Thursday, May 23, 2024 (Court Day #664)

I flew out to Las Cruces yesterday to help pack up my daughter’s apartment. She had an all-day practice test today at school for her medical boards, so I boxed up what was left to pack and moved almost all of it to her friends Kristin’s and Adrienne’s garage. (Kristin is the one who plays pickleball with Charlotte when they aren’t swamped with school.)

Charlotte wanted to join Kristin and Adrienne in seeing a friend this evening, so I grabbed some fast food and was at Apodaca Park by 7:45 p.m. (Charlotte said that local players mostly wait until sunset to play due to the desert heat.) Unlike the early morning session nearly two years ago, I couldn’t park right next to the courts and had to park a little down the side road. As I walked to the courts, I passed a temporary chain link fence and graded dirt. I was told later than this would be additional pickleball courts. I’m jealous!

The Courts

I let myself through the gate and greeted the first person I saw. She volunteered that her name is Maddie and she was from El Paso, but she plays regularly here. Maddie said they weren’t using the paddle rack since it wasn’t too busy. Me, I was seeing 10 people both sitting and standing around not playing. But I guess they each had their groups they were playing with.

The view as I arrived.

I left Maddie as she made motions to into a game and walked over to a group of six young people next to an empty court. There was a man named Isaac who’s in the Air Force and his lady friend. The two had never played before. I explained to them the non-valley zone as well as the double-bounce rule. The other four started a game and Isaac and his friend went to an empty court past the divider to hit the ball back-and-forth to get used to it. I didn’t play with any of that group this evening.

First Games

I got into a conversation with a man named Ron. Ron’s wife Keysha and their son Miles were also there. Miles was off in a game. Ron convinced his wife to join us and I was paired with a young fellow named Jake.

Jake and I lost both games we played. In those two, I hit four balls into the net with unforced errors. That’s not to say the primary reason we lost was me, but I certainly didn’t help things by slamming balls into the net!

Milo and Bennie

I was fortunate enough to get into a game with Ron against Milo and Bennie. Ron warned me: “They are 4.0-4.5.” I said, “So, no speed ups unless it’s high.” Ron corrected, “No speed ups unless it’s a slam.”

We lost 3-11. I missed a couple serves and popped up too many shots. And I think Ron was trying too hard, he’d been very consistent in the earlier games, here he made some uncharacteristic errors. Me? I was still playing in a frustrating fashion. 

We played again and while Ron and I had been up 3-0 in that second game, we lost 11-4. It’s great playing against strong competition, especially competition that is unfamiliar.

It was 9:02 p.m. when we were done with that second game.

Getting to Know the Locals

I learned that Ron’s son Miles just took the MCAT test to get into medical school. Ron and Keysha have another son who is working on his doctorate at MIT.

Bennie is a captain in the U.S. Army. There were a number of players from El Paso, which is about 45 minutes away. Ron told me that they only have four permanent courts in El Paso and the rest are dual-lined courts. The locals here find that astounding. Right now, they’re building a lot of new courts in Las Cruces, not just at the park where I played tonight. I kidded with Bennie, “Well, Texas is so small, I can see how they might have trouble fitting in pickleball courts!”

What’s amazing is Bennie said he’d been playing for about only 8 months. I asked if he has tennis background. “Ping-pong.” Ah. It’s crazy that I’ve been playing for 7 years and he’s been playing for 8 months and he’s already better than I am. How is that fair? Ha! Ah, well.

Ron said that the lights here go off at 10:40 p.m. He said they used to go off at 11:00 but the city changed it so that goes off 20 minutes earlier, though he didn’t give a reason. Maybe there aren’t enough players that late to make it worthwhile.


Mid-evening, I noticed that my right ring finger knuckle was tender and purple. Hmmm. It must have been hit with the ball. I didn’t remember the impact.

I played with a guy with an unusual name that goes by simply “E” against Alex and Vanessa. Almost all the players there tonight were quite good. We lost and it was mostly on me.

Alex and I played a last game against E and a quiet young Asian fellow whom I didn’t catch his name. Alex and I won that one. I finished up that last game about 10:15 p.m. No one else was willing to squeeze in one more.

Keysha, her son Miles, her husband Ron, me, and a local whom I didn’t get his name.

Everyone was watching a foursome play—the only game going, Milo and Vanessa against Bennie and E—and I watched until about 10:30 p.m. then I said my goodbyes. I had to get up early and on the road tomorrow morning. Ron said something about playing again sometime and I asked if he’d be here in a couple of years. He smiled and said, “I’m not going anywhere.” I probably won’t be back in Las Cruces until Charlotte graduates from Burrell College with her medical degree in 2026. The new courts should be long-done by then!

As I waved goodbye to everyone and headed to the gate, Bennie went out of his way to give me a smile and fist bump.

Nice folks.

Friday, May 24, 2024 (No Play)

As I type this, it’s my daughter’s turn to drive. We’re in the middle of Arizona somewhere in the midst of a 10+ hour trip from Las Cruces to San Diego. We’ll be staying overnight at my mother-in-law’s condo while she’s out of the country site-seeing. My right ring finger is sore to the touch and mildly discolored. Ow.

We stashed some last bit of stuff in Kristin’s garage first thing this morning. Kristin asked me how pickleball went. I told her about the people I met including Ron and Keysha and their son Miles who just took the MCAT… “Oh, I know who Miles is! I didn’t know about he took MCAT!” We talked a bit more and Kristin said, “You know more about them than we do! We just play with them.”

Saturday, May 25, 2024 (No Play)

Charlotte is taking the first leg driving on day two of our trip home. We’ve been on the road a little over an hour. It’s 8:49 a.m. and we’re heading north on the freeway from San Diego. My right wrist is bothering me a bit with certain motions. Maybe it’s the driving I did for hours yesterday. Or awkward screen time in the car. And my right ring finger knuckle is still pink. I was tempted to try and squeeze in some play last night, but after traveling for 9 1/2 hours, the last thing I wanted to do is get back into the car and drive to courts somewhere. But, regardless, the key fob my mother-in-law had mailed to me a couple weeks ago has a dead battery and we had to wait for a car to pull up behind us to open the gate to the private parking garage under her condo building . . . I wasn’t about to drive off and hassle the garage access again. Instead, it was early to bed after a long day.

We’ve spent a lot of the trip with Charlotte either on her laptop or listening to a series board test review podcasts by a Dr. Goljan. I looked him up and, with some math, I figured out the recording is from 2000. Basic medicine hasn’t changed all that much in the last 24 years. I’m learning more about medicine than I’ve ever wanted…

Number of days on a court: 664
Number of total hours: 2,829.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 36

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.