On the second day of my Portland trip I was invited to join a practice session with a competitive Dragon Boat racing team. They only had 19 of the full 20 rowers available that morning and let me take the empty seat. It helped that I knew someone on the team.
The team is called VIP which stands for Visually Impaired People. While I am not visually impaired, (except maybe after a few drinks), they put up with me and didn’t make me do shots beforehand.
As this was a week before a race I was warned that it was going to be a brutal practice.
I was seated in the last row right in front of the person managing the steering, (who was not, I believe, “visually impaired”, but they put up with him as well). He was a friendly gentleman who, during occasional breaks, coached me on proper rowing techniques. I’m not sure how well I followed his training, but I did manage to not hit anyone with my paddle.
While I would like to say that I kept up with the team, I probably participated 70% of the time and the rest of the time got out of the way while fighting with my body to continue—maybe more or maybe less involvement; I was mostly concentrating on doing the right thing while not passing out. All said and done I was told we did a couple 500m races and were on the water for maybe 45 minutes or so. At the end all I wanted to do was jump into the river and float, but that was not on the agenda.
Instead me and my friend relaxed a little on a few busses then hiked up to Washington Park, which is a beautiful place. We started at the International Rose Test Garden, passed on the Japanese Garden when we found it had an entrance fee, then ended up at Hoyt Arboretum. I wanted to see the redwoods, which was about as far away from the trailhead as it went, (well, not quite, but close). So off we went on a hilly, curvy trail through great scenery trying to ignore the fatigued muscles carrying us (well, me anyway) along.
Finally I headed back to my hotel for a shower and some down-time before heading back into the city.
My friend’s daughter, who was about 9 the last time I saw her and is now 28, (wow I’m getting old), took a job emceeing a concert of three bands put on by a radio station in Canada. The three of us met for dinner at a place that served huge burritos for a quick bite, a beer, a shot, (it was a combination special except I didn’t know you had to select certain things and ended up paying more than the $10 the others paid), and some conversation. She gave me a copy of her third and latest album which I listened to a few times in the car the next day when I drove to the ocean to visit another friend.
Then it was off to the concert at a cool, intimate place built in 1911. It was fun to see and listen to these young bands each with their own unique styles working on their craft in this sort of raw and supportive venue.
On the way back to my hotel, thanks to Portland’s weird roads and Google’s vague directions, we ended up on a very scenic drive. Perhaps the road was scenic visually as well, but it was pretty dark at the time. Instead it was scenic in that the roads twisted around and went up and down like a roller-coaster. My friend kept looking at the map on his phone saying that there wasn’t a straight road anywhere nearby.
(To be fair, Google did say “turn left now” near the start of the journey, but there were two lefts to take at different angles and I chose the wrong one, so for whatever reason Google decided to take us down surface streets from then on.)