Pinball wizard.

There are milestones, and then there are milestones. While I have dutifully relayed many of my car’s achievements, this post will be about my own personal odometer- this past weekend I celebrated my 40th birthday! Forty years old… truthfully, I still feel 18, although 18 was actually a long time ago! And on my birthday, I did what I do best: I hit the road.

Friday morning, I got in DH and pointed him northward, to Boston. The plan was to meet up with friends all weekend for good times, food (lots of food!), and to make great memories. Unfortunately, the three hundred mile drive took almost 8 hours, as traffic jams in New Jersey and Connecticut caused numerous delays. One of the realities of living in the heavily populated northeastern United States is that the roads are always filled with other drivers, day and night.

4 hours and 45 minutes? I think Siri is a little optimistic.
New Jersey traffic…
…which looks remarkably similar to Connecticut traffic. At least the signs for Boston helped cheer me up- I knew I was getting close!

Arriving in Boston around 5:00 pm, I headed into Harvard Square to meet friends for my birthday dinner.  Adjacent to Harvard University, Harvard Square is a business district and neighborhood that serves both Harvard students as well as residents of Cambridge and Boston. The neighborhood is also home to several museums, performing arts theaters, and large mansions. Harvard Square was also the location where Tom and Ray Magliozzi recorded “Car Talk” for NPR at their studio, known as “The Law Offices of Dewey Cheatem and Howe” (via Wikipedia).

After parking my car, I wandered around the square for a while, as my friends were all coming from work, and I was the first to arrive. I strolled down to the Charles River on a beautiful summer day before heading back to do some souvenir shopping, before meeting my friends for dinner at Legal Sea Foods. Legal is a Boston-based seafood restaurant chain that began as a grocery store and small restaurant. The company has since expanded to 35 restaurants in 6 states, but the location in Harvard Square is my favorite.

DH, tucked away in an underground parking garage in Harvard Square.
The Charles River, which flows between Cambridge (left) and Boston (right).
The Weeks Bridge was built in 1927, and is a notable Boston-area landmark.
Legal Sea Foods- no better location for a birthday dinner.
Always start with a cup of the New England clam chowder- it has been served at every US Presidential inauguration since 1981.
Dinner was great, but the highlight of the night was my friends surprising me with this wonderful piece of chocolate cake. The only problem? All the waiters came to our table and joined my friends in singing “Happy Birthday” to me. Loudly.

Saturday morning, after a quick breakfast at a great local diner, we set off for the state of New Hampshire, for a very, very cool birthday experience. In the early and mid 1980’s when I was a little kid, most homes still did not have a video game system like the Atari 2600 or the NES. If you wanted to play video games, you had to go to an arcade, and feed quarters into the machines. Every shopping mall in the 80’s had at least 1 video game and pinball arcade. My favorite was the Mall of Fun arcade at the Deptford Mall, where I spent countless hours playing games, especially Super Mario Bros. This scene from the 1983 movie “War Games” captures the essence of those arcades.

For my birthday, my friends managed to recreate that experience for me. The Pinball Wizard Arcade, located in Pelham, NH, has 101 pinball machines and 256 video game machines, almost all of them from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Galaga. Jungle Hunt. Tron. Outrun. Paperboy. Pac-Man. Ms. Pac-Man. Indiana Jones Pinball. KISS pinball. Dig Dug. Centipede. Super Mario Bros. Donkey Kong. On my 40th birthday weekend, my friends essentially found a time machine- I felt like a little kid again! Another friend of mine from New Hampshire who I hadn’t seen in a few years managed to join up with us, and we played for several happy hours.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast at Tresca’s Eating Place, an old diner.
I mean, a REALLY old diner. Formica countertops, vinyl seats… don’t bother asking about the free wifi, as there isn’t any. But the food was terrific.
Driving through Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell was incorporated in 1826, and is a mill town. Due to the large numbers of textile mills and factories, the town is known as the “Cradle of the Industrial Revolution.” I will definitely go back so that this town can have its own featured post.
Crossing over the Merrimack River on the Central Bridge.
As we headed into New Hampshire, we passed a small mine. The conveyor system that runs into the processing plant crosses over the road.
Arrived at our destination. The Pinball Wizard Arcade might not look like much from the outside, but to quote Han Solo,”she’s got it where it counts, kid.”
Row after row of pinball machines.
As well as 80’s video games galore. Anyone remember Popeye? If you look down the row, you can see Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, and Galaga.
Punch-Out!! and Double Dragon. I did pretty well on Punch-Out!!, but my best was Super Mario Bros. I was amazed how many hidden secrets I remembered in that game. It’s been decades since I played it last! I guess all those hours I played it in my childhood really made some deep memories!

After playing our fill of games, we headed back to Boston to meet up with some more friends for dinner at Gourmet Dumpling House. I raved about this restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown the last time I visited, so I will keep my remarks brief: dinner was awesome.

Heading into Boston. One of my friends took this photo while holding my phone through an open sunroof, while moving at about 50 mph. She did a great job, but I was half-afraid it was going to fly out of her hand and land on someone’s windshield. Great shot, though!
Gourmet Dumpling House, 52 Beach Street, Boston MA. Accept no substitutes.
Inside each dumpling is pork, spices, and broth. Eat it quickly, and eat it while it is hot.  Yum!

Sunday morning, before the long drive back to NJ, I met up with a friend at Wellesley College to go hike around Lake Waban, a beautiful lake on the campus. Despite Wellesley being a private institution, the school keeps the lake freely available to the public. The total trail length is 3.6 miles. I also managed to wash my car, fill my tank with gas, and get ready for the drive home.

The shores of Lake Waban.
One of the beautiful stained glass windows at Wellesely College’s Houghton Chapel.
DH, washed, gassed up, and ready for the drive home.
Arrived at home. DH is approaching the 68,000 milestone. Also… 311.7 miles and still a half-tank remaining. Gotta love Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management.

What a terrific way to celebrate my 40th birthday, in my favorite city with friends, good times, and food. Lots and lots of food. Along the way, I took a trip down memory lane to the arcades of my childhood. Finally, as I sit here, writing this post, I realize that DH has now added a new state to the list: New Hampshire makes the fourteenth state that the car has driven. The goal is all forty-eight contiguous states, along with Mexico and Canada. Let’s see how ruggedly DH is built!

‘Til next time.







4 thoughts on “Pinball wizard.

  1. Wow, lots of cool retro stuff mentioned in here. My favorite is Tresca’s Eating Place. What a generic name. But it works! And those green vinyl bar stools are perfect. Nothing like having a bowl of New England Clam Chowder, in New England. Thanks for making me hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

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