My (weird) and wonderful trip

Well, it’s been a interesting month.  I was 35,000 feet above the Atlantic when Osama bin Laden was killed, spent two weeks in Europe playing Table Tennis well, and got sick, came home and got better.  Wonderful times.  A few problems, but not many.  Made some new friends and saw some old ones.

Life is interesting, that’s for sure.  You never know what is going to happen from one day to the next.  Two weeks outside your comfort zone is a test of everything that you have.  Mentally, Physically and Emotionally.  Nine thousand miles.  Five Flights.  And one excruciatingly long bus ride around Rotterdam.
Slovenia is a wonderful place and they do a very good job taking care of us.  The hotels are very accessible and well-staffed.  Nice people and a pretty good venue.  300 players and a slew of volunteers, officials (and one very cool Texan teammate) and you have a world-class event.  Unlike last year, when i was the lone American, I actually had teammates and coaches with me on this trip.  Meaning that instead of dealing with officials and attending meetings, I was able to relax and concentrate on playing my game.

In both Laško and Rotterdam, I played the same three in my group of four.  I took a game off the Korean and played the French player very well the first time.  The second time, a week later, when i was ill with a cold, played well there too, but the scores weren’t indictive of how close the matches were.  Against the Russian, i played about the same.  My teammate, Mike and I, took a game in one of our team matches and I thought we had points.  I did for about a week and then they were taken away.  Oh well.  Easy come, easy go as the old song goes.

My teammate and doubles partner, Mike Godfrey, is from Texas and has a personality as big as the Lone Star State.  He was a Pro-Rodeo rider and became paralyzed after being thrown at an event twenty-some years ago.  The man is amazing, always got a smile on his face, and has a wonderful wife and help-mate in Crissy.  And a very cool step-daughter in Lillian.   All three of them helped me get through my two week odyssey.

All my teammates went above and beyond in making me feel comfortable and welcome.  Even through my little dust-up with my roommate Sebastian over a huge laundry bill (my fault completely), I felt like I was a part of something very nice and cool.  And my Coaches, Dan, Keith and Roman, helped me out immensely and it was nice to have coaches.  Thank you Pam for suggesting that we pay for the extra coaches and to Jon Redman and his foundation for the $2000 to put towards that.

None of us won medals in either Slovenia or Holland, but I think everyone played very well and better than many of us expected.  My local coach Bob Quinn, said to me the other day that I was playing as well as he’s ever seen me play.  I told him I thought my new chair has helped and the fact that i know how to play at this level now is very important.  And the fact that we finally have some coaching who looks after everyone, not just select players, is a big plus.

I come back and tell folks, I played well but didn’t win and they don’t understand.  Some think I’m just going to be a tourist or that I enjoy the travel.  Believe you me, I like to travel, but if I was just a tourist, I wouldn’t even bother playing.  What people don’t understand is that everyone at these tournaments is very good, even the ones who don’t win.

Now, about that bus ride.  First of all, it was amazing that we all got there on one plane.  Everyone who stayed the extra days in Slovenia went out on the same flight to Amsterdam.  Thirteen people in wheelchairs and some had extra equipment and chairs.  Amazing that Adria Airways got us all on the plane.  But once we got to Schiphol Airport, we were all put on buses and taken to Rotterdam.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Not exactly.

The ride to Rotterdam was easy enough.  Took about a hour.  Went to the venue.  Coaches got off the bus, athletes didn’t.  Then, the George Perot Bus Tour of Rotterdam began.  (Mr. Perot was a friend of my grandfather and hosted a travelogue show on Detroit TV back in the 60’s and 70’s)  We were housed at the Bilderberg Hotel, but the driver was told to follow the lead bus and so we did…for four hours.  It was terrible.  I was a miserable wreck and my cold was getting worse.

Anyhow, once we got to the hotel, we found out that the rooms weren’t exactly accessable.  So, more delays and frustration.  Finally got into a halfway decent room and took some meds and went to sleep, eventually. And I left my vanity bag on the bus.  A very long day (They found my bag and returned it to me).

Well, that was my European “vacation.” What I learned was that I can play at this level and win, too.  And that it’s nice to have teammates and friends who care about you. Maybe not as funny as the Griswald’s or as scrutinized as the President’s, but an adventure nonetheless.  On to Milwaukee and Sheffield.

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