Red Wing Is Bad for My Health

My wife and I moved to Red Wing, Minnesota at the end of 2014, after almost 20 years in Little Canada, Minnesota. Little Canada is a bedroom suburb of St. Paul and while it is a an independent city with its own government, Little Canada is really just a collection of home developments with a few bars and a couple of Dollar Stores. Red Wing had been one of my favorite Minnesota destinations since I moved to the state in 1996. Since I moved to Minnesota, I’ve taken my out-of-state friends here to show them why I love Minnesota. The scenery is as good as the Lake States and Midwest gets. The Mississippi River is a national treasure. Red Wing has a lot of history to be proud of and some of it is still standing. There are proponents of the city (55% of the residents would call them “liberals”) who would like to see Red Wing survive and thrive into this century and beyond. The 21st Century infrastructure is here: from high speed, reliable fiber optic internet service to power generation to food production to traditional transportation (including a functioning railroad station and city buses). Unfortunately, there are more people who want to turn back the clock to when white people ruled and everyone else obeyed than there are people who recognize the critical value of diversity and progress.

Most of Minnesota is socially inbred and new residents often complain that, unless you are 3rd or 4th generation, you’ll always be viewed as an outsider and close friendships will be unlikely. Red Wing is no different in that aspect. The first thing I realized about moving to Red Wing was that we were leaving some precious relationships and while Red Wing is “only” 50 miles from the Twin Cities that distance is enough to terminate anything resembling regular association. Relationships are critical to mental and physical health and we’ve replaced deep friendships with casual acquaintances.

The Twin Cities are famous (in the US) for being one of the best places in the country for fitness and recreation. With its bicycle trails, water resources, and easy access to outdoor resources, you’d think Red Wing would have been a good place to be as a retiree looking to stay active. First, we left a pair of cities with a large collection of fitness centers, all actively competing for residents’ dollars and moved to a city with one option, the Red Wing Family YMCA. The Red Wing YMCA is one of two YMCA facilities (Rochester is the other) in the state that does not accept Medicare fitness plans and membership is expensive: nearly $1,000/year for two seniors (or a family of 17). That is twice what we paid for both YMCA and for-profit gym memberships in the Cities. There are a couple of much smaller gyms that do accept Medicare fitness plans, but they only offer weights and machines.

Red Wing is a tourist town and, as such, there is no shortage of restaurants and they are pretty good. Not good for you, but good as in well-designed to encourage over-eating and poor diet habits. Healthy eating is far harder than in the Cities where farmers’ markets and co-ops abound. Red Wing has a seasonal farmers’ market, but the local grocery options are very Midwestern traditional and not particularly healthy; including Wal-Mart and EconoFoods, two national chains that make no effort to stock local products.

One upside is the Mayo Clinic both in Red Wing and in nearby Rochester. After a couple of years of ignoring our healthcare, my wife and I have both found decent doctors at the Red Wing facility and we were fortunate to be here when one of us was found to have cancer. I can not fault the Mayo’s performance in any way. There is, however, no alternative to the Mayo Clinic in Red Wing: no independent physicians or clinics and no other hospital outside of 50 miles north in the Cities. While our experience with Mayo was good, we know several residents who have nothing positive to say about the local clinic and who travel long distances for healthcare.

Educational opportunities in Red Wing are sparse and disappointing. Part of my motivation for moving her was the Guitar Construction and Repair program at Southeast Community Technical College. I attended the program for one full school year, 2015-2016. The instructors are excellent and the program is a state treasure, but it is being down-scaled in favor of a two year liberal arts direction. The school recently renamed itself “Minnesota State College Southeast” in an attempt to move away from the technical school label. The school’s management is mostly absent, based in Winona and barely supervised in Red Wing. The facilities are excellent and you’d think there would be great demand for classes in both the technical programs and in 4-year school prep, but the school is a ghost town most of the day. There are no night classes and much of the program appears to be designed for right-out-of-high-school students rather than the more typical customer for community colleges: working adults. Part of this is the state’s fault, since there is a wrong-headed move to “standardize” the community colleges across the state, which will kill off most of these schools with mediocrity. There is no “community education” program like those found all over the Cities.

Possibly worst of all, in 2016 Trump got 55% of the Goodhue County vote (37% Clinton and 3 other right wing “parties” split the rest of the county). Jason Lewis—a self-declared misogynist, racist (to the point of advocating the return of slavery), homophobic, xenophobic, anti-public education, anti-science regressive—defeated another clearly superior-in-every-way Democratic candidate, Angie Craig, without a platform, without an agenda (other than being against everything), and without a clue. by an overall slim 2% margin but a considerably larger margin in Goodhue County. Lewis advocates tax policies designed to expand economic inequality, eliminating national healthcare, and a variety of failed 1980’s pro-1% policies that even the dumbest economist would stay away from.
So, the end result of retiring from the Cities to Red Wing has been boredom, loneliness, about 30 pounds of weight gain, and a dramatic loss in social, educational, and recreational opportunities. More than half of my neighbors are regressive, racist, uneducated, and proud of their white entitlements. In all, I’d call this a failed experiment. I suspect Red Wing doesn’t want me and I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at this place the same ever again.


  1. Anonymous12/01/2016

    Your more than welcome to leave at any time.

  2. Well, "any time" might be difficult, but I am looking at property in Oregon. Could be sooner than later.

  3. Looks like grammer may be an issue there too.

    1. It usually follows with math disabilities, science deficiencies, and xenophobia. ;-)