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Rediscovering America: Recapping The Most Uncomfortable Road Trip

                 

 

 

I’d never personally admit this to him, but when I was hired by Barstool two years ago, the person I was most excited to meet was the Wonton Don. To me, he epitomized the retrospective answer to the classic “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question we were asked so often as kids. During my lunch breaks at the Burger King adjacent to my office building in Youngstown, I’d watch his videos while grading toddler developmental evaluations and think to myself, “I’d do anything to make content with him for a living.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but unfortunately I wasn't lying to myself.

A few years later, and I’m shooting the shit with my "Chinese correspondent" coworker in person for the first time. We bonded over our mutual love for maps and getting intoxicated on company trips, and it seemed like his propensity for traveling the globe and my passion for geography was the perfect recipe for some type of exotic video collaboration together. 

 

 

I listed off some of my bucket list destinations – New Zealand, Istanbul, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Thail – and before I could even finish my little spiel, he was assuring me that we’d be shooting a video somewhere overseas together in the near future. I was ecstatic. 

 

 

As of that discussion, here are some of the places my coworkers have traveled to with Donnie to make videos:

-The Great Wall of China

-Victoria Falls, Africa

-Dubai

-Hong Kong

-The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

-Ko Pha-ngan Island, Thailand

-Angkor Wat, Cambodia 

 

 

And here are the places I have traveled to with Donnie to make videos:

-A sober “mocktail” bar 

-Woonsocket, Rhode Island 

-A 7am “sober rave”  

-Wheeling, West Virginia

-Frank Fleming’s apartment 

 

 

And now (and perhaps worst of all), this latest trip:

 

 

As much as I’d like to play the innocent victim, the whole “Rediscovering America” thing was simply and honestly the result of a bit that went way too far on my end. Back in May, Donnie, Nick, and I were researching potential follow-up destinations to our Virtual Vacation trip to Woonsocket — somewhere that was equally shitty and conducive to 30+ minutes of uninterrupted mockery. 

 

-Huntington, WV seemed too visibly stricken by the opioid epidemic (even via Google Street View) to comfortably make jokes about

-Steubenville, Ohio was too close to home for me and Nick (geographically, not personally or ideologically)

-Anywhere in Mississippi seemed like too much of a low-hanging fruit

 

And then Donnie pitched what seemed to be the perfect sequel: Casey, Illinois, a tiny, downtrodden town in rural Illinois that has a bunch of Guinness world records for arbitrarily oversized objects and virtually nothing else. 

 

 

But after a trial session on Zoom/Google Maps, we unanimously decided that Casey was just too boring and stupid for a video segment that’s sole premise was being boring and stupid. So we bailed on the virtual assignment and series altogether, I wrote a short blog about the town, and all was seemingly forgotten.

 

 

Four months later, the three of us are back in New York City and enjoying supper/drinks together when Donnie quipped, “What if we actually went to that one town with all the world’s largest shit? Like in person...”

Nick, peering up from his Caesar salad with one of his signature cunty smirks, chimed in with “Yeah, and what if we brought a big loaf of hard bread to the mayor and pretended like we were offering them the ‘World’s Largest Crouton' or something like that?” 

Typically, every “plan” made during drunken banter is automatically disregarded and nulled by the next morning, but for some reason we kept toying with this elaborate joke of a journey. Maybe it was because Nick and I were too stubbornly committed to irony, or perhaps because Donnie was too hopelessly addicted to traveling to give us any push back, but after a week or so, "Rediscovering America" was officially green-lit as a Barstool video series despite our collective understanding that it would suck unforeseen amounts of ass. 

 

 

With a complete lack of preparation aside from baking "the world's largest crouton" and one disagreed-upon idea to wear the dumbest possible “Colonial American costumes” for the whole trip, we embarked on our journey across Middle America with our ill-fated videographer, Colin, whose fellow cameramen colleagues were concurrently in places like Arizona State and Miami and anywhere else. 

 

 

Donnie looked like he was about to get a BUI on the Santa Maria and Nick looked like he was about to ride into Jamestown on a Sybian. But for whatever the reason, they both appeared to belong in their outfits. I, on the other hand, looked absolutely fucking ridiculous. As the poster child of introversion and a champion of perspiration, the four layers of thick fabric of my $200 rental costume made prancing around public places dressed like an 18th century castrated choir boy all the more uncomfortable. 

As I stood in line at an extremely crowded Kroger in suburban Columbus, looking like the sweatiest twink at a Classical themed orgy in Bushwick, while holding several ears of corn, the only thing preventing me from bailing early on the mission was the notion that “it can’t get any worse than this.” 

I was wrong. 

 

Stop #1: Cornhenge (Dublin, OH)

 

 

It’s mathematically impossible to come up with a combination of words, charts, or graphs that could accurately describe the stupidity of whatever this abomination is. If there’s one thing that Columbus, Ohio does worse than using The most common word in the English language correctly, it’s publicly funded art installations. Taking one of the most boring and bland things in the world (a cornfield), completely taking away all its value and profitability (made out of inedible concrete), and making it even less aesthetically pleasing (painting it bile white instead of green and yellow), the tourist attraction known as “Cornhenge” is an impossibly dumb attraction. It was so dull and lifeless that I attempted to stimulate my G-spot with the tip of a concrete corn cob just to feel something. 

 

 

And as morbid as this sound, there’s a handful of other Stonehenge derivatives that apparently exist in America. Carhenge in Nebraska, Foamhenge in Virginia, Bamahenge in of course they’d name it that, etc.

My only real takeaway is that there shouldn’t be any henges at all. Fuck henges. Fuck ‘em all to hell. Even the real Stonehenge. 

 

"Hey, do you wanna go look at those big cylindrical shapes for no reason?” 

“Not at all, but let’s do it anyway and pretend like it’s some type of meaningful vacation."

 

And Cornhenge is so stupid that it’s not even actually named Cornhenge.

 

I left “Field of Corn” under the assumption that it was the most depressing type of field known to man. 

I was wrong. 

 

Stop #2: Bible Walk Museum (Mansfield, OH)

 

In the most endearing way possible, the city of Mansfield looks like how getting your braces tightened feels. I’ve never seen something that was simultaneously so objectively an incorporated city and so objectively a bacterial infection. 

 

 

 

But we quickly realized the small Rust Belt town was actually home of THE prison from Shawshank Redemption, which is undeniably awesome. So we pulled up to get a closer look....

 

 

All things considered, there was an impressive cluster of tourists and excitement surrounding the reformatory’s walls. A carnival vendor sold souvenirs and a long line of local men wearing tweed flat caps and black face were waiting to audition for the role of Ellis Redding in the prison’s weekly Shawshank Redemption re-enactments. But instead of touring the setting of the highest rated film in cinematic history, we elected to tour the re-imagined setting of the highest selling book of all time. 

 

 

Our 7-hour tour of the BibleWalk museum actually wasn’t that bad. In the most endearing way possible, it reminded me of the first nightmare a closeted 13-year-old boy from Alabama would have after telling his parents he wants to sign up for theater class instead of football.

 

 

 

Just a never-ending series of refurbished Madame Tussauds wax figures depicting the most gruesome scenes from the Bible while a pre-recorded voice provided in-depth narration, down to the moans of Jesus as he was whipped and beaten. Unlike Adam and Eve's third son Seth, Bible Walk was unforgettable. 

 

Stop #3: The World’s Largest Ball of Paint (Alexandria, Indiana)

 

 

This was actually one of my favorite stops of our entire trip. Which is kind of telling considering the entirety of our time there was spent doing volunteer manual labor and watching paint dry. The brains behind the big ball was an extremely friendly and welcoming guy who made us feel like family. And Nick actually ingested a large chunk of that paint, which was one of the most badass things I’ve ever seen him do. 

 

 

Stop #4: Idle Park (Indianapolis, IN)

 

One of my favorite major cities along our journey, Indianapolis is as simple as it is underwhelming. There’s no pizzazz or chaos or eccentricity, just people doing what they know best and nothing else. Like toddlers watching the same movie over and over again because they thrive on the familiarity and predictability, the citizens of Indianapolis figure out what they enjoy at an early age (sports, mediocre fast food, meth, starting families, etc.) and rarely deviate from it.

I tried to order a water with my Steak N Shake combo meal, and the cashier looked at me like I said Magic Johnson was better than Larry Bird. The young man just could not fathom that I didn’t want a soda and almost refused to oblige my foreign requests. “Are you on a vegan diet or something?” was his final words as he reluctantly handed me a styrofoam cup of water with my Frisco melt burger and chili cheese dog. 

Oh, and Idle Park was about as pointless as its name suggests, but it was surprisingly serene, especially considering what it is (a small patch of land where you can watch traffic from afar).

 

Stop #5: Some guy’s house (Rural Illinois)

 

I remember blowing on my iPhone’s lightning port in a last ditch effort to get service in Western Indiana when Donnie broke up a two hour lull in conversation with “So some guy from Twitter invited us to shoot guns at his house in Illinois.” I think Nick and I responded with some variation of “Imagine if we actually agreed to do that” and “The S is silent in Illinois.”

 

Next thing you know we're pulling into the back-wooded driveway of a 6'8” internet stranger’s house and following him into a living room completely covered in weapons and ammunition. I still don't know what "staging a coup d'etat" means but it looked like we were about to do that.
 

 

The mysterious man, David, ended up being an exceptionally gracious host and becoming a lifelong friend of ours. But more importantly, we got to shoot his guns, drink his alcohol, and destroy his property at no cost other than getting roasted to smithereens by the boss ass bitches in the Barstool Instagram comment section.

 

 

I don’t know if it was the toxicity of the decade-old paint coursing through his veins or what, but Nick was an absolute sharpshooter with every gun he put his paws on. His old man would've been prouder. 

 

 

And as happy as I was to see him transition from Clit Harrington to Jon Snow right before my very eyes, the next destination on our road trip brought us, and especially him, crashing back to reality. 

 

Stop #6: Bar in the woods (Extremely rural Illinois)

 

I grew up in West Virginia, I’ve been to wrestling tournaments that were co-sponsored by Tudor’s Biscuit World and the Hatfield family, I thought Wrong Turn was a documentary until 2014. But I can confidently say that I’ve never experienced something as backwards as my time at this bar in Illinois. 

A winding quasi road led us to a shelter in the middle of the woods that doubled as a bar and tripled as a pig sty. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have worn the costumes or admitted that we came from New York City for this leg of the trip. Colin was wearing a covid mask and holding his video camera, but he may as well have been wearing a Black Panther beret and holding his fist in the air. In the eyes of the local patrons, who flaunted Confederate flags on their trucks despite being from a state that borders one of the Great Lakes, we were either working for Black Lives Matter or members of Antifa. No in between.

 

 

Nick attempted to defuse the situation by ordering a round of green tea shots for everyone, but it was too late. We were already their sworn enemies. 

Stop #7: Casey, Illinois (Home of the most "world's largest" things in the world)

 

As the grand finale and sole purpose of making this reverse Bucket List trip in the first place, Casey completely lived down to our expectations in the best way possible. Just a bunch of unnecessarily big stuff. That was that.

I couldn't tell if the “World’s Largest” guy treated our interview and crouton offering like it was a John Cena/Make-a-Wish kids dynamic, but he couldn't have been nicer and more accepting. 

 

 

But maybe the trailer was a bit much.

 

Stop #8: Ken Bone’s Home (Suburban St. Louis)

 

I didn’t know it was possible to be intimidated by a meme, but Ken Bone’s portly, politically ambiguous ass managed to dominate our entire operation from start to finish, despite being outnumbered 4 to 1. Intellectually, hierarchically, and comedically, he was the alpha of our hour-plus interview. I don't even think he so much as cracked a smile at anything we said or did, including our arrival and departure. I felt my soul leave my body and [what was left of] my sweat-soaked dick invert all the way into my groin as Donald released a fly in his home and Kenneth looked at us with the revulsion of a thousand fathers. We were low-brow peons to him. Nothing more, something less.

 

 

Luckily, we escaped Mr. Bone's abode unscathed. But as we drove off into the sunset and I pondered the fact that I spent the last three days of my life sacrificing my happiness and free will in a miserable attempt to star in a video with the Wonton Don, I came to a bittersweet realization: 

The internet only has room for one legend named KB...

 

 

And it sure as FUCK wasn't my bitch ass.