"There's enough people from Ekalaka going here that I could ride with probably four or five other people," Tauck said.
Denise Angvick of Plentywood knows at least six MSU students who share her hometown, but the freshman prefers to drive the 500 miles alone, especially since she stops halfway to visit her boyfriend in Havre.
"We could carpool, but this break is so long that we want to have our cars," she added before Christmas.
Other MSU students may fly away for the holidays. Some will ride with someone they met in class or elsewhere on campus. Others advertise for rides or riders by filling out a 3-by-5 card, occasionally drawing sketches of their destination, paying 25 cents and posting the card at the Ride Board in the Strand Union Building basement.
The Ride Board consists of a large map of the United States surrounded by 10 wooden slots corresponding to regions of the nation. Cards have to be approved at the Ask-Us Desk. Students who post cards then wait for the phone to ring and hope the caller is compatible enough in personality and travel plans that they can ride together.
"Seattle, Minneapolis and Salt Lake are probably the most common destinations," said Tyler Cegler of Stevensville, assistant manager of the Ask-Us Desk.
Stephanie Hurst wanted to visit a friend in California, so she posted a card in Slot 3.
"Unfortunately, the airlines tend to gouge you over the holidays," said the postdoctoral researcher who doesn't have a car. Her card contained a tiny Australian flag and described her as a "friendly, non-smoking Australian girl" who could help with fuel costs and driving.
Mike Ciccone advertised in Slot 10 for riders. The graduate student was headed for the Pittsburgh area and planned to leave after finals and return before Martin Luther King Day, but the exact dates were negotiable. So was the route. "Can take I-94, I-90, I-80 or I-70, depending on where you need to go," he wrote.
He would drive 1,962 miles and spend about $250 on gas each way if he went by himself, said Ciccone, who was looking forward to eating a seven-course meal with his Italian relatives. His aunt starts with a fruit dish, then serves a salad, soup, lasagna and other dishes before ham and wine. After an hour or two, she brings out desserts and coffee. She later sets out nuts and candy.
Wherever they go and however they get there, many MSU students return to school with tales of their travels.
Angvick said she was speeding when a Havre policeman stopped her and noticed a picture of Angvick's boyfriend on the dashboard.
"He said, 'That's my brother-in-law. You must be the girlfriend.' It was pretty embarrassing," Angvick said.
Evan Johnson rode home to Driggs, Idaho with someone who had a shaved head and only wanted to talk about the group, "The Smashing Pumpkins." Johnson found another ride back to MSU. When he went home for Thanksgiving, Johnson rode with a driver whose alternator died. They had to stop eight to 10 times to jump the battery.
"A three-hour drive became a six-hour drive," said Johnson, who envies his roommate for flying and continuing to earn free airline tickets by getting bumped from his scheduled flights.
"I'm actually pretty jealous of him," Johnson said.
Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or firstname.lastname@example.org