It happened again on Saturday. Tom and I were driving down to Collegeville for our annual St. John’s University football game on an absolutely picture-perfect fall day—trees that were beginning to turn color, the blue sky reflected in the blue lakes. We were listening on the car radio to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers’ show, Car Talk, on Minnesota Public Radio . . . and then it happened.
A woman called into Car Talk from Grand Rapids, Minnesota. You would have thought she said she was from Outer Mongolia somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. “Woo-oo, Grand Rapids, Minneso-o-ota! Just how cold does it get up there?” challenged Brother Ray or Brother Tom, I forget which one. And like a true Minnesotan, the woman from Grand Rapids rose to their expectations and bragged about the one day last winter where the temperature reached minus 40 degrees.
That was enough to send Click and Clack over the edge, absolutely ridiculing anyone who would willingly and knowingly live in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The lady fed right into it; after all, it was Click and Clack and they make fun of everything. “Well,” she said, as all we Minnesotans have said a thousand times, “my dad says it builds character.” Ha-ha, everyone laughed.
Then I held my breath; would she say the other cliché? The one you just have to say if you mention the other one about character building?
She did. She added the one that all of our Minnesota dads have said a million times: “The cold keeps out the riff-raff.” Click and Clack heartily agreed that riff-raff wouldn’t be able to survive a Minnesota winter.
Hurray! She kept the myth alive! What the lady failed to say (dumb like a fox, that lady) is that the Grand Rapids, Minnesota, area is one of the most beautiful spots on the face of the earth. If Minnesota has 10,000 lakes, the Grand Rapids area has a thousand of them. It’s right on the edge of the Chippewa National Forest, and for the next week and half, the whole countryside is at peak for fall colors. Even if Click and Clack don’t want to go to Grand Rapids, other tourists will be driving through Itasca County to see some of the most beautiful fall colors in the nation. These tourists will use the hiking and biking trails, camp grounds, resorts, and fishing lodges.
But by reinforcing the stereotype, the MPR listeners from all over the country believe that Grand Rapids is somewhere near the ends of the earth. I don’t suppose the people up there want Click and Clack’s east coast bumper-to-bumper traffic clogging up Forest Road for the people who appreciate Northern Minnesota’s beauty.
The lady from Grand Rapids did us all a favor—by keeping the riff-raff out. Grand Rapids will be Minnesota’s little secret.