On Sunday morning after The Junior League of Tuscaloosa Dragon Boat Festival, six of us drove to our next destination: Chattanooga, Tennessee. A trip to the Aquarium that afternoon during a thunderstorm precluded dinner and a movie. We unloaded boats Monday before practices. It was my turn to coach all week and help the local festival organizers in addition to catching up with longtime friends. Chattanooga is like my second home after so many years of working the race there, and helping the Chattanooga Dragon Boat Club over the years. We’ve had lots of great memories with people there. This year was no different.
Practices began Monday in full Chattanooga mode: tornado warnings. Every year – no matter what time of year it is there, we always seem to face Mother Nature. We’ve had ice, rain, heat and just about everything in between. Some teams rescheduled their session, but most teams showed. I was traveling with people (other coaches) from New Jersey and Florida. Once we finished with dinner, we learned the hotel was tracking the storm and would call us if we needed to evacuate. I started watching basketball in my room when I got a text from Kristin, who was particularly worried about the storm, saying everyone was being evacuated to the first floor of the hotel. It was 10:30 p.m. A tornado had been spotted nearby and lightning struck in the parking lot. Kristin was pretty nervous. She said tornados are unpredictable, unlike hurricanes. We stayed in the lobby area for a short time, then advised another big round was coming. The big one never came, and another tornado threat on Tuesday also passed with no real gusto.
The rest of the week was full of playing hard and working hard. On a rainy day, we had entirely too much fun just playing around on trains and machines, and taking silly pictures at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. We saw amazing things and took more silly photos at Rock City. In the afternoons, we coached dragon boat teams, while some of the coaches set the racecourse. We had a fun crew working the entire week and race day.
As always, the Chattanooga teams brought their incredible spirit to practices and race day while also fundraising for the Children’s Hospital. The camaraderie and fun surrounding this community is amazing. Everyone is so kind and generous; the teams are competitive. So are the steerers. On Friday, Lee, who enjoys trying to beat me on the water, looked a little sad when he learned I was steering on race day. He looked even sadder when my team, Team Popp, took Gold!
We had a great time! We’re already planning our tourist trips for next time. Lee and I are already seeking a rematch, too!