Confession time: In my four decades of living only in Minnesota, it’s amazing that I have never been “up North” (the catch-all term for basically any place about two hours driving distance from the Twin Cities and further). OK, I’ve been up North, but only to the Arrowhead (Duluth, Ely, Grand Marais). I’ve been to North Dakota about three times, but I don’t think simply passing through towns like Alexandria, Fergus Falls, and Moorhead count. And once, or maybe twice, my family visited my brother-in-law’s family’s cabin. That was up here somewhere.
My point being that my family did not regularly vacation up here. I’ve never been to north-central Minnesota towns like Bemidji, Brainerd, and Detroit Lakes. That entire beautiful lakes-and-woods region is foreign to me. When you hear “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” that’s really what it’s referring to.
When I was growing up, lots of families went up North. Many were lucky to have a cabin to visit–either their own or a relative’s. I remember two relatives with cabins: my great-aunt Delores on Duck Lake, about 30 minutes from Waseca, and Uncle Louie and Aunt Harriet on Lake Frances, about 20 minutes away.
But my close friends really didn’t get up North, either. In ag-based Waseca, getting away in the summer was almost impossible. A lot of my friends’ dads were farmers. Some farmed with brothers or other relatives, so they could get away on occasion. But some were dairy farmers, which meant it was really hard to go anywhere any time of the year.
Dad was reluctant to get away, too–he couldn’t predict, for obvious reasons, when he would be busy or slow. It was only until my brother got old enough to dig graves on his own that Dad was more willing to take time off work, but only for a few days once a year. We generally did longer road trips: the Badlands of South Dakota, Kansas City, and Milwaukee. I flew with Mom and Dad once, to Florida in 1988 for Twins spring training.
If you’re a Minnesotan, were some of your summers spent up North? Do you go there now? Do you know many native Minnesotans, like me, who have never been there?
If you live somewhere else, is there a part of your state that you’ve never been to, even though it seems everyone you know has been there?