By Valerie Perse

MIDDLEBORO, Massachusetts – My original plan for Spring Break was to stay in Elsah and dog sit for mass communications instructor Stephanie Bauer who would be conducting a San Francisco photography “abroad.”

    As spring break got closer, though, the need for a dog sitter quickly faded as everyone’s break plans were canceled or changed.

    As much as I didn’t want to pack my room and leave Prin, I knew I had to. Not knowing exactly where and what I was packing for, I slowly started taking apart my Brooks  room and putting my things in boxes.

     My first thought was to stay in Elsah until my mom could drive from Denver to pick me up. Little did I know, I was in for a whole new – unexpected –  adventure. I was sitting at lunch on Saturday (March 14th) when the idea to drive to Massachusetts with the sophomore Kiki Holmes’ family and a couple other students presented itself.

      The idea was to caravan to the Holmes’ home in Massachusetts and then drive back with Kiki’s mom, student events manager Heather Holmes, at the end of the week. The group was set to leave campus at 2 p.m., and initially, I thought there was no way I could do this. My room was a mess and I had about an hour to do the impossible: completely finish packing.

      But I rushed back to my room and started packing. At 1:30, surrounded by my unpacked belongings thinking I was definitely not going, when seniors Kenzie Holmes and Gavin Austin swooped in and helped me pack everything in under 45 minutes.

     It was crazy that everything – including my giant sloth stuffed animal, extensive makeup collection, and about 10 throw blankets – could be packed in such a short amount of time. At around 4 p.m., our caravan turned onto River Road: Three cars piled high with everything we’d all need for the next couple of months. There was senior Sam Pellegrini’s black Jeep Compass,  Heather’s green Chevy Equinox, and a black Tesla Model 3 borrowed from junior Stephen Stewart. The road trippers included me, Kiki, Sam, Gavin, Kenzie, and Heather.

     The plan was to drive straight through, only stopping for gas. But that plan went off the tracks with the first stop we had to make, two hours out of Elsah, to charge the Tesla. We realized we were going to have to stop every two hours to make the 45-minute electric plug-in.

Valerie Perse is a sustainability major knows “green” when she sees it – but the Tesla, she learned, has only a 2-hour driving range , which was not great for a cross-country trip. Photo by Gavin Austin

   I’m a sustainability major, and the lesson here is that while the Tesla seems like an awesome and sustainable car, I would not recommend it for a road trip.

      After the first couple of stops at supercharge stations, checked into a hotel in Dayton, Ohio only to wake up Sunday morning to another Tesla surprise: It was completely out of battery. One tow truck and two hours later, we were on the road again at noon.

A high-end cutting-edge electric car – the Tesla – may be sustainable, but it isn’t for road trips, Prin students found. Photo by L. Kincaid Holmes

The car ride consisted mainly of watching Hallmark movies, listening to music, and planning various projects to do when we arrived. Knowing that there would be a lot of free time, everyone quickly decided they needed to work on something to keep them busy. After 19 hours more of driving (plus the 45-minute stops every two hours) we finally made it to Kiki’s farmhouse in Middleboro, Massachusetts – and everyone immediately started their own projects, as if this was no vacation at all.  

     Since all the gyms in the area were closed, Sam and Kiki decided to build a backyard gym out of materials found around the property. Sam spent the first couple of days collecting things like old tires and heavy chains and building a pull-up bar. Along with the outdoor gym, Sam worked on other projects around the farm like fixing the fence on the horse paddock and building a shed for firewood.

Sam Pellegrini constructs a pull-up bar, as part of a found-objects gym he and Kiki Holmes are constructing for breaks in remote learning. Photo by L. Kincaid Holmes

     Gavin, an art major, has been planning on building a tiny house for the past three years and decided that this break from school would be the perfect time to start. After walking around the property, he was inspired by an old milk truck – the size of a U-Haul moving van – and decided that he would use it as the base for his tiny house. The first couple of days were spent emptying fourth of July decorations, old stamp sets and other random things out of the milk truck and figuring out where his tiny home will go. He expects to sleep in it for the rest of the semester and summer.

Gavin Austin’s dream tiny home – a milk truck he’s renovating to live in from now through the summer. Photo by L. Kincaide Holmes

     Kenzie was tasked by her mom with repainting the house. Her first couple of days home consisted of collecting paint samples at Home Depot and figuring out which ones the family liked the most. She plans on painting the living room tan with a burnt orange accent wall.

    As if there weren’t enough projects, Gavin and Kenzie started talking about gardening and raising chickens in order to help sustain the egg consumption of the house. With the prospect of not being able to come back to Prin this semester, everyone seemed pretty eager to settle in and create a new normal.

     Knowing that I wasn’t staying too long and would be heading home to continue classes online, I did not start any projects. But I occupied myself by hanging out with the Holmes’ horses Zeke and RD, going grocery shopping, and being around to help anyone who needed it.

Zeke (left) and RD, the Holmes’ horses, the author’s pandemic break diversion.
Photo by L. Kincaid Holmes

    I headed back to Elsah with Kiki’s mom on March 22 on a much quicker trip than before.

    My mom is picking up me and my belongings, and I’ll be back in Denver by the time classes start online March 30.

   Although the havoc this pandemic has caused is not the ideal situation for anyone, the trip was a lesson in itself: Sometimes it’s good to just go with the flow and see where it takes you.

Image courtesy of Clara Germani