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Taking a 48-hour college road trip

College student in an old-fashioned van

Shayna Dix
November 08, 2017

Making the plan

Two days off and nothing to do. As my college roommates and I lay sprawled across the living room with the afternoon sunshine streaming in and nothing but the clock making any sort of productive progress, we knew we had to make a plan.

“How about a picnic?”
“What if we went shopping?”
“Guys, it’s summer! I want to do something new!”

It took an hour of arguments and a snack run to Walmart for us realize the obvious solution: We needed to go on a road trip!

The rest of the decisions took place in the next two hours. In the morning, the three of us would head to my best friend K’s farm in Mancos, Colorado, an eight-hour drive from Greeley.

Pro Tip

Find a group of friends, get a poster and some markers and stickers, and make a summer bucket list to make the most out of the time you’ve got during college.

We would take my roommate B’s car, as it was the newest of all our college-model vehicles. We would split for gas and drive time.

We spent the evening packing. Phone chargers? Check! Snacks? Check! Food and water left out for the cats? Check!

Heading out

The next morning, we were on the road before the sun came up, listening to our favorite road trip jams. At our first gas station rest stop, the deal was that we would get what we needed and go. 


Pro Tip

Inviting other people not only adds to the fun, it also lessens your individual cost for gas or a hotel!

So naturally, we were there for about 20 minutes trying on hats and sunglasses, rearranging magnets on the displays, and complaining about how those cute little trinkets never have my name on them.

Back on the road, the Denver radio station began to fade out, and our entertainment turned from pop hits to talk-show hosts and stories. As we wound our way up into the lonely mountains of southern Colorado, all was fine and good.

But as we crested and the altitude dropped again, we started to wonder: “What’s that smell?”

The odor of burning rubber filled the car, and mild panic set in. Each of us refused to wonder out loud if our brakes were the ones smoking. It must be a vehicle in front of us!

We continued down the mountain, nervous and tense. Finally, a man in a truck slowed to get behind us, and the smell disappeared. We were pretty far from any sort of car shop, so…phew!


Pro Tip

Make your own offline playlists with Spotify or another streaming service, or use their pre-made playlists.

The destination


Pro Tip

The best parts of a road trip are the rest stops. Take your time and explore, or stop off on the scenic overlooks!

Without further incident, we made it to Mancos around 2 p.m. My friend K, home for the summer from another university, had planned an entire evening of fun and adventures. The four of us plus K’s parents packed into their truck to drive out to the lake with their boat. We snacked and floated for a bit, decided it was a good idea to try and jump in, just about contracted pneumonia, promptly exited the water, and then tanned on the deck for the remainder of the time.

Afterward, K gave us a tour of the farm, where we cuddled new puppy litters and went for a hike. We went into town to explore, came back for a home-cooked meal, and ate freshly baked cobbler around a fire pit under a star-dotted sky. After my roommates crashed on the couches for the night, I stayed awake with K talking well into the morning.


Pro Tip

Visit a place where someone you know lives. With an inside connection to the area, you may be able to save on things like a hotel, and you can avoid the overpriced, overrated tourist sites.

The return trip

After enduring the brutal screech of the alarm clock a few hours later, we packed our bags back in the car to leave by 4 a.m. and get back for afternoon work commitments. We raced along the highway, taking turns sleeping and keeping the driver company. When the familiar sights and sounds of Greeley popped into view, I sighed with contentment, thankful for an eventful summer road trip and memories with two of the closest friends I’ll ever have.

Shayna Dix

is a senior majoring in Elementary Education at UNC. She’s working toward her licensure to teach in a third-grade classroom. In the meantime, she is studying leadership in the President’s Leadership Program and working with the Bear Hug Club and the Ambassadors for Student Leadership Club. She’s forgotten the meaning of "free time."