Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Original Four Ride Again

When George O'Neil mentioned the "original four," he was talking about the four members of the Princeton men's lacrosse travel party who have been on each of the last three international trips the program has taken.

They were together in Spain and Ireland in 2008. They were together in Costa Rica in 2012. They're together this week in Portugal.

The four are O'Neil, who is the athletic trainer for the team. There is Bryce Chase, who is, well, he's just Brycie. He's been around the program since it began in 1882, or it least that's just how it seems.
There's John McPhee, the author and writing instructor at Princeton.

And TigerBlog of course. That's it. Only those four have been to each of the last three trips.

One constant of each trip has been a bicycle ride. 

In Dublin, Ireland, it was through Phoenix Park, the largest urban park in all of Europe. In Costa Rica, it was on the side of a hill as the sun rose over the ocean, a quiet, picturesque scene whose stillness was broken by a bit of Bryce's standard profanity when the chain came off his bike.

And the tradition continued with this trip yesterday, when those four, plus George's 12-year-old son Kieran and Princeton men's lacrosse Fellows Patrick Moran (who was featured HERE on yesterday) and John Barbour rented bikes next to the hotel and headed out for about two hours.

It's hard to imagine a more perfect weather day than the one yesterday on the coast in southeastern Portugal. There was a slight chill in the morning for the team's practice from 9-11 at the local stadium and sports complex, so TB went with a light jacket and shorts.

By mid-day, the jacket wasn't necessary. TB went to lunch on a place right on the beach with Bryce, his saintly wife Phyllis, John McPhee and Pat Moran. It was there that TB had his first-ever pizza with shrimp on it, and he has to say, it was outstanding.

In fact, here's what it looked like:
Pretty good, right?

It was at lunch that TigerBlog learned something about Bryce that he never knew. Bryce's father was wounded twice during the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. In fact, of the 55 people in his company there, a staggering 54 of them were either killed or wounded.

Bryce is an interesting person. He is a member of the Class of 1963, and he was a midfielder on the lacrosse team. He was in the U.S. Marine Corps, which is presumably where he learned to curse the way he often does, and he is also a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School.

He has been around the program for so many years in so many capacities. The bottom line on him is that everyone in the program knows him and loves him, and they know there isn't anyone more loyal or dependable when an issue arises than Bryce. He is the one you want on your side.

He likes to play the tough guy, and in many ways he is a tough guy. But not that far underneath, he's got a pretty soft spot for the guys who come through the program, to go with a pretty big heart that he'd probably never admit to possessing.

None of that, though, stops him from being one of the biggest - can TB say this? -  ball-busters he's ever met. It's endless, and it's usually hilarious.

Bryce picked up the check at lunch. That's how he is. TigerBlog tried to buy him ice cream later on, and Bryce wouldn't hear of it.

After lunch, it was over to the bike place, which was basically across the street from the restaurant and the beach. It was seven Euros each to rent the bike for one day, which means it was less than the pizza.

The ride went past the stadium where the team practiced, and it continued down that road until it reached the Rio Guadiana, which was maybe two miles or so away.

Across the river was Spain.

TigerBlog drives across the New Jersey/Pennsylvania state line about 100 times in an average week, so he's not exactly sure why it was so fascinating to look across the river and see another country. It was just as fascinating to know that on that other side, it was an hour later. 

The group tried to find a place to ride across to the other side. There was a bridge in the distance, but the more the group rode, the further away the bridge seemed to get. There was a ferry across, but the timing of the rides back and forth didn't quite work for everyone.

Oh well.

There's always today.

While the bicycle group was off doing its thing, the players and coaches were about 45 minutes away, go-carting. The race was 90 minutes, and there were teams of three, as the players took turns driving.

And who won? The Canadians, as TB predicted yesterday. Zach Currier, Riley Thompson and Dawson McKenzie were first.

The racing was one of two thrill-ride-ish type events on this trip. The other comes up today.

The Princeton travel party will check out of its hotel in the Algarve early and then make the three-hour ride back to Lisbon. Before that, though, there will be one last stop in this region.

This time, the team will make its way across the river into Spain. The return trip to Portugal will be via zipline.

TigerBlog is pretty petrified of open heights. He's not sure how he's going to work up the courage to do this, but he knows that he has to take advantage of the chance to zipline from one country to another.

He didn't do it in Costa Rica. He didn't even do it in the Poconos this summer at the team bonding event for Miss TigerBlog's field hockey team.

But this morning, he's going to do it. Spain, back to Portugal.

Count on it.

Or maybe he'll chicken out at the end.

You'll have to read tomorrow to find out. And if there is nothing here to read tomorrow, well, then you'll know TB did it - and it didn't exactly go well.

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