Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Olympic family tradition

July 27, 2012 

The Olympics have started, which means my wife is actually watching sports on television.

If you can call synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics and flatwater canoeing sports.

Bess got hooked on the Olympics in 1976, when her family towed a pop-up camper 1,200 miles from Tennessee to Montreal. There, they saw Bruce Jenner win the decathlon, a feat nearly as difficult as being a father figure for the Kardashians.

Our first Olympics as a married couple came in 1992. At the time, I was stationed in Mannheim, Germany, and it was nothing for us to hop in the car and drive into France for a meal in, say, Strasbourg, and then drive home.

We'd even spent our first anniversary in Paris, a pleasant 5-hour drive away.

One day in February, Bess asked if I wanted to watch the Olympics with her the next day. Sure, I said. What time do they air on Armed Forces Television?

Um, they're in Albertville, she said. France.

Six hours away.

For us, the drive was no big deal.

Remember, this was 1992 and Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet yet, so we made a bunch of phone calls and finally found a travel agent in Los Angeles with some tickets for sale.

Hotel rooms, however, were harder to find. Again, no big deal.

We picked up a tent from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office on post, I rounded up some extreme cold weather gear from my unit, and off we went.

The drive to our campground actually took closer to nine hours thanks to icy roads and a highway marking system apparently designed and installed by competitive wine drinkers.

Well after midnight, we cleared a place in the snow, spread out the waterproof groundcover and pitched our tent. No worries. Our sleeping bags were tested for five degrees below zero, and the generators from nearby RVs lulled us to sleep.

Today, that trip seems kind of bold, but it seemed the natural thing to do at the time.

We watched speed skating with a bunch of Dutch fans wearing wooden shoes and dressed in orange in honor of William of Orange, their ruler from the 1600s. We saw the USA hockey team beat Poland. And we climbed to the top of the bobsled course so we could see Herschel Walker run and push the sled and then jump in the back.

It was something to tell our kids about when they think we're not cool.

Which of course we're not. We don't jump in the car at the last minute anymore and drive hundreds of miles so we can pitch a tent in the snow in the dark. In fact, my wife has retired from camping.

But not from watching the Olympics.

We'll be right there in front of the television, remembering what it was like to be young.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, can be reached at dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com

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