Archive for October, 2009

the last leg

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Note: Click on images to see them a bit larger.

From Freycinet we backtracked to Swansea, where we had a “spa” room booked in a strange hotel – the only room I’ve ever seen with both bunk beds (plus the main bed) and a spa tub – maybe it was in case you wanted a whirlpool bath to calm you down when the kids got rambunctious?

Swansea is a very small town, so we were just going to eat in the hotel restaurant, but when we walked in it smelled funny (disinfectant, mostly, not food) and didn’t look too good, so we walked down the road a bit. Last time we were in Australia and New Zealand, once out of Sydney the food was mediocre with avery heavy emphasis on lamb; that seems to have changed noticeably. Across from our hotel was a cafe with on emphasis on good ingredients – they had signs about organic coffee, free-range eggs, and so on – but the menu didn’t have anything that appealed to Ted that day so we walked on and came to the other restaurant in town, housed in a former bank. Maybe it’s because we’ve eaten out so much, but often I find it’s possible to just look at a restaurant and know you’ll be well fed. And we were!

Back at the hotel that night, the stars were incredible over the ocean, though it was a bit chilly to look at them for long. So I got my star fix. (The most I’ve ever seen at once in Taiwan is about three. I miss stars.)

drive3Next day we drove about 230 km to Cradle Mountain National Park, through some beautiful springtime countryside. People who live in Tasmania are not deprived of scenery.

As the roads got smaller and smaller, I was beginning to wonder what kind of accommodations we’d find- and since our itinerary said we were booked in a “cabin”, I was hoping there was going to be food around. No fear – Cradle Mountain Lodge is not precisely Spartan. In fact, they even had a real spa, and after we walked around a bit and checked out the park’s visitor center I had a massage while Ted checked out the Internet cafe on the road in. (My results were better than his – the massage was good, while the “Internet cafe” was a coin-op computer, like the one they also had in the main lodge. So he picked up sandwiches for us to take hiking the next day and hung out in the bar, since I had the only room key.)

In the morning marion1 we hiked up to Marion’s Lookout. Unfortunately this was some of the worst weather we’d had since getting rained on during our races – marion2 at least we had our Goretex jackets to keep the rain off, and fleece pants rather than cotton ones on.

marion4By the time we reached the steep bits just below the Lookout it was sleeting, but the sun did peek out at bit right when we were on top to let us get some pictures, ad just below the top we saw a rainbow reflected in one of the lakes.

marion3 marion5 marion6

Once we got lower down, the sleet turned back to rain and eventually tailed off, though we got only fleeting glimpses of Cradle Mountain itself when the clouds opened for a moment. We did get to take some more photos on the way down, with a bit more cooperation from the elements.
marion7 marion8 marion7

drive1 And then of course we had glorious weather again the next day for our drive to the airport.

Our itinerary called for us to fly on Virgin Blue from Launceston to Sydney, where we had a six hour layover before flying on Singapore Air to Singapore, then a layover there from midnight until our flight home at 8 the next morning. Not looking forward to that, we’d been clever enough to make a reservation at the Singapore Airport Transit Hotel on our way out, in hopes of getting at least some sleep. The, because we got to Sydney so early, we were able to take an earlier flight to Singapore, and the hotel let us check in then (they book rooms in 4-hour blocks – our first time in a hotel with an hourly rate!) so we actually got something like a full night’s sleep. The SIngapore Changi airport is enormous – not only do they have two hotels in the terminals, they have a swimming pool in the airport, a gym, and rows and rows of shops and restaurants which were busy both when we got there after 10PM and when we got back to our gate at 6:30 AM.

Another intelligent thing we’d done was to plan to arrive home on Friday, so we’ve had this weekend to do laundry, get used to being home again, and in my case write up all these blog entries. Tomorrow it’s back to work – and I guess, time to start planning for the 2013 World Masters Games in Torino!

The one with the critters

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Note: Click on images to see them a bit larger.

On the drive to Port Arthur, we’d passed by a wildlife park that looked interesting. So on the way out of Hobart, we detoured to visit it, and it was interesting; they do wildlife rescue, returning animals to the wild or keeping them forever, depending in their condition. They’ve also got some extremely tame (and hungry) kangaroos, and a few koalas because “you can’t really call yourself an Australian wildlife park without koalas” – and anyway, to a koala it doesn’t really to make that much if the tree you’re clinging to is in a zoo or not. The person who’s holding the animals up was great – she clearly loves them, knows a lot about them and cares about their best interest.

Us feeding the roos:
roo1 roo2 roo3 roo4 roo5 roo6

A baby wallaby, essentially a small kangaroo, rescued when Mum got hit by a car:

Wombats might have been designed by nature just to look like stuffed animals. They can be pretty feisty when grown, but these are juveniles who will be returned to the wild:
wombat1 wombat2 wombat3

parrotsThe parrots are not rescues; this is just what normal Aussie birds look like.

Tasmanian devils are not as fierce as their reputation but we were told it is true they’ll eat anything – including the bones, shoes and clothes of any hiker so unfortunate as to get lost and die in the bush. They also show off their ferocity with a sort of hissing roar – you can hear it here:
devil1 devil2 devil3 devil4 devil5 devil6 devil7 devil8 devil9 devil10 devil11 devil12

Speaking of sounds, koalas make an astonishingly loud one, liike a hiccuping lion – you can hear one here. That video isn’t ours, but these koala photos are:
koala1 koala2 koala3 koala4 koala5 koala6 koala7 koala8 koala9

And now with bonus echidnas (echidnae?):
echidna1 echidna2

wineglassroo_parkingAfter leaving Bonarong, we drove out to Freycinet National Park, where we hiked up to a lookout over Wineglass Bay – and in the parking lot there, we saw our first kangaroo in the “wild”.

Tasmania! (Hobart)

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Note: Click on images to see them a bit larger.

When we were in Australia ten years or so ago, we had some time in Sydney, then visited Cairns (including the Great Barrier Reef and the Atherton Tablelands) and the Outback (Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, the Olgas) before heading over to New Zealand. One of the things we’d wanted to see but didn’t have time for was Tasmania, so that’s where we went after Sydney.

circle_bowWe have so many great pictures that I’ll have to let Tasmania speak mostly for itself. We flew into Hobart early in the morning, and got to see something from the plane window I hadn’t seen before: a fully circular rainbow. Even at first glimpse, Tasmania is so beautiful that I was taking a bunch of photos out of the plane window.

After checking into our hotel, we had a tour of Hobart that turned out to be mostly a tour of nearby Richmond: a town with an historic prison (Tasmania was settled mostly as a place to house convicts) and a bunch of craft shops.
richmond1 richmond2

On our second day in Hobart, we had a tour to Port Arthur, which we’d thought was a town but which turned out to be the ruins of another old prison: if you were a criminal deported to Australia, you were free there, but if you then committed further crimes, this is where you were sent. It was a hellish place, especially the Silent Prison where prisoners were not permitted to talk, hear speech, or even see each others’ faces, but it’s hard to imagine a more paradoxically beautiful setting. On the way there, we stopped to go look at the Tasman Arch, also.

In Penrith, the weather changed every half hour; in Sydney, it was clearly too warm for winter and too cool for summer, but in Tasmania, you can see it was clearly and unmistakeably spring, with flowers everywhere, and baby lambs and ducklings wherever we went.
pa1 pa1 pa3 pa4 pa5 pa6 pa7 pa8 pa9 pa10 pa11 pa12 pa13 pa14 pa15 pa16 pa17 pa18 pa19 pa20 pa21

The pictures actually remind me a lot of the ones we took at Blarney Castle in Ireland – hard to believe this was such a hellish place.

Tasmania didn’t get any less photogenic once we left Hobart – I think I’d better continue on with a separate entry.

Outlaws in Sydney

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Note: Click on images to see them a bit larger, email me if you’re in one of them and want me to send a file with better resolution.

syd_waterfrontIt’s probably not possible to name the world’s most beautiful city – how do you compare Sydney’s blue harbor and sparkling glass skyscrapers with the medieval castle, hills, and red tile roofs of Prague? But if you were to try, Sydney would definitely be in the running.

divingWe checked out of our hotel before heading off to the last day of the races, since we were staying in Sydney that night. Ted and I returned the car, then took the train to the Olympic Park where we met up with the others. Once everyone finally got there, we had a brewpub dinner (pretty good burgers, and the Aussies take their chips (fries) very seriously). The we walked off to see whatever other sports were going on that night. We’d met someone on the train who told us she was headed to diving practice so we stopped there first. Fun to watch, and there were many more dives during the practice than we’d have seen at an actual match; there were people lining up and going off low and high boards as well as the high platforms. As with Masters rowing, one of the joys there was seeing people of all shapes walking around unembarrassed in spandex and participating in sport; there was one particularly graceful woman in a black bathing suit who was shaped like a pear with legs and who managed her weight beautifully – not very complex ones, but perfectly one. There were hot younger guys (well, late 20s – this is still Masters) and middle aged ones, simple swan dives and complex twists. Very fun to watch.

Afterward we tried to watch some volleyball and weightlifting, but both had ended for the evening so we headed back to our hotel near Central Station.

The next day, Friday, was our first full day in Sydney. Iskra went off to meet Nick, Teddy, and some other friends, Rebecca opted to explore the Library and the Botanical Gardens, while Kathy, Laurie and we went off to get sort of an overview. Kathy wanted to see Aussie critters, so we walked to Darling Harbor, less than 1km from our hotel. I’d hoped to see the Chinese Gardens on the way, but there was an entrance fee and I didn’t want to see them that badly. The Harbor has been developed considerably since Ted and I were there ten years ago – I think the Maritime Museum and the IMAX were there but there are water features, building, restaurants, shops and so on I don’t remember. We went to see Sydney Wildlife World – Kathy was a bit worried after realizing it was indoors, but they had inside displays of things like bugs and lizards and snakes, with wallabies and koalas and butterfly habitat up in semi-open habitat areas. We didn’t get to pet koalas, but we did get to take some fairly close-up pictures.
(I’ll leave these small since we got better animal photos later on, in Tasmania.)

harbor_flagsOur feet were tired after that, so we skipped the aquarium and took a ferry over to Circular Quay, which is sort of the heart of Sydney – one of the best things they did was to give us free passage on all Sydney buses, trains and ferries just by showing our badges. A side effect of this was that people tended to walk around wearing their badges; between those and the bright backpacks it was easy to spot the Masters Games athletes and we were everywhere! This was the biggest games ever, with 28,000 participants – 2500 in rowing alone.

bridge_operaOf course, things like the Harbour Cruises weren’t free, but we got a discount on it, as well as a 2-for-1 deal on the Wildlife Wolrd – Sydney really did go all out to welcome us. I think a cruise is the best way to see a port city, and this one was longer and more thorough than the one Ted and I took ten years ago.

p_hatIt bears repeating: Sydney really is a gorgeous city, and the perfect weather didn’t hurt. It was still windy – not such a problem when you’re not rowing in it – and I got very lucky: it was so sunny I’d bought a hat and cheap sunglasses, and the wind took my hat off while we were on the upper deck. But instead of blowing off into the water, it just blew down on floor of the lower deck, where a woman grabbed it for me.

at_dinnerAfter the cruise we walked around the Rocks area for a bit, researched the Harbor Bridge climb (and decided not to – it costs nearly $200AUS per head and you can’t bring your camera) and then, since it seemed like the best day for it, I made a reservation for our memorial dinner for Uncle Larry. We met back up with Rebecca a little sooner than planned, but fortunately they let us be seated early, and we had a great dinner, with lots of memories and possibly the best view in the world – we were next to the windows where those pictures on their webpage were taken.

Then accident hit – on our way back to the hotel, Laurie stepped funny, blew out her knee, and by the next morning she couldn’t walk. The timing could have been worse – it could have been at the beginning of the day instead of the very end – but it could have been a lot better too, like not on this trip at all. Kathy made arrangements with the hotel to get a wheelchair, but it wasn’t going to be delivered until noon. (There are some predictable issues with having a horde of aging athletes in town!)

looking_downSince Kathy really did want to see the Bridge, she came out with us and we went up to the top of one of the pylons, here there are exhibits about the building of the bridge and a view from the top, then we walked halfway across it. We went back to the hotel, so Kathy could meet back up with Laurie and head out on a bus tour that wouldn’t need much walking, then Ted and I mailed a package home to get ride of some excess weight and headed over to the Opera House. Our tour guide wasn’t great. You know those people who end every sentence with a nervous giggle? They’re even more annoying when you’re listening to them on a headset and that giggle is piped right into your brain. But seeing the various theaters in the Opera House was interesting, and we got to listen briefly to Liza Minelli’s orchestra rehearsing. Liza wasn’t there herself yet, but still, I kept thinking how much my uncle would have enjoyed that.
That night for dinner Ted and I met up with a very old internet friend, someone I’ve know for more than ten years. Unfortunately had to be wimps and end the evening early because we needed to be at the airport by 6 the next morning (and had to say goodbye to the other Outlaws that night) so we didn’t get to spend nearly the amount of time with her that I’d have liked, and the brewpub where we went to eat was noisy enough to make conversation difficult. But the beer was phenomenal, it was great to meet someone I’d known for so long, and how often do you get to hear someone playing trumpet and accordion simultaneously anyway? (Er, not my friend – the two-man polka band they had in for Oktoberfest.) Or hear Michael Jackson songs played on tuba? So it was a great way to end our stay in Sydney, though it did leave me feeling a little guilty for cutting out early. Afterward, we found Kathy and Laurie in their hotel room (right next to ours) and said our goodbyes, hoping we won’t have to wait until the next World Masters (2013 in Torino!) to race together again.

The Outlaws Ride again!

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Note: click on photos to see them a bit bigger, and email me if you want a photo file with better resolution.

It was great to have several of the Arizona (and formerly-Arizona) Outlaws together again to race – Paula, Ted, Kathy, Rebecca, and Iskra, with Iskra’s friends Nick and Teddy from Vancouver as honorary outlaws and Laurie as honorary Oar Wench / pit crew.

It was also pretty exciting to be racing at the rowing venue from the Sydney 2000 Olympics – the nicest course we’ve ever rowed on (and the only one with either spectators’ stands or enough toilets). There were 9 lanes across, which also makes it the widest course we’ve rowed on – good thing, with so many competitors.


Standing in lines turned out to be a feature of the Games; unlike the accreditation lines, the boat-hire lines weren’t long, but they also weren’t moving. Fortunately we were able to get most of that worked out the day before races started; then Rebecca and Iskra went off to register, which took them 2-3 hours – it had been five hours earlier, until they streamlined the process by not putting photos on the badge. Kathy and Laurie opted to wait until the next afternoon. They and we had a very Americanized pre-race dinner at the Lone Star Steakhouse, right by our hotel.

Despite the boat-hire lines, though, the race was incredibly well run, with a huge number of well-trained volunteers. They managed to maintain three minute centers (that is, races only three minutes apart) for the whole five days – this means there would actually be two races on the course at the same time. I saw no safety incidents, and the only times the races ran late were when high winds interfered.

sunrise_venueDay 1: Ted and I left for the regatta while it was still dark out, under the misapprehension that he had a race in a quad with some guys from the Port Macquarie Rowing Club; unfortunately, he’d been looking at an old schedule and the race that morning was for mens fours instead. We stayed around, though, because Rebecca and Teddy were racing in Women’s A Singles that afternoon, and Nick in the Men’s D Singles. This regatta was so big that most races had heats, semifinals as well as finals, though some events went straight to finals just depending how many rowers registered for each event. The number of people advancing on also varied and could be anywhere from the top two to the top four – I think it was four for the Women’s A Single. The singles races were all pretty full, with the Men’s D having 12 heats. With so many competitors and such a high level of racing, it’s a big deal that all three made it to semifinals! Rebecca said that this was one of her best singles races ever – always good to time that for one of your biggest races ever.

rebecca1 teddy1 rebecca2
(Photos are of Rebecca launching early, Teddy racing, and Rebecca racing.)

Ted, Rebecca and I also figured out how to game the system at Penrith Panthers that night – it was Saturday, so there were big crowds, but instead of waiting in line for dinner, we placed a take-out order at one of the restaurants there, then ate it at the bar area’s outside tables. Much nicer than being in with the crowds, too!

Day 2:
pk_w2xFirst thing in the morning, Kathy and I got to race a double together for the first time in about 3-4 years. Unfortunately I was probably not warmed up enough, as I spent the race from about 250 meters on trying not to puke. This probably didn’t help our speed since we came in last, though only by 0.3 seconds. (Most of our regattas are not even equipped to call a race that close!) I think this was the most crowded event any of us were in – 13 heats, with 9 boats in each, so only the top 2 advanced on.

quad1We had to get right back in the boat for a Women’s A quad less than an hour later (you had to launch 45 minutes before each race, to allow for proper staging). This time we were warmed up; Rebecca and Teddy had warmed up on the ergs to be ready too. Though the three of us from AZ had never rowed with Teddy before the boat felt good and solid. Unfortunately Teddy came off her seat shortly after the start and we lost some ground until she could get back on. Oh well, vicissitudes of racing – and to her credit she didn’t miss a stroke the whole time. We came in 4 of 6, nearly 12 seconds out of 3rd place, so it might not have made a difference. This was the only cooperatively-coxed boat I’ve ever been in – me steering before and after the race, Rebecca during, and Kathy calling the start and the focus pieces. Not a normal way to row, but it worked out OK.

quad_ringsDid I mention we were at the Olympic venue?

Iskra had her single race the same day, and won the first medal for our group, to no one’s surprise.

Nick and Ted also raced that day in a Men’s C Double – they were only 6 seconds out of first place, but it was a very close race – they placed fourth, with only the top three advancing to semis. More vicissitudes of racing – this was just an unlucky draw, as their time would have put them in first in any of the other heats.

Oddly, the Opening Ceremony was on this night, after we’d already been racing for two days. After our last race we headed out on the train to the Olympic Park, where they mustered us in one of the stadiums for our parade. The muster by sport was interesting, looking at the other sports and talking to the rowers standing by us. It also finally made sense of the feathery halos we’d seen in the airport a few days earlier – lots of people had costumes for the parade. Once the muster was complete, they called us by sport and we all walked over to the main Olympic Stadium for the ceremony. Unfortunately, once we got there, the walk slowed to a crawl and we spent about an hour in the parking garage under the stadium, advancing a hundred feet or so then waiting until we could move again. I am now in a position to report that the garage is decidedly not the most scenic part of the Olympic Stadium. The ceremony was nice though: welcomes, anthems, speeches, fireworks, constant references to the Sydney Olympics, and aboriginal dances. Once the concerts started, Nick and Teddy stayed to dance but the rest of us left to rest up for the next day’s races.
parade dancers at_opening
(Photos are the parade about to enter the stadium, some of the dancers, and us at the ceremony.)

Day 3:
rk_w2xtp_w2xWe got to sleep in a little this day, as none of us had early races. This was the day of the women’s B doubles: Kathy and Rebecca raced in one heat, Teddy and I in another. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well for Kathy and Rebecca with their boat – another crew had to race it as a pair (one oar each) shortly before their race, so they barely had time to rig it back as a double (two oars each), and weren’t able to make other adjustments before going out, so the shoes were way too big and the oarlocks way too high. They came in 5th of 8 in a fast heat, and since they’d been training together they were pretty upset, feeling like the boat was a big part of that. Teddy and I had some of the same issues with the boat being just too big for us, but there was simply no way to adjust it down far enough – at least we were able to lower the oarlocks enough and we were given better oars to race with than the ones we’d had in practice. (Also, it started raining just then.) Never having rowed together, though, and considering how little time I’ve been on the water this year, we were really pleased with our race and our 5th of 9 finish – it felt good and we knew we’d done our best.

Ted’s single race was also this day; he had the same issues with not having been on the water enough (though at least he’s been able to row during business trips to the Netherlands). He finished 4th of 5, mid pack in terms of all of the heats’ times.

Also, did I mention that we were at the Olympic venue?

This day was nice, too, because my online friend Anne, who actually lives nearby, came out to watch and brought her kids. I’ve known her for a long time and actually remember when those kids were born, but we’d never met in person before. Meeting someone you know online is always fun, because you’re meeting someone who is already a friend. The kids were great, too; they totally charmed Kathy and were completely engrossed by sorting through the river-smoothed rocks on the water’s edge. They were there in time to cheer Ted on, and seemed to enjoy learning about rowing, too.

This night we went to Luciano’s, an Italian place someone had recommended, and found they had most intelligently created a “rowers’ special”: garlic bread, salad, and three kinds of pasta for $20AUS a head. A good way to feed big hungry crowds and not have to keep track of lots of orders per table!

Day 4:
We’d originally expected to have this day off, but Ted’s quad with the Port Macquarie guys ended up being scheduled this day. They must have been impressed with Ted, because they put him in stroke seat, which is usually where you have your most experienced guy. The boat was actually only two Australians, filled out with Ted and a Canadian rower (more on him later). They were 5th of 7, once again not quite making it to semis (four boats advanced). It was a rough race, though; the wind predicted for afternoon came up early, and shortly after they guys had launched, the race officials announced that no more boats were to leave the docks due to high wind. They raced against a gusty headwind, and the day’s races were called after the heats, with no semis or finals being held that day.

pj_tpAnne and the kids had come out to watch again, and we got the kids to try out some rowing machines to give them an idea how things work – the machines we had them on were a bit too high -tension for them though! Later after they left we also got to meet up with the sister and brother-in-law of another internet friend of mine, whom we’d also met four years ago at the last World Masters Games in Edmonton. This turned out to be a real coincidence, though – what we hadn’t realized was that the BIL was also the Canadian who had rowed with Ted in the quad! One of the best things about traveling to regattas is being able to reconnect with rowers you’ve met elsewhere and this was no exception.

Since the races were called for the day, we went back to the hotel. Ted and some of the others went off to watch kayaking practice and see how that end of the venue was set up while Rebecca and I went with Anne and the kids to a local yarn store, where I got to buy a few yearns I’d been curious about. Then Rebecca wandered off to explore downtown, while we went back to the Krispy Kreme where the kids were glued to the window watching donuts being made while Anne and I talked about knitting, homeschooling, and the people we both know. (It’s always nice to see kids so interested in rocks and machinery and how things work!)

Day 5:
mx4xLast day of racing, and unfortunately the winds were not cooperating. The races were called off once again – but luckily, not until after the mixed D quad (Iskra, Nick, Kathy, Ted) got to race and won gold medals! Mixed events work a little differently from single-sex events; there are no semis or finals, so medals are given for each race. The times in different heats can’t really be compared, because the wind was getting worse and gustier throughout the morning – but their time would have won medals in all of the heats that raced after the wind began to kick up!

getting to Sydney

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I think Australia is probably the most comfortable place for US travelers, except for Canada – and even that’s mostly because of the lack of the jet lag and the driving on the wrong side of the road. There’s just something about the open country and the attitudes there that make us feel at home. (The slang’s more colorful though – you really do hear “G’day” and “mate” and “fair dinkum.”) One flaw, though: internet in all of our hotels (all 5 of them) was running about $25AUS a day. There was free internet at the McDonalds and Krispy Kreme near our hotel in Penrith, but I didn’t have a ton of time there and didn’t have any access thereafter except for 15 minutes one day in Tasmania – hence the radio silence for the last couple of weeks. I’ll try to get the whole trip written up and photos posted over this weekend, probably in three entries (one each for the race, Sydney, and Tasmania parts of the trip).

Starting at the very beginning, we flew out on a Wednesday afternoon, which was nice – no rushing out of work and no getting up early. However, the trip had a terrible beginning – Tuesday night I got home late from work to the news that my Uncle Larry had died. I really wasn’t expecting it, since he’d rallied every other time he’d gone off chemo for a break, but the last time I spoke to him he was barely able to talk, so I guess I should have realized. I spoke to both parents, though, and given the difficulty of changing the flights to get to the US, the uncertainty of when the funeral and any other memorials would be, and most especially my uncle’s own love of travel, they told us to go ahead with the trip as planned. That made the whole thing pretty melancholy, but also right in a way – not only would he have loved the trip, but we were meeting up with two friends who had actually met Uncle Larry when he came out to see us race in Oak Ridge, TN, at the World Masters Games a few years ago. I informed everyone we would be having a memorial dinner at some point, since it seemed much more appropriate than dedicating a race or whatever to someone not at all interested in sports.

This was our first time to fly Singapore airlines, and I recommend it highly – the food wasn’t bad as airline food goes (meaning, it wasn’t great either – it’s a relative thing) and the entertainment system was the best I’ve seen on any airplanes ever, both on the 777s to and from Singapore and on the A380 we took from Singapore to Sydney and back. Which leads to the next thing – we got to fly on the new A380s. Verdict: meh. The kneeroom isn’t bad but that’s a decision made by the airline, not by Airbus. It was very quiet, but there are not enough restrooms (it didn’t help having two out of order on the way to Sydney) and Ted complained about the size of the overhead bins. I like the 777s better.

Our big advantage, coming from Taiwan, was being off Sydney time by only three hours, much less than the other Outlaws coming from Arizona. Nonetheless, after all the trouble Ted and Kathy had going to the last World Masters, we’d decided to get there a day early, which turned out to be a good decision.

After flying in, we did the paperwork for the rental car, but left it at the airport while we took a train to the Olympic Park to register – the train was *not* a good decision, as it cost extra money and took forever because we ended up on a local train that stopped at every station. We’d thought finding the venue in the car would have been difficult, but judging by all the signage we saw later, probably not. But registering that first day definitely was a good idea – it took us under two hours, much less than it took on later days. By the next day it was taking 5 hours – after that they sped things up by not putting photos on the badges, so people had to go back later if they wanted that fixed. We also picked up our World Masters Games backpacks, which were black and turquoise and proved to be a great way to recognize other Games participants – with some 28000 athletes competing, 2500 in the rowing alone, we were everywhere you looked in Sydney.

After that, we got the car, drove to the venue, had a practice row, were lucky enough to run into Ted’s partner for the men’s doubles, and checked into the hotel. It was part of this complex, which was kind of weird – apparently it’s The Place To Go in Penrith so there were always young’uns walking around in 1980s flashback clothing – notably, long shirts and no pants – and older people wandering around with tanned skin and bleached hair. It was handy having the restaurants next door, except that since it’s technically a private club we had to sign in for “guest passes” whenever we ate there.

The next day we picked up two of the other Arizona Outlaws at the airport (technically, one rower and our Oar Wench), met the other two at the venue, and practiced more. The wind kicked up enough to cut our practices a bit short, though – a foretaste of what was to come.

More later!!