The record heat which has plagued the Midwest for six full weeks is gone, and just in time for our return. We walked in the door of our tiny shack in Mission around 6-ish wearing our hoodies and ready for a hot shower. Road fatigue from two solid days of driving has made our perceptions of the world around us a bit tinged, but we're both pretty sure it's chilly outside. We could be insane. Maybe those aren't goose-bumps, maybe I have a million mosquito bites.
When last we spoke the Honey Badger express was trekking hard across upstate New York on its way to Maple Hill. We did stop in Rochester to play their courses and I would list Rochester as one of the top five best cities for disc golf in the U.S.. They have a wonderful collection and the club there is "on point" as Avery likes to say. Arriving a few days before a major tournament also helps with that "on point" impression, but not every town goes the extra mile to make their courses look so damn sexy. Their courses were beautiful and I am kicking myself for not playing the tournament. I'm sure I would have finished just outside the cash line (if trends tell us anything) but it would have been worth it just to enjoy the courses again. Minna and I also enjoyed the lake shore there. She collected sand from every beach we visited this year and this stop was very peaceful. She relates things to Finland a lot. "This is what the lakes look like in Finland" or "This is what fish tastes like in Finland" etc. Fish is fish.
The weather was perfect for almost the whole trip and New England was every bit the majestic beauty we were told it would be. We missed playing only one course the whole trip and that was Calais in Northern Vermont. It's a private course which is well-spoken of as a bad-ass track, but, sadly it just wasn't meant to be. The rains were pretty fierce that evening so our special invite to play the course had to be turned down. However, this meant more time to spend with Spencer, the lost Jawhawk.
Spencer (AKA neckbeard) graciously offered to put us up at his place during our trip and his generosity was a perfect accent to an otherwise flawless tour of New England. If I can somehow convince twenty other people to move to strategic locales around the country and be half as generous as Spencer, we might be able to start up a disc golf tour business. I hope the four winds bring him back to Kansas City some day, but I know that if he has to stay in New England, he won't suffer any.
Leaving Spencer's place we choose to head north to Maine via Mt. Washington. If you have never heard of Mt. Washington I encourage you to look it up. Then never ever go there. It's an 8 mile drive meant for people with a death wish. Minna's fear of heights; the vehicles horrible low-end torque and shoddy brakes; and my complete lack of faith made us turn back before the summit. If there is a video clip of the drive, go watch it and then come back. It was not a good idea and shattered our image of New England.
Maine was nice, Steven King lives there... Larry Kirk was there. It was good to see him, but it took a few hours to shake off the terror of Mt. Washington. We played a course in Maine which was pretty nice, but tense muscles made it hard to focus. However, the pro shop there produced some GEMS!
Maple Hill is everything you have come to believe about it and then some. If you are going to go, give yourself a few days. You will want to play this one a few times. We camped at a resort a few miles down the road and were lucky enough to have the run of the place. It was eerie to be there alone, sort of like camping at Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th movies, all by yourself. There wasn't even any staff on site. We just arrived, slept in two empty beds and left before we saw anyone. This is where most of the Vibram players will stay during the tournament and they will love it, I'm sure. They even have a course at the resort to warm up with before their Vibram round. Not that any amount of warming up can prepare you for Maple Hill, but anything helps.
It's a brutal course from the Golds. Not much easier from the Whites or Blues and really sort of too "special" from the Reds. As you watch the tournament online you will see the players play from the Golds. We were told that the course was modified to make it harder and that we should probably play from the Whites or Blues if we didn't want to lose any discs. We played from the Gold.
I haven't lost a disc in a long, long time. I lost three. By the end of the round my bag started to look like a REC players starter bag. The course is tough in that it punishes both aggressive play and conservative play. If you go for it - you'll find trees and water, or ROPE!! If you don't and try to play conservative, you won't give yourself a second shot. There are two drives over water which require 390 just to make it to safety, but you still have to hit a gap after 390 otherwise the disc will kick into the water. The trees crowd you and they bury all errant shots. The elevation changes work against you and it's hard to lay up without rolling away. It's just a mean course. It's just a few degrees harder than Idlewild or Renny Gold.
After Maple Hill we played another private course in Rhode Island which is new and rough, but when finished is going to be a favorite of a lot of players. We finished off our tour of 48 in Hartford, CT at Wickham Park, which was 24 holes of pretty damn coolness. I know this is asking a lot, but almost every course in New England has stone walls on them. I don't know why I dig them so much, but we need a few in KC. It's a work day from hell, but it's a great aesthetic.
Our tour was done. We laughed and giggled and played another course in Newport before we headed into New York City for a few days of rest. Because after 90 days of disc golf touring, two solid days of 12 hour walks is just what the doctor ordered. We LIMPED into Warwick, New York for what would be the final course of the trip...
Nockamixon was to be our final stop but our tanks were empty after Warwick. The cash was gone, the will to live was gone, the desire to clean the car was totally gone. It was just time to come home.
This is our last great road trip of this size. I will have the numbers tallied in the next few days but I believe we are over 250 courses in 48 states, 3 provinces and 3 countries. We have played all of the disc golf course review top ten and most of the courses rated 4.5 or higher. The stories are too numerous to recount here, but someday we will share them all.
Again, we hope that this inspires you to get out and see disc golf in America.