Road trips: Cornell style
Isaiah McGee ’01: Three of us decided that after football season, we would take the next block break and go on a road trip. We decided to go to New York. We left at noon on Wednesday after finals, stopped in Chicago to pack, and drove non-stop to New York City. We spent a day and a half in Manhattan, visited landmarks, saw a Broadway play, visited Central Park, and somehow got on MTV’s “Total Request Live.” We then drove to Albany and spent the night there. The next morning we went to Cooperstown, N.Y., to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. We traveled to Niagara Falls, crossed over to Canada and spent the night at the casino (this was pre-9/11). We gambled modestly, and bought duty-free items. We then drove on through Canada, crossing back into the States from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit. We made a stop at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. We drove past Notre Dame, went through Chicago again and made it back to Mount Vernon late Sunday night, just in time for classes to begin again on Monday.
Big city block break
Jennifer Albrecht ’98: I went to Kansas City in winter—it was a block break. The guy I was riding with, Dustin Engelken ’97, had a very old car and we rode the entire four and a half hours or whatever it is without heat. I was bundled to the hilt. To top if off, the car stopped working on an off ramp just as we were getting into Kansas City. I can’t recall why we left so late, but when the car broke down, it was about 2 a.m. I’m not sure how we got to where we were going, though somehow we did. I don’t remember if this was the same trip to Kansas City where I was visiting a friend on the Kansas University campus and her car was stolen from the campus parking lot with all of our formal dresses in it. We’d brought them to go to a fancy-schmancy event. The car was found and returned by the end of the weekend, but it was an interesting one for sure for a small town girl who’d never been witness to something so big-city as a car theft.
Fried in Ft. Lauderdale
Deb Stewart Bowman ’74: As the years wander away, I begin to see how reckless and foolish so many of my road trips were, but I would not give up one of them. They were the college experience. We might have been naïve and way too brave, but they were fun!
During the spring break of 1972, Anne Tabor ’74, Gloria Diggle ’74, Jeff Gordon ’74, Marc Janser ’74, and I decided to make the Fort Lauderdale spring break trip. We had Anne’s car and the two guys were just hitching a ride to Florida, where they would leave us and hitchhike around the state, planning to meet us at a baseball diamond on the Gulf side.
As we finished the first leg and dropped the two boys off, we drove grandly to Daytona Beach (swam at midnight in the days before “Jaws”), and headed to Ft. Lauderdale. The sun was warm, the day perfect and we fell asleep in the sun. Any true Floridian would say we were foolish. We were more than foolish. I was the only one that used any type of sun protection. Blond Anne burned—but redhead Gloria fried. When I say fried, I mean FRIED. We left Ft. Lauderdale and headed to the mecca of Disney World. By the time we reached “It’s a Small World,” Gloria could barely walk. The day progressed to further issues. We didn’t have enough money to stay in a hotel by that time, but being young, foolish, and broke, we stayed in a rest stop somewhere between Disney and the Tampa Bay area. That day, (I kid you not) Gloria peeled her face. It was one huge blister and she pulled off the first two or three layers. She was one sick lady.
We finally convinced her to visit the emergency ward in Tampa. They diagnosed a severe case of sun poisoning and advised Gloria to get home to Chicago quickly. The emergency ward doctors had seen it before—pale northern ladies in the hot Florida sun. Fortunately, Gloria’s sister, after a desperate phone call, sent money and Gloria flew away to Chicago. She did not return to class for an extra week.
We picked up the boys somewhere in Ft. Myers and headed home, exhausted. The ride was quiet—we all realized we had just barely survived the trip. The boys never did explain (or perhaps my memory is bad) about where they went or experienced. Reflecting back, my parents would have killed me and I would kill my children if they had done the same thing. As I say that, I am proud that my friends at Cornell and I had the inner power to travel like that, be resourceful, and make it back alive.
Surrounded by mountains
Jerry Gale ’74: After our first year, Mark Weston ’74 and I hitchhiked from Des Moines, Iowa, to Portland, Ore. It took four-and-a-half days. We met on I-80 near Des Moines, and our first ride took us to Loveland, Colo. It was dark when we got in, and we slept in sleeping bags by the side of the road. When we woke up, we were surrounded by mountains. I was a son of the prairie, and I’d never seem mountains before, so I was mesmerized by them. After a few more days we made it to Portland, and I slept for nearly a whole day. We were there a few days and Mark got sick with a really high fever, so we flew back home rather than hitchhiking. So not only did I see mountains for the first time, I flew for the first time on that trip, too.
Building houses and friendships
Hattie Wagner ’12: The Alternative Spring Break group I participated in traveled down to Joplin, Mo., to aid in tornado relief. We did a variety of work relief projects, focusing most of our time on two homes undergoing the drywall/mudding process. Working diligently we managed to complete the drywalling in one house and half in the other, and both homes were painted.
While the volunteer work should have been the highlight of the trip—I cannot say I agree. Most of the people in our group had not previously met, thus we were able to blend together, play off each other’s strengths, and have a little too much fun.
Fun was the defining word for the trip. Kirtley Hitt ’12 and Andrew Kinn ’12, the group leaders, made our daily meetings a reminder to be grateful and thankful. During the day we caused a little trouble: dipping our hands in paint only to leave our mark on others in the group, or having lunch on the roof of our house. Simple things. One of the group favorites was listening to our site manager rant about his glory days (days before he started in the drywall business). My goodness, and one day Jarod Armenta ’15 managed to dump nearly a quarter of the paint from a five gallon bucket.
We also aided the kitchen staff of our housing quarters with meals. We’d manage to get our keisters out of bed by 4 a.m. to help make breakfast and set up the dining room. Shoot, we practically fought over who got to help.
The people of Joplin were so welcoming and grateful to the volunteers. They left a lasting impression on all of us.