The morning air entered my lungs again as I rose from a three and a half hour slumber on the comfiest couch I could get my hands on. We were supposed to have a wake up call at 7:00 to be loading the bus by 8:00, but the alarm never made it to our door. It was 7:36, and I was just coming into consciousness.
What a way to start the day.
Despite this awakening, I knew today was going to be another amazing day on the tip-top trip of trips. Surprisingly I had time to get ready, dressed, and eat breakfast while still loading the bus on time, then we were off to the service project for the day. This was one of my favorites - the arboretum. In accordance with North Carolina University, this arboretum was a beautiful blessing to the locals. We were introduced to a lady named C.C. (she said just the initials), and handed off to many different jobs around the site. Two people here, three there...washing fountains to spreading mulch. I decided to spread some mulch around the parking lot with Ashley and Ramo, who were delightfully eager to know the UNI fight song. Now listen...I'm not the best singer in the world, but I'm pretty proud of the progress they made and all the other people that were watching and listening. I'd say about four or five people know it all the way through, but the entire bus has heard it sung at least from afar. I'm also proud to say that I know the Illinois State fight song like the back of my hand - pretty well, but sometimes there's a blemish or two that I don't know about :)
Together we spread mulch across a few parking lots, dug a trench next to a relocated bay leaf bush, and cleaned up some branches and twigs for easy pickup. The people running the arboretum were so kind, had wonderful accents, and treated us like family. They made us a big taco buffet for lunch, and everything was much appreciated on our part. We had the chance to explore the grounds a bit, so I walked around with Molly and got to know her while seeing some amazing upkeep on this beautiful garden. They have what's called the Ability Garden, where kids with disabilities can go to get away for a while with supervision and guidance. Like I said, this place is nothing but a blessing.
We said our goodbyes, the bus was loaded, and we were off yet again to another adventure. This time there was no guessing game or surprise; we all knew what came next.
Or so we thought.
Let me back up. While getting ready this morning, some of the bus core said to put our swimsuits under our clothes because we might be getting very wet at the arboretum while doing work. Nothing of what we did there was even remotely close to getting soaked - unless you fell in the pond. So here we are, on the bus with our bus buddies (mine was Nick - he's awesome.), sitting in our dry swimsuits, but none of us seemed to mind or care. When we get farther into South Carolina, the core announces that we have to make a pit stop for about an hour to check tire pressure. And I'm pretty sure we all bought it :)
We were actually stopping at MYRTLE BEACH.
To even begin to describe how excited I was is a challenge. I grabbed my towel and shower shoes and headed to the beach. I let my body go numb while diving under and riding with the waves in the ice cold water, walked along the beach in search of seashells and shark teeth, and chilled while sun tanning on the warm sand. We stayed for two hours, and my still mind couldn't fathom the idea that we were by the ocean when we left. A couple more hours of switching bus buddies, and we finally made it to Charleston, where we were allowed about and hour and a half to venture for food on King Street - the busiest one, it seemed. My group of Ciera, Connor, Krisy, Ashley K., Ashley F., Molly, and Eric found a fantastic barbecue restaurant called Jim and Nick's. The food was fast, the ribs were great, and the biscuits were like heaven in my mouth. Definitely a recommendation for those traveling to Charleston anytime soon.
We made it back to the bus and pulled into the hotel, where 290 other STLFers were waiting to meet and greet us. I met up with my UNI people again and swapped some stories, but I couldn't leave the comfort of my bus people. We were debriefed on the hotel situation and the service project tomorrow, and all of us signed up to see historic downtown Charleston for tomorrow because we had already been to a beach today (which was the other option). After that, most of the group gathered into one room to work on our bus song - more details to come after tomorrow night - and it really showed the dynamic of this group to keep together and work on a common goal as a team, even though we were all exhausted. I finally went to bed around midnight in the comfiest bed I've laid eyes on since I left Cedar Falls a week ago. It was even a Sleep Number. Yeah.
Tonight, the only thing that runs through my mind is three days...only three days left. But this is far from a countdown of good measure. It is a countdown to when reality sinks in again, and I wake up from this dream.
This incredible dream, in which words to describe are close to impossible.