The withdrawal begins

It’s amazing how much one’s mindset changes in a different environment.

I arrived back in Virginia last night, mentally exhausted from the logistically challenging travel day and physically tired from the week, expecting to feel…well, I don’t actually know what I was expecting to feel.

Let’s go back and recap the day, though, because once I got to Baltimore, things got interesting.

My flight left only a couple minutes late from Albany, but overall it was a pretty quick journey. My favorite part of it was flying pretty much directly over New York City. We did that flying into Albany too, but I was on the wrong side of the plane that time so didn’t see it. This time, I had a full-blast view of it!

Quick history lesson/sidenote: after my combine trip in September, I drove down to NYC for a couple days, staying in Brooklyn with a childhood/high school friend of mine. I ventured into the city by myself, which was pretty frightening. However, because my mind was in Lake Placid, still mulling over the week’s events, I didn’t enjoy the city as much as I thought I would (though the highlight was definitely seeing “A Little Night Music” on Broadway.)

After having physically been to the city, it was really cool to see it from the airplane. Manhattan is HUGE, and Central Park takes up like 1/4 of it. Really neat to see that strip of green (well, yellow and orange with the fall colors) in the middle of towering skyscrapers. That’s what us Parks and Rec-ers do in the world! I know, we’re pretty much awesome!

Anyway, I wish I had a camera on my phone or a camera in general because it was a pretty good picture. It took a while to find it, but seeing the tiny Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was really cool! I took this picture from the Internet…basically what I saw:

I arrived in Baltimore a couple minutes late, figured out what Metrobus I needed in order to get to the Greenbelt station, and realized that the door I had to catch the bus at was on the other side of the airport…literally. So, with one big bag, one little bag, and a backpack in tow, I fairly ran to the bus (a 15 minute journey in itself), caught it just in time and rode the 40 minutes to the Metro station.

Once off the bus, I booked it to the train, not wanting to be traveling for more than I had to that day. It wasn’t until I reached L’Enfant Plaza in the middle of Washington, DC 30 minutes later that I realized I had my backpack with me, but my two bags of luggage were still on the bus…in Maryland. SHIT!

I got off the train, called around for 30 minutes until I had contacted the Metrobus garage, and figured out the number of the bus that I had taken. The dude I talked to said she would be back at the Greenbelt station at 6:20 and would be leaving there at 6:40.  I checked the time: 5:30. Other than that, she would be back to the garage at 11:00pm that night.

After calling friends back at camp who were picking me up and telling them the situation, I hopped back on the metro heading back the way I came. 40 minutes later, I was back at the Greenbelt station, waiting at the station stop for the bus.

As it pulled up, I took a peek at the luggage racks. My bags were gone! My heart was really pounding when I got on the bus and asked, as calmly as I could, if the driver knew what had become of the luggage. She was very nice and said that she took them herself to the Metro station office and turned it in, asking the Metrolink to call my name over the intercom. She said she saw me taking off without them and tried to get someone to stop me…that’s how focused I was on getting to the train! I never even heard my name being called!

I thanked her perfuesly, then went back into the station, and told the manager I had left my bags on the bus on accident. He replied with a smile, “Oh, you mean you left them on the bus then took off like a shot for the train?” I embarrassedly confirmed the story, picked up my bags and got on the Metro once more.

Another 30 minutes to L’Enfant Plaza (hey, this looks familiar!), switched trains to the orange line, and rode it another 35 minutes to Vienna, where I was picked up by a coworker.

I arrived back at camp with a Panera salad in my hand and all three bags of luggage I now had, exhausted and sore. I was greeted cheerfully by several of my coworkers, who informed me of a “mandatory” bonfire the staff was having outside one of the cabins.

I dumped my bags in my room, threw on some layers, grabbed a glass of wine and headed over, ready to sit (shocking, after the amount of time I spent on my butt that day). I should have known that I would be asked to repeat some experiences on the sled.

As I described things, I found myself back in Lake Placid, and I was actually seeing the hallways of the OTC, the curves of the track, the sleds, the people, and the views. Later, I actually caught myself with my eyes closed, running through Curves 9-14 over and over in my mind, my shoulders pushing down each time I “turned”. I must have looked like a dork!

They were all shocked I had gone 62 miles per hour on the hill, exclaiming how fast it was, and I caught myself thinking that it didn’t really feel that fast at all during a slide. I explained that we were at a start lower than the top, and that from start 1 we’d be going faster than that. I have to say, I love seeing the reactions on people’s faces when I tell them we go 70+ face-first!

I was asked the most common question I’ve been hearing lately: “What’s it like, going that fast with nothing holding you in?” As I tried to explain, I found that it was really difficult. Not many people get a chance to feel the wind screaming by, to see walls of ice shooting past your eyes, to see the painted “Lake Placid” flash by in a blink.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of elation I had when sliding. My mind was clear (for the most part), my body was relaxed (sort of), but most of all, I was happy. There’s no way to describe the pressure you feel on your head as you round Shady curve, or Curve 17. No way to describe the joy you feel when you don’t hit at all in the Chicane, no way to describe the burning/tingling/numbing/stabbing feeling of hitting a wall with your shoulder, or hip.

A teammate of mine, Leisl Soergel, wrote in her blog what her mind went through as she slid. I agree 100% with what she said, so I should repeat it: “The first five seconds all you hear is the thick throb of your heart, followed by around ten seconds of trying to remember proper form, followed by ten more seconds of ‘holy crap’, another thirty seconds of sheer joy, and the remaining five-or-so seconds of wondering how you ever could have contemplated NOT coming back to the sport. It’s a no-brainer. And yes, perhaps only those who are missing a few components in the noggin’ are the ones who even attempt to pursue the sport.”

I’m counting down the days until I go back for Advanced School. I’ll figure out a way to finance the traveling. If I have to do 100 hours of data entry at Adventure Links, I’ll make it work.

This time, though, I’m driving.

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