Skullhouse Road Trip by Erick P. '17
Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Austin, New Orleans, North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, and New Hampshire
I have an idea.
Live blogging. I’ve never tried live blogging before and I think I have a great opportunity. My fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma (aka Skullhouse) has a tradition where the senior class goes on a cross rountry road trip between finals week and Commencement. The mission that we chose to accept is to visit the hometown of every senior brother going on the trip. This means we have two weeks to travel to Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Austin, New Orleans, North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. We’re travelling by plane to Seattle and renting a van once there to take all the way back to Boston. We must be back in Boston by June 9th for Commencement.
Day 1, Wednesday 5/24: Leaving Boston
I finished my finals on Tuesday, so my flight out of Seattle is on Wednesday. At Seattle, we’re crashing at the Phi Kappa Sigma chapter of the University of Washington, nicknamed “Phi Pools”. One of our brothers had previously stayed at Phi Pools while he interned at Microsoft over the summer.
I spent all night alternating between packing and sleeping. I got to the airport at 10 am. My flight left in 45 min and the staff told me that it was too late to check in. I pleaded and they let me check in late and gave me a standby ticket. I made it to the gate just before the doors closed and they gave me a seat. Close call.
After promising I would never be late to a flight again, I was promptly late to a flight again. When I landed on my layover stop in Minneapolis, I got my ticket to the connecting flight to Seattle. It left in 10 minutes. I rushed down the terminal hallway to my gate, where I saw that no one was there, not even the staff. The plane was gone. I sat over in a booth in a corner and thought “ughhhhh I gotta reschedule my flight now”. I opened my phone and it turned out my phone hadn’t updated the time zone setting and I was an hour early. I’m good to go. In the meantime, I’m chilling here in Minnesota. See you soon, Seattle.
Got to Seattle around dinnertime. So the road trip officiallly begins.
Day 2, Thursday 5/25: University of Washington
Today I learned that University of Washington is abbreviated as “UDub” and I looked a noob tourist asking people if they went to “UWash”.
I think that one of the coolest but most underutilized benefits of being in a fraternity is visiting chapters at other universities. Hanging out with the Phi Kappa Sigma chapter of UDub has been like stepping into an alternate dimension. All our insignia was there, but it was different people at a different house at a different school. And yet I was immediately welcomed by them as a brother. They gave us a place to stay and took us around UDub and Seattle. And their house is awesome.
Day 3, Friday 5/26: Seattle
Went out into Seattle with the bros. We didn’t know the city, so we looked for the Space Needle in the horizon and just walked towards it until we got there.
Afterwards we went to the Pike Place Market and tried dozens of weird things like buffalo jerky, chocolate spaghetti and BBQ olive oil. I also tried a ghost pepper, one of the hottest peppers in the world. No regrets! We also stopped at the first ever Starbucks, founded in Seattle.
Afterwards, we walked around the city some more, went to a jazz bar, and hung out in a park..
Day 4, Saturday 5/27: From Seattle to Portland to Vegas
The trip from Seattle to Vegas was 17 hours long. We drove through Washington State and then crossed through Oregon into Nevada.
Time Lapse Credit to Erik ’17
I was disappointed that we drove for many hours in the forests with no sight of any Bigfoot, but we did get to see the mountain / active volcano Mt. Rainier.
Around noon, we stopped in Portland, Oregon in the midst of the Portland Saturday Market for lunch & Voodoo Donuts.
Crossing Oregon into Nevada is when we noticed the first change in terrain on our trip. The view out our window went from green to brown. Trees turned into shrubs and the sun got hotter as we headed farther into desert territory.
Day 5, Sunday 5/28: Las Vegas Part 1
We got to Las Vegas early in the morning. I was excited to be back since last coming for CES in January. It’s much hotter this time around, with temperatures expecting to reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit midday.
We walked down the strip until we saw a giant Coke bottle for a building.
It was Coca-Cola World. I had never been there before nor have I heard of it. It was full of all kinds of Coca Cola merchandise, drinking cups, stuffed pillows, clothing, and more.
On the second floor was a restaurant that served only Coca-Cola. We ordered a “Tastes of the World”, a 16-cup sampler of different Coca-Cola’s around the world. Lo and behold, my little country of Costa Rica was one of the flavors.
We tried Coca-Cola from Peru, Estonia, Tanzania, Korea, Japan, Mexico, China, England, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, South Africa, Djibouti, and Italy. Then we mixed them all together into one cup to see if it would create regular Coke like how white light could be split into different colors. We were disappointed when it didn’t. Needless to say, Costa Rica was my favorite.
But don’t even get me started on M&M World.
Two Phi Kappa Sigma alumni from MIT joined us in Vegas: Derek ’15 and Mario ’15. Both had moved to LA after graduating and flew to Las Vegas to join our road trip adventures for that segment.
We went to a Calvin Harris concert at Hakkasan Nightclub. We made our way to the front row and I yelled “I met you in the summer!” at Calvin Harris until he finally played Summer. I’s my favorite song of his. We spent the rest of the concert collecting glowsticks and waving them around.
Day 6, Monday 5/29: Las Vegas Part 2
On Monday, we went to the largest pool party I’ve ever seen in my life: Wet Republic, at MGM Grand.
Afrojack was performing. He is now my favorite DJ, as this is the third time this year I’ve seen him perform -> once in Austin and twice in Las Vegas.
After two concerts within a 12 hour period, we were exhausted. We decided to leave Vegas early to get a head start on getting to Los Angeles.
Day 7, Tuesday 5/30: Los Angeles
I’ve never been to Los Angeles before. It’s exactly how I imagined it: warm, shorts weather, palm trees everywhere. We went to Santa Monica pier and walked around.
Then we rented some bikes and biked two miles along the beach from Santa Monica to Venice.
Three of our brothers lived in LA, so we had a barbecue at Alex ’17’s house and invited all the families. We also met up with two other Phikaps, Ben ’13 and Alonzo ’18, who were in town. It was so great to have a homecooked meal after days of trying to pick the healthy options on fast food menus.
Day 8, Wednesday 5/31: From Los Angeles to Austin
It’s 25 hours from Los Angeles to Austin. 25 long hours. We took turns driving and sleeping so that no one got sleepy at the wheel. We drove through California, Arizona, and New Mexico. We passed the Rio Grande, crossing into Texas. We had tacos twice that day in two different places. We listened to the entire Hamilton soundtrack, along with at least 10 songs from every genre of music. There was an hour when it was all Kanye and another when it was all golden oldies. We stopped at gas stations and saw signs marked “Poisonouse Snakes & Insects in the Area” and nope’d out of there.
Crossing the Rio Grande from New Mexica into Texas.
Day 9, Thursday 6/1: Austin
After 25 hours of driving, we made it to Austin late this morning. We drove down Isaac ’17’s neighborhood until we came across a suprise his family had set up for us on their lawn.
After an afternoon with Isaac’s family, we went to an authentic Texan all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet. We had endless servings of brisket and pork. It was delicious.
At night, we went around 6th St. I had been to Austin and 6th St once before earlier this year during SXSW and I was excited to be back.
Day 10, Friday 6/2: New Orleans Day 1
Après Austin, nous sommes allés à la Nouvelle-Orléans en Louisiane.
At this point I really started appreciating all the different terrains we’ve passed through on our trip: mountains, forests, plains, deserts, and now swamps.
We stayed at Arman ’17’s dad’s Bed & Breakfast. It was a nice change of pace from crashing on couches and air mattresses, and I’m thankful to Arman’s family for that.
At night, we had dinner at Arman’s dad’s restaurant and then went out into Bourbon St. In New Orleans, the streets were lively until well until 5 am. As an MIT student who regularly stays up to that time, this is my kind of city.
Day 11, Saturday 6/3: New Orleans Day 2
On Saturday, we explored downtown New Orleans. The city was very humid but there was a lot of action of the streets: marketplaces and live performances everywhere.
We went to a restaurant downtown where we ordered large plates of raw oysters. I learned that raw oysters are not my thing.
I also saw the Mississippi River for the first time.
At dinnertime, Arman’s family held a graduation party.
Day 12, Sunday 6/4: North Carolina
Finally back on the East Coast. In North Carolina, we visited Andres ’17’s home and had the first homecooked meal we had in a long time. Some rice and beans with chicken and pork.
Day 13, Monday 6/5: Delaware
Unfortunately we had to leave North Carolina early because we were running out of time before Commencement. On our trip up the East Coast, we drove into Maryland and passed by the Chesapeake Bay, making it into Delaware around evening time.
When we got to Rosé ’17’s house, a full dinner was prepared for us. We enjoyed some delicious Haiti cuisine prepared by Rosé’s family around a nice dinner table.
The next morning, we took a trip to the Dogfish Head Brewery. We took a tour of the facility and saw how Dogfish Head beers were made, fermented, packaged, and distributed.
To our surprise, there was a bocce ball court right outside the brewery. I’ve heard of bocce ball for the first time in my life a week ago in Seattle when we played there. And now bocce ball courts seem to be everywhere.
Day 14, Tuesday 6/6: New Jersey
Home! The place where I belong! After two weeks of travelling, we are finally at my home stop, New Jersey. The look on my friends’ faces when we stopped at a gas station and they didn’t have to pump their own gas was pricelss. We hung out at my house with my family before going to my uncle’s newly opened Italian restaurant, Il Ponte, where we had a celebratory three-course graduation dinner. Thanks Mom and Dad for everything that you’ve for me, especially these past four years.
Day 15, Wednesday 6/7: New Hampshire
Last but not least on our trip, John ’17’s home in New Hampshire.
We had a nice lunch with John’s family: chicken and cheeseburgers with bacon stuffed peppers and minty watermelon. Right outside their window was a beautiful view of the lake right next to their house.
Day 16, Thursday 6/8: Back to Boston
I sit here the night before Commencement writing this. We did it. We made it back in time before Commencement. I was dead tired and ready to never be in a car again.
Last night was Senior Toast at the Skywalk Observatory. It was in the 50th floor of the Prudential Center. I’ve heard about the Skywalk Observatory but this was my first time actually there. I could see the whole city of Boston from up there.
There was the entire city I spent the past four years in right before my eyes. Fitting, I thought. These last two weeks, I traversed the country, seeing the different homes of every senior Skullhouse brother. Never before did I truly internalize that MIT students do come from anywhere and everywhere. The cities, the farms, the ghetto, the suburbs. The East Coast, the West Coast, the Midwest, the South. White, Latino, Black, Asian. Large houses, small houses, apartments. Rich, poor, etc etc. The homes were different. The families were different. The environments were different. The cultures were different. But here I was looking at the one home all those same brothers and I had for the past four years. Skullhouse may not be where we grew big but it is where we grew up. And tomorrow we’ll all be there together to see each other graduate. The fraternity bond is a bond for life. And the MIT family is a family for life.
To the next adventure.