Life and adventures from a high school perspective
An avid cyclist, rock climber, and all around adventurer, Francis Davis is taking to the internet to share his stories of cycling, climbing, and adventuring.
The rain fell mildly outside the sports building, an omen for the day. Inside a group of French and American students huddled, mentally postponing the reality of departure. We laughed, hugged, and some of us cried. This moment marked the end of a one week exchange program with students from Lille, France. I hosted Mathias, my new best friend, a gentleman. He truly was a social chameleon. His English was fantastic, and that improved the entire experience. And oh what a good week it was.
The most partying I've done in one weekend: costume parties, gatherings large and small, ice skating, etc... We even went jet skiing on Lake Erie with wet suits. It was 45 degrees, raining, and overcast. I have to put this memory to writing to remember. Maybe there's some embellishment, but adrenaline does that: Mathias drove first and I, holding on in the back for dear life had some of the most fun I've ever had. The experience was underpinned by the extreme desire not to tumble into the icy drink. With that in mind, Mathias punched the throttle at the bottom of a wave, shooting off of the top. I heard the engine rev up while we were in the air, then the jet ski crashed back into the chop. I was laughing hysterically, and we did it again.
It is experiences like this that will serve as bookmarks for the short week that 20 students from the Marcq Institute spent in Cleveland. And yet I find that the experience was more than the sum of the parts. The beauty of a cultural exchange, however short, is inimitable, the bonds formed between American and French students irreversible. It is these emotions that clouded, or perhaps cleared, the departure this morning. Fondly I said goodbye to my new best friends, recalling fondly all of the fun that we had together. Au revoir les enfants.
It's been a blur so far. It feels not so long ago that the school year was back upon us, and it even feels not much longer ago than that I was biking back from Maine. But as I settle back into the rhythmic life, the leaves again falling, I realize that I can enjoy being back in "the grind", or as I dubbed it in a previous post, the "return to regularity". If nothing else, I'm trying to appreciate the little things. As a lot of my day to day activities again become very rigid, it is the small irregularities that add verve. Taking a little bit of extra time to enjoy the morning coffee on the weekends.
There are the bigger things. This morning I got to skip school. Instead, I drove to Conneaut with a few of my Outdoor Leadership companions to surprise a group of school faculty on a with a first aid scenario. I had a compound fracture on my right forearm. It gave me great pleasure to yell at my former 9th grade Humanities teacher that "MY ARM HURTS I NEED YOU TO FIX IT NOW". How's that for a Friday morning?
Then there are the big things. I'm thrilled that Aunt Kim is coming to visit all of us in NE Ohio in a couple of weeks. The last time I saw her was about 1.5 years ago when she took me on the Grand Tour of California. Of the family, I actually can boast that I have seen her the most recently. For the others, it's been years. It should be fun!
Then there are great things: upcoming adventures! In three weeks I'll be heading out for a backpacking trip with Outdoor Leadership to Pennsylvania. That should be a good time. But the real event will be in December. Details are starting to be finalized for my school trip to Vietnam. I'm incredibly excited. For three weeks I will be traveling with 14 of my classmates on a grand immersion of the country. To prepare we have a semester class looking at the Vietnam War, Vietnamese culture, and the society before and after America's war involvement.
The only other fun project now is the drift trike. Another fun "from scratch" build. This project is fun in particular because I am noticing my technical improvement from the go kart. Everything is at least a little bit better. Working with my hands always provides a tonic from the weight of the world. I'll end with that.
On Tuesday the adventure continued! Dad and I set off bright and early to visit Wake Forest, his alma mater. It would probably be meaningful to explain the college strategy at this point. I sum it up simply as "defining x". Visit a few colleges that are geographically close to where I'll be (Bowdoin in Brunswick, ME), and see what some of them are like. Not difficult. Not stress inducing. I take issue with the strategy of mass visitation during the summer of sophomore year. How much of that would one actually remember in two years when application time comes? I certainly wasn't overwhelmed by Wake Forest. I actually found it somewhat similar to a scaled-up Hawken, which I think is a testament to my high school. Going forward I think I'll have to adjust my expectations to be more down-to-earth, and not to expect something wholly more grandiose than the high school that I am already in. Relatives have already mentioned when visiting my high school how similar it is to a college environment: in size, in resources, in academic rigor. I am incredibly lucky to be where I am!
This has been the first long road trip that we have taken the Volvo on; I love it. I've done longer drives in the Honda CRV to West Virginia by myself, and it is a completely different experience. These are all comparative statements, but while the Volvo is primarily designed for more luxury, the "Fahrvergnügen", meaning joy of driving, coined by VW, is strong. Going through these mountain roads, I come back to one thing: the engine. It's powerful with 6 cylinders, but the true star is the turbocharger. It gives the car enough power in the highest gear to climb hills, overtake, and not have to downshift. It's brilliant!
Finally, vacation life seems to be getting back to normal (somewhat). After Monday's flight cancellation driving fiasco, Tuesday served as a nice reprieve. Dad and I stopped in Asheville for an oyster lunch. They had 1 dozen East coast half-shells on happy hour, and then we finished with a "pan fry" of oysters and paprika cream sauce. Also excellent. After that we were all back to the cabin to prepare for entertaining our friends that I stayed with on Sunday night. In reality, they did the cooking, a wonderful Thai coconut milk curry. Not too spicy. Wednesday we are off to the Biltmore. My keen eye quickly honed in on the website to the Land Rover off-roading experience. That should be in the cards. Very exciting!
For clarity, this update was written yesterday.
Everything was going to plan yesterday. Dad and I rolled into Asheville, grabbed lunch, and enjoyed an evening graciously hosted by some longtime friends. Dad was to set off early this morning to pick up mom, Caroline, and grandma from the Charlotte airport, a two hour drive. They would all be back in the afternoon, and we would lead an uneventful evening.
I awoke at 7:30 this morning to a text from Mom that their flight had been cancelled. Quickly I gathered my groggy wits and called Dad, who was about 20 minutes already on the road. Fortunately, mom was quickly able to find another flight into Fayetteville, NC that would arrive at 2PM. The downside, Fayetteville is a 4 hour drive from Asheville. As I write this, sipping on coffee, and relaxing on the couch at our friends house, I really feel sorry for everyone involved. Mom, grandma, and Caroline were up at 3:00 AM this morning; they are going to have a long day. Dad has been on the road since Friday. Less Saturday (climbing), this will be his third day in the car. He has an 8 hour round trip drive. Hopefully grandma is hanging in there. She's a tough cookie, but I'm sure martinis will be in order tonight, as well as an early bedtime. As for me, I've had a lovely day! Slept in, noodled about on the computer, and talked college with our friends. The rest of the family should be here around 6:30.
Luckily the rest of the week should be unaffected. Dad and I are thinking about heading to Winston Salem to visit Wake Forest tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to some mountain biking, dining, and waterfall hikes with the family. Should be fun!