Notes Prior to Heading West

We’ll be pointing Henry westward later this morning, on the first leg of our drive back to Denver. Today’s destination: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This is not the seasonal migration, since we’ll return by air in mid-November for the holidays. It’s been a lengthy stay in the East, beginning in early June with the 2,000-mile drive here in our new Ford.

I watched a few races on the Charles yesterday, the first day of the annual Head of the Charles regatta. What a spectacle. The power and precision of the rowers inspire me to get out there next spring and lay down some miles in a club single from the Cambridge Boat Club. One of the races I watched was the men’s championship singles. I expected to see more exertion, humans reaching desperately for every ounce of strength they could muster. Instead, these guys seemed to flow like the river itself. They moved back and forth on their slides as if there was simply no other way to do it: legs first, then the arms pulling in the last of the stroke. Then again, and again, an unbroken harmony of motion moving upstream to the finish. This is what inspired me, actually. I’ve shed my initial awkwardness in a single during the past couple of years of rowing. I’m not fighting to stay upright with every stroke now, and sometimes it feels natural. But those championship scullers live in another country. I’d like to visit it a few times before the end of my race.

I always get weird before a big trip, so yesterday was prime time for nutty thinking. Throw in the fact that Cambridge carries me back forty plus years to my college days, and you’ve got the makings for a man weeping as he rides his Trek along Memorial Drive. Not quite, but I could feel the moisture gathering behind my eyes.  Then comes the ragtag Harvard Band, shuffling across the Anderson Memorial Bridge from the stadium to Harvard Square. I rolled to a stop at the intersection just before they started a new song. The air was crisp with the mulched aroma of fall, and everyone looked smart. If you closed your eyes, you’d think the great music was being played by professionals. Open them and you see the musicians arrive looking weird and fantastic, wearing their crimson blazers and yellow flowers behind their ears. Who knows why? They are out of step, in no particular order. If they’re like me, every one of them thinks he or she was the Admissions Department’s single error of judgement. But they play on, headed for Harvard Square and the rest of their lives. An alum from the Class of 1972 records their passing on his new iPhone 4S and feels sad and grateful for the passing of the years and the miles ahead.

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