Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Last Day!!

Well, it was with some trepidation that we left our last Holiday Inn Express in Sunbury, OH on Wednesday, November 2nd as we knew the end of our journey was near.  While it was a short drive for us (8 hours), we thought we would just take in a few more sites on our way.  Our first stop was Ashtabula, OH on the shores of Lake Erie.
It was a cute little town with some beautiful waterfront areas.  Here is a picture of Walnut Beach in Ashtablua Harbor.  The breakwall is a mile long and the perfect place for fishing.  Lake Erie was a magnificent spanse of blue-green water.  Actually, hard to believe it wasn't an ocean.

Walnut Beach, Ashtabula, OH

Just down the road a bit was another great little lake town called Conneaut, OH. 
Here is a picture of the Conneaut Lighthouse.

For anyone who gets the chance to visit - Ashtabula County is home to 16 wineries and is known as the Napa Valley of the East, 18 covered bridges and 2 lighthouses.  Wish we could have spent more time poking around, but hey, that's just a quick day trip away from Caz!!!!

After a very quick sprint through Pennsylvania we ARRIVED!!!!!!!

While the trees had few, if any, leaves on them, we realized just how colorful the landscape is in New York.  The rolling hills, the green grass, the patchwork of farmlands - we have a new appreciation for the beauty it holds.

We stopped for our last meal on the road in Pittsford, NY at a great little restaurant called Simply Crepes located waterfront on the Erie Canal.  It was recommended by my teammate Ruth for their gluten-free fare on Larry's behalf - thanks Ruth!!!  The crepes were outstanding!!

We drove around the bottom of the lake as we entered town and turned the corner onto Forman Street. We both looked at each other and said, "We're home!!"  In all the sights we saw, we realized that Cazenovia was truly one of the most beautiful places we had been and we felt so blessed that this is where our journey ended.   

As we returned the "Nuclear Fusion" to it's rightful owners at the airport that night we realized that we were actually going to miss it.  It had accomplished so many things on our trip.  It renewed our faith in Ford.  It carried us safely and without problems from coast to coast.  And, it was our cozy little "home on wheels" that took us exactly 6,002 miles in 12 days and shared our trip of a lifetime with us! 

In closing, people have often told me how lucky I am to have a guy like Larry to share my life with.  It is not luck, it is truly a gift!  For those of you who know me well, you know I can tend to run circles around myself.  During the 30 years we have been married, Larry has always been my rudder.  He keeps me grounded and focused without saying a word.  His quiet, calm, steady character has kept me on the "path" endlessly throughout our years together.  And, he has been my rock and my soft place to fall whenever I needed either.  Without his never-ending support, I realize I truly would not have had the opportunity to become the person I am today.   He is all of this, and so much more, to each of our children as well.  It is because of him and his willingness to "go the distance" with me that this journey came to be.   From the bottom of my heart, I thank you Larry for this gift of making sure that I made it to Nationals, but even more, for the gift of you!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Posting Comments

Okay, so it took us 12 days to figure out that we had not turned on the Comments setting for the blog.  So sorry for those that tried to share comments with us as we would have LOVED them!  We would love to hear from anyone who would like to comment now.
Also, we forgot to share a link on the blog for the USTA article on our journey.

Cindy and Larry

The "Flight" Back Home - Sunday - Tuesday


Even though we have 4 days of travel ahead of us, we are up for the challenge and the adventure!  Leaving Indian Wells was tough as we know we will not see the likes of that weather again for about another 8 months!

We began our trek at 1:00 PM and headed northeast toward Flagstaff, AZ.  We meandered through the desert and all of the sudden, like a mirage, there stood before us some amazing mountains of the Mojave Desert.  Here are some pics from the heart of the Mojave and the Joshua Trees that thrive there.

Welcome to Arizona!

The Hualapai Mountain on the Hualapai Indian Reservation in Kingman, AZ

We pulled in to Albuquerque, NM at 2:00 AM to the view of the magnificent city lights and we were totally ready for a good night's sleep.

Could not be in Albuquerque and not take time to visit Historic Old Town.  The San Felipe de Neri Church and Convent Gardens.

A Sparks Shout Out from the steps of the beautiful San Felipe de Neri Church.


All time record low gas price of the trip goes to Albuquerque, NM at $2.99!!!

After hours and hours of desert vistas, we left the "Land of Enchantment" and entered the plains of the "Lone Star State".

In addition to the many, many windmill farms of the Texas plains there are miles and miles of ranches that contain these irrigation systems that are truly an engineering marvel as they reach as far as you can see.

This meat processing plant near Amarillo, TX had more cows than we have ever seen, or hope to see, in any one place.  Thousands of them.  In addition, the smell rode with us for a good 20 miles!  Almost makes you want to become a vegetarian just from that experience alone!

We happened to stop for a quick bite to eat in Amarillo, turned the corner and there was the American Quarter Horse Headquarters and beautiful museum.

We made it back to Broken Arrow, OK at 1:00 AM (CST) after another 14 hours and, once again,  sleep never felt sooooo good!


Started back on our trek at 10 AM but not before we returned to the site of our Sparks Shout Out on our trip out.  As I told everyone on my team, I thought I had left a boa trail of hot pink feathers everywhere we went and low and behold this is what we found waiting for us in the grass (9 days later) at the site in Broken Arrow!!!

Headed to Missouri!!

While it was a long trip through Missouri, we have to admit it sure was nice to see the green grass, lush trees, lakes, rivers, water and more water!!!

However, we made a stop in Joplin, MO and what we saw there left us with such a depth of sadness for the people of Joplin.  We wished we could have stayed to help them in their struggle.  For a one mile radius in every direction all you could see was total destruction and devastation.
There were busloads of workers from all over the country there to help in the rebuild.  It was so uplifting to see the American spirit at work.  People digging in and pulling together to help each other out.  This tragedy happened on May 22, 2011 and there is still such a long road ahead.

This is what you saw everywhere that you looked.


It was on to a brief stop in Kansas.  Larry and I had just been talking about how many friendly people we have met along our way.  Everywhere you go (even the toll booths) everyone has been so friendly, warm and welcoming.  We were stopped alongside this road in Baxter Springs, KS so Larry could take a Shout Out of me and this van drove by.  It turned around and pulled up behind our car.  Of course, my heart began to race as I thought we may be headed for trouble.  Out of the van came an elderly gentleman who introduced himself and said he had passed and noticed that Larry was taking a picture of me and he thought we might like a picture of the both of us so he turned around and came back!!!  Really!!!  He was the nicest man who had been born and raised in Baxter Springs.  He still lived in the farm house he was born in and his grown children and grandchildren have all built their homesteads on the farm property around him ("there's no place like home").   He welcomed us to Kansas and blessed us on the rest of our journey.   It brought me to tears!  

One of the kind faces of America!  Thank you, Bill!

We had another 14 hour driving day under our belts and ended that leg of our journey in Columbus, OH, but not until we saw this beautiful sunset over the farmlands around Dayton.

Check back on the events of the last day of our journey with closing thoughts and comments.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Finals Day and Final Standing Results

SUNDAY - Finals Day at Nationals

Started out the day by picking lemons, limes and grapefruit from our trees in our Indian Wells backyard to enjoy back home.  A taste of sunny California in the snowy Northeast!

It's Finals Day at the Nationals and the Sparks are going to cheer on the only team that we lost to in our flight - Mid-Atlantic. They were a great bunch of girls, who played awesome tennis and we were so glad we had the opportunity to play with them.

The Finals came down to Mid-Atlantic vs. Pacific Northwest.  It was a fabulous match with Mid-Atlantic taking all three matches for the National title.   Their coach told us that not only did they have an undefeated season but they closed out all of their matches in just two sets their entire championship season.  They only went to a third set tie-breaker once and that was when the Sparks team took a set from them at Nationals.

Ruth and I are proud to say that we took the only set they lost.  Here is a picture of us with Kathleen and Barbara - 2011 National Women's Senior 3.0 Champions.  Mid-Atlantic earned it and they certainly deserved it.  Congrats girls!!   

This brought the final standings of the Sparks to #6 in the Nation out of 16 teams that were chosen to compete in the Nationals.  It is all about the "luck of the draw" at this level and we had a tough one.  We are happy and we are proud that we did as well as we did.  This was an experience of a lifetime that brought us together with a special bond for life.  We have played together for two years and to go this far in that short time is a huge accomplishment.  Gyata and Bodhi led us all the way with their undying commitment and dedication to helping us reach our goal.  We thank you both and so appreciate all that you have given of yourselves.
And, without the support of all of our families and friends back home, we would not have been able to make it this far.  We thank all of you for supporting us throughout the entire season and helping us to realize our dream of making it to Nationals.  It will forever remain in all of our hearts as one of our life's greatest moments.  WAY TO GO SPARKS!!!!!

Now for our "flight" back home - check back on the adventures of our journey.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday - Day 2 of Nationals -

(Just a note:  For those driving through the vast, expanse deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, cellular coverage is more than spotty.  It has taken me since 10 AM this morning to complete this entry working more hours than I would like to count.)

We were up for an early pre-match warm up at 7:15 AM at Deep Canyon Tennis Club and then on to our USTA official team photo at 8:15 AM at Indian Wells.  We were fortunate enough to play our first match in nice cool weather at 9:00 AM.  After our big win against Mid West we all went to cool down, eat, hydrate, hydrate and hydrate and relax a little before our next match at 3:30 pm.
Sparks Shout Out from our pool between matches.   Ruth, Cindy and Maureen with our team mascot, Sandy, in her "Sparky" pink suit providing us with yet another "gut-wrenching" laughable moment!!!

On to our 3:00 PM match against Texas in the heat of the day - 91 degrees (translates to around 100 in the beating down sun, no clouds, no breeze and tennis courts that have been warming up for you all day long)!! 

Some shots of Ann and Bodhi making it happen at 1st doubles! 

Bodhi ready for action!

Sheila and her amazing focus!

Mary serving it up big for a win!

Happy, happy faces!!  

While yesterday was a little disappointing, we had an awesome day today!   The Sparks hung tight and won both of our matches  against Mid-West and Texas so we ended with a 3-1 record in our flight giving us 2nd place out of 5 teams in our flight. WAY TO GO TEAM!!

Team pics of the 2nd place team in Flight 3!

Bodhi Borer, Ann Zinsmeister, Maureen Hayes-Mitchell, Me, Mary Oliver, Ruth Sikora,
 Sheila Coughlin and our AMAZING Coach, Gyata Storman

Not only is this an awesome looking group of women, but note the beauty in the background.  To look out upon those mountains as you were giving it your all in a match was almost overwhelming at times.  Just to be there was a blessing in itself.  A feeling beyond words!

My biggest fan and my sweetie!!

Happy times for Ruth and Bodhi

Ruth's biggest fan and sweetie!

Ann's husband, Karl, showing his support for the team by providing some much needed shade!

Our Team Managers - they stuck in there with us through it all.  They made sure we all had what we needed at all times from nourishment and hydration to being our fans in the stands giving a "Go Sparks" shout out just when we all needed.  And, as we all know, it is so much harder to watch a match than to play in one.  We  can't thank you enough, Mike and Larry, for all of your dedication and support of our success!!  

My dear cousin Sandy who flew in from Maryland to surprise me, and that she did!  We learned the game of tennis together at our local park when she was 8 and I was 12 and we played together for years as we grew up.   Before my first match she said to me, "remember our first instructor who taught us "bounce - hit"?   Use that when you need it and it will center you."  That I did and I can't thank her enough for being there for me and for providing us all with more laughs than we thought possible!!! 


So after a day of success, it was time to celebrate and that we did!  La Quinta Resort and Club was our venue.  The pictures can't begin to do it justice.  It was beautiful.  It was a huge outdoor courtyard restaurant, unlike anything we could have in the Northeast.  Once again, the "fun meter" was off the charts with dancing, dining, drink, laughter, tears and Margarita's the size of fishbowls!!!!!

Mary flashing her muscle!

Me flashing my "lack" of muscle!


It was a great ending to an amazing day!

Stay tuned for the finals.