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Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter, Biking, Duckpin

Aunt Helena and Uncle Michael had me over to their place for Easter dinner. It was nice to get out of the city (they live in Severna Park, not too far from Annapolis) for a change, and it was good to see them and the girls, too. Oh yeah, and it was nice to have a home-cooked meal for a change, especially since my cooking ambitions have inexplicably waned recently. Helena made a sweet potato cassarole that I found especially good. We also went for a short trip on their boat.

Earlier in the day, Battle and I took a bike ride that we had talked about doing back in the fall, on the newly-completed Gwynn's Falls Trail in West Baltimore. (To those not from the mid-Atlantic region, a "falls" is a local name for what might elsewhere be known as a river or a creek. It took me a while to figure this out.) The trail starts near the Inner Harbor on city streets, goes past the football stadium, and passes through a decrepit industrial area, prompting Battle to observe, "This is sort of what I imagine the apocalypse would look like." It eventually gets into the undeveloped parkland surrounding the Gwynn's Falls. It's a pretty interesting ride, going through woods that make it hard to believe you're in Baltimore, but also occasionally emerging into neighborhoods, most of which are run-down but not menacing. Gwynn's Falls is pretty, but you can also tell where the high water mark is by where there stops being trash in the trees. We took a shortcut back home instead of retracing our path, and saw a number of people with very impressive Easter dresses and hats. All told, at a very hilly 15 miles, not bad considering I didn't do much biking this winter. (Here's the route we took.)

Turns out that duckpin bowling alley I was raving about, Patterson Bowling Center, is the oldest still-operating duckpin alley in the country (and therefore the world). And it also turns out that duckpin bowling was invented in Baltimore (but not at precisely that location). But there are only 70 alleys left today, according to this article in the Baltimore City Paper about the mechanic who keeps things running at Patterson. It turns out that the current owners bought the alley a few years ago with the specific intent of preserving duckpin amid its decline.

You can check out some additional duckpin history in this 10-year-old City Paper article that also involves Patterson. A few highlights: No one has ever bowled a 300 game in duckpin. "Duckpin country" is roughly bounded by Massachusetts to the north, North Carolina to the south, and Indiana to the west. There is also duckpin in the Phillipines. No one has made duckpin pinsetting equipment since the 1970s, so alleys that are still in existence have to scrounge machinery from alleys that are closing.

Anyway, pardon me if I'm assuming that you share my sudden fascination with duckpin bowling...

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