McDermotts on the Road: Virginia and D.C.

In our third and final Spring Break post, we follow some of our seniors on a road trip to Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Sam Hartke ’13: Andrew Wei ’13, Eric Chen ’13, Adam Mendonça ’13, Andrew Vaccaro ’13, Marisa Campain ’13, and I road tripped through Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee to visit friends in Virginia and Washington, D.C.!

McAfee Knob group shot

Andrew W.: Our first stop (aside from three completely worthwhile hours waiting in Nashville for fried chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack) was Radford, Virginia where Andrew Vaccaro’s family lives. The Vaccaros were kind enough to let us stay in one of their cabins. It was a wonderful place to wake up in the morning and make breakfast before preparing for a day’s worth of hiking.


Sam: I loved meeting Andrew Vaccaro’s dog, Phoebe, a toy poodle – she was an absolutely lovely hiking partner!

Sam and Phoebe 2

Andrew W.: We took so many Phoebe pictures…

Avac and Phoebe

Sam: A really great surprise on our road trip was when I found out that Radford has a pizza place that makes 28″ (read: basically hula hoop size) pizzas. I didn’t think the day could get better after hiking with Phoebe, but it did.

Benny's pizza

Sam: The highlight of my trip was of course spending time with ❤ Lauren ❤ in D.C. and seeing where she lived and worked. We also made time to visit several museums – which are my favorite things to see in D.C.

Andrew W.: Seeing our friends in D.C. was awesome! We came in right after a big snowstorm had hit; I’d only ever been to D.C. in the summer so seeing the Mall covered in snow was a novel experience. I’m glad we got to spend a few days exploring the city with friends that have been away from campus for a while.


Sam: My favorite few hours of the entire trip were spent sloshing/slipping through snow-covered trails in Shenandoah National Park on our last day before heading home.

Shenandoah 1

Andrew W.: The snow and sunlight was absolutely breathtaking. At some point along the trail we all just stopped and started taking pictures, including pictures of each other taking pictures.

Sam: The park was pretty empty but the sunny, warm weather was perfect for hiking, throwing snowballs, and making snowmen!

Shenandoah 4

Sam: Traveling with McDermott friends was great! It was nice to spend time relaxing with them since we’re often juggling busy schedules and don’t get extended periods of downtime together.


Andrew W.: Even though it can be hard spending spring break away from home after spending all semester at school, it’s totally worth it to travel with friends while we have these convenient school breaks when we’re all free. No matter how well I think I know everyone, I always learn something new.

Sam: I learned that Adam, Eric, and the Andrews will do anything for fried chicken. I also learned that communication is key (because my previous 519 lessons on that have taught me nothing) and that having a clearly laid out plan before hand is beneficial to everyone involved. I also found that having a pre-downloaded cache of podcasts and good music was very helpful. Even if no one else appreciates your Shania Twain album.


Sam: If we went back I would stretch out our road trip schedule. On our last day we drove for 16 hours!! I would love to have more time to stop in cities or find local hikes, especially since I’ve never visited Tennessee. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Andrew W.: I had an amazing time on this trip and it was a great way to spend my last spring break at UTD. If anything, I wish we’d taken more pictures, but I’m sure our collective memory will keep all the fun moments alive for years to come.

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