Dan and Hannah Wonder About Tournament Pickleball Part 1 of 3

Having recently returned from California where outdoor pickleball reigns, now as our snows melt, Hannah and I play regularly at the indoor XL Sports World in Saco, Maine.  A few days ago, our friend Janet asks if we would like to play in a social mixed doubles pickleball tournament.   The word social intrigues me.  That it’s round robin means lots of play.  It’s the tournament part that is the sticking point.

PBT Janet and Hannah

Hannah and Janet

We exchange phone numbers, but I’m still not sure.  Usually, my go-to response is, Tournaments are not my thing.  That often is enough to end the conversation.  But this time I hesitate rather than flat out decline.

My reasons not to play tournaments are six.

Numero uno!  Players sandbag (i.e. players who are rated higher play at a lower level).  For example, a 4.0 rated team plays at 3.5 level and crushes everyone.  Since this is a social tournament so that is not an issue as this will be an informal gathering of friends.  That’s one vote for playing.

Numero dos!  My goodness, there is so much down time between matches at a weekend tournament.  Who wants to blow a whole Saturday sitting around?   Since this Friday night will be round robin of nearly constant play, downtime will not be of concern.  That’s two votes for giving it a shot.

Tres!  It’s a tournament.  The point is to win.  I get that.  What I don’t like is the usual strategy in tournaments, which is to direct all the shots at the weaker player.  Many is the time when Hannah and I play together in recreation games, 80-90% of the shots are aimed at her; again and again, she is their punching bag.  It puts a ton of pressure on her and I play the role of the potted plant.

PBT pb logo

Quatro!  The reverse is true.  I hate, in an effort to win, playing entirely at the weaker player.  I like rec play when I can hit most of my shots at the better player to work on my game and be challenged by their superior play to mine.  My partner and I probably lose more than we should, but how else am I going to get better?  And what fun is it picking on the weaker player?  It’s not exactly a tactic to build community.

Cinco de Mayo!  Then there are the bangers.  Unable or unwilling to play the soft game of drop shots and dinking that top players use all the time, bangers smash the pickleball time and time again from the baseline.  It’s boring.  Boom, bam, thank you ma’am; the point is over in a flash.  I get that banging can be a successful strategy; for me, it lacks the nuances of the soft game which is why I love to play pickleball.

Seis!  Players become too serious.  Every point matters.  Winning uber alles.  The fun and comradery vibe of pickleball is lost.

PBT court with players

Two of the four courts at the Jordan Small Middle School in Raymond, Maine

But this tournament seems different.  It’s billed as social; there’s lots of play (round robin means we’ll be playing eight games).  We are to bring hors d-oeuvres to share.  Janet’s cool, and Hannah and I are sufficiently intrigued to see how we like a mixed pickleball tournament.

Part II describes how we deal with tournament play, which will be posted on Wednesday.

Dan and Hannah Want to Introduce You to 4Ocean

4Ocean image

Hannah and I were blown away by this less than three minute video about the amazing amount of plastics in the ocean and what can be done about it.  Our daughter-in-law Laurel was moved to action to buy the bracelets when she saw the video as did my Arizona State college roommate Rich and his wife Mary.

Click on this link


Thank you, Mary.

4Ocean image

PS  From Time Magazine (April 1, 2019) – 88 pounds of plastic found in the belly of a dead whale that washed up in the Philippines on March 16!


Dan Meets Up with an Old High School Buddy in California

Sh flhs cutters

As a 1966 graduate of Fair Lawn High School (New Jersey), I appreciate that my classmate Roz makes things happen; last year it was a California mini-reunion for five of us grads.  She lives in T.O. (i.e. Thousand Oaks), an hour down the road from our rented house in Carpinteria.  This year she has the idea that she and our fellow classmate Dave from San Diego will get together with me.  They’ll ride the Amtrak Surfliner to Santa Barbara for lunch, then we’ll all walkabout town.  Great plan, but…

Roz comes down with a nasty flu and can’t make it on this mid-February Wednesday.


Giving Dave the chance to reschedule (he does have a five hour train ride to Santa Barbara each way), I am pumped when he says, I’m comin’!   I smile it has commitment and am riding high for a day with my Cutter bro 3000 miles from our Garden State high school!

In high school, Dave and I had our Venn diagram overlap on a regular basis as we ran with many of the same friends.  Of late, we text, especially of our mutual love of all things Roger Federer and your Super Bowl Champs New England Patriots.  When we last met at our 45th high school reunion, he was the one who found a place for me at his reunion table when I really had no place to go.

SH 1 surfliner

Amtrak arriving in Carpinteria

So, what does one do on a rainy/showery day in the Santa Barbara area when pickleball and hiking are not an option?  Let me show you in pictures.

Shiffy (as he was none at FLHS) arrives at noon on the Amtrak Surfliner as the morning showers pause.  From the train station to the Carpinteria State Park, we walk with umbrellas in hand a mere 200 yards to the beach.

Sh 1A D and D at beach

Wanting to chill over lunch, we get Italian take-out at Guicho’s on Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria.  Over meatball subs and grilled chicken salads back at the house that Hannah and I are renting, we talk of our high school lives; I do wish he had played on the high school tennis team with me, as he is a left-handed serving machine.

Sh 1B Dave outside of Guicho's

SH 1C Dave at Calle Ocho with subs and salad

With showers here and there, I drive Dave to the trailhead of Romero Canyon to show him what debris flows from the past year look like up close and personal.  Stunned myself to see that the road which was impassable on January 21, repaired by January 28, was again closed this February 13 afternoon due to last weekend’s Montecito canyon debris flow.

R2 truck in boulders

January 21, 2019

R2 creek crossing 2

January 28, 2019

Sh 2 DS at washout

February 13, 2019

Backtracking down the mountain, I weave around the fallen rocks in the road from the unstable cliff sides.

Sh 2C fallen rocks at Romero

To conclude his four hour, stay in the Mediterranean of the Pacific, we catch another break in the showers to walk the bluff at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Sh 4 D and D at UCSB

Bluff trail at University of California, Santa Barbara


Sh 4B Dave at bluff


Sh 4C Dan at bluffs

Recently retired, Dave’s low maintenance, up for anything, laughs easily, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  We end with bro hugs, appreciative of our rainy day on the Pacific coast.  Already we have plans to meet up with Roz next year when Hannah and I return to Carpinteria, our home away from home.

Dan and Hannah Offer You Mindfulness 101

Mind U of SB

Hannah and I have been Unity folks for a good while.  Though we have no Unity community here in New England, we do regularly attend the Unity of Santa Barbara when we are in California.  As such, we meditate and give mindfulness our best shot.

If you ever wondered why isn’t there a humorous, brief (less than three minutes) animation that explains mindfulness, wonder no more.   (It’s a hoot even if you are not into mindfulness.)


Thank you, Larry.

Dan and Hannah One Morning on the Rain Slick 101 in Los Angeles

In the blink of an eye, I thought, that car is going to hit us.  We were each going 60 miles an hour in the pre-dawn very dark on a rain-swept eight lane highway north of Los Angeles.  Let me back up.

LAX hannah squeegeeing

Hannah wrapping up our squeegeeing one rainy morning to get us ready for some good play with Sal and Andres at the Santa Barbara courts

Though we hiked, beach-walked, or pickleballed without fail each day of our two months in Carpinteria, it’s been a rainy winter after years of drought in the Santa Barbara area.  The night before we are to leave for home in Maine, Hannah and I finish packing and slide into bed with an outdoor symphony of heavy rain, thunder, and lightning.  Earlier that night, my high school friend Roz sent me this picture.

LAX lightning over SB

Looking at Santa Barbara from the harbor

Lightning strikes briefly knock out power at LAX (the Los Angeles airport).  Other strikes spark small fires and set palm trees ablaze across the region.

Sleeping inconsistently, I wake time and again to the staccato of rain against the bedroom windows.  Knowing the rain will be our travel companion for the 80 mile pre-dawn drive to LAX, we catch a break as it rains only lightly as we load up our rented Toyota Corolla for the airport at 4A.

LAX map carp to lax

Once on The 101 approaching Ventura, the dark hides the Pacific Ocean to our right and the steep coastal mountains to our left.  Raining cats and dogs, mice and chickens, the few drivers that are with us slow down to adjust to the slick road.  Soon more commuters join us as we pass through Oxnard, Camarillo, up the Conejo Grade into Thousand Oaks.

For thirty minutes, the wipers whip the rain away; later I ask Hannah to turn on the defroster to defog the windshield on the now eight lane 101.

In the distance, I see brake lights go on, then off.  Instinctively, I take my foot off the gas.  In the second of four lanes, I then touch the brake lightly as up to my left, I see the flashing blue emergency lights of a California Highway Patrol car.  Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, we are right on top of the accident, two lanes to my left.

And then, out of nowhere, a car at 60 mph veers at me to avoid the trooper and the disabled car.  I have no time to think.  I just see the flash of white to my left, steer right, having enough time to think, he’s going to hit us.  He’s going to hit us.

And then he doesn’t.  As I swerve out of his way, fortunately there is no car to my right.  We dodge being a 15-second highlight on the morning news on KCAL-TV.

With adrenalin coursing through me from head to toe, I resist going down the rabbit hole of what might have happened.  It’s past.  I have the rain slick 101 still to deal with and an 8A flight from Los Angeles to Boston.LAX lax image

Settling down, within thirty minutes, we drop off our Corolla at Enterprise and take the shuttle to LAX itself.

I do know we dodged a bullet, and I’m so damn grateful.

Dan with Hannah Tour Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

RR map

Carpinteria is 20 miles north of Ventura

It feels a little odd for two Obama Democrats to go into the belly of the beast (Reagan Presidential Library), but it’s the first of four days of predicted rain in southern California.  And, let’s be honest, we’ve nothing better to do.

RR 1 H at entrance

Driving south from Carpinteria on the California coast, we take The 101, then route 23 through Thousand Oaks to the hilltop museum honoring our 40th president.  The winding road to the museum and Air Force One is lined with celebratory presidential banners beginning with George Washington and on through Lincoln and Obama, and concluding with the current president.

RR 1A RR statue

With admission $26 for seniors, the Reagan Presidential Library buzzes with we spry elderly and school kids.  Meandering through the exhibits, we travel through time to Reagan’s childhood, his movie career, his entry into politics, and his presidential years (1981-1989).  The tour begins with a four-minute film on Reagan’s upbringing and then an ingenious hologram of him giving a speech revealing his humble, humorous nature.  

RR 3 D at podium

Jimmy Carter was just so happy for me that day in 1981

Throughout the tour, there are docents aplenty to answer our questions and provide additional information.  His second wife Nancy is prominently displayed throughout as it truly seems that she and her guy were quite a team.

Hannah asks about his first wife, Jane Wyman.  One of the volunteer docents (350 in all, working four hour shifts) tells us there is only one picture of her since she divorced him.  We were told that Jane Wyman was not happy with his stardom eclipsing hers or his move into politics.  Really?  What would Jane say?  Who knows?

RR 2C electoral map v carter 1980

This is what a landslide looks like

That said, the self-guided museum tour is a nostalgic journey from the late 1950s through Reagan’s tenure as president in the 1980s.  It is certainly spun with a flattering Republican weave of the times.  If you were white, upper middle class, and rich, these were pretty good times.

A film clip of his speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987 where he said, Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall is stirring and heartfelt.  I leave with the impression that he was one helluva nice guy whose calling card was the personal touch.  The museum curators succeeded.

RR 4 Air Force One

Once through the museum (there might have been a presidential library, but I never saw it), we walk down a corridor to a football field size, three story floor-to-ceiling windowed area to the actual Air Force One that was actually used by seven presidents.

Hannah says, I wouldn’t have missed this experience.  Spending a fascinating three hours in the company of a legendary figure, I recommend this hilltop testament to Ronald Reagan.


Additional images from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

RR 3E RR with Tip O'Neil

Republican President Ronald Reagan with Tip O’Neil, the Democrat House Majority Leader,  to his right, contrasts with today’s polarizing partisanship.



RR 2 Jack Reagan

No sugar coating about his dad


RR 3B generosity to carter

A magnanimous gesture from one president to his predecessor


RR 3C share birthday with H

Who knew he shared a birthday with Hannah!  Well, she did.


RR 4A H at Air Force One

Entering Air Force One


RR 4C inside AFO

Within the presidential plane


RR 6 Berlin Wall

Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Dan and Hannah Return to San Ysidro Canyon after a Weekend of Debris Flows

SY2 map of carp

In winter, California is not Florida with its 70s and 80s.  Our days in the Golden State are often sunny, with low humidity, and 60s, which, it turns out, is ideal for pickleballing and hiking.  Since winter is the rainy season here on the Central Coast, there is, of late, the ever-present danger of life-threatening debris flows when rain falls.

SY2 map 2

Ever since the Thomas Fire of December 2017 denuded the local mountainsides, mandatory evacuations occur when the forecast is for rains of at least an inch an hour.  Why, one morning at 430A, our iPhones blasted us awake with warnings of the possibility of dangerous debris flows due to heavy rain.  Where we are in Carpinteria, three hundred yards from the Pacific, there is no danger;  even so, everyone is on high alert after the January 2018 deaths of twenty-three from mud and debris flows in nearby Montecito.

SY mudslide dump into Carp ocean

After heavy rains and mud flows, Santa Barbara County dumps the mud and stones from the inland catch basins at the beach in Carpinteria.  This mud, over time, replenishes the beaches.

On the first Saturday of February, The 101, the major coast highway from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and north, was closed in Montecito for most of the day due to mudflows across the highway.


Dan, Hannah, Nancy Rose, Duncan, Patty, and Kent at the Summerland Beach Cafe

With our Arizona State Sun Devil friends and fellow hikers, Patty and Kent, in town from Oregon, we decide to hike Montecito’s San Ysidro Canyon to see what the heavy rains did to the trail since Hannah and I hiked it four weeks ago.  Click here for that blog.

SY2 1AAA reconstituted creek

The scoured San Ysidro Creek that was V-shaped and tree-lined before the January 2018 mudslides

First, to celebrate Hannah’s mid-week b-day, we breakfast at the Summerland Beach Café.  (You get a free breakfast at the SBC if it is your birthday!  Hannah loves when free and breakfast are in the same sentence!)

SY2 debris flow with H, P, and K

On the trail with Patty and Kent with the stony and cobbly evidence of the force of last weekend’s rain

Driving just minutes away in Montecito, we have  two miles of trail to stunning waterfalls.  Very soon, we see evidence of mountainside cobbles spread across the trail from this past weekend’s rain.

After a mile of fire road hiking, we veer off along the one-person-at-a-time creek trail.  With Hannah and Patty in the lead, Kent and I watch these two buds loving life and regaling in their forty-year friendship.

SY2 1C P and H at pink ribbon

Hannah and Patty at the pink caution tape

Stepping carefully by where Hannah fell two years ago, we come to a pink police caution tape across the trail.  Wondering why, for the trail that is still quite passable, we soon arrive at a roaring side creek within 200 yards of the falls; the speed and volume of the side creek flow make it clear that we are not fording this torrent today.

Looking beyond, we finally put two and two together about the pink caution tape – the trail ahead has fallen away.  There is, in fact, no safe passage to the falls.  In the distance, we do make out the pounding waterfalls through the trees.  But it will be another year before we can return to the base of the falls for picture taking to satisfy the yearning, nay the demand of my 82 Instagram followers.

SY2 2 at side creek

The white water side creek in our way to the falls


SY2 2A trail out with creek in front

The damaged trail beyond the side creek


SY2 2C falls zoom

Zooming in on the distant San Ysidro Falls