The Away Race

Water taxis that shared the harbor with us on race day in Victoria, BC

Every season, the Alameda DragonFlyers participate in at least one out-of-town race. Most of the time the events are on the West Coast, but every few years they venture farther afield, once going as far at Venice, Italy.

In my first season the team sent a boat to Portland. Since I was still mastering racing at Lake Merritt, the trip to Portland was out of the question in my mind. But in my second season they were going to Victoria, BC.

Victoria had a lot going for it from my point of view: I’ve never been there; I have friends and family in Bellingham, WA who I could visit on my way; and, perhaps most importantly, I had been told when we last raced in Victoria we took first place.

So I signed up. Like all races, the festival was held on a Saturday and Sunday. I arranged to go to Seattle early in the week, stay with friends and then the ferry from Anacortes to Victoria.

The race coordinators arranged a variety of optional activities on Friday for those who arrived early. I signed up for high tea at the Empress Hotel, which came highly recommended but was fairly pricey.

In my corporate days I was a bit of a road warrior. I traveled cross-country on average once a month, and to Europe at least a couple of times a year. As a result, I had my travel routine down pat. But right away I could see that this trip would be different when people started pairing off as roommates.

I have not shared a hotel room since I was 23 years old. My sleep and digestion can get very out of whack when I’m on the road, so I wasn’t going to do the room mate thing with these relative strangers. I would be just fine in my own room.

Then there was the issue of the gear. I’m adept at traveling with a laptop in tow, but not a paddle – not to mention a PFD. I ordered a paddle cover since the TSA considers the paddles to be weapons and require they checked as baggage. While I normally manage a weekend trip with a small carry-on tote, to accommodate the PFD I had to break out the wheelie bag.

For the record, the race organizers do provide paddles and PFDs for racers, but I had become very attached to my paddle and had been warned that the PFDs can be kind of skanky since you pull one from a collective pile for each race.

I also had to accommodate my paddling clothing, including team jersey, paddling shoes (Keen sandals for most of us), and the swim parka I bought after the brush with hypothermia earlier in Spring. And, of course, the newly-completed fish hat for drumming. Suffice it to say I did not look like a seasoned traveler dragging all of this stuff through the airport along with my smallest carry-on tote and my handbag.

The ferry trip from Bellingham/Anacordes was beautiful (see video at top of post), but ended up taking me far out of my way. Anacordes is about an hour from Bellingham and the ferry comes in to Syndey, BC which is about 40 minutes from Victoria.

My Bellingham friends had loaded me up with gluten free food for the trip, requiring yet another bag making me an even more awkward traveler. On the upside, people tended to keep out of my way, I assume on the suspicion that the paddle bag could be holding a rifle.

Now it was off to the races.

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