To Yellowstone and beyond

by Alex Caskey

Last April I walked across the stage in the Rec-Fit, shook Jimmy B’s hand and that was that. Four years of college had come to an end. Now what? Having talked to many of my classmates I found I was certainly not alone in asking this question. I surmise that many of this year’s seniors are asking the same question, as will next year’s, and the next year’s…

My answer to that question was to head west on the train to Montana where I tagged pronghorn antelope fawns at the National Bison Range north of Missoula. Once the does were done popping out fawns, which only took about three weeks, I needed to find a way back to Goshen. Instead of opting for another 33 hour train ride, I bought a fire-engine red 1988 Subaru (a.k.a Susie B, odometer: 176,478) from Craigslist and headed home. Now what?

I spent a couple months bumming around Goshen before hopping back in Susie B to head to Yellowstone National Park, where I had an internship lined up through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) working with fisheries in the park. Simply put, I had a blast: I fly fished, lived with four other twenty-somethings, fly fished, frolicked in the backcountry, worked a little, fly fished –it was great! But soon the tourists left, the fishing season ended and the snow started falling. Now what?

It may come as a surprise, but I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to gray, dreary November in Goshen. So, following in the footsteps of the wise people before me, I went home by a different way. For me that different way meant hitting the road with Susie B, sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots, and calling up everyone I knew in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri. It would take this entire Record issue for me to tell of all my wayward wanderings.

Five weeks after leaving the park, Susie B and I pulled into my parents’ driveway on 7th Street, odometer: 190,177. What I lack in my physical foot size (I’m a size 7.5) I made up for with my massive carbon footprint, but I can confidently say that my journey yielded countless and priceless experiences and insight. You see, as much as I love her, Susie B doesn’t talk back. The hundreds of solitary hours I spent exploring the west, and myself, provided me with much needed space to reflect on life.

This article is not meant as a plug for solo road trips, I know they’re not for everyone; nor is it an advertisement for becoming an environmental science major and heading out west, although I would strongly suggest it. But it is my way of telling you to go do something after college. Perhaps your personality does not lend itself well to sleeping alone in your car and brushing your teeth in Wal-Mart bathrooms. Or maybe you have student loans to worry about paying off, something I have been unfairly fortunate not to have. But you will always find worthy excuses not to push yourself and be adventurous. Many of us are halfway to forty (no offense to any of you old fogies, not that forty is very old) and will soon have much more valid excuses not to go do something – work, family, a house, maybe a goat that needs milking. Now’s the time. My cousin Nick Loewen (class of ’06), whom I visited during my travels, has told me that some of the best years of his life came after college. I was skeptical, and perhaps still am, but I would like to believe it to be true.

I’m back here at Goshen for one last semester of collegiate bliss to finish up a double major in environmental science and art. I find myself facing what feels like a second graduation. I can honestly say that right now I have nothing firm planned past April. But I do have Susie B…

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