Jim and Merry Beery's Log

“From Oaktown to Athens – the Longest Journey”

Entry #1 for 07-15-04

By Jim Beery

        “They kept after it!”  The History Channel recently featured the rugged, historic Texas Rangers.  One basic trait separated the Rangers from all the others - there was no quit in them!  When I reflect upon our son’s eight year journey to the Athens Olympics next month, the key to Dan’s success might be similarly termed:  “He kept after it!”

        He has been tabbed, ‘Big Dan,’ or just ‘Beery’ by his teammates.  From our perspective he is just ‘Son.’  As Dad and Mom we have enjoyed the exhilaration of the peaks, and suffered the pain and anxiety of the valleys.  Along the pathway, we saw a youngster become a man.

        Rudyard Kipling wrote “…to dream and not make dreams your master…” Dan has long followed his dreams, but he is no dreamer.  He has visions, but he is more than a visionary.  Knowing success and sacrifice are inseparable, he has ‘just kept after it.’

        When we began to fully understand the depth of Dan’s commitment, we had to make some conscious and unconscious decisions.  The challenges of being parents-of-the-athlete have been long term for us.  When Dan played summer league A.A.U. basketball, we journeyed to Las Vegas for the national tournament.  During his years as a basketball player for the Bryan College Lions, we made many trips to Southwestern Tennessee.  Little did we know his arrival at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga was the start of his greatest athletic adventures and our journey to the water’s edge. 

        We could hardly imagine those waters would span two continents, not just stopping with the Tennessee River or the Schuylkill River flowing through Philadelphia.  From ocean’s edge to the World Cup competition in Lucerne, Switzerland, to the prestigious  Henley Royal Regatta in England; from a silver medal at the World Championships in Seville, Spain, to a gold medal in Milan, Italy, our son’s rowing challenges have made airport junkies out of Merry and me.

        This spring we spent hours on the Internet and phones, checking out housing in the Athens area, and available flights.  Then, we awaited word from Dan that he would, indeed, be wearing the U.S.A. colors in Athens.  Nothing became ‘official’ until July 7, but in early summer his rowing fortunes seemed to shine:  “You had better buy your airline tickets!” Dan exclaimed.  “I’m doing really well in our heat races, and our boat is looking extremely fast..”

        We secured our flights for Merry, daughter Marsha and me, and made housing arrangements in the little town of Marathonas, just a couple of miles from the rowing venue and the famous twenty-six miles from Athens.  Our tickets to view the rowing events from the Schinias grandstand arrived by FedEx today.   ‘We’ve got to start thinking about packing our luggage!” Merry remarked earlier this week.  She will do much of the last minute planning because – it all sounds Greek to me!  More to come later, as we “just keep after it.”


“From Oaktown to Athens – the Longest Journey”

Entry #2 for 7-16-04

By Jim Beery

            “No pain, no gain” is a brief axiom that likely has been stenciled on locker room walls since the invention of paint.  From his childhood days of bike wrecks and tossings off horses, we observed that Dan had an extremely high pain threshold.  We quickly learned that for rowers, pain was measured out in doses – 2,000 meters at a time.

            Our initiation into the world of rowing was when Dan invited us to the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga Indoor Rowing Contest.  Call me ‘crazy’ for first asking myself, “How do they fill the athletic arena with water and row around it?  Sort of like unfrozen ice hockey?”  Nope!  Inside the sports arena were fifty rowing machines, all hooked up to computers and monitors – the ancient of water sports attached to modern technology.

            The indoor competition was divided into heats of about eight rowers in each category.  When the race began, little numbered boats began to move across the screen.  The harder and faster each rower worked, the quicker his little boat moved across the monitor.  So, as Dan rower in his first contest, Merry and I were delighted to see his little boat streak to the finish line well ahead of the competition.  Then, celebration turned into consternation as Dan collapsed onto the arena’s hardwood floor!

            Teammates calmly helped him into a sitting position, and gradually up on his feet.  Dan was regaining his color and walking by himself when Merry was finally able to speak:  “Jim, I don’t know if I like this sport!”

            It did get better as the day wore on, and Dan won the novice division, setting a new indoor record for the meet.  One of the first place prizes was a rowing shirt, and Dan lovingly presented it to Merry.  She gave her sweaty son a huge hug – she began to like this sport.

            U.T.C. rowing coach, Robert Espeseth, first observed Dan in a pick-up game of basketball in the arena.  The former Olympic rower from Wisconsin liked Dan’s 6’7” frame and invited him to participate in rowing practice on the nearby Tennessee River.  Dan called home that evening and said, “I’ve got good news and bad news!  I have been invited to participate in sports here at U.T.C.   That’s the good news.  The sport is rowing, and that may be bad news!  I’ve seen rowers running around campus, training as the sun rises.  Those guys are fanatics, and I don’t think I could adjust to being a part of that sport!”  Wrong – famous last words!

            Dan’s success that autumn and winter, led to an excellent spring as a novice rower.  In our conversation with Coach Espeseth at the spring rowing banquet, he stressed that Dan was showing great potential and recommended him for the National Team Introductory Training Center.  To our amazement, the training took place in Elkhart, Indiana.  What could be better?

            Dan was accepted into the training program and left Oaktown in early summer in high spirits.  Two days later he was told by the center’s head coach, “I’m here to coach, not to teach.  You don’t know enough about rowing to stay in our camp!”  What could be worse?

            When Dan called home with the disheartening news, I believe Merry may have mumbled, “I don’t think I like this sport!”  Sound familiar?  I took the phone and suggested to Dan that he should call Coach Espeseth and just explain this latest development.  Upon receiving Dan’s phone call, Coach immediately contacted the coaches at his former rowing home, Penn A.C., the most powerful and prestigious private rowing organization in America. 

            Coaches Ted Nash and Chuck Crawford, two of the most prominent names in American and international rowing, welcomed Dan to join their ‘Schuylkill River Navy.’  So, Dan left from Elkhart for his sister Marsha’s house in Indy.  He borrowed a twin bed mattress, stuffed it in his trunk, and the next day headed for Philadelphia - but that’s another story.


“From Oaktown to Athens – the Longest Journey”

Entry #3 for 7-17-04

By Jim Beery

            “What about security?  Aren’t you worried for your son?  Aren’t you concerned about yourselves over there in Greece?”  These often asked questions are ones we have given much consideration.  Dan has been instructed to be very sensitive to security matters, and has revealed very little about steps being taken for team and individual athlete protection.  He simply told us that F.B.I. agents would be accompanying them throughout their Olympic experiences.

            Merry, Marsha and I plan to use common sense and avoid situations and circumstances that would make us more vulnerable or place us in harm’s way.  We live our lives from day to day fully believing that God is in charge, and He is the ultimate authority and provider and protector in the affairs of our lives. 

            In regard to Dan, we have experienced many occasions over the years when we knew the true meaning of sleepless nights.  One of those churning-turning times was when Dan made the decision to rebound from dismissal at the Elkhart National Team Introductory Training Center and headed for Philadelphia’s Penn A.C.   After an overnight stop at his sister Marsha’s home in Indy, he headed for the unknown East coast.  During the long hours of that journey, we knew anxious hours.

            The phone rang, and as requested, Dan updated us on his travel – he was now through Ohio and into Pennsylvania.  Many hours later he was somewhere in Philadelphia, and pulled off the interstate to get his bearings and check his directions to the Penn A.C. boathouse.  At last, we received the call that he was parked outside the boathouse and one of the athletes offered him a place to toss his mattress and spend the night.  Only then did Merry and I begin to relax.  Little did we know what a key role Penn A.C. would play in Dan’s future – on and off the water.

            We can now look back and laugh at those first few days Dan spent in Philadelphia.  The few clothes he had taken to camp, his car, and the small mattress were all Dan had with him in Philly.  “You need to go to a Wal-mart and buy some towels, food items and other items you need,” Merry told him the next day over the phone. 

            “Mom, I hardly know where I am, let alone where a Wal-mart is located,” Dan exclaimed.  “Do you feel like you’re not in Kansas any more, Toto?” I quipped over the extension phone.  The humor was lost in the moment.  Fortunately, at Penn A.C. and I suspect most places where itinerant athletes come and go, there is a brotherhood of caring.  Coaches and fellow athletes showed compassion to this University of TennesseeChattanooga athlete from the Hoosier State.  Once he was in the boats and on the waters of the Schuylkill River, he quickly gained acceptance as a big guy with a lot of potential. 

            Back home again in Indiana, Merry and I enjoyed sweet corn, melons and the Southern Indiana good life.  Of course, lots of little bleeps continued to show up on our parental radar screen.  To save gas money and better travel around the boathouse area, Dan bought a bicycle and parked his car on a nearby side street.  When the need occurred for him to drive the car, he found that vandals had knifed his tires.  The call home after that incident was unhappily memorable – we, too, were deflated.  

            One happy circumstance we discovered about rowing in America is the location of its U.S. Rowing national headquarters – Indianapolis, Indiana!  Many of their championship events are held on the waters of Eagle Creek.  Dan often traveled with the Penn A.C. team and coaches to Indy for rowing competition.  It was like a family reunion at water’s edge.  On one occasion nearly half a dozen rowers took up residence at Marsha and Scott’s house for nearly a week.  Scott still reflects back on the occasion with wonderment at how much food a rowing team can consume.

            During these competitions it quickly became clear to Merry and me that Penn A.C. was the powerhouse of rowing clubs, dominant among their peers.  However, when the times came to go head-to-head with a group called the Princeton Training Center, life on the water was extremely competitive.  The P.T.C. boats were those of the United States National Team.  Dan and his teammates were now challenging the ‘big league’ of rowing.  The results were mixed at best.  Troubled waters lay ahead.

“From Oaktown to Athens – the Longest Journey”

Entry #4 for 7-19-04

By Jim Beery

        Old axiom for the day:  “If you want to be the best, surround yourself with the best.”  After spending his first summer at Penn A.C., surrounded by strong Olympic hopefuls, Dan found his role on the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga rowing team somewhat difficult.  The team was actually a club, not a recognized sport, so none of the male rowers were on scholarship.  Jobs, classes and other priorities interfered with rigorous training.  Dan found himself in a leadership position, much more dedicated that most of his peers, yet depending on them as boat mates for his own success.

        In the spring of his junior year in college, Dan was selected as the teams Outstanding Rower.  However, it was not the accolades, but the speaker at the annual banquet that really caught Dan’s interest.  Following the banquet, Dan, Merry and I had our picture taken with the most powerful man in U.S. rowing.  Coach Mike Teti heads up the United States National Rowing Team, and has the power to elevate athletes on to the team, to eliminate them from the team, and to oversee the process of choosing and training the rowers for the Olympic Team.

        Dan’s coach at U.T.C., Robert Espeseth, was a former teammate with Coach Teti, so he had accepted the invitation to speak at the banquet.  During his speech and in conversations afterwards, Coach Teti stressed that one key requirement for being invited to Princeton, New Jersey, National Team Training Center was a superb score on the indoor rowing machine.  To break the sacred ‘SIX MINUTE MARK’ was one of the keys to the ‘kingdom.’  The other key to the ‘kingdom’ was to challenge and defeat the National Team boats in head-to-head competition.  BOTH those keys were within Dan’s reach, but not yet on his key chain.

        The rowing world is actually divided into TWO categories.  Rowing with one oar (pair, four and eight boats) is called sweep rowing.  Rowing with two oars (single, double and quad) is called sculling.  As the 2000 Olympics in Sydney approached, Dan received encouragement from the National Team’s sculling coach – former Russian great, Igor Grenko – to come to Augusta, Georgia, to train.  So, he tossed that infamous twin bed mattress back into his car trunk and spent as much time training in Georgia as possible.

        Two major problems likely kept Dan out of the Australian Olympics:  his mother and I discouraged him from dropping out of college his senior year to train half the winter in Colorado Springs at the National Olympic Training Center; also, a serious back injury received while training for national competition sidelined him at a key time in early spring.  It was then we learned that back and rib cage injuries are rowers’ worst enemies.

        Without a doubt, the good fortune of staying healthy is vital to advancement to the National Team, and to sticking with the selection process on the way to the top.  There is a very delicate balance in training for world-class competition.  Training too hard often results in injuries and fatigue; not training hard enough causes the athletes to under perform against the world’s best athletes.  As Dan ‘kept after it’ over the years, he was no stranger to the training room, and whirlpool treatments in icy cold water were daily requirements for those ever-present rib problems.

        Ironically, when we talked with Dan on the phone last week, it was OUR health that concerned him:  “Hey, it is going to be extremely hot and crowded over there in Greece.  I don’t want to have to worry about you guys, so make sure you are walking and in good condition!”  Yes sir, coach.


“From Oaktown to Athens – the Longest Journey”

Entry #5 for 7-20-o4

By Jim Beery

        “I get by with a little (sometimes a LOT of) help from my friends.”  Dan wrapped up his senior year at U.T.C.  with an excellent spring, again winning his team’s Outstanding Rower award.  At this point in his life, all he lacked was money, a place to live, and some means of making a run for the Sydney Olympics.  A lifeline was tossed his way from his friend and former rower, Mike Connor.  An engineer by profession, Mike was eager to come out of rowing retirement and take one more shot at the Olympics.  Dan provided him a strong rowing partner, and Mike and Jamie Connor provided him with much needed housing for many months.

        Training went well, and the Connor family was a great support group for Dan.  Over the many long and arduous hours, the pair developed into a formidable team.  It appeared that they were strong candidates for the National Team as the selection competition began out East in New Jersey.  The ‘magic’ about rowing in the pair was simple:  the big boats (four and eight) are selected from the National Team members.  However, singles and pairs for the Olympics are determined by wide open, head-to-head competition at the National Team Selection Trials.  Mike and Dan appeared ready for the challenge, until the ‘slip of an oar’ on rough waters sank that dream.

        “Bend your backs, you miserable dogs…” was a line I recall from a movie of long ago – perhaps Ben-Hur down in the belly a Roman slave galleon.  Unfortunately for Dan, his back was bent, prepared for an arduous pull, when his oar just skimmed the water.  All Dan’s power was transferred to his back with a sharp jerk!

        When Dan called home that afternoon with the bad news, he was devastated and we were dumbfounded.  Not only was Dan’s goal in doubt, but also Mike’s comeback efforts were dependent on what the medical people could do for Dan, literally, overnight.  The next morning Dan refused to withdraw from the heat race, but friends had to help him into the boat.  Two thousand meters of agony later, Mike and Dan finished the race, but not fast enough to qualify for the semi-finals.  The ‘book for the Sydney Olympics’ was now soundly and sadly closed.  It was time for a reality check – and a job.

        The rowing fraternity is a close-knit group that goes an extra mile to help care for its own.  While at U.T.C., Dan’s rowing skills and need for funds came together in a wonderful opportunity.  The most highly regarded private school in the South (perhaps the entire nation) is McCallie Academy, and it is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Two of the rowing coaches at the Academy, Doc Swanson and Hartmut Buschbacher, welcomed Dan on board as assistant rowing coach during Dan’s junior and senior years.

        Doc and Hartmut liked Dan and were impressed with his coaching abilities.  So, they encouraged McCallie to hire Dan as teaching assistant and attendance officer, as well as assistant rowing coach.  Merry and I were delighted for Dan, because he was still involved in rowing, and he had a job, an income and benefits – blessed, blissful stability.  Yes!

        One of the most profound ‘benefits’ was the opportunity to work with and learn from Hartmut, a native of East Germany.  While a youngster, Hartmut was selected by officials who came to his small town in search of athletes for the communist country’s ‘Olympic factory.’  When the world champion rower arrived in the United States many years later, he brought with him a unique knowledge of probably the world’s greatest fitness and training program. 

        Dan attributes much of his present success to his many months of following Hartmut Buschbacher’s training regimen.  All the while, his association with McCallie Academy was tremendous, and his young rowers were highly successful.  Merry and I were just about ready to relax – our third offspring was now settling down to a life of ‘normalcy.’  Right?

        Nope!  A few months later that darn phone brought these words from Chattanooga:  “Mom and Dad, I just feel like I’ve got to leave here and go back East to Philadelphia and Penn A.C.  I cannot make the next Olympics unless I move closer to the National Team action.” 

        Sigh!  Pause!  Then these words:  “Dan, do what you feel you have to do, and we’re behind you all the way.”



Entry #6 for 7-21-04

By Jim Beery

        The countdown is now down to twenty-one days to ‘x’ off our calendars.  Months ago it seemed like ‘forever land’ before we would board any planes to Greece – IF Dan was able to qualify for the Olympic team.  Now, the reality is beginning to roll over us, and we are finalizing our plans.

        To our delight, our older daughter, Marsha, is planning to accompany us.  Her husband, Scott, volunteered to be ‘house daddy’ with our Hooperdoo grandkids, Jacob and Maura, while we are on our journey.  Since they live in St. Louis, that will be the point of our departure.  We will fly into J.F.K. Airport and have a five-hour layover in New York.  Then, we have about a ten-hour, direct flight to Athens.  Oh, my aching back!

        I look forward to flying with much the same enthusiasm as when I face root-canal treatments.  However, we long ago promised ourselves if Dan earned a seat in an Olympic boat, we would take seats in an Athens-bound plane.  Actually, this will be our fifth and longest trip across the Atlantic to watch Dan in International competition. He has made travel junkies out of us.

        At the time Dan decided to resign his position at McCallie Academy and move from Tennessee, he had won a silver medal in the coxed pair (a coxswain is like a small, non-rowing quarterback and steersman in the boat) in the 1998 U.S. Rowing National Championships.  In 1999 he was part of gold medal boats in the coxed four and coxless four in the U.S. National Championships.  In 2000 he was U.S. national champion in the coxless pair.  Still, a position on the U.S. National Rowing Team eluded him.  This was when he decided to ‘go East young man, and seek his fortune.’

        While ‘fortunes’ began to look brighter on the water, the job outlook in Philadelphia consisted mostly of assignments from a temporary jobs agency.  Rowing once again with the Penn A.C. team, Dan was training twice a day on the water when the Schuylkill River was not iced over, and indoors when the weather was forbidding.  Travels around the U.S. and Canada often required free weekends, plus travel days.  Not many full-time employers found this schedule acceptable.

        Besides the extra expenses of living on the East Coast, the ‘city of brotherly love,’ presented some unique problems of its own.  Vandalism, break-ins and thievery seemed to be unwelcome residents of that metropolis.  On one occasion an intruder broke through a basement window and stole clothing and some of Dan’s prized possessions.  More than once, an area druggie broke into the Penn A.C. boathouse and helped himself to the team’s training equipment and personal items.  Dan lost valuables in that intrusion.  However, the masterpiece of thievery was yet to arrive.

        Early one cold winter morning Dan awoke early as usual and prepared to drive to the boathouse for his first workout of the day.  To his chagrin, only a pile of broken car window glass remained where his red Chevy Blazer had stood.  Within an hour the Philly police arrived on the scene, took down the information, shook their heads, made no promises and left.  The phone call home to Momma and Dad that morning was cause for no small amount of misery and consternation.

        His auto insurance made no provision for a rental car, so Dan purchased a bike from a teammate and rode in the cold, across icy streets to his training facility and his temp job in downtown Philly two miles away.  During those bone-chilling rides, a lesser man might have tossed in the towel and taken the easy ride home to Indiana.

        Nope!  There was no ‘quit’ in Dan’s vocabulary.  As in the past, he never balked at the price of his Olympic dreams - he ‘just kept after it’!  So, back home in Indiana, Merry and I continued to wish him well and pray for his wellness.  I reckon we just ‘kept after it, too.’ #



Entry #7 for 7-22-04

By Jim Beery

        Observing rowing competition has been aided tremendously by modern technology.  During international competition a launch with a television camera accompanies the leading boats.  Across from the grandstands a huge screen displays the action at its beginning and all along the 2000 meters.  Of course, once the boats come into spectators’ direct view, if the race is tight the emotions become truly exuberant – wild!

        Rowing is such a popular sport in most European nations, that the major sports networks carry the competition on live television.  During the Athens Olympics NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC will carry many of the rowing events back to the United States.  Greece is in a time zone SEVEN hours ahead of the U.S., so when rowing action takes place at 10:00 a.m. in Greece, live action would be seen at 3:00 a.m. in America.

        The ‘eight’ (man boat) is viewed as the most prestigious of all the boats, and will be given top billing by the television networks.  The present schedule calls for Dan to be rowing on Sunday, August 15 in opening competition.  On Tuesday, August 17 the second round or semi-finals takes place.  On Thursday, August 19 “B” round (consolation) races occur.  The Gold Medal Finals for the men’s and women’s eight will take place on Sunday, August 22.

        Merry and I secured seating in the grand stands to view the rowing competition throughout the week.  The times we viewed rowing in the U.S., there was no problem viewing the races – pull up a lawn chair almost anywhere along the course and enjoy the action.  In fact, when Dan raced at his home course on Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, there were paved walking and jogging tracks beside the entire 2000 meters and beyond.  It was only when we flew to Lucerne, Switzerland, that we were faced with a decision about purchasing expensive grandstand seats.

        In the spring of 2003 Dan found a formidable doubles partner in Michigan native, Dana Schmunk, a fellow Penn A.C. rower.  They qualified in national competition for the World Cup series in Lucerne. 


Entry #8 for 7-23-04

By Jim Bee, ry

        Dan’s silver medal in 2002’s World Championships in Seville, Spain, was highly significant in many respects, but above all, it was a ‘door opener.’  U.S rowing’s power structure could not ignore his success on the world stage.

        The invitation came shortly thereafter to become a member of the national team’s training center group.  This was a huge step forward for Dan, because of its timing – ONE YEAR to go in the countdown to the Athens Olympics.  It was truly a ‘make it or break it’ point in time.  Dan had enjoyed some success, he was now training with best, and he had an outstanding partner to begin with in the spring – or did he?

        To Dan’s chagrin and our amazement, early in the spring of 2003 his pair partner, Dana Schmunk, decided to row in a singles boat, leaving Dan without a partner in the pairs boat.  Fortunately, Dan was well acquainted with another former Penn A.C. rower, an engineer by profession, Matt Rich.  Although Matt was not as powerful a rower as Dan, he was tremendously dedicated, physically in excellent shape, and a true scholar of the sport of rowing.  Matt also proved to be extremely generous and helpful to Dan in another way.

        During this time period Dan continued to live in Philadelphia, a tough hour’s freeway drive away from the National Team Training Center near Princeton, New Jersey.  Since Dan was still struggling financially, his part time job salaries would not pay for an apartment in New Jersey.  He continued to live in one room of an apartment house owned by a very generous former rower.  Fatigue became a major problem for Dan as he worked, traveled and rowed twice daily.

        Jobs that included hanging drywall, carpenter work, and working for a moving van company were tough.  When sandwiched between morning and evening practices up at Princeton, they simply wore Dan down.  Fortunately, Matt Rich’s engineering firm was in total support of Matt, and even provided him with an apartment accommodation in Princeton.  On countless occasions when his wife, Heather, was not visiting, Matt allowed Dan to spend the night in the Princeton apartment.  So, instead of the long drive back to Philly at night and back in the morning, Dan had at least two more hours’ vital rest without fighting freeway traffic.

        As time passed in the spring and early summer of 2003, Dan impressed the coaches with his relentlessness, dedication and raw power.  He called home to Oaktown one evening and announced:  “Hey, I have been selected to row in the ‘four’ over in England at the Henley Royal Regatta.  Don’t feel obligated, but if you wish, you are welcome to go watch.”

        Merry and I thought about it long and hard.  Somewhere between sixty seconds and one minute later we agreed – “Let’s do it!”  The money Merry earned teaching summer school, and my driver education-teaching money were about to be turned into Euros.  We were on our way across the ‘big pond’ once again.  Did I hear Merry say, “I think I like this sport!”?    #


Entry #9 for 7-24-04

By Jim Beery

        The Henley Royal Regatta is not just a series of rowing races on the Thames River – it is so rich in tradition that it surpasses all other competition in its mixture of athleticism and elegance.  When Dan informed us about this regatta, he advised, “I know this sounds crazy, but, Mom, make certain you pack elaborate dresses and a hat.  Dad, bring sports coats, slacks and ties with you.  Otherwise, they won’t let you in the competition areas to view the races.”

        Housing within the city limits of Henley was totally unavailable by the time we learned about Dan’s plans.  So, we went on the Internet and found housing in the lovely, private home of Ursula Daviess in the nearby town of Shiplake.  Her gracious hospitality included breakfasts truly fit for royalty to help us begin our days.

        We walked to the railway station each morning and rode a train to the Henley station.  Then, we proceeded to work off our breakfast with a one-mile walk to the rowing center.  The weather was somewhat hot, but not stifling, in spite of our dress ware.  It was the security inspections by the regatta personnel that both amazed and amused me – sort of.  Thirty-eight years ago when I launched my teaching career, our vice principal, Donald Voglesong, was known to pull our young ladies aside and measure the distance between the floor and their skirt hems with a ruler.  At the Henley, it was quite common to see regatta stewards closely inspect the women’s formal wear, and occasionally refuse them admittance!

        Competition at this regatta was also unique; only two crews ever competed at one time.  Along the entire 2000 meters of the racecourse, booms, long lines of connecting timbers enclosed the rowers.  Unlike other races where the rowers were away in the distance, in this regatta they were within only a few yards of the riverbank.  Thousands of fancily clad fans were able to sit in review stands or chairs placed close to river’s edge.  Unlike Dan’s previous races, we could clearly see him and his three boat mates in the opening heat of the ‘four’ competition.

        When we met with Dan one evening, prior to the next morning’s race, he was excited.  “The Canadians are our toughest competition, and we face them in the first round tomorrow.  It should be a close race.”  Little did we know just how close!

        The Canadians fired off the line with a jackrabbit start, enabling them to take an early lead.  The U.S. maintained good position behind the leaders, preparing to make a move in the last 500 meters.  As the boats passed us with about 100 meters to go, the U.S. ‘four’ was closing rapidly on the Canadians.  Because the leaders had moved their boat into neutral waters, the officiating umpire in the trailing regatta boat announced over his foghorn, “Canadian boat, move to your left, you are interfering with the United States boat!” 


        The long oars of both boats looked ominously close together as they neared the finish line.  Whap!  Suddenly Dan’s white oar collided with one of the red Canadian oars.  I watched in amazement as the impact nearly knocked Dan out of his boat.  Merry gasped and I said to myself, “Back or ribs – which were injured in that accident?”  It was a long walk to the first aid area, especially when the public address announcer requested one of the United States back-up rowers to please report to the staging area.  I think I heard myself murmur, “I sure didn’t know rowing was a contact sport!  Is the end of his rowing for the year?  The end of his quest for the Olympics?”#


Entry #10 for 7-25-04

By Jim Beery

        Injury and illness are words that often spell one meaning for Olympic hopefuls – ‘disaster’!  It took about five minutes for Merry and me to work our way through the crowd and arrive at the Henley first aid facility.  Head rowing coach, Mike Teti, and his staff were waiting outside the facility.  We greeted one another, and he recalled our meeting at the U.T.C. rowing banquet.  His concern for Dan’s condition was obvious, and he briefed us that it was an injury to Dan’s left arm that was cause for concern.

        When we entered the facility the medical corps was courteous and efficient.  The doctor in charge of athletes’ care had examined Dan carefully, and the injured arm was iced and wrapped.  The doctor explained that the impact of the oars had somewhat stunned the nerves in the arm.  To our relief, the doctor said he didn’t believe there was a fracture or long-term damage.  “Tomorrow morning we plan to send your son for x-rays, just to make certain,” the doctor concluded.

Rather than disqualify the Canadians for causing the collision, the regatta officials announced a rematch between the two boats was scheduled at the end of the day, about three hours later.  Dan informed the coaching staff that if necessary he would rejoin his team for the rematch.  However, Coach Teti was reluctant to risk aggravating Dan’s injury, so he selected an alternate rower for the boat.

The Canadians defeated the U.S. boat at the end of the day and went on to win the Henley Cup.  I started to develop a somewhat negative attitude toward our neighbors of the North.  I had no way of knowing a world-famous rematch between those boats was in the distant horizons.  In the meantime, the U.S. team headed back across the Atlantic and resumed training.

        ‘Seat races’ are challenges for positions in team boats.  By mid-summer Dan was rowing well in the ‘four’ and felt confident he would qualify for the August World Championships in Milan, Italy.  The seat races were close, but Dan felt he had been extremely competitive and was the likely candidate for one of the starboard (right-of-the-coxswain) positions.

        When decision time rolled around, rather than a coaching decision, the ‘buck’ was passed to team members.  Dan was still ‘new man on the dock’ with the National Team members – he lost the popularity contest and the seat in the ‘four.’

        By this time the only open positions for World Championships was in Dan’s silver medal boat from 2002, the pair with coxswain.  After a frustrating attempt to reunite with his former 2002 partners, Dan rejoined Matt Rich.  They worked with each other and s new coxswain, Andy Kelly, for two days before qualifying trials began.

        The winner of the best two-out-of-three races earned a trip to Italy.  Dan and Matt won the initial day’s race, and he was in a determined mood to seal the seat the next day.  His phone call home the next day was pretty specific:  “Hey, you guys will want to make the trip to Italy.  I feel like we have a great chance to win the gold.”

        Flights were booked, motel room was reserved, and a couple of weeks later we were in Northern Italy and the beautiful city of Milan.  Fortunately, Matt Rich’s wife, Heather, and mother, Pat, arrived a few days ahead of us.  They understood the subway system and the easiest route to the course.  Historically, the course was built prior to W.W.II by Mussolini as a site for his aircraft to land on water.

        Coaching their boat in Italy was Temple University rowing coach Gavin White.  His caring, positive approach to coaching motivated Dan and Matt tremendously.  Throughout the championship round, Dan and Matt’s boat was dominant.  At no time in the finals did any boat threaten their lead.  When the U.S. boat crossed the finish line, the Germans and Australians were battling for distant second place.

         Later, as the contestants stood on the awards platform, Dan, Matt and Andy wore gold medals around their necks. The Stars and Stripes were raised on the highest pole, and as the National Anthem rang out across the waters, I said, “Thank you, Lord,” and tears rolled down my cheeks. 

        Did I hear Merry murmur, “I think I like this sport!”# 


Entry #11 for 7-26-04

By Jim Beery

        The rugged hike up into the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming was one of Dan’s earlier experiences as a member of the Boy Scouts of America.  For many years thereafter he enjoyed the adventures and challenges of following outdoorsman John Ludlow, camping, hiking and canoeing with his scout troop.  Little did Dan know the Boy Scouts would one day provide a much needed fulltime job and an opportunity to serve youngsters.

        In late summer of 2003 Dan returned from Milan, Italy, with a gold medal and no money, no job, no prospects.  At this time he learned about an opening as District Executive Director for the Philadelphia Boy Scouts.  During interviews with Boy Scout leadership, both sides decided he was the man for the job.  Although Dan continued to journey to Princeton for twice-a-day training sessions, he was able to fulfill his scouting obligations.  One of the highlights of his job was working with youngsters at the beautiful Valley Forge Boy Scout facility.

        Back home again in Indiana, Merry and I were delighted to know that at last our son had a fulltime job, benefits, and stability at last.  The name of one particular young lady, a former rower, began to pop up frequently in his conversation.  Quite rapidly Thanksgiving arrived, but Dan’s schedule kept him in the East as we sat down to the family turkey dinner.

        Christmas time was delightful for us, with Dan flying back to the Midwest.  From St. Louis he accompanied us home for the first time in many months.  During that visit he announced his plans to travel with the National Team to the United States Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.  Located a few miles outside of San Diego, the Center offered sunshine and friendly waters, far from the icy confines of the East.  In order to spend January, February and March training full time, Dan requested and received permission to take leave of his Boy Scout job; he took leave of his only source of income.

        One of the great benefits that evolved from Dan’s stay in Chula Vista was an opportunity know and grow relationships with fellow National Team members. ‘J.R’ Jason Read was his roommate and eventual boat mate in the ‘four’ and the ‘eight.’  As countless ‘seat races’ took place, day after day, members came to a realization – when you row in a boat with Big Dan, you’re likely to be a winner.

        Past experiences drove Dan relentlessly; equal to or only slightly better than the competition was not good enough.  Every ‘seat race’ was not just about looking good for the day.  It was all about the race for a seat in an Olympic boat capable of beating the Canadians, British, Germans and Australians.  Dan’s growth and improvement was not just about himself, but also about the team as a whole.  With few words, but with lots of oar action, Dan moved from the position of ‘outsider’ to one of leadership.

        As mid-March approached e-mails and phone calls took on an unusual tone – from confident optimism to dreariness, weariness and anxiety.  “Unbelievable!” was the one word I said to myself when Dan phoned home with results of a recent blood test:  mono!#


Entry #12 for 7-27-04

By Jim Beery

        “You and Merry must be very proud of your son!” are words we hear quite often as the Olympics near.  Our thoughts turn more and more to Dan as his and the U.S. National Rowing Team’s departure for Europe is only a few days away.  Perhaps it is Dan’s motivation and priorities we feel truly proud about. 

        One statement Dan wants to make is that success only becomes a reality by continually overcoming obstacles.  That “keep after it” mentality is the key to most worthwhile achievements.  Since boyhood in his sports endeavors, Dan learned that the word ‘fairness’ in not a reality in athletics or in life.  Physical and mental toughness are requisites for the long haul.

        Early in this nation’s history, one of our noted emblems was the Rattlesnake Flag, accompanied by the words, “Don’t tread on me!”  Dan is courteous and embraces good sportsmanship – to a point.  However, when that point approaches the end of his nose, his patience knows great brevity.  The grimace on his face clearly decries, “Don’t tread on me!”

        Dan defines ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ ‘just and unjust,’ from a long perspective of experiences.  I recall during Dan’s second year as pivot player for the Bryan College Lions.  After a critical conference game loss at the end of the season, the veteran team members were highly frustrated and ready to end the season.  However, the team had qualified for a post-season tournament, and the coaches strongly wanted the Lions to participate in the tournament appearance.  When other team leaders grumbled were ready to toss in the towel, Dan, just a sophomore, stood up in the middle of the locker room and made a statement:  “I grew up in a world where coaches were respected and their wishes were obeyed.  I came here to play basketball, not to be a quitter.  If four or more of you guys feel the same way, let’s go to the tournament!”

        After Dan’s locker room stand, the Lions DID play in the tournament – most of them did.  Dan experienced an ankle injury the next week that slowed him down somewhat.  The head coach interpreted his slower pace that week as somewhat of an attitude problem.  His solution was to bench Dan for most of the game, while family members sat in dismay up in the bleachers. 

        Dan never mentioned it, and to this day the coach does not know that the player with an attitude problem was the one who had the courage to stand up in the locker room and say, ‘lets stay the course.’  (As an aside to that saga, that Bryan College coach was released from his job this spring.  He now works for the Athletes in Action program.  Dan dug into his meager pre-benefit funds to send a contribution to the coach and his family.)

        Over the years, on and off the water, Dan has continued to stay the course.  Part of this is the tenacity of his personality, and a large part of it is his deep, abiding faith in God.  An olden times axiom applies well to Dan:  “Witness every day, in every way for the Lord, and if all else fails, use words.”  Dan doesn’t use many pious words, but his actions speak a loving vocabulary.  Recently, Dan learned that the teenage son of a former rower was stricken with a life-threatening brain tumor.  During free time between practices, Dan went to the hospital to visit the young man and presented him with the kit of Olympic items he had recently received as an Olympic team member.

        On another occasion in recent days, Dan spent precious rest time between practices mowing the lawn of an elderly friend who had been injured in an accident.  It is at times like these that we feel great pride in our son.  We rejoice in his athletic prowess and accomplishments, but our greatest pride is in the quality of the inner man, our son Dan


                                                        Entry #13 for 07-28-04

by Jim Beery

        Team chemistry is the ultimate element that determines champions.  In the ‘Athens 8’ Dan feels there are eight ‘goes’ and no egos.  Each is totally focused on winning the gold for the United States of America.  They are taking nothing for granted, and their mental toughness is such that they will go to legendary lengths to raise the Red, White and Blue.

        Countless nations have rowing entries in the 2004 Olympics.  However, many countries focus on being highly competitive in the lightweight and heavyweight sweeps and sculling boats with four or less rowers.  It requires a strong, well-financed rowing program to field an ‘eight.’  The sculling boats (two oars each rower) contain no more than four rowers.  The men and women’s programs contain the same number of scullers and sweeps.

        Twelve nations have presently entered the men’s ‘eight’ in the Athens Olympics.  The tentative schedule calls for the initial race on Sunday, August 15, to feature two heat races with six boats in each race.  The winners of those two heat races automatically advance to the finals on August 22.  On August 17 the ten remaining boats will again race in the repechages - two heats of five boats.  The top two boats in each of those heats will advance to the August 22 finals.  This will create a field of six boats racing for the medals.

        The key to the initial heat races on August 15 will be what teams are sharing the waters with the United States ‘eight.’  In the latest World Cup races held in Lucerne, Switzerland, a few weeks ago, powerful Canada edged out strong challenger, Germany.  At the finish line the Italians edged out the United States ‘eight’ to win the bronze medal.  However, that U.S. boat has been greatly revamped, with Dan’s ‘four’ moved directly into the ‘eight’ upon its return to the States.

        This time around, NOBODY will be taking the United States boats for granted.  For certain, there is no doubt that the Canadians regard their neighbors to the south as their greatest obstacle to a possible sweeping series of wins in the ‘pair,’ the ‘four,’ and the ‘eight.’  I can almost guarantee that the troubled international relations between the two countries will not improve after these intense rivals clash on the waters of Greece’s Schinias rowing course.

        Last summer was the first test of the Schinias man-made rowing course.  It almost flunked the test!  High winds created such rough waters that some of the boats became literally swamped at mid-course.  Some of the members of a couple of the ‘eight’ boats actually slipped into the water, held on to the sides, and crossed the finish line kicking with their feet and paddling with their hands. 

        Those trade winds and the chaos they can create on the Schinias course are my greatest concern at the Olympics.  Mother Nature could neutralize the best efforts of the greatest rowers in the world.  Despite my concerns, Dan assures me that he and his teammates are physically and mentally prepared for whatever lies ahead, including high winds and rough waters.

        Meanwhile, here on the home front, Merry has already begun packing her carry-on luggage.  Since our main luggage became lost on its way to Seville, Spain, two years ago, we travel very lightly.  All medications,a couple changes of clothing and essentials travel with us, rather than in the cargo belly of the plane.

        Friends have volunteered to care for our horses, and will house sit for us and feed the critters.  I feel strange missing the opening days of school for the first time in thirty-eight years.  However, I’m certain the youth of America will get along right well until my return, while I get my education overseas – it will likely be Greek to both of us.#


Entry #14 for 7-29-04

By Jim Beery

        It’s oars over the ocean today.  However, those oars will be above the water, rather than in it. - carefully stored away in the cargo section of the airplane.  One day ahead of schedule, our son is on his way to his greatest athletic challenge, going for the gold in the ‘eight’ for the first time in forty years. 

Yesterday afternoon at 3:00, Dan and members of his ‘eight’ practiced on the water for the last time before their departure for a quick stop in Athens.  They will then continue on to Bulgaria for ten days final days of training.  During much of the day Dan was scurrying to complete media interviews, finish preparations for almost a month’s absence from home, and conclude packing for the long journey.

Dan made it a point to make a call home to Oaktown at a time when he could talk to the visiting Hooperdoo kids – Wyatt, Jacob and Maura.  The youngsters idolize Uncle Dan, and delight in sleeping in his upstairs bedroom when they visit us at The Ranch.  The six-year-olds have tabbed this the ‘Champion Room,’ because of rowing medals and other memorabilia on the shelves and walls.

One item on the shelves is an autographed basketball signed by his high school teammates.  Midway through basketball season during his senior year, Dan tore his A.C.L.  The next day we drove to Indianapolis to Methodist Sports Medicine center to meet with Dr. Charles Vanmeter.  He didn’t promise Dan a quick return to the hard-court, but he did repair the knee ‘miraculously’ to withstand years of strenuous rowing.  Meanwhile, his teammates presented the ball to Dan as a gift of appreciation during his recovery.

Somewhat surprisingly, Dan was a football player and wrestler early in his junior high years.  However, between his seventh and eighth grade years, he grew FIVE inches.  The basketball coaches suddenly began to take a serious interest in Dan.  He switched from the wrestling mat to the ‘gym rat’ for the next several years. 

Dan’s college choice was still uncertain after graduation.  He was invited by former North Knox basketball standout, Nathan Graves, to join a Christian all-star team.  Dr. Vanmeter released Dan to participate in basketball once again.  Playing and witnessing during a series of games in the Bahamas, he became close to one of his teammates from a small Christian college in Southeastern Tennessee, Bryan College.  The teammate recommended Dan to his head basketball coach, Morris Michalski, and Dan was recruited to become a Bryan Lion.

I have often wondered what kind of rowing career Dan would have enjoyed if he had grown up in a geographic area where rowing was as popular as basketball.  Over the years he has competed with rowers whose parents and other relatives were rowers.  Many of them were successful members of their high school teams and rowed for four years on scholarships in college.  Since Dan only began rowing after transferring to the University of Chattanooga at the beginning of his junior year, he had to play a great game of ‘catch up’ to make a place for himself in the rowing world.  This spring he left no doubt in the minds of the U.S. rowing coaches that he has arrived! #

Entry #16 for 8-2-04

By Jim Beery

        “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration!”  Some old coach likely coined that quote, and it likely strikes the target fairly close to bull’s eye.  When Dan drove home from U.T.C. at Christmas times, he brought along an indoor rowing machine with the blessings of Coach Robert Espeseth. 

        Disassembled, the machine barely fit into Dan’s white Pontiac.  Assembled, it barely fit into one of our spare upstairs bedrooms.  With the exception of Christmas Day, Dan would excuse himself from our company and head upstairs to the rowing machine at least once a day.  Usually, he opened some upstairs windows to let the atmosphere air out, because after a couple of days, the entire area smelled like a sweaty locker room.

        Before he sat down on the seat of the machine, he placed towels under the machine to keep the sweat from dripping down onto the carpet.  Then, he made certain his water bottles were securely situated within easy reach.  Once the workouts began, we could hear the rhythm of the rowing machine for at least an hour and often longer.  When Dan reappeared downstairs for his shower, his entire body was covered with sweat.

        In addition to the rowing machine workout, on days when the weather was tolerable he would run the four-mile circuit from The Ranch to Oaktown and back.  Another part of the training regimen was working out in the weight room at North Knox High School and running gym floor and steps.  Although Coach Espeseth appreciated a phone call or postal card for an update from Dan, self-motivation was always the major factor for his workouts.

        In the eight years since Dan began rowing, I do not recall any significant or extended break in his training routine.  Nor, do I ever remember him grumbling or complaining about the high price his sport demands of him.  His love of rowing is just amazing.  He feels totally convinced that God designed his body specifically to enable him to excel at rowing, and he is determined to make the most of that ability.

        Dan’s first experience in international competition was the 2002 World Cup series in Lucerne, Switzerland.  He and his partner, Dana Schmunk, competed in the sculling doubles event.  They had trained hard under the guidance of Penn A.C. coach Ted Nash, and thought they were prepared for the World Cup.  Not so!

        In the first round of competition, Dan and Dana were edged out of the medallist round in a photo finish.  As usual, Coach Nash rode his bicycle along the course, coaching and encouraging his rowers.  After the race he patiently talked with them, analyizing the race and giving instructions for the next race in the ‘B’ heat.

        The races in the ‘B’ or consolation rounds were once again ‘close, but no cigar.’  Again, Coach Nash was positive and encouraging, but he made this point:  “You WILL be working harder when we return to the States.  More weight lifting and running the hills of Philadelphia will be added to the training cycle.” 

        Dan recalls on one occasion that summer when Coach Nash entered the training room and witnessed a less than satisfactory performance during weight lifting session.  Without saying a word, the powerful coach of over seventy years proceeded to do twice the number of ‘power cleans’ that his athletes were required to complete.  He then turned around and walked nonchalantly out of the room. 

        The extra work and conditioning paid big dividends in August of that summer.  Rowing in the pair with coxswain, Dan and Dana won the silver medal in Seville, Spain.  In international competition the coaches receive medals as well as the athletes.  As we sat in the lobby of Dan’s hotel later in the day, Coach Nash passed by and stopped to talk with Merry and me.  He showed us his silver medal and smiled:  “This is the twenty-fourth medal I have earned either rowing or coaching in international competition,” he explained.  It was then I fully realized how fortunate our son was to be rowing for this wise, wily veteran of the boathouse. #


Entry #17 for 8-3-04

By Jim Beery


Multiple choice:  A.  We are planning a rummage sale with an emphasis on clothing.  B.  We are packing for our departure one week from today.  When I look at the massive amount of clothing Merry is considering, I am hoping choice ‘A,’ but reality is choice ‘B.’

        The e-mails we have received from Dan in Bulgaria indicate the temperatures are quite hot in that part of the world at this time.  In fact, he made mention that for relief from the heat, some of the young ladies choose topless attire in the pool areas.  Believe me, I have made certain Merry’s swimwear has the aspire-to-perspire tops.

        When the entire luggage is loaded, our plans call for us to be away from home about ten days.  Thus, we have stocked up on dog food, cat food, and lots of horse feed.  Their caretakers will likely spoil them with attention – sort of like we did with our grandkids last week. 

        Football practice began Monday, so I have certainly been able to follow Dan instructions:  “You guys get plenty of exercise and spend time out in the heat.”  This is the second time I have missed several days of football practice while following Dan’s rowing adventures.  In nearly thirty years of coaching, these are the only occasions I have been away from the team for any length of time.  I am such a coaching junkie that it really pains me to be away from the action.


        Our flight schedule calls for us to experience a five-hour layover at J.F.K. Airport in New York before departing on a direct flight to Athens.  This downtime is not a problem at all for me; in fact, it is a relief.  Two years ago a brief layover caused us to miss a connecting flight out of Cincinnati to JFK Airport, because of a delay in Cincinnati.  The airline was kind and booked us on a later flight to Paris on our way to Madrid, Spain.  However, once again we had an abbreviated layover, and had to race through the airport, causing some of the French patrons to ACTUALLY speak unkind words to American citizens.

        We recovered from our French connections, but our luggage did not fare so well.  Four days in Spain, living in our carry-on luggage contents was not a pleasant experience – my khaki was tacky, and Merry was in a fashion funk.  After four days, the airline finally approved the cost of replacing some of our basic needs.  Two days later we finally located our luggage, but one abused suitcase appeared to be the subject of those mad Frenchmen’s revenge.

        Our flight next week from J.F.K. to Athens calls for about TEN hours’ airtime.  A few weeks after my heart bypass surgery two years ago, I developed a blood clot in my left leg – bummer.  Whenever I discuss extended flight plans with Dr. Kelly, he reminds me, “Jim, you must get up and walk around at least once every hour during your flight.”  Well, it’s almost embarrassing to make so many trips up and down the airplane aisles.  I just know the other passengers are thinking, “Something’s the matter with that guy’s bladder!”

        When we arrive in Athens, a much-appreciated courtesy that our Greek hosts are providing is transportation from the airport to our housing.  The accommodations are in the small town of Marathonas, about twenty-six miles from Athens.  In the past we have found it difficult to find transportation from airports to our destination while experiencing the realities of jet lag.

        Meanwhile, back down on the ground, I am tempted to take out a subscription to Sports Illustrated, just so I can cancel it.  In a recent website article, they predicted that the Canadians would capture the gold in the ‘eight’ in Athens, and the United States would finish with the silver medal.  (It just goes to show the S.I. people only know about swimsuits, not sports, when they are close to water – must be some Bulgarians on their staff.)  Of course, there are no guarantees in the sports world, but I know for certain that Dan and his teammates have no intention of finishing behind our brash neighbors of the North.  Nobody on our team was born when the U.S. ‘eight’ last won the gold, but they plan to change that soon. 

        We are eager for August 15 to arrive, and let the rowing begin! #



By Jim Beery

          In William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, at dawn before the great battle, the noble Brutus lamented the uncertainty of what lay ahead.  To paraphrase his words, “Oh, that I might what fates this day holds, before it even begins!”  One week from tomorrow, August 15, is the first Olympic race involving Dan’s ‘eight.’  The excitement and anticipation is already causing my head to lie restlessly upon the pillow.  What lies ahead?

          I do not worry about the trip to Athens or the success of the United States teams.  Over many years of coaching I learned that if my team was united, confident and prepared, I respected all opponents, but feared none.  Dan’s ‘eight’ fits together more splendidly than any team he has ever known.  They push themselves relentlessly in practice, out of necessity, but their hearts are only excited by the reality of true competition.  If I were the Canadians, Germans, Brits, Australians and others, I might look with apprehension upon the Red, White and Blue.  Again to paraphrase Shakespeare:  “Yon Cassius has a lean, hungry look.  While fear is unknown to me, if I did fear it would be that man…”  If other teams do not have a respect that borders on fear, they are badly underestimating the resolve of the United States ‘eight.’

As I have commenter earlier, my main concern is Mother Nature. The weather forecasts appear favorable for the latter part of August in Athens.  No foreseeable heat wave appears imminent, and the dreaded trade wind, called Meltemi, is predicted to be somewhat moderate.  It is a north-to-north easterly wind, which due to the local terrain, funnels down from the mountains and out of Athens, providing gusty offshore conditions on the racecourses.  Experts explain the winds are created by a pressure gradient set up between high pressures to the north east of Greece and a thermal low that forms over Turkey.  The wind changes are extremely difficult to predict and can change dramatically, leading to unanticipated problems on the watercourses.

          Another uncertainty that concerns me is my total lack of understanding the language – it is literally Greek to me!  In Spain and Italy, my basic knowledge of the Romance Languages enabled me to understand the basics well enough to survive – “Por favor, donde esta el quarto de bano?”  (I usually found the restroom!)  I sure hope there are pictures on the doors in Greece.  Our daughter and traveling companion, Marsha, checked Greek speaking, educational tapes out of her local library several weeks ago, so she is slightly versed in a few basic phrases.  “Parakalo” means ‘please.’

          The great news in regards to language barriers is that partway through our stay in Greece, Dan’s friend, Athina, will be joining us.  Sharing accommodations and traveling with her will just be fantastic.  In addition to getting to know her better, we will be blessed with a young lady whose family is from Greece.  She knows the customs and speaks the language fluently.  Although her family’s origins are from an area about one hundred miles north of Athens, she has traveled in this area and is familiar with the ‘lay of the land.’

          Not surprisingly, for the next few days prior to our departure, I am concerning myself with simply making good decisions and being ‘common sense careful.’  To get this close to seeing the fulfillment of our son’s dreams, and ‘stub my toe’ would be the height of foolishness, or closing in Shakespeare’s words: “Oh judgment, thou are fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason…”  I’ll be careful, William.  #


Entry #19 for  8-11-04

        Prepare to be excited!  “Championnats Du Monde” is the inscription on the back of Dan’s gold medal from 2003 Milan, Italy, World Championships.  On Sunday, August 15, the eight will begin the first round of competition.  One week later, on August 22 we will know if that group of rowers, on that particular morning, is the best in the Olympic world – “Olympic Championnats Du Monde.”

        Last night our phone rang a little after midnight, and Dan was calling from Athens in the early morning over there.  He only had time to say, “Hi, I’m doing well and feeling fine.  On my phone card I only have two minutes left, so I’ll give you my phone number here in my room.  You can call this number right back and we’ll talk.  Love you.”  We wrote down his phone number, called him back, and were unable to make connection.  So, we’ll try to call later, figuring out the time differences once again.

        Channel TWO from Terre Haute, our closest NBC affiliate has joined Channel 14 out of Evansville in expressing interest in Dan’s Olympic adventures.  Their interview with Merry and me will be aired on their afternoon and evening news tomorrow, Thursday.

        Our latest update on Olympic coverage of Dan’s races indicate that CNBC will cover the eight (LIVE) at sometime Sunday, August 15, between 2:00 – 3:30 A.M.  On a delayed basis the NBC affiliates will air the competition sometime between 12:00 – 5:30 P.M.

        The gold medal finals will be on Sunday, August 22.  The finals will be featured on CNBC (LIVE) between 2:00 – 2:30 A.M.  The delayed coverage will be somewhere in the timeframe of 10:00 A.M – 5:30 P.M.  Perhaps by going on the Internet at www.nbcolympics.com you will be able to get more specific information.  *A reminder that if the weather conditions are extremely windy, the event may be rescheduled to compensate for the elements.

        Many of you may not be any more familiar with rowing than we were eight years ago when Dan first began to row.  However, feel certain the coverage will feature highly qualified commentators to explain the action.  As I mentioned in my opening, “Prepare to be excited!”  Dan mentioned earlier this week that the eight is moving extremely well.  The crew is focusing on race strategies at this point.  The most important element of the race for fans to watch is really basic:  Watch for the U.S.A. boat to cross the finish line before the Canadians, Germans, Australians, the British, and the others!

`        Although Dan’s challenges and difficulties are formidable, I believe he may have an easier assignment than I.  As I begin loading our van for the trip to St. Louis, I believe the a hard 2000 meter row might be preferable to carrying all the ‘necessities’ Merry has designated for our trip.  I may need Maggie and Big Red, our two Quarter horses, to work as packhorses.

        Preparations for here on the home front seem to be complete.  Horses, dogs and cats will all receive their food, water, and T.L.C.  Our friend, Shawna, is house sitting and delights in mowing with our John Deere mower, so I’m sure the yard will be manicured on a regular basis. 

        We will spend the night in St. Louis and leave early tomorrow morning on our flight to J.F.K. in New York.  After a five-hour layover, we are scheduled for about a ten-hour flight directly to Athens.  The reality of the events is at last beginning to ‘sink in’ for us.  Words cannot truly express our gratitude for all the prayers, encouragement and good luck wishes.  As many of you know, I enjoy flying about as much as root canal treatments – so keep those prayers coming! 

In the words of our immortal Vincennes native, Red Skelton:  “Thank you, and may God bless.”  #


Posted 8/16


Just in case some of you didn't get the earlier email, Dan and his boat won their heat yesterday a.m. That means that he does not have to race until next Sunday. They beat the Canadians by a gnat's eyelash and both boats set new best records. There was a terrific tailwind. Our guys say they actually like to race in head winds as they can move the boat better. We were all terribly excited--screaming and yelling, jumping up and down like idiots. BUT we weren't the only ones!!!

I am sorry that those of you were up in the wee hours waiting to watch LIVE and were disappointed. Hopefully when you actually did see it you understand how tiny the margin was. The Canadians and Australians are going to be gunning for us next Sunday.

After the race, the coach allowed the guys to go with us for a few hours. I gave Dan his "book" and he was excited to read the notes from everyone. It was great. We are 1/2 block from Brian Volpenhein's family and are enjoying Athens today.

My time is up. I have to go. Thanks for your thoughts and prqayers. Something worked!!!!!!!!!!! Merry