We made it, there and back -- to and from New York City to Massachusetts. It was nothing short of an adventure. After three hours of sleep, Emily and I woke up and began wheeling our suitcases to the nearest subway portal, which would take us to the bus terminal. After arriving at Port Authority, we restlessly waited for our 4:45 a.m. departure bus to arrive. I didn't expect there to be a full bus but at least Emily and I got seats together, I figured that was the most important part considering we're bus sleeping pros.
Of course the bus left late, but thankfully I had built a layover into our itinerary. Once we arrived in Providence, we grabbed breakfast and waited for a commuter bus to come which would take us to South Attleboro. The Bluecoats were staying in North Attleboro, so we were hoping that someone would be gracious enough to come pick us up. According to the Rhode Island Transit Authority, the South Attleboro train station was only right across the street from the bus stop. I figured the train station would be a good landmark for someone to come pick Emily and I up. The bus stopped, at a dead-end road. I asked the driver where the train station was and all we got was "over that hill." We climbed, with suitcases in tow, up a small dirt and gravel hill, jumped a guardrail and started walking to Massachusetts, literally. We passed the signed that welcomed us to Massachusetts. Eventually, after stopping major highway traffic in order to cross the road, our ride picked us up. Thanks Mickey and Jerry! By this time it was past noon, but Emily and I were excited to finally be at the practice site on finals day. We were told that the kids had the best performance to date the night before. Everyone was excited for the day's rehearsal and performance later that night. I made my rounds saying hi to everyone, eventually running into the color guard, who had just finished lunch. After helping the tour coordinators, my friends Jenn Johnson and Erin Rigelman, it was time for ensemble and the final run-through. The kids were pushing to get through the day, it was hot and they were mentally drained. They wanted to succeed so bad later that night that you could tell nothing was going to stop them. The run was amazing. I was so proud and they weren't even in uniform yet. I let out a few tears and gave a big "Bloo!" at the end. They were ready, there was nothing left that they could do but go out there and show the judges what the Bluecoats are this year. Emily and I got ready and climbed in a car. We somehow fit six people, all Bluecoats alum, into a Cavalier and made it to the stadium without losing anyone. Once at the stadium, I wanted to wander around for a while, see if I could find any long-lost friends. I didn't have much luck until after finals finding people, but after circling the stadium about three times, Emily and I found our way to the color guard warmup. I sat back and let them max out the warmup. After the lightning delay, we found our seats. I checked the gate about five times during Madison's show to make sure that the kids were going to be at the gate on time. Even as a marching member I always worried about getting there late. During the performance, I can't even remember how many times I got chills. To me, everything came to its pinnacle point. I was just hoping for the kids that the judges thought so too. I left to go hang out with everyone until it was time for the scores to be announced. I didn't want to go and hear the scores from actual seats, I was too excited. So Emily and I worked our way in and hung out with the staff behind the corps when the scores were announced. I always get nervous right around eighth-place announcements. When our turn came, the Bluecoats were announced in fifth place. Emily and I grabbed each other and started jumping around. We left and waited for the corps to come out to figure out where we would be singing our corps song, "Autumn Leaves." We walked back to the buses and circled up for our song. I was happily greeted by alums from 2000, who I haven't seen since they aged out that year. I have never ever been able to make it through "Autumn Leaves" without getting emotional; not as a rookie and definitely not as an ageout. Singing with my fellow ageouts, friends, and alumni allowed me to realize the family bond that I share with everyone in the circle. The staff bus was going to the Boston airport, where some staff members had a hotel room that Emily and I could crash in for the four hours we had before waking up and making the trip back to the city. One of the first people I saw in the airport was my instructor from 2002, Roman, who now teaches the Glassmen. I loved seeing him. I had to say good-bye to everyone. It always happens so quickly. One minute you're happy to see them and the next your saying good-bye like you'll see them tomorrow. But reality hits in the morning, and I know that I have no idea when I'll get to see everyone again. Drum corps puts you in this horrible cycle in which you meet friends, fall in love with them, and instantly say good-bye, not knowing if you'll see them again. Three subway lines, an Amtrak train, and a six-hour Greyhound bus ride later, Emily and I safely arrived back to New York City. I was exhausted from traveling, but I know the 38-hour, whirlwind tour was the greatest weekend ever. I finally ran into friends at finals that I haven't seen since last year in Denver. I got to watch kids age out with beauty, grace and accomplishment. I got to see the best Bluecoats to date, live and in person. I lent my support in the best way I know how -- showing up. When I returned to the real world on Monday morning, life seemed so boring. I immediately dropped off my film for developing during my lunch break and picked the pictures up after work. I went through my old photo albums and grabbed a couple pictures from last summer and hung them up at work. My grey filing cabinet how has a little life to it, with memories. It seemed like everyone got home safely. I checked in with my friend Ashley and mentioned to her that I need to go to finals next year. There will be double the amount of kids aging out, and I need to see them finish out their drum corps careers. I couldn't believe I was already talking about next year when I had just gotten back from Foxboro. Ashley simply said, "It's OK to be a band dork." I couldn't agree with her more. Becky Novac currently lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Universal McCann in New York City as an assistant media planner. She is 22 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State University, where she majored in journalism and psychology. Becky marched with the Bluecoats in 2000, 2002 and 2004 as a member of the color guard. Past columns by Becky Novac: Peace found in Allentown The Heat is on The First free summer A National audience Watching warm-up The Revolving door Dear mom and dad Technology on tour It's been a year How to save time Thanks for calling Passing it on Unforgettable The Biggest group project My Aria interview Life outside the bubble A day filled with intangible rewards Traditions make drum corps complete The Art in what we do Hockey, alumni and Valentine's Day Dates Everyone needs goals Adapting Turning pro Wondering about the "kids" Resolutions It's the little things A Rock star Remembering the passion Banquet weekend Missing out Unknown suitcase adventures The Even years