Heart never stops yearning for Altoona

Random thoughts on a Sunday morning:

I’ve traveled those mountains many times in my life. It seems like I know every bump and passing zone on routes 422 and 22 from Butler to Altoona.

I departed my hometown Jan. 19, 1967, and headed east for three months and in April was permanently assigned to Troop D in Butler.

Making a new home and new friends became pretty easy for a 21-year-old driving a 1964 Triumph TR4A.

Still, making the trip back across those mountains to see my mom and family became pretty regular.

As the song says, “winter, spring, summer and fall” the trip took on much more than just going home.

In the 50 years I have been making the journey lots of things have changed.

Bypasses around Kittanning and Indiana have shortened the time it takes to reach Altoona. The new highway down the mountain from Cresson has certainly shortened the journey.

Nothing, though, has shortened the memories during the drive.

Thoughts of old friends, family members long gone and good times in and around the city roll through my mind as I descend the mountains.

I’ve had friends from Butler come with me to Altoona, and they were mesmerized by the valley formed by the mountains surrounding the city.

Running up and down those mountains in my youth with good friends in old cars bring smiles to my face.

Ah, the good old days.

Coming down the mountains from Cresson, my wife knows that if I see a train, I always say, “It is going to be a good visit.”

Being raised in Altoona instilled the magic of trains in my blood.

I always stop at railroad crossings just to see the train.

I always tell my friends in Butler that we gave up on passenger trains way too early.

We should have built tracks paralleling the interstate highway system. Travel would have much easier.

The city has lost some population since I left and probably has the same problems most third-class cites are experiencing.

That doesn’t diminish my love for my hometown.

Yes, if I see an article in the newspaper about Altoona, I always read it thoroughly.

My 50th class reunion was one of the highlights of my life so far. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who left the city but never forgot where they came from.

Classmates from all over the country returned to their hometown and their friends from long ago.

Turns out I am not the only one who left their heart in Altoona.

(McKnight graduated from Altoona High School in 1963.)