London to London comes to a close.
After all is said and done there is only one way to describe our London to London Connection - AMAZING! We met great people, the Shellard Family and the Wave Walkers, we saw loads of historical sites and we did it all on schedule!
Although our time in London was short we were able to pack in a lot of stuff in those four days. On Saturday everyone got a chance to go off and check out as much as they could in one day. Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the Palace, Westminster Abbey just to name a few. One surprise find was "Melina Court"...those who found it took it as a sign of her presence in London with us.
By 9:30am we were loaded on the bus and ready to head to the airport....however, we were ahead of schedule and had time for one more surprise stop....Abbey Road Studios! Anyone who knows me (Newton) well enough knows that I'm a longtime fan of The Beatles. Yes, they were before my time but that doesn't matter. I found their music when I was about 10 years old and have loved them ever since. Going to Abbey Road Studios and sitting on the steps like the Fab Four did during the photo shoot for the album cover was a dream of mine when we started planning this trip. I knew that it was gated and I would probably have to settle for just standing on the other side and looking in. I was prepared for that and I was okay with it so I was not disappointed by my visit on Saturday. However...on Sunday....Cheryl and Sarah had the bus driver make one last stop! As we approached we saw that the gate was open (fluke?) and I was able to sit on the steps....and even get just inside the door for a quick photo op before the scary voice on the intercom said "we're not open to the public". The photo op included a team photo on the steps as well! Bonus! Who better to share this experience with than my Rowbust family. Thank you everyone for making it an EXTRA special moment for me!
Back on the bus we got and headed for the airport and the next leg of our journey!
NOTE: pictures for each individual blog post will be added soon...the Internet connection is wonky and frustrating at times, thank you for your patience. Team members are posting pics on Facebook so you can see some there.
This concludes our London to London Connection blog posts. We have arrived in Italy and you can read about it all on the World Club Crew Championships page of this blog.
What an awesome day! Wonderful hosts, the Wave Walkers! And a fantastic lunch spread to boot!
What started out, over a year ago, with a conversation to help get a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team in London, England finally came to fruition today!
The Wave Walkers are a team made up of cancer survivors (any type, not just breast) supporters and family members who have been together for just over a year. They are funded by the MacMillan Cancer Support group of the UK which is a support group much like our Wellspring back home.
They, like Rowbust, are a special group in their community. Right now they are small but have grown over the past year from a group of 4 or 5 paddlers to a full boat (20) of paddlers! And after today's event they will most definitely gain more members.
Emails between Rowbust and Wave Walkers have been going back and forth for severals months and the excitement and anticipation for this day from both teams was evident upon our arrival at the paddling site.
We arrived on site around 10:00 am to a warm welcome from Deryn, Ciara and Eddy of the Wave Walkers. First order of business was to get the boats in the water. As we always say "many hands make light work" so all of us pitched in the flip the boats from their stands and dollie them out to the dock....(Bob Kuska...we've got a little project for you, we'd like some dollies for our boats now!) It was a breeze getting the boats down to the waters edge! Once the boats were in the water Rowbust got a chance to go for a paddle before the rest of the Wave Walkers and other guests arrived for our days events. This was a chance for us to get rid of the "cobwebs" after a long day of traveling yesterday. It felt great to get out on the water and stretch it out.
After a quick warm up paddle we headed back to shore to meet the rest of the team and the guests that were invited. After introductions and talks about both teams ...how both started, strategies for growth and future plans it was time to get down to the business of paddling.
Joining us in the boats were "newbie" paddlers from the MacMillan Cancer Support group and even more that responded to a flyer sent around the community to come and try it out! (excellent growth strategy...get 'em out and get 'em hooked!)
Everyone was split up in to four groups and the seasoned paddlers went over paddling technique and safety instructions with the newbies before heading out on the water. It is always amazing to watch a new paddler learn how to do the stroke and how it all comes together! You can almost see that "ah ha!" moment when they get it....and that's when you know they're hooked!
One thing that Rowbust loves to do is to "pay it forward". And that is exactly what we did today by sharing our experiences and skills with the Wave Walkers and their guests. It gives us a great sense of joy and purpose to help others.
We were also treated today by a special visit with Coach Sarah's family! Her parents, Mike and Jean, and her brother, Simon, sister-in-law Sarah Jane and nephews William and Alex. Sarah Jane, a survivor herself, was presented with her own Rowbust jersey. She is now an honourary member!
There was time for more paddling so we loaded the boats again with Sarah Jane (jersey on of course) Simon, William and Alex for a paddle around the harbour ending in a mini race.
It really was a wonderful day on and off the water. Lifelong friendships and more connections made. Another goal achieved for Rowbust....CHECK!
Before leaving the paddling site we presented the Wave Walkers and their guests with gifts from the "other" London and proposed a challenge...come and visit us on our lake in London, Ontario, Canada! It can, and will happen if Rowbust has anything to do with it!
The hospitality we experienced today was second to none! Our hearts were stolen by little Miss Isla who made our tea and made sure we tried everything on the buffet table. She was attentive to our needs and a hit with Rowbust. Thank you Isla!
Our day was rounded out with a fantastic meal back at The Rag with our new friends where lots of laughs and stories were shared.
It could not have been a better day! The memories made today will be treasured for many years to come and we can't wait to make more "across the pond"!
Our plane departed on time with all of Rowbust aboard and accounted for. Lots of shuffling around getting settled and checking out who was sitting were and with who. With a group as large as ours it can be difficult to get all couples sitting together, especially for international flights. Some people may look at it as a problem, but not Rowbust! It quickly becomes an opportunity to get to know someone you don't know a lot about or even meeting new people! One thing that makes our team so special is how we are able to adapt to any situation and make the best of it.
Once we were seated and taxiing out to the runway the pilot announced the very special group aboard...Rowbust! Applause all around! Funny how we never get tired of hearing it... There is an energy about Rowbust that is infectious and special. Ask anyone who's spent time with us...in the boat, at our golf tournament, paddling in our festival...on a plane, train or bus! It's palpable and alive!
Coaches orders were to sleep on the over night flight so out came the pillows and "blankies", off came the shoes and the efforts to make ourselves as comfortable as possible sitting upright for 7 hours. It helps to get up and walk around every so often to stretch...which is also another excuse for visiting with friends!
Seven hours later and we arrived safely (and a little early) at Heathrow airport.
First misadventure....12 travelers go missing! First red "X's" awarded...no telling what the "punishment" will be for those! We collected our missing travelers and made our way by coach bus through London to The Rag Army & Navy Club where we are so very fortunately staying for 3 nights. We are so very fortunate because The Rage is an exclusive private members club that we are able to stay at through Coach Sarah's Dad's connection with the club.
Upon arriving at The Rag we are greeted by Sarah's parents, Mike and Jean! Wonderful people who made us feel very welcome.
A quick check in and light lunch before heading out for a little bit of sight seeing....but not too far, Rowbust were scheduled for a run at 5:00pm. after our run, dinner and straight to bed! we are whooped! and tomorrow is a big day!, We're meeting the Wave Walkers!
On August 27, 2014 Rowbust will travel to London, England to make the “London to London Connection” on our way to Ravenna, Italy and the Club Crew World Championships.
While London, England is no stranger to the sport of dragon boat racing they have yet to form their own BCS team….. enter Rowbust !
It is with the direction and help of our coaches, of which one hails from the area, that we are able to make this connection. We will join forces with London, England's first ALL Cancer Survivor team, the Wave Walkers, who are celebrating their 1st year together. We will help them celebrate with two days of paddling fun and fitness at their training facility the London Regatta Centre.
Check out the Wave Walkers on Facebook!