What follows is the story of my almost-month-long road trip around the better part of the United States, which will be broken up into several different posts.
It was June 7, 2012. Our high school friend Elin was coming all the way from Norway to visit — this my college roommate Julia and I knew. We had all grown up together in Papua New Guinea, but we hadn’t seen her for a year and a half, so we were both beside ourselves with excitement. There had been talk of a road trip out to Yellowstone to show Elin America while she was here, but beyond that, I didn't know much.
What I did know was that we were driving up to Pennsylvania for a week to attend two weddings. So, our trip began on June 8, when we drove from Charlotte, N.C., up to Lancaster, Penn., to attend the first wedding.
We arrived in Lancaster that night and saw dozens of friends from my school in Papua New Guinea who had all congregated for the matrimonial festivities (missionary kids love weddings, don’t you know?). Julia, Elin and I embraced our two long-lost friends Kelsey and Kacie (whose older sister was getting married that next day) like giddy children and set out for a diner so we could catch up on the last two years of each other’s lives.
It was here that we met Jeff, the friendliest waiter of all times. His mind was blown when he found out that we were from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Sweden but that we had all grown up in Papua New Guinea. We consequently took a group picture with him and went back to Lancaster Bible College, where most of the wedding guests were staying.
That next afternoon we arrived at the church to get our wedding on. The ceremony was beautiful, with flowers and candles everywhere and people weeping on both sides of the aisle (me included). At the reception we took dozens of group photos, sang a song in Melanesian Pidgin to the bride and groom and wrote life advice with Sharpie on the new couple’s Jenga set.
Most of the guests left in a mass exodus starting at 4 a.m. the morning of the eleventh, but since we would be around for the next couple days, Kacie asked Elin, Julia and I if we’d like to go with her family to Ocean City, New Jersey, for the day. Of course we agreed, and we set off early that morning for a day of hot sunshine on the boardwalk.
Out of sheer stupidity and an undying wish to have bronzed caramel skin, I didn’t put any sunscreen on my legs, and received a painful sunburn within hours. Although walking along the boardwalk was in itself torture for my fried limbs, it was nevertheless a great day. We ate overpriced ice cream and saw more fluorescent-colored One Direction shirts than I ever care to gaze upon again. Seagulls swung low and nearly crapped on our faces and we made the best icicle sandcastle you have ever seen. People were coming up just to take pictures of it on their phones. It looked like a winter wonderland with crystal Christmas trees adorning a frosted hillside.
Then that night we said goodbye to everyone and headed to Philadelphia to spend two nights with Julia’s brother and his family. We got to walk around in town the next day, ate some delicious Philly cheese steaks and went into some awesome shops, one of which was an antique light store with every bulb in the place shining. Magical doesn’t even begin to describe it.
On the thirteenth we said farewell to Philadelphia and left for Lancaster to spend one last night with Kacie; however, on the way, we came upon the gloriously Amish town of Intercourse. The name really just means a road junction, but it was so funny we had to stop and look around. There were horse and buggies everywhere and Amish shops on every corner. Of course we all bought postcards with the word “Intercourse” on it, and I bought a mug and magnet that read, “I love Intercourse, PA.”
It was later that day at Kacie’s house that we found the most pathetic kitten in the whole world. It was a homeless orange tabby, and it stayed outside their door mewing at all hours of the day and night. Kacie’s dad warned us not to touch it, since they were going back to Papua New Guinea soon and couldn’t deal with a cat, but it broke our hearts looking at its sad little face, just wanting to be loved. It would follow us to the car every time we went outside, and we had to avoid eye contact and scream out things like, “No, kitty! Don’t seduce us with your adorable face!” as it rubbed up against our legs.
That night, our high school friends Ben and Raube arrived at the house in order to drive up to the second wedding with us the next day. After they saw the poor little kitten, they decided to adopt it, and as a result drove around at midnight trying to find cat food. The next morning we discovered a fed, contented kitten that had been given the weighty name of Firecrotch.