Monday, June 2, 2014

Reunions And Rowing

TigerBlog pulled up to the light at the intersection of Route 1 and Washington Road yesterday afternoon, or at least tried to pull up to the light.

Actually, it's not Washington Road on that side of Route 1, TB thinks. It's just Route 571.

Whatever it's called, TB was heading towards Route 1 from West Windsor on a Sunday afternoon, except the traffic was backed up like it was a Monday morning or something. That light can be menacing anyway, because it seems like it stays green for the traffic on Route 1 for far longer than it does for the traffic on Washington Road/571.

Years ago, there was a light at Alexander Road also, as well as by where the MarketFair mall is. When those lights were eliminated, it made the ride up Route 1 from 95 to Princeton much better. Of course, it all grinds to a halt as you head north of Princeton, and TB read for years story after story about how a bypass was going to be built from Trenton and New Brunswick to ease the traffic.

Anyway, there he was, yesterday afternoon, trying to get onto Route 1, only to find that there was a long line of others who had the same thought he had.

If you're driving from West Windsor to Princeton, you can make that right turn about a half-mile before reaching Route 1 and then make the left on Fisher Place, which will take you to a light at Route 1. Usually, that way helps you avoid the wait at the very intersection to which TB was headed.

On a Sunday, though, TB figured there was no need to do that. Only it was taking all day to get near the light.

He thought of making a U-turn, which some people did, but that's not a situation he wanted to be in, investing time in waiting in traffic and then making the bold U-turn way too late, so that it doesn't save any time anyway. He's had that happen before, and he doesn't like it.

So he toughed it out. And toughed it out and toughed it out. In all, it took about 15-20 minutes to go less than a mile.

Okay, so it wasn't the worst traffic of all time, though it did seem sort of random to him. Why on a Sunday afternoon would so many people be trying to get to Route 1?

Maybe it was some of the residual traffic from Reunions, he thought, though wouldn't it be leaving Princeton, rather than heading to Princeton?

Each year it seems, Reunions is plagued by hot and humid weather that leads to a massive thunderstorm, often in conjunction with the fireworks. This year? There was nothing close to that.

The first day of Reunions always corresponds to the night of the Princeton Varsity Club senior awards banquet. In most years, it is oppressively hot at the banquet, and that sets the tone for Reunions.

For all of the PVC banquets, TB thinks last year's was the hottest and most humid. He couldn't even think about putting on his suit jacket, and it was just a sweatbox under the tent.

This year it was on the fringes of being chilly during the banquet. There was no humidity, and it was crystal clear. And that carried over to a near-perfect weekend of weather at Reunions.

TB tries to explain Reunions to people who have no connection to Princeton, especially the people he went to Penn with, and they just cannot grasp the concept. To Princeton people, TB would give the message that what you have here is pretty unique.

Penn has loyal alums. TigerBlog had a great experience there as a student, as did basically everyone else he knows who went there. What Penn doesn't do is breed the kind of loyalty to the alma mater that Princeton does. TB suspects perhaps no other college does.

The show that is Reunions is unmatched on Penn's campus, and probably any other. It's just different at Princeton. Take it from TigerBlog, who has been on Princeton's campus more than he's been on Penn's in his lifetime but who can never be a Princetonian.

No, that's reserved for those who actually went to Princeton and graduated from Princeton. It's a distinction that they earned and early on learned to celebrate, annually in many cases, with goofy orange and black outfits, regimented traditions - and a camaraderie that TB wishes his own alma mater had.

Anyway, Reunions ended Saturday night and this was yesterday late afternoon, so he doubted the traffic was tied to any of that.

It dawned on him later that it was possible that some of the traffic was coming from Mercer Lake, where the IRA rowing national championships were held.

As TB is writing, he can't help but notice that the top four stories on are all about rowing. This weekend was clearly a huge one for the sport, with the national championships for men (and women's lightweights) at Mercer Lake and the NCAA women's open championships in Indianapolis.

Princeton did well across the board.

Perhaps the highlight was the men's heavyweights, who finished fourth for the best finish by the program since 2006. The women's lightweights and men's lightweights both finished fifth, and the women's open finished sixth in the overall points standings at the NCAA event.

TigerBlog has been to one IRA national championship regatta, in 1998, when he was the rowing contact. It was an impressive show.

TB knows enough about rowing to know that it's a very complex sport, one that is demanding physically and mentally. The national championships can be very grueling, with multiple 2,000-meter races in a short weekend.

To have all four finish in the top six is pretty impressive. You know what other schools finished in the top six in all four? How about nobody.

With the end of rowing season, the 2013-14 Princeton athletic year comes down to the five track and field athletes who advanced to the NCAA championships in Oregon next week.

For now, though, Reunions have ended, and today is Class Day, followed by graduation tomorrow.

The weather looks perfect for both of those events as well. Traffic in Princeton should be bad, but it's for a good cause.

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