Saturday , March 27, 2021 (Court Day #366)

I got to sleep after midnight—I have to write this blog at some time!—did a lot of tossing and turning, and woke up just before my alarm at 8:30 a.m. It hadn’t rained, but when I got outside, it was lightly drizzling. I would have to count on some diehards being at the courts. There’s always that fear that I’d make the drive and end up by myself.

At the Courts

I arrived at Ephesus Park just before 9 a.m. Almost predictably, were only three cars in the lot, I could see a couple playing on a court closest to the lot. Given that those are the worse surfaced three courts (ripples) of the six, that couple must not be regulars. Later, I’d see that they were using wood paddles, so definitely newbies.

As I got out of the car, a smiley middle-aged Asian woman was walking by from the courts: “Pickleball?” To which, I responded, “Yes!” She was as happy as I was! Her name was Grace. As she explained later, she was diagnosed this past Sunday with a partially torn meniscus but you’d never guess by her performance, just the brace on her left knee. The courts weren’t perfectly dry, but not particularly slippery. We warmed up for about 15-20 minutes then a man named Russ and his friend Rob appeared. They warmed up for a few minutes by themselves, then Grace and I joined them for a few more minutes of warm up on the same court.

As Russ was telling Eric about new courts going to be built in the Durham area, I told him that I was on the Durham email list and had received that message last night too, it included this: “In addition to the very exciting 14-court pickleball facility planned to be completed at Piney Woods for the end of the summer/early fall, and the renovation of Northgate Park tennis courts with 2-4 pickleball courts planned for 2022,  Durham Parks and Rec has also just posted a renovation project for Lyon Park in central Durham that includes 4-6 pickleball courts!” Pickleball is getting more or more popular all across the USA!

We were all in a game in short order.


Russ is probably in his 40s and Eric around 30. This was Eric’s 4th or 5th time out, but he had a ton of previous tennis experience and it showed.

Grace and I lost the first game by roughly a 2:1 ratio. Youth and skill makes for a tough combination. Eric has some pretty intense forehands drives. He can whip it pretty good. He wasn’t making a lot of mistakes. Grace’s biggest weakness was hitting drives into the net. (Maybe that was Eric’s too.) Mine was popping up shots. Russ, it’s harder to pinpoint, maybe control, but he was about on par with Grace’s performance, with probably an edge to Grace, maybe. I felt like I was the weak link.

Russ recommended rotating players, so the next game saw Russ and me on the same team. Yeah, we lost.

Next was Eric and me, we lost 12-10. But then we played a second game together and we won this one 11-5 . . . go figure. In one of those games, I earned a point on a serve where I put enough sidespin on the ball that Grace couldn’t get it back over the net—a far cry from two years ago when half my lefty serves were faults!

The courts had gotten busy, so we’d have to wait until one opened up.

The paddles indicate the next group on the courts. Our paddles are next to go!

So, at Ephesus Park, they indicate which group is next in line to take a court by paddles in the fence. There are five vertical tape/ribbon rectangles lined up horizontally along the chainlink fence, each with four diamonds in the middle. Each diamond is meant to have a paddle handle placed into it. Above all five rectangles is a cord with a pickleball suspended on it. As each rectangle is released to a court, someone slides the ball to the next rectangle in sequence—if it’s the last one on the right, the ball next returns all the way to the left . . . much like an old school typewriter.

Eric, Russ, and Grace waiting for a court to open up.

I told my cohorts, “I have a hard stop at 11, I have to pick up my wife at the airport and she knows where I am. If I’m late, she will not be happy!” Russ chuckled and said he completely understood!

The last game was lopsided, with Eric and Russ dominating. During one rally, I’d gotten myself in a bind. Eric was at the net and smashed the ball with me at three-quarter court. I returned it and he smashed it again, but I was able to reset the point. He dropped the ball just over the net to the right (Grace’s) side of the net but I was able to race up and dink it just back over the net. Eric dinked it back and I reciprocated. Eric appeared to try to dink it crosscourt, but into the net it went. There was a chorus of appreciation of the rally from the people waiting. A fierce pickleball battle. It’s points like this that I’m amazed at myself that I’m doing this left-handed. Of course, you have to balance these good rallies with the embarrassing shots that I pop up, hit too wide or into the net or too long. The frustrating shots. Feast or famine. In any case, Grace and I lost 11-4 or thereabouts. Grace wasn’t playing her best in that game, I’d seen her play better.

I asked Russ the time. “10:58.” Perfect. I said my goodbyes. Surprisingly, they all also decided to leave at the same time. Things to do.

Despite my best efforts, I was actually melancholy leaving. Thanks, Ephesus Park, you’ve been good to me.

Number of days on a court: 366
Number of total hours: 1,038.5

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