off in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Friday, January 29 with an end destination of Lutsen, MN that very same evening. Lutsen is a small ski town in northern MN right off of Lake Superior. To anyone else it would be an easy 3-hour drive, but you have to remember that this is a rally! Several checkpoints are put in place to intentionally stray participants from the normal route of I-35, making the estimated time to complete the 2021 Polar Run about 8 hours total.
The first destination for TPR 2021 was a wonderful sculpture garden off of Highway 95 in Franconia, MN. In the garden, teams were required to get a selfie with one of the unique pieces of art. For extra bonus points the team needed to find a sculpture that would not be used in the selfies of 2 other teams. We had to get creative!
The second destination included a throwback to the first TPR (which was also up to Lutsen!). Joey Nova’s Pizza from Tonka Bay, MN sponsored this second stop. Teams parked at the VFW in Rush City, MN to join a pizza crust competition. Teams could achieve up to 10 points for those able to make a large pizza crust with uniformity. There were varying strategies; some unsuccessful, some with incredible tosses.
Team Short Shift deviated from the group at this point because a special treat was in store for participants this year. Once teams reached the 4th checkpoint, they found Short Shift waiting to take professional photos of each vehicle in the snow! When Hayley (The TPR organizer) asked us, we were over-the-moon excited to be able to provide this for all the teams. The location we used was a small dead-end road under the Highway 53 bridge from Duluth to Superior. The perfect backdrop for team photos.
In the interest of catching up to the other teams, Short Shift skipped the Bassett Town Hall checkpoint #5 and headed straight to the Totem Pole in Finland, MN. This totem pole made for some pretty hilarious selfies!
Finally, we were truly up North. The roads became windy and narrow and cell coverage became slowly non-existent. The frequency in which we passed one another also dwindled.
The last checkpoint was a little saloon called the “Trestle Inn”. When Team Short Shift arrived, it was clear what sort of landmark establishment we were meeting at. This was clear because there were about 20 snowmobiles parked neatly outside and “Cash Only” signs were posted on the entrance. Like I said, “Truly up North!”
Short Shift took the opportunity to secure a table next to the door to allow us to catch up with teams that were filtering in and out. After a few minutes, a stickered up Ford Focus RS parked in front of our window. This Focus RS was on TPR last year and we were familiar with the team. However, this time 5 people piled out, which was certainly more than left Minneapolis 5 hours ago. It had turned out that there was a little too much exuberance for some of the logging roads and a Chevy Silverado team had ventured off into the ditch. Luckily, not far down the road were two diesel truck teams that would be all too happy to extract a ditched Silverado. That’s what TPR is all about!
Once we were able to rescue the Silverado, it was time to head to the final stop: our accommodations. We took the opportunity to do some “light paint” photography with our good friends once the sun went down. It’s not every day you are in Superior National Forrest with a DSL camera, a tripod, and your good friends. This ended Day 1 of the 2021 Polar Run Rally in the best way. Tomorrow would be just as eventful, and we were very much looking forward to it.