What’s a good road trip without a good destination to keep the wheels turning with purpose? In #RoadTripMore Part 1 we talked high speed solo road trips and their impact on self-awareness. And in #RoadTripMore Part 2 it was all about the 15 unwritten road trip rules.
In #RoadTripMore Part 3, it’s all about the destination.
The final destination of my initial 40-hour cross country drive was Ohio University for 12 Fest. That’s where the endurance driving madness ended and another genre of madness began. But like any road trip I’ve taken in the past from west to east, and any I’m certain to take in the future, this one had it’s longest layover in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Or rather, Hookstown, PA, in the middle of proverbial fucking nowhere. Where I was raised from the age of 4, Hookstown. Many of my “firsts” in life were experienced there and even a few “lasts” too, like competitive athletics, 7pm putt-putt dates and solving math problems.
Hookstown sits 35 miles or so west of Pittsburgh, well outside the greater Pittsburgh area and geographically much different. Culturally, only barely so. Pittsburgh is obviously a metropolitan city; Hookstown mostly farmland. One small rural community covering precisely 0.134375 square miles compared to Pittsburgh’s 58.3.
The similarity between Hookstown and Pittsburgh lies in the hearts of the people. It’s that “black and gold,” hard-working culture that permeates most of Western PA, a result of the city’s rise to a dominant steel manufacturing city in the early 1900s and subsequent spread of that population after the plants closed in the 80s. Steel work, definitely one of the bluest of all working collars.
That same culture permeates other midwest cities in states like GD’s beloved Ohio. Each region bleeding their own colors, a unique shade of those core blue collar values which include hard work, close family and unwavering home team fanaticism, even if the boys never have the year they were supposed to.
But we’re not talking about Ohio right now.
Growing Up in the Sticks, ’94 – ’12
On paper, Hookstown is far from a thrill. Even while living there I can remember the lingering sense of boredom and restlessness that my group of friends carried throughout the better part of our summers there. There was not much available by way of exciting things-to-do, being at least 20 minutes from the nearest social thrill. But still, my life there never felt too dull.
Our 3 months were divided between beer, bonfires, sports, house parties, work, chasing girls and for some, religion. Not in any specific order, other than beer first.
Some of my best memories are from my summers spent in Hookstown during high school and college, chilling in the light of a bonfire or playing the local par 3 golf course, golf bags stuffed with beer cans. I miss the consecutive weeks of indulging at wing nights, being obnoxious at movie theaters and especially loitering at malls, solely to test game on pretty girls we didn’t know from other school districts, proudly retelling success stories and roasting the spectacular failures.
Having the option to leave LA with some friends and cheese in Mexico for a weekend just because we can is a lot more interesting than drinking a warm, possibly skunked, Milwaukee’s Best Ice in a field. But I’d like to believe the connections we made in those fields over warm beer are no less significant than those we made in Mexico, far from those friends and fields back home.
Going Back to the Sticks, ’12 –
Going home to Hookstown was something I often took for granted while at college, sometimes hated. Even when I first moved to California and was barely living in San Diego, the prospect of leaving Southern California for Hookstown sucked. Beaches and 70 degree weather for snowy farms? No way.
From conversations I’ve had with peers my age it seems common around this time to experience a shift in how we feel about where we are in life, where we want to be and where we come from. For example, day dreaming about your move to a new city and how you’ll start a cool ass life is easy when you’re waiting for mom to finish cooking dinner. But when you finally get there with no life waiting for you, only struggle, and anyone who gives a fuck about you is thousands of miles away, things ain’t so great. And even years later when life in that new city comes together (and it will), you’ll miss those specific things that can only be found back home, like that special meal mom used to cook for you.
Going back to Hookstown is about as nostalgic as it gets for me. Slinging back cheap drinks with old friends and sharing how our lives are changing helps me appreciate the path I’m on now and renews my focus. And spending time with the rents is about as refreshing as it gets, especially as that time continues to be appreciated more everyday. It’s a trip to be reminded of where many of my own personality quirks come from.
Unfortunately though, every trip must come to an end.
Moving On, Again
My road trip this year had plenty of exciting stops and I was lucky to see a handful of people I care about. But there’s not one stop I appreciate more than the time I spent in the most familiar environment I’ve ever known, Hookstown. Home. That time with people who have their roots so deep into who I am was an essential stop for a road trip that started from a desire for more self-awareness and confidence.
If every interaction in life is a stepping stone to something new, then home is where we took our first significant steps in life and it’s important to never lose sight of that.