Sunday, January 9, 2011

Escape From Sherman

In a town where the only forms of entertainment involve walking around Midway Mall, which contains more closed stores than open ones, or visiting the Bestbuy on 75, which sells items students cannot afford, the Tuck drive is a student's answer to escaping the monotonous reality of living in Sherman.
“We were coming over the top of the hill going into Africa,” recalls senior Nicole Kolodetsky, “and The Circle of Life from the Lion King came on. We cried. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. I try to recreate that memory in my head, and you just can’t. It was one of those moments that you really appreciate.”

Sharing moments like this with friends, in the midst of deep discussions about their lives and experiences, seems to be the explanation most Austin College students give when asked why they chose to go on the drive, even when cell phones and facebook could just as easily connect them or entertain them. There seems to be something about driving around in a car together over a long period of time that brings people together in a way that other situations cannot.

This is one of many such stories that you can hear from current students and alumni alike.  The drive has been passed down through generations of Austin College students as a means of escaping from the stress of schoolwork, people on a small campus, and a lack of entertainment. Students pile into cars and head down to Tuck Street on a forty-five minute journey into the back roads that wind around the neighborhoods and fields of Sherman. From what can be pieced together from stories of alumni, students have been traveling on the same series of roads since the eighties.

So what brings students out to the drive year after year, even through the advancement of electronic forms of entertainment? “It’s an escape into nature for an hour. You can roll your window down at any time and get a taste of it. Sunsets are beautiful. Who wouldn’t want that escape?” 

“I don’t see that stuff that often,” says Dallas native Alicia McClung, referring to the nature and it’s beauty. “I try to explain the drive to friends from home that go to other schools, and they just don’t understand.” 

One appeal of the drive, is its natural beauty.Whether its pouring with rain, pelting snow, or hot as hell, the countryside remains scenic and full of life. Another characteristic of the drive, which makes it such an attractive place to travel in order to relax and talk with friends, is the almost infinite number of possible roads one can take, safe in the knowledge that every street will either end up back where you started, or you'll end up on another highway that can easily get you back to campus. If a group has been driving one specific route for a couple of weeks, change it up and take a couple of wrong turns. In all likelihood, you'll end up finding a gorgeous pond or a dirt road littered with fireflies lighting up the night sky.

Student Katie Lehman claims finds the drive so true to her experiences with others on the drive, she took a picture of a shadow of her car on the drive as a self portrait of herself for her art fundamentals class this past semester.

Talk to many students at Austin College and they can tell you at least one horror story involving the black dog that runs out into the road and in front of and alongside the front wheels of your vehicle in the middle of the back roads route. “It never dies; you run over it every time. ” claims student Sophie Perrault about the “demon dog” of the drive.

This demon dog’s house is just one of the many land marks guiding students through these roads. Other locations such as “Africa,” and “Narnia” help people to distinguish different routes and locations on the drive in between other tunnels of trees and fields that begin to blur together as your muscle memory takes over and navigates you through the drive. 

Another situation everyone should be aware of on the drive, is attempting a three-point turn. The roads are rather narrow, and sometimes are accompanied by a large ditch on either side. Students have on occasion decided to head back early and attempt such a maneuver, only to find the front end of their car sticking up into the air after falling down the side of the road - then the only remedy is relying on the kindness of strangers to pull you out of the ditch with a truck.

Many who frequent the drive and claim to know it like the back of their hand cannot tell you the names of the streets by memory or even as you are on them. Some students have lists of rules for navigating the drive such as “follow Jesus,” meaning follow the turns next to churches. “Never take a dirt road, except for that one road,” is another that keeps people on the right track. A favorite is "Okay, here is the sequence - take a right, left, left, right, right, right, left, and you'll end up where you started!"

To supply the drive with even more credit, it is known rather well outside of just Austin College students and alumni. In particular, the drive has earned itself a page on Urban Dictionary - "An extremely trippy series of back-country roads in Sherman, TX that Austin College students drive on."

Upperclassman continually ask freshman on drives as a way of getting to know them, and the drive lives on through memories of the directions and good times with friends that have graduated. The drive has been and I expect will continue to be one of the best parts of life in Sherman, for the conversations and adventures it brings to the drab daily life in a small town. 

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