When my senior year Winter Term plans (a service trip to Nepal) were cancelled, I had no idea what would become of my month of January. Stay in Greencastle? Work back home in Indianapolis? I had secret hopes for a magical adventure in foreign lands with close friends, but the end of the semester was quickly approaching and there wasn’t much time for planning.
So when Sunny Strader (’14) approached me with the proposition of a Route 66 road trip, I accepted without hesitation. Sure, our departure was just a month away, but out of all of my DePauw friends, I knew Suns and I would travel well together.
We agreed to meet at Moore’s Bar during the last week of classes to do some preliminary preparations-check out cities on the historic route, hit up friends we could stay with along the way, and find a cohesive theme for our trip. Sunny’s a photographer and I write, so we agreed that creative expression was something we were both interested in doing along the way.
Friends joined our booth and we discussed nothing trip-related except our excitement for the thing. After picking up a slight beer buzz, we went to my apartment and hit up Google to find information on Route 66. I was thinking Grapes of Wrath and pictured us rolling around the desert in a jalopy.
Interested in the rural landscape of the west and more desolate areas, where Professor Joe Heithaus said we would see entire trains (engine to caboose), I Googled “Route 66 ghost towns.” I found images of abandoned auto shops, old cars and run-down motels.
“What if we do shit motels next to shit bars in shit towns?” I asked my friend.
She did her Strader cackle and said, “Okay.”
It was a good idea in theory, but nothing came of it. The trip changed entirely when our friends Dillon Raidt (’14) and Seth Morris (’14) decided to jump on our bandwagon-jalopy. Dill has wanted to do a western road trip for a couple years now and Seth is always down for a trip where no planning is involved (on his end). Plus, it was probably a good idea to bring guys along.
We agreed to meet in Sunny’s hometown of Danville, Ill. on the Sunday before Winter Term technically began, aka the day the polar vortex blizzard began. While Dillon was stuck in Greencastle, Seth, Sunny and I were cooped up with her family in Danville. INDOT and IDOT forbade civilian traffic, so we waited.
It was apparent that making any plans at all was worthless, as each one seemed to unravel within days, including those to take the BMW sedan (we ended up in a Cadillac coup).
When we finally congregated two days later, we hit the road ASAP. We’d get out of bad weather and figure it out along the way.
Although we missed the infamous Cadillac Ranch, the rim cabin reservation at Palo Dura, Petrified Forest, the meteor crater and more, our perpetual re-routing landed us in Joshua Tree National Park-where we pitched the tent and watched both sunset and sunrise in the strangest landscape known to mankind (think trufula trees from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax).
According to Seth, change is the only constant. So we embraced it. Each night over drinks, we planned the next leg of our journey, which culminated with a 12 hour detour through Utah and Colorado.
I was no stranger to spontaneity, but this trip reinforced for me the value of living without a secure plan. When things go wrong, it only makes room for something else to go right.
– Dickman is a sophomore from Zionsville, Ind. majoring in English Writting.