While many Duke students settled into summer internships last May, three undergraduates drove almost 8,000 miles across the country in a yellow school bus.
Juniors Richard Seehausen and Conor Smith and senior Pete Moseley spent the better part of May cross-country tripping in a refurbished school bus purchased from Craigslist. They began their journey in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and drove northeast, passing through Illinois, South Dakota and Wyoming, among other states, before reaching their destination—The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington, home of Sasquatch Music Festival.
The group is now telling its story in a bid to win Red Bull’s “Can you make it?” challenge. The competition, based on voter popularity, gives winners an opportunity to participate in week-long challenge in Europe.
“We got a lot of judgment,” Seehausen said. “[At Duke] there’s a big presence of wealth, a big aura of pre-professionalism—I felt like everyone was applying for internships.”
Seehausen said that after feeling pressured to apply for internship positions, the road trip ultimately afforded him a more meaningful experience. Moseley added that although internships could be rewarding, Duke students lived more for the future than the present.
The three students said they first came up with the idea for the trip after Smith decided to roadtrip to Sasquatch festival, an event he had previously attended. Funding for the bus was crowd-sourced through donations from family and friends.
Coming together under the name “Dongboyz,” the three created an Instagram under the handle “dongsquad” and stenciled it across the side of the bus. The trip began officially May 10 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and ended almost one month later, when the bus, which they named Kevin, was eventually driven back to North Carolina.
“They’re representing Duke to show that every student here is not fitting into the regular Duke mold—there are students here who are different and do go on crazy adventures.” said junior Connor Guest, the Red Bull student brand manager on campus, who encouraged the group to enter the competition.
The group passed through national landmarks including Mount Rushmore, Sioux Falls, Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Lake, planning their next stops as they traveled. A highlight of the trip for the group was an overnight stopover at Devils Tower, a pillar-like structure located in Wyoming, where they camped out on the bus and watch the sunset in the valley. Moseley explained.
“We could see millions of stars moving across the sky,” Moseley said. “You felt like the Earth was rotating.”
An unforeseen setback included a blizzard in South Dakota that stranded the group for hours at a gas station, and the students said that on more than one occasion, the bus suffered technical issues. The most concerning was when the boys stopped in an isolated area of Wyoming to discover green liquid gushing out of the bus.
Despite their setbacks, the bus inched into Washington in time for the May 22 festival start date.
“We’ve kind of learned how to live,” Smith said. “When you’re on road you’re not responsible for getting anything done, but just responsible for yourself. We had a destination but changed plans—we could do that because we were free.”
The group’s bus is currently parked on Central Campus. Its last major appearance was in K-Ville, during the Duke basketball game against the University of Virginia Feb. 13. The Dongboyz hope to gain enough votes to continue their journey in Europe, but invite others to explore more of the country in the meantime.
“It’s brought us and our friends a ton of joy,” Smith said.