Dan and Hannah Play Pickleball with their North Georgia Kin

When we travel, the trails matter, the weather matters, but it’s the people we meet that add quality and connection to our adventures.  Let me explain our connection to the American South, Yankees that we are.

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Cleveland is the county seat of White County

In our quest to hike in all 14 Appalachian Trail states, we had only Georgia to hike to complete our set in the fall of 2015.  In October of that year, after flying to Atlanta, we drove the back-country roads to hike at Springer Mountain, the start of the AT itself.  Later, we threw in a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were hooked on hiking south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  And then it got even better.

LL H and L at her place

Laurie and Hannah

Returning the following October 2016, we again hiked the Great Smoky Mountains as well as the waterfall trails of northern Georgia.  But the added bonus was finding our own version of pickleball heaven at Yonah Mountain, near Cleveland in northern Georgia.   Yonah Mountain pickleball ambassador Laurie Lee welcomed us with open arms and the Yonah Mountain club players greeted us as family.

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Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Then, when Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion III (four grads of the College of Wooster in 1970) was scheduled for late April 2017 in Richmond, Virginia, we saw it as a golden opportunity to avoid driving 600+ miles to Richmond and rather, fly to Atlanta first.  We’d hike in Alabama and then spend three days with amigas and amigos in Georgia hiking and pickleballing before flying to Virginia’s capital city.

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Hannah with Laurie at the White County Parks and Rec pickleball courts

One small monkey wrench.  Not with our hosts or with the hiking, but with the tendinitis in my right elbow this Monday in late April as we arrive in north Georgia.  Hannah and I love us some pickleball as we play three times per week.  But for me…pickleball, my love, had got to the point where it just wasn’t any fun because of the pain in my elbow.  Finally realizing I just needed to rest, which is hell on athletes of all ages, I took nearly 14 full days off knowing that doing that would give me the best chance to play in Georgia.  Still I was grumpy for a fortnight.

LL D and H and Billy and Marcia

Han and Dan with Billy and Marica

Knowing we were coming to Yonah Mountain to play pickleball, I pumped the ibuprofen, iced my right elbow, and, yes, rested; turns out, that’s just what I needed.  Arriving on Tuesday morning at the indoor pickleball courts, we were greeted by Billy and Marcia at the White County Parks and Rec Center.  Whacking the wiffle ball, dinking (hitting short shots just over the net itself), and just enjoying their friendship, I feel like I am back to my old pickleball self (Hallelujah, brother!).

LL new paddles

Looking to upgrade our paddles, Hannah and I borrow ones from Laurie and later Pat to see how they feel.  Trying out Laurie’s Onix and later Pat’s Triton, I find my shots solid and deep with no vibrating to aggravate my elbow.   Of course, when I want a new paddle, I can rationalize “the need” for one with the best of them.  I order a sweet Onix paddle while Hannah goes with the Groove, engineered for women.

LL Treehouse pickleball players with Pat

Pickleballers on the deck at Linda’s Tree House (She is in yellow.)

That Tuesday evening, our friends Laurie and Linda throw us a party of pickleballers to further make us feel a part of the community.  It works.  We are among kindred spirits; feeling special.

LL D and H at Immokaulee Falls

Dan and Han at Immokalee Falls

Each bringing a dish to share, the guests make the evening a community celebration, similar to what Hannah and I try to do when we have potlucks back home in Maine.  To kick off the party, 14 of us hike a half mile down to Linda’s tree house cabin, just below the Immokalee Falls.

LL Superior Health care

The next morning (Wednesday) before afternoon pickleball, Laurie arranges for Hannah to have a consult with a local doctor on her voice condition, spasmodic dysphonia.  Having tried 100 ways to improve her voice over the last 15 years, Hannah (and I) drive with Linda to Canton, GA to have Hannah checked out.  Their experimental voice rehabilitation program has potential; we will explore this option further in the months ahead.

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Yonah Mountain

After the Wednesday morning consult, we return in time for two hours of afternoon pickleball.  My right elbow holds up for the second day as the rest, daily icing, and ibuprofen have made a difference.

With time for drills, Pat gives me some dinking pointers.  Basically, I am reminded of the value of the undercut cross court slice backhand that keeps the ball low and close to the net when dinking.  I feel like I have a new toy and can’t wait to practice.   As a recreational pickleball player, I just love the opportunities to improve my game.

On our third night (Wednesday), we dine with fellow pickleballers the aforementioned Pat and his wife Clarissa at their place in Cleveland.  With salmon on the grill, we have conversation like old friends.

Come Thursday morning, rain wipes out our planned hike up Yonah Mountain with Clarissa and Pat, but… the silver lining is that we are back on the indoor pickleball court by 730A to play for the third day in a row.   Playing mostly with the guys while Hannah crushes it with the women, I get quite the competitive workout.

LL Pat and Clarissa with Han

Hannah with Pat and Clarissa

After our pickleball, but before we head to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta for Richmond, we feast with Pat and Clarissa on the breakfast of champions – oatmeal with all the fixings – nuts, seeds, and fruit.  Though the oatmeal is fantastico, the best part of morning is sitting over coffee, hanging out with new friends.

Thanks to seeking out the AT in Georgia, we have our Georgia family in the sunny South.

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Dan and Hannah Pickle, then Hike to Black Hill at Morro Bay State Park

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Not every day do we hit a home run in California.  Today we doubled off the wall.  Though yesterday, we did hit a three-run homer on Santa Cruz in the Channel Islands off Ventura.  Click here for that blog.  Saturday past, we hit a grand slam at our first of two hikes to the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito.  Click here for that blog.

But back to the baseball analogy, we all know that a double is good hit.  We’re not complaining, but we have been getting used to four baggers here in California.  Let me explain.

Pickling

With the forecast for sun on this mid-February Wednesday, we drive one hundred miles north from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo.  We have a 9A date with pickleballers from the central coast of California.

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Pickleball courts at Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo

Arriving at Meadow Park, we are immediately included in a game of doubles.  Here, guests don’t pay (we pay $4 each time we play at our home courts in Saco, Maine).  We notice that we are among family (i.e. seniors), which gives us a break from the high powered juices of the thirty-somethings we play with in Santa Barbara.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

When in Maine, we play indoors; today in the great outdoors, we have sunshine to deal with when hitting overhead shots.  With only ten players by 910A for the three courts, it looks like we’ll have lots of playing time.

Mor SLO D on court

Not so fast, my friend.  Alas, twenty more soon show up, so we wait and wait some more for our next game.  This is not an uncommon problem with the growth of pickleball over the past few years.

You may not know that most pickleball sites have ambassadors.  These angels have a challenging job as they try to balance the competing interests of the different levels of players.  Understandably and most appropriately, ambassadors want to grow the sport and are excellent in embracing newcomers.  Fact is, most pickleball players welcome new players.   That said, beginners thrive in a setting where they learn with other newbies and are supported by the advanced players.

Mor SLO H on court

Advanced players were once beginners and feel a kinship with those just learning the game.  But advanced players also like the competition of other advanced players.  It’s an extraordinary balancing act for the selfless people who choose to be pickleball ambassadors.

One of our Maine ambassadors has the wisdom of Solomon.  Check his email out.

Recently an advanced player wrote me to ask what my thoughts were regarding “picking on” the weaker player on the court.  The following was my reply to him:

“Identifying and attacking the weaker player is a strategy very often used and should only be used in competitive tournament play.  To apply that same strategy in recreational play is just not the right thing to do. It is demeaning and embarrassing for the weaker player.  Many players feel that winning is everything!  It serves no purpose to “smash” a weaker player.  It makes more sense to try to improve your game by feeding the stronger player and attempting to return his/her shot….in other words, challenge yourself!

A little common sense goes a long way….an attempt should be made to balance returns between both players.  All of us, including myself, at one time or another are probably guilty of consistently taking advantage of the weaker player on the court. Let’s try to remember that Pickleball is about having fun….and that includes all players.

Roger Huppe, USAPA District Ambassador, New England

Today we model Roger’s suggestions with the beginners and intermediate players; we know that in the days ahead back in Santa Barbara, we’ll have the competitive games we seek.

Hiking Black Hill

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Let the hiking begin

With still lots of hiking miles left in our legs, we drive to the northwest twelve miles along The 101 highway to Morro Rock State Park.  Morro Rock is a 581-foot volcanic plug  located just offshore from the resort town of Morro Bay.

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On the trail.  Not Black Hill

But before we head to Morro Rock, we’ll hike to Black Hill in Morro Rock State Park a few miles away.  With a mile or so to the top, we’ll get a fine workout with a decent 535’ of elevation gain.  The trail climbs easily through the sage brush with the mountain top always in view.

Mor 1D H near top

We like to hike trails where others hike.  One, we are less likely to get lost.  Two, we enjoy the connection with others, however briefly.

Mor 2 H at top with MB

Atop Black Hill with the Morro Rock in the background

Though the trail is basically well marked, we find a way to miss a turn and start heading around the mountain rather than up it.  As the path narrows through dense sage brush, we realize the error of our ways, backtrack, and find our way to the top.   The fact is, this is an easy peezy hike, to be enjoyed by hikers of all ages.

Mor 2 D at top with MR behind

Looking out to the Pacific Ocean from Black Hill

Throughout the climb, we have the massive Morro Rock as a backdrop.  Dominating the coastline, it reminds me of Beacon Rock on the Columbia River Gorge in the state of Washington.

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Driving a roundabout four miles to explore the base of the Morro Rock itself, we wonder if there is more hiking for us.  It turns out not.  To the north of the monolith, there is a surfers’ beach with families on this last sunny day before the upcoming weekend of heavy rain.

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Morro Rock

Around to the bayside, there is more parking; on this day, we see a class of middle schoolers acting the part, – cool, bored, and disinterested.   That said, three cheers for these public school teachers for their commitment and perseverance to extend the student learning beyond the classroom’s four walls.  Whether they know it or not, they are planting seeds of exploration that will likely grow in the years ahead.  These teachers are among America’s heroes.

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Morro Rock State Park

With non-competitive pickleball and a modest four miles of hiking, we wait on second base with our double.  With no teammates around, we are stranded there and decide to drive ourselves home (you get the pun, don’t you?) to our cottage to the south.  Fact is, a double means we are still batting 1.000 this February in California.

Dan and Hannah Pickle, then Hike the Rattlesnake Trail in Santa Barbara

Pickling

Newbie!  It’s a word that shouts outsider, who’s the new kid, let’s see what you got.  I am not a fan of being the newbie – the fish out of water when everyone else knows the ins and outs; has their circle of friends, knows what’s up.  It’s the antithesis of Cheers – Nobody knows your name.

Today has all the awkwardness of a first week at college or a new job or moving to a new town.  You see, Hannah and I have come to southern California to take a February bite out of winter in New England to play pickleball in Santa Barbara.

Fact is, many of the best things that have ever happened to me were because I had the courage to step past the fear of being the new kid – transferring to Arizona State University as a college senior, not knowing a soul, 2500 miles from home; taking my first teaching position in Anaheim, California without a friend or family in the area; moving to Maine with Hannah and our preschool daughters Molly and Robyn with no job, basically sight unseen.

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The four dedicated pickleball courts in Santa Barbara

So today, Hannah and I buck up, put on our big boy and big girl pants, drive four miles, and just show up at the courts of the Municipal Tennis Center in Santa Barbara.  Showing up! which you fans of the Woodman (Woody Allen) know the truth that 90% of life is just showing up.  To our newness, today we’ll add playing pickleball outside, something we don’t do as indoor players of the pickle throughout the year in Maine.

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The woman with the dynamite overhead smash

Arriving early to get used to playing outside on this first Wednesday in February, Hannah and I soon meet up with Brent and Wayne.  In quick succession, we hold our own and play games two and three; funny how no one seems to be paying much attention to us now, which they likely never were anyway.

Playing on a doubles team with Wayne, he turns to me and asks, Is that your wife, referring to Hannah?  What else can I say but, Yes, I’m the lucky guy.  He says, She’s good.  Something I’ve known for 50 since years since we first met as a first year students on the tennis courts at the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1967.

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With the sun setting, Hannah moves in for the kill

After playing for an hour, I take a break and watch Hannah work her paddle magic.  Across the way, I can see three very good players in need of a fourth.  And soon of a gun, if my body just doesn’t elevate by itself and move over to their court to be their fourth.  Playing to 11,  I succeed in not embarrassing every pickleballer in the state of Maine.  Courage comes in many forms.

Rattlesnake Canyon hiking

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The next morning, our plan is to figuratively go rattlesnake hunting in the San Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara itself.  Click here for excellent directions from the website, Santa Barbara Hikes, to the Rattlesnake Trail as well as details of the hike itself.  We learn that our chances of seeing a slithering, scaly reptile rattling its way up the trail are lower than, well, a snake’s belly.

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Driving from our cottage in Summerland, we jump on the four-lane 101 highway, exit Olive Road, eventually driving via Canoas Road to Skofield Park.  Here in the Front Country, tucked among the multi-multi-million dollar homes is an open area park for youth groups.  A group of mostly Hispanic-American middle school kids are seated in a circle and calling out the gratitudes in their lives, as three of American’s saints – public school teachers – encourage them and add their positive energy.

In the overcast, we walk 200 yards along the Canoas Road, and then cross a stone bridge over Rattlesnake Canyon Creek.  On our climb of 1000′ feet of elevation gain, our mission is to see the creek waterfall on our way to a meadow beneath the San Ynez mountaintops.

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With Hannah in the lead, the rocky trail is easy to navigate with switchbacks taking us up the mountainside.  Soon we easily step stone across the flowing creek.  After six years of drought throughout California, and especially in Santa Barbara County, any flowing water is a victory of hydroponic-proportions.  The bubbling sound makes it seem everything is right in the world, despite the turmoil across the country along the turbulent Potomac.

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Many times we see side trails that could be the main trail but aren’t.  Keeping the creek’s gurgling within earshot, we are unlikely to get lost.  Rating the hike moderate plus, we climb steadily, giving us the excellent workout we had hoped.

Creek crossings are easy as we climb into the mountain.  Seeing cascading water falling three feet over the rocks, we wonder does this pass for a waterfall in parched California?  It can’t.  That’s embarrassing.  We hike on.

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Bombing along the Rattlesnake Trail

With the 2000+ foot mountains high above us we hope for some big time falls, but clearly to think that, we must be on that now legal California weed.   With the trail skirting the Rattlesnake Canyon Creek, we, weedless, see more rapids, a cascade or two, but definitely no waterfalls.

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Our little buddy, the pocket gopher

Soon, high above the creek switchbacking on to the mountain meadow, we spot a rattlesnake snack sticking its head out of its recently excavated tunnel.  It’s a pocket gopher, maybe four inches long who checks us out, stays put, and decides today is not the day he will push his luck.

At the meadow, we know that we can take the Rattlesnake Connector trail, another ¾ miles to the Tunnel Trail.  Click here for our hike of the Tunnel Trail during the Great drought of 2014.  But that’s a steep and rocky climb.  Why ruin a fine day of hiking by being rock climbing idiots?   Hiking for us is for the enjoyment of a good workout among nature’s playground, not battling the mountain into submission.

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The meadow at Rattlesnake Canyon

Taking a water and granola break at the meadow, we realize that we, in fact, have totally missed the waterfall, thinking it was a mere cascade.

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The quote waterfall

Upon our hike down the mountain, we spot the quote waterfall, walk down to the water’s edge, where I find a fetching woman to model our discovery.   See my 17 second video below.

Dan and Hannah Are Taken in as Family by the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club in Georgia

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Laurie Lee and Dan, the Pickleball Man

You know, just a simple kindness can mean so much.  A quick word of encouragement.  A thanks that nobody else hears but you.  And in our case a welcoming email inviting us to play at the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.   Because of Laurie Lee, the local pickleball ambassador, we reworked our hiking/pickleball trip to the South to spend three nights in this Pickleball Mecca in northern Georgia.   (By the way, that is Laurie Lee with Hannah and me in front of the Yonah Mountain pickleballers in the preview picture at the top of this blog.)

pickleball-usapa

After four days hiking in eastern Tennessee and in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we are looking forward to hanging out in White County whacking around a wiffleball as part of America’s latest craze: pickleball.

You might wonder how we became ballers of the pickle?  The story is an old one.  Its roots are set in the tennis courts of the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1967 when Hannah and I were first-year students.  If you are doing the math, that is 100 years ago.  Though her women’s tennis team and my men’s team didn’t practice together, we would rally together on the Beall Avenue courts by our dorms.  She took a shine to my backhand and I to her aura as a goddess.

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Molly’s husband Tip, Molly, Will, Will’s wife Laurel, and Robyn

Married in 1972 at the tender age of 24, Hannah and I took the next 40+ years off from tennis and never looked back!  It was no sacrifice as road running filled the cardio void while our family grew from two to five with the addition of our three children, who are now 37 (Molly), 35 (Robyn), and 33 (Will).

Though in retirement, Hannah and I go to the Coastal Fitness gym in Kittery, Maine and hike when we travel, unbeknownst to us, there was an inner longing to return to the court; we just didn’t know that it was a court 2/3 the size of a tennis court.   Click here for my recent blog on living the pickleball life.

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Having been players for the last ten months, we look for places to pickleball when we travel.  Having previously found games in Tampa and Beaverton, OR, today we are off to the indoor courts of the White County Parks and Rec Center near Cleveland, GA.

Those of you who know us, might think of us as the gregarious sort.  Fact is, we are certifiable introverts.   (Click here for Susan Cain’s groundbreaking book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.)  As introverts, it’s always easier for us to hang out with each other or another couple.  We love interacting, but in small groups, not larger ones.  It can be easier to stay in the comfort of our home on the coast of Maine rather than make the extra effort.  Easier yes, more fulfilling a big N-O.

The richness and quality of our lives has been in large part due to stepping out of our comfort zone to give things a shot.  Say, ask friends for coffee or ½ priced margaritas at Ruby’s.  And so today, we buck up and drive south on route 75 from Helen to Cleveland, GA to the indoor air-conditioned pickleball courts.

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Dan and Paul at the indoor pickleball courts in Cleveland, Georgia

As we enter the gym with three lined courts, Linda immediately comes up to us and says, You must be Dan and Hannah.  Welcome.

Oh, that Laurie Lee is good at setting the stage for us to feel like we belong.  Smiling Georgia faces come our way, among them Clarissa who takes us under her wing right off the bat.  With 20+ pickleballers for three courts of doubles (four to a court), we are welcomed further by Billy and Marcia.  Roberta and Paul step forward.  Apropos since they were the two that responded to Laurie’s email below to her members when I asked her about hiking suggestions in the area.

In part, here’s Laurie’s email.

To the friends I have blind copied, note that this gentleman from Maine says he and his wife are comfortable hiking for 3 to 4 hours at a time. Please send me the names of your favorite hikes with waterfalls and/or any links that might help them.  They will be playing Pickleball with us sometime during the first week of October.

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Hannah moving into position at the kitchen

Playing for nearly three hours this first Wednesday in October, Hannah and I have us the workout we love with good folks, upbeat, and skilled.  Smiling at each other, Hannah and I think how lucky we are that our spaceship landed here in northern Georgia.

Many of the players are self-described “bangers.”  That is, rather than play the subtler game of dinking (hitting shots just over the net), shots rip with all their power of a Serena Williams forehand.  Hannah and I dink away and play the softer third shot, which just flutters over the net when hit correctly.  Funny, Pat, their top player, lanky and powerful is a double threat: he plays a masterful short game and is just so damn encouraging and positive.

pickle-group

Near the end of the morning, Laurie has the entire group take a picture for their blog.  She asks us to take the place of honor.  Click here for the link for the Yonah Mountain PC Facebook page. It is an afternoon like none other in northern Georgia.  Away from home, who would think these two Yankee introverts would find such comradery?

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Linda, Hannah, Laurie, Dan, and Paul at the Huddle House

By the way, early the following morning, we return to their gym for our second session of pickleball in twenty-four hours.  As the morning ends, Paul and Laurie invite us to join Linda for a Huddle House breakfast just down the road in Cleveland.

Think of the most gracias and accommodating service that you have EVER had.  That is what we had at this southern, down home culinary tradition.

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Our MVP special

Check out the MVP special (pictured to the left in front of Hannah) that she and I shared.  Stretching ourselves, we sample grits for the first time!  I have to say  that I’m now a fan.  In retrospect, I think it was the company that made the grits taste so good.

These Yonah County pickleballers just take it to the next level making us feel at home, 1100 miles away from the coast of Maine in the Peach State.

Dan and Hannah and their New Love – Pickleball

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Just this past November, Hannah was leafing through the York Parks and Rec winter program guide and noticed “pickleball” among the activities.   She learned that York residents were eligible to play this paddle sport at the Kittery Community Center (the town to our south).  Knowing nothing of this game, we thought, What the hey, why not give it a shot?  Thinking that we, as modestly-skilled tennis and ping pong players, might take to the game, we showed up at the the indoor gym with three pickleball courts outlined in tape.

There we met the kind of teacher we’d like our grandsons, Owen and Max, to have.  Interested in us individuals, encouraging, knowledgeable, he gave us the time we needed to learn this paddle sport.  We had it all in Ted Welch, the pickleball ambassador.  Since then, we have met three other equally terrific and encouraging ambassadors, Roger Huppe and Bill Case here in Maine, and Laurie Lee in northern Georgia.

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Pickleball court dimensions

Playing doubles, we quickly learned that the wiffle ball doesn’t bounce quite as high as a tennis ball; ergo we whiffed on a lot of shots getting our bearings.   The court is 2/3 the size of a tennis court with rules quite different from tennis or ping pong.  Click here for an overview of the new rules.

To begin, the game starts by one player serving underhand to the opposite quarter of the court.  The returner whacks the wiffle ball back and we as the serving team have to let it bounce before we can hit it.

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The kitchen is that rectangular area on either side of the net.

Scoring points only when we serve, we learn we must stay out of the kitchen.  The kitchen (often referred to as the non-volley zone) is a rectangular area on either side of the net, seven feet wide from side to side of the court.  A player cannot step into the kitchen (the no volley zone) to hit a shot in the air.  She can step into the kitchen to play the ball off the bounce.

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The red area is the kitchen on these outdoor courts.

Honing our game on the pickleball courts in Kittery, Hannah and I became regulars playing two to three times per week.  Learning among good folks made the process even more enjoyable.   When we brought our friends, Donna and George, and later our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip, for their introduction to pickleball, Ted and the Kittery pickleballers couldn’t have been more welcoming and encouraging.

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Dan giving it the ole topspin as I approach the kitchen (the yellow line)

Lately, to step up our game, we drive 30 minutes to Saco, Maine to play with the morning pickleballers at XL Sports World, just off the Maine Turnpike.  As with Kittery, Saco is a venue where we have found a community of players, mostly card carrying AARP members, where everybody knows your name.

Not even a year into my pickleball education, I am learning the subtleties of the game – how to dink and how to hit the third shot better and better.   Dinking is hitting a shot just over the net into the kitchen so the opponents cannot volley and smash it.

As for the third shot, the serving team must let the return of serve bounce before playing on.  The third shot is similar to the dink as its purpose is to hit a shot just over the net into the kitchen so the opposing team cannot volley it.

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Hannah ready to volley just behind the kitchen on the court in northern Georgia

I love the yin and the yang of pickleball.  I love the social as well as the competition.  I like hanging out with the good folks that seem to be the norm among pickleballers.  And too, I love developing my game to eventually becoming a solid 3.5 player (on a scale to 5.0).  I love having players better than I am to learn from – Pat in Georgia is such a person, Norm here in Maine is too.

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Hannah above the indoor courts in Beaverton, Oregon

Another great thing about pickleball is that it travels so well.   This past May while Hannah was taking part in a voice rehabilitation clinic outside of Tampa, FL, I played pickleball in Hillsborough County four days in a row.  When recently traveling to Mount Rainier and the Columbia River Gorge, Hannah and I found a morning of pickleball in Beaverton, OR, within minutes of the Nike campus.  And just two weeks ago in northern Georgia, we were welcomed as family by the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.

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(Click here to see the United States of American Pickleball Association (USAPA) site that helps anyone find games across America.  Select a state, then find a city, and voila you have the contact information for your next game of pickleball.)

Hannah and I bought two extra pickleball paddles for anyone who reads this blog and might want to join us for a game.  We’ll teach you the basics on the outdoor pickleball court just down the road from our house in Ogunquit.  Soon you just might be hooked on pickleball as we are.

PS  In the preview picture for this blog, Hannah and I are joined by our daughter Molly.

PSS  My favorite pickleball shirt to date says “Dink Responsibly.”

Dan and Hannah Nike, Pickle, then Hike the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

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Staying overnight with our niece Corrie and nephew Karl in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, Oregon, we wonder what are our chances of seeing the Nike campus in town.  Thanks to Wayne who contacted Ron who arranged for Jane to give us a tour, we walk the college-like Nike campus on a 90F afternoon during the first week of June.

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Hannah with Olympian Michael Johnson on the Nike campus 400 meter track

Athletic women and men in casual attire seem to be upbeat and happy to be enrolled at the 13,000 employee “Nike University.”   There is a full size 400-meter track here and employees have access to free bicycles to ride from place to place.  With five recreation halls with basketball courts, rooms for yoga, fitness centers, and the like, employees have a sweet place to work up a sweat.

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In the Tiger Woods Center made entirely from golf tees

Learning that the campus is scrubbed clean of any mention of Lance Armstrong, we see the Tiger Woods Center standing proudly with this artistic rendering of Tiger, entirely created with golf tees.  It seems Mr. Armstrong lied face-to-face to one-time Nike CEO, billionaire Phil Knight while Tiger fessed up to his misdeeds.

Nike 1A  shoeboxes in back of van

When the business of selling shoes was run out of a Volkswagen van, graphic designer Claire Danielson designed the Nike Swoosh and was paid $35 for her creation.  At the time, Phil Knight said, I am not really sold on it, but maybe it will grow on me.  Upon arriving home, I read the New York Times bestseller, Shoe Dog (2016) by Phil Knight about the genesis of Nike.  Click here to learn more about the book, which speaks to us sports junkies of a certain age.  I loved it.

Nike pickleball

With an evening red-eye flight from Portland to Boston ahead of us this Tuesday, we have come to play pickleball at the indoor recreation center in Beaverton, not three miles from Corrie’s place.   Like I did recently in Tampa, I use the USA Pickleball site to find venues to play here in Oregon.  Click here to access this site to find pickleball venues.

NIke 2 Beaverton Pickleball

Pickleball courts in Beaverton, Oregon

Sometimes free, often for a nominal fee, pickleball sites are generally open to anyone traveling throughout the country.  Arriving at 930A, Hannah and I are welcomed immediately into a game of doubles.  Over the next two hours we play spirited games with a variety of skilled opponents.  Pickleball players for the last seven months, Hannah and I have a new love that is both a great workout and a place to meet active, friendly folks of our age.

Nike 3B  rainforesty trail with Hannah

On the trail to Elowah Falls

Showered and then fed by Corrie, we first nap, then pack up for a late afternoon waterfall hike on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

The Oregon (pronounced Or-a-Ginn) side of the Columbia River Gorge has waterfalls without end Amen.   We choose a pair of falls (Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls) not far from Portland with 3.4 miles of hiking on the mountainside with just 600’ of elevation gain.

NIke 5B  Overlooking Columbia River

High above the Columbia River looking east on the Oregon side

Leaving the trailhead parking, we have 0.7-mile hike to Elowah Falls.   Climbing quickly into the forest on hard-packed dirt, we rise above I-84’s four lanes of commercial traffic and vacation seekers.   And then without warning, the smooth dirt trail turns mean, with sharply angled rocks.   But no matter, the slope of the trail is not steep, as we climb high above the mighty Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.

Nike 3C  E Falls

289′ Elowah Falls in June

A series of switchbacks through the rainforest takes us down to an amphitheater canyon where the misty Elowah Falls drops gently off the mountainside, spraying the two of us.

NIke 5A  D at McM Falls

Dan with the Upper McCord Creek Falls in the distance

Hiking back a half mile or so, we turn up the mountain at the trail sign for the Upper McCord Creek Falls.   The steady climb on, again a rocky trail, is easy going without any huffing and puffing.

Nike 5 W and L with W and BE

Around the last turn the voluminous Upper McCord Creek Falls cascades higher up the mountain, above our previously viewed Elowah Falls.   With the trail ending above the falls a short while later, we spot a most appropriate landing spot on this horizantal branch to photograph our grandsons Owen’s Woodstock and Max’s Blue Elephant.  We love the W+L (our son Will and his wife Laurel) in our lives.

PS I emailed Volkswagen to confirm that the van with all the boxes of Nike running shoes was indeed a Volkswagen.  Here’s the response I got.

Reference # 160987898

Dear Mr. Rothermel,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us in regard to your recent visit at the Nike Campus in Oregon.

After researching further into this, I did stumble upon the story of Geoff Hollister traveling to track meets and selling Nike shoes from his van in the 1970s. Regretfully, we don’t have details here at Volkswagen of America to confirm whether Geoff’s van was indeed manufactured by Volkswagen.

I’ve never visited the Nike Museum so it was very cool to see the picture you shared. Additionally, I noticed links to your blog(s) included in your signature and after taking a closer look it seems as though you and your wife Hannah have enjoyed many wonderful travel adventures.

I apologize I didn’t have more information to share with you in regard to the van Geoff Hollister owned. However, you’re welcome to let me know if you have any other questions or need further assistance – I’m happy to help in any way that I can. 

Have a great weekend and I wish safe travels on the road ahead for you and your wife!

Kind regards,

Brittany A.
Customer CARE Advocate