March 19, 2012 Hurrah for Roger and the trip across the desert

The tournament could not have ended better for us. Although the weather turned rainy and cold on Saturday and Sunday,

It was so cold. I think I am wearing everything I brought with me.

play was completed and Roger Federer was the champion over John Isner.
Roger Federer wins the BNP Paribas Open!

We had a wonderful time watching Federer play over this past week. Although we probably won’t come to Indian Wells again due to a downgrading of the package we bought, we will search out some new tournament to go and watch next year. Maybe Montreal?

Bright and early Monday morning we start out through the desert. We have decided to take an unconventional route to St. George. We did some of this last year but this year we are including a ride through Joshua Tree National Park. I think our journey is best told through pictures…

Here's John with Clark and Lewis at the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

the aforementioned Joshua tree

But there's not just Joshua trees. Here's John by a giant blooming ocotillo.
Leaving the park, we see the Amboy Crater in the distance.

Our progress is stopped by one of the many long trains crossing the desert.
At Amboy, we turn right onto Route 66.

Before continuing on, a picture of John by the Juan Pollo cart is a must.

After about 45 minutes, we reach Kelso and the beautiful mission style train station.

Inside the station there are interesting exhibits.

Next we traverse the Mojave National Preserve and then on to I-15 for the rest of the journey to St. George.

Although the weather looks sunny and bright out the right-side window,

on the left the sky is threatening.

As we head towards Mesquite, NV, it looks like we will be in for it soon.

Luckily, though, most of the rain evaporates before it hits the ground. We reach St. George in good time and are happy to be in our home away from home.

It looks like some Canadian geese have made our backyard their new home.

March 15, 2012 Indian Wells, CA BNP Paribas Open Part III

NOTE: Ryan, who oversees this site, has informed me that all the sites she manages have been hacked by a pornography site. She is working to eliminate the bad code. If you end up getting this porn page, I am sorry. It is really raunchy. Please close it and try again.

Today we are going to the Djokovich v. Almagro match. This is followed by Sharapova v. Kirilenko which we are hoping to miss. After that is a doubles match between a Polish team and Nadal and Lopez. We have a nice lunch at a restaurant near the Tennis Garden and then head over.

The Djokovich/Almagro match is not much of a contest. Almagro’s plan seems to be hit the ball hard and if that doesn’t work, hit the ball harder. Unfortunately, not enough of the hard balls go in and he loses in straight sets.

Novak Djokovich about to hit his serve

Almagro serving

Now it is time for the women’s match that we have no interest in. We decide to walk around the grounds and try to find some Roger Federer logowear. The stores are pretty crowded since a lot of people do not wish to listen to women shriek for hours. I find some hats and shirts but everything is really expensive. $74 for a tennis top. I don’t think so. I settle on a cap and have John take my picture.

Go, Roger!!!!!!!

Then John tries the “How fast is your serve?” booth. For some reason his first couple of serves don’t register. The slower last one does and it is 75 miles per hour. It’s too bad the first ones didn’t register because they were much faster. Maybe he is too tall. He probably needed to stand back further than shorter people.
John serving

Next we wander over to the practice courts and find Rafael Nadal practicing with his doubles partner whom we always refer to as Little Lopez. I enjoy having my picture taken with my Roger hat on.

Mary in Federer gear at Nadal's practice

So we’ve used up more than an hour and hope as we head back to our seats that the Sharapova/Kirilenko match will soon be over. But it is not to be. Women just don’t seem to be able to close out their matches. It took over three hours for them to shriek their way to Sharapova’s victory.

Still in the second set of three

Finally we get to the match that we want to see, Matkowski and Fyrstenberg v. Nadal and Lopez. The Polish team are seeded here but Nadal and Lopez are the defending champions. It is no contest. Nadal and Lopez crush the other team.
The coin toss is almost the only thing that the Polish team won

Matkowski and Fyrstenberg

Nadal and Lopez

Tomorrow should be a good day – Federer v. del Potro and Nadal v. Nalbandian

Week of March 11, 2012 Indian Wells, CA Part II

On Wednesday morning we have a clinic with former professional players, Danie Visser and Eddie Dibbs. We are divided into two groups. John and I are in a group of four non-beginners. Danie Visser, winner of three Grand Slam doubles crowns, is our coach. We work on forehands, backhands, volleys and our serve. Then we play a game with Danie and John on one side and Peter, a good player, and the two Marys alternating in. Guess what? Our side won! Of course Danie was easy on us but everyone feels pretty good about themselves. We pick up some valuable tips and have a really good time.

John getting ready for the clinic at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Mary is happy to be in the intermediate group

John and Roger - What a pair!

Week of March 11, 2012 Indian Wells, CA Part I

John and I arrive in Indian Wells on Sunday. Our tickets for the BNP Paribas Open begin on Monday. After an enjoyable evening of tennis watching at the bar at our hotel, we are eager to get to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Our first day is spent in a rather frustrating manner. We seem to have positioned ourselves to see all the women’s matches. The matches are very long and somewhat boring. On top of this, our experience with the ticket/hotel package is disappointing. Many of the great perks that we had enjoyed in previous years have been eliminated. Apparently Larry Ellison is very concerned with his bottom line. So much so that even water now is very pricy. We used to be served a lovely buffet at both lunch and dinner with snacks and drinks available during the day. This was all part of the package. Now every item is priced and the quality has been down-graded. We are unhappy about this.

Day two is starting off better. We see a great match between Nadal and Granollers. Granollers puts up a fierce fight to stay in the second set. But he loses. We are managing our time better and we are only seeing the matches that we are interested in. Unfortunately, the outside stadia are so packed that it is impossible to get in to see matches with less marquee players. The general admission people arrive at 10 AM, claim a seat and stay there all day.

Here are some pictures of Nadal.

Nadal preps for his lefty forehand

At the ready

Nadal going up for his serve

The most exciting match of the day is between Roger Federer and Milos Raonic. Raonic is a young Canadian player who is quite tall and has a powerful serve. Raonic wins the tie break in the first set to go ahead. But Federer responds by upping his level and winning the second and third sets. The crowd is on its feet cheering. Federer is a fan favorite everywhere.

It is very difficult to get a good picture of Roger playing. One, it’s night, two, he’s kind of far away, and three, his racket head speed is so fast that it is almost always a blur.

Roger is relatively still for the coin toss

Follow through on a backhand

Overhead during the warm-up

Here he's still catching a ball from one of the ballkids

The best picture we got of his serve

Yay! Roger wins - the post-match interview

March 11, 2012 Going to Indian Wells to see the BNP Paribas Open

John and I have tickets to the tennis tournament in Indian Wells. We drive down on Sunday and our tickets begin on Monday and go through the final in a week. This is a highlight of the year for us. It is exciting to stay in the hotel where many of the players stay. We see them in the lounge, in the restaurants and on the elevator. So far we have seen Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Julien Benneteau, Richard Gasquet and Radek Stepanek. Several players have caught some sort of flu down here and we are hopeful that not too many more have to withdraw or that we catch it ourselves.

Clark and Lewis have come along as well. Here’s their take on the trip down to Indian Wells.

The Adventures of Clark and Lewis – The Trip to Indian Wells

Finally the big day was here. Beeba and Zayde woke Clark and Lewis up early and they all started the car trip down to Indian Wells to see the big tennis tournament. But Lewis was in a snit.

“What, no breakfast!” grumbled Lewis. “First I have to get up extra early so I am tired but now I am hungry, too!”

“Don’t worry, Lewis,” consoled Clark. “I heard Beeba say that we are going to drive for about an hour and then stop at a McDonald’s.”

“Yay!” enthused Lewis. “I am going to have a sausage biscuit, a fried potato thingy and a big soda!”

“Good luck with that,” commented Clark. “You know Beeba and Zayde and the endless diet. The only thing we will be having is an egg McMuffin with no cheese.”

Clark and Lewis enjoy an Egg McMuffin with no cheese

After breakfast, they continued their long drive south on I-5. Clark and Lewis amused themselves by arguing about whose tennis player was better, coloring in their tennis stars coloring book and singing sports songs. Finally it was time for lunch. What a surprise! Mexican food including chips!

“Mmmmm,” said Clark. “I love tortilla chips and salsa.”

“I do, too,” agreed Lewis. “It is so nice of Beeba and Zayde to get us some fun food!”

Clark and Lewis have tortilla chips for lunch

Later that afternoon they arrived at the hotel in Indian Wells. Clark and Lewis were ready to run outside and jump in the pool and play in the sand area but it was not to be. Beeba knew that they would be up late that evening so she encouraged a little nap and some quiet TV watching.

“Look, Lewis,” said Clark. “We have our own bed here. I suppose it is not a bad idea to have a little rest.”

“Rest, shmest,” complained Lewis. “I am ready for some play time.”

But no sooner than a blink of an eye, Lewis had tucked his head under his wing and fallen asleep.

Sleepy frog and duck

After their nap, they perused the offerings on TV and once again watched their favorite program, Wild Kingdom.

Clark and Lewis look at the hotel's TV channels

For dinner and the evening, Clark and Lewis joined Beeba and Zayde in the lounge area where they watched TV, met other tennis fans and even saw some real tennis players.

“Wow, Lewis,” said Clark. “See that table over there. It’s full of French tennis players.”

“Did you hear that Beeba said hello to one of them?” asked Lewis. “That was pretty brave of her.”

“This is way cool,” said Clark. “I hope we do this every night.”

Clark and Lewis at the lounge at the hotel

After a long day they were all tired and went back to the room to sleep. Tomorrow would be another exciting day.

March 3, 2012 Celebrating Sarah’s 32nd birthday in Napa Valley

Today is our celebration of Sarah’s birthday. She won’t be turning 32 until later this month when we will be away. Our plan is start by going to a couple of wineries, then have lunch, followed by maybe one more stop. We start at Victor Sattui’s.

Sarah tasting wine at Victor Sattui's

We taste several wines. Sarah likes the dessert wines a lot, especially the one called Angelica which tastes a lot like nuts. She decides to get a bottle and we do too!

Sarah and Mom having fun at the winery

Then we go to Robert Sinskey Vineyards. On the way in they have a pond of koi. The fish are very friendly and swarm near us with their little mouths open. Hoping for a treat, I think.

Friendly koi at Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Although the tasting fee at Robert Sinskey Vineyards is quite high, the four tastes come with two little plates of tasty food. We enjoy these tidbits a lot since it is approaching 1 PM and we are hungry.

Wine tasting and appetizers at Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Then it is off to Yountville for our lunch at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega.

Sarah outside Bottega

Sarah inside Bottega

Sarah is greeted with a Happy Birthday card at the table.

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Sarah perusing the menu

John and I order a glass of wine and Sarah, being more adventurous, orders a vodka gimlet made with some sort of syrup and with a large basil leaf in it.

Sarah enjoying her vodka gimlet

And now pictures of food. First, Sarah’s meal –

Polenta Under Glass - caramelized mushrooms & balsamic game sauce

"Liberty" Duck Three Ways - Roasted breast, salad of confit, pickled pomegranates, watercress, Sierra Beauty apples, spiced hazelnuts & duck liver mousse

John’s meal –

Lamb & Egg - "House made" lamb sausage, pepperonata, crispy soft boiled egg, red endive & smoked olive oil poached mushrooms

Wood Grilled Octopus - olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion & salsa verde

And finally my meal. I tried to select menu items which wouldn’t totally detonate my diet.

Caramelized Brussels Sprout Salad - Citrus segments, toasted Marcona almonds, prosciutto bits, aged balsamic dressing

Mediterranean Seafood Brodetto - mussels, Gulf prawns, clams and Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil crouton, paprika-saffron rouille

The first courses are very successful. John orders another primo for his main course. The octopus is very good but the potato is not. Sarah loves her duck three ways. It reminds her of the wonderful duck three way we had in Carcassonne. Both my dishes are quite good although the spicy tomato broth overwhelms the delicate seafood a bit. I am so full. I give almost half of my brodetto to John.

Then we have a wonderful dessert which we all share. We order sbrisolona, a crunchy almond cake, another dish that we had while traveling in Europe with Sarah. This comes with the most delicious gelato ever. It is caramel and sea salt and has espresso poured over it. It is at once sweet, bitter and salty. I forget to take a picture due to its awesomeness.

Leaving the restaurant, we encounter the chef himself cooking a whole lamb outside.

Micheal Chiarello basting a whole lamb cooking over charcoal

Our last stop is at Domaine Chandon but it is so crowded that we just walk around for a bit before heading home. We’ve really had plenty to eat and drink today anyway.

What a great birthday celebration. We all had fun. Happy Birthday in advance, Sarah!

The old folks have a good time celebrating Sarah's birthday