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Old 05-18-2020, 01:40 PM
 
Location: Isanti County, Minnesota
3,630 posts, read 5,200,346 times
Reputation: 5569

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So 2 years after moving up here form Lakeville I thought I'd give an update on life in the far northern reaches of the MSP empire. This review covers the areas we live in, work in and frequent, which basically comprise a kite shaped region from Isanti, over to Princeton, up to Mora and down to North Branch....with our home being in Cambridge.

Likes:

This seems to be a pretty comfortable and safe area to live in. Haven't heard about much in the way of crime at all in the 2 years we've been here. My wife squawks about it every now and then because she's always combing the local facebook watch pages, but even most of that stuff is either petty crime or drug related. Yes, there's meth up here, but that crap is everywhere and I know because I've been working in ER's all over the country for 20 plus years. Police presence - both local and state - is always noticeable when we're out and about. Overall, we feel very safe living here and that's a big plus.

Wide open spaces. So much land and wilderness up here. This is the southern tip of bear country and I've seen a few already, including a giant black bear coming out of a corn field just north of Cambridge last fall, likely trying to fatten up for hibernation. The pheasant, turkey, deer, eagles, rabbits, loons, gulls and then some are everywhere......and of course the lakes, rivers and streams speak for themselves in correlation with recreation and fishing. I'm actually not much of a sportsman when it comes to that, although I do like to shore fish occasionally, but I also love to take walks and drives through it all when the weather's nice. We do a lot of day trips to all corners of the state, or at least we did before this virus debacle set in. I work in Mora and almost always take the back country roads in, rather than going straight up 65, and that just gives me a chance to kick back and enjoy the countryside with no traffic. That's my weekly time for reflection and getting my thoughts together away from the fam. I like looking at the farms and all the country homes/properties on my way up. We hope to get at least a couple acres somewhere for ourselves eventually.

Cambridge still offers a few big box stores including at least 4 grocery options. I especially like having a Fleet Farm here. Ours has a really good auto service department and I've started using them more than the local dealership for those service needs. When I do fish I usually get my worms and other fishing equipment there as well. Just to the south of us, Isanti has an excellent Coborn's that features a great meat dept. and bakery.....plus it always has the cheapest gas in the area. They also have a Kwik Trip now and a new Best Western hotel.

North Branch is a nice town. Seems to get a bad rap for some reason. I know they have some tax issues over there that I think arose from dealing with population growth. They're downtown area is nice, though, as is their library. We shop at County Market every now and then. Was sad to see their Shopko and Perkins close. They did open not one - but two - Kwik Trips there recently......not sure how a town that small got two Kwik Trips at the same time. Best thing about NB is the access to 35 to get to Duluth and the Cities.

Princeton also has a nice city center, as does Mora. I actually prefer all 3 of those downtown areas to Cambridge's, which is weirdly laid out with a lot of ugly and vacant buildings....especially as you pass through on 95. Frontier Steakhouse in Princeton is a great family restaurant. Can't wait till they reopen. We found a great church in Princeton also and have been established there going on a year and a half now. The Mora area is really pretty, with two giant lakes (Fish and Knife) on either side of town, plus the Snake and Ann Rivers.

Our favorite place to walk is Springvale County Park roughly halfway between Cambridge and Princeton off of 95. They have an extensive set of paved trails in there that wind way back into the woods....to the extent that I take bear spray with me whenever we go, just in case. Like I said, this area is far enough north that you do have to think about stuff like that. We also go to Frandsen Park over on West Rush Lake in Chisago County. That area is probably the most scenic of the regions I'm mentioning.

It's nice to live up here when you want to get to points north. Duluth is an easy day trip from our place now. 65 gives you lots of options further west. We've even gone over to the Alexandria area and back couple times in the same day from here. So many beautiful spots and lots still to explore.

The Cambridge schools have been better than we heard they were, especially considering we have 3 special needs kids. They've done especially well with our handicapped daughter. All of our kids miss being in school badly. The school and kids alike have done their best to pull off this online leaning thing, but everyone involved hopes things can get back to normal this fall.


Dislikes/concerns:

Medical. Subpar to the south side of the metro on all levels from what we've experienced. We've gone through 2 pediatricians in 2 years and are now driving 70 miles each way to go back to our old one in Burnsville, who is fantastic. Will not compromise that for obvious reasons, so we drive when we have to. The last straw was recently when the kids pediatrician in Cambridge refused to see two of them for bad coughs because it was deemed "respiratory" and demanded we do virtual appointments because of the virus. Well, we had already done a virtual appointment previously without resolution. At some point the child needs to be physically examined, virus or no virus. We immediately called our old office in Burnsville who saw both kids immediately and couldn't believe the doctor up here was actually refusing to see patients in person for an ongoing issue. I've also had a hard time finding a PCP I think is worth anything. I went to one woman 5 separate times for a cough before I finally cured it myself with a daily vitamin C supplement and over the counter allergy pill. Tried another guy based in Cambridge but he seems totally disinterested in anything I say to him and has the bedside manner of a piece of wood. Cambridge Medical Center is ok if you have a boo boo, but anything more than that they seem to struggle with. I had a horrific back issue one night and the PA I saw ordered x rays on the wrong part of my spine. They're a frazzled bunch. My wife has to drive to Robbinsdale to see an endocrinologist because there apparently wasn't one closer she could go to. How is there not one endocrinologist on this side of the metro?

Roads in and out of Cambridge. 65 and 95 are dangerous highways and I hate driving them, especially at night. 65 is a limited access 4 lanes south of town, but still very dangerous due to people treating it as an interstate when there are many intersections with idle vehicles waiting to make turns. 95 is only 2 lanes and has had at least 3 fatal accidents in our area since we've lived here. The deer up here are big as some horses and love to gather on and run across these roads from dusk till dawn. I don't ride, but if I did I wouldn't ride a motorcycle in these parts because of that. I wish they would just make 65 into an interstate up to Mora at least but that's not gonna happen anytime soon.

Amenities. We knew we wouldn't have access to what we had in Lakeville up here, but certain things could still be done much better. The Cambridge library (yes, we still utilize the library - a lot) in particular is awful, especially compared to the super nice ones up here in North Branch and Chisago City. An option for a new one was on the ballot last time around and so I voted for it and it passed. What do they do? Instead of building a new library like those other nice ones they decide to renovate some crummy old building by the primary school that has next to no parking. Also, why do all the other cities - Princeton, Isanti, Mora and North Branch - around here now have Kwik Trips while Cambridge - which is supposedly the hub for this region - doesn't? Why is Isanti of all places building new hotels while Cambridge still has only a single older one? I would like a nice hotel in town for my folks to be able to stay at (our house is too crowded) when they come to visit. They shouldn't have to drive outside of the county seat to find one. We picked Cambridge because 2 years ago it looked like a town that was on the move, but not much if anything at all has happened in terms of growth since we arrived and that's been disappointing. Not that I want to see it overrun, but I also don't want to see Isanti and those other towns getting all this new business that will make their property values go up while ours stays stagnant.

The Cambridge city council really needs to do something about the aesthetics of the downtown area. Passing through on 95 it looks like the town time forgot, with a ton of ugly, discolored and vacant structures. Main St. is nicer, but 95 is the main thoroughfare.....that's the first impression of the town outsiders get. As I said, all the other towns I've mentioned have much more attractive city centers.

The C-I school district is having a lot of financial problems and have announced huge budget cuts two years in a row now. This is concerning to us, because we came to Minnesota largely for the educational benefits for our kids. Yeah, we're out in the sticks, but Isanti County is still considered part of the MSP CSA and as such we didn't expect to see our school district having big time money problems. If it begins to affect the special needs services our kids partake in that will be a real problem for us.

Distance to the Cities. This goes without saying, but it's been worse than I thought. I was expecting 45 minutes to both Minneapolis or St. Paul when in reality it's an hour or more depending on traffic. The drives down 65 and 35 are both mind numbing, too.....not exactly a lot to look at either way. We still go to the cities often for events and medical care, so this has been a real pain. No one to blame but myself there I guess. I underestimated that aspect of things.

Landscape. While it's pretty up here, it's also very flat. I don't like flat. The south side of town is much hillier and prettier IMO. Didn't really realize the difference until we had lived up here and explored a bit. Lakeville, Apple Valley, Prior Lake, Chaska, Woodbury, all the way out to Northfield.....those are really pretty areas. I miss being closer to the Mississippi bluff country, too. We have Taylors Falls up here, but that's a lot further from our house (45 minutes) than it looked like on the map and there's not a lot to that town, unlike in Red Wing, Winona or La Crosse along the Mississippi.


Summary:

Even though I listed some "complaints" for the sake of the review, we really have little to complain about. We got a nice home for a great price in a safe place. I have a job I like that's right up the road. The schools educate and treat our kids well. We have a great church family. Whatever we don't find satisfactory we can still drive to if we feel the need. We live comfortably and still have reasonably close access to all the Cities have to offer. We have it pretty good and no regrets as of now. Will we stay here forever? Not ready to say that. We have too many special circumstances in our family to ever say that it seems, but we do hope to say it someday. In the meantime, we're content with our decision to come here knowing that no place is perfect.

Last edited by Tyryztoll; 05-18-2020 at 01:52 PM..
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Old 05-18-2020, 04:23 PM
 
Location: Twin Cities
5,797 posts, read 6,390,113 times
Reputation: 8690
This was very well done. We don’t often see updates from folks on the area they move to and I appreciated that you took the time to do it.
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Old 05-18-2020, 08:55 PM
 
Location: Isanti County, Minnesota
3,630 posts, read 5,200,346 times
Reputation: 5569
Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenfield View Post
This was very well done. We don’t often see updates from folks on the area they move to and I appreciated that you took the time to do it.
Thank you, sir.
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Old 05-19-2020, 11:10 AM
 
1,960 posts, read 1,268,510 times
Reputation: 3974
Did you ever get to the bottom of the high humidity level in your house this winter?
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:41 PM
 
Location: Isanti County, Minnesota
3,630 posts, read 5,200,346 times
Reputation: 5569
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodburyWoody View Post
Did you ever get to the bottom of the high humidity level in your house this winter?
Nope....never did. Fortunately, old man winter cut us a break with the sub zero temps this time around, so it wasn't as bad as the past 2 years, but we're still trying to figure it out. We may try to plastic all the windows next winter as the cheapest option and go from there.....everything else will cost buku $$$. We're already going to have to replace at least a couple windows/frames because of warping from the moisture.
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Old 05-20-2020, 03:27 PM
 
Location: Heart of Arabia (No, not Dearborn)
3,103 posts, read 1,047,283 times
Reputation: 3948
Good write up, from a fathers perspective for sure.

My parents moved us to Mora from Burnsville, in 1974. I lived in Kanabec county from ages 14 to 19.

Be aware, if you are looking for a more rural "wholesome" environment for your kids sake, trouble can still be easily found out in the sticks for a kid not interested in religion too much, and not much else going on.

At 19, I migrated back to Minneapolis out of frustration with those boring rural climes. I eventually found my place in life, but just wanted to share, there isnt a geographical cure in child raising, if that is your intent.

If that isnt it, I'm glad you are liking your new climes.

I would really enjoy some Brass Rail broasted chicken about now to be honest.



My .02.........
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:18 PM
 
Location: Isanti County, Minnesota
3,630 posts, read 5,200,346 times
Reputation: 5569
Quote:
Originally Posted by snebarekim View Post
Good write up, from a fathers perspective for sure.

My parents moved us to Mora from Burnsville, in 1974. I lived in Kanabec county from ages 14 to 19.

Be aware, if you are looking for a more rural "wholesome" environment for your kids sake, trouble can still be easily found out in the sticks for a kid not interested in religion too much, and not much else going on.

At 19, I migrated back to Minneapolis out of frustration with those boring rural climes. I eventually found my place in life, but just wanted to share, there isnt a geographical cure in child raising, if that is your intent.

If that isnt it, I'm glad you are liking your new climes.

I would really enjoy some Brass Rail broasted chicken about now to be honest.



My .02.........
Our kids are all special needs, so we really don't have to worry about them running amok like most parents.

I would actually have preferred to stay in Lakeville, but the housing is so much cheaper on this side of town we couldn't overlook it. Got a great house that would have cost at least 100-150 K more in a place like Lakeville, Chaska, Woodbury.

And we STILL haven't been to the Brass Rail, can you believe it? Were planning to go for sure this year until the virus debacle fell on us and had forgotten about it since.
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Old 05-21-2020, 03:46 PM
 
6,689 posts, read 8,119,083 times
Reputation: 6078
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyryztoll View Post
Nope....never did. Fortunately, old man winter cut us a break with the sub zero temps this time around, so it wasn't as bad as the past 2 years, but we're still trying to figure it out. We may try to plastic all the windows next winter as the cheapest option and go from there.....everything else will cost buku $$$. We're already going to have to replace at least a couple windows/frames because of warping from the moisture.
Get an air-to-air exchanger. FAST! Moisture often also forms on the inside walls and it turns into frost==mold. Ask me how I know. I am pretty sure it's code. Our current home came with an air-to-air. Even with no one living in the winter, we use the air-to-air. If not, it ruins the windows. Our stucco home before our current home was so well sealed that was the problem home. You won't regret it.
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