I’ve returned to my roots — literally — to Anderson, Indiana. As they say in the Midwest, I was “born and raised” here. I took my first steps, had my first job, my first crush, and graduated through college in this town before moving away in my mid-twenties. Although I’ve visited at least once per year since, I haven’t spend this length of time here since I left.
A lot has changed over the years. Once a booming General Motors town, the automotive industry pull-out has left the town struggling financially. Although some new businesses have moved in, the impact can be seen in the overall population decline. Empty commercial buildings and homes are numerous and obvious. Where once there were three high schools in town, now there is only one.
And speaking of high schools, mine no longer exists! Well, the building exists, but it has been re-branded. During the consolidation effort, the old Anderson High School facility was demolished. The newer Madison Heights High School facility (my alma mater) was renamed Anderson High School. What’s up with that?! R.I.P. Madison Heights.
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. The south end of town, near the new Harrah’s Hoosier Park harness race track / casino appears to be thriving. Jeff was pleasantly surprised to find a small network of mountain bike trails near our campground. There is a thriving arts scene, a lovely small State Park (Mounds Park), and the people are just super nice. If there’s not much in the way of “fine dining” in town, Indianapolis isn’t far away with all sorts of dining, shopping and entertainment options.
The main reason we’re here is to visit family. Fitting back into everyone’s daily lives is like slipping on a pair of comfortable shoes – just so easy. It’s back to family dinners, helping with projects, going to church service, catching a movie, or just hanging out. My sister is Assistant Directing the musical “Into The Woods” at the local Mainstage Community Theater, so of course I volunteered to help. I was able to help paint scenery and attend the “preview” dress rehearsal. When the play opened, we went out to dinner and the show as a family group. Jeff purchased Indy 500 “time trial” track / pit tickets and spent days hanging out at the track with his brother. It’s been just wonderful.
Jeff is starting to get a bit antsy, ready to move on to new things and new places. Part of it has been the changeable weather – I grew up here, but forgot what it’s like! The early-summer temperature swings from hot to cold also lead to frequent rains and sweeping severe thunderstorm fronts. We were at a movie theater with my sister and brother-in-law on Memorial Day night when the movie was halted due to a tornado warning in the area. It is a bit nerve wracking during severe weather when everything you own is sitting in a big metal box – especially when you’re not there! After 40 minutes or so, the Warning was lifted, the movie resumed, and everything at the bus was fine when we returned.
I could easily stay longer. Being in the familiar surroundings, near beloved parents and siblings, just feels so wonderful. But, a part of me also feels the pull to new experiences. And that’s the fundamental struggle I’ve experienced during our RV journey. At heart, I’m an adventurer, who craves novel experiences and places. I want to climb the mountain, learn new things, meet new people. But there’s the other piece of me that wants to be in familiar surroundings near the people I love. It’s hard to reconcile.
Routine vs. new adventures. The familiar vs. new places. Maybe you can’t ever reconcile those needs — maybe you just have to feed each need in turn. The RV life is actually a great way to have it both ways by alternating adventures in new places with stays in familiar haunts near friends and family.
It’s a good life.