I guarantee this place is not on anyone’s bucket list, but you can often find fun in unexpected places. Candlepin bowling at Saco Valley Lanes transports you back in time.

On one rainy afternoon in North Conway, NH, we searched for a nearby bowling alley. The closest lanes are in Fryeburgh, in the neighboring state of Maine. As we approached our destination we passed many neglected homes, and when we arrived, second guessed our decision. On the verge of turning around to leave, we had a change of heart when a carload of small kids pulled up next to us and headed for the entrance.

My wife, daughter and I walked into a time warp. The backdrop for the lanes was ’62 Chevy Impala light blue and the modernized scoring screens were straight out of the 80’s. Stepping cautiously to the front counter my wife was assured by the slightly grizzled Maine character, who could have come straight from central casting, “Don’t worry, I won’t bite you. How can I help you.” My wife smiled and I stepped forward to ask about the pricing and to give him our shoe sizes.

“Have you ever played ten pin?” he asked. I nodded and glanced over at the lanes expecting to see duck pins, the smaller cousin of standard bowling pins, but instead saw the straight candle pins.

He continued with instructions, “You need to push the reset button after each throw and enter the the number of pins you knock down. The computer will keep the totals.” It took a couple of minutes to figure out the keypad and to find the reset button by the ball return, but once we got going, had a great time.

The rules for candlepin bowling are a bit different with three throws per frame, and the ball is skeeball sized, but I think it suited us better. It was a great equalizer as we all stunk equally. I managed to win the first game with an amazing score in the 70’s and my daughter Kate won the second game. Now I just need to figure out how to put one of these lanes in my basement.

 

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