Oh no! I seem to have left y'all hanging for...1, 2, 3, 4...well, a long time. Sorry about that. We got back from our adventure and I crashed headlong into the Book Fair at Jude's school, which I run. Let's see, where was I?...
(To be read in a hushed, but urgent announcer voice)
When last we saw Gretchen and Jude, they were newly arrived in Park City, Utah, where Jude was about to begin his USA Luge Screening Camp. A snowstorm had hit the city, and Gretchen was tossing back wine to keep from panicking that she might drive her rented Chevy Tahoe into a snowbank. Jude was afraid of nothing, and eager to hit the ice. Will the boy triumph in his battle of boy vs. ice? Will Gretchen get it together and not go into a panic attack when next faced with snow driving? All this and more will be explained in the next episode of Jude and Gretchen's Big Luge Adventure!
(Okay, you can stop with the dramatic voice now.)
Don't worry, after all this time I'm not going to put you all through a blow-by-blow recap. I think it can basically all be summed up by the following quote, spoken by Jude in the rental car on our drive back to the Salt Lake City Airport...
"These have been the best four days of my life."
Yep. That's it. The boy was in heaven from beginning to end.
What did I think of it all? I've never been so happy for him. And I've never been so proud of him. Not just because he performed well on the luge track. But also because he was so focused, and worked so hard, and because he was an all-around good guy and showed excellent sportsmanship.
It's interesting and a little sad - at Jude's school, he doesn't play any of the team sports that the other boys play - baseball, basketball, football, or soccer. He runs track and cross country, and he's a solid athlete, but he's not the big star. He's doing really well on his swim team, but only one kid from his school is on the team, so none of his friends ever witness his athletic achievements.
So it was really special to see him being recognized as a good athlete by a group of kids he'd never met before. He immediately excelled at this luge thing, and the other kids saw it, and treated him with respect. He was surrounded by fist bumps and "Way to go, Dude!"s. It was just so damned good for him, so empowering. And I'm proud to say, he was the only kid who waited after every one of his runs down the luge course and high-fived everybody who came after him. He just blew me away.
And they were a great group of kids! All of them were so supportive of each other. I guess that they all knew it was a unique and possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience they were going through together. The parents were terrific too. I never once heard anybody bragging on their kid, or trash talking anybody else's.
I also have nothing but good to say about the USA Luge coaches and athletes. All of them were wonderful and absolutely inspiring, encouraging, and kind to these kids. ALL of the kids did well. Even those who weren't the most gifted lugers had a TON of fun. They were all having the time of their lives.
And...I must commend Jude on his committment to his schoolwork. He had to take four days off school, which didn't make his teachers particularly happy. Though I have to say that the nun who is his principal was thrilled for him, and heartily approved his absense, saying, and I quote..."It's a not-to-be-missed opportunity!" So every night, after all those hours on the ice, we'd go to dinner...
...then we'd go back to the hotel and he'd do his schoolwork, which his friends texted to him every day...
He had two tests on the day we got back from Park City, Language Arts and Pre-Algebra. He studied the whole way back in the car and on the plane. The results? Pre-Algebra - 97. Language Arts - 100. Woohoo!
Okay, I will stop bragging on the boy. But seriously, I am just so IMPRESSED by him. I mean, he's NEVER been this focused, or worked so hard. Okay, I will stop bragging on the boy.
It was all just very good.
Are you ready to see some luging? Here we go. A quick glimpse of him rounding Curve 12 -
And here's one of his runs captured on the kind of rickety track video...
So what's next? Probably nothing. They have five of these screenings, most in Lake Placid, NY. After which a handful of kids will be asked to join the Junior Development Team, or "D" Team as they call it. Will Jude be asked? Maybe. He was very good. But there were several others who were stand outs as well. He gets it, and is prepared in case of disappointment. And seriously, what the hell would we do if he got picked? Move to Utah? Not happening, I'm afraid. But for now I'm just excited and proud of him.
Okay, that's it. Much fun was had by all. Wish the boy luck! And good luck to all the other kids at his camp, they all worked their little butts off.