For our July Digital Storytellers prompt, we asked about your memories from college road trips. Here’s a sampling of those responses. If you’d like to participate in our Digital Storyteller program (and earn MNU swag while doing so), you can sign up here. We’d love to have you!

Road Tripping:
Every mile a memory

By Sarah A. Moser

In the summer of 2000, 35 MidAmerica Nazarene University RAs and REs set out for their annual retreat, heading to the Ho Hum campground near Lebanon, MO. Twenty-five people took a bus, while the rest took a brand-new van. That trip is one they will never forget, says Stephanie (Pardue) Classen (’01), who was one of the 10 on the van.

“I had a blast being an RA my senior year,” she says. “The year did start off with a bang with our people mover catching fire the first time we ever took it on a trip!”

No one was injured; firefighters were able to put out the flames, the group salvaged what they could, and they continued on with the trip using a borrowed van. The fire was attributed to a fuel line problem. 

“Thankfully we all survived and made a lifelong memory!” says Classen. Despite their fiery start to the trip, Classen still encourages students to take those road trips and make those memories. 

“In college, take trips to your friends’ homes and take opportunities even though you may feel like there is no time,” she says. “It will be a catalyst for lifelong relationships and a time to grow and learn. And if you happen to ride in a new MNU people mover, always be aware of where the closest exit is!’

While not as dramatic, Mindy Leonard’s (’06) road trip still stands out in her memory. “A group of us did a short road trip to the Renaissance Fair for our TWIRP date (The Woman is Required to Pay),” she says. “We blindfolded the guys so they didn’t know where we were going. This entire experience was so out of the box for me, but so worth it!” 

Leonard stresses that it’s fun to have surprises in life. She encourages others to take time to go places nearby or far away and step out of your comfort zone because that’s when the memories happen. 

Roxanne (Alexander) Jones (’81) agrees, emphasizing that you don’t have to spend a lot to have a good experience. “Take advantage of any opportunity to make memories that last forever,” says Jones. “Staying with my friends’ parents saved us lots of money. We had picnics with long discussions about life and long-term plans. I don’t regret a minute.”

For Darin Watson, tagging along with friends and their families made for lifelong memories. “Can a college road trip be about family? At MNU, it can,” he says. “Some of my fondest memories are riding to away football games with the parents, sister, and fiancée/wife of my good friend. So off we went to exotic locales like Lamoni, Iowa, or Marshall, Missouri. They didn't have to let a broke college student tag along without paying for gas or food, but they did it anyway. Because that's what MNU families do.

For one member of the Pioneer Class (freshmen who came to Olathe in the Fall of 1968), a trip with the Circuit Riders still stands out. The Circuit Riders was a group who traveled to area churches to sing, lead worship services, and help with visitation. Barbara (Smith) Damron (’72) remembers that year her sponsor was Mattie Belle Jones, the diminutive white-haired secretary of Dr. Curtis Smith. She drove her own car and helped transport the group to churches in Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa. 

“On one trip early in 1969, it was snowing heavily on a Sunday night as we approached the campus,” says Damron. “Mattie Belle was driving, and her head barely reached the top of the steering wheel. She drove determinedly in what she thought was her lane of highway. As we came alongside a car traveling on the right, all of us students gasped as the man had to take evasive action from our vehicle, and he plowed off the road into a deep bank of snow. Mattie Belle got us safely to the dorms and never knew what had happened. Best tip for road trips: Be sure your driver can see over the steering wheel!”  

PHOTO: The Circuit Riders. Back row: Mike Edwards, Gary Damron, David Nitzel, Lee Mattix, Chris Manbeck, Ron Luthi.  Third row: Jim Mullins, Carolyn Reust, Linda Westfall, Corrina Hayden, Glenda Faulk, Kathy Smith, Bill Webb, Bill Hayes. Second row: Jan Mullins, Jayne Van Dyne, Sher Bowman, Barbara Hunt, Christine Hixson. Front row: Doug Jeffries, Mattie Belle Jones, Harold Wedel.

PHOTO: Callie Frizzell (’19), Megan Porter (’19), and Mikayla Shockley (’19) stopped to take in the view after hiking through the Arizona desert on their spring break trip in 2019.

PHOTO: After a church service, the MNU ServeTeam, Action Pact, made a pit stop at the St. Louis Zoo before making the trek back to Olathe. Featured Alums: Rachel Gall (‘15), Joey Alligier (‘16), and Darin Breeden (‘17). Submitted by Lynsie Peterson (’18).

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