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New Year’s Eve

Posted on January 15, 2022 by under Life, Travel.    

What do you do for New Year’s Eve when you have an early wake up the next morning for a pickleball tournament? You stay in and drink in the hotel lobby and play Mexican train dominoes and Uno all evening.

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I set up in the lobby and started making drinks from my Shaker & Spoon cocktail kit while we were waiting for Tiffany and Donnie to come down. This random guy comes over and asks if it’s the “manager’s special” because he wants a drink, I guess. I’m like, “Sorry, dude. This happy hour is private.” LOL.

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I made drinks for both me and Tiffany.

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The four of us enjoyed some cocktails while playing Mexican train dominoes. It’s nice to be able to drink and not have to worry about driving home (or anywhere for that matter). The guys looked quite serious because Brian was seriously losing and Donnie was hot on my heels (I was the points leader for most of the game but Donnie ended up winning at the end by a mere two points).

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Everyone was in it to win it. Except for Brian because, after his triple digits in the first round, he didn’t have a prayer.

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I’m so disappointed that we didn’t get to drink these shots. They came in the cutest jars. However, the size of them was somewhat intimidating. I mean, the jars are cute but they are a good size so there’s a lot of alcohol in those shots.

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Tiffany won at Uno on NYE but I owned it the next night.

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I think one of my favorite memories from the weekend was when Tiffany and Donnie and Brian all banded together to help Brian win the round and keep me from winning. I think I had 4 wins, Brian had 3, Tiffany had 2, and Donnie had 0 wins. We were in the 10th round. If Tiffany, Donnie, or I won the round then I would be the winner. The only way they could prevent me from winning is if Brian won the round and tied me at 4 wins, which would force a sudden death tie breaker round. So even though, Tiffany and Donnie were both ready to go out, they weren’t going out because because they wanted Brian to win.

It was three against one and I still won! That was definitely one of the weekend’s highlights for me. Of course, winning gold in mixed 4.0 with Devon was nice too.

That was pretty much our NYE weekend. Until next time. GNG.

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Dink-in the New Year

Posted on January 12, 2022 by under Pickleball.    

The Dink-in the New Year pickleball tournament at Vetta Racquet Sports Sunset was a great experience overall. I wanted to push myself so I signed up for 3.5 singles, 3.5 women’s doubles, and 4.0 mixed doubles.

I found out a couple of days before the tournament that they combined 3.5 singles with 4.0 singles because there was only two of us (me and my friend Tiffany Lesperance) who signed up for 3.5 division. It made me wish I had signed up for 3.0 singles instead but I didn’t email the tournament director to switch divisions. I figured I wanted to challenge myself so I might as well just tough it out.

I wasn’t as concerned about my doubles because, even though I’m only a 3.2 in women’s doubles, I’m pretty comfortable playing at the 3.5 level and Tiffany has been playing 3.5 and 4.0 so she had a lot of experience at these levels. In mixed, I got a great partner with Devon Fuller. He has medaled in 4.0 mixed multiple times and he actually has experience playing in the higher levels. It was really just singles I was worried about because I would be playing against higher level ladies and I wouldn’t have a partner to bail me out.

We started with singles on Friday. This tournament is bigger than the ICT tournaments but still kind of on the small side (less than 300 players) so there weren’t any age groups, only skill groups. For women’s singles, they had a 2.5 division, 3.0 division, and then 3.5/4.0 division.

Besides being in the highest division, Tiffany and I ended up on the same side of the bracket so even though we didn’t have to play each other in the first round, we would end up facing off in the second round if we both lost or if we both won. The only way for us to not meet up so soon would be for one of us to win and one of us to lose. We ended up both losing and playing each other for our second match.

My first match was against an older but super experienced pickleball player, Janice Bolton. She’s a teaching pro at one of the Vetta Racquest Sports locations so it was really tough. I actually ran into her in the restroom earlier that morning and told her that had I known they were combining 3.5 with 4.0, I would have signed up for 3.0 singles instead — not knowing she would be my first round match. Our match went 3 games and lasted an hour and ten minutes. I really wish I could have gotten it on video because we had some amazing rallies, which doesn’t generally happen in singles. She was chasing shots down that I thought were winners and sending them back extremely well each time.

I lost that match but, at the end of it, Janice told me that I should not be playing in 3.0 singles, which I took as a compliment. I’m not good enough for 4.0 but I’m better than 3.0 so maybe 3.5 singles is where I’m supposed to be.

Tiffany was a bit cranky about them combining 3.5 with 4.0 and also how we were positioned in the bracket so she didn’t even try in our consolation bracket match. My next match was against Rachel Mossman who ended up winning the gold not just in our singles division but also in 5.0 women’s doubles and 5.0 mixed doubles.

I knew I probably wouldn’t medal in singles considering I was playing against higher skilled ladies but I kind of wished I didn’t have to play against Rachel so soon because I wanted more match experience and more singles games under my belt. Playing her (and losing to her) so soon in the bracket meant I was out.

Anyway, since Tiffany and I were both out, we ended up watching and cheering for her husband Donnie who was schooling guys who are more than half his age in his bracket. Watching him was hilarious because, not only was the oldest player in his division (by a significant stretch) but, after each match, he would put his old man glasses to fill out the score sheet. I got such a kick out of it. When he won the championship match, I told him he should walk up to the podium with a cane and really make the young guys feel bad. LOL.

Here are some videos of Donnie’s singles matches.

This is a video of Donnie’s championship match against Bobby Song.

The next day was gender doubles day. Tiffany and I went from playing against each other to playing together. Donnie played with his friend from Missouri, Mark Steiner. Tiffany and I missed making the podium but Donnie and Mark won silver in 4.0 men’s doubles.

Tiffany and I missed the winner bracket final by 2 points when we lost 10-12 in game three against the gold medal team. Then in the consolation bracket we lost to a team we beat pretty comfortably in the first round. That match was brutal. We could not get in a groove and we were down 2-12. I think we didn’t have any points at all during the side switch. Anyway, we started coming back and ended up losing 13-15. We just needed one more hold. Ultimately, it was too big a deficit to overcome. Anyway, the girls were super nice and they went on to win the bronze.

Sunday was mixed doubles day. Devon and I were in the same division as Tiffany and Donnie. Again, we were on the same side of the bracket so if we both won and we both lost then we would have had to play each other. We never ended up facing off because Tiffany and Donnie lost their second match. They were making their way back and winning their matches in the consolation bracket. I was kind of hopeful for an all Kansas championship and also because if we were all playing in the championship then Tiffany, Donnie, and I would all finish at the same time and no one would be waiting on anyone.

Tiffany and Donnie ended up losing to the team that won silver and finished in fourth place. Devon and I went undefeated in our bracket and finished in first place. Here’s the video of our winner bracket final against AJ Thum and Cully Higgins. AJ and Cully finished in third.

Here’s the video from our championship match against Dustin Imgarten and Monika Ray. I think everyone was just ready to be finished and go home. LOL.

Brian took a short video of the medal presentation. I’ve played 4.0 mixed a few times (mostly in our local ICT tournaments and once in the Oklahoma PC Smash) but this was my first ever 4.0 level gold medal. I am super grateful to Devon for taking a chance on me and being my partner for this tournament.

Here’s our official podium picture.

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Devon was really funny. I asked to get a picture of the two of us while we were still playing in our bracket and he said, with a lot of confidence, “Don’t worry. You will get your picture.” I had to wait until the very end but it was totally worth it.

I had such a great time playing the tournament and hanging out with Tiffany and Donnie that weekend. I also made a bunch of new friends and even got an offer for free open play at Vetta from Janice. So much fun! I can’t wait until the next tournament! GNG.

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Missouri Pickleball Club

Posted on January 10, 2022 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

When we arrived in Missouri on Thursday, all the courts at the tournament site were completely booked so there was no open play to be had there. Thankfully, my friend Christie Pink, who lives in St. Louis, is a member of the Missouri Pickleball Club. MPC touts itself as the largest indoor pickleball facility in the nation. I think that’s true right now but might not be the case because pickleball facilities are sprouting up all over the place.

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We ended up paying $22 each to play for two hours. It’s not cheap but it would have been even more expensive had we not come in as Christie’s guests. It made me feel like they were keeping non-members out just by making it super expensive to play there. I think the guy told me that if we were to book courts ourselves, it would be $40 per hour plus a $10 hourly guest fee. Members can get the courts for $24 per hour and their guests only have to pay $5 per hour for the guest fee. So for us, it was $12 for the two hours of court time plus $10 for the guest fee (instead of $40 per person). It’s like Chicken N Pickle weekend rates without the awesome CNP food and drinks and fun ambiance. And they charge guest fees on top of that, which at least you don’t have at CNP.

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The facility itself was clean and well lit and the courts were spaced just right. Other than being expensive, the facility was great overall and we were with a great group of people. So the company was well worth the visit.

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This is my friend Christie with Brian Garner behind her and Donnie and Tiffany Lesperance in the red shirt. Christie is so fun. I am so grateful for her bringing everyone together and setting up this play for us. We wouldn’t have gotten to play on Thursday night otherwise.

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I wish they would open a place like this in Wichita (because there’s not enough places to play indoors with a good playing surface in the winter time) — just not as expensive. LOL. Anyway, pickleball always makes me work up an appetite. We ended up having Burger King for dinner late that night after we finished playing because there’s a BK right outside our hotel. It worked out for me because I actually like BK. Until next time, GNG.

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St. Louis Trip

Posted on January 9, 2022 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

We traveled to St. Louis, MO last weekend to compete in the Dink-in the New Year pickleball tournament at Vetta Racquet Sport Sunset. Since Tiffany and Donnie Lesperance were staying in the same hotel, the four of us decided to carpool.

We’ve gone to tournaments with Tiffany and Donnie before but this was our first time actually “traveling” together and traveling with these two is quite interesting because they love Mexican food. They don’t love Mexican food in the same way that normal people love Mexican food. They “really” love it. To the point where they could eat Mexican food everyday of our trip. And that is pretty much what we did. LOL. Thankfully, Brian and I enjoy Mexican food too. Otherwise, we would have been having nightmares like our friend Karen Fox did on our last trip to St. Louis.

We arrived in St. Louis on Thursday afternoon and had a late lunch at this place called El Maguey. However, I couldn’t even tell you which specific one because apparently that is like the most common name for a Mexican restaurant. There are El Magueys everywhere. There’s even one in Derby.

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Here are some pictures of our meal.

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Tiffany had some lunch fajitas.

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Predictably, Brian always gets a simple bean and cheese burrito covered with queso.

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I got some grilled tilapia and shrimp, which was so good.

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The next day we found a Mexican restaurant a few miles from the tournament venue called San Jose.

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San Jose Mexican Restaurant was a step up from El Maguey the previous day. They were playing fun bachata music while we were there and the decorations gave the restaurant an authentic ambiance.

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Once again, Brian got a bean and cheese burrito.

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I don’t remember what Donnie had but this is a picture of it.

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Tiffany had the Guadalajara chicken.

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And, I must have been really hungry because I missed taking a picture of my Mexican chicken soup. It was really good. It reminded me of the Mexican soup I used to have at this place called Wrap It Up in downtown Kansas City. They had it as a special on Wednesdays.

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I thought the food was really good, as was the service. Our server was very attentive, checked on our table regularly, and kept our drinks/chips/salsa replenished without prompting — unlike at some places.

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I managed to talk everyone into getting an entire pitcher of margarita. The server helped my case by telling that anything we could not finish we could take to go. I think it took a couple of days to drink the rest of the leftover margarita.

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We loved San Jose so much that we returned the next day. This time with Donnie’s doubles partner Mark Steiner who, I guess, loves Mexican food too.

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I had a giant plate of pork with some kind of flavorful red mole sauce, side of rice, and some elote (Mexican street corn). Brian gave me some of his guacamole. My dinner (which was also my breakfast the next morning because I couldn’t finish it) was delicious!

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I think these are Donnie’s and Mark’s plates. I’m pretty sure I didn’t take a pic of Brian’s place because it would have been the same thing three days in a row.

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Speaking of eating the same thing on consecutive days, Tiffany really liked the Guadalajara chicken because she got it again.

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This trip is the most consecutive days of eating Mexican food I’ve had. Thankfully, I never tire of eating Mexican food either. Anyway, now we know what to expect when traveling with Tiffany and Donnie. Until next time, GNG.

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Holiday Break

Posted on January 8, 2022 by under Hobbies, Pickleball.    

We had some great weather over the Christmas holiday. We had highs in the 70s! It was awesome! I pretty much played all day on Christmas Eve. First at Edgemoor Park with Jimmy Cho and crew and then later at Seneca Park with a bunch of other fellow pickleball addicts.

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Jimmy Cho

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Lonnie Lollar

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I took advantage of vacation time between Christmas and New Year, and even made it to Mulvane to play some pickleball with mom and dad.

Others I got to play with during the break include Mason McCanless, Tom Pham, and Karen Fox. Mason arranged play for us at Edgemoor Park on a cold morning when we were the only people playing — five courts empty except for ours.

Here are some clips from our games that day at Edgemoor.

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The next day I got to play with Jimmy Cho, Karen Fox, and Matt Nola. Matt and I are trying to get more games in together because we plan to play together in the US Open this year. That is, if we can make it through the lottery process.

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I need to switch back to playing with an Electrum paddle, though.

Here are some of the fun points we had. This next video contains highlights from our 22-minute game. Would you believe all of these rallies happened in one game only? That was a crazy, fun game!

You can watch the full game on YouTube here. It’s so great to have Jimmy back. I can’t wait to play with him some more. GNG.

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