Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why I am Happy to Be an Olympian Couch Potato (Part Three)

Those of you who know me totally expect me to begin this next post about our actual trip to the Salt Lake City Olympics by saying that I took a wrong turn and ended up in New Jersey or somewhere close to that and missed the entire thing. I did not. As a matter of fact, on the way there I only made one right turn when I should have turned left, and I caught it after only a few miles. And who can blame me? I mean, have you ever driven through the Texas Panhandle? Miles and miles and miles of nothing but flat cotton fields broken up by the occasional stockyard. I was actually quite proud of myself. Here is what happened, however. First of all, one does not realize, living in a metropolitan area that sprawls the way Austin does, that there are still areas in the United States that are vast, open and desolate. And such places exist in New Mexico. Where I was when I almost ran us out of gas. I had not anticipated the drain on my mileage an extraordinarily full car, driving up hill into ever increasing altitude would be. I had never even come close to running out of gas in my Subaru Legacy before, so I had no idea how much grace period I had when that little red light went on, but it had been on for a while when I spied a sign off the highway, up a hill that looked like a truck stop. I headed for it only to find the pumps looking abandoned. Walking into the building, I was shocked to find I had walked straight into a strip club! The hostess was very sweet actually and pointed me in the right direction, but it was another 20 miles before we finally found gas, and the car was literally sputtering its way into the station. But, other than that, the first long day of driving went great. Friends had sent us off with a goodie basket of magazines and snacks. My husband had bought two small coolers for us, so we had lots to drink. The daughters of my business partner had let us take their audio Harry Potter CD's, so we listened to books on the way into Albuquerque, the half way point.

After getting settled into a somewhat flea bag hotel and finding overpriced Chinese food for dinner, I decided to plot out our first day of actual Olympic activity, which would be Sunday morning very early. I reached into my folder with all the information and rooted around for the tickets. Wait. Where are the tickets? I had left the tickets in the lock box twelve hours away! I could turn us around in the morning, meaning we'd lose two days of activity, including the first part of the men's' competition, or I could try and have them Fed Ex'ed to where we were staying. The decision is one that will likely live in Veldman lore for generations to come. I called the house, in tears, and interrupted Greg's poker night with the boys to tell him what happened. After having some riotous laughs at my tearful expense, they got FedEx to actually come to the house, pick up the tickets and put them on a plane to Salt Lake City. They arrived there before we did the next day. But, you can probably guess that cost an arm and a leg. Essentially I bought my tickets to women's hockey, lots of variations of cross country skiing and early rounds of men's luge a first class ticket, and bought myself a lifetime of grief by the participants of the fabled poker game, Greg's best friend Rory and brother Randy chief among them. I will likely never go any where ever again without being constantly reminded, "Did you remember the tickets?" Truth be told, I am still, eight years later, consistently paranoid about that very thing.

However, we got there. The tickets got there, and we were set to go. Now, let me tell you a little bit about Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, including Provo. They were made for people like me. The streets are all logically laid out in a consecutively numbered sequence that extends from the heart of the downtown on out into the surrounding suburbs. Nonetheless, I did manage to consistently lose my way getting back into the neighborhood where we were staying, and I did totally get lost the first free afternoon we had while trying to find an exhibit on the 1933 Olympics that no one but me wanted to see. But, for the most part, all I had to do was navigate my way into downtown, park and then meet various buses that would take us out to the far flung events. So that was not the problem. The problem was that in order to get to the various far flung events, one had to be at those buses very, very early in the morning. And then we would be on the go until very late at night. Only to fall into bed (and our hosts had the most wonderful, downy soft mattresses) for as many as four hours or as few as two to get up and do it again. Experiencing the Olympics in other words is an experience in extreme sleep deprivation. And we were there for nine solid days of it with one free night off which, when it finally arrived, seemed like heaven.

At first, spirits high and the temperatures unseasonably warm, things seemed okay. Our first day there was men's luge and then medal ceremonies downtown followed by the Foo Fighters, whom none of us had seen live before. Kelsey even caught a bouquet of roses tossed by an American medal winner, and got very excited when she got blood on her beige coat I had bought her from the mosh pit (which, by the way, watching Mormon kids mosh would have been hilarious had not my tiny daughter Marissa been in there somewhere with them).

And the next couple of days were dominated by the men's figure skating competition. Alexei Yagudin was the best in the world at the time, but he came in with a chip on his shoulder, having been somewhat embarrassed the year before by his training partner, Evgeni Plushenko. He had been skating like a man possessed, and this was clearly a competition he wanted to win very badly. And he did. His long program to The Man in the Iron Mask was breathtaking. He broke all kinds of scoring records, garnering first place votes from all judges in all stages of the competition. I remember when he collapsed to his knees at the end of the long program. He knew he had pulled off a near perfect skate and was overcome by it. To be in the building and witness it was incredible. I remember thinking, "Well, whatever else happens, I'll at least always have this memory."

Oly Mens Free

Oly Mens Free

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