Larry Johnston says he knows one word in Russian.
It is “nyet,” the Russian word for “no.”
Debbie Teller says she knows one fewer word than Johnston.
Karl Teller, meanwhile, has been trying to pick up bits of Russian on his vehicle’s CD player, and Debbie says he might know five words by now, while Karen Johnston says she’s working on one word: “Dosvidaniya,” meaning goodbye.
With this kind of in-depth language acumen, it ought to be a heck of a trip when the Tellers and Johnstons punch their tickets to Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, on a whirlwind, five-day trip to see Mammoth’s John Teller compete with the U.S. team in Olympic ski cross on Thursday, Feb. 20.
“We’ve had this idea for about six months,” Debbie Teller said, “but it wasn’t until the last two weeks that we knew Johnny was going to make the team, so it was quite an experience.”
For the two Mammoth families, who have vacationed together before—a cycling trip across Alaska comes to mind—this one, said Larry, “will be the trip of a lifetime.”
“It was a lot of work,” he said of the preparations.
“We got our visas done; we had to send those out and have them approved; send our passports; and before any of that, first we had to know that Johnny was going at all.
“And then it took a long time to get that from the U.S. Olympic Committee, then we had to confirm flights and find a place to stay.
“We had to find flights back, and then some things got changed around and we had to revise fights, and we had different visas.”
But, he said, it all will be worth it to stand at the finish in Sochi, cowbells in hand, particularly if Johnny comes through with a medal.
“This,” he said, “is going to be a lot of fun.”
One last bit of business was in securing some Russian currency for when their plane touches down, first in Moscow, then again once the second leg of the trip is complete in Sochi, along the Black Sea coast.
To that end, Larry Johnson proudly pulled out a 5,000-ruble note.
“I think it’s worth about 15 bucks,” he said.
He then shrugged.
“We’ll find out when we get there.”