By Wendy Hayworth
Three college graduates set off on a cross-country road trip on Thursday, July 17. Their mode of transport is a refurbished 1988 delivery truck, which they converted to serve ice cream and run on vegetable oil.
It all began three years ago, when recent Stanford graduate Caleb Kruse was talking with some friends. They wanted to take a road trip but were unsure of how they could fund such a large adventure. A friend suggested that they sell ice cream.
“That idea really resonated with me,” Kruse said. “A road trip is a very American thing to do, it’s very uncommon in other countries, and an ice cream truck is classically American.”
Captivated by this idea, Kruse set out to find funding.
“It was hard getting anyone to gravitate to it because it’s kind of an unusual idea,” Kruse said.
Last November Kruse, his older brother Cameron, and their friend Jordan Fatke applied for the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant.
In February, the group partnered with National Geographic Kids to travel the country to teach kids about conservation and give out free ice cream.
The ice cream itself comes in four flavors: coconut and purple yam, avocado, guava, and mango. These unusual flavors are staples of the Magnolia Ice Cream Company, a company started by Pilipino immigrants hoping to branch out to a larger audience.
“They just wrote to National Geographic before any of this was public, just kind of a publicity blast email, and National Geographic saw that and forwarded it to me,” Kruse said. “It’s just been a perfect partnership and we love their ice cream.”
The trip consists of 16 planned stops where the trio teaches explorations and conservation to kids as they enjoy their free ice cream.
“An explorer doesn’t need to be someone who is, you know, trekking across the jungle or something like that,” Kruse said. “It’s sitting there and looking closely at the world around and I think that message has really resonated with a lot of kids.”
The kids are encouraged to pick a place in their community to explore and take care of. They are given pledges where they can draw their location and promise to take care of it.
There is more to the trip than the scheduled visits, such as when the truck found itself in Lee’s Summit on Wednesday, August 6.
“Since two of the boys are my adopted grandsons, they just wanted to see us and so they drove on over here,” resident Tom Flint said.
These impromptu stops help spread the message of conservation even further and show what the trip is really about.
“Driving through the real open highway in Montana, we just pulled off the side of the road for a second and a rancher and his two children came up to the truck,” Kruse said. “We talked to them about where they lived and a little bit about exploration.”
Throughout the trip, the group is documenting their adventures on various forms of social media, while Fatke films for their upcoming documentary on the adventure.
The trip is not quite halfway over. Their progress can be tracked through various forms of social media. They can be found on both Twitter and Instagram @Icexpedition, on Facebook at facebook.com/ICexpedition, their website theicecreamexpedition.com, and through kids.nationalgeographic.com.
“It’s great because it just really breaks down barriers,” Kruse said. “So far the reception has just been wonderful.”