On Tuesday of last week, I sent Adrienne an email:
So… I heard back and they have 2 tickets for this weekend… do you want to go???
“They” and the “2 tickets” are part of a story that starts in London, on the night of August 4th.
During a routine visit to the USA Hospitality House, Adrienne and I got separated from the rest of the athletes that were continuing on for the night to the next destination. While waiting to catch a cab, we met a few guys from Georgia who had also been at the USA House, and who were also looking to catch a cab. We decided to share one, and that’s where our weekend in Charleston began.
Our cab ride turned into an hour-long, £60 odyssey through the diverted streets of London. We got to know Ross, Scott and Bradford pretty well on that cab ride. And by the end of the night, we’d converted a few strangers into some of USRowing’s newest, biggest fans. Before we parted ways, one of the guys asked us if we’d be interested in meeting up again sometime–maybe at a Hootie & the Blowfish concert in Charleston on the weekend of August 18 since they had two extra tickets? We exchanged contact info and said goodbye for the night. I didn’t hear from the guys until after I got back from London, but–they still had tickets for us! I didn’t even have to twist Adrienne’s arm to get her to throw some things in a bag on Friday and get ready for a 12 hour road trip down to South Carolina and our first visit to the South.
Have I mentioned lately that I love Twitter?
Before we left, I randomly asked my Twitter followers if anyone had any connections with any local businesses in Charleston. I wasn’t expecting much–my network in the southern US isn’t that strong and it was very short notice for the trip. But as luck would have it, a follower from Team USA Buzz who also happens to be a Charleston native, reached out to me and what followed was truly incredible. My new best friend Billy helped to set up Adrienne and me with a ton of amazing connections in Charleston that gave us a truly unforgettable weekend.
We spent all of Friday driving down the southeastern coast of the United States. It was an easy trip save for the itty bitty squall Adrienne had to drive through; highlighted by a stop at “South of the Border” and our excitement at being in the Carolinas for the first time. We reunited with our friends in downtown Charleston that night but packed it in early back to the Seaside Inn since we had been on the road for 12+ hours. Saturday morning we started at the Sea Biscuit Café–who were not expecting us–and took some photos with people who were also having breakfast. Then we headed over to Tidal Wave Watersports and hit the water on a powerboat for a ride through the harbor and out to Capers Island for part of the afternoon. Then we flitted off to the Windjammer–a legendary local spot famous for beach volleyball, live music, and genuine, rowdy fun–for a quick stop to meet the owner, Jack, and grab a bite to eat. We didn’t have much time before we had to get ready for the main event of the weekend: the concert.
Adrienne and I were meeting the guys at the concert venue to get our tickets and go in together. We met the manager of the Family Circle Cup venue, Bob, in the parking lot before our friends arrived–but were escorted directly in to the VIP Suite and left to our own devices, followed shortly by our friends who all also received wristbands and got to enjoy their General Admission tickets from VIP! Once the show started we were all having a blast–until I was floored by a member of the band who announced Adrienne and me on stage and then got the entire sold out stadium chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” It was unbelievably cool. We spent a good portion of the night meeting other concert-goers and taking loads of photos with people from all over the US. It was such a special night.
We then said our goodbyes to the staff at the Family Circle Cup, just missed out on meeting the band (shoot!) and headed back to the Windjammer with the rest of the concert to close out the night. Mark Bryan, guitarist from Hootie & the Blowfish, also wandered down to the Jammer to join the band that was playing that night for a whole second show that went until 2am. Adrienne and I danced on stage and then high fived, hugged, and took photos with more South Carolinians than I would have ever thought possible. The love, support and excitement that we experienced that night was truly unforgettable. Thank you to everyone who was there, I still can’t believe how much fun we had.
Sunday we started at Shem Creek Bar & Grill for brunch before hiding out in our hotel room for a bit (it rained). We then stopped in at Patriots Point for a quick NBC interview and private tour of the three military vessels that have their permanent homes at PP. The National Medal of Honor Museum is also located at Patriots Point, and it was immensely humbling to walk through and learn about the men (and woman) who have earned our country’s highest military honor for going above and beyond the call of duty. We toured the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, destroyer USS Laffey and submarine USS Clamagore. Naval and maritime technology has changed a LOT since WWII but it was a lot of fun to get onboard and see how servicemen lived and served.
Finally, we jumped on with Spiritline Cruises for a beautiful sunset dinner cruise that was truly a great way to end our time in Charleston. We cruised by Fort Sumter (origin of the Civil War) and saw some local dolphins playing off the bow of the boat. Very cool!
Thank you so much to everyone who played a part in this amazing weekend. I was thrilled to make my first trip to Charleston and hope to visit again. But most importantly, getting out and meeting other Americans who are excited about Team USA and everything that we achieved in London this summer was so special. One of the best parts of being part of the Olympic Movement is the opportunity to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds who all share a love of Sport and pride in their country’s Olympic Team. I met a number of young people this weekend who are involved with athletics on some level–and I was so happy to share my experiences and of course, my Olympic medal, with them. Putting myself in their place, I know I never could have imagined as an elementary school student that someday I would be a United States Olympian.
To those I met and talked with this weekend: never stop dreaming. You never know what the future may hold.
Long Live the Dream,