Places I've been (that are not the Bahamas)
Place 31: Waterville Valley, New Hampshire (August 1989)

This was my family’s vacation spot for about four years. We’d spend a week up in the mountains; swim in the pools; hike on the trails; play golf; and it’s where I learned to play some tennis. The air was clear and you were always surrounded by snow-capped mountaintops.

Waterville Valley, NH

Good times.

When my sister, Kristine, learned about my little project here, she was instrumental in recalling and suggesting some locations that we’d been and the stories I should tell.

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Place 30: Lake Placid, New York (July 2007)

This was yet another great road trip I took with my father and sister. The purpose was to cheer my father on as he swam, rode, and ran the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon.

Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon

A lot of highlights from this trip. The first striking thing about this mountaintop town is how small it is and how difficult it is to get there. The roads are long, windy (& windy), and narrow. How they ever hosted not one but two global sports competitions up there is way, way beyond my comprehension.

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Place 29: Boston, Massachusetts (February 2001)

I am definitely not someone who is on the cutting edge of music. I’m a sucker for Top 40 pop (particularly the 70s) and classic rock (southern included). However, my friend Jonathan, he always seems to be up on what’s up and coming. In early 2001 he was talking about a group that had a popular video on MTV2 (that’s how long ago this was).

Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut

He got tickets to the group that was playing a medium-sized venue (300 people?) in Boston. In the time between when he’d purchased the two $25 tickets and the night of the show, the band exploded. Their single was everywhere to be heard and the tickets were an extremely hot commodity. They began to sell for 5-6 times face value on eBay. Being poor college students, this was a tempting proposition. But, Jon was very much into seeing the band and I was very grateful that he’d invited me to join him.

So, on a cold February England in the rural outer ring of greater Hartford, Connecticut we drove off in Jon’s early 90s (manual transmission) Ford Probe to see the English band…

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Place 28: Mesa, Arizona (April 2008)

This is where my grandfather and his wife lived. It’s a retiree’s paradise… and I didn’t mind it myself. They had a swimming pool and grandpa was an electronics nut. He had a satellite dish (one of those monster deals before the little ones were cool) and all sorts of mini-gadgetry from RadioShack. He bought me my first computer which helped get me on the road to my current profession.

Mesa, Arizona

Later in life, I’d love going out there because of all the golf there was to play.

But, of course, this story isn’t about all that. It’s about a curious American west coast institution known as In-n-Out Burger.

At the time, I knew of In-n-Out Burger mostly from it being featured in the The Big Lebowski. After that film came out, I heard more and more (on the opposite side of the country) about how great their burgers were — and about their “secret menu.” We also heard that there were absolutely no plans, whatsoever, to bring the institution out east.

On my previously-referenced trip to the Grand Canyon, I stayed in downtown Phoenix. As anyone who’s been to the American Southwest knows, you don’t really walk anywhere. You need a car and you will need to get on the highway. I was driving down it one day and there it was. The big red sign with the yellow arrow. It was the middle of the afternoon so it was the perfect time: less crowded.

In-n-Out Double Double

I ordered a double-double animal style (knowledge of the secret menu helped) and paused a moment to remember what was likely to be a mind-blowing hamburger experience.

The verdict: It was pretty good. Definitely not great.

Yeah, I mean, certainly good for a hamburger but not at all deserving of the wonder it carries across the country. A few years later I’d go to Five Guys Burgers and Fries and be much, much more impressed. The real problem was their heavily-praised, cooked-on-premises bun: it was fresh, sure, but way too sweet. It took away from the whole experience and overshadowed everything else. It was almost like a dessert sweet roll.

Sorry In-n-Out, you fell victim to your own hype. You were too built up in my mind to perhaps ever meet (let alone exceed) expectation. But best of luck out there! Looks like you’re doing fine.

Obviously, all those hamburgers have not been good for my figure. Perhaps some fresh fish and nice jogs on white sand beaches in the Bahamas would help there. If you’d like to help me get there and enter to win a trip to a paradise island and $15,000, share this story with your friends and click on through to enter TomTom’s Map Paradise contest.

Place 27: Washington, DC (July 1989)

Well-known fact: Though I’ve lived the vast majority of my life in New England (Connecticut and Massachusetts to be even more specific), I was not born here. I was born on Andrews Air Force Base near America’s capital city. I have a strong affection for the District and though I moved away only a few months after my birth, I’ve returned many times.

The trip in question was for my mother’s 30th college reunion. During the day, we did the usual touristy stuff. Air & Space museum is a personal favorite; Dad insisted we see To Fly in IMAX (before IMAX was cool and ubiquitous). We went to the top of the Washington Monument. We got teary-eyed at the Vietnam Memorial. Stuff like that.

And yet, when I summoned the memory of this trip, my mind went to a very ridiculous and stupid place. It kind of sums up the whole point of these stories I’ve been telling: rarely is it the actual places that remain in my mind, rather, individual moments completely unrelated.

This memory is so stupid in so many ways, I kind of wish I could forget it. Here goes:

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Place 25: Springfield, Vermont (October 2010)

This trip was for my bachelor party. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

This is a story about the Schaefer nautical light as seen below.

The ballad of the piece of classic breweriana begins in 1999 when I was a sophomore at the University of Connecticut.

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