Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Sunday ride back in time

Published June 2, 2008

A beautiful sunny day like yesterday would have been perfect for one of those Sunday drives our parents used to take us on when we were kids.
The destination - parents always enjoyed the ride, but we kids only cared about the destination - was most often a "custard stand," some ice cream place that we may or may not have been to before.
My father, a connoisseur of soft ice cream, seemed to know every little out-of-the-way custard stand from Indiana to Pennsylvania. We'd pull in, and he'd take our orders. Back then, it was easy. You had two choices - a cone or a sundae. There were no fancy concoctions like they make today with Oreos or Butterfingers swirled in.
So, we'd all order our cones, some with sprinkles, some dipped, and he'd go get them. My mother never ordered, though. She didn't like ice cream. (I know - I can't believe it either.)
Sometimes before the ice cream, our parents would take us to one of those roadside attractions - like the Blue Hole - that people used to flock to but are now just things for Tommy Boy and Clark Griswold to make fun of.
By the way, the Blue Hole is still there, except now it's part of a fish hatchery on land owned by the state. I have a feeling it's not quite as spooky and mysterious as it used to be.
There's a place in Marblehead called the Prehistoric Forest and Mystery Hill. I don't know how prehistoric it is, but it is definitely caught in a time warp. I have a feeling the place isn't a whole lot different than it was 40 years ago.
The Prehistoric Forest is a 10-acre plot with a trail winding though it. Every once in awhile, you'll spot a dinosaur - some of them built in the 1960s - along the way.
Len Tieman, who has owned the park since 1995, is constantly repairing the fiberglass beasts and building new ones.
"The park was not meant to be here this long," he said.
The other half of the attraction, Mystery Hill, was built in 1953, Tieman said. To get there, you walk up a hill and behind a fence. There, you come to a house that is on about a 45-degree slant - or is it you that's on a 45-degree slant? Either way, it makes you lose your equilibrium.
And it's not the only mystery spot in the country. A Web site called Roadside America lists 32 of these places where gravity is defied and balls roll uphill. Included are three Mystery Hills, two Mystery Holes, two Mystery Spots, one Mystery Area and a House of Mystery. There are also 11 Gravity Hills, one of them Ghostly.
I'm not sure how they work, but here's a tip: If you close your eyes, you regain your equilibrium (which I had to do several times to get from one side of the house to the other). Hmmm. I'd guess the mystery might be optical illusion.
I want to take my boys there this summer. I want to know what they think even though I'm pretty sure just about all they'll have to say is: "I bet Tommy Boy slept here."
It'll make me feel old because - unlike my sons - I'll remember a time when you couldn't experience much stranger and spookier things by hitting a few keystrokes on a computer. But it will also make me feel sort of special for being able to remember that.
I guess that means I'm old enough to get nostalgic - and that's the spookiest thing of all.

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