(Not) Feeling the Midwest for Vacation

I love Chicago and a lot of Midwest bands, plus I have family in Eden Prairie, Minn. So why can’t I warm up to that region?

Last winter, we planned the second of two summer sojourns to Minnesota to visit my brother-in-law and his family. My wife and I have been there exactly once in the past 15 years. Our daughter absolutely adores my niece and nephew, and we get along just fine with their parents.

They have a fine home in the immaculate Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, with loads of kids playing in precisely manicured backyards and a scenic jogging trail snaking through their development.

We thought we’d fly—until we saw the unwieldy fares to Minneapolis. So we figured we’d make the best of it with a Griswold-style road trip.

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I love planning itineraries, and this one was a streamlined, nine-day doozy: a night apiece in Pittsburgh (Mount Washington’s Duquesne Incline, Three Rivers Stadium, etc.) and Chicago (perhaps even a dip in Lake Michigan); four nights with the in-laws; and, on the way back, a stopover in Milwaukee, plus a nice, surprisingly cheap hotel room just around the corner from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland.

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Family schedules were coordinated, vacation time approved, and hotel rooms booked. My daughter was counting down the days. But the closer we got to our June launch, the less enthusiastic my wife and I became. Twenty hours is a haul, gas is expensive, and do we really want to heap that sort of mileage on our new car? The excuses for abandoning our plan multiplied like potholes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

It would be our second aborted road trip in two years. We were disappointed, though it helped that we headed to the Shore for the week instead. After all, my daughter doesn’t know what she’s missing, and my spouse shares my chilly sentiment toward the Midwest.

Why can’t I warm up to the nation’s midsection? Well, it’s one of the few regions I’ve never lived and worked in, so it feels alien to me. The same goes for its inhabitants, with their friendly, even-keeled manner. To me, it’s landlocked (and, no, massive glacial lakes that look like oceans don’t count). I have it on fairly good authority that winters in Minneapolis are brutal and seem to drag on for eons.

Chicago is a great town with great food, cool bars, really wide and clean downtown streets, and an awesome skyline. But isn’t there a way we could move the Windy City to the East Coast?

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Some of my favorite music comes from the Midwest. Prince, along with post-punk icons the Replacements and Hüsker Dü, are all Minneapolians; guitar-rock gods the Smashing Pumpkins hail from Chicago; and alt-country touchstones Uncle Tupelo and the Bottle Rockets have Missouri roots. The Replacements even wrote a classic tune, “Skyway,” about the enclosed walkways that run between buildings in downtown Minneapolis to shield pedestrians from the relentless winter cold. (Glamorous, eh?)

Hard to say if we’ll ever make it back to Eden Prairie. We were thinking of flying there over Thanksgiving. But I’m pretty sure that, by the time you read this, we’ll already have other plans.

MLT editor Hobart Rowland regrets being the propagator of East Coast bias.

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