March 24, 2011 More fun in St. George

Let’s see Monday, golf for Jon, Tuesday tennis for everyone, Wednesday, golf for Jon and John, so Thursday must be hiking and shopping day! We take a trip out to Zion National Park and attempt to hike the Kayenta/Emerald Pools trail. Unfortunately, the Emerald Pools trail is closed and the Kayenta Trail is so muddy that after we go about 3/4 of a mile, we turn back and hike along the Virgin River back to the Zion Lodge.

Zion waterfall into upper Emerald Pool


John and Jon by the Virgin River


Marymom and Jon hiking in Zion


We have a great lunch at Oscar’s Cafe, the other restaurant on the go-to list for the St. George area. John and Jon have Oscar’s famous fish tacos (yum) and I have a grilled portabella mushroom burger. It is so good. Later Jon and I go birthday shopping. Although we are not as successful as we had hoped, Jon gets some jeans and shoes. Later we go home and prepare Jon’s favorite meal, noodles, gravy and meatballs with green beans. A little TV and we are done for the day.

March 25, 2011 Jon visit to St. George

We are having a very busy week. Tuesday was a tennis day so Wednesday is a golf day. John and Jonathan go to their favorite links course, Sand Hollow, and play 9 holes. My day consists of catching up on my blog, doing home stuff and starting with a personal trainer at the club. Here are a couple of pictures from their outing.

John on the tee


Jonathan on the course


Then they stop at Costco to get some gas. The gas here is so much cheaper than in California. Only about $3.50. It’s amazing what seems cheap when you are paying $4 or more. Anyway, I think this picture of John is nice.

John filling the tank


Afterwards they eat lunch at the Mongolian Barbecue, one of the two restaurants that Jon and we deem worthy of dining at.

Jon filling his tank

March 22, 2011 St. George with Jonathan

Certainly after all these posts and pictures of various tennis players, I owe my favorite two players (outside of Roger, of course) their five minutes of marymom blog fame time. We play tennis on the courts at Entrada. The way the three of us play is by rotating the single player when he or she gets tired. We have a lot of fun and work on our various shots. It seems that no matter how many times I tell myself to change the grip to the backhand grip, my success rate is still about 10%. It’s like I am just ignoring myself. John continues to be the player with the most grace, Jon, the player with the most spin and velocity and me, the player with the most female genes.

John on the court

Jon prepares for his wickedly spinny forehand

March 21, 2011 A trip through the desert

I am often known for sitting in the navigator’s seat in the car and saying, “I see that there’s this road here.” Usually it is a very thin gray line on the map. Sometimes it is broken dashes. But it always means, ADVENTURE! We’ve gotten ourselves into a few difficult situations taking the less obvious route but it is always more interesting than the interstate. We had planned the route through the desert last year for our trip from Indian Wells to St. George but since I had gotten sick, we had to return home. This year neither of us is too sick to keep us from our adventure.

We leave Indian Wells and take interstate 10 for about 13 miles west before heading north to 29 Palms. After a quick breakfast we head north out of 29 Palms on the Amboy Road.

A rainbow on I-10 heading west out of Indian Wells.

Amboy Road

Perhaps the 55 mph speed limit is only a suggestion.

The first “place” we come to is Amboy at the intersection of Amboy Road and historic Route 66. Amboy has a couple of chloride collection areas, a crater, Roy’s gas station and a post office. Since no one appears to live here except maybe Roy, I don’t understand the need for a post office. No wonder USPS is running out of money.

The Amboy Crater

Roy's Service Station and Cafe

Amboy Post Office

Now it’s the open road again. The sky is so blue and the clouds alternate between being puffy and threatening. There’s been a lot of rain in the desert this year and there are purple lupine and yellow desert sunflowers blooming. Our next destination is Kelso. Kelso is now a ghost town. There is a Union Pacific railroad station there which was built in 1923 and was used to ship borax, iron, gold and silver out. It is now headquarters of the Mojave National Preserve. A natural feature near Kelso is large sand dunes. They are called “singing sand dunes.” Dunes of a certain humidity, grain size and containing silica will give off a booming sound when triggered by movement. Hah, and you thought the desert was just an empty place.

On to Kelso!

Desert sunflowers

Approaching the overpass for I-40

Welcome to the Mojave National Preserve

Kelso "singing sand dunes"

Kelso train station

There’s not too much further to go before we get on I-15 north to Las Vegas and then on to St. George. Jonathan has arrived at our house and we are eager to start a week of fun with him. The trip across the desert took about 2 hours and was infinitely more interesting than taking the interstates the whole way.

As the elevation rises we zoom past a forest of Joshua trees.

Sadly we get on the I-15 at Nipton Road

March 20, 2011 Renaissance Esmeralda

I am including a few pictures from the hotel because some day John will mention something about the hotel and I will undoubtedly draw a blank. I usually don’t bother remembering things because John remembers everything. He’s like my personal Google. But this way I’ll have my blog to go look up what I already forgot.

March 20, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

This is our last day of the tournament – the finals. First up are Marion Bartoli of France and Caroline Wozniacki from Denmark. As I mentioned in an earlier post, usually the pretty girl gets all of the attention. This time, the crowd really got behind Bartoli. She is definitely the underdog but she is dogged in her tenacity to win points. The crowd appreciates a fighter. In the first set she is pretty much blown out by Wozniacki but Bartoli changes tactics in the second set and wins the set. But it is hard to maintain an extraordinary effort and she loses the third set and the match. It is an exciting match and the crowd shows appreciation for both players. John and I are now 0 and 5 for preferred winners over the last two days.

Marion Bartoli prepares to receive a serve.


Caroline Wozniacki serving.

Now it is time for the main event of the day – the final between Novak Djokovic and Raphael Nadal. At first everything goes according to form, Nadal hits amazing shots with tons of topspin and wins the first set. But he starts to lose his edge in the second set and loses the set and then crumbles in the third set. We saw some erratic play from Nadal earlier in the tournament but expected that he would be in form by the final. Djokovic is the winner. We are now 0 and 6. Oh well. Next week is another tournament.

Nadal and Djokovic at the coin toss.

March 19, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

Well, bummer, bummer, bummer, bummer. Four matches. Four losers. We sure know how to pick them. The first match today is the semi-final between Raphael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro. We are hoping that del Potro wins. He’s had a long road back from wrist surgery over a year ago. Now he is just coming back into form. He used to be able to beat all the top players with his amazingly hard-hit forehand, his down-the-line backhand and a big serve. But he’s not quite there yet. Nadal wins in two sets.

Juan Martin del Potro (L)

Raphael Nadal (W)

I like this picture of Nadal because he always looks so concerned when he’s about to serve. He goes through a long routine of knicker picking, hair fixing, ball bouncing, and lip biting. His serve is not the strongest part of his game and he is always nervous about it. He used to serve about 95% first serve in but his mph was in the 90’s. Now he’ll serve up to about 130 mph but his first serve percentage is much lower.

The second match is the semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Djokovic is on a winning streak since he led Serbia to the Davis Cup Championship at the end of last year. He is playing really well. Federer is getting older and can be brilliant and then, well, not so brilliant in the same game. Nonetheless he is beautiful to watch and can produce some astounding tennis. Unfortunately, he only was astounding for one set today. Djokovic wins in three sets.

Novak Djokovic (W)

Roger Federer (W)

So we are bummed that Roger lost. But we hang arond because he will be playing the doubles final later tonight. In the meantime we watch the women’s doubles between Americans Mattek-Sands/Shaughnessy and Indian Mirza and her Russian partner Vesnina. The match is pretty unexciting. The Americans come out as the losers.

Mirza/Vesnina (W)

Mattek-Sands/Shaughnessy

Our last hope for the evening is the men’s doubles final between Federer/Wawrinka and Dolgopolov and Malisse. All hope is dashed and we head home with heavy hearts. Every one of the players that we hoped would win has lost. Sigh.

The bun boys (left) Dolgopolov and Malisse (W) against the Swiss boys Federer and Wawrinka (L)

March 18, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

I am not taking a lot of pictures today. Most of the players we’ve seen before. The first match is Richard Gasquet vs. Novak Djokovic. We are for Gasquet. He loses. Then there is a match between Yanina Wickmayer and Marion Bartoli. As I have mentioned before we always root for Marion because she is so quirky and she hits the shit out of the ball with two hands on both sides. At least she is a little interesting. Bartoli wins and is into the final. Next up, Federer vs. Wawrinka. Federer wins in two and is into the semi-finals. He will have to play Djokovic tomorrow.

Because there is some down time between matches, we stroll the practice courts. We see Nadal practicing with Marc Lopez, his doubles partner. They draw a big crowd. In one of the smaller stadia Nenad Zimonic is practicing with two coaches/players. It’s pretty quiet there since he’s just a doubles player and is not as well known as the singles players. But we are able to sit really close to the court he is playing on and are amazed at how hard he strikes the ball.

Nenad Zimonic

The match that everyone is buzzing about is the first of the evening – Nadal and Lopez vs. Federer and Wawrinka. All the players look like they are having a good time playing. Marc Lopez, better known to us as Little Lopez because he’s short, looks like he has borrowed some of Nadal’s clothes. Federer and Wawrinka manage to find somewhat matching blue shirts. The match is entertaining and Federer and Wawrinka win. They will play Dolgolopov and Malisse tomorrow in the final.

Federer/Wawrinka vs. Lopez/Nadal

The final match of the evening is Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova. We leave and watch the end of the match back at the hotel. Wozniacki crushes Sharapova. The commentators are describing Sharapova’s play as terrible, almost embarrassing. It is amazing that she got this far.

March 17, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

This morning we are up early and looking forward to a rather abbreviated day of tennis. There are no really compelling matches as it seems like a rest day for most of the players who are still in the tournament. Federer is playing doubles late in the afternoon and Nadal is playing Karlovic in the evening match. There are some WTA matches as well. We get to the courts for the first match, Wozniacki vs. Azarenka. As we walk to our seats we see on the videos that Azarenka is down on the ground looking like she is in pain. She retires from the match with the score at 3-0 Wozniacki. It’s about 11:30 AM. There are no other matches going on.

But okay, we will get some lunch at be there for the Robredo/del Potro match at 1 PM. Around 12:30 we find out that Robredo has withdrawn due to an injury. Well, what else is going on at 1 PM? Women’s doubles. The match includes Azarenka (see above) so that is also cancelled. Now there is no match until 3 PM. John and I decide to retire as well and go back to the hotel for a nap. (I know that this is the second time I’ve mentioned napping in the last few days. The reason for the tiredness is that I have a bad cold and now John has caught it too. We are doing our best to stay perky but get tired. For me, it is like a replay of last year when by the finals I was so sick that I couldn’t even attend and John drove me all the way home the next day. It can’t come to that this time!)

Anyway, refreshed from our little sleep, we head back to the courts at 3 PM. Now we are treated to a match between Sharapova and Peng. Shriek, shriek, double-fault, fist pump. On it goes. It look like Sharapova may win in two sets but, no. So now it’s a third set. A woman in our box is drunk. She has spent all the non-match time drinking while we were napping. She is screaming for Sharapova. Officials come to tell her to shut up. Drama. Finally Sharapova wins the match. I am just glad that it is over.

Now we have some entertaining doubles between Knowles/Mertinak and Federer/Wawrinka. I feel a little bad for the regular doubles players. At this tournament all the top players have decided to play doubles and all the regular doubles players have been knocked out. Federer and Wawrinka win in two sets.

The evening match is Nadal vs. Karlovic. Karlovic has a monster serve and is 6′ 10″ or so. The rest of his game is a little shaky and he has trouble lumbering around the court due to his giant self. But the match turns out very exciting and competitive with Nadal squeaking out a win in the third set tie-breaker. The final match of the evening is women’s doubles. Everybody, including John and I, leaves.

March 16, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

Today we have a clinic over at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden! It is a perk for having bought the tickets/hotel package. I am very nervous about this because I assume that I will be the worst player there and that all the women will be skinny, tan society ladies. But no! The people who have come to play are just like ourselves and many don’t even bring their rackets or have tennis clothes. One older lady has a cane. Certainly I can do better than she. John self-selects for the “best” group and I, of course, self-select for the “worst” group. But seriously, I can play so much better than anyone in my group. (yay!) Our instructors are Eddie Dibbs, a 22 career singles titles winner from the 1970’s with a highest ranking of number 5, Danie Visser, a South African who held the number 1 doubles ranking in 1990 and holds three Grand Slam doubles titles, and Tom Fey, Director of Tennis at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. We have a great time.

John Pilat, always a winner to me

Mary Pilat, not as inadequate as she thinks

We spend a little extra time perusing the practice courts where we see David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and others.

After a quick cleanup we are back to the tournament. We miss the Sam Querrey (L) vs. Tommy Robredo (W) match. We saw Sam this morning at the hotel and even said hi, obviously the kiss of death. The first match we see is Ana Ivanovic vs. Marion Bartoli. Ana is the darling of the crowd because she is pretty. I find this annoying and root for Bartoli. The jinx from this morning is off and she wins. Next is Viktor Troicki vs. Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is the man to beat in this tournament. He hasn’t lost this year. He rolls countryman, Troicki. The final day session match is Andy Roddick vs. Richard Gasquet. Roddick loses. He is churlish. We are not impressed.

It’s a blockbuster evening of tennis. First Raphael Nadal plays Somdev Devvarmann (who?) Devvarman is a player from India and gives Nadal a run for his money. He doesn’t do anything spectacular but gets a lot of balls back. Nadal wins but looks vulnerable doing so.

The last match is Roger Federer vs. Ryan Harrison. Harrison is just 18 years old and is a new face in American tennis. He beat Milos Raonic of Canada in the last round. Raonic is another of the up-and-comers. The first set goes to a tie-break. Roger is playing quite schizo. He is missing easy shots. He appears nervous in the first set. Come on, Roger, give your loyal fans a break and just win easily! Finally after winning the tie-break he settles down and the second set is more routine. (phew!)

Note: For some reason I am unable to post large photos and thumbnails in the same post without repeating the larger ones. So there are the same pictures of us twice in this post.

March 15, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

Today we are up bright and early for another full day of tennis. We start each day with a room service breakfast because it is just so much nicer to not have to get dressed and look presentable first thing in the morning. We are usually among the first fans to get to our seats.

Early bird

Today first up is Gulbis vs. Djokovic. Gulbis entirely tanks the match not even apparently trying. He loses 6-0 6-1. Gulbis is a quality player but just can’t seem to get his head screwed on right. Some day when he is older he will rue all his wasted opportunities.

Ernests Gulbis (L) in serving position

Novak Djokovic (W) ready to serve

This match is followed by Marion Bartoli playing Kim Clijsters. Kim is a real crowd favorite and Bartoli is very quirky in her playing style. It is evident for whom the crowd is rooting. Bartoli is the product of her father’s “scientific method” of play and he has her bouncing around and swinging madly at the air between points. Although everyone expects Clijsters to win, even Bartoli as she candidly admits in the aftermatch interview, Clijsters retires with a shoulder injury and Bartoli is through to the next round.

Kim Clijsters (L) in action

Marion Bartoli (W) follow through

Of course there is time between the matches to grab a munch from the neverending food in the suite and to look around for notable spectators. Ooh look, there’s Rod Laver sitting not too far away from us!

The great Rod Laver

And now the match we have been waiting for – Juan Ignacio Chela vs. Roger Federer. Roger wins this match 6-0 6-2. Chela, though, is entertaining and seems grateful for the two games he does win. Roger plays well and has no trouble at all in the match.

Juan Ignacio Chela (L)

Roger Federer (W) serving

John and I take a break from the action and leave the grounds for the hotel. During this time Caroline Wozniacki beats Alisa Kleybanova. We enjoyed watching Kleybanova play last year. She is a really hard hitter and Wozniacki has her hands full but wins in the third set. I enjoy a little nap while all this is going on.

Then we are back for the night session where John Isner is playing Andy Roddick. Isner is so tall and has a giant serve but not too much else. Roddick wins. The last match is Dinara Safina vs. Maria Sharapova. I cannot stand Sharapova and all the hype she gets. She does hit the ball hard and she does shriek loudly every time she does so. Safina is just a head case and we make an early exit as she detonates. I didnt take any picture of them.

Big John Isner (L)

Andy Roddick (W)

March 14, 2011 BNP Paribas Open

We are here at the BNP Paribas Open. After a minor hotel malfunction, as in the hotel we were booked into sucked, we were able to switch reservations and are now staying at a much nicer place. Many of the players stay here. This morning we see Fabio Fognini, Oliver Marach, and Dennis Istomin in the hotel lobby. God, are tennis players thin. They look way thinner in person than they do on TV.

We have the same seats as last year. From our vantage point in the Emirates Club Suite we see Wozniacki, Kohlschreiber, Nadal, Safina and Querrey win. Over in Stadium two we watch Dolgopolov go down to Del Potro, Petrova beat an upcoming American player, McHale and Federer and Wawrinka beat Benneateau and Gasquet. It is really great to see these players in such an intimate setting. But it is really hard on the bum to sit in those bleachers for hours!

Here’s some pictures of the players.

March 8, 2011 Nathan’s 5th Birthday

Today is Nathan’s birthday. He is turning 5. Wow, does time fly by. He’s lost a tooth, rides a two wheeler (with training wheels), is the tallest in his preschool class and makes the usual assortment of 5-year old jokes.

We gather with the family at their house and give Nathan his presents. We get him several games with a Cars theme, a view master, a kaleidoscope, a truck and another game about building sentences. His favorite gift, though, is from Mom and Dad, a large truck named Banshee. He is even having a Banshee cake at his party that Auntie Leigh is bringing with her from Wisconsin. His party is on the 13th but since we’ll be in Indian Wells at the tennis tournament, we are celebrating on his actual birthday.

Sam gets a present too! Pretend ice cream cones. They are supposed to be a fun way to recognize colors and help with counting. There are nine different scoops. He makes us several double and triple scoops. After a pizza dinner we watch while Nathan blows out a birthday candle on his cupcake.

March 1, 2011 Kitchen remodel in St. George

I wanted to post pictures of our remodel in St. George when it was done. Of course, it was not done in the time frame that we had anticipated. But time marches on and before I can post other important events like Nathan’s birthday, I need to at least put down the pains of living without a kitchen for three weeks.

In January we went to St. George and set the whole process up. The actual remodel is scheduled for three weeks in February and is supposed to be complete by March 3. But first here’s a picture of the kitchen in the before stage.

Kitchen before the remodel

It is very dark. In the corner is the cooktop. The cooktop is ugly and hard to clean. The control are on the right side which means when we are both cooking it is hard for the person on the left to control his/her burners. But we could live with it. And then the oven breaks and the faucet and the RO system start leaking and the decision is made. So the idea is to replace the oven, cooktop, venting system (there isn’t any), sink, faucet, and RO system. And, oh yeah, the countertops.

The first thing that is done is to rip out the countertops and remove the sink.

Kitchen counterless

Wait, no, I’m wrong. The first thing that is done is that we remove most of the stuff from the cabinets, pile it up in the guest bedroom and tape up the cabinets.

Guest kitchen

Kitchen prepped

Now we wait. And wait. While waiting we are cooking on our cardboard countertops in an electric wok. In fact John and I are thinking about putting out a cookbook called “Make it Wok! Recipes while your kitchen is being remodeled!” Finally three days before we are scheduled to go home, everyone descends on the kitchen – granite guys, plasterer, painter, tiler, electrician, plumber, appliance installer. They are scurrying over each other like so many rats. Of course little things go wrong and it is impossible to get it all done. But here is the work as we left it at the beginning of March.

Kitchen sink area

Yay, we love the new granite! It is so bright after the dark brown of the tiles that were there. It has hints of pink that pick up the rose color that is in the slate floor. The tile backsplash is glass and travertine. It is repeated in the cooktop area. The new appliances are in. Problems that still exist are a scratched cooktop, spills on the granite that need to be professionally removed, tiling incomplete and the RO system and the faucet are not compatible. But we are very excited with the new kitchen and look forward to seeing it all done when we get back on March 21 (I hope!)