I have moved around a lot in my lifetime so far. I think I counted over 50 times I have moved in the span of my 55 years. I’m sure that isn’t a record but I have had the opportunity to experience different places. I was thinking recently about the worst places I have lived and here are the three that stand out in my experience:
Just saying the name of this place makes me think it should be a town somewhere in Nebraska. If you ever lived here you might think it was and not a Florida town. My wife and I moved there in 2012 when I transferred to the Tampa office. Ruskin is located approximately 24 miles south of Tampa. In our exhaustive search for a place to live, we ended up purchasing a home in a community in Ruskin. Within our first month, we knew we had made a mistake and wanted to leave. It took two years to get out of there.
What’s so bad about Ruskin? It is probably the worst small town you could ever imagine. There’s nothing there. No Target, no shopping, no downtown area and no beach. Yes, you read that right. You would assume that a Florida town located on the bay would have beaches. Nope. There were areas that had sand nearby but it wasn’t a beach. They even have a place called the Inn at Little Harbor which looks a whole lot better on their website than in person. In fact, when my wife went for a job interview there she was told that she would need to be able to address guests who were disappointed when they arrive. That about sums up the experience of living here.
Ruskin has about 17,000 people there and is located right on the edge of Tampa Bay. Some notable people from Ruskin are Aaron and Nick Carter and Willa Ford.
The positive experience of living in Ruskin was that we were about an hour from Walt Disney World. We were 30-minutes from Bradenton and Sarasota. We made it work. We would often go to the areas on the bay and on a clear day we could see both St. Petersburg and Tampa.
We moved in June 2014.
My first assignment after basic training and technical school in the United States Air Force (USAF) was Dyess Air Force Base outside of Abilene, Texas. This wasn’t the first time I had lived in this West Texas town. I was born there and left when I was three years old. I returned when I was 18. I realized very soon it was a mistake. Abilene was about 17 miles away from the base but it was your typical small town. At the time, there were about 90,000 residents but many of my fellow airman called it “cow town” and it felt about like that.
There wasn’t much to do in Abilene so it was a long year there. Dallas was about a two-hour drive away and I made that trip once. I also drove to Odessa which was west of Abilene on a trip that was even worse.
Some of the most notable people from Abilene are Jessica Simpson and Case Keenum,
The biggest event in Abilene was the annual high school football game between Abilene and Cooper high schools.
In November 1983 I left Abilene, Texas for……
Thule Air Base, Greenland
When I was making my rounds fulfilling my requirements to check out from Dyess AFB, I was often asked when people heard about my assignment to Thule, they said: “Who did you piss off?”
I actually volunteered to go to Greenland. Yep, another one of my bright moves in my younger days. Some of the older military guys joked: “Hey Hooper, I hear there is a girl behind every tree there….there are just no trees.”
I made the long 13-hour trip to Thule in mid-November. When the plane landed, it was in the middle of the afternoon and it was total darkness. My sponsor met with me a parka and told me I would need it. That parka (and my mukluks) became my best friends. The next day, the base was put in a “Phase 3” which meant that the weather conditions were so bad that no one was allowed outside. I was told the temps got to -90 below zero and it was a total white-out for my first 24 hours. I had wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Fortunately, that was the worst weather during my year there but it was interesting going through the six months of darkness in the winter months and six months of light in the summer months.
As you can imagine, this place was remote so there wasn’t a town or city there. Just the base with it’s bare necessities. I got two 15-minute “morale calls” to the states each week. There was no Internet back then so we were cut off from civilization.
I also worked at the base post office. Yet, another one of my bad decisions. Looking back I think if I had a better job that it wouldn’t have been as bad. Working in the post office was a forgettable experience. The highlight of the base each day was when the radio announced that the incoming plane was 40 miles out. That would be the delivery of supplies and mail each day.
Although it was one of the worst places I have lived, it was perhaps one of my most unique experiences to have lived inside the Arctic Circle and about 900 miles from the North Pole.
Contrary to the myth, there were also women there both American Military and Danish even though there weren’t any trees.
Thule Air Base is home to the 21st Space Wing’s global network of sensors providing missile warning, space surveillance and space control to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Air Force Space Command (AFSPC).
In November 1984, I left Thule and returned to the states.
When you live in some of the worst places, you do your best to get through it and wait for the opportunity to move on to a better place. These were the three worst places that immediately came to my mind in my own experience of my life’s journey.