This time, there wasn’t a mad dash to get off the bus for food. This time, the words “I have to use the bathroom!!!” weren’t being screamed or yelled. This time, we all had tears in our eyes, a stench to our clothes, a slower walk, and memories that will last us more than a lifetime. This time, would be the last time we would be together as 90. This time it was day 23.
Davidson College was the starting point on my 23 day experience across America. After endless questions from the Not So 60 Seconds game, ranging from “what is your name?” to “are you a folder or a wader?” A flat tire later, we reached our first sunrise and sunset in LaGrange, Georgia. That night I learned quickly how much I hated trains, and how Vikki’s wake up calls are better than an alarm clock.
I had to go through 10 o’clock in the morning twice before getting to see New Orleans, and 9 o’clock three times in order to roll in grass at the Alamo chanting, “Alamo!, Alamo!, Alamo!” for good luck. Those with doubts were granted with a 1 o’clock in the morning sprinkler system shower. While the rest were rewarded in the form of a rainstorm and a record low temperature the night before hiking the Grand Canyon.
A stampede of 180 feet made a cloud of canyon dust as we ran to see the canyon’s indescribable beauty. The feelings of life’s true meaning hit me as soon as I saw the sunset over the rim. I was apart of the “dirty 30” who made the six mile hike down and back into the canyon. A shower and a mystery stew never felt so good.
The irony of being in the Sin City on a Sunday made the next day of sand, sun, and touching the Pacific for the first time memorable.
While Michael Jackson’s death made the Hollywood streets hectic, nothing compared to the crowd of raging fans from Harry Potter that were pranked by Sally Claire. The night battle with skunks and the hallmark stop at TWB mountain made the coastal highway drive more unspeakable. After a meal in Chinatown, and a walk across the Golden Gate, I was no longer westward bound.
With seven days left of memories to make, the stop at a small chapel that followed Jackson Hole,WY taught me not only about the key to happiness, but to live each day as like it was your last, and to cherish the friendships and memories I made in the past 16 days. From day six on, I soaked up every detail that I could. Packing the bus in a near tornado, gobbling the Archway of the West, eating at the original KFC, and finding out what the counselors really knew; the sunset of day 22.
I held back my tears until John Denver’s “Today” was strummed on Dennis’s guitar. Teary hugs and “I love you’s” were exchanged quickly until the horn blew. Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at the same spot where my adventure had started. Arm in arm we sung our final song, “This land” – not wanting to let go.
Twenty-three days ago I met 90 strangers from Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Ohio.. In three short weeks they became more than my friends, they became family, and a part my life forever. We shared laughter, tears, meals, and stories.. We made memories,lifelong friendships, and we remember our trip with a Doctor Suess quote, “Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened.”
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