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April 3, 2007

I am on a plane from London to Washington, DC and will arrive in DC at about 4pm today (5 hours from now). We sat on the ground for two hours on this flight also. A starter motor was out on Engine #4 of the 747 we are on and they couldn’t get it started after we pushed off. We taxied to service, got a new starter motor and were under way at 1pm (11am scheduled departure). Apparently the powers to be are trying to make getting home more of a challenge than normal. It will take an extra 24 hours to get from the Hairy Lemon Island on the Nile to Washington, DC. Who knows if it will take extra time to get from Washington, DC in our 1988 Toyota Landcruiser that has 195,000 miles on it. Dependable truck, but…, yea, we’ll get there in one shot.

Emily got really sick and has been struggling for two days. She hasn’t been able to keep food down and feels really bad. I hope she feels better soon. Nick got her a magazine, a Suduku book, and some Chocolate and she smiled. Dane is sitting next to me on this leg of the trip also and we left Joel at Heathrow Airport where he gets on a British Airways flight to Montreal tonight. Tomorrow he leaves for Mexico where his brother gets married, and then when he returns he’ll fly to where Ben Stookesberry is editing the 2007 JK promo video. I almost can’t stand waiting for it to be done. It will be so fun to watch for me, with the new boats, incredible shots, an awesome team of athletes doing incredible things, and great editing by Ben and Joel.

Last night I checked email all night long at the Hotel in the airport, compliments of British Airways who put us up for the night since they couldn’t get us back to the USA on the scheduled plane. I am 100% caught up with email. What that means is that if you emailed me and I didn’t email you back, I am not going to, because I have lost, deleted, didn’t get, or somehow misplaced your email; so send me another one.

We had an all you can eat buffet that included roast beef and asparagus, desserts, etc. it was a shock to the system after 5 weeks in Africa and everyone just smiled and ate, realizing that we truly eat like kings at home, compared to what we ate in Uganda. I am not complaining by any means about the food in Uganda, it can be quite good. But what a treat our last meal was. I am guessing that when we get home, we will all be giddy like kids in a candy store when we eat our first meal prepared by Kristine, who is the best cook I have ever met.

It is quite weird not paddling in two days already. Relaxing is something that kills the immune system and is unhealthy, I am convinced. By relaxing I mean going from having specific reasons to need to do things that are important to you, to suddenly having no pressing goals. It seems that the body shuts down, including the immune system. I think this is why people don’t live long when they retire, and why I almost always get sick only after a major event (like the World Championships in the past- this time I’ll be back on the train the day after to avoid such a fate). I look forward to having access to my family, work, training, and home all at the same time.

Flashback: 1991

I am 26 years old, Kristine is 20, Emily is 1. We are living in Washington, DC for slalom training but I can’t make rent and am 30 days behind and about to eat into my security deposit. We move to Atlanta, Georgia to resume training where the local apartment complex has a special deal for new renters- 1 month rent free, no security deposit. For the price of gas, Kristine, Emily, and I make the 600 mile drive and move into Riverbend apartments where I will resume training with Brian homberg, Eric Giddens, and Craig Denton. I hock tents and gear at the pawn shop for cash for diapers and baby food. Kristine and I are sharing a wonderful relationship built on love and commitment. Emily is a dream of a baby and my training starts going well again. My income came from me trying to get sponsors, and also the USA Olympic committee who was paying for some of the trips to training camps and racing, and I received $7,500 dollars in cash from the USOC in a combination of $2,500 in standard grants for being on the USA Team and I received the full $5,000 based on need. While I never wanted to be someone who got something based on need, but there I was, the USOC found me quite needy. At the time, that $7,500 was HUGE to us and we found ourselves feeling quite wealthy. At $490/month in rent, no car payment, and the ability to live very cheaply, we managed for quite some time on that cash. The future of my income and other factors, like covering the expenses of raising my daughter, and our future in general were completely being wagered on my kayaking. There was no reason to believe that our future had any light at the end of the tunnel, no USA Kayaker before me had ever received any real sponsorships, even multi-world champions- and the biggest sponsorship I had ever heard of at that time was $10,000/year for 4 years. That was a huge deal and nobody else had come close. Emily was a darling girl, that spent her time on the road at events such as the Nantahala Double header, Ocoee Double Header, USA Team Trials at Wausau, Wisconsin, and then the Champion International Whitewater Series, National championships, etc. She was a little darling girl that took her first steps at Relias Garden at the Nantahala Double Header during a Team Meeting, walking to Brian Homberg. Emily has a history with kayaking that is in her soul. She is as one with kayaking as it gets. It wasn’t a plan, it just was, and is. The only plan was to have her with us at all times, and I was going to be among kayakers at all times training, racing, and traveling. Kristine was the most passionate, loving, wife and mother I could imagine and I was lucky to have her, which is an understatement. I won the USA National Slalom Championships for the first time and got 14th in the World Championships. I was the 2nd fastest person in the World Championships in Yugoslavia, but hit two gates for 10 seconds in penalties. On the road out of town, we had to pull off the road to let the Serbian Tanks go by, who were bombing the town that night that we competed in; crazy. At the end of the year, I didn’t have the money to pay the $490/month and a new course was built in Dickerson, Maryland that was a duplicate (close but different), and I wanted to go train there to get ready for the Olympics (even though I didn’t make the Olympic Team yet). Kristine and I drove to DC and went door to door looking for an affordable place to live near the course (expensive suburb of DC). There are no apartments, only houses, and there is a clause for no less than 15 acres of land per house for new building. We put up notices at the post office, etc.. Eventually, the post office called back and said that she thought we had an opportunity to live in the grooms quarters of the barn of George Michael (of George Michael’s Sports Machine) and we were able to move in, free of charge until after the Olympics, if I made the team! My new neighbor, Mike Abbitichio, held a fund raiser so that Kristine and Emily could come and watch the Olympics also. They raised $4,000 in one party, sweet! Michelle became Emily’s best friend (they are the same age). And so it goes into 1992…

I like to take a walk in memory lane from time to time, remembering how we get from where we were to where we are, which helps me chose where to go next…