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Making My Own Amazing Race

By Susan Van Arsdale

Published in The Burg November 24, 2022

One of my dreams has always been to be on “The Amazing Race.” We even applied once. It was a blast making the video and answering the questionnaire. However, they did not choose us. Therefore we try to create our own amazing race challenges whenever we travel.

On our trip to Maine, one of the challenges I set for us was to find something that had a link to literature every day. The easy days were when we visited some authors’ houses: Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Samuel Clemens. We tried to visit Walden’s Pond, but it cost $30 just to park so we passed on that.

One interesting link we found was a Dr. Seuss sculpture garden in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was very small, difficult to find, but oh so fun to see Horton Hears a Who, the Cat In the Hat, and Dr. Seuss himself sitting in the garden in front of a giant Oh the Places You'll Go book.

Another fun link was in Bar Harbor, Maine, where we found the oldest bookstore in Maine and a display of banned books in the windows. I am proud to admit that I have read most of them.

One day we found a statue of Daniel Webster with a pile of books beside him. He is not the dictionary Webster, but a statesman from New Hampshire. Another day, at Niagara Falls we found a statue of Nikola Tesla reading a book or newspaper. It was a fun challenge.

Another challenge we have taken on is to visit all the state capitol buildings. We always try to go inside them and take a self-guided tour. If you don’t read the literature, you might miss something really fun. The Maine capitol building was pretty boring, but we found a First Amendment museum right next door. Do you know what your five freedoms are because of that amendment? We learned them a long time ago in school, but it was very interesting to see how they have been implemented in history.

In Concord, New Hampshire we learned that their senators and representatives only get $100 a year plus mileage. Anyone can run and win and talk at the meetings. All get a chance which means sometimes their meetings are very long. Sometimes they are very personal. One representative was a teacher. His school was willing to give him time off to attend meetings.

New Hampshire also had a campaign button display of candidates who registered to be on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary. This is one of the first primaries and the candidates come in person to register. I collect buttons so I bought a button souvenir.

Three capitol buildings had historical flag displays. What we found interesting was that one state used replicas and stored the originals, one just stored the originals and never displayed any and one displayed the originals which were very interesting and well labeled.

We got really lost trying to find parking to visit the New York capitol building in Albany.

When we finally parked and found the entrance we were guided directly to a tour guide. No self- tour. It was very dark and huge. We did see their wall of governor portraits. How many became presidents of the United States? Four!

Another place we decided to visit was the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. While we traveled there we challenged ourselves to try to name 20 Hall of Famers. There were three of us, and we got up to 25. Once we got in the building the challenge was to see how many Celtics had been inducted. There wasn’t a good way to count. The list and bios were all digitized and it would have taken hours, but one of the guides found out for us!!!

We had a guess and we were very close.There are so many places to visit in the United States, some more interesting than others, but any trip can be fun. Plan some challenges when you go. Find out things. Learn things. Challenge yourself!

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