Over Easy: With NH as a game show prize, The Place Is Right

For the Valley News
Published: 2/19/2022 6:04:30 AM
Modified: 2/19/2022 6:04:08 AM

You might have heard that a Massachusetts woman recently made the online world giggle when her major prize on the Price is Right game show hit too close to home.

Catherine Graham, of Marshfield, Mass., journeyed to the famed Television City Studios in Los Angeles to win a trip to — wait for it — New Hampshire.

“Of all the luck!” a poster responded on a Boston television station’s Facebook page. “She could drive there, and the toll is only $1.”

Graham, who seems like a good sport, was amused by the not-so-grand prize. “I’ve been there a million times,” she said with a smile. “I just wish it was Tahiti or someplace … a cruise around the world, maybe.”

Well, I’ve never been to Tahiti, which I assume is all right, but I’ve resided in the Granite State since 1982. We’ve driven around this little part of the world quite a bit, lost and otherwise, and many of its pleasures remain to be explored. I wouldn’t say it’s up there with Paris, but in the context of New England it’s not bad at all, even desirable.

Graham’s haul included air travel from Los Angeles to our own Manchester. It may not have one of the great air terminals of the world, but it offers easy access, which is important when your feet hurt. Then it’s on to the state capital, where five nights in the Hotel Concord await. “Sounds like a prison sentence,” wrote smart-aleck Patrick on the aforementioned TV station Facebook page.

But a quick check of the hotel’s website reveals this is no shabby Motel 6. The Concord “welcomes you … with an ambiance of classic elegance paired with modern comforts. Guests enjoy the serene luxury and thoughtful touches of an independent boutique hotel, conveniently tucked in the heart of downtown.” Photos make it look swanky enough, but I’m not the best judge. On family trips, my father extolled the virtues of roadside cabins, which squeezed in five kids and two parents in adventurous discomfort for short money.

We drive to Concord once or twice a year, when we need a change of scenery. It’s generally one of those days when Dede and I, who have been married more than 40 years, briefly don’t find each other endlessly fascinating. We hop in the car and seek distractions. Spoiler alert: nothing too crazy.

We check out the Goodwill thrift store, the L.L. Bean outlet (we hold out for 70% markdowns). We used to meander through Target, back before Lebanon bagged one of its own. Keep Catherine Graham away from the Concord Mall, which was bustling 20 or 30 years ago. We stopped there just recently. Three stores were open. You could film a zombie movie inside its vast emptiness.

As for downtown, there’s a pretty good burrito place and some interesting storefronts — the kind you see on a Main Street making a brave effort to survive with spunk and creativity but could use a few thousand tourists.

But if it had them, we would find it annoying, so there’s that.

Greater New Hampshire has its charms, not limited to the mammoth edifices that have of late sprouted up. Egypt had its pyramids; we have state liquor stores. If you like your inland waterways big, Lake Winnipesaukee is for you, although we took a three-hour cruise on it last summer and lost interest about halfway through. The ferry ride from Portsmouth to Star Island is better — a handsome old hotel and murder stories await. Hampton Beach offers the ocean, and nearby cotton candy, tacky T-shirts and an arcade with Skee-Ball machines. Welcome to the New Hampshire Riviera.

The White Mountains are tall and rugged, and conveniently situated close to North Conway factory outlets. And, of course, there is the Upper Valley, with attractions too many to list. Some would say the best thing about being here is that you’re not in Massachusetts, but I think that’s kind of mean.

Others might say that the best thing is that you’re almost to Vermont, but that sells New Hampshire short.

If I was governor — a dream and nightmare both — I’d find out when the Price is Right winner planned to visit and declare Catherine Graham Day. Escort her around like a presidential primary candidate: diners, general stores, rest areas, the whole nine yards. Give her a gift basket of New Hampshire apples, New Hampshire maple syrup and a New Hampshire sweatshirt (hopefully not made in China).

A Facebook wag named Keith, presumably also from Massachusetts, wrote this: “As long as she’s going there, could she pick up a carton of smokes for my wife?”

If you know New Hampshire, you know it has no objection.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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