The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, March 18, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, March 18, 2018

They're not exactly the beer-chugging, dance-on-the-bar crowd, but pastors know how to fun, too. Given the time of year, we asked 10 area faith leaders to tell us about their wildest spring break in this Clergy Corner-meets-Big 10 crossover column.

Fairmount, Fairview and Georgetown United Methodist

"I didn't go to college after high school. I grew up at the end of the Vietnam era and my draft number was coming up so I joined the Navy during my senior year and reported after graduation. I was young, naïve and did not know the world like I thought I did.

"Within a few months, I found myself on an ammunition ship off the coast of Vietnam. It was our ship's turn for R&R — the military version of spring break. We were set for a nice visit to Australia, when our orders changed and we were sent to Thailand. A group of us visited Bangkok and that's when I found out there was a world out there that I had never heard of.

"I knew I wasn't in central Illinois anymore. Bangkok was like Las Vegas without any rules. I saw things that you can't un-see. I wanted out of there fast. I was 19 and I wanted the safety of the ship I came in on.

"Fortunately for me, I was not alone. We managed to charter a van to get us back to our ship, which was docked some 60 miles away. We arrived safely.

"The next day, we went to a resort where we heard we could ski. Great fun except I got brave enough to try being towed by a boat with a para-sail strapped to me. Great view from up there, but I found out real quick that it is not wise to land on the beach instead of the water — thus the end of my life with water sports."

St. Andrew's Lutheran Campus Center

"The one I remember most clearly was the school-sponsored Habitat for Humanity trip I took when I was at St. Olaf College. We went to Jackson, Miss., to work on houses, and after the trip, we drove in our huge 15-passenger van to New Orleans for one night of fun before making the long haul back to Minnesota.

"We parked in the only spot big enough we could find — in a dark alley. We wound up with a brick through the window, lots of valuables stolen and a trip to the police department after dancing it up and imbibing a bit. The police laughed when we asked how long it would take to make our report, explaining that our incident was quite minor compared to others.

"After hours and hours, we had to kick it into high gear to get back to Minnesota, so we left without fixing the van window. It was great until we got so far north that it was snowing. We tried covering that window with everything, but the laws of physics left us with a big open hole each time we got up to 55 miles per hour. Finally, we wrapped the window around its exterior frame with duct tape, mummy style.

"I don't remember being cold, but we were surely were. I do remember laughing most of the way home."

Danville St. James UMC

"Spring break 1973, my freshman year in college. My college friend and I were staying in a church fellowship hall 'on the beach' because another friend's dad was the pastor and he gave us free space.

"One afternoon while enjoying the beach and the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, we noticed a magnificent creature float by. It was multi-colored and seemed to glow in the intense Florida sun. It floated away — or so we thought. As we were making our way back up to the beach, in very shallow water, there it was again.

"Suddenly, it floated over the top of my friend's foot — and he let out a scream of intense pain and agony. 'It shocked me,' he screamed.

"Come to find out, it was a Portuguese man o' war — a type of jellyfish — which neither of us had ever before seen. It was beautiful, but my friend's excruciating pain from its sting has remained with me all these years."

Tolono First Baptist

I grew up in central Florida, so we were on permanent spring break."

Champaign Sinai Temple

"For several years growing up, my dad — who was also a rabbi — would organize an RV camping trip with other families from the synagogue during spring break. About a dozen families would rent RVs and caravan to a campsite where we'd spend time getting close to nature — but not too close.

"As we drove on down the highway, we communicated by CB radio. Our family's 'handle' was Cookie Monster, based on our last name."

Gibson City New Beginnings

"I didn't come down the road that most pastors do. I didn't go to seminary and then a church. I went to school, worked full-time and started pastoring.

"When I was 17, I left home to move to Florida. On the way down, my 1966 Chevy Biscayne — which I traded for my 1974 VW square back, a real chick magnet, and which wouldn't go over 50 miles per hour — broke down in Chattanooga. We pushed the car into a gas station, where Bubba — yes, that really was his name — wound end up changing the timing gear on our car.

"When we walked to the hotel, there was a guy outside sitting on a bucket playing an electric guitar. This was my Blues Brothers moment. Since we were low on money, I sold my portable black-and-white TV to the gas station owner so we'd have enough money to eat."

Danville Community Church of God

"My senior year and his sophomore year of college, my brother and I decided to go skiing in Colorado for several days. We were poor college students (in Indiana), so we had to figure out how we could do this on a tight budget. We were going to ski — that was priority.

"We stayed in a hostel all week — basically a common room full of bunk beds. Kind of like our college dorms. It was cheap living and we didn't care. Also, in order to cut cost on food, we brought our own gourmet options — tuna, tortillas and peanut butter. Didn't even splurge to get jelly.

"We had a great week skiing every day. And, to top off the trip, we ended by splurging on one meal. It was a steakhouse that I had visited a couple of years prior. And by steakhouse, I mean that was literally the only menu item they served. Steak. The only menu choice you got was how big you wanted your steak. It was a man's feast.

"That, still to this day, is the best steak I've ever had. Of course, I don't know if that's because it truly was or because we were tired of eating tuna and peanut butter tortilla rolls all week."

Urbana Stone Creek

"I was 18, had just bought a new-to-me, used car and along with two friends traveled to Saltillo, Mexico. This was the first time I had ever driven out of the state of Indiana.

"We drove forever, it seemed, and ended up staying in a hotel 100 miles from Laredo where we were going to cross the border. When we woke up the next morning, the transmission had gone out in the car. We ended up being stranded in Laredo, Texas for two weeks. It was awesome.

"The crazy thing was that while we were there, we attended a church and someone from my hometown happened to be visiting a friend in Laredo. We laughed at the coincidence of it all but made some good friends and ended up having a great time nonetheless."

Champaign Meadowbrook

"In 1993, I went on a spring break trip with my youth group to Fort Lauderdale. We had a wonderful trip. On the way home, however, we ran straight into the 'storm of the century,' a blizzard that hit the Atlanta area. The entire South shut down.

"Our Youth for Christ group got stranded in the basement of a large Baptist church for four days. That congregation took great care of us, including hot meals. It was the end of an eight-day trip and one of our leaders had to find a laundromat to make sure we all had clean undies."

Indianola and Ridge Farm UMC

"My spring breaks were all the same. I went home and helped out on the farm. This was in the '60s so the tractors were open, and we had livestock but I was glad to do it."

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