This past summer I met a man from Florida. (That sounds a bit strange... but Mr. Dreamy is ‘in’ on this. It is all above board!) We were playing pickleball, and our conversation went something like this:
He: You have a Freightliner shirt on. Thwack! Do you have an RV?
Me: Out! Yeah, 3-4-1, thwack! Do you?
He: I got it, thwack! My wife and I are living on our RV while we visit the Denver area.
Me: Your serve. That’s really cool.
He: 3-4-2, thwack! Yeah. Our son lives here. Thwack!
Me: Thwack! Where is your home? Thwack!
Pickleball can be like this. One can meet the most interesting people and learn about them over the course of a game or two ten. It turned out that Paul and his wife were also heading to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We exchanged phone numbers and one day, while we were at the Fiesta, we visited Paul’s motorhome and met his wife, Sue, his son, and a few of their grandchildren. We had an enjoyable visit and that might have been the end of the story, except... I left my hat on Paul’s motorhome. (In hindsight, this was a great way to push me to keep in touch!) We couldn’t connect again during the Fiesta, but Paul lives fairly close to where we stay when we are in Florida and he encouraged us to visit and play some pickleball. We had a few days in our schedule where we couldn't get a site in the State park near the family, so we drove south and arranged to meet with Paul and Sue. Paul and I managed to get 3 or 4 pickleball games in before the rains came. We had a lovely lunch at a nearby club, and had a drive around the community. That’s where we get to “the bag of chips”.
Paul and Sue live in The Villages. Think “55+ Community” on steroids combined with the magic of Disney. (However, even though this is in central Florida, Disney has nothing to do with it.) The Villages, as they exist now, were begun by a development company owned by Gary Morse in the 80's. He modeled his community after the successful "Sun City" retirement communities, planning for amenities for residents and nearby commercial areas. But, unlike Sun City, The Villages are a collection of different residential areas forming neighborhoods, of which there are at least 32*. There may be more now, as it has been an entire week since I was there, and new villages are being constructed as I type. (OK, so I am exaggerating just a bit about the growth in this community.) Each neighborhood has its own pool and recreational area with shuffleboard courts, horseshoes or other games. There are an additional 22 Recreation Centers with large pools and recreation buildings with pool tables, meeting rooms or areas for crafts, games or entertainment and full kitchens. Each of these centers has tennis courts and pickleball courts. There are also 8 regional centers that have venues for large presentations, larger pools, and larger meeting rooms. Each facility is unique in its decor, and the one we stopped at, The Eisenhower, was stunning. Additionally there are 32 9-hole golf courses, that can be played for free, and 11 championship, 18-hole courses. Paul shared the Recreation News section of the community newspaper with me. The first 25 pages list the schedules for each of the recreation centers. The remaining 25 pages briefly describe a variety of clubs and activities that are available in the community.... everything from Acoustic Guitar, Air Gun Club and Aqua Rhythms to a number of Yoga classes and six different Zumba classes! There is no excuse to be bored!
If you are a bit more serious, there is a Lifelong Learning Institute operated by the community, as well as a nearby campus for a Community and State college.
There are 4 Town Squares within The Villages, each having its own unique architecture. The Town Squares have shops, theaters and restaurants, as well as special market days. In addition, they offer free, nightly entertainment.
Wow! This place is all that, and a bag of chips!
*Sources for my information were Wikipedia and “The Villages Recreation News”