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The Boys Are Back in Town

August 16, 2013
The Hamster and the Hall

The Hamster and the Hall

What a day!

We woke up at Val’s house in Burlington to the sound of chirping birds, which is something we often get at home but haven’t heard even once in our almost three weeks of motels. It wasn’t long before we were saying our goodbyes and heading south toward Springfield, MA, to see the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The weather was beautiful once again and we drove with the top down, singing and dancing to whatever songs came up, reminiscing over the many highlights of the trip thus far, and (finally) thoroughly enjoying endless scenic views like this one:

Vermont

But before we left Vermont we had a couple of stops to make.

The first was at a bakery in Norwich, not to eat but to meet up with someone who would not be done justice by the simple term “old friend.” I don’t think it’s possible to describe my relationship with Heather in just a couple of words. From when I was five years old and my family moved to a house down the block from the Graf family until I was in high school, I practically lived at their house. The Grafs convinced me to join the local Little League and took me to my first Mets game, both of which changed my life though none of us knew it at the time. We came from different backgrounds but I quickly became good friends with Heather’s twin brother, Darren, and my sister and Heather were instant BFFs. We spent each other’s holidays at each other’s houses, we played in each other’s backyards and driveways, and they were like our second family. Meanwhile Heather and I were in the same class every year from fourth grade through ninth. We all went to different high schools, then different colleges, and then my parents divorced and we moved out of the neighborhood. Heather ended up in New Hampshire and, except for my sister’s wedding, I didn’t see Heather for close to 25 years. But she was vacationing in Vermont this week, and after a few false starts we were finally able to meet up this morning. Heather’s mom, who was like my extra mom for so much of my childhood, came too.

It was so great catching up on each other’s lives and families and on everyone else from the old neighborhood that I completely lost track of time. One hour stretched to two, and through it all Sam behaved admirably despite being completely bored. By the time we parted I started to worry that we’d have to rush through the Hall of Fame. Not worried enough, though, to skip our next stop.

One of the big things that Vermont and New Hampshire are known for (among many others) are their many covered bridges. But the longest covered bridge in the world is actually in New Brunswick. So of course a few days ago when the Hamster and I were on our way back to Maine from New Brunswick we drove about 20 minutes out of the way to drive over the Hartland Bridge, more than 1,200 feet of one-lane wooden bridge quaintness. The second longest, however, connects Windsor, Vermont, and Cornish, New Hampshire, and was only a little bit out of our way en route to Springfield.

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge may be only the second-longest in the world, but it’s two lanes wide, so the little sign near the bridge boasts that it’s the world’s longest two-lane wooden bridge. It was nice to see the bridge but nicer still to see the warning above the bridge on the NH side: “Walk your horses or pay two dollars fine.”

Behind us were a bridge to the past and a bridge to New Hampshire. Ahead was only the Basketball Hall of Fame. We got there about an hour and a half before closing time, which was plenty because Sam neither knows nor particularly cares much about the history of the game or who is enshrined there and spent most of his time with the interactive exhibits.

First, though, we walked slowly through what they call the Hall of Heroes (photos and blurbs of the actual inductees). We’ve now been to the halls of fame for baseball, football, rock ‘n roll, tennis, and basketball, and each one has a completely different way of honoring and displaying its members. The Basketball HOF is inside a three-story building that’s shaped like a giant basketball. One the first floor is a full-court basketball court with plenty of balls so everyone who wants can shoot around. The second floor is the exhibits, the memorabilia, and the interactive stuff. The top floor is the hall itself, and the walls are curved because of the round shape of the building. The inductees each have a large, backlit photo from their primes on the curved wall in rows. The result is that you can see the inductees from all three floors, and it looks almost as if they’re looking down onto the court to watch everyone play.

Basketball Hall of Fame

We started at the top. As usual, I took my time looking at each photo and reading several of the blurbs (which I must point out were extremely well written) while Sam breezed through looking for the handful of names he recognized. Soon he was ready for the second floor.

One thing the basketball hall has over the others we’ve seen is fun. There were all kinds of games and activities on the second floor. We posed with the NBA championship trophy. We recorded a brief TV broadcast in which we mentioned some fake basketball highlights. We shot arcade hoops. We measured our shoe sizes, heights, jumping abilities, and wingspans against famous NBA players.

Sam vs. Kevin Durant  Adam vs. Kevin Durant

We learned that my wingspan is not that much shorter than Kevin Durant’s despite his significant height advantage, that we are both dwarfed by Shaq’s shoe size, and that Sam still has a little growing to do if he wants to play pro ball. Here he is with Spud Webb and Dikembe Mutombo:

Sam, Spud, and Dikembe

Despite his height disadvantage, he’s still got skills, es evidenced by the monster dunk he threw down (on a 5-ft hoop):

We also learned that Sam still has a little growing up to do regardless of his future career path.

Sam and Bill

That’s Bill Walton’s nose, in case you were wondering.

It was great watching Sam run from exhibit to exhibit thoroughly enjoying himself. But the best part, surprisingly, came when we got to the first floor close to closing time, and Sam suggested we play a little one-on-one. With the Hall-of-Famers looking down on us from above we both went all out and had a great time trying to best each other. I had the height advantage, but the Hamster still managed to squeak out a 5-4 victory. I guess he just wanted it more. We play one-on-one in our driveway at home pretty often, but this one little scrimmage instantly became one of the highlights of the road trip.

It was just after 5 p.m. when he got back in the car, so we had some time before dinner. Eventually we stopped somewhere to cook; to celebrate our last night on the road I grilled a nice, thick London broil I had bought at a supermarket back in Bangor. It was delicious, but the best part was where we ate it:

Home!

Home! Yes, that’s real silverware and a real plate and glass but, most important, it’s our kitchen. We made great time getting home and tonight we sleep in our on beds. The boys are back in town.

This trip has included great experiences and some real frustrations. Some of my favorite excursions were the Hopewell Rocks, indoor skydiving, Pez, whale watching, the West Quoddy Head Light, Ben & Jerry’s, and the Red Sox game. But also on that list are the unexpected highs that arose organically from being together: playing tennis in Newport, playing catch in Portland, playing basketball in Springfield, singing along to “Life is a Highway” with the top down as we drove through Connecticut on the first day, chanting “U-S-A” as we left New Brunswick, hunting for state license plates, and all the general silliness that happens when two immature boys spend three weeks in a car together.

Tomorrow you’ll hear from the Hamster one last time. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get started planning next summer’s road trip …

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Yehuda Lazar permalink
    August 16, 2013 9:34 am

    Welcome back. It seems like you had a great compact adventure. Sorry I didn’t post comments on all the blog entries, I just couldn’t find a Greek font that would work well.

  2. Haha stupid americans permalink
    October 11, 2014 6:34 pm

    That is not Spud Webb and Dikembe Mutombo! That’s Muggsy Bogues and Manute Bol stupid american. Also your son is wearing a pancake on his head, might wanna take that off?

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