On the afternoon of March 9th, one day before he left for Venice with his father, Irving gondolier Connor Riley had the luck or misfortune of rowing tandem with me on Lake Carolyn.
We fought our way through a blustery wind to a calm spot beneath the Omni Mandalay Hotel, and Matt snapped a few pictures with a long lens.
This was his first time rowing a gondola with another rower.
Connor had spent plenty of time rowing a-poppa, but team rowing was a new experience for him.
Earlier in the day, I'd watched the forecast as it progressed, I saw that we would be getting a lot of wind - exactly what I wanted for tandem training.
I knew Connor might get the chance to row with some of my friends in the Veneto soon, and wanted him to have some idea of how things can be on the water, and how two rowers can overcome conditions that one person could never handle.
As we headed towards a bridge that had become a literal wind-tunnel, Connor got a good idea of how unforgiving the wind can be. After passing under the bridge, we came into an area which funnels the wind to a ridiculous level. it was there that my young rowing-mate said those familiar words - words I've heard and said before:
"Greg, I gotta be honest, I'm not sure how much more of this I can take".
Having been there myself many times, I encouraged him to continue, knowing he had it in him. We rowed through the mess, Connor did an awesome job, figuring things out a bit along the way, and we made it to our intended destination in another part of the lake.
I hope I get the chance to row with Connor again, if not in Texas, maybe in Newport, or somewhere else. We had a great row that afternoon, I hope he'll be a better gondolier because of it.
I know he'll never look at the wind again in the same way.