Austin, Texas – a weekend of two halves

This weekend brought with it another trip with the rowing team, this time to Austin, Texas where we were racing the 5k Pumpkin Head Regatta (Head of the Colorado). I would apologise for posting so much about trips with the rowing team but, as I have discovered, despite this blog being created for my friends at home so they can find out what I’m up to nearly 5000 miles away, it is read almost exclusively by my American friends. Apparently they find it incredibly entertaining to be reminded of what just happened but to be able to read it in an English accent. I don’t mind, at least somebody other than my mum is reading this drivel (not even sure she’s reading it to be honest).

Clearly people were excited for the weekend because when we stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel (standard and yes, it was exactly the same as in Texas and Mississippi) in Louisiana, Paul was asked where we had come from and his reply was “Baton Rouge, Louisiana!” Just in case the waitress wasn’t sure what her state capital was. Although judging by her ability to understand a word I was saying maybe she didn’t, who knows.

The seven hour drive there went like a dream, we played a game called “That’s So Texas” where we pointed at things and gave them points out of ten for how Texas they were. Examples include: massive American flags, elaborate entrances gates, Christina and anything with a star on it. Unlike most rowing trips where I tick off places that I’ve been but when people ask about the place the only contribution I can give is about the river, this time we actually got to see quite a bit of Austin and it was a seriously beautiful city.


There were lots of hipsters, you could tell because everyone had sexy road bikes and I counted at least four vintage shops. It was a Brighton girl’s dream. For dinner we drove around, Jake somehow managed to fit himself in the boot of Mikael’s car (with the two extra seats in the back up), Erin wore her pjs, got lost, there was a small incident involving my fingers and the car door… surprisingly uninjured…. found the “secret” back entrance to an ice cream shop and I decide that the back seat of Mikael’s car was not designed for human use.

So far Austin was going well, we even had a nice motel! The pillows were so fluffy I could only use one otherwise my head was vertical!  Saturday morning we had our standard 5.30am wake up which for Echo and I was an hour later than the two previous days so that was one victory ticked off already. It was a little bit chilly – not what I was expecting from Texas. But two years of rowing in the UK paid off and my layering skills were put to good use.

My first race was the Women’s Open 8 at 10.20am, Pumpkin Head is a costume regatta so originally we had planned to dress up as Noah’s Ark. I still think we would’ve looked fantastic but I was a little bit relieved when we decide just to row in our unis when the realisation that none of the crews we were against were dressing up and that the University of Texas crews were all so hench they looked like men. Then again, maybe we got it all wrong and that was their costumes?

We rowed a good race, not quite as good as at Hobb’s Island but a billion times better than Oklahoma. We were also lucky that weeds had grown at the original start line so the course was shortened by just under a kilometre. We came in 5th out of 7 which, if you recalibrate the times and take into account that the University of Texas had three boats and are clearly spending most of their budget on steroids, means we came third.


Then we got some GUMBO and the best trail mix I’ve ever had (not that I have all that much to compare to but every handful was better than the last), so a big thank you to Mary Lloyd’s family for that!

Much needed sustenance.

However, this wasn’t the end. This weekend was the first time I’ve ever had to race twice in one day other than in sprint regattas with heats and finals and I feel like that’s different because you know that everybody is on the same page. So then I had two pieces of cardboard strapped to my head in preparation for my debut as stroke pair with Echo in the mixed eight.

Can you tell what we are yet?

This race was painful. About three quarters of the way through I was ready to bail. But with Cody coxing with gems like, “Feel the fire!”, “Don’t die on me!” and a scream that made “Drive!” sound like a dragon’s roar I got to experience my first walking of a boat during a head race. We’ll glaze over the fact that the boat was clearly full of people at least twenty years older than us, in my experience masters rowers are always stronger than they look…. It was worth it because I’ve now added a silver Pumpkin shaped piece of hardware to my American trophy cabinet.  I’m incredibly proud of how well all our crews did this weekend, especially Novice Men’s 8 who came 5th but were only a second slower than 3rd place and women’s varsity 4.

Ashley apparently hopped into Austin’s boat and beat us…
Susko was clearly team mascot in this one.


And I guess this is where we begin the second half of the weekend because as we piled back into cars to head back to Baton Rouge I gleefully announced that I was going to sleep until Houston and have some good food for dinner. Apparently I cursed us because three hours later we were still in Austin and I was taking photos of this:


ImageThere were lots of stories going through the grapevine about what had happened. Everything from the trailer hitting a telephone pole to a conspiracy theory about a rival team sabotaging us…. Eventually, thanks to the kindness of the Texas A&M team, we managed to transfer our boats to a sketchy warehouse with a resident crazy cat lady watching us the whole time (“Careful, towing begins November 1st”). Who knows what’s going to happen to them now… all I know is that we’re not rigging today.

Eventually, at about half nine, we were on the road again. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I was not a team player on this one as I pretty much passed out in the car for the majority of the seven hours and woke up in Baton Rouge where I was greeted by these four drunkards. Jason had the kindness to say, “It’s funny because I can tell how tired you are just by your face.” That boy has such a way with words.


In summary:

  • Awesome medal
  • Cracker Barrel is the same everywhere
  • Austin is an incredible city
  • We need a new trailer
  • Regardless of what time I get back from a regatta, Lexi is always awake.
  • I like candy corn
  • Texas is holding our boats hostage

I always imagined Texas to just be a giant desert with one or two fat people on mobility scooters dotted about the place but it was actually a whole lot more than that and I was pleasantly surprised.

“I love your accent” count: 21



2 thoughts on “Austin, Texas – a weekend of two halves

  1. Dude, I’m representing the Brits! Write on. Live the dream, and all that jazz.
    Sounds like you’re having an amazing time,
    I’m only a little bit jealous… You can keep those 5:30am starts!
    Miss you terribly, Becky and I are going insane without you!
    Hopefully speak to you soon,
    Jen-Jen x

  2. Dude! I’m representing the Brits. Write on. Live the dream, and all that jazz. I will never stop reading!
    You sound like you’re having an awesome time in the States, I’m very jealous. You can keep those 5:30am starts though!
    Becky and I are going insane without you, hopefully we can arrange another Skype session soon? We miss you terribly.
    Anyway, speak to you soon.
    Lots of love, Jen-Jen x

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