Friday
Mar292013

« Australia Update #9 »

You may think I planned this blog to be 9 segments for the 9 athletes in the shell... Nope, in actuallity, none of my planning for this blog worked out!  You might have figured that out, given that I am writing the last segment several days after returning home.  Things have just been hectic and time has been short (though I guess I could have used some of the hours between 2:30-4:30 in the morning when I seem to be awake these days)  So, here is the final installment (to be followed shortly by Corinth Trip blogs)

After the race we got to work derigging our shell and sectioning it and changing out our shoes and packign up our oars, etc... there was plenty to do, and we were trying to move quickly because we all wanted to watch the USA eights race the final of the world cup.  Whatever I had remaining of a voice, and whatever McHart had remaining was to be spent chanting "USA,USA".  By the time the eights were to race, the temps were pushing up into the 90s.  We made our way to the barrier and waited.  The race course was set up so there was a narrow road which ran parallel to the course, and the event sponsor (Audi) had a car following each race.  The car had the announcer as well as a video camera on top.  I mention this because this car might have represented the biggest danger we faced all well.  I only made 5 mistakes driving on the other side of the road, and the beaches were closed the day before we went to Manly Beach because 2 people were lost to rip tides the day before... but this race following car... it stops for nothing!  They had protected the road with significant barricades, so there was no chance of wandering in front of the race, but as we chanted USA, USA we were leaning forward over the barricades (as if shouting from 8 inches closer to the race course would enable them to hear us better).  With a big rush of air, the car zoomed by only what seemed liked inches from our unsuspecting faces.  We were so enthralled with the race and urging team USA as they were fighting from 2nd place and trying to challenge for the lead.  Alas, they did not make it to the front of the pack, but at least we survived the camera car, though my voice did not survive.

Following the race, I made arrangements for our oars to be shipped home with Team Canada (probably going to take 10 weeks to get here) and then we waited for the USA women to land.  We tried to wait patiently as they met post race and got food and derigged their boats, but they saw us sitting off to the side excited to talk to them.  The coxswain came over and told us she would gather them up in a little bit to sign a poster for us, and then she proceeded to tell us that the boys from St. Kevin's were looking for the Toga girls -- of course.  After waiting a bit, we were able to connect up with Team USA for the poster signing and then chat with them a while... Of course Elle Logan told of the time she almost got me arrested when I was coaching her at Dev camp (long story about a van ride and kids running into the woods to go the bathroom on a road trip).  The women were so awesome to talk to and while many of them were tall (there were some elite rowers in the Aussie eight that were not tall at all - including an 18 year old!), the general consensus was that they were people just like us.  It was so cool to get to know these role models in this fashion.

Before we left the course for good, there was one more important project... trading!  The girls were pretty popular and their gear was pretty desirable.  I warned them that they would want to bring several uni's shirts, hats, jackets, etc... but they didn't understand the full scope of the trading.  Everyone made some good deals, but I was particularly impressed with Lexi scoring an Italian Uni from Gavirate, and Battle intercepting a deal for an Interstate Uni from South Australia.  Too bad Alida wasn't with us, I am pretty sure she has 28 unis from her high school and college rowing days.  Oh, yeah, Unis are called Zooties in AUS

When we finally left the course, we were again pressed for time.  We had some shopping to do, and Pymble Ladies had invited us to their year end rowing banquet.  The girls needed time to get dressed, and I needed time to drop them off, get back to my house and change, and then get all the way back for the dinner.  When I finally arrived boy was I impressed, their dinner is over-the-top.  I mean almost black tie... I was probably the only guy without a jacket (fortunately I had black pants and a tie) and the ladies were dressed to the nines.  People dress up for our banquet as well, but we are missing one component... The rowers were piped in with bagpipes as the coaches held oars for them to walk under!  The school principal gave a speech, along with the Captain of boats.  The coaches gave out awards, and the administration was toasted.  The last speaking role, however, fell to ME!  Nothing like being surprised the evening before that I would be presenting the award for the Captain of boats.  "2 minutes" they told me, "just speak for 2 minutes".  If you are a follower of the blog, you may think that 2 minutes would not even get me warmed up -- well, for some reason, I am a long winded writer and a very very short winded speaker.  2 minutes is an eternity for me to speak.  

The evening was a great success and my speech was well received (I spoke about being a leader) and as I ducked out the girls were busy on the dance floor with the Pymble Girls.  Monday would be a long, long day (actually, we would have 2 mondays on the trip home)

I am happy to report that the trip home was less eventful than the trip to AUS.  We had a little coordination to manage as I dorpped the girls at the airport, then dropped the van at the rental place, then got picked up by Mr. Hart in his rental.  He dropped me at the airport with the girls, then dropped his car, and walked over to meet us.  Going through customs was kind of funny, McHart had pretty much every illegal item in her bag except the firearms.  (There goes a bunch of tools).  The flight from SYD to LAX was long, but it was daytime (kind of) so the girls watched 4 or 5 movies a piece.  Meghan vowed to never eat airplane food again.  When we got to LAX, we had a little adventure.  Once through a long customs process There was a bit of confusion as to what terminal our next flight would depart from.  We traveled back and forth between 5 and 6 a few times.  Fortunately on one of the trips there were 2 big golf carts willing to drive us (Mr. Hart offered our driver $10 if he could pass the other cart, but as he was making his move a pedestrain came around the corner and foiled our plan).  At this point we had gotten over all frustration of airline travel and we were just rolling with the punches.  It helped that we were going to have a 7 foot tall guy on our plane with a handlebar mustache.  Life is just better when to see a 7 foot tall guy with a handlebar mustache.  From LAX to DET the movies cost $ so most of us slept (probably not a good idea) and then it was an easy jump back to Albany.  

The trip of a life time concluded with a happy (relieved?) set of parents waiting eagerly for the tanned versions of their children to walk through the gate.  Hugs were flying all over the place, and one of two even landed on me.  I wish I could express how fantastic the trip was, I will certainly be dropping hints to all my AUS contacts that SRA would love to do this trip again, and even if the team cannot get sponsored for the trip, I know that I will someday return down under.  Thanks for the help of all involved, and thanks for the well wishes from all those following.  Next stop... Corinth, NY

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