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)

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.