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Archive for "Travel"

Cutting Our Nationals Trip Short

Posted on November 30, 2023 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

The last few posts have been about our trip to Dallas for USA Pickleball National Championships. We ran into all sorts of bumps besides just my never-ending period and painful period cramps. When we arrived at our hotel, the hotel had a water line break and so there was no water for several hours the first 24 hours that we were there. I didn’t get much sleep because of my abdominal cramps and when my cramps did finally ease up, Brian and I had a freak out situation with our house.

I think it was Friday night when Brian got an alert from the Ring doorbell. This kid was taking selfies on our front porch. He seemed to be on the phone saying something like, “Are you guys really not home right now?” but it was barely audible. He took off before Brian could speak and get his attention through the doorbell.

Being the paranoid people that we are, we though maybe some teenage kids were going to try to break into our house while we were gone. Brian called his cousin Zach who drove over and he got to our house as the kids had pulled away. He said he watch the car go to another house and the kid walked up to the door but then turned right back around. I told Brian maybe they were just lost or had the wrong house but, being six hours away, we were concerned that, if something bad were to happen, we would be too far away to do anything about it. But the car had drove away and so we kind of forgot about it for a while but then, a few minutes later, the car was back. We knew because Brian got an alert on the driveway camera.

We were watching them on the camera for a while but we didn’t see anyone get out of the car so then our imaginations run wild and we’re thinking they’re staking out our house to make sure no one is home before they break in. Anyway, I told Brian to turn the lights on and off (he can do it from his phone) so that they think that people are home. He did so but there was no reaction. Brian is super worried and neither of us could go to bed at this point. I’m thinking we need to do something to get some piece of mind (and so I can get some sleep and be ready to play the next day) so I ended up calling the police. I didn’t think they were actually going to do anything but we were watching our camera and they actually sent, not one or two, but three squad cars to our house. We watched on the cameras as two police officers walked around our house and confirm that nothing was amiss. Anyway, we asked them to check the parked car (which they actually checked the wrong car at first because our neighbor has a bunch of cars parked in front of his house) and they confirmed no one was in there. We all concluded that perhaps our first assumption (that the kids were at the wrong house or had the wrong address) was correct. Brian and I felt better and went to bed.

A few hours later, I’m waking up in the middle of the night because Brian is talking to his dad on the phone. Apparently, all of the cameras at our house our offline. Paranoia once again rears its ugly head and we’re thinking they’ve cut all the camera feeds and are breaking in. LOL. Brian decides to call his cousin Zach who makes another trip to our house (God bless him) and confirms that everything is okay. As it turns out, there was just a Cox network outage and that’s why all of our cameras weren’t working. We were like, “OK. No one is breaking into our house.” We really just need to chill out.

Anyway, fast forward to Sunday. There were originally 80 teams entered in my mixed doubles division but 3 teams dropped so we were at 77 on the day of the event. Our bracket started at 8 AM and, had I done well, we would have been playing clear until well past midnight. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it), my partner and I ended up going 1-2 on the day and ended up getting knocked out early. I piddled around at the tournament for a bit, and even played a couple of practice games against Katie and Ramon who were waiting for their next match/court assignment, and finally, when I had my fill, called Brian to see what he was doing for lunch. He said he was just getting ready to heat up his Cane Rosso leftovers. I countered with, what about coming to pick me up and we both grab lunch together. This was like 1, almost 2, PM.

When he came to get me, he had an idea to swing by the hotel first just to see if they could let us check out that day. If they said no, then we’d go to lunch and check out on Monday morning as originally planned. As luck would have it, the concierge was feeling generous. He told us that if we could be out in the next 30 minutes we could check out and they wouldn’t charge us for the last day. Jackpot! Brian and I got out of there so fast.

I was happy because checking out a day early ended up saving us almost $250. We ended up just hitting a drive-thru on the way home. We were back in Wichita shortly after 8 PM on Sunday, which we were anxious to do because of all the craziness that happened the night before with us thinking our house was getting broken into while we were away.

I’m happy to report that everything was fine. Our house, and all the contents within, were exactly as we had left them when we left for Dallas earlier in the week. What a wild few days!

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Cane Rosso at Carrollton Square

Posted on November 29, 2023 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

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Brian and I ate at this cute restaurant in Carrollton Square while we were in the Dallas area for USA Pickleball National Championships a few weeks ago.

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We went kind of in between lunch and dinner, which is probably the best time to go because they weren’t super busy.

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Here’s a picture of the menu.

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We started with the meatball appetizer, which is something we like to get when dining at most Italian restaurants (if it’s available anyway).

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Brian had the chicken parm sandwich with tater tots.

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I wanted the brisket lasagna bolognese but it was only available at dinner and it wasn’t quite dinner time yet. Our server said the closest thing to it on the menu would be the baked penne bolo, which is what I ended up getting.

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I was super stuffed from the meatball starter so I could hardly eat any of my entree. Also, it was super rich and filling. I ended up taking most of it to go, which was sad because we still had leftovers from Elena’s in our hotel room fridge also. We ended up not eating any of our leftovers at all because we cut our trip short (more on this later) which breaks my heart because I hate wasting food. I specially hate wasting good food. Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, though. One day we will learn our lesson and not order more than we can actually eat.

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Barrel and Bones

Posted on November 27, 2023 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

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Brian liked this place so much, he ate here twice in the same day.

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He went there for lunch on Friday. I couldn’t remember what he got but he really liked it. When he picked me up from the tournament venue later that day, I asked him to take me there for dinner since he liked it so much. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

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We went straight from the tournament so we were there kind of early-ish. They weren’t quite as busy yet.

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Here’s a picture of Brian trying to figure out what to get because he had already eaten there once that day. LOL.

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I got the pork belly banh mi, which was good but not as good as the ones I get from the Belmont locally. My truffle fries were fabulous.

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Brian got some kind of breaded chicken sandwich.

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Our meal was really good for the price. I think Friday night is half-off sandwiches night so, even with our drinks, our tab was pretty cheap. I would recommend checking this place out when in the Dallas area, whether or not it’s a Friday. I think they have good specials everyday of the week. Fridays are great if you want a sandwich, though. Until next time, GNG.

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Elena’s Tacos Y Mas

Posted on November 25, 2023 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

Elena’s Taqueria is one of the places we ate at while we were in the Dallas area for USA Pickleball Nationals. It’s a small, mom and pop, hole in the wall type of restaurant. I was actually surprised that Brian felt so adventurous. He normally sticks to chains and more familiar places.

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Here are some pictures of our food…

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Brian had the chicken (above) and I had the carnitas (below). All of it was very good but I wasn’t feeling well. That was a weekend when I was having massively painful menstrual cramps from my seemingly never-ending period. Anyway, I ate what I could and we took the rest back to the hotel.

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The food was delicious but it was the horchata that took my breath away.

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I think it might have been the best horchata I’d ever had and now I want horchata all the time. In fact, we actually stopped by Taco Shop on the way home to get me some more. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good. Brian told me that it’s probably because Taco Shop’s horchata is mass-produced as opposed to the homemade version I tried at Elena’s. Now I’m on a quest to find some delicious horchata here in Wichita. Any suggestions?

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USA Pickleball National Championships

Posted on November 22, 2023 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

Ever since I started getting into pickleball tournaments, I’d always dreamed of playing in the USA Pickleball National Championships. It was a really prestigious tournament where you actually had to play in qualifying tournaments in order to earn your spot (that wasn’t so much the case this year but more on that later) and it was like a gathering of the best of the best in every age and skill division. Also, it used to be held at Indian Wells Tennis Center in California but it got moved to Texas this year. This year’s national championship tournament was at Brookhaven Country Club in Farmers Branch, TX (Dallas area) but that’s just one of the many changes in this shit show of a year with tour wars, partnerships forming and dissolving (APP had the contract on “golden ticket” events the first part of the year and then PPA tour over when it was announced that they would be partnering with USA Pickleball for nationals), and tournaments being rescheduled or relocated, etc.

The tournament moving to Texas wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It meant my tournament expenses would be cut in half and Saki could be with us, since it’s now within driving distance. However, it did put the kibosh on my dream of playing at Indian Wells so I may never have that opportunity now. No matter, I was determined to make the best of my first trip to nationals and I am the queen of making lemonade out of lemons and finding the silver lining in everything.

Let’s rewind back to the beginning because my path to nationals was a long and expensive one (which is why it’s a little bit annoying that it turned into a “free for all” this year but, on the other hand, I did benefit from the whole fiasco as well so I can’t really complain too much).

There are typically three ways to qualify for nationals:

  • The first and most direct route to nationals is by playing in a “golden ticket” tournament and winning a gold medal in your division. This guarantees your spot for that event. So if you earn a “golden ticket” in singles, you have a spot for singles but then you would still need to earn “golden tickets” in mixed and gender doubles if you want to compete in those events at nationals. As I mentioned earlier, these “golden ticket” tournaments were originally select APP tour stops but then once the partnership with PPA was announced, they added additional “golden ticket” opportunities that were part of the PPA tour. This is the direct route because you earn your spot the same year that you qualify to play in nationals, e.g. you earn your “golden ticket” in a tournament May 2023 and you are qualified to play in the 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships.
  • The long and scenic route is a multi-step process and this is the path that I took to nationals. You basically have to play in two qualifying tournaments to earn your spot, then you’re guaranteed an entry the following year. So I basically earned my spot for 2023 nationals by playing in the Diamond Amateur tournaments in 2022. If you are playing in the Diamond Amateur events this year, those would qualify for you for 2024.
    • Step 1: Diamond Amateur Regionals | There are 12 regional tournaments that you can participate in. Win gold or silver at one of these events to qualify for spot in the Diamond Amateur Championships (DAC) in Florida held in December of each year. Note that you don’t have a guaranteed spot at nationals yet, you still have to play in the DAC and get gold to earn your spot.
    • Step 2: Diamond Amateur Championships | This is the annual championships where the first and second place teams at regionals compete for their spot at nationals.

    My path to nationals consisted of earning my spot for the DAC by winning gold in all three of my events at the Middle States Diamond Amateur Regional tournament (my first triple crown ever) and then traveling to Florida for the DAC and winning gold in singles and women’s doubles there. Ramon and I got second in mixed so I didn’t earn a spot for mixed at that time but I had a guaranteed spot for 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships in singles and women’s as of the DAC in December 2022.

  • The final way is via the lottery. If you played in one of the qualifying tournaments and didn’t earn your spot, you can enter into the lottery which, in the past, was the process they followed to fill any vacant spots (e.g. some qualified teams choose not to play in nationals due to scheduling issues, injuries, etc.). This is generally done in phases with runners up getting preference before the general player pool is considered in order to ensure that the best teams are competing. I was determined to earn a “golden ticket” because I wanted a guaranteed spot rather than gambling that I might be chosen via the lottery, which I really didn’t need this year so I totally could have saved money by not playing in some tournaments but whatever. I played in two extra tournaments this year in my quest to earn my spot for mixed doubles (APP Cincinnati Open in May and PPA Kansas City Open in August) which, in the end, I really didn’t need to do because the PPA pretty much invited EVERYONE to register for nationals and gave them a spot. I totally could have skipped both of these tournaments and still been able to play mixed at nationals because of the way things went down but that is neither here nor there at this point.

Now on to the nationals recap… My playing days were Friday (women’s doubles), Saturday (women’s singles), and Sunday (mixed doubles) but Brian and I decided to drive down on Wednesday to get settled, specially since Saki would be with us, and also to get the lay of the land because it’s a massive tournament venue.

2023 Nationals Site Map

This is literally the biggest tournament I’ve ever participated in because it’s got 20 more courts than the Minto US Open (there’s about 60 at East Naples Community Park where the US Open is held each year). The tournament spanned an entire week and started on November 5, the Sunday before we arrived. There were lots of complaints on Facebook about matches going all the way until midnight and the shuttle service only running until 7 PM, long waits for the shuttles, port-a-potties not being serviced and not having enough toilet paper, the limited available of water for the players, and so forth but, by the time we got there on Wednesday, most of these issues seemed to have been resolved. They added additional shuttles and extended the hours so that alleviated some of the issues people were experiencing with the shuttles.

After checking in and grabbing a super late lunch, Brian and I decided to chill at the hotel room with Saki for a bit. We were lucky to have a first floor room that is literally just down the hall from the external door that is closest to the pet area. It was very convenient for letting Saki out throughout the day. This was also lucky for another reason – the hotel had a water line break and so we were without water for a few hours on Wednesday and Thursday. When they finally repaired the line and turned the water back on, the first floor rooms got their water on first and it took a few hours for the water to reach the upper floors. We had our water back by 9 AM on Thursday, whereas Debbie, Melissa, and Karen didn’t get their water back until much later that day because they were on the 3rd floor and it took a while for enough pressure to build up to get water flowing up there. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we ended up in the same hotel as Debbie, Melissa, and Karen without even planning it! Brian and I just picked one of the options that was reasonably priced and pet-friendly so we ended up at the Holiday Inn Express, which was the one that Melissa chose for their group as well. Great minds think alike!

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One of the best things about staying at the Holiday Inn Express, one of the official partner hotels, besides the free shuttle from the hotel parking lot to and from the tournament venue, is they had helpful signage in our lobby with the schedule, map of the venue, and informational resources not just about the tournament but about the Farmers Branch area. Someone even put a post it note with a restaurant recommendation on the board.

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I also love that they had commemorative Farmers Branch branded pickleballs for each player to take home as a souvenir.

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Besides settling in, we decided to wait until later in the day to check out the venue for a couple of reasons: (a) parking – we figured it would be more likely we could park onsite later in the day when most people have left, and (b) grounds pass – we didn’t really feel like paying for a grounds pass for a partial day. Actually, if you ask Brian, he didn’t feel like paying for a grounds pass at all. LOL. I figured I probably wouldn’t have to pay for a grounds pass because I already gave them over $300 to play in the tournament but we would have to pay for Brian.

I think we got there after 6 PM and it was great. We were able to park in the Brookhaven Country Club parking lot (not really a designated tournament parking area but no one was policing the parking at the point) and enter the venue from the backside, where the food court and restrooms are (the main bank of port-a-potties). It was perfect because we didn’t have to walk far. We were right there.

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Many of the brackets were winding down so there were lots of empty courts. Many of the vendors had packed up for the day. It was really great for scoping things out and getting a bunch of selfies without other people getting in the way.

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We caught part of Julian Arnold and Thomas Wilson’s late night match.

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We walked along Pickleball Boulevard and did some exploring to get familiar with the venue and court layout. This is a picture of the main stage along the strip where they have performances by live bands, stand up comedians, DJs spinning tunes, and other entertainment throughout the day.

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Another feature I appreciated was the Biofreeze Player Lounge, where you could do some yoga/stretching, play ping pong, get some massage treament, etc. It’s not as nice as the “pro lounge” but I was glad that there was a designated area for players. Biofreeze was giving all sorts of free samples and swag and also this was my spot to get snacks and bottled water because I didn’t like the jug water which often tastes like ass (I think it’s because of the hoses that they use to fill the jugs).

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Anyway, I prefer not to drink water from the jugs at tournaments because I don’t know how they’re filling it or where the water is coming from. I will use it when there’s no bottled water available or if I’m absolutely desperate.

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Scoping things out, here’s a picture of the main/feature indoor court with plenty of seating around it. Below is a picture of some of the other indoor courts.

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While we were walking around, Brian called my attention to this sign. We recently got a Chase Sapphire card so we were both curious what we could get.

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Basically, all you had to do was show them your card and give them your ZIP code and they gave you a wristband for access to a portion of the VIP area. You also got a free drink ticket. The whole upper level in the picture below is a VIP area but they designated a section of it as the “Chase Lounge” which was a really nice perk for Chase customers. I was quite glad that we switched from Bank of America to Chase because our BoA card would have got us nothing. LOL.

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The free drink ticket came in handy because the drinks up there were not cheap! I got an overhead smash which would have cost me $20 with tip.

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One of the benefits of being in the Chase Lounge is the great view of Championship Court without having to pay for Championship Court access.

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It offered great views of Grandstand and South courts as well.

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We ran into JW Johnson as we were moseying around the venue. I think he was waiting for his ride. I generally don’t like bothering people but, since he was just standing there, I asked him for a pic. He was like, “Sure.” And I go, “No, can YOU take OUR pic?” And we all had a good laugh.

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They have a huge lighted “WELCOME TO PICKLEBALL BLVD” sign next to the main entrance. This is where the shuttle picks up and drops off.

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There were a few vendor booths still open so we got some freebies but that was pretty much Wednesday evening. Thursday was our first full day but it was kind of a bust. Firstly, our hotel didn’t have any water until 9 AM and, as someone who showers every single morning, I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without showering first. By the time we were showered and ready to venture out to the tournament, it had been raining and we ran into these players in trash bag ponchos in the lobby. They had just come back from the venue and they told us they weren’t letting spectators in because everything had gotten moved indoors and there wasn’t enough room for everyone. One of the guys said they were giving everyone a heard time at the entrance and the only way to get past is just to tell them that you just got your court assignment text and had to go ASAP and, in that case, they would let you in. Moving all the matches indoors also meant modifying the format to one game to 15 in the main draw for the amateur events because there weren’t enough courts for all the divisions that were scheduled to play that day.

The pro events went on as usual but Brian and I didn’t have Championship Court tickets and didn’t really feel like paying for them and be packed like sardines because they shoved everyone inside. Initially, I wanted to test out the shuttle service that day to see how quickly it could get me from the hotel parking lot to the tournament venue so I could plan accordingly on my playing days. But, because it was raining nonstop, I didn’t really feel like waiting for the shuttle in the rain so I talked Brian into doing a little stakeout with me.

We parked by the shuttle stop and timed how long since we got there before the shuttle showed up. And then we followed the shuttle from our hotel to another hotel before it arrived at the venue and we also timed how long that took. We decided it was about 30 minutes give or take, depending on how soon after the last shuttle left you got to the shuttle stop. For the sake of comparison, our hotel is only 10 minutes from the venue. So it’s not really ideal if you’re playing at 8 AM because then you would have to wait for the shuttle at 6:30 AM to ensure that you’re there 30 minutes to an hour before your bracket start time.

We grabbed some Mexican food for lunch and went back to the hotel because I started cramping. I literally had my period for two weeks straight and had period cramps almost every single day. My period started on October 29 and didn’t stop until November 10. The only break I got was on November 1. Other than that, I pretty much had consistent, heavy flow. The only thing that sucked worse were the cramps that went along with it. In a way, it was a blessing that Thursday was rainy because then I didn’t feel like I was really missing out on anything. I didn’t want to walk around in the rain, even if they did allow us in the venue. I was able to nap off my cramps without feeling major FOMO.

I felt a little reprieve when I woke from my nap that evening to the point that I actually considered going to the tournament at 6:30 AM to watch my friends who were playing at 8 AM on Friday. However, my cramps came back in the middle of the night and I didn’t get any sleep at all between midnight and 4 AM. Plus, with my period flowing pretty heavily I was afraid that I would have to use the port-a-potty multiple times if I stayed at the venue all day. I decided to stay back and get a couple of hours of sleep while Brian took Katie, Cindy, and Karen to the venue (because Cindy was talking about parking somewhere and then Ubering over so she didn’t have to deal with the shuttle in the morning; this way Brian could drop them off and get them and, if he happened to not be available, they had the shuttle to the hotel as an alternative). Anyway, I didn’t have to play until 2 PM so I really didn’t have to be there that early.

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Kendra and I wore our blue Halara dresses for women’s doubles day. It was the outfits that we wore to Tulsa Pickleball Classic, which was a dress rehearsal of sorts. Halara sells awesome skirts and dresses that are so perfect for pickleball. Also, I have a special code (CHERRIE) that gets you 20% OFF any regular-priced item.

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Ryan got some great action shots of Kendra and I during one of our matches.

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Friday was my first day playing. Kendra and I went 1-2 that day which was good enough to be 16th out of 27 teams. We landed pretty much toward the middle of the pack. The other ladies were just super consistent and we did not play as well or as clean as we could have. I always have fun playing with Kendra though, so it was a great day overall.

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Saturday was my women’s singles day and it was also men’s doubles day. I went to the venue early because my division had an 8 AM start time but I had a bye so I got to watch the guys play for a bit.

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Casey Dominguez was one of the first people I ran into that morning.

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Perhaps my biggest complaint about the tournament venue is the lack of good options for watching your friends play on the North courts. I was first watching Ramon and Ryan through a small gap in the fence but then I realized I could get up on the beer trailer and get a great view of the expanse. It’s not an up close view but the vantage point allowed me to watch multiple matches which was great because several of our friends were playing at the same time.

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Kendra got some great action shots of me playing singles.

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These were during my match against Angie Pyrah. It was a tough first match. Angie ended up winning the silver medal in our division.

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My next match was outside against Whitney Robinson. I was actually losing pretty good. I was down 8-12 when I called a timeout and then made a run and ended up winning that match 15-12.

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Then I had to play Grace Lee who I first met at the PPA KC Open. She actually sent me to the backdraw at that tournament on her way to the gold medal. I had a really great start and was up 7-2 at one point but, once again, she ended up taking me out. This time, since we were both in the backdraw, she knocked me completely out of the tournament. She is super nice though, so I didn’t mind the ass-kicking at all.

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The website has my record for that day as 2-2 but one of the players withdrew so technically I was 1-2 again for the day. The withdrawal did put me further up the list though, so I finished 12th out of 27 players for the day.

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Here’s a few more pictures from Saturday.

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This is a picture of me and Brian seeing Kendra off that day. She was lunching with a friend and heading home that day.

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Picture of us with Craig Morford who we got to know this year when he stayed with us during the Chicken N Pickle tournament in Wichita. I’ve also seen him a few more times since then at PPA KC Open, Chicken N Pickle ambassador Minor League Pickleball event in Texas, and he stayed with us again for the Minor League Pickleball event at Crestview Country Club.

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Anyway, after I got knocked out of the tournament, Brian and I went checking out all the vendor booths. The free cocktail sample at the Mr. Pickles Gin booth was so good, not to mention strong. I was so sauced I actually mistook Edward Nola for Chris Olson. That drink knocked me out and I ended up napping the afternoon off.

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I woke up to see a couple of texts from Kyle Von Anh, my mixed doubles partner the next day, asking if I was still at the tournament because he wanted to get some practice games in. I didn’t wake up from my nap until the evening though, so we just agreed to meet up at the tournament early the next day.

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Here are some pictures from Sunday, which was the best day weather-wise. Thursday was the worst day as it was raining all day. Friday was chilly and windy and the sun barely came out. Saturday was a tad cloudy but the with the sun peeking out a bit, it didn’t feel as cold as Friday.

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Sunday was nice and sunny and perfect. It was such a beautiful day.

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Here’s a picture of me and my very tall partner, Kyle.

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Our team uniforms were fire. Thank you, Chicken N Pickle!

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I had so much fun on Sunday. We did the game at the Southwest Airlines booth and got a bunch of Rapid Rewards bonus points.

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Anyway, sorry about the super long post. I’m going to end it here and continue the story in another post. Until next time, GNG.

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