Working My Way Back to Youth

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve been taking stock of my life these days, and had been all introspective as of late. And that I’d come to some revelations. This is true; the biggest one being: my life is dull.

It hasn’t always been this way. As a child, I had many adventures. I’ve been to lots of places and seen plenty of interesting sights. I feel fortunate to have experienced so much, even if the nomadic lifestyle of a military brat wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. When I grew up, I settled down. The only problem is, I seem to have overcompensated, because I never go anywhere. Big, that is. I get out and explore Portland and the Columbia Gorge all the time. I’ll occasionally travel up to Seattle or out to Bend. A couple of years ago I drove down to Fresno for a wedding. But I haven’t gone anywhere really far, or truly fun, in ages. Meanwhile my friends are always jetting off to faraway destinations; my brother’s been to Kauai; even my kids managed a trip to Florida earlier this year, and I haven’t been on an airplane in ten years. I’m not really the flying type, but I have had a desire to hop in my car and set out on a road trip for years now. I could just never figure out how or when to do it: work always got in the way, and having the kids every other week meant I wouldn’t have enough time to do it properly.

And then, quite suddenly, a rare confluence of events presented me with a unique opportunity. The kids are leaving early next week for a trip to Disneyland with their mom (see?!) and will be back two days later than they normally would, giving me twelve days alone. When I learned of this, the wheels started turning (figuratively – inside my head, as opposed to literally – on the open road). It seemed to me that all the stars were aligning: my unemployment, as irritating as it is, means I have no boss to report to, no deadlines to meet, no vacation time to worry about accruing; and with the kids gone, I’d have enough time to take a halfway decent trip. Money, of course, is an issue, but I recently made a move that gives me a lot of breathing space and frees up some important funds. I figured life is short and you only live once, and I’d hate to end up on my deathbed full of regrets over adventures never taken. So, I began playing around with Google Maps, plotting out various trips and different routes, before deciding where to go. I finally settled on a destination, and this is it:

This is the house I lived in from 1977-1980.

I wrote about my years in Ohio earlier in the week. How happy I was there, and how much I loved it. Super 8 made me all sorts of nostalgic, and so I decided on a trip that would take me through two places where I grew up: Rapid City, South Dakota (1983-1986) and Fairborn, Ohio. I first checked out Google Earth to see if the house is still standing – it’s been 31 years, after all – and while the neighborhood does seem to have changed a bit, it also looks remarkably the same (from a satellite, of course). The house is still there. So, it will be the ending point on my journey. I’ll be working my way back to youth, babe. Revisiting some of the most important places from my childhood. Who says you can never go home again?

I’m both excited and nervous. This is going to be a big adventure for me! Seeing different parts of the country – the great plains, the midwest – feels so novel to me, as I’ve grown used to the beautiful but somewhat staid Pacific Northwest. I’ll be passing through many states: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. That’s 24% of the U.S. right there. I’ll get to see places I haven’t been to in a quarter-century (Mount Rushmore, the Badlands) or longer (Dayton, Ohio). And I’ll experience new sights: I’ve never been to either Idaho or Iowa. I’ll drive and drive and drive and listen to really good music and stop by interesting roadside attractions and stay in cheap motels and have adventures and blog about them from the road and take a million and one pictures. I’m nervous because I’m doing this on my own, but I’ve always been the type to get out and do things by myself anyway. America’s highways and byways, its ever-changing landscape and variable weather, will be all the company I need.

I always compare myself to Clark Griswold, and let’s face it, he is the ultimate road-tripper. I’ll be getting my Griswold on, so to speak, and in the end, curing this wanderlust that has gripped my very soul for years now.

Five more days, and I am outta here!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

24 thoughts on “Working My Way Back to Youth

  1. This. Sounds. AWESOME. Time to think, time to listen to your music and not whatever the kids are playing, time to check out that ridiculous roadside stand, and see the world outside. Can’t wait to heat about your adventure!


  2. I’ll come with you!

    Sounds like a blast. As we were driving up north, I told Ross on my bucket list is to drive across country and see the sites. How fun that would be!

    Have a blast, Mark.

    Hey…Ross says he’s sending you an email tonight about the Portland app.


    1. This is only a small portion of the trip I’d LIKE to take. That one would include the Northeast and then down through the South, looping back around to Portland. But hey, I can’t complain – something is better than nothing! Maybe I’ll still be unemployed when both kids are off to college. LOL…


  3. Good for you, Mark! You deserve an adventure! Sara and I had hoped to visit the house I grew up in in Pittsburgh this spring–but we haven’t made it. I hope you will blog your way cross country! Take us along for the ride!


    1. Thanks for the link! I am SO excited for this adventure. The thought running through my head tonight: what if I fall in love with Ohio all over again? What’s stopping me from moving out there, other than a complicated custody arrangement with my kids? Hmm….this trip really could change my life. At the least, I guarantee there will be fun blog posts!


  4. Yahoooooooooooooo! I am sooooooooo excited for you, Mark!

    There’s nothing like just picking up and heading off for an adventure. This post got me thinking – I could REALLY use an adventure myself. I have off for almost the whole month of July, so that would be a perfect time for me to do it. Yup…you got me thinking.

    And I’m like you….

    “I’ve always been the type to get out and do things by myself.”

    I actually prefer traveling alone.

    Dang, I wish you were coming to the east coast, cause I could meet you in NYC!

    Anwyway, I have a feeling this trip will be life changing for you. In a very positive way!


  5. Oh, I’m so pumped for you! I can’t wait to read all the adventures you go on because regardless of what you do or see, I know they’ll be a good story. Plus, trips back home unleash lots of emotions, so you’ll come up with more stories from your childhood when you visit. Can’t wait to see photos, and pretty jealous of your drive through the west. Let me know what I’m missing in Wyoming/Montana. I’d love to go see Mount Rushmore and hike through a canyon. My boyfriend and I were just talking about that today, so maybe next summer we’ll plan a western U.S. trip again. Have fun, bon voyage!


    1. I don’t think you’re missing much in Wyoming or Montana. Well, except for Yellowstone, but I won’t get a chance to stop there on this go-through. Too bad – I’ve never been. You know, I really need about a month to cover everything I want to do!


  6. Wow!! I’m so excited for you Mark…road trips are fantastic and I just know you are going to have a great time. I’m really looking forward to reading your future posts…

    Have fun getting your Griswold on!!


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