Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day 8--Durham, NH; Auburn, ME

Because we don’t have to check out of the motel, Todd and I allow ourselves to sleep in. I awake around 9:30 to hear Todd checking e-mail, and he informs me that the breakfast buffet is actually quite above average: make your own waffles, French toast, danishes, as well as all the usual suspects.

I wander down and make myself a waffle, but there isn’t any jelly to put on it and the consistency is a little rubbery, so I try a cinnamon bun and then we start loading up the car.

Our plan is to take 93 up to the Play-It-Again sports in Derry, New Hampshire, get a replacement disc for me, cut across to Durham to play at the Lake Hickory course, then cut across to 95 up to Maine to play Dragan Fields in Auburn.

There are two fatal flaws in my plan. The first is that I found a note that says there is a Skate and Sport shop by Amesbury right off the interstate that sells disc. I think that it is preferable to go to Play It Again, because I can find store hours on the Internet and I know it won’t be closed on the weekend. I have never been to a Play It Again that did not have discs.

As we go into New Hampshire, Todd asks if Bienvenue is French, because our welcome signs are bilingual. I say (thinking back to Cabaret—Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome) that I think it is. Todd says he is surprised because he never associated New Hampshire with the French. What, I crack, “Live Free or Die” doesn’t immediately make you think of the French? Once we cross over the state line 93 appears to be heading for a traffic delay, so we get off the interstate for a parallel adjoining road. I begin to become concerned because all I have is a street name, West Broadway, and not a route number. In fact, I drew myself a little map and have 93 running north south and to the side I have written “121.” On the map, route 121 looks much farther north than 10 miles. Did I write the wrong exit? It seemed clear on the map on the Internet that I could buy the discs and cut across a NW road to Durham, but if the Play It Again is farther north, well that isn’t happening.

On our way up the local road, we pass the Robert Frost Home. (We can see it from the road.) There is a nice white fence and a barn; I ask Todd if he wants to stop and take a picture, like at Sleepy Hollow, but he just shrugs and says the only one he knows who cares about Robert Frost is a former colleague of ours. Todd, I will remind you, is the man who took a picture of his Samurai Roll (avocado, crabmeat, cucumber stick, rice, kelp wrapper, topped with salmon) at Little Tokyo.

We hit the junction for 102, which is the route we need to cut across to Durham, but I tell Todd to go West for 2 miles in case this is the road of the Play It Again sports, even though route 121 is still 10 miles north. If we don’t hit the store before the interstate, we can backtrack and say we missed it. The first street sign we see says West Broadway, and it is going through a small New Hampshire town that isn’t like most suburban places where I usually find a Play It Again shop. I am almost simultaneously hit with two very contradictory, nay diametrically opposed emotions.

The first, following fast on the heels of “so where on West Broadway is this store, what’s the number” is a triumphal “121!” The second, more sinking feeling like that of the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is, “perhaps I should have taken the road closer to the store closer to where I knew there was an actual disc golf course…

The sporting goods store is in a shopping center, and to give you and idea of how fast my heart is sinking, the biggest banner in the window is an invitation to join the “Skater’s Club.’ It seems if I get my ice skates sharpened a certain number of times, the next one is free. Ice skates? Nobody (in North Carolina anyway) goes to Play It Again Sports for ice skates…not when the summer is nice and they are on their way to play disc golf. I’m met by a clerk who asks if he can help me.

“I’m looking for golf discs for disc golf” I say with a rather pathetic, pleading whine to my voice that I can’t remember having used since I was, oh, 12 and I was asking my mom to buy me the new Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators paperback (The Mystery of the Talking Mummy?).

“Sorry, we don’t carry those.” No, of course not, why would you?

So it’s back in the car, and I’m almost tempted to go back to 495 or at least go to Maine first, since Dragan Field is supposed to have a pro shop (that may or may not be open on a Saturday). Durham is right in the way, though, so we decide to head there first. In the meantime, we pop in Umberto Eco’ The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana to pass the time.

Now my second fatal error is not entirely my fault. Before going on this trip, I called John Nisewonder and asked for course recommendations. He passed along that a buddy had told him that the course in Dover, NH that I had initially planned to play was under construction and not “worth” going to. Since the PDGA says 18 holes to 16 baskets, I decided that Durham, with its 11 holes (and a little closer to the interstate) is a better bet. Besides, the PDGA website says it is by a ball golf course and is $3.50 per round. I think, quite reasonably, that this means it is more likely to be maintained. (There is also a message at DiscGolfLife.com saying, from someone in 2003, to bring bug spray.

Our instructions are approaching from the North and we are coming from the south, but it is supposed to be by a bed and breakfast, so we have no trouble finding the road. I go in to the registration area and wait patiently for the college aged receptionist to check in the guests. Can she helps us, she asks a bit dubiously.

We’d like to play the disc golf course, do we pay here?

Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t do disc golf anymore. The owner sold the golf course or something…not sure…haven’t been able to let people go out…

Todd and I return to the car, stunned. My mind is racing…I don’t have the instructions to Dover, to I get them tonight and come back tomorrow (adding another 70 so miles to a long leg of the trip)? Do I leave New Hampshire for another trip? How can I? I’m desperate…New Hampshire is mocking me for the French comment, I know, or for dissing Robert Frost. It’s cosmic pay back. I understand cosmic pay back, but this is like a prison term for jaywalking. I’m sorry New Hampshire….I’ll never say anything bad about Robert Frost again if only….

As we continue on the road, I can see a basket from the road, and I’m tempted to get out and jump the fence, but there is no place to pull the car.

“Turn the car around,” I tell Todd. I go back in to the B&B but the receptionst is gone, getting sheets for a bed. I find her down the hall.

Okay, I’m not crazy, but hear me out. My friend and I are on a road trip to help me in my goal to play Disc Golf in all 50 states and New Hampshire doesn’t have many courses. I don’t want to mess up your insurance, but please, I’m begging you, can I just go around to the back yard and throw one hole so I can say I’ve played in New Hampshire?

“You didn’t ask me,” she says with a nod and turns away. I take this to mean, no permission in case anything goes wrong, but she won’t call the cops.

Todd pops the trunk for me and I grab two discs and tear aound the garden, finding a sidewalk about 150 feet from a basket. No time to warm up or even aim, I let the Leopard fly, run up with my putter, finish the hole, jump over one of New England’s many stone fences to the road, backtrack to the car and jump in. Todd finishes his phone call and asks me if I got New Hampshire on the board.

“Yeah,” I say with a slight scowl.
“What’s the matter?” he asks.

There is a slight pause.

“I took a 3.”

***********************************

Maine welcomes us with a claim that “Life Should Always Be This Good” or something of the sort. Along the road, the Maine Highway Safety committee regales us with bits of advice, most of which could apply to disc golf as well as driving cars.

“Check your speed often.” (Sure.)
“Avoid driving while tired.” (Well, duh.)
“Always wear your seat belt.” (Okay, not all.)

We stop for lunch as the world’s busiest Rest Area along the interstate and get some more good old fashion “We’re So Glad You’re Here That We Can’t Wait for You to Leave” New England service. Honestly, only half of it is Popeye’s fault (setting up two lines for self-service and ordering that mix, but the other part is the family ahead of us.

Okay, I’ve never been a patient man, especially when it’s been almost 24 hours since I got a disc golf fix, but Todd and I make several observations regarding this family.

1) The name is Popeye’s Fried Chicken. The menu options should not come as too much of a surprise.
2) When there are 2000 people in line behind you, you are morally obligated to know what you (and your two kids) want BEFORE you are next in line.
Still, it’s another hour or so to Dragan Field, so we figure we need some sustenance. I have some chicken strips and mashed potatoes and it’s back on the road.

Dragan Field is one of the highlights of the trip. It is one of those beautiful farmland courses that is sprawling, distance oriented, and a work out. The pro shop is, indeed, open, and I try to purchase a new Sidewinder, but there is only a 150 class, so I get a Champion Teebird instead (as much turn as Sidewinder but less speed, so less fade and less glide.) I also buy a DX Monster which is supposed to be a 10 speed (Sidewinder is 9) but with the same glide as Sidewinder. It’s a bit pricey, but I’m worried about not having anything in between the Leopard and the Valkyrie.

I’m glad to have them and will use them, but it turns out I don’t need them. The course is open enough that I can throw the Valkyrie and not worry about too much fade. Todd loses a beat up Eagle on Hole 1 (where we throw 3), but he turns over a Gazelle into a roller and drops under the hole for a deuce and we are off. On the second hole, I chip in from about 75 feet (Roc) for a deuce, and I know it will be a good day. The fourth hole is a 405 foot par 5 according to my scorecard. I take a 4, but I realize this will be a long course (5116) with a lot of elevation changes, so I should focus on learning my discs and practicing distance throwing. (Also, no injuries…watch footinb with all the ups and downs.)

The course is a beauty. I hit about 6 baskets on putts, but only 1 is one that I really should make every time (10 feet) and another that I should make 90 percent (15). I’m actually putting better; my misses are hitting basket or chains from 20+, rather than the ones that are hitting the bottom of the basket from a lazy 12 feet. One even comes to rest on top of the basket. I get another deuce on the 310 down hill, tenth hole. I try to calculate if this is the longest hole I’ve ever deuced (a 35 footer curves in with the Stingray). It could be, but with downhills you can’t be sure.

Todd and I both make 20 foot putts on 18 and it feels good to finish on a good note. I shoot a 61, Todd a 66, and the par listed on the card is 68, so I’m feeling pretty good. We stop back in the club house to see if anyone turned in Todd’s Eagle (no) or if they have any for sale (no). While there, I check out the scores for last tournament and am a bit discouraged. The course record, I’m told, is a 47, which doesn’t bother me (son of owner), but I’m seeing quite a few high 50s. I would have been third to last in the advanced division, towards the middle of intermediate. Then again, there are some cards for recent local monthly, and in these, I am pretty much right in the middle, so it is possible that not as many recreational players play in tournaments up here. The guy at the clubhouse says that occasionally new players come out and, if this is the first course they play, get discouraged and never come back. The PDGA web site calls it a “technical” course, which Todd deems accurate. Upon consideration, I think it possible with knowing a few local shots and putting consistently, I probably could shoot in the mid to high 50s (57-58) and that I not only don’t suck, but I do have a little, if only a little, talent.

In Chapter 3 (“The Virtue and Practice of Surrendering Ourselves”), de Causade writes, “It is necessary to be disengaged from all we feel and do in order to walk with God in the duty of the present moment. All other avenues are closed. We must confine ourselves to the present moment without taking thought for the one before or the one to come.”

Certainly today is like that. To the extent I can disengage from expectations, outside distractions, what came before (who shot what when I wasn’t there) or what is to come (Am I getting better? Will I compete when next I play?) and focus on the present moment, the moment when a 75 foot chip goes in, I am the happiest. De Causade suggests in another passage that all of God’s decisions are a series of decisions leading to the present moment, that the present moment is the most important one. Can I accept the clanking putts from 15 feet if I understand that they are a series of moments that give significance, positive or negative, to the present moment? I think I can, or, at the least, I can make it a discipline so to try. Today was good practice because the moments were good and so I could work on not spoiling them by whining that they were not better. On other days there will be, no doubt, practice taking the disappointments as meaningful gifts that will make me appreciate the good ones (as well as the great ones) even more, but for today, the job was just to take the above average and be content.

On the way home, Todd plays Over The Rhine on the CD. I’ve never heard it, but seems like people at A&F are anointing them flavor of the month. The lead singer is claiming that every day, she dies a little. I guess this is true. But some days you live a little, too.

Like today.

HICKORY POND (I considered apply the heretofore labeled Rhode Island rule and taking a 2 on each hole I couldn’t play, but I decide that applies only to courses that are open with holes that are unplayable.)

3 (OUT) 3
Total: 3

DRAGAN FIELD

3-2-3 4-3-5 3-4-4 OUT (31)
4-2-4 4-3-4 3-3-3 IN (30) 61

Day 8 Tally
Courses 11.1
New Courses 6.1
States 8
Discs Lost 3
Discs Bought 2
Allusions in the First 3 Chapters of an Umberto Eco Novel: 2300
Maine Department of Safety Highway Tips Passed: 13
Maine Department of Satefy Highway Tips Followed: All of them.

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