Road Trip — Off to San Antonio!

A Peaceful Drive

It has been a little while! When I last wrote about nursing school, I was almost finished with the third semester in my four-semester program. Unfortunately, that term did not end well and I was suddenly faced with taking an extra semester before being allowed to proceed. As a result, this past (fall) semester was not only very busy, but also a very difficult time for me. I am thankful to say however that I will be entering my final semester of nursing school this coming spring. Though, even despite the debacle at the conclusion of my summer semester, I still had the opportunity to create a memorable experience alongside my nursing school friends — with the semester finally behind us, we took a road trip to San Antonio, TX.

Whenever we were granted a respite from school, our study group had made it something of a tradition to go out and do something fun together. It would always be Kelly, Thao, and Lam (the people I study with) plus Morgan (who originally studied with us, but had since fallen a semester behind) and I who would coordinate our schedules to figure something out. Reeling from the fun we had during our last outing, I remember I offhandedly mentioned to Morgan that we should perhaps do something “big” at the end of the summer semester, since it was supposed to be our third and final didactic semester in the program for most of us. I spent far more time outside of class with Morgan than any of my other nursing school friends so she tended to serve witness to my unfiltered thoughts; I distinctly recall throwing out the city “San Antonio” as the first thing that came to my mind, but Morgan was immediately excited upon hearing the idea. The idea of a “San Antonio trip” soon spread to Thao (who, I was told, began to look for hotels in the middle of lecture out of excitement) and I soon pitched the idea to the rest of the group to hear what they thought about the plan.

We knew that such a trip would not be cheap on our shoestring nursing student budgets — this is why I wanted to make sure everyone was on board to split the costs and whatnot if we ended up doing it. As luck would have it, when I spoke to Kelly about the idea, she informed me that her parents were part-owners of the Wyndham resort in San Antonio and that they could book our group a condo for three nights! Since the lodging expense would have doubtlessly been the largest of our trip, this was an extremely fortunate and generous offer from Kelly’s parents. Needless to say, we were excited for the trip and looked forward to the outing as we progressed through the semester.

However, the summer semester took its toll on everybody; the semester was notorious for being more “condensed” and fast-paced compared to its spring / fall counterparts, and by its end, tensions were high among students. With regards to our group, we tended to have a pretty complex, yet amicable, dynamic:

  • Thao and Lam were in a relationship, with Thao being loud and headstrong while Lam remained quiet yet extremely considerate
  • Kelly was a bit of a loner who felt alienated at times because of her being the oldest in the group, but had grown close to Thao and had a soft spot for Lam
  • Morgan was no longer a part of our class and fell out of touch with everyone in the group except for me. Even so, I would always invite her to group outings
  • Me, the “leader” of the group who organized our study sessions but mostly studied and spent time with Morgan outside of class

In the semester before, there had been a bit of a spat between Kelly and Thao in which Thao had been sharing things with others that Kelly had spoken to her about in confidence. Overall, it wasn’t a big deal — the two were able to sort things out and the matter soon passed.

And then, Thao did it again. Two days before the trip.

Long story short, Kelly had shared some of her secrets with Thao regarding something that had been stressing her out and Thao decided to share these secrets with someone else in an attempt to enlist their help to make Kelly feel better. Thao had her best interests at heart, but went about it completely the wrong way… and hurt Kelly in the process.

Kelly was too upset to even talk over Facebook Messenger until the day day before the trip. However, to make matters worse, Thao had the tendency to show a bit of a… cavalier attitude when trying to help people (likely from watching too much anime) and proceeded to dig her own grave by repeatedly explaining to Kelly why she did what she did for her own good. In a mangled twist of irony, Thao even [privately] shared screenshots of her ongoing text messages with Kelly in an effort to elicit advice about “what she should do.” Needless to say, Thao completely missed the point about why Kelly was upset with her and only made things worse.

Eventually, Kelly dropped the bombshell — she would not be going to San Antonio anymore. This presented an immediate problem for the rest of us since she kind of held the key to our lodging accommodations. Now, the group of course wanted Kelly to come with us, but I would be lying if the condo wasn’t foremost in everyone’s mind when Kelly chose to back out. My text messages immediately became chaos as a whirlwind of texts shot between us; we immediately set to trying to convince Kelly to join us. Eventually, I stepped up and, as Morgan said, did what I do best — I decided it was time to play leader. I created a group chat on Facebook Messenger including everyone except for Kelly and told them to be available at 8:30 PM for an emergency meeting if Kelly’s status was still unchanged by then.

8:30 PM: Still no word from Kelly. It was time for my specialty — creating a contingency plan and accounting for intervening factors. As I announced the start of the meeting, I watched as the chat bubbles dutifully popped up.

“Thao: Here”

“Lam: present”

“and I know that Morgan is here,” I type back, “let’s start.”

To put it bluntly, I proposed that the show must go on. Even before I could launch into my alternate plan proposal, the rest of the chat affirmed my stance. I explained to the group that I had come up with an alternate itinerary that would shorten our trip to two nights but still let us do all of the activities that we had planned if we were to leave earlier the next day. Now, since we no longer would have access to the condo that Kelly’s parents had booked, I warned that we would likely have to cram the four of us into a motel, share the two beds, and split the cost. I was confident that I would be able to find a place that would charge 50-60$ per night — I was quite good at that sort of thing, I assured them — so we would end up paying around 30$ each after we would split the bill. Everyone was pretty okay with this concession, noting that we would probably only go to the motel as a place to sleep and not actually spend much time hanging out there. Since Kelly was still currently an unknown variable however and we were unsure if she would change her mind at the last second, I stated that I would book the room on Hotels.com en route to San Antonio by tethering to my phone’s mobile data in the backseat of the car. Everyone agreed to this plan and I was able to finally relax a bit, knowing that the rest of the group was calmed.

Day 1 – Off to San Antonio

Today was the big day and I had woken up extra early to make sure I had everything I needed. Since we now only had two nights in San Antonio, we were going to drive directly to Six Flags: Fiesta Texas instead of visiting the theme park the next day as originally planned. Despite the fact that someone typically runs late whenever we meet up, everyone arrived more or less exactly at our designated meeting time — 7:00 am. We had decided to meet at my house so Morgan could leave her car there and Lam would only have to make one stop to pick us up; Lam always drives Thao anyways and was happy to drive us to San Antonio in his Toyota Highlander (in fact, Lam was adamant that he drive everyone together because he thought that would be the most fun).

As we all piled into Lam’s car, Thao tried to call Kelly one more time to see if she would be willing to come. No answer. This was not unexpected.

Even so, Lam wanted to try calling Kelly himself, stepping out of the SUV to do so. After a moment, Lam hurriedly came back to the car and stated that Kelly wanted to talk to Thao in person. Thao was rightly spooked by the thought, but we decided that stopping by Kelly’s house would be the right thing to do. Luckily, Kelly’s house was a little over five minutes away from mine so it didn’t take long to get there.

Thao slowly got out of the car and Lam followed to support her. Morgan and I stayed in the back seat (as this situation did not concern us) so that we could be complete bystanders to the fireworks that were about to unfold.

… it wasn’t pretty. Thao’s face was red and she was in tears and Kelly stood in front of her in a pose that I can only describe as the classic mean-girl pose that you will see on TV.

“This is like… a cinematic showdown,” I whisper to Morgan.

“Oh my God, look at how Kelly is standing,” Morgan murmurs, clearly soaking in the drama.

She tried to get me to open the door a hair so that we could better hear what they were arguing about, but I refused, lightly bopping her head in the process to chastise her. As she muttered something about drama always getting her into trouble, I turned my attention to the scene outside. Lam was quietly standing to the side as Thao begged Kelly for her forgiveness. In moments, Kelly headed back into her house and Lam escorted the sniffling Thao back to his car.

Kelly said that she would join us in twenty minutes. With that ordeal finally behind us, our original itinerary was back in effect. As Kelly got ready, we killed some time at the Starbucks across the street from her neighborhood and we were soon on our way to San Antonio. We decided it would be best if Thao joined Morgan and I in the back seat to let Kelly ride in the front of the SUV next to Lam. The atmosphere in the car was a little tense though, which in turn ended up foreshadowing the mood for the entire trip. Kelly, though she tried to put up a facsimile of enthusiasm, later admitted to me that she was still extremely mad at Thao, and Thao sat silently, still nursing the wounds that she had incurred as a result of her glass-cannon personality.

Morgan and I were a different story, however. We had no part in this drama and were in full-on vacation mode (to the point that I’m sure we were a little obnoxious at times). With Lam being quiet as usual, and Kelly and Thao still simmering, Morgan and I were like a couple of quibbling siblings in the backseat. In particular, we kept fighting over this maroon pillow that she had brought and I kept trying to steal it from her. I would in turn earn myself a barrage of verbal abuse, to which I would respond with a comeback of some sort. She would laugh, knowing my penchant for peppering broken thought processes throughout my responses. Par for the course, we were having a good time in the car! It must have surely been a little awkward for the others, but we were in our own world, determined to enjoy ourselves. The drive went on.Out The Window

Morgan had brought cash with her to pay me back some money that she owed me. As I looked at the bills in her hand, I noticed that she had folded one into the shape of a fish and was set on folding another into the shape of a cat.

“Here,” she says as she thrusts a bill into my lap, “You’re doing one too.”

I looked at the glowing screen in her lap and saw that she was watching a Youtube video detailing how to make an origami cat. As she started the video from the beginning, I was only able to follow some of the directions before getting distracted by the scenic countryside rushing past the window.

Similarly giving up after a while, Morgan glances at me as she downs a little bottle of protein shake that she brought with her. “Okay, you have to make sure I’m drinking water today,” she says with a serious expression, “I don’t want to get dehydrated…”

I shrug, intending to remind her if I happened to remember, but overall put little stock into her command.

Per Texas tradition whenever one goes on a road trip, we decided to stop at a Buc-ee’s convenience store for a break. It was nice to step out and take in the fresh air (you know, the sort that can only be felt in the middle of the countryside), even if Morgan decided to throw her pillow at me as she stepped out of the car. At this point, most of the girls needed to use the restroom and our destination was not far. As Morgan blabbered something about how we were “twins” because our shirts matched, I looked around the gigantic store. For those who have not been, Buc-ee’s stores aren’t your typical shady gas station convenience stores. They are huge, are known for their cleanliness, and have aisles upon aisles of road trip essentials (i.e., snacks). There are also a number of foods that can be ordered at a variety of food-preparation stations.

As we resumed our drive, we noted that we were doing well on time. Since the check-in for the resort where Kelly’s parents had booked our room began in the afternoon, we decided to visit the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch that was nearby. The ranch was actually a drive-through safari of sorts where cars were directed down a winding trail through the habitats of many animals before stopping at a lot where visitors were free to walk around. A few of us opted to pay for a bag of animal food as well so that we could feed the animals. The ostriches however were vicious — Lam made the mistake of letting one eat directly from his bag and the ostrich began to stick his head into the car to peck at the console. This also prompted Morgan to try the same thing, which luckily did not bring about the same consequences.

After spending some time roaming around the gift shop and petting zoo, the lot of us was feeling pretty hungry. When we had ordered our Six Flag: Fiesta Texas tickets in advance, we ordered through a deal on Groupon, which included a coupon book for places around San Antonio. Since we had coupons that offered a buy-one-get-one-free deal for Smashburger, we decided to head there. Unfortunately, there were five of us present; Thao and Lam ended up splitting a coupon while Morgan and I split one between ourselves. The food however was quite good and I was very happy with my buffalo chicken and blue cheese burger — not only did they make it quickly, they did not skimp out on the meat!

As we were leaving, Morgan asked me whether she should get a refill for the Dr. Pepper that she had been drinking, prompting a laugh from me.

“I can’t help it… I’m a true American…” Morgan states meekly.

“Wait till you get diabetes. Then you’ll be a true American,” I respond with a look of amusement.

“I probably already do…”

“Go refill your Dr. Pepper,” I reply as I gesture towards the fountain drink machine with my head. It’s not like I particularly cared either way.

Morgan replies with an enthusiastic “okay!” and bounces up to the machine before stopping. “Wait. <NIGHTMAREN>. You’re supposed to make sure I’m drinking water! I’m going to get so dehydrated!” she complains before refilling her soda anyways. I guess she wasn’t going to get water because it didn’t count if the thought originated in her own brain as opposed to mine.

As we got back into the car, Morgan was sleepy and stuffed her pillow into the corner of the backseat to use for a quick nap. Antagonizing her as usual, I warned her that I would take a picture of her if she fell asleep. Sure enough, she fails to heed my warning and I take an unflattering picture, tapping her on the shoulder to show it to her. “Look at this elegance!”

“Asshole,” she mutters before deciding to shift her sleeping position. She spitefully shoves her pillow between my shoulder and neck and places her head on it so I can feel her weight as she napped.

Ostrich Attack!Since it was finally afternoon-time, we decided to go over to the resort to check in: the Wyndham La Cascada San Antonio resort.

It was the type of place that was so fancy that you felt a little out of place in your vacation clothes. After dropping the car off with the valet, we took the elevator to the 8th floor where our room was. It was a lovely unit — three beds, 2 bathrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, washer/dryer systems, a living room, and a balcony overlooking the San Antonio River Walk.

Morgan was in awe as she walked in, waiting until Kelly was out of earshot. “Y’all, this is so fancy! Thank goodness Kelly came along, otherwise we were about to stay at some random motel!”

“Don’t tell Kelly that…” Lam replies, stating the obvious as we all unpack.

Thao and Lam must have been exhausted because the two of them quickly passed out on their bed. However, Kelly, Morgan, and I still had our energy and decided to explore the area a little bit. The resort was actually located along the San Antonio River Walk, which is a tourist attraction in and of itself, so we decided to walk along the waterway on foot. Since tours of the River Walk were regularly conducted by boat, the waterway was peppered with beautiful open-air restaurants and quaint little shops to catch the eyes of those visiting the area. Since it was mid-afternoon on a Friday, there actually weren’t too many people outside, which made for some really peaceful imagery as we walked around.

We soon got a text message from Lam, asking where we had went. Since the two of them had woken up, we decided that it would be a good time for us to head out to buy some groceries for the weekend. As we got back to the lobby, we met up with Thao and Lam and requested the valet to bring our car to the front. While we were waiting, I take a look at some of the refreshments that had been put out — lemonade and what I judged to be some sort of lemonade/iced-tea hybrid after tasting it.

Morgan walks up to me. “Which one should I get?”

“Try the tea!” I reply approvingly as I take another sip from my cup. “It’s good. You’ll like it.”

Morgan immediately springs her trap. “OH MY GOD <NIGHTMAREN>. You need to make me drink the water!!”

I laugh at her little test. What an amazing help I am to her.

Once the car arrived, we decided to go to HEB to buy food. Kelly had an enumerated list detailing what to get in order to make dinner and walked off in search of the items. Thao and Lam similarly walked off to find things that they would be interested in eating. I was stuck pushing the cart and following whoever I would catch a glimpse of through the aisles. Morgan hung near me to talk about some frivolous conundrum about how she wanted to wear the shirt that she was already wearing tomorrow as well, but didn’t want to be judged. As we finished up and approached the checkout line, a Red Bull display caught her eye.

“They have Red Bull!” Morgan exclaims, turning towards me. “I kind of want to get one…”

“Go for it,” I reply while only half-paying attention to her before realizing my mistake.

“What?!” Morgan immediately turns on me. “<NIGHTMAREN>! You’re a horrible influence! I need water! Only water!!

Back at the hotel, Lam and I are were busy hooking up the Nintendo Wii that we had brought while the girls cooked dinner. Morgan vs OstrichAs we ate, which was quite good, by the way, Kelly brought out a game called Sequence. Aside from Kelly, Morgan was the only one familiar with the game, but the premise was pretty simple — essentially, there was a board with spots (in duplicate) designated for each card in a standard deck of cards. During their turns, as players would draw from the deck, they had to play a card by covering its designated spot with a colored poker chip. The object of the game was somewhat similar to Connect Four in the way that we had to make “sequences” of 5 chips each. The first person to make two sequences would be the winner.

With Kelly teaching us the game, we decided to split into two-player teams. The teams were obvious; Thao and Lam were on one team while Morgan and I were on the other. Many times, Morgan and I tend to think in the same direction, so it wasn’t long before the two of us beat Thao and Lam. In the following game, Kelly switched with Thao to face us with Lam. This time however, I made a mistake due to my sleepiness and accidentally moved to “block” an already existing sequence. Naturally, this earned me the ire of Morgan and she whapped me on my chest.

“I might not let you be my partner anymore!” she complains with mock-seriousness.

To no surprise, we lost against Kelly’s experienced play strategy, but I was able to win when we decided to play a quick round of Bananagram immediately afterwards. All in all, the day was a satisfying one and immensely relaxing. I enjoyed being a little more rough around the edges with my friends (and allowing others to be the same with me); there’s just something about being in another city on vacation that lets you unwind completely. For the next day, we finally had Six Flags: Fiesta Texas to look forward to!

Day 2 – Six Flags: Fiesta Texas

“Good morning…”

A half-asleep Morgan is the first to climb out of bed. She tosses me one of her protein shakes as I sit up, browsing on my laptop.

The weather forecast did not look good for today — while it was initially supposed to rain more the day after, it looked like we were going to get the majority of the rain today. Sure enough, the sky outside the window appeared to be getting darker and darker as others began to wake up. By the time we were starting to head out, it was already raining.

For the sake of efficiency, we decided to use our GPSes to find a Chick-fil-A restaurant for breakfast along the way to Six Flags. Fortunately for Lam, the one we ended up finding happened to be located next to an HEB store; Lam had actually forgotten to pack a toothbrush for our trip and wanted to buy one before eating breakfast. Feeling nostalgic about some of my mornings where I scrambled for breakfast at UTD, I ordered a chicken biscuit for myself and sat down to eat with the others. It didn’t take long for Lam to return with his toothbrush, and, considerate as always, he also bought ponchos for each of us.

As we got back underway, we put on our new ponchos in the car — these proved to be extremely valuable as it was downright pouring by the time we pulled into the Six Flags parking lot. The rain was coming down so hard that it was difficult to even see through all of the precipitation. While we sought refuge in a gift shop for a little while, we soon left because of the cold air conditioning and darted into the queue of the first roller coaster we saw: Poltergeist.

Since it was still early in the day, there were only a few other people in front of us. However, just as we reached the end of the line, the ride controller informed us that they had been instructed to temporarily halt the ride due to the weather. Instead of finding another ride, our group decided to simply wait for the weather to get better by sitting down against a wall. Even this, I will say, made for a peaceful moment in a way; here we were, hundreds of miles from home, sitting at the top of a queue for a roller coaster while rain pelted down all around us. We were all soaked, and the day was turning out to be the opposite of what any of us imagined it to be like. And yet…

“Y’all, this is actually kind of fun!” Morgan excitedly breaks the silence. “I’ve never been to an amusement park in the rain before!”

I laugh because the same thought had been going through my mind. It was fun — at least, I thought so. “Yeah, it’s like an adventure!” I reply. “There’s no way we’ll forget this trip!”

Rainy Six FlagsAside from Morgan, the others didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm. Thao looked completely miserable and Kelly just looked exasperated. But we actually didn’t have to wait long for the rain to ease up enough for the ride to safely operate again. As expected, the roller coaster was quite fun, even if the raindrops felt like needles as a result of how fast we were going. Even Lam enjoyed it — despite having a fear of roller coasters, he was set on riding every single one during our visit.

After a while, the rain finally slowed to a drizzle and some of us began to feel a little hungry. None of us were particularly enthused about riding a roller coaster on a full stomach however, so we opted to get snacks instead. In one little snack shop, there was an enticing display of a Dippin’ Dots float — our favorite little novelty ice cream drowned in a soft drink of one’s choice. This was too tasty of a treat for most of us to pass up, and I ended up getting vanilla Dippin’ Dots in Dr. Pepper. For some reason, the combination was absolutely delicious! Having a similar revelation, Morgan wondered aloud if they had somehow infused drugs within the ice cream.

The rain soon stopped completely and a nice breeze took its place. We took this opportunity to ride a few more roller coasters (especially some that we had to endure through the rain) and finished our day off by riding the Goliath. By the time we were heading home, the sun was just starting to set.

On our way home however, Kelly informed us that she needed to stop by at a nearby Target to buy additional groceries. Thao and Lam needed to head into the store as well, as the rain had completely destroyed Thao’s footwear. Morgan asked if she could stay in the car while they shopped, and I let the others know that I would stay as well; in hindsight, it probably seemed pretty suspicious for the two of us to hang back in this manner, but no one said anything to the contrary as they got out of the car.

Morgan begins talking by asking how I’m holding up, knowing that I was purposely avoiding thinking about my school situation during our vacation. We briefly talk a little bit about school and my concern about not fitting in once we get back, but after reassuring her that I am fine, we change the topic to Kelly and Thao.

“I’m not being too nice to Kelly, am I?” Morgan asks.

She confirms my suspicions about something that I had noticed earlier at the park; whenever we would be seated for the roller coasters, Morgan would always rush to sit next to Kelly, whereas normally, she would probably be sitting next to me. It was Morgan’s way of trying to raise Kelly’s spirits.

“She’s always so grumpy,” Morgan complains, “why would she agree to come with us if she’s going to be sulking the whole time?”

I tell her that she should probably tone her efforts down a little — Kelly is the type to feel patronized very easily, and Morgan has admitted to me in the past that she “sucks up” to people when she’s trying to get on their good side. SequenceOur conversation was cut short however as the rest of the group returned to the car and we are soon back on our way to the hotel room.

To me, there was something calming about doing chores with the rest of my friends — when we got back to our room, we put our shoes in the dryer and spread our ponchos out to dry over the balcony. The girls got to work at preparing dinner, while Lam and I messed around on our laptops. This little snapshot of “living” with my friends reminded me of dorm life at UTD.

As expected, dinner was delicious yet again and the rest of the evening was spent playing board games and watching each other play the Wii. I had always been bad at using the Wii‘s accursed motion controller, so I let Lam and Kelly play most of the games. Morgan sat down next to me to watch, disinterested in showcasing her ineptitude to the rest of the room. It was another relaxing evening, and the next day, we had SeaWorld to look forward to.

Day 3 – SeaWorld San Antonio

“It was harder to wake up today…”

Once again, a half-asleep Morgan is the first to climb out of bed.

“Yeah,” I reply, “I heard your alarm go off like four times!”

“Shut up.”

It had rained hard last night, to the point that the area had been under a flash flood watch. However, by the time we were ready to go, the sky was perfectly overcast. This time, we opted not to stop at Chick-fil-A, but instead simply found a nearby HEB to grab something that could serve as a basic breakfast meal. I chose to get a couple of cranberry muffins and some water to wash them down. Concocting an odd combination, Morgan ordered a cup of coffee with a tray of celery and carrots. The rest seem content to tide themselves over with only coffee until lunchtime.

We make great time as we drive up to SeaWorld San Antonio. We end up arriving at 9:40 am — a full twenty minutes before the park opened. Since we had time to spare, we decided to stay in the car a little while longer to properly eat our breakfasts. I had already finished my muffins at this point, but Morgan gave me some of her vegetables since she was having a hard time finishing her tray… and then informed me that she had been double-dipping the entire time only after I had begun to eat. I responded by making a remark about my immune system and continued to eat undeterred.

When we finally entered SeaWorld, we went for the roller coasters first. Unlike Six Flags, this park was more geared towards aquatic-themed shows and exhibits, rather than rides. As a result, there were only two roller coasters to visit and we were able to quickly ride them both due to the lines being short early in the morning — first the Steel Eel (twice, due to the queue being nonexistent), and then the Great White. Whenever I would find Lam seated behind me, we would always try to high-five one another while the ride was in motion — a rather difficult task because of the g-forces involved. In addition, Morgan also seemed to have given up on sticking next to Kelly and was back to acting like her normal self.

With our adrenaline pumping from the roller coasters, we decided to check out some of the shows, which were all pretty clever in their own ways. Right before lunchtime, we went to the Beluga Stadium to check out the beluga whale show called Azul. As we watched a beluga and her calf swim around before the start of the show, for some reason, Morgan decided to ask me what color I thought beluga whales were.

One Ocean Show“Gray. Like… light gray,” I respond, somewhat used to her bringing up random conversation topics out of nowhere.

“Whaaaat? They are definitely white!” Morgan was adamant about this for some reason.

Shrugging, my response to her was interrupted by the announcer who began to introduce the show. “—now you you may be wondering how beluga whales got their name. ‘Beluga’ is actually the Russian word for ‘white’ . . .”

This unfortunately timely tidbit of information was immediately noticed by Morgan, who gave me the biggest birdy grin. “You hear that?” she asks smugly.

“Fine, fine, you win…” I wave her off as she continues to puff up before me. Whenever she finally wins against me, she doesn’t let me hear the end of it.

When the show concluded, we all decided to go to Shamu’s Smokehouse to eat lunch. Due to our timing, it was pretty busy inside the restaurant, but the food was prepared ahead of time so the wait wouldn’t be too long. As we made our way through the line, Morgan asked me to grab her a cup of orange smiles. I thought that orange smiles sounded pretty tasty so I got one for myself too. As I handed her a cup, she stares at its contents for a moment before handing it back to me.

“Get me a better one.”

I roll my eyes as I get the princess a different one which actually satisfies her until she notices how much nicer my oranges were.

“How come your oranges are way better than mine?” Morgan questions in a jocose tone.

“Because I grabbed mine first,” I casually reply as I munch on my salad.

Of all our exchanges that Kelly had witnessed this vacation, for some reason, this one finally made her break into laughter. “<Nightmaren> is not willing to sacrifice his oranges for you,” Kelly jabs.

Morgan mumbled something about the color of beluga whales in response, and the table enjoyed the rest of their lunch. On our way out, we also decided to stop by Shamu’s Emporium. Since we had arrived at the park, I had been wanting to buy something Shamu-related for my friend Leah, and my friends helped me look. Ultimately, I decided on a Shamu baseball cap (which even had a little fin on top) and Shamu earrings (each of which were comprised of two halves of an orca that could be screwed together).

As we finished up and began to walk around the park, we came across a river rapids ride called Rio Loco. It was the typical setup — a circular raft that traveled down a river full of drops and bumps along the way. After we had ridden past the “big” drop on the ride, we were all, for the most part, not too wet. Our collective sigh of relief was cut short however as the raft traveled around a curve that showcased an enormous waterfall pouring down in the middle of the river in front of us — directly over the area where my and Morgan’s seats were positioned. The rest of the group gave us a hard time about our impending doom when karma suddenly kicked in and the raft rotated. In the end, Thao and Lam got drenched, with Thao receiving most of it. She hadn’t even finished wringing out her clothing when we decided to go to another water ride called Journey to Atlantis.

With a little over an hour left to go before the park’s “big” Shamu show, One Ocean, our group then decided to walk to the other side of the park to Dolphin Cove. The cove was a nice little area for visitors to watch the dolphins swim, and there was a cave that descended under the surface so that people could watch the dolphins from under water as well. In addition, there were a number of shark exhibits inside the cave. Using an interesting lighting trick, the sharks in the tank projected their shadows to an enormous size in the background, giving the illusion that there were enormous sharks swimming far in the distance. As someone who is afraid of sharks, this thoroughly spooked Morgan, who stood in front of the display paralyzed, making weak sounds, “ew… ewew…”

Finally, it was time to head to Shamu Stadium in anticipation of the One Ocean show. As we were getting seated, Thao and Lam sat down first. I was about to follow them when Morgan pointed out that they were sitting in a spot that was directly next to the slide-out that the whales used — in other words, the people sitting there would probably get soaked pretty thoroughly. It was fortunate that I decided to trust her judgment and sit somewhere else because Thao and Lam were sopping wet less than half way into the show. The show itself was fun to watch as well; the whales did their routines while the trainers playfully explained to the audience what they were doing. The show also announced plans for SeaWorld‘s future: in response to changing perceptions of captive orcas, the company would be ending its breeding program and phasing out its theatrical killer whale shows, starting 2017. It’s very likely that this was the last “Shamu” show that I will be able to see.Hotel Room

When the show ended, the park’s patrons filed out and our group soon began to make plans for dinner. Since this would be our final night, no one really wanted to cook anything, so we opted to purchase something prepackaged from HEB instead. This proved to be unexpectedly difficult when our GPS led us to a small HEB that only sold groceries, so we had to drive to yet another HEB. Once we finally reach there, the sushi stand catches the attention of Morgan and I. Though Morgan is typically wary of any seafood, she was feeling bold tonight and wanted to try sushi for the first time. The little Japanese lady at the stand was extremely sweet and friendly too, and pointed out a tray of something called “Firecracker Sushi.” In her endearingly broken English, she assured the two of us that “young people usually like [that] one!” It was indeed an odd combination — shrimp sushi with Hot Cheetos powder on top of it — but we decided to get it.

In good spirits, we got ready to go back to the resort and spent the car ride snipping at each other over some inane topic.

“. . . way to burst my bubble,” I reply after Morgan had done exactly that.

“Anytime,” she winks, “I was happy to do it~”

“Oh, I’m sure,” I reply, “especially given how many times I’ve burst your bubble”

“YEAH,” Morgan replies in an accusatory whisper, “Many times…”

The night went on as we reached back to our hotel room. Since it was our final night at the resort, the mood was a little different and everybody seemed to occupy themselves by doing different things. Thao and Lam sat around playing on their phones, Kelly began to start packing for check-out tomorrow morning, and Morgan and I sat at the table eating our sushi and playing Sequence. As people began to go to turn in for the night, the two of us stayed up for a while to take in the warm summer night.

Day 4 – On Our Way Home

“Good morning~”

I look up to see Morgan standing out of bed with, as she called it, her “lioness” bed hair. She is clearly still tired, but her voice and her expression are incredibly warm.

With the weather still holding up, we decided to check out of the hotel and spend some time walking along the River Walk. We also took this opportunity to visit the Alamo, which was quite beautiful on the inside. Though I had imagined the cathedral to be larger after seeing so many pictures of it, observing the stonework first hand allowed me to respect just how old of a monument it was. There were also a few people in the courtyard outside who showcased tools that soldiers and medics would use in the American Civil War era; from the perspective of a nursing student, it was pretty interesting to see how their tools differed from ours. Thao didn’t seem to be interested, however — it was plain from her face that she wanted to go home.

As we left the monument and began to walk along the surrounding streets, we peered into the different shops, all of which were clearly hoping to attract tourists. At some point, we came across a little game room that had a maze constructed entirely of mirrors and a room where one had to dodge all of the laser trip wires to get to the other side. Hotel RoomWhile Kelly didn’t care for it, the rest of us decided to do it and found the challenges to be trickier than we expected. For example, after we [finally] found our way through the maze, we were caught off guard when the attendant gave us special glasses that would distort the lighting and increase the challenge as we were sent through the maze again. The laser room was similarly interesting — while Thao was terrible, Lam was pretty good at it. Morgan managed to step through the traps fairly easily with her long legs, while I earned myself carpet burns as I dramatically tried to evade the lasers with a dodge-roll. Morgan pretended not to know me.

Satisfied with our fun in San Antonio, we soon piled into the car to drive back to Houston, TX. The car ride home was much the same as our initial drive up to San Antonio — most of the car would be quiet, only for the silence to be broken every so often by Morgan and I antagonizing one another. Having learned her lesson from last time, Morgan was cautiously guarding her pillow.

There was no denying that we were getting hungry though, and Morgan soon began to rummage around the trunk (which was accessible from the SUV’s back seat) to try and find something edible amidst our luggage. Noticing the commotion and Morgan’s figure precariously bent over the back seat, Thao woke from her nap with a jolt.

“<Nightmaren>!! Hold her!” Thao nervously exclaims.

I wave my hand, replying, “She’ll be fine…”

As if to prove my point wrong, just then, the car hit a bump that almost knocked Morgan into the trunk. I immediately grab her legs to stabilize her as she continued to dig through the trunk. “Fine!” I respond, looking at Thao.

Eventually, Morgan found her prize. Triumphantly flopping back down onto the seat, she held out a chocolate cake that the group had been sharing over the course of the trip.

“Would it be rude to eat some of it?” she asks.

“I don’t think so,” I reply. “I kind of want to do the same, but Buc-ee’s is also in thirty miles so…”

Tilting her head, Morgan questions, “Isn’t that going to take like half an hour?”

“Yeah…”

There is a beat as we spend a couple minutes quietly pondering our choices.

Breaking the silence, Morgan suddenly turns to me. “I have two forks in my bag.”

“Let’s do it,” I answer immediately.

As I give her a judgmental look, I pick a loose strand of her hair out from between the teeth of her fork. Morgan starts cutting a slice, which I immediately try to steal from her.

“Cut your own!” she laughs. “I knew you would try to do that!”

I laughed and helped her shape the cake so that exactly half of it would be left over. After we finished, though having the cake in the back seat was tempting, we restrained ourselves until we arrived at Buc-ee’s. At one of the food stations, I ordered a greek chicken wrap while the rest of the group scoured the store for things to eat on the road; in order to save time, we had decided to eat during the drive. Morgan had bought a delicious container of apple slices and peanut butter which she shared with me. However, with me being a somewhat clumsy person at times, while I was leaned over her to take an apple slice, I dropped a piece of chicken from my sandwich directly onto Morgan’s leg.

Immediately, Morgan began to… hyperventilate? Actually, I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but she flailed around while breathlessly exclaiming “Ew! Ew! Get it off!”

But this was the extent of our commotion for a while as we all began to rest after our meals. It was a relaxing feeling to sit back with one’s stomach full and watch the countryside flit by through the window.San Antonio River Walk Eventually however, we noticed that Kelly and Lam had begun to play a word game — Kelly apparently did this in response to Lam mentioning that he was feeling a little tired after eating, and she wanted to make sure he stayed awake during the drive.

Remarking that the game looked fun, Morgan proposed that we should play a word game as well. The game she had in mind started with each player saying a random word. In each subsequent round, we would have to count down and simultaneously say a word that we think is something our previous two words had in common. Then we repeat the process until we are able to shout the same word out together.

It sounded fun, and our first round began with me saying the word “cow” and her saying “butterfly.” She noted that our game might take a while “because of how [her] brain works,” but we were eventually able to work our way down to the words “atherosclerosis” and “salt” (guess whose word was whose). It was quite a triumphant feeling when we were finally able to shout out “heart attack!” together, (even if it was technically two words) and we immediately began a new round.

I said “planet” and she said “tooth.”

…now this would probably take some time. As we worked our way through the rounds, we eventually get to “coyote” and “buffalo,” followed by “desert” and “water”. As Morgan mulled it over out loud, you could see when the light-bulbs went off in our heads.

“Well [the coyote and buffalo] both drink water… and they both live in the desert…”

Excitedly, we look at one another as Morgan begins to count down.

“3… 2… 1…”

Cactus!” we both shout as we break into laughter.

It was a neat little game that really gave a sense of accomplishment at its conclusion. With the time passed in this manner, it didn’t feel long before we reached the outer limits of Houston. By now, Thao was asleep again, Kelly was quietly browsing on her phone, and Morgan was playing with the camera on my phone. After taking a particularly regrettable selfie, I informed her that I would be updating her contact photo to use this new photo, causing her to hold the phone out of my reach to try and delete it as I grabbed for it. Not wanting to overpower her, I laugh as I let her win. The ride continued like this, and before we knew it, Lam was turning onto the road leading to Kelly’s neighborhood.

 

——

Kelly was the first to get dropped off, followed by Morgan and I. Fully content with my summer, I didn’t even unpack before flopping onto my bed and passing out.

All in all, the vacation was a memorable one, and it made me immensely happy to be able to enjoy myself like this with my friends — even if Morgan and I were the ones who enjoyed it the most. I would be lying if Kelly and Thao’s behavior hadn’t, in my eyes, painted them in a more negative light; it was something Morgan and I spoke about at length afterwards. I was particularly disappointed by the way Kelly had acted before the trip. While I found her anger towards Thao justified, I also found her behavior extremely immature and selfish; she had no regard for the rest of the group’s plans when she threw a tantrum and stopped letting people talk to her — right up until we were actually leaving for the trip. Morgan also pointed out that Thao really doesn’t know how to be tactful while communicating and that she basically brought this upon herself; she was the type who thought she knew more than she actually did.

Nevertheless, I don’t typically let such things completely repaint my perceptions of others — vanall of the people here were still very important parts of my nursing school journey and they were all my friends. For that reason, I was still able to relax during our trip, as was Morgan. We all earned this break, and Morgan and I went in with the mindset to enjoy ourselves to the fullest, regardless of any tension between our other friends. And we did — we laughed, took in the sights, gave each other a hard time, and we all just… had fun.

 


Little Busters! (Jumper Ver.), track 03-13 in the Little Busters! Original Soundtrack.

One Comment

  1. balance
    Club Participant
    Class 1-B
    Seat no. 6

    I still remember how you were telling me everything that had happened right after you had gotten back. Despite the disaster that had happened early on, it was obvious that the trip was extremely memorable and something that would stay forever with you.

    Really, if anything, it also showed just how much you and Morgan had bonded! Honestly, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I’ve been kind of jealous of how close you two were able to get. However I knew that there was only so little that I could do considering that I was 1, nowhere living close to you and 2, not in the same field as you. As such, there are things that Morgan can obviously understand in ways that I can not.

    It was interesting seeing how the friendship had matured quickly from when you first told me about her to this point. I never would have guessed you two would be the almost inseparable pair in such a short amount of time! Though with what you two had to deal with in school, I can see how that would help strengthen the bond moreso (especially considering what Morgan had been dealing with was somewhat similar to your time in TCOM).

    Even though I usually say this in a joking manner, this event really seems like such an *anime* event to happen! Almost like one of those events that would happen in the middle of a JRPG. It’s rather incredible just how your life has become something worthy of being good material to use for a story! Reading this entire blog post even gave off that vibe of a story being told rather than just a recollection of events that simply passed by. Plus with how it read beneath the lines, it was clear that there was a warm fondness that was put into each word.

    Honestly, these kind of moments are the kinds that I always enjoy having and love listening about. The small moments we share together always help glue the bonds we carry. They’re always something we can carry along with us in our journeys and reflect upon.

    I sit here typing all of this out with the knowledge that you’re going to be graduating soon. I often wonder how this comment would have come out to be like if I had commented earlier? It’s times like now where I regret not commenting sooner, however I like to also think it gives me more time to appreciate these posts. It gives me an idea of how much of an impact it had in your life. Now it would be rather hyperbolic to claim that THIS WAS THE DEFINING MOMENT that helped you graduate, however I think it helped lift your spirits considering the note you had left that semester with. If not for this trip, I’m sure the upcoming semester would certainly have been much more difficult to tackle on.

    As cliche as it may sound, I am extremely blessed to know someone who’s able to retell stories in such a way that I feel like I’ve lived it myself! Because of this, I *know* you’ve been living a rather fulfilling life! It’s hard not to look at a post like this without a warm smile popping up (even though a few people almost ruined the experience). I always wonder with each piece like this if something else will inevitably come up to this level? Knowing you, it not only WILL arrive, but it will also leave a mark in your memories to forever remember.

    As we walk in our journey, adversity is sure to come. Nevertheless, I’m certain you will not only overcome those adversities, but let it be a part of your journey. Here’s to the bonds we share with all the people we’ve allowed in our journeys to the events in our chapters to come!

    Reply

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