Living the Block Break Dream

Or, a lesson on mooching

by Matt Liston and Sean Buck, guest writers; photo by Sean Buck

Block breaks provide sweet, ecstatic release from the turmoil and tension that builds up over the course of each block. They are an escape from the rigorous, three-and-a-half week academic sprints we subject ourselves to each time we begin a class.  Block breaks were originally meant to provide us with time to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and spend a little more than four days out in the real world, fending for ourselves and trying to stay alive while spending as little money as possible.

Unfortunately, block breaks seem to have become a stimulus package for the larger Colorado community. Since when are we obligated to spend inordinate amounts of money each block break just have to fun? College is our chance to live hand to mouth, pushing our bodies’ nutritional limits to the extreme. We grew up thriving on our parents’ college stories about long Wisconsin winters with the thermostat set at forty-five degrees. By Christmas, they were walking around the house wrapped up in a blanket with three pairs of long underwear on, and still had to do jumping jacks every twenty minutes to keep warm. We expected a similar spirit of frugality at Colorado College, but excess seems to have become an all-too-common theme over block breaks. Gone are the blankets, the jackets and the siphon tubes, replaced with new Subarus, Marriott hotels and $100 ski passes.

Therefore, this past block break, the “power trio” of Matt, Sean, and Barry decided to try and live the college dream and set out on a trip with no plans for lodging, food, or daily activities other than skiing all day, every day. We had no intention of paying for lodging, food, or fuel.

Before leaving on Wednesday afternoon, we put to use all of the Tupperware containers and plastic baggies that we had accumulated throughout the year, and managed to pilfer enough PB&J, bagels and cream cheese, apples, and veggies from Rastall to sustain three people for the entire block break. After organizing our booty, we realized that the only meal we still needed to cover was dinner, and that could easily be solved by making a trip down to the C-Store to spend more of the monopoly money we call dining dollars.

We managed to secure our first night’s lodging at Matt’s aunt’s house in Vail. We were not welcome there for the rest of the weekend, however, as this aunt would be arriving Thursday afternoon to spend a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend with her husband.  So we headed out bright and early Thursday morning, drove down to Breckenridge, and volunteered as assistants for the disabled ski program.  As a thank you gift for volunteering, they gave us vouchers for another day of free skiing at any Vail resort.  Ski free one day, and get another day of free skiing. We didn’t ask questions.

We got off the ski hill and back to the car around 5:30 without any idea where we were going to sleep that night.  We did, however, have options. We could sleep in the car or we could find a group of our friends who had spent all sorts of money to rent out a condo for the weekend and sleep on their floor. We chose the latter.

These friends were renting a condo in Dillon, and had invited us to hang out with them after skiing. This was it. They had just given us the chance we had been looking for. All we needed to do now was execute the rest of our night in textbook college student fashion.

They gladly gave us directions, and just as we were about to hang up, one of our friends at the condo asked where we planned on sleeping. Oh, we definitely don’t want to drive under the influence, so when you guys decide to go to bed, we’ll just go outside and sleep in the back of the car. We said it nonchalantly, as if it were no big deal, but with just the right amount of disregard for our own personal safety, and BAM! Thanks to the invisible hand of pity, we had just made the first step towards securing ourselves some costless indoor lodging.

We couldn’t seem too dependent on our friends, though, so we cooked a Top Ramen dinner over a Whisper Light stove in the condo parking lot. We even took the time to prepare our car in the event that we would have to sleep in it.  In reality, we just wanted to show our friends and their gang that we actually had intended to sleep outside (which by all means we did not). After a satisfyingly free dinner, we headed up to the condo bearing gifts of flowers and a honeydew melon. We were warmly accepted, and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the night by providing our hosts with lively entertainment. Before we entered, the three of us made a pact: whenever we were asked where we were staying for the night, we would adamantly insist on spending the night in the car. Our plan worked. Each time we responded, we could feel their pity growing. It grew and grew until it could be contained no more, and we were begrudgingly forced to stay in the condo that night. Secret high fives under the table! Our second night of indoor lodging had been secured!

Contrary to what we were promised would be a raucous good time, the condo crew turned into the lame crew and went to bed at 10:10—but so it goes when you are at the mercy of others. We decided not to protest in case the invitation of free lodging was withdrawn; such are the perils of freeloading. The next morning, a marginal amount of bitterness may have ensued as our hosts realized we never had any intention of sleeping in the car the previous night. But, as it usually goes with friends, their bitterness eventually blew over.

On Friday, we were able to get in another full day of free skiing as volunteers, but were once again faced with the same predicament as we walked to our car: Where would we sleep tonight? After making some calls and chauffeuring for some friends, we arrived at a house near Hoosier Pass. When we walked in the door the host chastised us a bit, but she was justified—the party was getting out of control in a very typical CC fashion. We quickly tamed the beast and calmed her temper in a flash. It took nothing more than a quick trip to the sink to clean the night’s dishes and repeated compliments referring to her everlasting Helen of Troy-esque beauty. Most people (especially drunk people) love compliments. After dishing out several of these (actually) genuine compliments to the host, we had basically guaranteed a free night of lodging. From there, all we had to do was enjoy ourselves, make people laugh, and keep giving out the compliments. Booyakasha! Three nights, no pay.

We woke up early Saturday morning, and left before anyone else had awoken. Using the free skiing vouchers that we earned the day before, we had another great day of skiing. At the end of the day, we rode the gondola down to the base, content with the knowledge that we were about to drive to our most surefire destination yet: We had made plans to stay with friends from CU at a house in Winter Park.

All was well until we realized that sometime during the day, the car keys had fallen out of Matt’s jacket while he was skiing. Cold reality quickly set in—along with an incoming blizzard. We were locked out of our car, all of our cell phones were on the verge of dying, and we had to get the car out of the parking lot before nightfall or it would be towed. With each minute that passed, it was looking more and more like our once-successful block break was about to turn into a complete disaster.

Yet just as we had been able to adapt to earlier situations in the trip, we somehow found a way to make it out of yet another shaky situation.  Luckily, AAA came to the rescue. Jeremy, a friendly AAA representative, sent out a locksmith who was able to unlock the doors and make a new key on the spot, all free of charge. Relieved, we headed over Berthoud Pass to Winter Park, had a good time, stayed for free, and on Sunday, drove down to Boulder where we were served a free steak dinner courtesy of the Liston parents. This dinner not only proved that Matt’s parents really do love him, but also served as the perfect capstone to our block break experiment.

While this may sound like a long line of lying and deceit to push the costs of our trip onto others, we hope our example of mooching will set a standard for future collaborative efforts among CC students. We don’t want to be those kids who brag to have never paid for anything throughout college, and we must mention that for every moocher there must be someone mooched upon. To all those wonderful people who took us in for the night, please do not remember us as obtrusive and cheap guests; instead, think of us as Greek gods testing the limits of your hospitality. And though we cannot thank you with promises of good fortune or half-god children, know that you helped lift us towards a dream that every CC student should share. Thanks to you, the free block break lives.

Living the Block Break Dream


1 Comment

Filed under Adaptation

One response to “Living the Block Break Dream

  1. Hey all,
    Next time you drive over Berthoud Pass you could stop and do some of the best free skiing (that’s skiing for no money) in the West.

    Join us for an avy education and get out there safely.
    *Shan Sethna
    Executive Director, Friends of Berthoud Pass,
    CC Class of ’91

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