Bonus Content: Favorite Road Trips letters


Fiesta Foray

In an era before GPS, four East Coast kids—three of whom hadn’t been west of Ohio—in a GMC Suburban headed off on the adventure of a lifetime. We headed west the day after Christmas. Destination: the 1992 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The four of us rotated driving. We saw the Gateway Arch, the Grand Canyon, and Saguaro National Park. We meticulously documented every detail of the trip (including gas prices, tolls, and mileage) in a journal and added postcards, ticket stubs, and more. Hotels were picked from the AAA travel books as we got closer to stopping each night. We called home from pay phones and shot endless rolls of film. In Arizona, we ventured to Sedona, watched the Fiesta Bowl Parade, and then headed out to the big game. The highlight was a come-from-behind win by the Nittany Lions. We remember it each Christmas when we hang the Fiesta Bowl ornament on the tree.

Valerie Hamluk ’93 Lib
Lockport, N.Y.

 

Rallying Cry

During the late 1960s, I and whatever friends were available would pile into whatever vehicle was available (pooling money for gas), and head to Washington, D.C., for the weekend anti-war rallies. Along with thousands of others, we would be searching for a place to crash. On this trip, we stayed in one of those luxury townhomes on one of those “letter” streets—P or O or some such. We were told that Jackie Kennedy had a townhome down the street—you get the picture. We were subjected to numerous glares as we tumbled out of our “vintage” vehicle, proudly adorned with Penn State bumper stickers. Having a strong showing from your college or university was a real badge of pride. As we were marching, there would be shouts from the crowds of “go Nittany Lions” or “Penn State proud!”

Karen Gruber ’70 Lib
Boulder, Colo.

 

Boston Bound

We were at the ’Gaff one Thursday in October 1998 when my buddy Mike Ceppetelli ’00 Bus hit me with a total curveball: “Let’s go to Boston!” Our other friend, Mike “Mickey” McCarthy ’01 Bus, needed little convincing. We packed up, and about 40 minutes later, Mike’s blue ’92 Honda Civic was humming. Mike’s older sister, Megan, moved to Boston after college, and she was livid, then delighted, when we showed up banging on her door in Brighton at about 5 a.m. The next 48 hours were awesome. She took us all over Boston and Cambridge. Unbeknownst to me and Mickey, Meg’s future husband, Sean, worked for Guinness. There we were, guests of the Guinness rep for the city of Boston. Some of the best moments were on the drive back to State College. We bonded for life, recapping the trip, and I distinctly remember listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” as the late Sunday sunlight followed us through the autumn mountains in
Connecticut.

Jason Nelson ’00 Bus
Newtown Square, Pa.

 

All That Jazz

It was my freshman year and Penn State was playing in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. As a trumpet player in the Blue Band, the trip was incredible: the chartered flight, daily rehearsals, impromptu cheers on Bourbon Street, pep rallies, and the game itself. But the highlight was having a group of eight trumpet players going to see the great Al Hirt play at his club. He walked over and played a solo at our table, not realizing we were all trumpet players. Well, maybe he realized it when our collective jaws dropped listening to his performance.

Rich Gorodesky ’82 Bus
Philadelphia

 

Go West, Young Men

Late summer 1976, with a couple of soon-to-be-senior roommates, we planned a trip to see the rest of the country before starting our careers. We bought a well-used “bread truck.” It had only a driver’s seat, so we equipped the panel truck with a couch and living room chair. We intended to see as many national parks as possible. We drove basically nonstop until South Dakota. The national parks tour provided my first experience of a kaleidoscope sky, freezing cold streams for bathing, and true camaraderie of friends throughout the trip. All was well until, in Wyoming, we were unable to shift the steering-wheel-mounted gear shift. None of us were very handy, but we were “almost” degreed engineers; looking closely, we saw that there was too much play in the linkage and stuck a flat screwdriver into the linkage. Like magic, it worked almost like new-—-until California, when the problem resurfaced. I pulled into a hardware store and purchased a bigger screwdriver. We continued our journey from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon and east toward home. The end of the truck came in Missouri; we basically traded it for bus tickets home and arrived just in time for fall term. That experience had a great impact on me: I have been in Utah most of my career.

Jeff Schwoebel ’77 EMS
Park City, Utah

 

Pledge Rebellion

Pledge class revolts and the occasional “kidnapping” of a brother or two were traditions in the 1960s. Our Kappa Delta Rho pledge class in 1966 was no exception. Penn State was on the quarter system at that time. While many semester-based colleges were already on summer break, we headed “down the shore” for Memorial Day weekend. We tried to time our revolt to coincide with other college friends in Ocean City, N.J., for a weekend frolic before finals. Some bunked with friends; others checked in to whatever could be arranged on the fly. Beach parties by day, boardwalking and congregating each evening. The weekend was a hoot, but maybe the highlight of it all was reliving the tall tales on the ride back to Happy Valley. We thought we would not suffer too much retribution because of the timing of our return—it was finals week—and we were partially right. But the brothers had long memories. We paid the price in the week before classes began anew for the fall quarter.

Scott Bailey ’69 Bus
Coral Gables, Fla.

illustration of horn and cars on winding road

Banding Together

Since the Blue Band was not traveling to the North Carolina State game in November 1974, Blue Band director Dr. James Dunlop encouraged a pep band to travel to cheer the Nittany Lions over the Wolfpack. My friend and I, some of the first women musicians in the Blue Band, gladly volunteered. Three cars, each carrying six pep band enthusiasts, made the eight-hour road trip. We left the Blue Band trailer after Friday classes on Nov. 8, and arrived in Raleigh around 2 a.m. We stayed at a fraternity where a bandsman was a member. The 18-member pep band heartily played our fight songs during the game, despite the Nittany Lions losing 12-7. We were welcomed and treated well by N.C. State fans and everyone we encountered. We left N.C. State and arrived at the band trailer about 4 a.m. For one of the first unofficial Blue Band road trips that included women musicians, my friend and I felt totally accepted and were treated like any other band members.
Kathryn Willard Conway ’76 Lib
Dallas

Economic Adventure

In the spring of 1965, I was about to complete my first year at Penn State, and I just wanted to “get out of Dodge.” So I packed my ’65 VW Bug with the essentials, including a sleeping bag, and at 18 headed west, alone. It was a transformational voyage. Most nights I slept in my car, sometimes at a truck stop between two 18-wheelers for a little security, and logged about 400-500 miles a day when I wasn’t visiting a national park or relatives in various cities across the country. I made it to Santa Monica, Calif., about 10 days after I left Philadelphia, and went straight to the beach. As I approached the water, someone yelled my name; I turned and saw a guy I went to high school with standing with a bunch of people. I couldn’t believe it. Even better was the time I spent in San Francisco as a bellhop and pool boy at a motel where celebrities stayed while performing at a nearby theater. While working for room and board, I got to hang out with various actors, singers, and comedians. The entire three-month adventure cost less than $350, gas included.

Don Bauer ’68 Lib
Trappe, Pa.

 

Where the Boys Went

As president of Phi Kappa Sigma in the early 1950s, I got six brothers to pool their ROTC checks for a spring break trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. We piled into a 1946 Chevy coupe. First stop, Fort Belvior, Va., to buy beer at the post exchange for $1 a case, then nonstop down Route 301. There were no turnpikes—it was 36 hours to Fort Lauderdale. We slept on the beach in front of the Elbo Room, the hot bar from the movie Where the Boys Are. We would use a straw to sip from a warm can buried in the sand, then buy one beer in the Elbo Room so we could stay there all day.

Bill Rother ’55 Agr
Weston, Conn.

 

Before Interstates

In August 1958, a group of four students, an assistant college chaplain, and the Lutheran campus pastor set off across the country to attend the annual gathering of Lutheran students in Parkland, Wash. The plan was to drive as much as we could each day and night, changing drivers as needed. It was mostly two-lane roads across the plains, through Iowa and Nebraska, stopping at Estes Park, Colo., Salt Lake City (where we swam in the lake) and up near Yellowstone Park. At an all-night gas station in Idaho, we feared that the management might have called the cops when six unshaven, disheveled guys arrived about 3 a.m., but they did not. We arrived safely in Parkland, spent six days joining with Lutherans from all over the country, and then it was back in the car. It was a memorable and inspiring journey.

Bill Oelkers ’61 Bus
Hickory, N.C.

 

Zapp’d

Frank Zappa was playing at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia in November 1984. We headed out on Friday after classes and stayed with a friend of one of my classmates in Wayne, Pa. She didn’t tell us her friend lived in a “McMansion” and her parents were down in Florida. We had the run of the place, including the hot tub out back. On Saturday, we headed down to the show, and Frank didn’t disappoint. He played for well over two hours and kept the place rockin’ and rollin’ the whole time. We dreaded heading back on Sunday, but classes beckoned. I haven’t been in contact with my classmates in some time, but no doubt they share fond memories of this crazy-fun road trip.

Kerry Madden ’85 Bus
Coraopolis, Pa.

 

One of the Guys

I’m the last female member of the Penn State Glee Club. Not the first—the last of four over the years. Back then, the club toured during spring break. These tours involved one or two buses, 40-70 men, and me. Touring meant performing 2-3 times per day at churches and schools, often combined with other college choral groups (usually female). The trips were not fancy. Yes, boys can be boys, and at times the novelty wore off. Kelly Pickler’s song “One of the Guys” pretty much describes how I felt about hanging out and doing “manly” things. It was okay by me, for a few days at a time.

Cydney Flaharty Whitmoyer ’89 Agr
Mohrsville, Pa.

 

Sweet Memories

In winter term 1973, my best bud Jack and I were student teaching in York, Pa. Every Friday after classes, we would get into my ’69 VW Beetle and head up to University Park to visit our “hunnies.” Many times the noise of the tires on gravel on the berm would jar us awake, averting disaster. Upon arriving, I would drop Jack off at his girlfriend Cheryl’s apartment and I would head up to Runkle Hall to visit Mary Ewing ’74 A&A. At the end of the day, I would begin my quest to find a place to lay my weary head—a sofa here, a hard floor there. It was all worth it. A year and a half later, we were married and have been happily so for over 46 years.

Joe Zoshak ’73 Edu
Malvern, Pa.

When Lion Eyes Are Smiling

In the summer of 1986, I met Cindy Bray ’87 Agr when we both were working at St. Mary Lodge & Resort, just outside Glacier National Park in Montana. During that summer, we met and worked with two Notre Dame students. When the time came for that fall’s Penn State–Notre Dame game, we had to go. Cindy and I rented a car to watch the Lions take on the Irish in South Bend, Ind. The trip turned into a Glacier Park reunion for other friends who also traveled to South Bend. Cindy and I had an amazing trip filled with memories, most notably a close Penn State victory.

Tim Dean ’87 Eng
Henderson, Nev.

 

Out to the Ballgame

One of my roommates, Todd Sherman ’86 Com, is a New York Mets fan, and I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. Spring of senior year, on a typical Friday afternoon, we were doing a case study at the ’Skeller and hatched the idea for a road trip to Cincinnati, to catch a Saturday afternoon game as the Mets were there for a weekend series. We took a nap and pulled out around 2 a.m. We were thinking it would be around a four-hour drive. I drove a ’74 Chevy Nova that leaked oil at an alarming rate. We drove nonstop, it was much farther than expected; we made numerous oil stops and arrived around 10 a.m. We bought scalped tickets, napped in the car a couple of hours, watched the Reds beat up the Mets, and headed right back to State College, arriving home around 2 a.m., in time to sleep Sunday away. We went through at least 12 quarts of oil. Hopefully my son, Collin, does not see this.

Scott Charnoff ’86 Bus
Mohnton, Pa.

 

Rocks and Hard Places

In the summer of 1975, I attended geology field camp in Montana with professors Duff Gold, Dean Smith, and Barry Voight. It included a two-week caravan, completing field exercises along the road, then working five weeks out of our base camp. After seven weeks, they gave us the option of staying five more weeks to do claim assessment work out of a camp near Nye, Mont. Having injured my ankle, I requested permission to see a doctor, which meant I could go into Billings, Mont., to get supplies. After my X-ray, I was pulled over by a trooper on Interstate 90 and given a $5 citation for wasting natural resources. Montana’s speed limit was unlimited except 65 at night, but President Carter had passed a nationwide 55 mph limit during the oil embargo. I paid my fine, purchased supplies, and returned to camp. Two hours to Nye, another hour up the mountain. Driving back, I lost the berm, flipped the truck, and landed inverted on a tree stump. Having no seat belt, I was able to crawl out and hobble two hours under a full moon through open range, startled by one cow. I crawled into bed around 1 a.m.

Rick Craft ’77a Eng
Fort Mill, S.C.

 

Winnebago Weekend

What rental company in its right mind would rent a Winnebago to 21 college kids? Little did they know that the “husband” and “wife” who rented the Winnebago were actually a fraternity brother and little sister from Delta Tau Delta who needed a set of wheels to transport 10 little sisters and their big brothers to Syracuse for a “bolt” weekend. The Syracuse Delt brothers were great hosts and we even brought back their idea to build “stadium seating” in the Penn State Delt house basement. On the drive home, we stopped at a very shady-looking backwoods bar where one Delt brother and little sister were brave enough to enter and make a purchase. (We knew we were out of our element when they came running out, insisting that we get back on the road ASAP.) We may have broken the rental agreement, but we proved that college kids can still be respectable, and we returned the Winnebago in perfect condition.

Maureen Secoda Luce ’85 Bus
New Hope, Pa.

 

Sunburnt but Satisfied

In 1967, the academic year was broken down into quarters. Spring break was a concept that was still many years in the future. It so happened that the break between winter and spring terms occurred in late March, which also coincided with Easter. At the conclusion of finals, eight of my fraternity brothers and I piled into two cars and headed to Florida. At the time, Interstate 95 was only finished in pieces. We drove the distance going back and forth between US 1 and I-95 while jamming to Jefferson Airplane. We finally arrived in Daytona Beach, Fla., exhausted but full of adrenaline. Cool, cloudy weather greeted us, so we made the decision that Fort Lauderdale might be a better destination. Upon arrival we immediately headed for the beach, laid out our towels, and fell asleep. We awoke several hours later to terrible sunburn. We spent a week having fun in the sun. We rented airboats and ventured into the Everglades on Easter Sunday. Our trip home was highlighted by a stop in South Carolina, where we loaded up on firecrackers. Upon arriving in State College our friends treated us like minor celebrities because of our sunburns and our adventures.

Bob Ianarelli ’67 Eng
Summerville, S.C.

 

Celebrating in the ’Shoe

In September 1978, six of us packed into a cramped van and headed out to Columbus. Penn State was 2-0, and it was the opening game for Ohio State. Our seats at the Horseshoe were at the bottom of the end zone arc, and we were in the last row of Lion fans. Behind us sat the entire Ohio State student body, which pelted us with empty cans and trash whenever we cheered. We didn’t mind, as we celebrated a lot that day in a 19-0 victory.

Mike Edwards ’80 Eng
Bellefonte, Pa.

 

Brokedown Bus

As seniors during the 2016 football season, our team was headed to the Big Ten Championship, so we had to go. Luckily, a bus trip to Indianapolis was set up for students. Unluckily, the trip didn’t go as planned. Even before heading out, we had to change buses due to a mechanical issue. Once we finally got to the stadium, we were ready for a great game. Thankfully, our Nittany Lions shined in the second half and pulled out the win. But we couldn’t stay long to enjoy it. Immediately after the trophy presentation, we hurried to our bus to make the long trek home. Our drive through the middle of the night consisted of multiple stops and slowdowns due to more bus issues. At one point, we had another bus following us in case ours broke down. We were exhausted when we finally arrived back in State College the next morning, but it was absolutely worth it to witness that memorable win in person with great friends!

Jamie Wise ’17 Edu
Orlando, Fla.

illustration of waterfall and roads

Legends of the Fall

Many of our graduating class of architecture students stayed in touch after graduation. Prior to returning to Penn State in 2007 for our 40th reunion, a few of us decided to meet at Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic piece of architecture, Fallingwater, to soak up some design inspiration and reminisce about trips we made there as students. How fortunate to have studied architecture just 140 miles from one of the most famous and well-known pieces of architecture in the world! Fallingwater was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019. Our trip back to Penn State was nostalgic—and so was the return to Fallingwater.

Dennis Paoletti ’67 A&A
San Mateo, Calif.

White Out

In the winter of 1961, there was a huge snowstorm on the Sunday when we set out from Wayne, Pa., to State College. There were three of us: my sister and her roommate, who were both sophomores, and me, a freshman. We all lived in McKee Hall. I was driving a 1959 Edsel, which was built like a tank. We had gone by Lewistown and were headed over the mountains, and I said that I was going to “gun it” because that was the only way we were going to make it. My sister climbed into the back seat; they both huddled on the floor. As we came around the curve there were cars scattered in all three lanes stuck in the snow. I drove around them going into all four lanes to keep momentum. When we came down on the other side, there was a tractor trailer blowing all the snow off the road. I followed him closely, which terrified my passengers. We arrived after curfew, but they let us in. The woman opening the door said no one had been able to get through. It was a cool story—which no one believed, unfortunately.

Elise Artelt ’64 H&HD, ’70 MEd Edu
Wayne, Pa.

 

Perilous Journey

It must have been our senior year circa 1980-81 when my roommate, Chris Graver ’81 EMS, met a girl from Virginia who was at Penn State visiting. He was so smitten he decided to meet up with her in Virginia the following weekend. He didn’t have a car, but I did, so we set out for the long trek on a Friday afternoon. The weather was cold with a slight drizzle; we thought nothing of it. As we hit the mountains on 322 traveling along at 55 mph, we hit a patch of ice and the car went into a 360-degree spin, with the passenger side door flying open. We ended up in the grassy infield wondering what had just happened. As there was absolutely no one on the road, we got out and tested the surface and found it to be a sheet of black ice. We quickly adjusted plans to return immediately to State College with our top speed no more than 10 mph. I was content to stay, but not Chris—he boarded a Trailways bus and headed for warmer weather and a fun weekend in Virginia.

Edward McCauley ’81 Bus
Indianapolis

 

Flooring It

A few years after graduation, we decided to attend the inaugural Blockbuster Bowl in 1990. Bob Marino ’85 Eng, Steve Schrenk ’85 Eng, Nick Nucci ’87 Eng, Dave Williams ’87 Eng, and I embarked on an RV road trip to Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami. We drove all night, rotating drivers and pushing through snow and ice until we got to Georgia. In the middle of the night, we were awakened by the feel of the RV maxed out at 30 mph. We limped into northern Florida early in the morning, five days before the game. As engineers, we convinced ourselves that we could fix the problem, so we waited for a local auto parts store to open. We narrowed it down to the fuel filter, borrowed some tools, and went about replacing the part. Our first attempt showed no improvement, as we realized we replaced the generator filter and not the engine filter. After removing half the dashboard and console, we finally replaced the right filter. We tested the RV by finding an empty parking lot and going full acceleration from 0 to 60 in about 500 feet, with the cabinets banging and our contents flying everywhere. The guys watching from outside swear that the front two wheels got off the ground.

Rob Banas ’85 Eng
Woodbine, Md.

 

Mona Lisa Smile

In February 1963, in the wee hours following a Saturday night party at the Lambda Chi Alpha house, Austin Taggart ’63 Com, Jay Leader, and I were still up chatting and finishing the last of the beer, when Austin mentioned that the Mona Lisa was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The three of us decided to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the great masterpiece. We piled into Austin’s car and left immediately. We arrived at The Met in midmorning, but were shocked to discover thousands of people filling the steps and continuing all the way around the block. A museum employee told us we would have to wait out in the cold for at least four hours before we might enter the museum and glimpse the painting for a few seconds before being hustled to the exit. Having been awake for more than 24 hours, we were in no condition to undertake that ordeal. What we did all that day is a blur to me now, but I do recall that we visited Lester Walker ’62 A&A, a brilliant architecture student who had graduated the year before and now resided in Manhattan, and that we tried unsuccessfully to talk our way into the Village Vanguard jazz club. Otherwise, we mostly just kept from freezing by stopping in at one bar after another. It was late the following night when we arrived back in State College, in time for me to grab a few precious hours of sleep before heading off to my 8 a.m. class in the morning. Six years later, while in Paris, I visited the Mona Lisa in her usual home at the Louvre. I carefully studied her famous enigmatic smile and came away not altogether sure what the fuss was about.

David L. Lightner ’63 Lib
Alberta, Canada

illustration of landmarks in europe

Summer Abroad

In June 1974, between my sophomore and junior years, Carl Vairo ’76 Com and I spent 10 memorable weeks backpacking through nine countries in Europe. It was the adventure of a lifetime to visit places like Paris, Rome, Athens, Zurich, and Madrid, as well as many small towns in between. We did it on a tight budget and slept in small hotels and youth hostels. We still have many fond memories of the people we met and places we visited that summer.

Tom Young ’76 Agr
Boalsburg, Pa.

Title Game Trip

In December 1982, I was living in San Diego after leaving the Navy. Penn State was scheduled to play in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia for the national championship. After scoring tickets and a hotel reservation, we were ready. We piled into my VW Rabbit, my fiancée and I in the front and her 14-year-old son wedged in the back seat with the luggage that we couldn’t fit in the trunk. On our 1,900-mile road trip we stayed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Ariz., and Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where my father had spent time during World War II. We also stayed in San Antonio, where we visited the Alamo and I reminisced about the time the Navy had me camping in a tent nearby in July when it was 110 degrees in the shade. When we reached New Orleans, Georgia fans were everywhere, loudly chanting. I noticed very few Penn State fans. After we won the championship, Lions fans were everywhere. The 1,900 miles home were a breeze!

Paul B Schaeffer ’71 A&A
Hideaway, Texas

 

Shiny, Happy People

I’m not sure if an hour-plus drive qualifies as a true “road trip,” but it sure seemed that way to the half-dozen of us who piled into a van in 1985 to drive to Bucknell to see R.E.M. I was finishing my junior year and also worked as a deejay at WPSU. R.E.M. was the darling of college radio across the country. The trip went off without a hitch. We joined 1,000 others inside Bucknell’s Davis Gym and made our way to the front of the stage. I ran into a high school friend who was working security up front and he kept an eye on us as the crowd began to crush toward the stage. R.E.M. was fantastic. Afterward, we hopped back into the van for a fun, music-filled ride back to University Park. When we arrived, I went straight to WPSU where a good friend had just started his midnight shift. I immediately slid into the booth and ended up co-hosting a good chunk of his show playing R.E.M. tunes into the wee hours.

Michael Kropp ’86 Lib
Limerick, Pa.

 

Nostalgia Trip

I was serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard while attending Behrend College. We deployed from Erie, Pa., on convoy to Virginia for summer training. I got to drive my own car and stopped along the way in Washington, D.C., and found myself observing the march for the Equal Rights Amendment. A contingent from my hometown passed by, and I joined them for the walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill. It was a sea of women in white and their supporters. Two weekends later on the return convoy, I stopped again in Washington and found representatives of the Congress of Native American Indians camped out on the National Mall, drumming and dancing for the crowds. It now seems to be a relic of a much more innocent and hopeful time.

Paul Alan Schlindwein ’82 Agr
Lock Haven, Pa.

 

Easy Conversation

Adam and I sat next to each other in our New Jersey high school homeroom for four years, and said “hello” to each other from time to time. It wasn’t until we both found ourselves at Penn State our freshman year that we actually became friends. Adam had a car and after a break, he agreed to give me a ride back to school. After not talking much throughout high school, we were now on a four-hour road trip, so engaged in conversation that we missed our exit. It’s good we had found friendship because we added an extra hour to that trip back to school. I love Penn State for many reasons and this is just one.

Jill Rodgers-Lash ’05 Com
San Mateo, Calif.

 

Take a Hike

Kids in my dorm at Erie had hitchhiking contests. You left on Friday and had to be back by Sunday at 6 p.m. You mailed a postcard from the farthest point you reached. If my memory is correct, there were three or four teams of two. The winning team got a quick ride from a trucker going to Texas. The team decided not to go all the way, as they weren’t sure if they could get back before the deadline; they got out in Memphis and made their way back to Erie in time. Hitchhiking was still somewhat common then. I did it a few times back and forth from New Jersey. Yes, I graduated a long time ago.

Mike Oliu ’81 Bus
Millstone Township, N.J.

 

Road Warriors

Being poor college students who just spent their lunch money on Rose Bowl tickets, flying out to Los Angeles during peak travel season wasn’t an option. So, we cruised Craigslist looking for slower-class transportation and stumbled upon someone moving from Harrisburg to Los Angeles over Christmas break 2008. On Dec. 26, my friend Nate George ’10 Eng and I met our driver in Grove City, Pa., and piled into his tiny Honda Fit with a cooler full of sandwiches, drinks, and our host’s life belongings. As we took turns driving, the trip was largely uneventful until, driving through Tulsa, Okla., at 1:30 a.m., a rear wheel of the car in front of us separated from the vehicle. Showers of sparks were quickly supplanted by 50 pounds of rubber and metal bouncing in front of our car. Two hours later, not long after Nate urged me to go faster (there were no other cars on the road at 3:30 a.m.), yours truly got pulled over for speeding. After 36 hours we finally made it to balmy L.A.

Chris Cerami ’10 Eng
Conifer, Colo.

 

Double the Fun

In 1976, eight fraternity brothers and myself left Camp Hill, Pa., in a rented Winnebago for a spring break trip to sunny Fort Lauderdale. As the days went by, each of us individually would run into other Penn Staters, and we heard of a number of our fellow undergrads came south with no plans on how to get back. As it turned out, the trip north was a very crowded but happy band of 16 Penn Staters.

Jerry Watson ’78 Bus
Bonita Springs, Fla.

 

Southern Swing

My most memorable road trip was the rubgy team’s 1983 “Tour South” during spring break. It involved 15 to 20 not so hygienic gents stuffed into a Winnebago for a 1,200-mile road trip, where we were looking to engage in some challenging competition as well as some fun in the sun in Fort Lauderdale. Before we got to Florida, we had to stop for our first game in South Carolina—an RV full of long-haired freaky Yankees against a team of crew-cut ROTC rebel types. At the after-match party, one Southern belle made off with my Slippery Rock hat, never to be seen again. The next stop on the itinerary was Disney World. One of my teammates had decided to take his rust-colored 1970-something Volvo and parallel the trip of the RV. He was not up for Disney and wanted to detour to the beaches of Daytona instead. I managed to convince one of his passengers to switch places. Fresh air at last. We took the scenic route via A1A all the way down. Finally reaching Daytona, we met up with some lovely Canadian gals who followed us to Lauderdale to root us on. The night after that match I got separated from the team and had to spend a night sleeping between parked cars. Luckily, I met up with my teammates the next day for the 24-hour ride back to State College.

Jim Rossi ’83 Lib
Riverhead, N.Y.

 

The Big (Not So) Easy

We departed State College a few days before the 1979 Sugar Bowl, 12 of us in a rented Winnebago trekking to New Orleans for the big game. It didn’t take long for the first harbinger: The engine lost its oil and seized on Interstate 81 just outside of Lexington, Va. The repair shop had a replacement engine, but it would take two days. We holed up in two rooms at a Days Inn, three to a bed. Back on the road, it was smooth sailing until 4 a.m. outside of Birmingham, Ala., when our driver raced another vehicle to an exit ramp. He couldn’t hold the curve, exited the road, ran over a sign, ripped out the bathroom holding tank, broke a headlight, went through a four-way intersection diagonally, and came to rest. No one was hurt, but it was my turn to drive, and I now had 11 angry backseat drivers. We made it to New Orleans, did Bourbon Street, and slept in our increasingly dank and stinky motor home. The game was exciting, but the loss crushed us. And so we headed home, straight into a snowstorm. The heater in back did not work, and cold air was blowing in from somewhere, so we huddled en masse under blankets. We arrived back safely, but for some reason lost our deposit. It was a great trip.

Brian Deam ’80 Bus
Moorestown, N.J.

illustration of highway signage and U.S. landmarks

Four-Cylinder Fun

My college roommate, Marci Older Bisset ’78 Lib, and I met as freshman psychology majors at Ogontz campus (Abington) and lived together at University Park. After graduation, we took a three-week cross-country camping trip. One of us owned a four-cylinder subcompact Chevy Chevette with a standard transmission. The other one of us learned how to drive that stick shift in a parking lot on the way to Interstate 80 out of State College. Our first stop was in Chicago to visit a friend who was attending chiropractic school. After a horrifying tour of the cadavers studied by the students, we continued west. We camped in national parks and visited such national treasures as Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Arches National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park. That four-cylinder was definitely challenged as we climbed the Rocky Mountains; I recall everyone passing us on the way up. There were many memorable experiences, including arriving in the Badlands National Park after dark and waking up to an extraordinary view from our campsite, and arriving at the Grand Canyon for the most spectacular sunset either of us had ever seen. It remains one of the best trips of my life and cemented a lifelong friendship. We did have one unexpected layover: We made it as far as Denver before we had to get a new clutch installed.

Deborah J. Marron, ’78 Lib, ’84 MEd Edu
Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa.

Who Loves Ya, Baby!

In 1974, the Daily Collegian sports staff decided to expand coverage to include teams of interest to Penn Staters. When Penn State played at Army, three of us writers and an illustrator headed up to New York in advance of the game. The illustrator, Tom Gibb ’75 Lib from Ebensburg, Pa., had never been to New York City, where we were staying, and was leery of the city’s reputation. That Friday night, the group hit Manhattan and stumbled onto the set of the TV show Kojak around 1 a.m. As they turned down an alley lit up with “police” and bad guys, the sound of gunfire was heard. Gibb freaked out and started running through midtown, screaming that someone was trying to shoot him. He failed to see the cameras or signs about the show being filmed that night. We eventually ended up at a restaurant where the group, now in tears with laughter, tried to calm him down, explaining it was just a TV show with Telly Savalas. Gibb refused to believe it and vowed never to return to NYC. Upon graduation the following spring, he was offered a job with a catch—he had to relocate to New York City. He turned the job down, explaining it was “too violent” a place to live. He accepted a job with the Altoona Mirror.

Tim Panaccio ’75 Com
Philadelphia

 

Refresher Course

At the beginning of my junior year, I went through a breakup and was feeling down. My friend, Becky Webster Fetters ’95 H&HD, had a car, and one autumn Saturday she simply said, “Let’s go.” Without much thought, we got in and started driving south. As the glorious fall colors flashed past along Route 322, we listened to music, laughed, and talked about life. We made a spontaneous stop in Lebanon County to say hello to my family, who seemed puzzled by the idea of a trip with no destination in mind. We decided to cross the border into Maryland, just to say we’d gone to another state. Near the state line we passed through Fawn Grove (a “deer little town,” according to the welcome sign), then turned around and headed back. Returning to campus, I felt uplifted and refreshed. There’s nothing like a good friend and a spontaneous road trip to help you feel better about life.

Gretchen Ketner ’95 H&HD, ’05 MA Lib
Mechanicsburg, Pa.

 

If You Can Make It There…

I had my first glimpse of New York City in fall of 1974, after my roommate Laurie invited me to visit her parents’ home in New Jersey. Our weekend trip revolved around a full day of shopping, sightseeing, and dining in the city. We did not have a lot of money, but that trip inspired dreams and a new sense of possibilities, with stops at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bloomingdale’s, and Central Park. We ended the day at Times Square to pay homage to what was formerly known as the New York Times Building, wander among the Broadway marquees, and join a boisterous crowd at the Landmark Tavern. My parents wanted me to stay close to Pennsylvania for my first job, and Laurie and her boyfriend agreed, questioning why I would ever want to work in the city. But in January 1978, with a journalism degree in hand, I drove to Manhattan in my $500 Camaro. Two weeks later, I landed my first full-time editorial position and by the following year worked for the new Condé Nast magazine, Self.

Susan Froetschel ’77 Com
East Lansing, Mich.

 

Bonus Content: Favorite Road Trips letters