Now I will admit that as much as I love Tenae, some of the trips to see her have been, well, mixed. Some times she had to work a lot. Other times (okay, most times) I was too stressed at the start of the trip to actually relax enough to enjoy it. And I will go down on record saying that I do not like Florida, at least not the northern part.
But this trip was AMAZING. Yes, worthy of the all-caps description. Granted, she had to work the first two days, but the first day it was late enough in the morning for me to be able to sleep in and then head to town with her, spending my day shopping and walking around the beach (which was across the street from the mall). And the second day, when she had to work early, I slept in and then lounged by the pool for several hours. I achieved such a level of relaxation that I even got a little sunburnt.
(See, at my old job at LUBI, going on vacation meant that you had twice as much to do before your trip (in order to prepare your staff for your absence) and twice as much work when you got back (in order to clean up the mess they had made despite the effort you made before leaving). Because of this, I could never really unwind, being so stressed before I arrived that I couldn't quite make it past "normal" to "relaxed.")
Anyway, that night we left for the Big Island with Tenae's roommate Tina and our politician-manservant Joseph. Joe is the perfect traveling companion for a group of girls-he opens doors, pumps gas, and brings you coffee in bed. Seriously. We call him the politician because he is good at making new friends in unfamiliar places, walking up to strangers and making them love him. And he can dance. These are just some of the reasons why from time to time you could hear one (or all) of us yell out to Hilo, "Vote for Joe!"
While on the Big Island, we saw some incredible sights. Black sand beaches, a green sand beach (accessible only by a four-wheel-drive "road" that Tenae showed who's boss), volcanoes spewing hot lava into the ocean, lava tubes, waterfalls, and to top it all off, snow. We had a ton of fun playing tunes off of the iPod and trading in our beat up jeep for a new one, turning off all the lights in the lava cave and experiencing true darkness, and enjoying some impromptu swing-dancing at the jazz club (if only the waitress had been a bit more attentive to the fact that we wanted to eat before we had to leave for the airport).
When we got back, Tenae had another day off, so we went hiking and conquered a rather steep ridge that gave us an amazing view of the island coastline. Despite a minor disappointment that the tea shop we headed for afterwards was closed, we enjoyed the rest of our afternoon, eating some more good food and heading up to the North Shore to watch the sun set.
The morning of my departure, I told Tenae that this had to be one of the best trips I had ever taken to visit her. I was able to relax, her days off worked perfectly for our plans, we saw beautiful sights, and enjoyed good conversations. Best of all, our friendship is stronger than ever, because as we both allow God to work on us, He brings us closer together in our friendship and shared faith.
So while she and her fantastic roommate might be leaving the beautiful islands and heading for the east coast, I will look forward to my next trip to see her. Even though it will be to North Carolina.