Women’s Journal: Henley Women’s Regatta
June 19, 2010
Name: Katie Phelan, 2 seat, 8+
Year and Major: Junior, International Relations/Spanish
Hometown: Jackson, MI
High School: Lumen Christi
Coming back to Henley is both comforting and disarming. The comfort rises from the same hills, boat clubs, and energy generating around the Thames in the pre-race bustle that I experienced as a novice two years ago. The disarming part is that the familiar town provides the backdrop for an entirely disparate experience, and the realization that since it’s not the town that changed, the difference this year must be from changes in me.
Two years ago, Kelsey and I moved up from our novice boat to race with the Varsity girls at Henley. I had never worn the Varsity unisuit before. At the time, I felt excited (in retrospect I can’t imagine excitement for putting something so unflattering on my body) but nervous to represent the team officially, in more than just a blue t-shirt. I knew my technique wasn’t on the same level as Varsity rowers, but a Sicilian coach whose name I still wasn’t sure how to pronounce told me not to worry about technique, assuring me that he put me in the boat for one purpose: to pull hard. In our third contest, I caught a baby crab at the thousand-meter mark that I was convinced caused us to lose the race. I cried afterward. Although I adored the travel, the people I met, and getting to know the older girls, I was also very aware that I had a lot to learn.
Two years later, my unisuit is just another article I toss in my bag before trips. I’ve nearly forgotten the prestige it once represented for me. Coach Bancheri has become such an integral part of my rowing experience that not only can I pronounce his name, but I have been loudly coached by him every day for two years, called him to ask a state capital, and even eaten dinner with his family. I’m still expected to pull hard, but now I’m rowing 2 seat, which is regarded as a fairly technical position in the boat. Kelsey and I have been rowing for three years with our teammates turned friends; we know the drills and react to the calls, and my confidence in the boat has taken off like we will off the starting line tomorrow.
Since a mandated taper ensured that nothing much occurred today in our B&B except reading and napping, you can see that I had all day to just think about these things. It astounds me to consider the development I’ve seen in myself and the incredible girls with whom I surround myself every day. We are braver, quicker and stronger than we were two years ago, but one constant is that we’ll still pull just as hard for each other regardless of chronology or geography.
That being said, a light row today on the Thames framed by restless green hills and rolling fields is as good a location as any to prove how far we’ve come, literally and figuratively, in our races tomorrow.
Quote of a day:
“The Brits would understand!” -Coach Bancheri, discussing the Battle of Waterloo
(There was initially some confusion as to whether he meant the Brits, as in the British, or Brian Britz, a former GVSU rower.)
June 19, 2010
Name: Hannah Brinza, bow seat, 8+
Year and Major: Junior, Athletic Training
Hometown: Novi, MI
High School: Mercy High School
Today, the girls of the eight stayed in on house arrest because we need to be rested for our races for tomorrow. Most of the day was spent writing postcards, reading books and of course watching the world cup!
We did make it out in the evening for a brief swing row. As we waited for the races to finish, we tried our luck trading kit with some other crews. I did manage to trade a t-shirt with a crew from Guildford, and more crews promised to trade tomorrow. On the course we did a 25 stroke start with a quick little quad. This was an important row not only because it is the last chance for fixing things before we race, but also because it is the last practice the senior class will have as Grand Valley Rowers.
After practice, we went back to the bed and breakfast to begin preparing for tomorrow’s races. It is hard to be patient for a competition when everyone around you is racing it up two days ahead of you. I am anxiously waiting to get to the starting line tomorrow, as are the rest of the girls.
The four competed in their last race until the Reading Regatta. It was good competition; unfortunately, they competed against the boat favored to win.
The best part of the day was hearing about the girls in our four saving an 87 year old man who had fallen into the water. Grand Valley Rowing: saving lives all over the world.
June 18, 2010
By: Kendra Socks, Three Seat 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Geography/Planning
Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan
High School: Rochester High School
Last night some boys from the Leander Rowing Club came over for dinner. This morning, the Women’s 4 had a great race for their time trial, which qualified them for the Women’s regatta. The eight went to the course to practice in the afternoon. Afterward, we headed over to the Women’s Henley Regatta reception at the rowing museum, where we were able to see cool rowing artifacts, such as the structure of the slave ships that rowing originated in back in 400 b.c., as well as the coxless four that Pinsent and Redgrave rowed in at the Olympics.
Right now we’re just hanging out and resting up, the four preparing for two races tomorrow and the eight resting for two races on Sunday.
Quote of the day: “What’s somebody like you doing in a place like this?”–Some guy playing football (soccer) singing to the girls as they walked to the rowing museum in nice dresses.
June 18, 2010
By: Kelsey Arnold, Five Seat 8+
Year & Major: Junior, Communications
Hometown: Hudsonville, Michigan
High School: Hudsonville High School
This morning was the best morning because we got to sleep in! I awoke at 11:30 and rolled over onto my back and looked around the room. All the beds were empty and I was the only one left. I could hear voices downstairs and figured I should go investigate. The four had returned from their time trial and was eating lunch while the rest of us were just finishing breakfast. They advanced onto further racing, so tomorrow they will race at 10am. Last time I checked they were extremely pumped, but it is always easy to tell their emotions when Lauren Holben runs around yelling “Bangers and mash, bangers and mash!”
We arrived at the course early to shop around for some Henley kit. Most of us bought something, and ended up wearing it as the weather turned a bit sour and it started sprinkling. The single sculls racing was almost done, so we sat on the grass and watched, while admiring each other’s purchases. Practice was two laps, with two start and 25’s and then two more high 20’s. After adjusting our foot stretchers, riggers, and oars all week, today was the day everything fell into place. Our boat felt the best it has felt all year. While on a high 20 I thought to myself, “These are speeds we’ve never reached before!” We docked to a very happy coach Bancheri who was excited about our speed.
Right from the course we snuck into some bathrooms and, minutes later, came out wearing dresses and high heels. We transformed into beautiful butterflies! We headed to the Women’s Henley rowing reception at the rowing museum. Here we snacked on hors d’oeuvres and took team pictures with Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent…their statues at least. Tonight we planned on trading kit with the girls from New Castle, so we are all excited for that! Tomorrow awaits a day of racing and more preparing for the most unique and memorable races of our rowing careers!
June 17, 2010
By: Alex Vander Ark, Four Seat 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Health Professions
Hometown: Byron Center, Michigan
High School: South Christian High School
This morning we didn’t have to practice until 11am, so I got to do one of my favorite things… Sleep In!! On our way to practice there were some handsome young lads running past us, and Lauren Adlof made a U-turn during our run to chase after them. When we got to the racecourse we did some more adjustments on the boat and oars and then headed out for our afternoon row. We did a few pieces to test out our rig, and I think we’ve finally got it set. I think we’re feeling pretty good about our speed, and with a couple days of rest between now and race day we’ll be ready to fly!
After practice, I went to lunch at the Catherine Wheel with Coach, Lauren, and Kendra. We got to discuss our thoughts on the past season and share some ideas about the future of the team. Then we headed off to the farmer’s market in town to look for some fresh produce to cook dinner with for the “best Italian meal we’ve ever had”. When we got to the market, to our dismay, they were all out of the vegetables we wanted. So we made a trip to the local grocery store, Waitrose, and got our supplies.
When we got home, a few of us helped coach in the kitchen and prepared some delicious pasta dishes, salad, chicken, and garlic bread. We made enough for an army, but we had plenty of people to share with. The Newcastle girls are staying with us, and a few of the Leander men are coming over in a few minutes. So hopefully they will help us eat some of it. After the Leander men leave, some of us are going to get some dessert in town!
June 17, 2010
By: Dayna Campbell, Coxswain Women’s/Men’s 4+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Film & Video Production, Theatre Minor
Hometown: Beverly Hills, Michigan
High School: Birmingham Groves High School
We have been here a total of 5 days since our American Airlines flight touched ground at Heathrow. Immediately we were pointing out funny looking cars, hip British fashion, and EVERYONE’s accent! Within seconds all the girls found themselves trying to imitate the exact sound of the local’s dialect- I was doing that before we even left Grand Rapids! The moment we arrived at our home in Henley it finally hit me that we were in England. The house is decorated with just enough paintings and little statues to make it feel like “our house” but at the same time, I am sure everything in this house is worth more than everything I brought with me on the trip! This is where the elite of England live after all.
Right off the bat, we were on the water and rowing our little hearts out. For me being a coxswain, I was a little overwhelmed by the course. Saying that it is narrow is an understatement. There is one lane, and 2 boats are expected to race next to each other with out clashing oars or hitting the “booms”. Booms are wooden posts that stand vertical and line the course with about 6 feet between each one. Singles, doubles, quads, fours littered the Thames and I was a little apprehensive to get on the course. I just didn’t want to look stupid among all the British crews who live on the course. The first practice went well and it felt good to get it out of the way.
Because we are renting our boats and oars from a local high school, we have been adjusting everything everyday so far. I never really knew all the science and engineering behind each tiny measurement. Each oar has to be a certain length; each oarlock has to be an exact distance from the middle of the seat, and the height of the rigger has to be perfect. Those are just a few adjustments I have had to make to all 12 oars, seats, and riggers. As time consuming and frustrating as these tasks can be, we have to remember that being one centimeter off can make the difference in every stroke. It is all about going fast!
Wednesday morning (June 17, 2010), we had the pleasure to race Villanova’s Elite Varsity 4+. My four and I are I the Senior division, just one division below Elite. It was great to get some friendly competition and have a chance to race it up to see where we stood. We did 2 2-minute pieces and 2 1-minute pieces and won all four. This was huge. Going into the race we didn’t know where we should be mentally. Should we just prepare for the worst? Go in really confident? I told my girls that this was going to be just like any other practice back home. We are used to racing other boats from GV like this like the Men’s pair and Women’s V8 when they are broken up in fours. I think that calmed their nerves and got them to relax. After winning the first 2-minute piece our confidence grew as well as our intensity. We wanted to keep winning and kept it up. Villanova certainly gave a great fight and they helped us go faster. I hope we helped them too.
Today, Thursday, June 17, 2010, was a great practice. We are preparing for our time trial tomorrow morning so the row was relaxed and more of a flush workout. The girls rowed with great poise and looked pristine going through the water. Nerves are a little on the high side just because none of us have been here before. We are all experiencing everything first and more importantly together. After a long break between ACRA and now the Henley Women’s Regatta, we are all ready to row hard.
We race at 9:40am Henley time (4:40am Michigan time). There are 19 boats in our event at the moment and we have to be in the top 16. They will announce the qualifying boats in alphabetical order, and if your crew’s name is not called…better luck next year. We are ready. It is our time to o fast and we are ready to make some major wakes! LETS GO GV! GET SOME! Cheers!!
June 16, 2010
By: Sam Morgan, Six Seat 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Social Work
Hometown: Clarkston, Michigan
High School: Clarkston High School
We woke up this morning ready to do pieces against Drexel. After a quick breakfast and a long walk/jog to the boats we were on the water warming up. Our first piece was at the start of the racecourse and it was really windy so it took a little while to line up. But if anything has prepared us for wind, this spring season has. We went really high and hard on the first piece but it did not end in the result we hoped for. The next piece was a body piece, which is our strength, and we felt better about how it turned out but the next two pieces were from a start and we had to focus on improving from the first piece. The next one was hectic. The other boat steered into us and we clashed oars. We thought we were in the clear but then we felt our blades hitting something else and we realized that we were slaughtering a family of geese with our blades. I wanted to stop rowing immediately. In the four years that I have been rowing I have never hit an animal with my blade. It felt terrible. I could tell that I was not hitting an inanimate object but a living thing. The Drexel coaches who were riding their bikes along the shore assured us that we didn’t kill any but I know we were hitting them pretty hard. After turning around and calming down we did the last piece. The whole practice let us know that we needed to change a few things in the rig and each of us needed to do whatever we could to make the boat go faster.
After practice I went with Kendra to a coffee shop to read. We sat outside because it was a nice day and felt self-conscious having not showered after practice and in our scrubby clothes. We noticed that everybody in Henley, and maybe England as a whole, dress nicely when they go out in public. We stuck out like sore thumbs and everyone could probably tell we were American rowers. We window shopped a little bit, but I’m trying not to buy anything without thinking about it for a day because I spent too much money the last time we made this trip. Alex and I went shopping for dinner food at Waitrose and then we were off to another practice.
The afternoon practice included three laps of the course and ten 20-25 stroke pieces. Coach made some adjustments before practice and I don’t know about the rest of the boat but I felt so much better. After practice we were pretty exhausted and excited to hear that we get to sleep in longer tomorrow. Now we are waiting for dinner and then maybe we’ll go out and get desert, or maybe we’ll just pass out and take advantage of the extra time to sleep.
June 16, 2010
By: Laura Marshall, Seven Seat 8+
Year & Major: Junior, Math Education
Hometown: Livonia, Michigan
High School: Franklin High School
Hannah woke me up this morning. I rolled over for a few more minutes and when I got up for real, I realized that (like usual) everyone else in my room was gone…dressed, probably eating breakfast because they actually wake up. Thank goodness I’m on a team that knows my sleeping habits and watches out for me….otherwise I would have been kicked off this team after the first 5 a.m. morning practice sophomore year, and would never have made it here in the first place.
Now I think about what I mean when I say “here”, and two answers come to mind.
I’m here in England, at Henley-on-Thames. I enjoy the walk to practice. It starts off in the middle of the town, and we pass by all the shops, peering in their windows, and trying to figure when we can safely cross the street and avoid fast small cars that seem to come from all the wrong directions. Almost halfway through the walk we come upon the course, where there are huge, very green estates (one white one looks like it could be Gatsby’s); we watch the river and other crews on the water, and scatter when a bike comes along and we don’t know which side of the path to go to.
Morning practice today consisted of rowing some short 40 second pieces against Drexel in the eight, the four raced Villanova for a few as well (and won all 4 pieces!). For the eight, the results weren’t really what we had in mind, as we did not want to be beaten off the starts, nor did we picture a flock of geese mosey-ing about right in line with our portside oars (this was quite an adventure…all four ports smacked multiple geese at a very high and powerful 42 strokes per minute, and we all looked up to see what we thought were now headless geese, or at the very least unconscious and unable to hold their heads upright, which ¾ of the ports found to be very traumatic, and reason to nearly cry, and ¼ laughed at the stupidity of 20 bejillion geese sitting on a well-travelled race-course.) This presents the challenge to improve and work even harder (and research methods on alarming geese so that they do not impede our boat speed).
Today was the Juniors’ turn to eat lunch with Coach. For a while after, I read some Harry Potter and slept out in the sun porch. Lindsay woke me up for practice (see first paragraph), and we did some starts and speedwork on the river. Alex, Kendra, and Katie baked chicken and potatoes (Amazing! Delicious!) and now some of us will stay in to relax; some of us are going out.
Back to “here”, I’m in a very lucky place, within an irreplaceable support system that has accomplished what some people can’t even dream of. I’m here, in the middle of my rowing career, able to look back and look ahead to all the pains, efforts, successes, etc. that push this team to the limit and knit it so closely together. The men and women on this team have done anything and everything for each other, and look at where it has taken us. (maybe soon we’ll put up some pictures so you really can see where we are). I am so thankful for them. Cheers!
Quote of the day: “We shall think of them only as athletes eating a free meal, not as attractive young men.” –Lauren Adlof responding to Coach telling us that the Elite Leander men are eating dinner with us tomorrow
June 15, 2010
By: Leslie Mayville, Stroke Seat 8+
Year & Major: Junior, Clinical Exercise Science
Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan
High School: Rochester High School
I woke up in my Zebra print bed this morning around 8am. It’s tough getting up in the morning due to the lack of alarm clocks. We have had to use people’s watches for alarms because there are no clocks here. The little beeping watches seem to be very easy to sleep through, but so far we have managed to be on time so far. Nutella is the greatest invention on earth and I’m not sure why I never knew about it until now. I have a spoonful of it every morning.
Our morning practice today was a swing row, two laps around the course. We made a few slight adjustments to the boat this morning and are “dialing it in” as coach would say. I really like the boat, I think it fits us well and is starting to feel really strong. Before and after practice it is also really enjoyable to watch the athletes from the local boat clubs, especially Leander. They have amazing technique, it’s awesome to watch. You can learn a lot from watching them.
After practice we all came back to the house and ate some lunch. I ended up taking a nap for about an hour afterwords. After I woke up I went out with a couple of the girls to walk around for a bit. We stopped at a couple shops and boutiques, all of them had some pretty cool things. Up until our afternoon practice most of us just hung out around the house. I played Phase 10 with a couple of the girls. Right before we left for practice the New Castle girls got to the house. There were only five of them at the time and they had eight more on the way. We only had a few minutes to introduce ourselves but they all seemed very nice.
For our second practice there were a lot of boats out on the course. We started with our pre-race warm up and some high tens, then just a lap of steady state around the course. Then we met up with Bath University women’s eight to do some pieces. We ended up doing three 1 minute pieces against them. The first one started out a little rocky and they got us off the start, but the last two felt much better and we won them both. Our boat was really moving towards the end of practice and I think we are all ready to race.
June 15, 2010
By: Aly Mendels, Coxswain 8+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Physician Assistant
Hometown: Grand Haven, Michigan
High School: Grand Haven High School
When I first started college I never expected to be traveling around the country, taking long bus trips to places such as Philadelphia, Boston, Oklahoma City, Florida and flying around the country to San Diago and now England. It has truly been the experience of a life time, and while at times I wish I was sleeping and not out on the water at 5 in the morning, I would not trade the experiences I have had or the things I have learned for anything.
While our season started out on a high note winning the Head of the Charles, we did not have the spring we expected. However no one in the boat knows how to quit, that is a trait that I have come to find all top level rowers seem to possess. As a boat we knew that our season was not over after Dad Vail or ACRA and had to keep pushing through to our next goal, it was the only thing we could do. After training everyday since ACRA our day to shine is almost here. We have been training hard and we are ready.
After our first day of getting used to our new surrounding we were back pounding it out on the water, fine tuning our technique and bringing back the speed. Our day started out with a light (yet horrible) run down to the boats. This run was not required by coach, but Sam thought it would be a good idea. Thanks Sam. After we arrived at the boats we took off for our first row. Coach then decided that he would take the sophomores out to lunch, the first time I have been glad to be young. This took place at the Catherine Wheel, where I had a delightful bacon carbonara pasta. After taking a short nap we returned to the course for our second practice of the day, starting our speed work, racing a team that we have never seen before, The University of Bath. This was an amazing experience, and showed us the true potential we have to push the envelope and reach new heights. We all now know that when Sunday comes, we will be ready and we are chomping at the bit to start racing again.
June 14, 2010
By: Lindsay Marshall, Stroke Seat 4+ and Lauren Adlof, Three Seat 4+
Year & Major: Both Sophomores, Both Excercise Science
Hometown: Brownstown, Michigan and Canton, Michigan
High School: Woodhaven High School and Huron Valley Lutheran High School
Today was our first practice in Henley and it was an interesting one at that. To get to the course where we are practicing, we had to walk through town to get to the Thames River. It took about 25 minutes to get from our house to the river, but the busy roads and beautiful scenery made the trip feel much shorter. Once at the course, the boats we are borrowing arrived and we started to rig them. The boat that the ladies in the eight are rowing came in two halves because the roads are too small for a full eight to fit. We were almost finished rigging when, to our excitement, a young English man headed our way. As is our luck, he only came over to tell us we were not allowed to be on the property and to ask us to leave. We hurried and gathered our things and walked our boats to the Thames Boathouse, which was close by. The next task was to put the finishing touches on the boats, which includes changing the pitch, height, and oar lengths. Many of you at home may not realize the precision and work that goes into making these adjustments, but to give you an idea, we were ready to take our first strokes on the Thames several hours later.
Lindsay was overwhelmed with excitement to row on the Thames but at the same time very nervous about hitting the booms. For those of you who do not know what a boom is, it is like buoys that divide lanes but these are made out of wood and may do some major damage if hit; scary… I think yes! We put our boat in the water and shoved off. Dayna carefully maneuvered us through the booms and we took our first strokes in England. When we started rowing all together it was a little shaky and unset but still so very awesome. We took a few laps of the river and brought the boat back to the dock for a few minor adjustments and then went for one more lap.
Once off the water, we waited for the eight to dock and make a few more adjustments to their boat before heading back to our house. After being at the course for more than four hours, we were all very hungry and spent the walk back dreaming and talking about what we were all going to eat once we got back. After lunch we each decided to rinse off the long day with a shower, and received an unexpected lesson in what happens when 14 girls share one bathroom…think Antarctica. The shower was so cold that it felt like we had just jumped into Lake Michigan and the shocking cold water took Lindsay’s breath away. With the rest of the evening to ourselves, a few of us girls decided to walk around town again; however, it was five o’clock in the evening and may of the shops closed at 5:30. We settled for a walk and some window shopping before heading back home. We ended the evening by enjoying a delicious spaghetti dinner prepared for us by a few of the girls, and we’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep!
June 13, 2010
By: Lauren Holben, Two Seat 4+
Year & Major: Senior, History
Hometown: Grand Ledge, Michigan
High School: Grand Ledge High School
Our first full day in England started with a bus trip from our London-area hotel to the town of Henley-Upon-Thames. After some confusion over what was included in the continental breakfast (apparently, not us) we pitched ourselves into the bus and headed out. Along the way our driver, Charles, gave us a detailed account of the area we were heading to, along with some secrets of the royal family that could possibly get me deported if I wrote about them here.
After a short drive and some misdirection we ended up on a private drive in the middle of Henley with spending money and the whole day free to roam around the city. We said goodbye to Charles and immediately spread out in all directions to explore the three story house we had so recently been delivered to. Tomorrow we will gain 12 more girls from New Castle in Northern England at our house, which will be very interesting, since the varsity women’s four will compete against them during the regatta. The house itself is very nice, with plenty space. It’s surprisingly large inside, with plenty of room for all of us girls, although it will be interesting sharing one shower between the 14 of us. It also has a great garden out back with a small fishpond and a greenhouse. I expect we will all spend a large amount of our free time out there during our stay. I’m banking on someone falling into the pond, though for our sake I hope it’s a New Castle girl.
Once we were somewhat settled we all headed out on the town to buy groceries for the next few days and explore the shops a bit. Everything in town is within a short walking distance, and we were all constantly distracted along the way to the store by the sights and sounds of Henley. We spent a good 40 minutes in the food shop choosing team food and cooing over the different foods like steak flavored chips and chocolate digestive biscuits. I myself ate an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips over the course of the day, something I am both proud and ashamed to admit (mostly proud though). No one seemed to find us alarming, which I guess is encouraging. The rest of the day was spent shopping, sleeping, and eating chips (at least for me). There was also an awkward hug from a French man in there somewhere.
Right now things are winding down as people settle into their rooms, learn to Skype somewhat ineffectively, and be utterly ridiculous and hilarious together. Tomorrow starts our first practices in England, with our boats arriving at 10 am at the regatta site. If the rest of the trip is anything like the first day, it will prove to be a ridiculously exciting, absurd, and amazingly fun and special trip for all of us.
June 12, 2010
By: Tamara Hillman, Bow Seat 4+
Year & Major: Junior, Biology
Hometown: Gregory, Michigan
High School: Stockbridge High School
I’m not sure how I ever made it to be 21 years old, and nearly a senior in college without ever flying or even being in an airport, but needless to say I was very excited for this rowing trip to England to be my first experience. Well before we got to the airport in Grand Rapids I was asking everyone what flying was like and if they had any tips. Most people seemed to take that as tips for getting through security and told me to wear slip off shoes, while others just told me their own fears, or how it wasn’t scary at all. After all of my questions I still felt unsure and a little bit nervous about what was soon to come.
The plane that took us from Grand Rapids to Chicago was tiny! It was only three seats wide and I was immediately worried it was going to be really shaky. As takeoff commenced I was battling with the choice of looking out the window and embracing the process, or trying to distract myself from how it felt. I ended up just sitting and looking forward as I felt the plane pick up speed and then jump into the air. It was surprisingly smooth and felt like going up a giant hill in a car really fast.
Once above the cloud cover I couldn’t believe my eyes! The morning sky was beautiful, and all the clouds looked like cotton candy. I immediately began imagining what it would be like to run around in the clouds. Unfortunately the plane ride was very short and we soon began our descent into Chicago. I was more worried about landing than takeoff, and it was much scarier, although still not as bad as I had anticipated (as I had prepared for the worst). We had a little turbulence and then there was a pretty big thud when the wheels hit the ground, which was frightening. Then it felt like we were just slamming on the breaks. I kept wishing I could see the runway to make sure we had enough room! We of course, made it just fine.
We had a short layover in Chicago before getting on the really big plane to London. This plane was seven seats wide separated in three rows, plus it had pillows, blankets, and televisions for us to watch a movie. I was as giddy as a kid in a candy store as I discovered everything that was entailed in flying. Since I had survived the first short flight I was much more excited and less nervous. I just wanted to get in the air again and look at the clouds! My window was right next to the wing so I could see all the different parts moving as we flew.
Since the flight was roughly eight hours we were served two meals, which meant my first experience with airplane food. To be honest it left something to be desired, as all the food tasted the same (like salt), and the portions were for that of a six-year-old, not a college rower. Along with the meals came the first use of an airplane bathroom, or “Lavatory”, which was very tiny, but again, not quite as bad as I anticipated as none of my articles of clothing were sucked down the toilet like you see in movies.
The plane ride was long, and there was some turbulence so we didn’t get to take our seat belts off very much. They didn’t announce the characteristic “You are now free to move about the cabin” that I thought they would say, which was a little disappointing, but I was tired and was soon in and out of sleep.
The most exciting parts of the flight were getting to see the ocean with the waves far below us, and then descending into London at night seeing all the city lights shining bright. Once we arrived, we got off the plane and went to customs where I successfully got my passport stamped for the very first time!
Flying and going to airports for the first time in my life was very exciting, and although I want this trip to last forever, I also can’t wait to get back on a plane and watch the world from a whole different angle. I was very grateful to have all of my rowing friends there to help me through the journey, as I probably would have been very scared if my first flight was international and all alone! I anxiously await the tons of new experiences that are still yet to come on this trip!