Pickleball Road Trip
Travel by RV to see the country, meet people, and play pickleball.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KENDRICK BRINSON
PICTURE going wherever you want, whenever you want. If you feel like staying at a destination for an extra few days—or even a week—or you get the urge to take a spontaneous side trip, no problem. Plus, you get to hang out with fun people all over the country and play pickleball in the mountains, on the beach, next to glorious gardens, you name it.
That’s what it’s like to travel by RV to some of the best courts and most breathtaking places in the U.S. The good news is, more and more campgrounds nationwide are now offering pickleball, so almost anywhere you go, you can get your game on.
Meet five people who are living the RV-pickleball dream—then consider mapping out your own adventure.
The Ride of Their Lives
Playing pickleball at 7,000 feet in the mountains of New Mexico is an experience Marsha and Byron Freso will never forget.“You hit the ball and it floats,” says Byron, 66, as he and Marsha cruise down the highway in their 44-foot Entegra RV. Over the past eight years, they’ve traveled to 48 states, visiting national parks, seeing some of the most spectacular sights in the country, and playing hours of pickleball along the way. “We’ve gone to places we never would have been able to if it weren’t for our RV,” he says.
The Fresos have traveled by rv to 48 states and counting.
And they’ve done it in style: The Entegra is a high-tech, tricked-out home on wheels. “It’s got a fireplace, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, four TVs, a king-size bed, a satellite dish, and an internet hot spot,” Byron says. “We have every convenience, and it’s really comfortable.”
The Fresos set out on this sweet ride in 2013, when Byron met another pickleball player at a tournament who was a full time RVer. The man described how he and his wife had sold their house and belongings and spent their days touring the country with friends. “I was intrigued, so I went home and told Marsha about it, and she was excited by the idea,” Byron says. “One month later, we bought an RV, packed up our house, and hit the road.”
“It’s so freeing,” Marsha Says of setting out on the open road.
They’ve never looked back. “It’s so freeing,” says Marsha, 69, from behind the wheel. “That first day, driving away from the storage unit where we put our stuff, it was like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. We’ve always loved to travel together, and this is a perfect way to go to so many places and see so many things.”
Best of all are the people they meet along the way. “The friendships and relationships we’ve created by RVing and playing pickleball are life-changing,” says Byron, who currently has about 3,000 contacts on his phone (no joke). “These are people we’ve played with, played against, and stayed in RV parks with. I have a phone number for just about everyone we’ve met.”
Today, almost every road trip the couple takes is powered by pickleball. In 2020, Byron became the head official for the Association of Pickleball Professionals tour, so he and Marsha began traveling to numerous tournaments around the country—18 of them last year alone. (They own a house in Florida, where Byron, a busy guy, serves as the head pro for pickleball, tennis, and bocce in a nearby community.) On the road, they make a point to stay only in RV parks with pickleball courts—and it’s easy to understand why. “Being an RVer and a pickleball player is the best combination,” Byron says. “At four o’clock in the afternoon it’s happy hour, and we get together with our fellow RVers and players. We all bring a dish, and we partake, talk, play card games, and just enjoy. It feels like our life is complete because we have these wonderful experiences with the wonderful people we meet RVing and playing pickleball.”
Good Times, Good Friends, and a Very Good BoY
When Kelle and Bob Guchee park their RV to play pickleball, their 12-year-old Labradoodle, Charley, joins them courtside. “He understands how to play the game,” says Kelle. “He sits on the side of the court and he knows not to chase or eat the ball.”
Charley is a key player in the couple’s traveling lifestyle: He’s the reason the Guchees bought their Winnebago in 2017. “We wanted to see the country and play some pickleball along the way, and an RV is the best way to travel with the dog,” Kelle, 62, explains. So far, they’ve logged 54,000 miles and been to such places as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina. Typically, they’re on
the road for two months at a time.
Devoted pickleball players (they started a club in their hometown of Yakima, Washington), the Guchees have discovered that the sport “ties neatly into our RV life,” as Kelle puts it. “We look for places to play in a city we’re passing through, and suddenly we’ve got 10 more new friends for life. We love to compete, and we love to meet new people. This way, we can do both.”
Their 24-foot motor home makes it easy. “It’s probably the smallest RV you can stay in for a long period of time comfortably,” says Bob, 67. “It’s small enough that we can drive it anywhere, and we don’t have to tow a car. It fits in a parking space at the pickleball courts, so we always have our house with us. When we finish playing, we can pop into the shower, change our clothes, and go out to dinner right from the court.”
Being on the road has given the couple the opportunity to play in some incredible places. “I was on the court in February in Palm Desert [California],” Kelle says. “When you look up, the mountains are right there. In the winter they’re snowcapped, and Palm Desert is very green with palm trees. I kept getting hit with the ball because I was staring at the beautiful scenery around me. It was amazing.”
A Man with a Van and a PlaN
Paul Olson has put together the perfect lifestyle. The former Minnesota resident spends winters in Surprise, Arizona, which “has the best weather anywhere in the United States during December, January, and February—plus one of the best concentrations of high-level pickleball players in the country,” he explains. In March, Paul gets in his 22-foot Ford Transit RV van and heads to Florida, where he stays for the month of April and goes to the US Open.In May, he works his way up the Eastern Seaboard, with a stop this year in Flushing Meadows for the New York City Open. From there he drives west to see his kids in Minnesota and then sets out for Montana and Idaho to spend a glorious summer fly fishing, kayaking, and playing pickleball. “I chase the weather,” says Paul, who is single and in his 70s. “I spend the best time of the year in the best places in the country.”
He’s also turned his love of travel into an ideal post-retirement career. Paul, who has played pickleball for a decade, is national brand ambassador for Selkirk, a pickleball equipment brand. In addition, he does marketing work for Acacia Sports, a pickleball shoe company. But having fun is his number-one priority. “My understanding with both companies is that I’m retired first,” he says. “I do what I want to do when I want to do it.”
Paul has been doing things his way since 2019, when “I got the van and thought I’d just give it a try,” he says. “Once you get the bug for traveling, it’s hard to stop.” He stays mainly at RV parks with other pickleball players, where they have a blast. “We have parties after pickleball. RVers are some of the most fun people because they’ve chosen to get out there and experience things,” Paul says. He’s made lasting friendships on courts all over the country. “I run with a crew that ranges from 30-year-olds to those who are my age,” he says. “What they have in common is that they’re all active. They don’t just play pickleball—they bike, they hike, they fish, they go whitewater rafting. I get to meet all these cool, interesting people. It’s the best.”
Your guide to camping courtside
BY ELAINE GLUSAC
Campgrounds with courts are springing up across the country. Pickleball is now found in about 800 parks nationwide, according to the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC). And the large RV parks—those with more than 200 campsites—are at the forefront. “When you get to the mega-parks, that’s where you see an explosion of pickleball,” says David Basler, vice president of membership and marketing for the ARVC. “It’s picklemania,” agrees James Lim, the senior vice president of Sunland RV Resorts, which operates nine properties in California and Florida, four of which have pickleball courts. One even has two pickleball pros to run its tournaments and clinics. “There’s so much excitement around the sport, and we want to help guests reach the next level in their game,” Lim says.
Smaller RV parks are starting to get in on the action as well. In Grand Junction, Colorado, for instance, where Canyon View RV Resort opened last year with 161 camping sites, the pickleball courts are popular with young couples, families, and retirees.
Ready to try the RV-pickleball life? Here are seven top-rated parks to choose from for a smashing vacation.
For All Ages
Sky Valley Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California
Just 25 minutes from Palm Springs (and an hour from Joshua Tree National Park), this expansive park offers something for the entire family. There are 13 hot mineral pools and spas, fitness classes, tennis, shuffleboard, a game room, and karaoke. Nearby, you’ll find a network of hiking trails to explore the area. Regulars call the resort “a pickleball hotbed,” with programming and tournaments on eight courts. (From $45/night; skyvalleyresort.com)
RiverBend Motorcoach Resort, LaBelle, Florida
Situated on the Caloosahatchee River, about 20 miles from Fort Myers, this luxury RV resort has four lakes, three clubhouses, and a private marina. It also has a vibrant pickleball scene, with a club, eight lighted courts (hot dogs and beer are served during nighttime games), and lessons and clinics. You can also swim in the Olympic-size pool, take a class in the fitness center, do arts and crafts, or play bocce or billiards. (From $83/night, May 1–October 31, minimum two-night stay; riverbendflorida.com)
Canyon View RV Resort, Grand Junction, Colorado
The 20-acre park, set amid the deep canyons, breathtaking rock spires, and towering mountains of western Colorado, has a swimming pool, a playground, volleyball, cornhole, and even a soccer field for the kiddos. Hike in the nearby national forest and then visit a range with more than 100 wild horses. But first, grab your paddle and head to one of the two pickleball courts for a morning game with some new friends. (From $55/night; canyonviewrvresort.com)
Silver Palms RV Resort, Okeechobee, Florida
Located at the gateway to the Everglades, this property has everything you need for a fun stay. There are five lakes, a pool and spa, basketball and volleyball courts, fishing, and biking. You’ll also find 10 pickleball courts (eight of them are lighted) and lots of tournaments. The resort hosts the annual Gamma Classic, which draws more than 300 pickleball players each January. (From $96/night; silverpalmsrv.com)
For Ages 55+
Voyager RV Resort & Hotel, Tucson, Arizona
There’s never a dull moment at this sprawling park (it has more than 1,500 RV sites!), with its three swimming pools, hiking trails, a golf course, day spa, and state-of-the-art fitness center. Pickleball is a major draw here: Some 300 members belong to the property’s pickleball club. “People look at this resort as a pickleball destination,” said Bryan Rickman, the president of the club. (From $60/night; voyagerrv.com)
Palm Creek Resort & Residences, Casa Grande, Arizona
Fifty miles south of Phoenix, this park has RV sites as well as vacation homes for rent. After setting up camp, check out the four pools and two restaurants; later, enjoy a game of softball, tennis, or lawn bowling. But what you’re really here for is the robust pickleball program: There are 32 courts, 24 of which are lighted for nighttime play. USA Pickleball has even held its national tournaments at the property. (From $48/night; palmcreek.com)
Golden Village Palms RV Resort, Hemet, California
San Diego–based pickleball pros and brothers Kyle and Casey McMakin head the new pickleball program at this destination in the San Jacinto Valley. There are free pickleball clinics and round-robin tournaments on 10 courts. The resort also has volleyball, three spas, three pools, and horseshoe pits, so you’ll have plenty to do post-play. (From $50/night; goldenvillagepalms.com)