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The early flight had to be ready to leave by 3:00 AM. Yes, I typed 3:00 AMMMMMM which included my power lifters. They did have a direct flight so reached St. Louis in the morning, but Brianne and Dary had to wait all day for us so they could get on the bus to go home. Everyone else had to have their baggage on the curb by 5:30. I hope this is my last early morning for awhile. We ate breakfast and waited for 6:30 which is the time we were to board the bus. When we went outside, our baggage was still on the curb and the National Guardsmen were sitting in the Penske truck ready to load. There was confusion about the departure, but eventually the Guardsmen loaded our bags and took them to the transportation point. It was finally accomplished by Shaffer giving the guardsmen directions. She was called the General when she joined us. As we drove by the Philadelphia stadiums everyone but our small group was checking them out. I was waving goodbye to my daughter who was working inside Xfinity Live. This entertainment center sits in the middle of all their stadiums. Miss you Karen. Check in was chaos, but at least we had our own line. First we thought it was by alphabetical order, but then it was by team sport and then alphabetical order. We had to get boarding passes since Mandi was not able to print before we left. At the beginning they were weighing luggage, but evetually they just tagged them so the luggage could be loaded on the plane. Those that would have had to pay extra if over 50 pounds lucked out. When Shaffer put her luggage on the scale she told them the scale must be broken and they agreed. I bet hers was the heaviest one in the group. The memory to stay with me while in Philadelphia airport was when Jeff noticed that there was a smudge on his shoelace. He kept trying to rub it off so eventually some one got a tide pen so that he would not be disturbed for the remaining part of the journey. Team Missouri did sit together because our planes were leaving at the same time and the gates were together. A few had to try the Philli Cheesesteak, but it was only okay. There was not enough cheese on it. We headed for Minnesota while the other group headed for Atlanta on our journey home. Most of our group slept through the flight. The stewardess congratulated the team and the passengers clapped for us. The Atlanta plane was delayed due to weather so they made it in 1/2 hour before us. They were still at baggage when we arrived there. We headed to the motel for pizza and drinks. Steve who does not like pizza ate two pieces. When you are hungry enough anything goes. We stopped in Columbie and finally arrived back in Kansas City at 9:30 PM. It was a long day but great to arrive home. I hope that you have enjoyed by blog and now my new adventure begins. See you on Sunday MOM!
It is our last day at Rider. Thank goodness it is the last breakfast. Last time for those rock hard waffles! We left for TCNJ after breakfast to watch the boys basketball. As they say, they left everything on the floor, but did not win. The were ahead at the end of the first half. The other team came back quickly in the second half. Our athletes fought back to within two, but couldn't overcome. The crowd was huge and loud for Team Missouri. The girls basketball team also lost today, but I heard they put a lot of effort into their game. After the game, tennis, power lifting, and golf ate lunch together under a tree which was provided by the the New Jersey torch run. They served us a box meal of hamburgers and hot dogs. The athletes and unified partners went off to the village while Coach Ed and I went to the coaches meeting. Last one!!! We got the details for tonight's closing ceremonies and for our tonmorrow's flights. The direct flight gets to leave at 3 AM. The rest of us get to have our luggage out at the curb by 5:30. It will be the last early morning for awhile. I will be headed to my mom's house and I don't think she will make me get up at 5, at least I hope not. The flight that leaves first will get back to St. Louis early in the morning. Our flight won't get back until almost 5 PM and then we have to get on a bus to travel home. See you Saturday night, Jen. It is time to get ready for closing ceremonies, so I am signing off. I will probably post about closing ceremony and our flight after I get home.
Closing Ceremonies was held in an auditorium in Trenton so we did not have to travel very far nor did we have to wait on a bus since the journey began as soon as the bus was full. Dinner was held early so that everyone would be at the venue by 7. The only thing of interest that occured while on the bus was that a magnet sign fell on Jeremie's head which read that I've checked this bus for sleeping children. It was funnier at the time than it is now writing about it. Once we arrived the trading began. My best trade was for a Pennsylvania jacket and a New Jersey t-shirt. I wanted an item from Pennsylvania since my daughter lives there and NJ was the hosting state. I did not get the loudmouth pants traded. Once we made it to our seats, we were disappointed for the athletes because all we could see was the back of the stage. If we had been seated across the auditorium where the parents sat it would have been much better. It was like watching it on a large screen tv rather than being there in person. I did not feel that the musicians were very talented, but the athletes enjoyed them. My favorite part was the emotion showed by the Youth Summit individual who read and cried through what it was going to be like in 2030 due to the year 2014. The message confused the athletes, but the emotion showed by the young girl received a standing ovation. When she mentioned that the USA games would take place in New York in 2030, I think the athletes thought it was true for the next games. Lowering the flag is another emotional moment at the closing ceremonies. The last act was also emotional. An athlete spoke well about the future of Special Olympics and introduced some cute young athletes. We traveled back to the dorms by going through an area of Trenton that had not been seen before which was mostly Hispanic. As we passed a bar, I noted that security was patting down the customer before he entered the bar. We made it back to the dorms safely and finished packing.
The tennis team had a great morning. Brittany and Bobby both won their games easily 4-0 and 4-2 so they both received bronze medals. I’m proud of the tennis team going home with GOLD and BRONZE. Jeremie was scoping out the court on the last day. I wonder why he was doing this the last day??? I wonder if we will ever find out. I headed back to Rider before Bobby received his medals to get ready for the cruise. It was probably best that I did since they once again let teams come up and take team pictures rather than move on to the next group of medalist. I get very impatient when they do not move on to the next athletes. Can you imagine me impatient? A bus finally arrived for Rider. I was the only passenger and was hoping I would get back to eat lunch. It was already one and the dining hall closes at 1:30. When I got on, there were several more employees of the bus company on as passengers. They took off immediately so I thought I was in luck, but no such luck. They headed to the soccer field instead of Rider. A few more got on and luckily this time they headed for Rider. I thought it was a little late to be checking out routes. I arrived just in time. I got a salad and headed out to get ready for the cruise. I joined the bowling team since tennis and power lifting had already gone on the cruise. I stayed back when tennis went since I was helping Coach Ed with power lifting that day. I rode next to my husband to the dock. It was the most time I spent with my husband since before we left.
No one is getting tired and here is the proof. One of the coaches was standing under the tent waiting on the bus. It was raining and we were already drenched. She (I won’t mention names. I would never embarrass anyone, plus I forgot who it was that made the statement) asked where Brandon was since he was going with the bowling team. He was standing in front of the coach.
Once again our convoy of twelve busses had a police escort. There are no words that describe the feeling of watching police stop traffic on a busy interstate just so we can make better time. It is one event that you just have to experience. We left during rush hour so it was a slow trip even with the escort. The officers used their sirens several times to clear paths for us. All you want to do while traveling in this manner is to watch what the officers will do next. When we were close to the docks, we traveled on brick streets. It takes you back in time. We had to wait quite some time as they loaded the first ship first with about 100 individuals. I heard that the first cruise on Monday was overweight and had quite a few problems so a smaller second ship had to be brought in to help. It was fun to people watch. There was one runner that had on shorts, but no shirt or shoes. My feet couldn’t take running barefoot. Right now they couldn’t run 50 yards. It is going to take time to build back up to my five mile runs once I get home. Once we debarked from the bus which seemed like hours, we viewed through a steel memorial to where the Twin Towers stood. It was a solemn moment in our week. The memorial also had all the names of individuals that died from New Jersey. We then lined up single file to board. Have you ever watched 1,200 people line up single file? It takes quite a bit of time. Finally around 8 we made it through the buffet. Of course, the sun was setting and it was the perfect time to take pictures. We returned to a delicious meal that was rather on the cool side, but that was minor. It was amazing to see a boat spraying orange and blue water as it traveled around the cruise liner. There were many sailboats and other small liners that traveled by us. Many of them would wave at the passengers on our ship. There was one that had formal attire which I thought looked like fun. I bet they had better drinks than us. The athletes were excited to be able to drink soda on the liner. There is only water in the cafeteria. After we ate, many of the athletes went down to the main floor to dance. I went up on deck. It was spectacular watching the New York skyline, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. When I was up on deck, we noticed fireworks to our left. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful evening. We watched the tugboat help turn the large liner back into the dock. Our trip home was uneventful as we traveled alone, but once again you want your trip to be uneventful. Now it is time to start thinking about going home. The only sports left are aquatics and basketball games for tomorrow. We arrived home at midnight which is an hour later than planned. Even though it was late, we beat the track team. They were boarding the buses at Princeton at midnight. They were finishing up competition at that time. It is time to start packing. One more day left and then heading home.
Day 6 - Two Gold for Tennis
The day began very well with both Unified Tennis teams receiving gold. It was weird that the both teams played Maryland teams and ended up with identical scores. Both teams won the first match 4 -0 and the second 4 - 2. The only down size was the time it took to receive the medals. The volunteers were allowing picture taking of whole teams between each ceremony. I was anxious to leave since I knew my daughter from Philadelphia was going to visit. She made it to TCNJ before we did. It is great to see her even though I did see her last week in Kansas City. She went to find food while we ate at the cafeteria. Peggy and Bobby stayed behind to tape an instructional video. Guess who did not get lunch since they were taping??? I was able to introduce the dining hall at TCNJ to the Tennis Team. We walked over to bocce, but very little competition was in progress. I was glad I got to visit with Morgan and her family. The remaining tennis team piled into Karen's car to head back to Rider. Not sure why since it was soooo hot. One of the best part of the day was when Karen gave a quick massage. She went to school for this and that is not the only reason that I miss her in KC. We returned to TCNJ for dinner and the boardwalk. Going back we had four in the backseat. It was slightly crowded. I enjoyed the cold air and traveling in a car. I did talk to Peggy who does not like the Tilt-a-Wheel. Neither does the person running the ride because the had to clean up a mess. The things we heard when walking around the boardwalk! We did not stay long, but returned to Rider to play spades and visit with Karen. Time for coaches meeting so I'm going to say goodnight to everyone. I know it was short, but the heat is getting to me. I think it has fried my brain.
Day 5 Tuesday -- Showing their Strength
I told the tennis team I was going to get to sleep in this morning since Brianne lifted at 9:00. I know so much about power lifting that I didn't realize that she would have to weigh in at 7:00. Needless to say, I wasup and gone before any of them awoke. When we arrived, the doors were still locked for the fans so Dary and I searched for cafeteria. Dary was giving me a hard time that it I took the long route instead of the short cut. Dary thought I would get him lost, but no such luck. We still had to wait for 9:00, but a lot of time to write yesterday's blog. I will never again go anywhere without a computer. The Bocce team stops by to cheer for Brianne. It was greatly appreciated by all members of the power lifting team. I've never been to a power lifting competition so today I've learned about a new sport. You may be wondering why they assigned me to help power lifting, I have the same thoughts. To watch the strength in these two athletes is amazing. I can't find the words that I want because it is beyond me. To squat with double your weight in your hands baffles me. I would be lucky if I could squat while holding a four pound bag of sugar. That would be quite achievement. Brianne won four gold today. She actually would have won all the gold if you only counted her first lift. A special moment was when Brianne attempted to lift 402 pounds in the dead weight classification. She got it up, locked her knees according to Coach Ed's directions and the crowd went wild. The official started to put her hand down to let her know to bring the lift down, but she started the motion before the arm was completely down so it did not count as her personal best. The 390 pound dead weight lift made at state games still holds, but she did lift 402 pounds. Next time, Brianne. The athletes in Dary's heat were evenly matched. On each lift Dary would jog up to the bar and he was always smiling. He would lift and cheer no matter the results. He received gold in squat, 4th place in bench press, and bronze in dead weight. With the help of Coach Ed strategizing, Dary took silver in the combination. Three different athletes received gold and three different athletes received 4th place medals. Talk about evenly matched!!!
My moment of the games occured after the awards. During the awards, Dary received a bouquet of flowers just like they do in the Olympics. The women did not receive any flowers in the morning. After Dary changed into street clothes, he walked directly to Brianne and held out the flowers. He told her that she didn't get any in the morning and deserved them. Brianne broke down crying so Dary hugged her for several minutes. We all had tears in our eyes and then Brianne told him that he made her cry. There was a lot of emotion in the theater. Dary was a role model for good sportsmanship. He congratulated each individual after receiving their medals. He pumped his arms equally when he took 4th place as when he won the gold.
Now to the food. I'm ready to discrimination suit for those dining at Rider (LOL). I ate both meals today over at Trenton College of New Jersey. The food was superb. My mouth is watering thinking about the pizza, pasta, hamburger, deli, regular meal bar, and the bakery bar. We get one choice at Rider. I must admit Rider is better than going without lunches, but on a scale of one to ten, it would be a two. I might be generous. I would rate TCNJ at an 11 out of 10. After dinner, we returned to the hot Rider Dorm for a relaxing evening. Time to rest.
Day 4 (Monday) Competition Begins or the Best Day of My Life
The tennis team arrived early at Mercer Park. Matter of fact, we were the second team to arrive. The morning felt like hurry up and wait. I bet you never heard that phrase at a Special Olympics event. We were told it would be soon and then 1/2 hour later, we heard the same thing. A tennis pro rated the athletes by international standards. It was confusing and a lot of lines to put on the court, but the system did make sense. My favorite was tennis balls strategically placed on the court and the athlete had to run and retrieve them to a center point. Jeremie was huffing after only one ball! Talk about waiting, check out the photo gallery for Bobby and his mom hiding out in a tree. The trees were so pretty! Brittany finally made it to staging aroundnoon, about the time I started to think about food. Not here yet. Brittany seemed extremely tired today, but put forth her best effort. Since Peggy and Ashley helped her get a new racket, there has been tremendous gain. There were a few hunger pains, but no food. Bobby was up next and he had no problems with his opponents in divisioning, but once again, no food. It is now after two. I'm not sure people in New Jersey have a meal at lunch. Peggy and I attended a tennis clinic that showed us games to teach tennis skills. Ashley could see Peggy from a distance and wondered why she was acting like a bear crawling around on the court. We also played alligator in the river. Due to my toe, I had to pass. I thought it was a good excuse. You didn't know that we could have fun without tennis balls flying across the net. The food finally arrived close to 2:30 when we were ready to head back to campus so we could eat early and return for competition and the showcase event. At the bus stop, we decided the food was not tasty enough and we were eating dinner at 4 so in the trash most of it went. There were others at the stop that had been waiting 1/2 hour already. After we sat there for 1/2 hour with no bus, we decided we would not have time to go back to campus, eat, and return in time for our games. Many of Team Missouri would be there to watch us and we would not. Shaffer came to the rescue. After a call, she headed to the park to pick up the stranded team. She should have been a race car driver with her control of the van and sharp turns at the corners. She runs into a traffic jam and takes off into residential areas. She knows at least four routes to the park and I expect it will be ten by Friday or more. We never did find out what happened to the buses. The seating was premium in the van. Ashley, Jeremie, and I rode in the trunk of the van and we were so happy to get it. We ate and immediately headed back. Shaffer took the scenic route so it took about 5 extra minutes. We did get to see a beautiful tree in a neighbor's driveway while turning around. While returning we were trying to get Brittany to wake up so we got quite hilarious. I don't even remember what or how, but it was funny. I need to ask Ashley and insert if she remembers. We made it easily. Shaffer never takes more than 18 minutes while the bus may take up to 25 minutes. Thanks Shaffer for taking such good care of Team Missouri. While waiting for competition to begin, I had a fun conversation with the official from California. He asked about Chris who was an tennis athlete in 2010 at Lincoln. It is amazing how you don't see someone for four years, but yet there remains a feeling of family. If you see Peggy, ask her about her bag, she did find it (on her back). We are definitely not tired. Brittany and Ashley played at the same time as Jeremie and Bobby. Both teams had fairly easy victories so hopefully on the road to gold. We shall find out on Wednesday. Thanks to the bocce team for cheering our two teams. The showcase following the games had pros playing with athletes. There was one pro who was also a comedian. He would try to hit the ball between his legs or a mile in the sky, but always softly to the athletes. Bobby got to play with an official and signed a ball to throw to the crowd. Eddie from Ringer also played tennis with an official. There were several more well known individuals at the showcase. I was hoping for Andy Roddick but he had to cancel due to Wimbledon. I thought we were bigger than that, but just my opinion. We sleepily headed back to the dorms in our own taxi, but it was yellow and big. I really thought this was a new route once again or I could have been dreaming. See you tomorrow.
Opening Ceremonies — Our 5:30 breakfast consisted of pancakes, potatoes, and eggs along with pastries, fruit, and juice. Not too bad. We were on the first bus to the tennis courts at 6:15. The bus driver had written directions which were wrong. Our first stop was at the lake with nowhere to go, but we could see the courts. The second stop was the Club House for golf and then she finally listened to Jeremie who had his GPS up. We were the first bus to arrive, but ½ hour late. The rest soon followed and the divisioning for our unified doubles began.
Team Missouri did well today with the men taking all four matches andthe girls winning two of the four. We left by 9:30 to get ready for Opening Ceremonies.
Team Missouri got the wrong message so we thought that the diner was closed and we were going to get food under our chairs at the ceremonies. We got on the bus around noon and sat on it until about 2:30. Finally we took off for Prudential Center with police escort. We were the front bus so we had quite a view of police blocking off exits so that our convoy was not disturbed. I hope you can visualize a major interstate with a police car swerving between the lanes. He successfully completed his task. As you look ahead, the interstate is clear and then you look behind and there is a sea of stopped cars. Across the interstate the traffic is heavy but moving. This occurred the whole distance from Princeton to Newark. Our bus driver could not believe he was a part of this huge parade. I asked him if he would be talking about this for awhile and he said just as soon as he stopped he was calling his wife. He said they won’t even do this for the Yankees. He kept shaking his head and wiping his forehead. He said in all his years he remembers this happening once and it was at midnight. The other picture I want to paint is that the speed was drastically reduced. It took us twice as long to arrive in Newark as did the return trip. I can’t imagine how irate the individuals felt that were stopped by the police.
We then stood in line until 5:30. It was suppose to start at 4:00. It was definitely worth the wait. The Snackables that were under our chair were even delicious. I even posted a picture of it on the Photo Gallery. I can’t believe that I wrote those words, but still hungry.
The whole program was high emotional charge. The theme of Champions was carried throughout. I have been to two previous nationals and none of them compared to this electric event. I can’t even find the words so I hope you were there or streamed it on the computer.
Our trip back was uneventful. I think you have heard those words once or twice before. We did get a box dinner when we returned at 9:30. I’m proud of all Team Missouri since I did not hear any complaints about hunger.
Tomorrow will be a better food day. My last task was going to the coaches meeting and washing a load of clothes for Power lifting and Tennis. I do want to make one suggestion, read your dryer instructions. It takes a long time to dry your clothes on air fluff. I must be getting tired. Good night.
When you don’t get to bed before 11 pm, 3:30 am comes quickly. We thought we had to be ready by 4:30, but it was really 4:00. We did get out of the hotel by 4:10 which was a good thing because it took us forever to get through the baggage line and security. I was quite happy that my bags only weighed 40 pounds. I won’t mention any names but there were several that did weigh over 50 so they were removing items and putting them in carry on. I also heard a rumor that a few got away with a couple pounds over without having to pay extra. Duncan Donuts handed us our breakfast as we neared the plane. The egg and bacon bagel was pretty good and filling. It was completed with juice, banana, and a bar.
Our plane did leave on time with half the plane wearing Show Me Proudt-shirts. We were recognized as we boarded and the fellow passengers applauded. Since we waited to be the last off the plane, many of the passengers congratulated us or wished us the best in New Jersey. We did have some first time flyers. There were gasps when we took off. A passenger near me just turned around and smiled at them. There was even more ohs and ahs when we touched down. I think they were happy the first leg of the journey was complete. We spend extra time in Atlanta waiting on our plane and then after we boarded, there was another delay due to faulty light. We finally lifted off and again I am grateful to say that the flight was uneventful. There were still a few gasps at touchdown and many best wishes from the fellow passengers.
We arrived in Philadelphia and were met by a volunteer who led us through the secure area. We did make a pit stop at the bathroom. There wereonly five stalls in the bathroom. This was hard to believe in a major airport. When we exited the secure area, there were cheerleaders, fans, and mydaughter, Karen, who lives in Philadelphia, her boyfriend, and his family togreet us. I had time for hugs, but that was about it. I talked for a few minutes and then had to run to catch up with the group. It was quite painful due to an injured toe which is another one of my stupid moves that you don’t want to hear about. The National Guard had our luggage ready to put on the bus when we arrived in baggage. All we had to do was board the bus for an hour drive.
We arrived at Rider University to hear a band and many fans cheering us as we drove by. Once again the volunteers unloaded the bus and drug our luggage up to the dorm. The only sad part was that they did not take the bags up to my third floor room. If you did not know, we do not have an elevator or air conditioning.
After we were settled, there was time for bonding. We went to dinner which was mediocre. After dinner, the tennis team practiced in the streets. We later found out that there were courts down the street. I saw the football team making moves (practicing), golf bocce in the dorm hallway, and cards being played while others were visiting. Time to bed, I have to get up at 4:50 tomorrow.
My thoughts were with my mom all day and did find out that she was goingback to her hometown on Saturday. Heal quickly MOM.
On Friday, I slept in for the first time since school has been out. At about 7:30, I finally crawled out of bed. I had to pack so that we could be at Amy’s family business by 10:15. The trip of the year was about to begin. I went to the library to pick up my books on hold. I had to make sure I got James Patterson’s latest book. Jen and Brooklyn dropped us off at the bus. Everyone was excited, but I was tired and finding it difficult to leave home. I had left my mom the night before lying in the hospital so I can say I was struggling with leaving Kansas City. Our trip to St Louis was uneventful. That is good when you can say that while driving.
We arrived at Washington University for the sendoff. The campus had magnificent architecture. My daughter would have loved to drive through the campus just looking at the buildings. Our bags were packed, transported to the bus, and then we watched the magician who the athletes enjoyed. I become fascinated by the book, Marshall. I found out the movie was set in Missouri. Then you can guess who showed up, Marshall himself, on his three legs. Read the book! Dinner would have been great, but they ran out. Coaches were last due to a meeting so there wasn’t much left. We were fed the delicious pasta once we arrived at the hotel. It was fun having the police car lead us to the hotel. I know I would have been wondering what was going on if I had been in a car driving down the interstate. Good night Day 1.
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."