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NOLS On the Road
A Well-Oiled Crew

By Julie Hwang
NOLS is on the road… and coming to a town near you! Click here to learn more.


NOLS grad Erin Peterson getting ready to hit the "streets" at Travel Show Chicago 2005.
They’ve been sliding into towns on veggie oil together since mid-November. They’ve driven well over 10,000 miles, handed out a countless number of catalogs, handled over 80 events including two huge trade shows, checked innumerous grease traps in alleys, enjoyed first ocean sightings, given away tons of free gear, held impromptu banjo jam sessions, answered more questions than they’d be able to shake a stick at, spoken with prospective students, concerned and interested parents, curious folks at rest stops, restaurant owners, fellow musicians, rock climbers, outdoor enthusiasts and alternative fuel advocates, all while living in motel rooms and one decked-out, 36-foot bus.

The NOLS team is calling themselves “the first and longest urban NOLS expedition.” Grads Ashley Lewis and Winter Ramos rode away from Lander back in August, sticky with champagne, and were later joined by grad Matt Copeland and Jared Scott to drive the tour onward. Somewhere in the midst of this country, as the breakfast fare changed from cereal, muffins, bagels and cream cheese to biscuits, grits and gravy, these co-workers became a team of friends. Their journey has become the ultimate in working together toward a common goal.

“We’re coming closer together as a team,” Scott says. This shift in mentality from individuals doing a job to a group working together toward a common goal kept Lewis on board through her intended stopping point in February. “I just didn’t want to leave that,” the southern dancer explains. She also felt it important to keep a female presence on the bus.

The crew’s success depends daily on their expedition behavior, much like any NOLS expedition. Copeland akins the bus crew to a NOLS Instructor team rather than a group of students. “We’re like a well-oiled machine,” he says. “Pun intended.”

“The group is great,” Ramos says, “we just fit. We’re from different backgrounds, parts of the country, have different interests, but we complement each other. We’re great together.” They’ve come from forming, through storming and norming, to performing. “It’s not easy,” Copeland points out, “but things are more rewarding, more successful.” As the bus rolls into Massachusettes, its 29st state, their energy holds steady.

At the two trade shows in Chicago and New York, the bus crew gained all-star help from the marketing department, as well as alumni who volunteered their time to join the “NOLS Street Team.” For each event, the Street Teams helped over 2,000 folks find their way to the bus by donning classic NOLS windpants, a NOLS t-shirt, and Lowe backpack and pointing people in the right direction. “I had an amazing NOLS experience; therefore, I wanted to promote NOLS to my fellow Midwesterners,” says Erin Peterson, a Chicago resident and graduate from a 2002 Alaska Outdoor Educator course.

By mid-April, they’ll still be spreading the good NOLS word  in the be northeast.Ramos will be departing for his Instructor course in Alaska, Scott will be thinking about his brother’s wedding in May on the West coast, and only Lewis and Copeland will be left to ride the bus home in June. They will hand the bus over to the next generation, probably in a ceremony involving some tears but more laughter, a banjo and a button that reads, “How’s your EB?”

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