Palms, ponds and manicured gardens border the golf fairways
Photos: Brent Cassie
Welcome Home! The inviting greeting spans the sandstone archway to the entrance of Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, a man-made oasis in the city of Casa Grande, Arizona. It's also a heart-warming reminder that we're back, once again, to enjoy this carefree lifestyle for the next few months. Last year was our inaugural snowbird experience at this 55-plus park. And by the end of our fun-filled stay, it truly did feel like home!
Signature palms border the adjacent golf fairways and billow over a main road that leads us to the central core. Registration is a breeze and within minutes we're given the red-carpet treatment and escorted by Ranger Rick to our new digs on Sunset Mesa Lane. "It's great to have you back," he says, after handing us our welcome package and marshalling our fifth wheel into its temporary homestead. "Just plug her in and you'll be ready to play."
The park offers 2,200 sites; an assortment of cottage homes, park models and spacious RV pads, each boasting full hook-ups, cable TV and a large patio slab beneath a pretty palm. Even before unpacking the lawn chairs, we've reconnected with new and old acquaintances; Ann and Tom from Georgia, Dave and Arlene from Colorado, Penny and Robert from California and Ron and Marilyn, our good friends from White Rock, BC. Remember what it was like when you returned to summer camp and reunited with all your buds? Well, it's kind of the same feeling, only it's wintertime and we're just a little older! Regardless of age, everyone's a happy camper. In fact, you can't pass a person on the street without getting a smile or wave.
With over 165 activities a week to choose from, there's good reason for the euphoria – and little excuse for boredom. The Activities Centre in the main reception area is the best place to check out the offerings and, from our new residence, it's a quick bike ride away.
"I'm just going to go sign up for a few things," I say to my husband, who is now settled into a chaise lounge with his nose in a book. "I'll be back in a jiffy." But he knows the truth. He saw me stash the park calendar and highlighter into my backpack and he knows that my Type-A personality will soon kick into overdrive. And, that it does!
In addition to listing special events at the adjacent Palm Park, and day trips to attractions near both Phoenix and Tucson, this action-packed room has enough sign-up temptations to keep my inner child ecstatic for the entire stay. Lapidary, silversmithing, painting, photography and quilting, are a few that will appease my crafty side. Cardio classes, line dancing, the hiking club and any one of the three shimmering pools will help burn off those inevitable happy-hour calories. And when it comes to ball sports, there's a gamut to choose from. Water volleyball, softball, tennis, lawn bowling – not to mention our favourite go-to sport, pickleball. Palm Creek is a magnet for those of us who are drawn to this popular North American sport. Its 32 dedicated courts that sprawl along the park's eastern border have been host to a number of annual tournaments, including the US Nationals for the past two Novembers. It was this park perk that originally lured us to Palm Creek. And it was last year's great play that brought us back again. Round robins, shoot-outs, mixed doubles, couples and challenge play are regularly scheduled for all ability levels. I was also privileged to play with an awesome group of women in an invitational play (we called ourselves the 3.75 girls) and, over the three-month stint, not only did our skills strengthen but so did the bonds of friendship.
"You're back!" The zealous greeting is followed by a big hug from Linda, one of my pickleball pals. "I hope you're leaving room on that busy slate to fit in our group," she says, glancing down at my highlighted itinerary. She knows that I will.
My passion for pickleball is clearly evident, yet over the next three months, there are a number of other pastimes that become close contenders. Anchoring the west end of the main hub is a yummy bistro and pro shop and beyond is the first golf tee and putting green. I'm certainly no Berg or Suggs, but I put my best swing forward while playing this 18-hole Championship Par 3. There are lots of options for the avid golfer; women's and men's leagues, tournaments and clinics, Nine and Dine. And while playing on this beautiful greenbelt that weaves throughout the park, it's easy to get sidetracked by the integrated ponds, challenging creeks and lush landscape.
Just east of the reception centre is a breezeway that's bordered by several games rooms, a ballroom and various studios. As well as partaking in card nights and dances, the pottery room becomes one of my favourite hangouts. After a few introductory sessions, I'm wheel-throwing and hand-building. By the time we're ready to leave the park, I have more nut bowls and Christmas gifts than I'll ever need!
A short jaunt from pottery is the Santan Room, where every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, my vocal chords also get a good workout. Mary is amazing at directing the altos and sopranos then uniting us with the tenors and bases to fine tune each number. After a couple of months of practicing, the Palm Creek Chorus performs to two full-house concerts.
"You were radiating up there," my husband exclaims, after joining the crowd in a standing ovation on our final night. "It looks like you felt right at home."
I think about his comment and reflect on our past fabulous three months at this snowbird winter camp; the friends we've made, fun we've had, comforts we've enjoyed. It may not be our permanent address, but I'm sure looking forward to coming home to Palm Creek next year.
IF YOU GO:
Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort: http://palmcreekgolf.com/
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