We’ve vacationed in the summer for six years in this cottage a few blocks from the beach near Santa Barbara. I can’t wait for our time there this summer!
When we get away, we like to stay in VRBOs or Airbnbs — most of the time.
Since the time my son was one year’s old, we rented a house in Laguna Beach in the summer with another family from our hot desert. We rented directly from the homeowners (pre-VRBO era). The owners were school teachers who left for Alaska once the school year was over. We’d split the summer in two and overlap with the other family for a fun weekend.
My husband would commute back and forth for long beach weekends, while I’d stay with the kids the entire time. Not a bad deal, but with toddlers I remember I was tired. Still, much better than being in the desert with temperatures 100 to 126 degrees!
At Christmas the past two years, we’ve rented a house for a week — big enough for our Christmas Crew that varies from 10 to 14 people. We love being together under one roof and cooking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts.
For the past 10 years, since my son was in college at UC Santa Barbara, we traded Laguna Beach for Santa Barbara. We stay at least a week and sometimes almost a month. My husband works remotely, so he sets up shop there.
When don’t we stay in Airbnb’s or VRBOs?
When we are going away for a quick trip, like a weekend, we stay in hotels. First of all, there are usually cleaning deposits and other charges that make a VRBO expensive for two nights. If you’re staying for a week or more, it can be more affordable to rent a house or condo and cook most meals.
When our kids were swimmers, we’d stay in hotels. We’d have to get to the pool early for warm-ups, get back to the hotel so they could rest between prelims and finals. The hectic schedule made the hotel much easier. I didn’t have to prepare meals, grocery shop or do dishes. I could order from the hotel restaurant or drive for takeout.
That’s me diving off the blocks at my first US Masters swim meet in 2017. This was a relay and I was anxious I’d dive into one of my teammates in the yellow caps.
I got back in the pool last week and swam Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. I’m proud of myself for being consistent and I’m on track for this week too. I asked my husband to go with me on Sunday and after years of him not swimming, he loved it! So, I’m switching my swims during the week from mornings when he works to the afternoons so he can join me.
It’s a healthy fun alternative to our normal neighborhood walks.
The YMCA has an app where you can see if lanes are available and reserve your spot. However, the app has never worked for me. I can see the open spots, but I can’t reserve them. I have to resort to the old fashioned phone call.
When this first happened, I went to the front desk and a young man tried to get the app to work. He gave up and told me I needed a new phone — that my phone was too old. My phone was less than a year old! I prefer the home button on the iphone and Apple still has a model with it. So, my phone may look old to that kid, but it’s relatively new.
Then I contacted the IT people who made the app. They said I had to get help from the YMCA staff. I promptly gave up and used the phone to call and make reservations.
A few weeks ago the Y went to a new app. I thought my troubles would be over. But, no I still couldn’t make lane reservations.
I decided to give it another try and stopped at the front desk where a new young man sat. He looked at my phone, got on the computer and quickly solved the problem. On their end, a box had to clicked to make me the internet user.
Now I can make reservations for my husband and me. I can also cancel without having to call the YMCA and say my plans changed.
What apps do you use that make things easier. In what ways do you find technology makes things more difficult?
We had a seven-hour drive to get our friend’s children’s wedding in Temecula, Calif. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Riverside to sleep for the night. Saturday morning we took a walk while the temps were in the 60s. It felt wonderful. We stayed downtown in a hotel we often stayed at for CIF (California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for California high school sports) for our son and daughter’s championship high school swim meets. It felt nostalgic. Memories surfaced about the hours spent in the hotel between prelims and finals. Our daughter would take ice baths after her morning swims and put her legs up against the wall while laying on her back. This was her way to recover and prepare for finals.
We were craving a breakfast burrito — probably because that was the staple breakfast at swim meets throughout Southern California — prepared by the hosting swim team.
We found one spot during our walk that was packed! So it had to be good. It’s called the Taco Station.
What are some of the fun, off-the-wall diners or restaurants have you discovered? Where were they and what type of food did they serve?
“We saw people’s heads blown off, were shot at, and saw bombs planted on bridges.” Part of a group of young swimmers representing the United States, Nancy Kirkpatrick-Reno travelled to Chile in September 1973. Of her travel trip, Kirkpatrick-Reno said, “We all came home with PTSD.”
The swimmers were led by a young coach from Lakewood Aquatics in Southern California named Jim Montrella. They found themselves in the thick of the coup led by Augusto Pinochet that ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende.
“The trip to Peru and then Chile during a coup was a stand-alone event 47 years ago,” Montrella said. “The team was selected from the National Swimming Championships held in Louisville, Ky. Three teams were selected to travel to South America while the first and second-place finishers went on to the World Championships in Belgrade.”
Montrella’s group included eight swimmers, plus chaperone and assistant coach Jill Griese from Ohio. The swimmers were Nancy Kirkpatrick, Michelle Mercer, Anne Brodell, Sandi Johnson, Tom Szuba, Tim McDonnell, Steve Tallman and future Olympic gold medalist Mike Bruner.
Kirkpatrick-Reno was a promising 16-year-old swimmer from the Santa Clara Swim Club who trained with George Haines. “It was a post-Olympic year and a lot of us were hopefuls for the 1976 Olympic Team,” Kirkpatrick-Reno said. “We were coming in third and fourth places and moving up to the top of the ladder. It was before Title IX and we were a lot younger then.”
“The trip was sponsored by the United States Information Services; it went through the State Department,” Montrella said. “It was a People to People-type program to expose U.S. swimmers and athletes to different areas in Latin America.” Other sponsors were the Amateur Athletic Union and Phillips 66.
The trip began without incident in Lima, Peru. Over the first few days, the coaches and swimmers were treated like royalty. Prelims were held in the morning with the Peruvian swimmers. Then Montrella gave coaches’ clinics with his swimmers demonstrating. In the evenings they held finals.
“During the time in Lima, we had someone from the State Department taking us from the hotel to the pool. There was a female TV reporter who was with us and acted as an interpreter,” explained Montrella. “When we told the people in Lima we were headed to Santiago, they encouraged us not to go to because in their own words, they knew there was going to be a coup d’etat and we’d be at risk.”
Montrella said he talked to the ambassador or an assistant to the ambassador in Lima. He was told that it would be fine and that it was under control.
“From Lima we went to Santiago. There was a gentleman there from Washington D.C. who was in the Peace Corps and was coaching the Chilean National Team, Mark Lautman. We were supposed to do the same thing we did in Peru, competition and clinics.”
Kirkpatrick-Reno recalled her first days in Santiago:
“When we first arrived, we had a formal dinner with the Ambassador to Chile. We were told, ‘We’ve been having strikes, unrest and protests. We don’t want you to stay in the Presidential Hotel in downtown Santiago [which was next to La Moneda, the presidential palace.] We’re going to put you with families instead. Don’t wear USA sweats or uniforms because you would make good political prisoners.’”
Kirkpatrick-Reno stayed with the president of the Chilean Swimming Federation. She said the family was welcoming but poor. The mother had to wait in line for hours for food. Kirkpatrick-Reno needed to get to the pool and the family didn’t have a car. Since the kids in the family were swimmers, she rode on the public bus with them and arrived late at the pool. “Jim was upset I was on the bus,” she said.
“My family didn’t have food and I felt really bad for them. They gave me a small loaf of bread, a couple cold cuts and a hard boiled egg. They had nothing to eat. They took me to my room and there was a portable heater. They didn’t have heat in the rest of the house. I tried to dry my wet towel with it. September in Chile is freezing cold.”
Kirkpatrick-Reno said that another swimmer on the trip, Tom Szuba, lived with a family whose parents worked as dentists. Unlike the family she stayed with, they had plenty of money and food. Szuba told her that he and the swimmer he was staying with would be able to use an extra family car to drive her to and from the pool. “They gave me a bag of food without letting my family know,” she said.
She explained that after a couple days of competition, the team was supposed to leave their host families and gather together and travel to a seaside resort town.
“The Chilean coach Lautman picked up me and I think Tom, Tim, Michelle and Jim. We were heading to meet the rest of the team, but on the way there, military trucks were coming toward us. We watched as people opened their car doors and ran for cover. The coach told us to get down. I fell on the floor in the second seat. Tom fell on top of me to protect me. We heard bullets and saw charges being planted on a bridge. Lautman was driving like crazy against the traffic. Swimmers were all lying on the floor of the car. Lautman was trying to get us out of the area. He didn’t know where to go so he took us back to his apartment.
“On our way to meet up with everyone, the revolution had begun. Lautman had packed to go on the trip with us so he had almost no food in his apartment. He filled up bathtubs and sinks in his apartment with water so at least we’d have that. He had a bowl of fruit that we shared. We were stuck in his apartment for around three days.”
Montrella remembers that time, “We were staying in an apartment building on the 6th or 7th floor and we heard tanks in the street. Next door was the headquarters of a political faction. It was a two or three-story structure. I heard shooting.They absolutely shot up the political headquarters right next to us. It didn’t look like the same building after the tank got through with it.
“People in our building were shooting down at the tank. Right away I moved the kids into the interior of the apartment. We had a bullet come through one of our windows. It ricocheted off the ceiling and down into the interior. Then I got them out of the interior walls and I moved them closer to the windows and made sure all the blinds were closed. That way they didn’t get shot at through the walls or ricocheted off the stone ceilings to the interior.”
Kirkpatrick-Reno remembers them staying on the floor for most of the time and putting mattresses against the walls to protect from stray bullets. According to Montrella, she saved Mercer’s life by pulling her off a bunk bed where bullets came through moments later.
“We were in a 21-story apartment building. We watched them bomb the presidential palace. There were two bomber planes that swooped between the towers and dropped bombs on it. We saw 10 passes,” Kirkpatrick-Reno said.
“The building shook every time a bomb was dropped. There was a a 24-hour curfew and we couldn’t go outside. Jim kept us in shape by having us run up and down the flights of stairs. But that made us hungry and we had hardly any food. It did get our mind off what was going on, though.”
She said that she and Mercer had candy bars hidden in their swim bags and they’d sneak bites once in a while. Then the boys found out and ate them all. “All we talked about was eating steak,” Kirkpatrick-Reno said.
After three days, the government lifted the curfew during the day to allow people to buy food and other essentials. At that time the State Department had the swimmers moved further out of town to stay with embassy employees.
“It was kind of shocking once we moved outside of Santiago,” Kirkpatrick-Reno said. “It was a tale of two economies. The local people living there, like the family I stayed with, were poor and had nothing. They moved us to stay with an American woman in a big estate, who worked in the embassy. She had any kind of food you wanted in her freezers. It was sad to see the differences between the locals and Americans working for the State Department.”
“We were told that Kissinger got us a flight out of Santiago,” Montrella said. “We thought the U.S. was going to supply a plane. What happened was we went to location A at the airport, dressed in our uniforms, and sat and sat and sat. Then we went to location B and we sat some more. Finally, we were walked out to a turbo prop plane.”
Montrella said he and Jill tried to stay positive for the swimmers, but when he saw the other passengers, he felt concerned. The plane was filled with passengers who were not Americans–perhaps Eastern Europeans or Soviets. Then the plane took off in the wrong direction.
“I didn’t know if it was by plan or chance, but we were literally flying through the Andes down deep mountain ravines and canyons. We weren’t flying over the Andes. Mountains were on either side of us,” Montrella said. “We landed in Buenos Aires. They offloaded everybody and we were in the furthest concourse away from everyone. All the Eastern Europeans walked away and they kept us at the end of the concourse.”
When the team was at the airport, Montrella spotted men in uniform 30 yards away. He told Jill to stay with the swimmers and he’d try to find out what was happening. The uniformed men told him, “You know why you were going through the Andes? Fighter pilots out of Argentina wanted to kill the Russians.” To this day, Montrella doesn’t know if this was fact or rumor.
“Theoretically we could have been shot out of the sky. So we were hiding in the mountains rather than going over them,” Montrella said.
Montrella, Jill and the swimmers were eventually flown to Miami where everyone went their separate ways. Montrella said he remembers being debriefed before heading to an ASCA clinic in Chicago. It wasn’t until the team landed in the U.S. that the kids were able to call their parents.
Kirkpatrick-Reno said her parents had gone to the San Francisco airport on the day she was supposed to return. That was the first time they learned something was wrong. They were told by the airline employees that no planes were leaving Chile, that the airport had been bombed along with the communication towers.
Her dad called the State Department, congressmen, assemblymen as well as the press. When she arrived home after 50 hours of travel, she was met by a crowd of press. She said she was surprised that nobody from the government or AAU ever reached out to them with a letter or phone call.
“I don’t remember who told us to stay with families, rather than the hotel by the Presidential Palace, and not to wear our uniforms. But they must have known something was going on. In hindsight they must have thought it would look funny if we didn’t come,” Kirkpatrick-Reno said.
Montrella wasn’t sure if the U.S. government thought they’d be okay, or if they were considered expendable. He was very upset and angry at having been put in the middle of a coup if the government was aware. “My total concern was for the kids’ safety. I felt responsible for the kids and also I knew their coaches personally and professionally,” he added.
In a lighter tone Montrella said, “We had t-shirts made up later and mailed them to the swimmers that said Chilean Coup Crew 1973. I still have my shirt.”
A version of this story first appeared in SwimSwam Magazine’s Spring 2021 Issue. To subscribe to SwimSwam, order back issues or access them digitally, click HERE.
Jim Montrella’s legendary coaching career includes becoming an NCAA-winning Ohio State Women’s Swimming and US Olympic coach. Montrella also produced the first commercially sold hand paddles.
Nancy Kirkpatrick-Reno was one of the first female swimmers to be awarded a college scholarship under Title IX. She is the head coach of Conejo Valley Multisport Masters and was USMS Coach of the Year in 2009.
Photos courtesy of Nancy Kirkpatrick-Reno.
I wrote this story about the Chilean Coup Crew of 1973 for the Spring 2021 Issue of SwimSwam Magazine. I had never heard of this event until a swim coach mentioned it to me and said I should talk to legendary swim coach Jim Montrella. I had interviewed Montrella several times before, so that was an easy call. He’s the type of person who is approachable and happy to help in spite of his iconic reputation. You can read another story I wrote about him HERE. After hearing the word coup daily in the news the past few weeks, I felt this story was worth another look.
After speaking to Montrella, he referred me to one of the teen swimmers at the time, Nancy Kirkpatrick-Reno, who is now a swim coach.
I don’t sew. But I saw a youtube video on how to make a t-shirt quilt. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with the dozens of t-shirts my kids got during their lifetime of swimming. The team had shirts. They’d get t-shirts at big meets. Swim t-shirts were breeding in our closets.
I mentioned it to my son and he thought it was an excellent idea! I promptly forgot about it. A month before he left home he reminded me I had better get started on the quilt.
The last time I visited the kids was in February. My son’s girlfriend had asked if I could fix the quilt. I said sure — without looking at it. I brought it home with me in a duffle bag.
Yikes. What can I do to save this?
I made a quilt for my daughter when she went off to college, too. Then there were still an abundance of Piranha Swim Team of Palm Springs t-shirts hanging out in drawers and closets that I made a third quilt. I made it for my daughter but she doesn’t have room for it, and didn’t particularly like it. She gave it back to me.
I’ve decided to give this one to my son — after I cover up a few of my daughter’s squares, with ones I salvaged from his tattered and torn quilt.
Do you have a supply of t-shirts that you don’t know what to do with? If so, click on this LINK to make a t-shirt quilt. If I can do it, you can too. Like I said, I didn’t know how to sew when I started the first one.
You’ve all heard about the controversy swirling around transgender Lia Thomas winning events at the Ivy League and NCAA championships.
First, as Kaitlyn Jenner said, Thomas isn’t breaking any rules — she followed NCAA stated rules. Jenner also said it’s not fair for someone who went through male puberty to compete against women. They are taller and stronger. They have bigger hearts, lungs, feet and hands. Those things don’t change with hormone suppression.
The swimmer who got bumped out of finals by one place (she was 17th and there are only 16 spots) wrote a letter to the NCAA. She’s supportive of Thomas but thinks the NCAA rules are not fair. I read she was banned from Twitter for expressing her opinion.
I know several women swimmers who competed against Thomas at the Ivy League champs and NCAAs. I watched them when they were young race against my daughter. The woman who got second place at the Ivy Leagues Champs to Lia Thomas in the 1,650 (the mile) used to race my daughter in So Cal. She was younger and would be in the lane next to my daughter, drafting at her hip. My daughter couldn’t shake her but would touch her out in the end and say “Who is that?!”
I feel for this young woman who lost the title of Ivy League Champion. I wonder how her parents feel?
Prior to 1972 and Title IX, there were few opportunities for women in college sports. Since then, we’ve taken women’s athletics for granted. Yet 50 years ago, most colleges didn’t have women’s sports.
Her freshman year of college was pre-Title IX, and there were limited opportunities and college programs for women. She was training with Jim Montrella for the ’72 Olympic Trials and didn’t want to change up her training regime, so her freshman year she was a commuter at UC Irvine and lived at home with her parents. She said during those days she swam 11 practices a week and lifted weights.
Looking back, she said it was unfair that the women stayed at home and didn’t get to experience college life.
“All of a sudden when school began, there would be all girls in our training group. The fast guys went off to swim at UCLA and USC. We were freshmen and sophomores in college, and we stayed with our club team to train. We lost that experience of being a freshman away at college.”
Prior to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, women weren’t allowed to compete in the marathon.
When I was in high school, one of my friends and I joined the Boys Golf Team because there wasn’t a girls team. We went to practice every day, but we never once got to compete in a match. We were not the worst players, either.
My daughter and her friends who swam, put in years of hard work and sacrifice beginning at age five. They benefitted so much from swimming and being part of a team. I’m glad my daughter had that experience. I hope that other women get the same experience, too.
What are your thoughts on women’s sports? Did you know how limited the opportunities were 50 years ago?What are your experiences with women’s sports as a mom or competitor?
I wrote a an article called Why Isn’t Caeleb Dressel a Household Name? for SwimSwam in 2018. Dressel had competed in NCAA championships and had broken barriers like the 40-second mark in the 100-yard freestyle. But at the time, only swim nerds knew his name.
After this past week, I’m sure he will be better known, but after the Olympic’s fades away will his name fade, too?
Swimming like gymnastics are collegiate sports and there’s not much attention to them until Olympic years. It all comes down to money in my opinion. Football and basketball are money makers for schools. Swimming loses revenue. No fans are buying tickets, the meets are free and sparsely attended. The pool costs money to maintain.
During my years as a swim parent, I wondered how to get swimming to be more popular. In 2019 the International Swimming League began holding competitions. Have you heard about it? There are teams in the US and abroad filled with the world’s swimming stars. The teams compete against each other and it gives swimmers a chance to earn money, race and hopefully get more fans to appreciate swimming. But it isn’t televised, at least I haven’t seen it. I think it’s livestreamed.
Here’s the article I wrote that mentions Caeleb Dressel and wonders how to get more people into swimming:
We witnessed amazing things this past weekend watching the 2018 Men’s D1 NCAA meet. Who can believe that a human being broke 40 seconds in the 100 free, or 18 seconds in the 50 free—not to mention 43 seconds in the 100 fly? Caeleb Dressel should be a household name this week after breaking through these barriers at his final meet as a senior swimming for the University of Florida.
We watched from home on the computer, something that wasn’t possible years ago. The livestream was clear, the narration entertaining and professional. I remember trying to watch one of our friend’s kids at Trials in 2008 and the production quality wasn’t great and the livestream paused repeatedly. Swim coverage has improved significantly through the years, but I wonder if the audience has increased?
Of course, Olympic sports don’t get the attention at the collegiate level as the big money sports, like football and basketball. In addition, we hear heartbreaking news of universities canceling swim programs regardless of high GPAs or how many times the teams win conference meets, like the recent news of Eastern Michigan University. We have to wait every four years for the Olympics to come around to show the nation how great our swimmers are. Is there anything we can do as swim enthusiasts to change this? In all reality, probably not much. I personally don’t have the power to change TV schedules or viewing habits, but I can work on several little things.
Here are a few ideas about how we can help the popularity of swimming:
Scorekeeping. We’ve had friends come to meets and they don’t know what’s going on because there’s never a score posted. In other sports, you know which team is winning. Is it possible to post scores often and prominently at meets where they are keeping team scores?
Bring a friend to the pool. Whether your team has a “bring a friend day” or you ask one of your child’s friends to visit practice, we can reach out to more kids and introduce them to swimming.
Keep swimming fun. One reason why kids quit swimming is it’s “not fun anymore.” By allowing our kids time to goof off with their friends around the pool deck, either before or after practice, and keeping our attitudes light, we may keep our kids in the pool for more years.
Invite friends and family to a meet. We can share our excitement and enthusiasm with our friends and family. Maybe not ask them to sit on the deck with us for two or three days, but have them stop by for an hour or two. Explain what’s going on so they can follow along and maybe they’ll catch the swimming bug.
Be an ambassador. Talk about swimming with your non-swimming friends and share how much the sport has helped your kids. Encourage friends at any age to get into the pool and enjoy the great feeling of floating in the water. It’s never too late to join a Masters team.
Are you watching the Olympics? What are your favorite sports to watch? Do you keep track of those sports on off Olympic years? Also, what do you think of this year’s Olympics with all the ups, downs, and drama?