Thursday, March 24, 2011

Minnows and Gators and Otters, Oh My.

Our friends Dennis and Judy stopped by Tuesday to ask if we wanted to go down to the Peace River to fend off alligators and look for sharks teeth.  We've seen lots of people in the water with shovels and screens, but we've never done it.  So I grabbed a shovel and headed down to the water.  Judy lent me her floating colander to help sift each shovelful that I dug up as she and Val sifted by hand.  Dennis and Judy definitely were better at seeing the sometimes small treasures that were mixed with the rocks and debris, but I did manage to find a couple of pieces and one almost whole tooth.  I also found the small piece of bone in the picture.  The large bone was found by Dennis.

Of course since there are alligators in the river, you always want to watch your surroundings.  As Dennis and I were digging by the far bank with all its vegetation, there was a splash about 5 feet from us.  We both jumped a little and stared .  Dennis tossed a small rock to see if anything stirred, but nothing moved.  We kept watching and finally saw what it was.  A gator? Nope.  A playful otter poked his head up and swam by us.  Very cool.
Thanks to Dennis and Judy for inviting us.  We'll definitely do more when we return.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Tournaments

My partner, Dean, and I played in a tournament in Poinciana a few days ago and the competition was tough.  It was a large tournament with more than 160 participants.  Luckily the facility had 7 courts so although there were long waits between matches, it could have been worse.  The finals pitted us against a team that we had beaten earlier.  It was a tough match, and despite a loss of focus in the second game, we prevailed in the end and won the gold.

Three days later we traveled to the Polk County games for a lesson in humility.  After winning 3 straight matches and advancing to the semifinals, we lost to two excellent players from The Villages.  The scores were 11-8, 11-2, and it only made us want to win the lower bracket to face them again.  That's exactly what we did, and we gave it our best in the finals.  We started out playing into a fairly strong breeze which helped our power game.  It was tight all the way.  With the first game on the line tied at 11-11, Dean called a ball out and I saw it as in.  Both of us were sure of what we saw, but the call always goes in favor of the opponents.  (At the end of the match, we asked the people on the sidelines about the call.  Most thought it was in, but two who were looking down the line thought it was out.)  We'll never know if it cost us the game, but we lost that game 14-12.  A definite disappointment, but we felt like we were in the match.  A change of sides brought a quick end to the match as our opponents used their soft style of play to take us out of our power game.  We lost 11-0, not only our first finals loss, but our first game lost with no points scored.  It was an excellent learning experience, and we lost to two gentlemen who gave us pointers on how to improve our game.  If you're going to lose, it helps to lose to people like that.  The winners had experience on their side including just having returned from a 4000 mile pickleball trip.  It definitely gave us a lot to work on as we travel north.  Maybe next year...

Saturday brought our fourth and final tournament of this season.  We traveled to Punta Gorda with Dean and Margie in their jeep and met a different group of players.  The competition was not quite as tough, and despite losing the first game in the semi-finals 11-5, we won all of the next four games at a score of 11-2 and took the gold.  So all in all, it was not a bad start to our pickleball tournament play.  We were undefeated in 3 out of four and took the silver in the other.  But there's more work to do.

After the tournament in Punta Gorda, we went to the Fisherman's Village area to have lunch on the pier at Harpoon Harry's.  We each had a basket of fish and chips with 3 large pieces of fried cod.  Very good.  From there we traveled to Venice Beach to take a walk on the pier and the beach.  For us northerners, it's always interesting to see the beautiful aqua water.  It's such a contrast to the Delaware beaches we're used to where the water is dark green.  And from there, since it was almost 5 o'clock, Dean drove to a little tiki bar on the water and we all had Miami Vices (a mixture of strawberry daiquiris  and pina coladas).  Walking along the dock with our frozen concoctions was a nice way to relax before the drive through a Venice waterfront community where we were told that Oprah has or had a house. And then it was a quiet ride back to Wauchula as the full moon was rising over the orange groves.
Good times...
My partner, Dean (the real clown in the picture).

Two of our good friends, Roger and Rich, after winning the gold.

Underneath the fishing pier at Venice beach.

Ain't it the truth...