Roadside America: Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Over a hundred years ago, my great-great Uncle Bob built a small cabin to relax overlooking New Hampshire‘s Lake Winnipesaukee, about two hours from Boston. Little did he know that the Lakes Region would later become a point of pilgrimage for thousands of bikers and gamers each year, as it hosts the annual Laconia Motorcycle week in June and arcade enthusiasts year round to the American Classic Arcade Museum. Like many other generations before me, I spent many summers playing skee-ball, building sandcastles, and angling for more money to spend on penny candy. Now that I’m old enough to have honeymooned at Uncle Bob’s old cabin and taken my own daughter there, I still love the old-school feel of the place and hope nothing changes by the time my grandchildren run out of batteries on their iPhone 25s and want some old-fashioned fun. Here are some favorite destinations that have been around for generations past and hopefully, more to come.

Old Country Store
(Moultonborough) – This store was ancient even when Uncle Bob was a tyke (possibly the oldest in the country), and still offers a range of penny candy, pickles from a barrel, and loads of maple and pine treats. You’ll also find kitchen utensils you didn’t even know existed, a map room (mostly New Hampshire/New England) and more moose-themed items than is probably necessary. Be sure to sit on the porch with the cigar store Indian, check out the museum upstairs, and spend a dime or two on the old player piano.

Funspot (Laconia) – Open 60 years this year, Funspot is the largest arcade in the world. It gained real fame when it was featured in the documentary “The King of Kong” for the annual video game tournament at the aforementioned arcade museum. In addition to video games, there’s bowling, bingo, and mini-golf. If you are not a parent or a kid at heart, you can chill out at the tavern with free Wi-Fi too.

Weirs Beach – The Weirs Beach website says they’ve been a place for family fun since the 1950s, but the history goes back much earlier. Weirs is at its peak in summer, where you can ride the waterslides, drive bumper cars, or just hang out on the beach. There’s even a variety of nightlife in season, with fireworks, live bands, and a host of bars.

Corner House Inn (Sandwich) – One of the few independent restaurants open year round, the Corner House dates back over 150 years. You can’t rent a room anymore (they need all the room for hungry diners), but you can enjoy the fire and food for dinner daily. Check out the site for special events, such as storytelling dinners in fall and Friday night music in the pub.

Ames Farm Inn (Gilford) – Open since 1890, the Ames Farm Inn is currently operated by the fourth and fifth generation of family. Choose from cozy rooms or lakeside cabins to stay, or stop for a country breakfast or early lunch in summer.

Castle in the Clouds (Moultonborough) – As a kid, I was a wee bit disappointed that there was no princess at the Castle in the Clouds, but I still enjoyed the nature walks, the views of the lake, and exploring the old mansion dating back to 1914. You can also go horseback riding and meet Zeus, the largest horse in the world. It’s open May to October, with some additional special events in fall for the holidays.

Half Moon Motel and Cottages (Weirs Beach) – Though my ancestor was once an owner of the grand old New Weirs Hotel, I don’t get any discount to stay at the Half Moon Motel and Cottages, built up from the 1930s tea room built on the former hotel grounds and family-owned since the 1950s. With probably the best location in the Lakes Region, every cottage and motel room has views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountains, and free Wi-Fi too.

E.M. Health (Center Harbor)- While you may not usually see a supermarket in a travel story, it’s even more rare to see a family-owned store not only survive six decades but thrive. As a kid, my family’s first stop would be at E.M. Heath for groceries, and it’s since expanded to include a hardware store, photo desk and other services, and it’s still true to its slogan: “Dealer in most everything.”

[Photo credit: timsackton via Flickr]

Terra Nova Expedition Ship Discovered

The ship that gave the name to Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition has been found in the waters off Greenland, the Schmidt Ocean Institute reports.

The SS Terra Nova took Scott’s British team to Antarctica in 1910. They raced to be the first to the South Pole but were beaten by Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian team by only a matter of days. On their way back, bad weather set in and Scott and several team members died.

The SS Terra Nova continued to work in Arctic and Antarctic waters before finally getting damaged by ice and sinking off Greenland in 1943. A ship from the Schmidt Ocean Institute was testing its multibeam mapping echo sounders when it discovered the ship deep in the frigid waters.

The testing was being carried out in preparation for a undersea survey planned for next year. Who knows what else they’ll discover!

[Photo of Terra Nova expedition courtesy NOAA]

Big in Japan: Video Games that Kill

We interrupt our regularly scheduled feature column to bring you an important news bulletin that may save your life, the life of your friends and even the life of your children.

Video games can kill – well, at least this one can.

Earlier this week, an arm wrestling video game known as ‘Arm Spirit’ was removed from arcades across Japan as a precaution. Apparently, the move was prompted by Atlus, the distributor of Arm Spirit, following a number of high profile game-related injuries. Apparently, at least three different players broke their arms during game play.

(And you thought tennis elbow and gamers’ thumb was bad!)

For those of you who don’t regularly visit Japanese arcades (I know I’m a total dork, but they’re just so much fun!), Arm Spirit features a life-sized arm that players try to slam down to the table in a series of matches. Tension increases as players advance through ten levels, with opponents including an erotic French maid, a drunken martial arts master, a yelping Chihuahua and a hulking sumo wrestler.

A long time favorite of high school boys trying to impress their dates, overworked businessmen trying to relieve a bit of tension and resident foreigners trying to show off to their Japanese friends, Arm Spirit appeals to virtually everyone. With stereo sound, hi-definition video and a catchy theme song worthy of putting on your IPod, a round of Arm Spirit is worth every one of your hard-earned yen.

Much like Japanese arcade staples such as Dance Dance Revolution (aka DDR and Dancing Stage), Taiko Drum Master and Guitar Hero, Arm Spirit was destined for fame. Some argue that Arm Spirit could have even taken rank alongside Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda as one of the truly great gaming experiences.

So, what went wrong?

According to Ayano Sakiyama, the company spokesmen for Atlus: “The machine isn’t that strong, much less so than a muscular man. Even women should be able to beat it. We think that maybe some players get over-excited and twist their arms in an unnatural way.”

Sadly, the days of virtual arm-wrestling glory are coming to end as a country-wide investigation has been launched into the incidents, and the recalled machines are being checked for any malfunctions. Loyal fans hold on to the hope that the engineers at Atlus can tweak the unit, thus ensuring that future generations of gamers can enjoy Arm Spirit. However, in a country plagued by the fear of anything even remotely dangerous, it is unlikely that Arm Spirit will be making another appearance in an arcade near you.

Arm Spirit was never released outside of Japan, though perhaps this is the best time to try and snatch up an old machine on E-bay. If you do manage to score one, let me know as I still need to exact my revenge on that infernal Chihuahua. Perhaps it’s my puny arms, but that mutt gets the best of me every time!

(Special thanks to my buddy Ryan-san in Uguisudani, who alerted me and you, the Gadling audience, to this important discovery).

** Arm Spirit photo courtesy of the Associated Press (AP). DDR photo courtesy of Flickr user iotae **