Tag Archives: road trip

The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge

Main Piece:

This is a transcription of the informant explaining the Philly Cheesesteak Challenge. 

So basically it’s this tradition that you do during your second semester of your senior year of high school, it’s mostly people in the DMV you know D.C, Maryland, Virginia. The point of the challenge is you’ll meet up with friends at school at just a regular school day after you’ve gotten into college and your attendance doesn’t really matter any more. And you guys like get in the car together and then when the first bell rings of the school day you leave your school and you guys drive to phil and get a cheesesteak and take a picture of you doing it and document the whole journey, like vlog it or whatever and get a picture of you doing it. And then you have to drive back to your school with the cheesesteak before the last bell rings and have the evidence. It’s for bragging rights to give you something fun and stupid to do before college.” 

Background:

The informant went to a large public high school in Northern Virginia. This challenge was something he looked forward to starting as a freshman. 

Context:

The informant described this to me when we were comparing high school traditions and experiences. 

Thoughts:

The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge encapsulates a lot of common patterns that occur during liminal moments in people’s lives. The Challenge itself is inherently funny, there is no real prize, just an arbitrary goal to complete before graduation. It gives students a sense of responsibility and freedom before they are actually out in the real world. In the late spring of the year, seniors teeter between students and graduates. The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge allows them to break the rules and be “adults” or graduates for the day to then return to the school setting they have known for the past 12 years of their life. It also allows for friends to accomplish a goal together before they all part and go their separate ways, making the Challenge feel even more important.

“One Up, One Down” Folk Game and Riddle

Main Piece

Informant: This is kind of a camp riddle and game mashup and it is called One up One down. I like it because it is difficult enough to take days to figure out, so people can spend time figuring it out. One person will run it, and will introduce the riddle. They are the keeper, of the uhh game I guess. It goes in a circle, and you have three options: two up, one up one down, and two down. And so like, each person will give one of the three and try to figure out the pattern that would consistently allow them to say the correct answer. The person in charge tells them if they are right or wrong, because they know the secret to the pattern. Then it keeps going in a circle, people guess, and the keeper tells them if they are right or wrong and it keeps going until people figure out the right answer. The correct answer is based on the orientation of their arms. So right now, I would be two down, because both of my hands are in my lap. But, if I left one hand on my lap and one to rest my chin on, the correct answer would be one up one down. Basically, people overthink and start trying to guess elaborate patterns, and you kinda just win when you figure it out and you usually can’t tell the people still figuring out what the right answer is. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this?

InformantI learned this in high school during my freshman river trip, where we would canoe down the Colorado river for four days. It was a game my group’s guide taught us, and I didn’t get it until our bus ride back. It drove me crazy, but when I got it I felt so frustrated but like I was part of a secret club!

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.

Context

While on a road trip with some of our other housemates the informant taught us this game and began to play it with us. At the end of the trip, I was the only one in the group who could still not figure it out. During the interview I had him explain the rules and origin of the game. 

Analysis

I think this game is a great combination of a kinesthetic folk game mixed with a folk riddle, as there is a secret pattern you have to find out in order to comprehend the game as a whole. It is also inherently folklore as the rules are never shared, you either understand the pattern of the game or you don’t. Being intended for longer trips, it also proves to be a great way to pass the time as it could take a while for players to figure it out.

Family Roadtrips

Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.

 

Interview Transcript:
Interviewer: Can you tell me about your favorite past time?

 

Interviewee: I think my favorite past time would have to be being in the car. Not sitting in traffic, but with people I love going on a spontaneous adventure.

 

Interviewer: Really? Where did this come from. Like why do you love driving or what are your favorite memories from it?

 

Interviewee: One of my most cherished memories was the road trip my brother, best friend, and I took from San Antonio all the way to Fayetteville, North Carolina. It’s a 22-hour trip and I drove for 18 of them. We stopped in so many places along the way. Our first stop was in Houston to get coffee. I ended up drinking a total of 8 shots in a matter of minutes and I do not recommend that…but I was awake for the rest of the trip! Then we were in Louisiana when the sky decided to break and rain harder than I ever thought possible. Next thing you know my driver side windshield wiper flew off and straight into the bayou… Like…Great. We pull over as soon as we can and I switch from the passenger side to the driver side. We ended up in Gross Teet, Louisiana and the name to this day still makes me laugh. We got new ones and went on our way. Next stop was New Orleans, and boy! It did not disappoint. Beignets by the dozen and fortunes from the voodoo man were in store. After living my Tiana dreams we were on the road again. Next stop Pensacola. We stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel and we were on the way again. My brother drove the last four hours into North Carolina but before we crossed into the state we had to stop at south of the border: the most insane truck stop experience EVER. Once we got to North Carolina, I decided I wanted to keep going to Virginia Beach to see my maw and grandaddy and to this day I’m so happy I did. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d ever see my grandaddy and I hold that memory very close to my heart. After Virginia, we went back to North Carolina and I graduated high school and then traveled to the happiest place on earth (Disney World) and made some more really great memories, like meeting you!

 

Analysis:

This is not direct folklore, but it is an excellent example of story-telling. I was with the informant in person when she told me this story, and she gave a very active-performance. She was very excited, spoke with lots of arm movements, and loved being able to talk about her favorite past time. At a later time, off the record, she brought up how important road trips are to her, and how she wants to find a way to make road trips a family tradition in the future.

Rest Stop Stalker

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and my informant visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.

Performance:

“So my boyfriend spends a lot of time on Reddit, and sometimes he’ll send me the weird shit he finds; like memes, videos, etc. One of his favorite things to do when he’s bored is read, like, ghost stories and scary stories and that kind of thing. He sent me this really scary one a few months back that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. I don’t remember it, like, word for word, but I’ll send you the link. It’s — it’ll bug you out.”

(I ask her to tell me what she remembers of the story)

“Okay, so it’s about this guy who works in the city but lives like, hours and hours away in another state so he drives home every weekend and stays in the city for work. So one time, he was driving back into the city and had to stop and pee. So he’s in the bathroom and he sees, um, this like drawing thing, a super profane drawing with a note that said something like ‘I want to fuck you’ or ‘I want your cock’ or something, and it was in super neat handwriting and well-spelled — basically, like, not your typical graffiti in a rest-stop bathroom. It was also dated so the guy knew that whoever did the drawing had done it like, that day a few hours before. The guy leaves and gets in the car, which had a University of Michigan sticker on it, or something. So he keeps driving and has to pee again and stops at another rest stop. He’s peeing and he sees another piece of graffiti but this time it’s a super intense picture of someone who’s literally been ripped apart…like, um, guts everywhere and stuff…and the notes in the same handwriting as the last one said like ‘I want to eat your intestines’ and like ‘I want to fuck your corpse’ and really gruesome shit. The date/time on the wall were only from an hour or so ago. The guy’s freaked the fuck out, so he gets in the car but when he passes the next rest stop he’s curious so he gets out and goes into the bathroom and finds a huge message written in shit on the wall that says like ‘almost there, Michigan! You’re so close!’ like whoever wrote it knew that the guy would stop and knew exactly who he was and was taunting him…so the guy runs out of the bathroom and to his car and he hears like muffled laughter coming from in the bushes. On the last stretch of the trip he sees a car pulled over on the side of the road and a guy standing in front of it with brown stains all over him…as the guy passes the guy on the side of the road yells ‘FUCK YOU MICHIGAN!’ and starts laughing hysterically….there was something wrong with his face, like his eyes were wrong or he had too many teeth…something about him that just wasn’t quite…human, maybe? So like whatever it was that was like stalking him the whole time was just trying to torment him for no real reason…just because he could. Or it could, I guess (laughter).”

Thoughts:

Neither me nor my informant could find the link to the original story on reddit, but did find the story on another website: (http://adequateman.deadspin.com/a-rest-stop-stalker-and-more-of-your-real-life-horror-1738356933). While looking through Reddit, however, I was stunned by the sheer volume of collected folklore on the site. There are thousands and thousands of ghost stories and legends that are shared and discussed between users. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that, when bored, someone would go through and look for engaging piece of folklore on Reddit. This story is terrifying because it’s incredibly contemporary; it features rest stops, road trips, and time-stamped stalking. The story is geographically non-specific. This is a world we’ve seen and could recognize; we can imagine his terror and picture ourselves as victims of the same stalker. And most importantly, we can believe that this may have really happened to someone at some time in some area of the country. It’s a terrifying Urban Legend.

Road Sign Game

“So like if you’re driving in a car for like a long period of time, and you’re like with a friend or something, you’re not gonna do it by yourself, and you’re not the driver, you look out the window and you have to, in order of the alphabet, find a sign on the side of the road that starts with the, um, the first letter is in the alphabet, so like, say I was looking for an ‘A,’ if I found an Applebee’s I’d yell out ‘Applebee’s’ and then, like, the next sign you saw that started with a ‘B,’ like um, Ben and Jerry’s, or something, somebody would yell it out. So it wasn’t necessarily like a competitive game, it was just like the whole car was trying to get the alphabet, or the signs in order of the alphabet before they arrived at their destination. It was just a way to stay busy . . . It’s more challenging if it’s a shorter distance, obviously. But instead of sleeping in the car, that’s what we would do.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked the informant where she learned this game, she said, “I think from like traveling to dance competitions a lot and, um, I mean I know we didn’t just make it up, but I think it kind of derived from the license plate game, where it’s like you look at a license place and you try to find the alphabet in each license plate almost. But we made it signs, probably a little easier.” She said it was her mother who would take her to dance competitions and would sometimes participate in the game.

 

When I asked her what she thought this meant, she said, “It was a good way to bond with my other teammates and my brothers and avoid fighting because it’s not competitive.”
This game was interesting because it was one that the informant assumed everyone knew about. It was so entrenched in her childhood experience that she could not imagine anyone else growing up and not playing it. While this game most likely did not originate with the informant’s family, it is probably prevalent in families and groups of people that spend a lot of time on the road. I agree with the informant that the primary purpose behind this game is to distract children (or anyone bored on a drive) and keep them from fighting with one another. It also helps them familiarize themselves with their surroundings, take an interest in the world for a specific purpose, and practice their reading skills. It is also interesting that this game is not competitive in the usual sense, i.e. the participants are not playing against each other. This helps teach the participants to complete a task quickly and work together.