Inevitably, the time came for our first competition. The easy breeze of passing seconds, minutes, and days didn’t care about the frantic begging of the coaching staff. There was a good chance that we were rubbish at rowing, because we had lost to a High School team in a tune-up affair. Stating that we had lost was a charitable assessment of our skills. We had been completely demolished by a boat of veritable children. The aftermath of that debacle was hours of mindless crazy-eight turns on the flat surface of our practice lake. I wasn’t sure myself that the practice had made us any better at all. It was my suspicion that we had peaked, and that our best rowing effort was possibly as refreshing as the stagnant water we rowed on.
Nevertheless, our first real competition in which college age students would most likely destroy us effortlessly was the site of the ultimate destination trip for people that had never been to a city larger than two thousand people and lived four miles from their nearest neighbor. Yes, it was with irrepressible glee that we were headed to the Eastern Missouri mecca of Kansas City. What made our journey even more fantastical was that we would not hop a plane and cut the trip into a forty-five minute routine cruise. We would instead absorb the local flavor of the state by driving across it in the choicest mode of transportation, extra-large passenger vans. It was my humble opinion that the trip might possibly be the highest and most exotic excursion I had taken in two weeks. The trip was way better than going to the grocery store. In addition to my humble enthusiasm for the whole mule-train affair, Party was actually excided to get on the road.
Packing for our sojourn was easy. Since we would be rowing, we were told that it would be absolute folly to pack such mundane items as wallets. Moreover, we would also not need a change of clothes, because that would be completely overrated. We would need our green one-piece spandex uniforms, but we didn’t need to worry about packing those. Books were also a forbidden item, unless we were bordering on academic probation, and absolutely needed to study. The Coach told us that we didn’t need these things because everything would be taken care of. And since sleep deprivation had long since broken our spirits, and he was our hierarchical figure who now told us how to live, we again ignored those niggling nagging doubts of individual thought, and went along with his plan like it made perfect sense.
Specifically, the explanation was that we didn’t need these items, because we would be staying at and on the floor of a gymnasium for one night, clearly the pinnacle of resort life. As for food, it was related that some of us didn’t need to eat, because they needed to make weight for the race, and others of us who did need to eat would be fed at a proscribed time with classically healthy food that some cafeteria would serve us after our glorious Leader, I mean Coach had paid with approved school funds. Since our lodging and food was covered, there was really nothing else to spend money on, since there would be no cultural side-trips over the weekend or any deviation from the plan at all.
It truly was going to be a wondrous time. We would get to see the highlights of Missouri from the vans, which would travel in continuous formation. The convoy would begin with the Coach, towing the boats, which would be followed by our three extended cab vans. The entire complement of our boat would be in the last van. The driver of our van was Jughead, a massive fellow that was five feet, four inches tall and weighed at least one hundred and fifteen pounds, and was a feisty rowing machine that never spoke. Eventually it was Friday afternoon, and we loaded up the vans with our human cargo, and then, since we were the last vehicle, we spent half an hour watching the maneuvering of the convoy pieces to jockey to leave the campus while friendly conversation withered and died from irrepressible heat and boredom.