When we parted ways in the late afternoon, coming out into that glaring sun, we went to check in at our hotel. My heartfelt wish centered around a cool shower, so that was first on my agenda, while Chris changed into fresh clothes and lay down to read. Out and refreshed and dressed in fresh cottons, I sat down for a bit, as well, and poured us glasses of that good iced tea in the jug in the cooler, for the dinner was all ready and waiting for our guests to arrive.
They came in with a “cooler” of their own---a big Styrofoam cold-box holding four bags of frozen blueberries, a box of fresh raspberries and one of figs, a jar of raspberry freezer jam, and one of regular jam. They’d already shown me the dried figs and cinnamon apple slices---all of the above from their own garden and trees---and the enormous can of Virginia peanuts they’d brought, as well as a loaf of zucchini bread. What generous friends we have!
We talked for a while, and they showed us on their laptop where all we’d be the next day, for the route of the Iron Man Competition was marked out. As they were planning to get up at four, and be at the Great Lawn by the river by six as the athletes warmed up for the dive into the river, and since they planned to take a shuttle down to LaGrange, where the bike race would wind through town, they said we’d do better just to wait and meet them later in LaGrange.
That settled, I took the Tupperwares out of the ice in the cooler, and we had supper---Shrimp and Farfalle salad with julienned red and gold peppers and a Cajun mayo; Chicken/Apple salad in Pita Pockets; Spinach Tortillas with a spread of cream cheese, chopped Sultanas, garlic chives and sunflower seeds, then a layer of baby spinach leaves laid on before rolling and slicing into “wraps.” There were celery sticks to go with the peanut butter/Tupelo honey dip, some really crunchy “Garden Cheddar” goldfish (wonder where they pick those?), grapes, and slices of pound cake. We had big icy glasses of the tea, and since they’d brought a gallon of Ben’s famous scuppernong wine, Chris sampled that, as well.
I set it all out on a long cloth made by rolling out paper towels onto the little bar/dresser thing, and the guys sat in the two chairs, while Lil and I sat cross-legged on the bed and we all ate our supper. It was cold salads, mind you, for a hot day’s lunch in the shade of a picnic area, eaten at suppertime in a decidedly un-picnicky cool hotel room, but they seemed to like it. Friends you can sit barefooted and comfortable on a hotel bed and eat dinner with---those don’t just come along every day.
They left before dark, for they had to set an EARLY alarm clock. I wondered if all the athletes were already slumbering, resting up for the morrow, or if the excitement and anticipation kept them gazing expectantly into the dark like warriors on the eve of battle.
And so we leave them, those Iron Men and Women, those modern-day carriers of the torches bright as the first Olympians held, these perfectly-trained, impossibly-honed young folks with determination in their eyes and a great fire in their bellies, for the victory, for the sheer DOING of the thing, which makes us all the better for their valor and their courage. We’ll leave them to sleep their strengthening, restful sleep (if they can), until their own alarms chime the call to the race.
Details of our Sunday at the Race to come in September.