Former Northern Michigan University football coach pens adventure book


Former Northern Michigan University football coach Rob Erwin is shown by Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park, one of the many outdoor scenes he’s come across in his travel adventures. He has written “Lost with Directions,” which will be available in paperback on Amazon and electronically on Amazon Kindle Dec. 1. (Photo courtesy of Rob Erwin)

MARQUETTE — Accidentally spraying himself with bear spray in Yellowstone National Park and debating whether his insurance would cover bison horn marks as they came within inches of his car were just some of the adventures experienced by Rob Erwin and chronicled in his new book, “Lost with Directions.”

Erwin, 29, of Bettendorf, Iowa, was wide receivers coach at Northern Michigan University in 2011, having also coached at Montana State University, Augustana College in Illinois and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

What was it like writing a book after being a football coach?

“Talk about a trial-and-error process,” Erwin said in an email interview. “Having no formal writing or publication experience, I really just sat down and tried to write a couple paragraphs each day from my recollections of the trip.”

That trip was with a friend to the western United States, which involved “Ambling Around America” — the subtitle of his book.

This is the cover of the new book, “Lost with Directions,” written by former Northern Michigan University football coach Rob Erwin. The book will be available in paperback on Amazon and electronically on Amazon Kindle Dec. 1. (Photo courtesy of Rob Erwin)

After moving back to Davenport, Iowa, in 2015 to get married to his wife, Kellie, Erwin transitioned out of coaching to a 9-to-5 job at a local college.

That didn’t work out so well.

“Quickly becoming frustrated by the mundanity of my work, dejected by the lack of excitement and in mild despair as I looked forward to a future cycling through the same meaningless routine, I was above all else disillusioned by the fact that the people I worked with seemed to think that all of this was normal,” Erwin said.

It was then he decided to take off on a cross-country journey to some of America’s most iconic wild places, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was a time, he said, to get recharged and re-inspired.

“I guess I was on a bit of a mission to try to inspire people to live more adventurously,” Erwin said. “I’m getting to an age where most of my friends and I are about to turn 30 and settled into more routine-centered lives based on careers, paying the bills and family obligations at home.”

That’s all well and good for many people, but there are other aspects to life.

For Erwin, he couldn’t help but feel people were forgetting about some of the most rewarding and fulfilling parts of a meaningful life — living adventurously, spontaneously and continuing to explore the world as they did when they were younger.

“For this reason, the great compliment I hope to receive about the book would be for someone to tell me that something in my story resonated with them and inspired them to go off on their own wild and crazy journey,” Erwin said.

There were many experiences of note that Erwin details in his book, but he said if he had to pick a handful to spotlight, his favorites would include the scariest moments.

One of these was what he called a “frightening, heart-pounding night” spent in the untamed backcountry of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, sometimes referred to as the more ominous-sounding Valley of the Wolves.

Another was an unexpectedly dangerous trek through an unstable, high-elevation snowfield in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

However, one of his favorite moments came in one of the many small towns he visited along the way.

“From a drunken hillbilly in an isolated town deep in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to a raucous night spent in the rodeo capital of the world in Cody, Wyoming, America’s small towns never cease to provide amazing, unexpected experiences you’ll never find in the big cities,” Erwin said.

Experiencing wild places and unique small towns is one thing. Writing about them is another.

After writing paragraphs here and there, after several months Erwin had an “insanely enormous” 80,000-word document.

Getting it on paper as it were, however, was the easy part.

“The hard part was the editing process where it came time to trim this behemoth manuscript down to my best content, and then formulate it into clean, concise narrative that was both entertaining and informative,” Erwin said.

Fact-checking also played a big rule in this stage of the writing process, he said.

“While I wanted to keep humorous overtones throughout, I also wanted to craft a story that featured some of the incredible, and often unknown, backstories to these amazing wild places,” Erwin said.

He said he learned firsthand that a knowledge of the unique history, wildlife and natural features of these off-the-beaten-path places enhances the experience, which he wanted to share with readers.

“Lost with Directions” will be released Dec. 1 and will be available in paperback on Amazon for $9.99 and electronically through Amazon Kindle for $5.99. Another option is to buy the book via


Making a profit from book sales is all well and good, but Erwin wants to get people on the road.

“Ultimately, when it’s all said and done, I hope I’ve created a fast-paced, humorous and insightful travel-adventure narrative with no fluff and no filler,” Erwin said. “I think it will leave the readers wanting more — in a good way — so when they put it down, they’ll want to start planning their unique, life-changing adventure.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.