“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Thank you, Charles Dickens for summing up my week-long summer vacation with my family in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. With July 2021 being the wettest month in the past one hundred years, why should the week I picked for our family vacation be any different?
Driving to New Hampshire, I kept thinking the rain might let up. Things always look brighter just beyond the horizon. This time, everything looked the same shade of gray we left behind in Massachusetts. But we were determined to make the best of it.
The week wasn’t all doom and gloom, although it sure started out that way. My wife and I left on a Friday afternoon ready to spend a week in New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley with my son, his wife and our two grandchildren. The place we were staying at was close quarters for six people, but we’re a close family. And the torrential rain brought us even closer.
What better way to start a rainy vacation week than with a meal at a NH Mexican restaurant and a trip to the movie theater. I had my reservations about going back inside a theater during a resurgence of the pandemic, but the allure of seeing the animated film Boss Baby 2 on the big screen was something I couldn’t pass up (my family wouldn’t let me stay home). Luckily the theater was mostly empty and the movie was surprisingly fun.
The next day back at our place, the cable tv and internet were not working. With no Netflix or iPads to entertain the children, we sorted through our old-school DVD collection to pass the time. Who would have thought Ron Howard’s fantasy film “Willow” would be too intense for my four and six year-old grandkids? Nightmares ensued thanks to the wild boar/wolf hybrid creatures who kept rearing their ugly heads throughout the film searching for the baby princess. The thunder, lightning and severe rainstorms rattling our windows didn’t help although they certainly added a surround-sound atmosphere.
Since the rain continued all night, we designated the following day Arcade Day. After sampling the small arcade near our place (which consisted of Pac-Man and two decrepit pinball machines) we decided to take a trip to Weirs Beach in Laconia. The skies began to clear as we walked the boardwalk and drove the Bumper Cars. The grandkids enjoyed the arcade at the pier, which was a lot more fun when my own children visited the place years ago. The Ski Ball prize tickets have been replaced with Arcade Debit Cards which keep track of your point balance while sucking all the fun out of collecting and cashing in paper tickets for prizes. When our debit cards were tallied, the kids had 120 points each. My granddaughter was not happy. She wanted a 5000-point inflatable pony. After much discussion, she decided to keep the point balance on her card. I told her if she came back every year for the next ten years, she would have enough points to get her pony. My grandson was very happy with his 100-point Whoopee Cushion (or as he calls it, a “Fart Bag”).
Back on the boardwalk, my son waited in line under the “Giant Lobster Roll” sign at the corner take-out stand only to be told by the clerk that they didn’t have lobster rolls.
“We only serve pizza,” the counter worker said.
“But the sign says…”
“Look, I’m not even supposed to be working today. Do you want pizza or not?”
My son left disappointed with the same look on his face as his daughter who never got her pony.
Captain’s Cove Mini Golf was mega-crowded even in the cloudy weather, so we proceeded to Fun Spot (The World’s Largest Arcade). The overflowing parking lot and long lines of people at the entrances didn’t look like much fun, so we headed back to Waterville. My son spent the drive searching for a restaurant he found online. The elusive Pig Man’s BBQ food truck was nowhere to be found. He did find another food truck called “The Pit” just off the highway. A giant rack of slow-cooked ribs was just what we needed to take the edge off. The ribs were a close second to the ice cream truck serving shrimp tacos. We were fast becoming roadside connoisseurs.
Things began to look up towards the end of our week. The cable tv and internet were fixed so we could stare at our phones to see what we were missing back in the real world. We got to enjoy a couple of beautiful days at the pool at our facility. We met up with friends who were visiting their grandchildren at a summer ski camp in Waterville Valley. My son and his family ice skated inside the frigid sports arena even though it was 80 degrees outside. I didn’t skate but I was mentally exhausted from willing the children not to fall down.
The highlight of our trip to Clark’s Trading Post was a sudden ice storm that sent park goers running for shelter as pea-sized hail (in July?) pelted the screaming crowd. The mad dash for cover was like something from a disaster movie. No one got trampled, but more than a few people were soaking wet and stinging from hail stones. Luckily my family was under a covering when the storm hit. The surprise weather event added another exciting element to our already eventful week.
The day we were scheduled to leave New Hampshire, the weather warmed up and the sun was shining. We delayed our scheduled return by an extra day to gain some relaxing pool time. The downside was getting caught in the Sunday afternoon traffic heading south to Massachusetts. I didn’t mind because I knew I’d be in my own home in a few hours. I’ve never been more happy to see the “Welcome to Stoneham” sign. I guess I’m a flatlander at heart.