Monday, February 16, 2009

Austin Expedition - Summary

"That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger"
- Friedrich Nietzsche

"What don't kill you makes you more strong"
- James Hetfield of Metallica

"That which doesn't kill me...only postpones the inevitable"
- Chris Harrison

"That which doesn't kill me...can sometimes really piss me off"
-Greg Mohr

It was a windy one in Austin.
Chris Harrison and I had spent a lot of time hoping and praying that the wind and rain, which had been in the forecast, would pass us by.
We got a pass in the rain department, but when we arrived at the dock in the morning, the wind was there, waiting to give us a hearty welcome.

Now I am not a superstitious man, but over the years I have gained a certain amount of respect for Murphy's Law. Mr. Murphy's principle was in full effect in the wind department that day.

Chris and I made some great headway as we rowed from our dock near the Congress Avenue bridge toward the 1st Street bridge. I noticed that the wind was trying to spin us around as it hit us from the rear-port quarter.

Just under the 1st Street bridge, we met up with Paul Parma, an Austin local who is well-known in the American gondola community. Paul was rowing a small skiff in perfect Venetian style. We were very impressed with how perfect his form was on such a unique platform. The remo even had the red and white chevron stripes.

Rowing further along the shore we encountered a few photographers and publicity staff, took some photos, grabbed a snack, and continued on. I noticed that the wind was now coming from the port side, offereing new challenges in keeping the boat straight.

As we made a slight bending turn near Zilker Metropolitan Park we regained the tailwind which had repeatedly tried to spin us around earlier. We almost never had a "perfect tailwind" to push us properly. Further north and we were now being blasted from behind, and approaching the MoPac bridge at a high rate of speed. As we passed under the bridge I spotted my wife Elisa with our two daughters calling and waving. Excitedly, I waved back, taking my attention away from things long enough to almost run into a bridge piling.
Yes folks, remember me this way.
A little quick reacting and some colorful language and we cleared the piling.
After the MoPac I began to realize that our "happy little tailwind" had become a fierce beast. I decided that it would be wise to turn around and begin the inevitable windfight to get back to the other end of the lake.

What followed was a great man-against-nature experience as we put our shoulders into it and rose to the occasion. The Austin expedition was similar to many others but there was one noteworthy difference: the addition of a boombox CD player, which came in quite handy when we turned to face the wind. Believe me when I tell you, that row would not have been nearly as enjoyable without the new album from Metallica blasting, inspiring angst and raising our pace to a new level.

We met that crosswind again about halfway back, this time coming from the starboard side. The Austin skyline was in view for much of this section of the row. Austin has some of the standard high-rises, but there are a few buildings that really stand out, making it a very interesting city to look at.

Once we passed back under the Congress Avenue bridge, it was headwind time again. We decided to venture past the dock and fight our way down to the other end of the lake, turning finally at Festival Park. It was all tailwind from there.

All along the way we were greeted by folks on the shore and from bridges. I have heard that Austin is America's second most fit city, and it doesn't surprise me. Everywhere I looked there were people running, biking, walking, and all in February.

Our Texas-sized winds reached speeds of 25 knots, gusting to 30 at times. It wasn't the worst we'd seen - that honor goes to the Buffalo Bayou in Houston, but it did prompt me to rethink what we call this thing.
This was our third one-day expedition, and so far they have all involved fighting the wind.
At dinner that night, I suggested that we stop referring to them as "gondola expeditions" and begin calling them "wind hunts", because we appear to be quite skilled at finding wind to row against.

It didn't kill us to row against the wind so much, it only made us stronger.

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