By NICK NELSON
For the approximately 20,235 BYU students who don’t claim scenic Utah as their state of primary residence, fall semester means interstate road trips.
Students will congregate near the ride board in the Wilkinson Center like sea gulls converging on a Provo park picnic.
The ride board connects home-bound students whose journeys lead them in a common direction.
The rules of the board are simple: drivers fill out a blue slip of paper; passengers-to-be fill out a yellow one.
The papers are then placed in small wooden boxes that correspond to the various geographic regions of North America. (All U.S. states are represented on the board – even, perplexingly, Hawaii – as are the Canadian provinces and Mexico.)
Then, when wills, fates and planets are properly aligned, driver finds passenger – or vice versa – and voila, a road-trip fellowship is formed.
Usually over the phone, they decide where to meet and settle on an estimated time of departure. Then comes the sensitive matter of gas money.
This is, after all, the reason for the ride board’s existence.
With oil passing $51 a barrel, the board assumes an increasingly prominent role for road-trippers.
But how should the cost of gas be divided?
“Equally,” said Miriam Jensen, a junior from Cary, N.C. majoring in physiology. “Equally between each person that’s riding in the car.”
Jensen reasoned that drivers would make the trip anyway, so help with gas is simply a plus.
“I think if you’re really generous, you can offer to pay for more, but that person’s already going, and they’re the one who put up the blue card and is looking for passengers,” she said.
While no definitive standard exists to divvy up gas money, tradition inserts the cost as the numerator and the number of passengers as denominator in an easy, egalitarian equation.
“It’s definitely something you want to work out before you go,” said Jamie Jensen. Jensen wrote the book on road tripping – literally. His first informal research for “Road Trip USA” began when in his early twenties, Jamie dropped out of college to hitchhike across the country.
But he said preoccupation with gas money could cause many travelers to miss what he sees as the point of travel via asphalt.
“For me, the road trip mode is actually getting your money’s worth,” he said. “You can stop, you can experience a place. Racing by at 70 mph, you’re never going to get a sense of what’s going on. If you stop for just 10 or 15 minutes, you get to use all your senses instead of just seeing a place.”
Jamie warned against the tendency to race past historic or otherwise significant sites to shave a few minutes off a trip.
“Get out and actually read the historical roadside marker instead of whizzing past it,” he said. “Be prepared to stop. Enjoy the ride.”
He said many schools have methods of hooking up travelers who share a common destination. He relied on such services traveling between University of California at Berkley, where he later earned a degree in architecture, and his home in Los Angeles.
BYU’s ride board was created and is now maintained by the BYU Student Service Association. As of Wednesday, 18 blue papers and 73 yellow papers gave evidence that the ride board is doing its job.