We left Rochester at 7:00 pm with high energy and expectations after the Sending service. Our first bus driver, Jack, took us to La Crosse, then handed over the wheel to Roger. Heavy traffic and road construction slowed our progress to a crawl through sections of Wisconsin, but at least we had some rain and lightning to watch as we crept along the interstate. Those who were unimpressed by the weather watched The Princess Bride. The bus chatter perked up after we finished swarming a rest area near Madison, WI, but quieted down during the movie Up and dwindled as many dropped into cramped, fitful sleep.
A quick stop for “drivers only” (only half the youth get off the bus) around 4:30 am and another short ride took us to Sikeston, MO, where we stopped for breakfast, fuel and a new driver, Loren. As many youth watched three movies, the Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi countryside rolled past the bus windows. In addition to idly watching, many napped, read and looked forward with growing anticipation to the swamp tour, but mostly to getting off the bus.
We stepped off the bus in La Place, LA for our swamp tour and immediately started melting from the 98 degress, 98 percent humidity. After feeding ourselves with sack lunches, we set forth on two boats to feed the alligators, which enjoyed marshmallows and raw chicken necks. The alligators would launch themselves from the water to snatch treats from sticks held by (unusually) timid Lutheran teenagers. However, two of our number joined our guide on shore to wrestle an alligator, or at least grab it by the tail. Christina of Family of Christ Lutheran Church and Leah of Grace Lutheran Church showed no fear as they strained to keep the ‘gators from scrambling back into the bayou.
The rest of us had the chance to hold Elvis, a pint sized alligator on the boat. The biggest threat from Elvis came from his tiny nervous bladder. Leah Trompthegator scoffed at such silliness.
We arrived (quite fragrantly) at our hotel in downtown New Orleans at 8:45 pm and were checked into our rooms by 9:30. Many took a quick refreshing swim, we all gathered for a group meeting and hit the beds for a long anticipated snooze. We thank God for safe travels and good fellowship. We thank all the parents and friends who saw us off and for continued prayers and support.