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Archive for "Travel"

Picklemania at the OKC Life Time

Posted on January 28, 2023 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

When Chris Wilson asked me to play 50/50 with him in Picklemania at the Oklahoma City Life Time location, I said yes without hesitation for several reasons.

  • Chris was my first ever tournament partner and I love playing with him.
  • I love tournaments in Oklahoma because they are so well-organized, well-run, and they always provide snacks. Picklemania even included lunch.
  • I welcome any excuse to travel to Oklahoma and hang out with all my OK pickleball friends because they are fantastic.

Obviously, I like to make the most of my trips so I didn’t want to play in just one event so I had to secure partners for women’s and mixed doubles also. I originally asked my friend Ramon Lozano but he turned me down because he didn’t think the competition would be worthwhile (because at the time I asked him, I think around November time frame, none of the upper divisions players had signed up). He encouraged me to find another partner because he didn’t want me to miss out. Luckily, I met this guy named Casey Dominguez in Tulsa when I did my DUPR #DoubleDip during Thanksgiving weekend. Casey is from Arkansas but happened to be at La Fortune for the DUPR event also.

Anyway, Ramon was looking at the men’s group and decided he could team up with Casey and play in the 5.0 division. So then he needed a partner. He asked our friend Katie Merrill several times who I also asked to play with me in women’s but at the time she was thinking she would take a break in January. Anyway, while the three of us were in Kansas City for the DUPR Teams event at Northland Racquet Club, Jenny Marcos asked Katie to play also. Jenny is amazing and one simply does not pass on an opportunity like this one so obviously it was a sign that Katie was meant to play. So the two people I had originally asked to play who didn’t plan on playing actually ended up playing and together.

Honestly, this could have caused a lot of drama but, because I am me, it wasn’t a big deal. I managed to find other partners to play with and so it all worked out great for everyone. There were no hurt feelings or damaged friendships and, as far as I could tell, everyone had a great time.

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Chris and I both took the day off because were were playing on Friday afternoon. I ended up riding down to OKC with him since Brian had to work. Once Brian got off work, he picked Saki up from the house and headed down.

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Here are a couple of pics from Friday.

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We didn’t do great but I always have a great time playing. The one thing I’ve learned about myself is that my game continues to evolve. Now that I am working on offense, I am less patient and sometimes initiate speed ups prematurely. I think the key is being patient when needed and starting firefights at the appropriate times. I’m learning and growing so I really can’t complain.

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Also, side note, the teams we played against were pretty amazing so I really don’t feel bad for how we performed. I think we did well, all things considered.

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I mean, check out these DUPRs.

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I feel like we played in the correct division but were definitely out-gunned.

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Saturday was gender doubles day. I teamed up with my friend Cindy Egan. We didn’t do as well as we’d hoped but wasn’t really out of the norm for me because I always struggle in women’s doubles. Also, we had to play against some young, very athletic women. It was a tough pool. Oklahoma players are legit.

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Here are some of my favorite pictures from Sunday, mixed doubles day.

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This is my friend Antonio Lares, who I first met about a year and a half ago when a group of us went down to the Oklahoma City Chicken N Pickle for Patrick Smith and Lauren Stratman’s pickleball clinic.

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Katie and Ramon on mixed doubles day, with me and Casey in the background. Katie and Ramon played in 5.0 division while Casey and I played in 4.5 so we didn’t have to play against one another.

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Here’s a close up of me and Casey in the background.

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I had so much fun playing with Casey on Sunday. There were five teams in our group and we lost to only one team and only by one measly point.

I was having such a great run. I hit several inside outs (five in one game). I usually say “Yup!” whenever I hit a winner and Casey said I was saying “Yup!” so early, not even before the ball lands but sometimes as I am actually hitting the ball.

I honestly think we could have medaled (maybe even won Gold), we just got a little over confident. And then, we didn’t realize we were still in it so Casey went to the locker room and took a shower a little prematurely. Tanner had to go get him back out so we could play for bronze.

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We ended up losing that match against Deana Holman and Isaiah McAllister.

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This is my friend Tanner who came to hang out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday even though he wasn’t playing. He gets the credit for a lot of these photos. He’s was a true MVP actually because he took care of EVERYONE.

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Tanner looked up DUPRs for all the teams in the various brackets, refilled my water several times, tracked down gum for Katie when she needed it most, took pictures and videos for all of us so we could have some awesome clips from the weekend, and even took one for team and went into the locker room to get Casey back out for our bronze match. He truly went above and beyond.

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Ramon, Casey, and Casey’s wife Kayla.

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One last selfie with Katie as she was getting ready to fly back home to Tulsa.

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Anyway, no pics of Brian because he was tied up on Saturday helping his dad replace their hot water heater and then, on Sunday, we had to check out of the hotel so he and Saki went and hung out at his mom and dad’s house until I was done. Of course, we ended up taking a little bit longer than I thought because we ended up playing one more game which we didn’t realize we had to; thus, Casey ended up having to shower twice. Oops!

Ironically, I told myself I didn’t want any more medals (except for some specific ones that are on my list for this year — US Open and Nationals) so I pretty much achieved my goal. LOL. I did come away with a few new friends which are more valuable than any medals I could bring home.

I guess that pretty much catches us up. Until next time, GNG.

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Black Bear Diner

Posted on January 24, 2023 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

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None of us had to play in the morning on Saturday so Chris Wilson introduced us to a diner he discovered on a previous trip to OKC. I went with the group (Cindy Egan, Karen Fox, and Chris) without Brian because he had committed to helping his dad replace their water heater so he left early in the morning to do that.

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The diner has a cute, bear-themed interior decor.

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Here are pics of our food.

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The food is decent and the place is cute so I can see why Chris likes it. I wish Brian could have joined us. Perhaps on the next trip down there, he can.

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The other unique thing about this place is the fun sayings on the backs of their chairs. Here are some examples…

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They also have a fun little gift shop.

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This restaurant is a chain but it’s definitely worth checking out next time you are in the Oklahoma City area. Till next time, GNG.

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Succotash with Ramon and Katie

Posted on December 21, 2022 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

Staying in the same house as Ramon and Katie was so much fun. I feel like we took the whole “team bonding” concept to the next level. Firstly, Katie and I are both morning people so we are early risers. I feel like we had the best heart-to-heart conversations in the morning when first waking up.

Both days we ended up laying in my bed and just talking about things before we started getting ready. It’s so funny because I always thought the guys were exaggerating about Ramon’s snoring. Well, we put him in the basement and I could hear him snore all the way up in my room. The first morning Katie was like, “Are you sure it wasn’t me?” I said, “I’m pretty sure because it was coming from that direction [while pointing to Ramon’s side of the house].” Anyway, as we were chatting, she heard it too so that confirmed it was him because we were both awake at that point. LOL.

The next morning, she peeks in my room around 6:00 AM as I’m laying in bed. I’m wide awake because I always wake up around 5:30-ish, with or without my alarm. I’m like, “Come on in. I want to hear about last night.” After our dinner at El Canelo, Ramon and Katie went out with Ramon’s Kansas City pals while I stayed in to catch up with Brian.

She cracked me up because she was just laying on top of the covers at first and then started to get cold so before she got under the covers with me she asked, “Are you naked?” She knows I prefer to sleep naked and, when we were together in Tulsa, I just slept in my underwear and a t-shirt. Since I thought I was sharing a house with three other people, I did invest in some modest pajamas.

So we are laying there chitchatting when Ramon comes up from the basement. Now the three of us are laying around in my room trying to figure out plans for the day. Katie had some Christmas shopping on her agenda. Ramon wanted to watch the FIFA World Cup championships and was waiting for a text from his friends. As we were hanging out, chatting and waiting, Katie decided she wanted to have breakfast at this place called Succotash that Ryan (one of Ramon’s friends) suggested when they were out the previous night. I got super excited because Brian and I had been to Succotash twice before and loved it. The first time was in 2012 and then the second time was in 2017. Although, I went without Brian this time around, I feel like I’m right on schedule (visiting every five years or so). Ramon hadn’t heard from his friends (who were more than likely still hung over from the night before) and, since they have WiFi at the restaurant, he agreed to go with us and just watch the soccer championship on Katie’s iPad.

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Succotash hasn’t changed much since Brian and I were there last. I think the most notable difference was that you now ordered at the counter, instead of having a server come to your table, and you pretty much had to fend for yourself on drink refills. I didn’t look at the fresh juice options but I think the menu might have changed slightly but everything else was pretty much the same for the most part.

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Here are some pictures of our food:

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The serve my most favorite corned beef hash there which is what I got.

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Katie got these giant pancakes.

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Ramon got French toast with both bacon and sausage. I have to say, I was a little jealous of his French toast and partially wished that I would have gotten it instead. Their corned beef hash is really good though, so I couldn’t pass it up. Katie wanted Ramon’s sausage and thought about taking one of the links when he got up to order some regular toast for his eggs but there were only two left and I told her he would notice if one was missing. Anyway, before we remembered to ask him for it, he had already eaten them both but he said he wouldn’t have minded if she ate one of them. So that was a missed opportunity.

Anyway, here’s a video of Katie demonstrating the best way to eat pancakes.

After our delicious breakfast, Ramon and I went back to Northland Racquet Club to watch some of our friends compete in DUPR 16. It’s basically the same as the team event that we played in the day before, just a different division. For this division the sum of the team members’ DUPR ratings could not exceed 16. In ours the cap is 18. Katie went on to the Lego place which was conveniently just steps away from Succotash. It’s like she planned the whole thing! LOL.

I’ll share pictures of the DUPR 16 teams in a separate post. This whole weekend has been fabulous. Well, except for my flat tire in the middle of I-35 while trying to leave Kansas City on Sunday afternoon. This would be my second tire blowout this year. The first time was in the middle of Kellogg traffic and I actually called 911 because I pulled over on the shoulder but the cars were whizzing by so fast that I was too scared to get out. Brian came to rescue me and replaced my tire in the middle of that mess.

I knew I did not want to be in the middle of Kansas City traffic so rather than pulling over on the shoulder, I took the very next exit. Luckily, there was a Phillips 66 right there. As another stroke of good luck, a man who works for Mopar just happened to park one stall over from me. As I was on the phone with Brian, telling him about my predicament, the man caught my eye as he came out of the convenience store. He asked if I needed help and I emphatically said, “Yes!” Anyway, he replaced my tire so fast it was like a NASCAR pit crew. I think it took longer for me to take all my crap (luggage, portable net, folding chair, umbrella, windshield sunshade, etc.) and dig out the spare tire, jack, and tools from the trunk than it took for him to replace the tire. This dude as amazing and I was ever so grateful. Brian was fully prepared to drive the three hours to Kansas City to rescue me but we were both relieved that he did not have to because it would have meant getting home super late. Three hours for him to get to me, another half hour to replace the tire, and then another three hours for us to drive home.

As it were, my three-hour drive home took nearly four hours because I couldn’t go faster than 60 mph on the donut. At least, that’s what the Mopar guy told me. Brian says there’s a reason that they call them 55-mph tires so going 60 was probably pushing it. Anyway, I made it home safely and while it was still daylight outside, thanks to the help of that nice man. I probably need to start seriously thinking about getting AAA, though. Or so my friends are telling me. ‘Til next time, GNG.

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Dinner at El Canelo

Posted on December 20, 2022 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

After the DUPR Teams event, which was an all-day affair, a bunch of us went to El Canelo for dinner. By a bunch, I mean Silly Gooses team members Parker Ward, Nicole Mathis, Megan White, and Megan’s son Miles plus me, Ramon, and Katie from DUPR Troopers, and then Tyson Steele, who although he didn’t play that day was super awesome in coming out to watch and support his friends.

Here are some pictures of our food:

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I got the pollo blanco (pictured below) per Tyson’s recommendation. I didn’t take a picture of his plate because he got the same thing.

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People who are dining with me for the first time always think it strange that I’m taking pictures of everyone’s food. They often ask me what I do with all the food pictures. Well, they end up here and also on our FLIP + CHING Facebook page.

And, I also create an album of all the restaurants (well, most of them, because there are some I have missed) I’ve visited in my Flickr.

Anyway, it’s fun to look back and see all of the delicious food I’ve enjoyed over the years. Pictures of food is a weird thing to collect but I’m kind of a weirdo, so there is that. Until next time, GNG.

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My First DUPR Teams Event

Posted on December 19, 2022 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

iPickle Nation started piloting team events using the MLPLay format (the same rules that Major League Pickleball follows). One of the organizers, Michael Cobb, reached out to me last month about putting together a team but it was too short notice so we missed the first event. I did commit to putting together a team with enough notice. He told me about the December event and I recruited my favorite people to be part of our team. Ramon Lozano (Hays, KS), Tanner Rice (Oklahoma City, OK), and Katie Merrill (Tulsa, OK) were all equally eager to participate and together we formed DUPR Troopers.

I found us a fabulous Cozy in KC house within five minutes of both the Kansas City Chicken N Pickle (aka OG CNP) and Northland Racquet Club (the tournament venue). We were all set to go with our awesome team shirts (we actually have several matching ones now) until, two weeks before the tournament, Tanner gets injured at another team event. We scrambled to find a replacement and, as luck would have it, were able to land Kyle Rinck (Independence, KS).

This actually worked out for us because we were originally going to have four people in a three bedroom house so one of us would have had to sleep on the couch. Ramon and I talked at Smash and agreed that the youngest person should have the couch. Except the youngest person is Tanner and the couch is not a pullout. Out of all of us, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who could have fit in it and I wasn’t going to give up a bedroom. LOL. Brian and I joked that we should make Ramon be the one without a bedroom to force him to bunk with Katie. I have been desperately trying to bring the two of them together because I think they’d make a cute couple. Anyway, in the end, the three of us agreed that the baby of the group gets to be without a room but because we love Tanner we would hook him up with an air mattress to at least make him more comfortable. I didn’t know that Katie already borrowed one from our friend Deana and so I actually ordered an air mattress and a sleeping bag from Amazon.

We ended up not needing any of these because Tanner had to pull out of the event due to his injury but I didn’t bother returning my stuff. Brian and I figured, at some point in the coming months, I’ll probably have to crash at a friend’s house and, instead of sleeping on the floor, I’ll at least have an air mattress and a sleeping bag to make my stay more comfortable.

We didn’t have to house our fourth team member, Kyle, because he lives just 30 minutes away (unlike the rest of us who had to drive 3-5 hours). Not only did we find a great substitute with Kyle, but he also solved our housing situation.

Anyway, since we were all arriving on Friday night, Ramon had the brilliant idea to have us play in the Friday night Super DUPR at NRC. It was perfect because (a) then we got to see the venue (and play there) before the event the next day, and (b) I’ve been wanting to check out DUPR events everywhere to learn how different groups are running their events so I kind of treated it as field research. Additionally, our friends Michelle Dreiling, Sharon Steimel, Tyson Steele, Nicole Mathis, and Megan White were able to play that night too which made it even more fun. It’s really nice to save several familiar faces, specially when playing somewhere for the first time.

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The Friday night event had an awesome turnout. They broke us out into three groups: 2.00 to 3.19, 3.20 to 3.89, and 3.90 and above. We all ended up in the last group but were split up in different pools (except Ramon and I ended up in the same one). The way iPN does their Friday night Super DUPR is similar to their iPN round robin events. After the round robin, you get paired with someone and then you play in a single elimination bracket. It was interesting how after the round robin was tallied, Tyson and I got teamed up; Katie and Nicole got teamed up; and Ramon and Sharon got teamed up.

There were things that I liked about it but there were also things that I didn’t like. For instance, I’m not a fan of the Wilson ball but I do understand that they need something more durable because they run these events all the time. The balls they use pretty much last forever and don’t have to be replaced as frequently as Duras or Franklins. Not even close. Also, I’m not a fan of splitting the top players between the different pools instead of putting them all together. I’m sure there’s a reason behind this because you get paired up for bracket play but I think the games with be far more competitive if they grouped players by DUPR. Personally, I really like how Ryan and Caroline Luelf run theirs in Tulsa. It is similar to how Tanner does his DUPRs but he recently made a change so that his DUPR are now by team instead of individual sign ups. I’ll have to make another field trip to OKC to check out this new method of doing things.

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Anyway, we met up with Tyson and Nicole at the OG CNP before heading to Northland for the DUPR thing but, after that playing for almost 4 hours, Katie and Ramon decided they were hungry again and we ended up getting some Hawaiian Bros to go. It’s one of Ramon’s most favorite places to eat in KC.

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Tyson and I weren’t that hungry so we both just got some Spam musubi.

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We played Poetry by Neanderthals (NSFW version) until amost midnight while Katie and Ramon had their dinner. I have to say, the guys absolutely sucked at this game while Katie was amazing at it. LOL.

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The next day, we played in the DUPR Teams event. There were 4 teams in DUPR 18 (our division) and 6 teams in DUPR 16. I totally think they could have held both on the same day because there was enough room at the venue but they opted to run DUPR 18 on Saturday and DUPR 16 on Sunday. Anyway, here are some pictures of our team in our awesome shirts.

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I originally ordered Medium shirts for myself which were a tad big so, when we got Kyle to replace Tanner, I decided to give Kyle the Medium shirts and order Small shirts for myself. Except my new shirts didn’t arrive in time so I had to use the white shirt so I could be in uniform. Ramon hates white anyway so he has a white shirt but I doubt he’ll ever wear it. LOL. The guys wore the gray shirts and the girls wore white so we still kinda sorta coordinated, even though we weren’t perfectly matching. I guess I’ll just have three of these shirts when my Small shirts finally arrive (hopefully, someday soon).

SIDE NOTE: Here’s a link to order a shirt for yourself if you’d like one of these awesome DUPR Trooper shirts from Zazzle.

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I would have liked to have gotten first place but there were some really good teams/players in our division. Overall I’m happy with how we performed.

You can watch most of our matches in the above video. I couldn’t film the championship though, because my phone ran out of battery.

The MLP format is so fun. Our team had to go to a Dreambreaker with All 4 One (Devon Fuller’s team) twice. He had Josh Hardy, Suzanne Gehrke, and Nikhila Suraneni on his team. However, we had Kyle who really helped us in the singles round. I’m not sure we could have won those Dreambreakers without him.

I’m really glad that I was able to participate in this team event. Not only was it a ton of fun, but I also got some ideas for the “One Last Dink” team tournament we are hosting at the Pickle Club at the end of the month. I can’t wait to tell you all about it in a couple of weeks. Until then, GNG.

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