Friday through Thursday, January 13-19, 2023—Great Birding and Pickleball?

Hot Springs Village friend, Mike Cigleman, and I met Friday morning at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert for birding/photography. Not many birds were flying, but Mike picked up a bunch in the trees and shrubs using the “Sound ID” on Cornell’s Lab app, Merlin. After identifying a particular bird using sound, Mike would visibly locate the bird. After lunch, we did a quick walk-around at Veterans’ Oasis Park in Chandler, identifying up a few more birds, including Some Costa’s Hummingbirds. Regrettably, I did not carry the camera on that walk! It was a really good day for Mike as he picked up 57 species, a new Big Day for him, as well as 17 Lifers. 

Friday was also pickleball day for the Arkansas group. I arrived back in Palm Creek just in time to make the second game as the start time shifted from 3:30 PM to 3:00 PM. I opted to play left-handed because of the right shoulder injury; pity my partners. Kay played really well. Afterwards, we all enjoyed sandwiches and beer at a local sports bar.

Saturday was a quiet day for us; no pickleball or golf or photography. Rain all day Sunday and Monday dictated activities, or the absence of them—no golf, no pickleball, no photography, and no happy hours—basically we stayed in the motorhome. I didn’t mind as it provided additional time for the shoulder injury to heal. And, it provided time to read (12 books since Christmas thanks to Jim Morris for author suggestions.) But, we did celebrate Mary Seitz’s birthday at Texas Roadhouse; rumor is that she turned 39!

Mary celebrating her “39th” birthday
The “Arkansas” group

And, we attended a show in the evening, “Coast to Coast” by the vocal quartet, the 4 Gents. My oh my, but they were awesome; possibly the best show we’ve seen in our almost 15 years of wintering in Texas and Arizona. They specialize in doo-wop and popular music from the 50s and 60s, sticking to the original artists’ harmonies and choreography. All four singers are classically trained, and have experience singing opera. Again, they were awesome.

Tuesday was a return to “normal,” whatever that is. Kay played pickleball and I wandered around aimlessly, waiting for the shoulder to heal—arghh!

After attempting to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist in the greater Phoenix and Casa Grande areas, and attempting to schedule an appointment with a family medicine doctor in the Casa Grande areas—April was first opening for either—I relented and scheduled an appointment with a nearby Urgent Care for Wednesday, knowing that I would see a Nurse Practitioner. With a 12 noon appointment, paperwork was updated and the nurse practitioner came in, we talked, and he gave me the option of getting general steroid injection in the hip; I declined. He then gave me the option of getting an anti-inflammatory injection in the hip, a bit stronger than an Alleve, etc. I reluctantly agreed. He said that there it was likely a strain or small tear, and rest was the best solution. And, that was that; no further comments about the state of medical care in the US.

The anti-inflammatory injection helped a lot, and much of the bad pain went away. Thus, I was hoping to play pickleball Thursday, but Kay laid down the law and said to wait until Friday, and then play left-handed. While she played pickleball, I watched some matches of the highest level players, trying to pick up some advice here and there, and perhaps some strategy lessons. It was enjoyable, particularly because I could listen to an audio book while watching play (thank goodness for bluetooth hearing aids.)

Thursday through Thursday, January 5-12, 2023—A Test/Assessment and Healing

Kay continues to play pickleball several times a week and is steadily improving. In addition, she plays golf weekly, and is hitting the ball well. She worked the check-in desk for pickleball Thursday morning, and played with her round robin group in the afternoon, and won several matches. 

On Friday morning, I was assessed for promotion to the next higher level of pickleball. The following will be of interest only to people who follow pickleball.

The assessment process included both Skills Testing and Play Observation. Ratings are recognized by USAPA, IPTPA, PC Canada or DUPR. I was being assessed to move from the 3.30 to 3.49 group to the 3.50-3.89 group. The assessment was comprised of two components: a Skills Based Component and a Game Play Component.

Skills Component consisted of dinks, drop shots, serves, and return of serves as follows:

DINKS (Ball must land in the Kitchen)

Forehand/Backhand 14 out of 20 Windshield wiper Dinks

DROP SHOTS (Ball must land in the Kitchen)

Transition-forehand 8 out of 10

Transition-backhand 8 out of 10

Baseline-forehand 6 out of 10

Baseline-backhand 6 out of 10

SERVES (Ball must land in back 1/2 of court, excluding the kitchen)

Right court, 4 out of 5

Left court, 4 out of 5

RETURN OF SERVES (Ball must land in back 1/2 of court, excluding the kitchen)

Right court-forehand, 4 out of 5

Left court-backhand, 4 out of 5

Minimum to pass is 58 out of 80.

At the conclusion of the Skills Component, assessment participants played three games with other players. Scores were recorded and evaluators observed overall play. Assessment was objective, based on Skill scores, Game scores and evaluator feedback on overall game play.

It was a very difficult test, particularly transition-BACKHAND and baseline-BACKHAND drop shots. I did PASS, and was promoted to the 3.50-3.89 group; I was the only age 70+ player in the group.

Kay and I both played social pickleball with the Arkansas group Friday afternoon, and we all had pizza afterward.

Saturday was a rest day for us, but Sunday was a full day with golf in the afternoon, and a Neal Diamond tribute show in the evening.

Kay continued playing pickleball Monday, but I was in a bit of pain from the “bad” shoulder and did not participate in any physical activities. In fact the pain was such that I did not participate in the Arkansas happy hour in the late afternoon.

I played golf with the Arkansas group on Tuesday, and it did not end well. I shot a decent game, but reinsured the right shoulder joint, and was in substantial pain. On Wednesday and Thursday, Kay continued playing pickleball and working the pickleball desk. I attempted to get an appointment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for the injured shoulder, but there were no appointments available through April. Otherwise, I watched several pickleball games and lawn bowling, soaked in the hot tub, watched social water volleyball, and listened to several audio books.

Friday was pickleball day for the Arkansas group. I opted to play left-handed; pity my partners. Kay played really well. Afterwards, we all enjoyed sandwiches and beer at a local sports bar.

Sunday through Wednesday, January 1-4, 2023—Rain, Pickleball, and Injuries

It does rain in Arizona, and the area really needs moisture to reverse drought conditions. But, that is not why we came here for the winter! It has hampered playing pickleball and golf. Sunday, New Year’s Day, saw rain most of the day, but skies began clearing about noon on Monday

With rain mostly out of the forecast, the pickleball courts were squeegeed, then drug with large remnants of carpet, face down, until basically dry. And the players came; the courts were filled from about 8 AM until 8 PM. The pickleball club here at Palm Creek has over 1400 members, varying in skill level from beginner to 5.0 (expert). Every one of the 32 courts were busy. I played on the “challenge” courts Tuesday morning, and then in the skill level 3.5 Creek (3.5 social) round robin late in the afternoon. Regrettably, I went up for a high shot, right arm and paddle extended, and hyperextended (I think) my right shoulder. Oh, did it hurt. Ice and Tylenol did little to take the edge off. Nor did sleep did not come fitfully. And poor Kay’s shoes did not provide proper support, and she came home from pickleball with a sore ankle. Getting old is not for sissies.

It seems like we’re both going to have to rest; I am being assessed Friday for movement up a level to 3.5 Palm (3.5 competitive) if my body allows it, AND IF I’M GOOD ENOUGH.

Sore joints meant no pickleball nor golf; Wednesday was a rather quiet day. We took advantage of the hot tub and swimming pool, enjoying southern Arizona sun.

2023—What Uncertainty Awaits Us

The last three years (2020, 2021, and 2022) have left us a bit shaken about what to expect. Plans are only that, and flexibility is ever more important. And, at our age, we feel an urgency to see and do as much as health, time, and money allow. On top of that, the young grandkids are growing up, and we wonder when we will not be their preferred company. A couple have already outgrown us, and another two are quickly approaching teenage years. Our health has held up pretty well, but aches and pains seem to be more numerous and debilitating, and proneness to injury limits our physical activities—the mind wants to do it, but the body doesn’t respond accordingly. 

For us, we have serious concerns about our country and about our church. I abhor divisiveness and that seems to be the preferred answer to most regional, national, and international differences. But there’s always pickleball and golf.

Thursday through Saturday, December 29-31, 2022—Ending An Unusual Year, 2022

Pickleball was on the agenda for Thursday morning, and it sure felt good to be back on the courts as I played a round robin with other 3.5s.

Unpacking was completed, golf clubs and carts readied for play, and ancillary traveling items (e.g. auxiliary brake) stowed for the winter. Partly sunny skies and moderate temperatures provided a reminder of why we spend winters here in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Regretfully, however, rain was in the forecast, and that meant covering golf clubs, carts, and bicycles. Another wonderful soak in the hot tub preceded our night’s sleep.

As was forecasted, it did rain early Friday morning, with more expected during the day. All scheduled pickleball was cancelled, and the golf course was wet. With weather conditions such as they were, we opted to go to Chandler and Gilbert, Phoenix suburbs, for lunch and shopping. The PGA Superstore and Costco welcomed us with open arms. And, we found time to travel to the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert for last of the year photographs. A late lunch at a great Thai restaurant wrapped up a good day away from the resort.

Saturday was pretty quiet for us. We did join other Hot Springs Village folks wintering here for a New Year’s Eve potluck at the Starrs. TheGeorgia/Ohio State football game kept us on pins and needles most of the evening. And needless to say, the food was delicious, and the ham and rolls provided by the Starrs were the centerpiece of our “last” meal of the year. A champagne toast at 10 PM (it’s 2023 somewhere) ended our evening and 2022.

Monday through Wednesday, December 26-28, 2022—Westward Ho

We were up really early Monday morning, ready to drive west for warmer temperatures. After leaving the storage bay, the old Honda CR V was hooked up to the motorhome, and we were driving southwest by 6:30 AM.  With Kay and I taking turns driving and the lack of heavy traffic, particularly semis, the day’s milage added up quickly; even the drive through Dallas and Fort Worth was relative easy.

Our first overnight was at Coffee Creek RV Resort and Cabins in Santo, Texas, near Weatherford. Though the weather was a bit warmer, the nighttime temperature dipped to 22•.

For some reason, the “house” batteries crashed about 2 AM early Tuesday, and the beeping refrigerator woke Kay up. The only way I could get things working was to start and run the motorhome engine. After an hour and a half, the batteries were charged enough to work until we departed at about 6:30 AM. The day’s drive took us through the Permian Basin, with its landscape of oil and gas wells. Poor Kay fought the wind during her driving time Tuesday. We opted to overnight at Van Horn, going to bed just after 7 PM.

Early Wednesday morning was near an identical repeat of Tuesday morning, including the loss of battery power early in the morning. Again, running the motorhome engine temporarily solved the problem. Since we were already awake, we opted to leave really early, departing about 4:30 AM. Lack of traffic and wind made the early morning departure well worth it. With the early start and a change in time zones, we were able to drive through El Paso without heavy traffic or any issues. Rain and heavy wind accompanied us from El Paso, through the bottom corner of New Mexico, and into Arizona. We stopped for an early lunch at a rest area near Wilcox, and fought wind for only a few more miles. After driving through Tucson, another hour’s drive brought us to Palm Creek RV and Golf Resort in Casa Grande.

Check-in was smooth, and set-up was without any major problems. After unpacking most of our “stuff” it was off to the car wash to remove the dirt and grime accumulated on the tow out here. The car wash did a poor job, but we’ll get another tomorrow. And, hopefully, their vacuums will be working as well. Our late afternoon was quiet, and we enjoyed a long soak in the hot tub before bedtime.

Sunday, December 25, 2022—Merry Christmas

Seasons greetings family and dear friends. Today, Kay and I celebrate our 24th Christmas together, and have experienced another blessed year. 

New Year’s Day 2022 found us at Palm Creek RV and Golf Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona, to begin our third winter there. Many games of pickleball, golf, bird photography, hot tubbing, and get togethers with other Hot Springs Village folks ensued. We returned home in mid-March to a wet and soggy Hot Springs Village where we resumed golf and pickleball. In late April, we traveled to England, Scotland, and Wales, touring by bus the lands of our ancestors. June was for grandkids as we had visits from all of the young ones. It was a first time visit for Linc and Sutton, our two youngest. July was hot and muggy, a perfect month for golf, pickleball, and time at the pool. 

Spring was short lived, as the wet winter seemingly transitioned to summer overnight, absent the weeks’ long beautiful spring weather usually enjoyed. We opted to escape the hot weather and did a car trip to Utah and Colorado, revisiting national parks and seeing several state parks for the first time. And then the hot, humid days of summer transitioned into one of the “best” autumns we’ve experienced. The beautiful weather came to an end as fall leapt immediately into winter as sub-freezing, near single digit temperatures greeted us in early November.

I did a photography trip to Costa Rica in early December, and shot thousands of photographs of beautiful birds and mammals. Returning home, we experienced a wonderful Christmas season with family and friends.

Our kids are doing well, and we now are the proud grandparents of 7, comprising an age span from 27 years to 2 years. They are way too busy, as are their parents!  

Everyday aches and pains not withstanding, we have enjoyed good health with no major illnesses or surgeries. Life in Hot Springs Village remains great; golf courses and lakes abound, and grandkids are close enough to be accessible. We both keep busy with golf and pickleball.

So what’s in store for 2023? Again, we are scheduled to spend winter at Palm Creek RV and Golf Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona. In early May, we will travel to Rome, joining a “Journeys of Paul Cruise” with 10 nights aboard Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas. This journey will take us to Rome, Santorini, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and Crete! After that, there are no plans; we would like to visit New Zealand and Africa before health and/or age takes its toll. It’s all a question of money and time.

In ending, Kay and I wish you peace on earth and goodwill to all. Again, our blessings overflow.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thursday through Saturday, December 15-24, 2022—All About Christmas

Having had a great 8 days photographing in Costa Rica and almost fully recovered from international travel, it was now time to settle down and focus on the Christmas holidays. This meant family, friends, church, opening gifts, food, and an assortment of other odds and ends.

Our first celebration was Saturday, December 17, as we traveled to Memphis to observe gift-giving with Jenny and her kids. It was so much fun to see the excitement they demonstrated as each gift was opened. We had a great visit despite Jenny recovering from a bad cold.

We returned home late afternoon to avoid driving in the dark. Even with all the activities, Kay and I both squeezed in time for packing for our winter in Arizona. Kay continued her social activities (the social butterfly of the family) while I finished medical appointments and church business meetings for the year. An historic arctic front hit Arkansas on Thursday, December 22, as the temperature dropped into the single digits. We had not winterized the motorhome, requiring supplemental heat to keep pipes, pump, and tanks from freezing; our efforts were successful.

Kay and I hosted our second Christmas celebration on Friday, December 23. Our Maumelle and Bauxite kids and grandkids joined us for brunch, followed by gift giving and opening. It was a real joy watching the grands opening their presents; even the adults enjoyed opening theirs! We missed grandkids Kaden, Jordan, and Diana. 

Saturday, December 24, is always the “biggest” day of celebration for us. It began with coffee, and gift exchange between Kay and me. I’m still like a kid as opening presents is always a thrill. Kay was a bit short-changed this year.  And then, the Christmas decorations began coming down—faster than going up. Kay does such an amazing job of decorating the house each Christmas season and takes time to assure that every decoration is in its right place. The decorations were stored and the house reorganized. As is our custom, we attended the candlelight and communion service at church, followed by a great Christmas Eve spaghetti dinner at Jim and Jackie’s. As Christmas even came to an end, we officially declared Christmas to be officially over at the Dunn’s. 

Tuesday and Wednesday, December 13-14, 2022—Traveling Home

After a long, leisurely breakfast, we returned to the room to pack for flying home. Our shuttle driver picked us up slightly before 11 AM, and we arrived at the airport in plenty of time to go through security and find our gate. The plane departed on time, at full capacity. I shared a row of three seats with two other big ol’ boys, and we were shoulder to shoulder the 4+ hours from San Jose to Atlanta. It was such a relief to be on the ground and have some space! After going through customs, and then US security, we caught a transporter to the correct concourse, and walked to the gate where we waited for several hours to catch a midnight plane to Little Rock. After arriving in Little Rock, the car was retrieved from long-term parking, and the hour long drive to Hot Springs Village followed. Needless to say, Wednesday was a bit of a down day, though clothes were washed, and photo equipment unloaded.

Sunday, December 11, 2022—Has the Fat Lady Sung?

After the amazing day yesterday photographing the Resplendent Quetzal and various hummingbirds, is it all over? After all, has the best has already occurred? At least we thought…

Today, the early morning, after breakfast, was spent touring the gardens and greenhouses of Savegre Lodge in San Gerardo de Dota for the purpose of practicing macro photography. This lodge is hosting our group for three nights and days during the tour. 

Members of our group practicing macrophotography
One of the many unusual flowers in the greenhouse
Couldn’t pass up a shot of these limes

Of course, Dan and I were drawn to the hummingbirds.

Lesser Violetear Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

And then we were off to Los Quetzales National Park and Cerro de la Muerte. Los Quetzales, one of Costa Rica’s newest national parks, covers 12,355 acres encompassing three types of highland tropical forest and 14 different ecosystems. More than 116 species of mammals can be found here of which two dozen live only in this secluded area (endemic). The terrain ranges from mountains to lakes of glacial origin. Cerro de la Muerte is the third highest peak in Costa Rica, standing over 11,000 feet, and crowning the continental divide along the Talamanac Mountain Range. The area exhibits the typical vegetation of tropical regions above treelined, mainly formed by shrubs and short plants, all adapted to cold temperatures and high levels of UV rays, and known as Sub Alpine Paramo.

Carlos, the program manager, atop Cerro de la Muerto
Atop Cerro de la Muerto
Atop Cerro de la Muerto
Atop Cerro de la Muerto

On the return to the lodge for lunch, our program manager spotted a Resplendent Quetzal sitting on a tree limb adjacent to the mountain road. Everyone got to observe the bird and make photographs.

Resplendent Quetzal

Further down the mountain road, these idyllic scenes illustrated the pure beauty of the area—a great way to end the day.

Savegre River
Along the Savegre River