A nauseating smell began to gather in the air. A smell so ghastly, it brought forth coughs, gags, and stung the eyes to tears. The front of the school bus was gray and blue with smoke. Our watches and cell phones read only 9:15 am, and we still had twenty-three more hours to travel. This was the beginning of our long trek from the mountains of North Carolina, home of the camp the WILDS, up to Concord, New Hampshire.
Around 160 teenagers attended a week at the WILDS for camp which included daily devotional time, chapel services, games, and getting to know new people you were with. August 4, 2007 rolled around, and it was time to depart. From my youth group, we brought four school buses, two fifteen-passenger vans, and a mini U-Haul. As everyone loaded the buses, tears were shed, laughs were heard, and some were already sleeping waiting to just go home. After about ten minutes of packing up every suitcase and sleeping bag, we made our way back. The ride was going rather smoothly, until we pulled onto the highway. That was when the deathly smell crept in, and an unforgettable ride began.
There were about 40 girls on the school bus that suddenly stopped, putted, and died. The rest of the buses and vehicles continued driving in hopes for a mechanic nearby. After two hours of sitting on the side of the highway, one of the chaperones found a part to get us back on the road, and we were on our way. Stopping for lunch and dinner was a breeze, and all were excited to be going home. Little did we know the trouble ahead. At 11:00 pm, the smell was back, and even stronger. We found ourselves again on the side of a highway in Virginia. This time, the extent of the damage and drama would be worse.
It was a very hot, muggy night, and one of the girls became quite dehydrated. As the ambulance was being called to come, another girl began to scream. Apparently, she had a tremendous, strange fear of ambulances! She could not look at, or hear one. Another girl was trying to make everyone happy by making animal balloons. As one accidentally popped, one of the chaperones’ baby began to cry. Needless to say it was quite a long night. As 2:00 am rolled around, we gave up on trying to fix the bus. We piled into another one that came back for us, and drove to a rest stop where everyone else was found sleeping on the ground. In order to get home, we had to stuff 80 girls into one bus, while we left the other one on the road. New Hampshire came into view around 2:00 pm the next day, and we were home around 3:00. I never found out what happened to the left behind bus. All I know is I never want to see it again.
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