Mardi Gras & Gulf Coast Pickleball
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Whew! We're just now recovering from our Gulf Coast road trip and Mardi Gras in New Orleans (NOLA). I honestly can't say enough good things about the southern hospitality we were shown at every place we went to play pickleball!
People live up to their friendly reputations in the South, the food is excellent - especially if you like seafood and beignets, and if you have a chance to go during the Mardi Gras season, you're in for a real treat. The daytime Mardi Gras parades are fun and friendly for families. The night time parades and parties and Bourbon street are crazy and raucous for adults.
Before we got in to all that though, we got to enjoy landing at the brand new 1.3 billion dollar Louis Armstrong International terminal where you can listen to live jazz, eat cajun food and even catch a flight if you decide you're willing to leave. If I were like Tom Hanks in the movie "The Terminal", stuck at an airport for a long period of time, this is where would where I would want to be stranded.
There are some grumblings there about Ubers and sometimes excessively long waits in the pickup area, but we had no problems. We took an Uber to pick up our TURO.com car (the Airbnb of rental cars). We drove north from New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to start our road trip east. It was an eerie, partially cloudy, full moon night crossing over the huge body of water. The moon came and went as we crossed the length of this Guinness World Record bridge. At 23.83 miles (38.35 km) long, it is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world.
Photo source Wikipedia (my drone isn't allowed to go this high!)
Once we reached the north side of the lake, we started on a mission to play pickleball in three Gulf states, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
If you think your pickleball club is friendly, and you want to see how you stack up against some of the best we've ever been to, consider visiting the Gulf Coast. I'm going to step out on a limb and say that any southern place you find on Places2Play will be a good one.
What, you might ask, makes them among the friendliest? Some common traits: their ambassadors answer requests for information very quickly, and they warmly invite and encourage you to come play with them. They must use a system to let people in the club know about you, or else gossip just travels fast. Many people already know who you are when you arrive. Members come up to introduce themselves and they show you the ropes on how to get in to games (rotation customs). They then invite you in to play games with them.
The friendliest of the groups also invite you to join them to do something with them after the matches or while you're staying in town. They are proud of their communities and happy to give good advice on other things to do while you're visiting. They generally are very nice to each other as well, having figured out how to have good mixes of games. The key seems to be that most clubs have designated courts for beginner, intermediate and advanced players. No one is told where to play or that they can't play on specific courts, but it all seems to work out for the best.
Beautiful brand new beautiful courts at Pelican Park in Mandeville, LA
This is the renowned Slidell, LA Group. Good for lots of laughs!
Do you fondly remember a person who taught you something specific that gave you a big boost in your game play. I will always remember Leon and Kaye in Biloxi, MS for some great play, and an ah-ha moment that improved my game immensely and immediately. It was something that I had already heard, but never really put in to practice.
Ky and I had played a couple of games against Kaye and Leon and they kept beating us in what were really fun, hard fought games that included lots of humor - Leon's specialty being a very dry version. Then we traded partners and I played a few games with Leon. He kept encouraging me to try this specific shot. Now that's a teaser. You'll have to play me sometime if you want to know what it is and I'll be happy to show you! Not only that, Kaye and Leon were just super fun people that we hope to see again in the future.
I would say one of the few drawbacks to this nomadic life is meeting people who you really like and enjoy, and not knowing if you will ever see them in person again. Funny though how this sport can make the world seem a lot smaller when you see people you already know in a different place. Pickleball does that.
Altogether we played on seven different sets of courts in three states. There were so many from which to choose, and either we are just really good at choosing friendly places, or everywhere in the south is welcoming. I'm pretty sure it's the latter.
The real reason for our trip to New Orleans was a birthday celebration. Our oldest child joined us in NOLA to celebrate turning 25. How is that even possible that I have a 25 year old now? We had fun and collected lots of beads at the Mardi Gras parades in two different areas. We had a blast at the crazy scene on Bourbon Street, and at a famous dueling piano bar.
Huge crowds, but all in good spirits!
We also enjoyed a tranquil hike through the Bayou Sauvage NWR Ridge Trail & Boardwalk.
Huge crowds waiting for spring which has almost sprung.
They all seemed to be in good spirits too!
You can't go to New Orleans without having beignets - (little fat bombs of fried dough smothered in powdered sugar) - finger lickin' good!
Can a girl have too any beads? Glad I got this photo before I lost my boa!
Found these Mardi Gras tights which are sure to help my pickleball game!
The beads not so much, but they definitely add to the look ;-)
Thanks to all the wonderful folks at:
Covington, LA Pelican Park (outdoor and indoor)
Slidell, LA John Slidell Park
Gulfport, MS Herbert Wilson Rec Center Biloxi, MS Donal Snyder Community Center Gulf Shores, AL One Club
Chalmette, LA, Chalmette Elementary School