Hot laps on the bay: Nostalgic Latchkey Cup brings ice racing back to Meredith

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Fabian Smith and his winged racer will be among the Modifieds competing in this weekend's Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races on Meredith Bay. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

CENTER HARBOR — The garage at Scott Burns Landscaping serves as a gathering place for members of the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club of Moultonborough, where they can tinker and fine tune their racing cars ahead of the next weekend’s racing events.
This week, they are preparing for a special race on Saturday, the Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races on Meredith Bay, which will be part of that town’s 250th anniversary celebration.
Ice racing had been taking place on Meredith Bay whenever the conditions allowed from the 1950s to the 1980s, with the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club getting involved to hold the first Latchkey Cup race in 1984. The race took its name from Meredith’s nickname as “Latchkey to the White Mountains.”
After a few years, the racing moved from the Bay to Lees and Berry ponds in Moultonborough, where the ice would freeze sooner and get thicker. Ice on Meredith Bay was less predictable, and as ice fishing grew in popularity and the number of docks increased, it made it more difficult to hold races there.
This year, however, the cold weather has produced a good layer of ice which measured between 28 and 30 inches thick when the crew went out earlier this week to fill in the holes from last weekend’s Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.
To hold a race, the ice must be at least 12 inches thick, according to James Demond.
“Everything has worked out great this year,” he said, noting that there seems to be a four-year cycle between good conditions and poor.
There is some concern about the warm weather this week, which forced a postponement of Laconia’s World Championship Sled Dog Derby. Fabian Smith said the ideal ice is cold and hard, but with crusting on top of it, the ice may be a little rough this year. He is hoping that, by Friday, they will be able to move the crust for a smoother ice surface.
The club measures the track and plows the ice before the race, and banks snow around it, if possible.
In order to make it safe to get on and off the ice, the club has logging bridges erected from the shore to the “good ice” and, for this weekend’s event, Lance Williams and Son Logging and Trucking and Mike Franks Logging will be setting the bridges. A ramp truck will be on hand in case it is needed, Smith said.
Racing will begin at noon, with free admission to the event.
There will be a donation can for those wishing to support the club, which donates all proceeds back into the community, through scholarships to students at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, Moultonborough Academy, and Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith. The club also provides for those in need, whether they are suffering from cancer, need assistance with fuel costs, or are simply “down and out.”
Lengthy planning
The Meredith 250 Committee, which is coordinating the town’s anniversary event, got together with the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club back in 2013 to being planning for the return of the Latchkey Cup races to Meredith Bay.
Co-Chairman Steve Durand said the club is going to put on a great show, featuring racing in six classes: Sprint, Modified, Stock, 4-Cylinder front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder rear-wheel-drive, and Juniors — racers between the ages of 13 and 15.
Smith said they expect to have at least seven Juniors racing this year, including three girls — Lilly Horsch, Tess Poitras, and Callie Burns.
“We’ll miss Allie Ripley,” said Demond, referring to a junior ice-racer who two years ago switched to snowmobile racing.
Durand, who has followed racing since he was a child, said ice racing started out with jalopies in the 1930s, racing in Plymouth. By the 1950s, when there was racing on Meredith Bay, there were stock cars, and the technology and models continued to change.
“It has evolved from cut-down jitterbugs,” Durand said.
Ice racers, he said, are a close-knit group that will share cars and, if someone is in trouble, others will rush out to get the car back on the track.
Almost any vehicle can be modified to enter the race, as long as certain safety precautions are taken. Each vehicle must carry a fire extinguisher, and be equipped with a window net and roll bars. Junior racers must wear protective collars. There is a weekly brake check for those doing racing.
Then, of course, there are the tires. Some racers will use old motorcyle tires with a roller chain and studs. Others will use stud chains or V-bars to hold traction on the ice.
Demond said the first racers did not have front tire chains, but then the drivers began using chains on the left front tire, and finally, both front tires also had chains for traction.
Planning for the race also means thinking about amenities. Shanty 603 will provide concessions for burgers, hot dogs, chili, chowder, and cold drinks. United Site Services will provide porta-potties.
While there will be trash cans available, the event calls for carry in-carry out to ease the cleanup after the event.
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James Demond, Fabian Smith, and Roland Zeiler are among the members of the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club who are preparing for this weekend's Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races on Meredith Bay, part of the town's 250th anniversary celebration. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Much of the race prep for the Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races takes place at Scott Burns Landscaping in Center Harbor. Standing, from left, are Scott Burns, James Demond, and Fabian Smith, with Roland Zeiler sitting on the side of Smith's Modified that will be taking part in the race on Meredith Bay this weekend. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

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TRAVELS WITH PAULA - Keeping a culture alive


Our Tanzanian guide offered a change in our itinerary. We were close to Olduvai Gorge, the cradle of human origins. A detour to Lake Eyasi and a rough run up a dried river bed would give us a a few hours to hunt with an indigenous tribe he referred to as the bushmen. Were we interested? – yes, we were.

When I met the Hazda people, I had no idea who they were. It wasn’t until I arrived home and did a little research, that I realized the significance of visiting these extraordinary people, and the ethical questions that it raised.

My first impression was that the men were friendly and open, but the women were very guarded to the point of being sullen. It was hard to tell if they were very shy, or resentful for our intrusion.

The tribe live outside under an open sky in the dry season. In the rainy season they retreat to caves in the area for their shelter. They had built a few small stick structures and a hollowed-out baobab tree where they kept their tools and musical instruments made from wood or gourds and skins and decorated with feathers and carvings. Hand-made bows and arrows hung in trees, drying animal skins were staked to the ground. One tree had several baboon skulls hanging from it. The reason for this was not made clear. They speak an ancient, isolated clicking language which was beautiful to listen to.

Given a choice of joining a hunt or staying with the women to gather – I chose to hunt. We started out on foot at a very rapid pace, with a large pack of well trained dogs. Scouts ahead whistled and clicked, and we would start to run. The bushmen are fast and nimble in the brush and it was a challenge to stay with them. When a young boy of about 8 years took down a bird, our hunt was over. A small success that was enthusiastically celebrated for the young hunter. They cleaned it, built a fire, cooked it and passed a tiny morsel to each of us to taste along with baobab fruit, berries and flowers that they gathered as they waited for the bird to cook. The young hunter had the honor of placing a feather in his hair.

This hunt was clearly put on for our benefit. Though we had run a fair distance, we had been circled back close to camp and when our hunting party returned, out came the tobacco pipes and instruments, and the singing and dancing started. We all got dragged into a circle and there were lots of laughs as we tried to imitate their moves. The most memorable thing for me was being invited into the baobab tree which housed their instruments. The tree was large enough to fit six to seven people and they played their instruments and sang inside the tree which had great acoustics. It was clear that they loved to sing and entertain themselves and their guests.

When we left them we purchased small items, decorated gourds and beads. But they would not sell their bows which are beautifully crafted, decorated with feathers and arrows with markings that identify the bowman. Those they will only give as a gift.

The Hadza people have lived a traditional hunter/gatherer life with no technology, no currency, no religion and no social hierarchy for 10,000 years or more and have left no footprints on the earth. Their lives are completely fashioned from the land they inhabit. They are peaceful and equalitarian. Men and women have different roles but an equal say in how things are run. They have no sense of time and no use for it. They have been called backwards, but are they?

If you are completely self-sufficient and happy with your life and you are an expert at it, are you backward because you choose to eschew the modern world? They only work from two to five hours a day to make their tools and hunt and collect honey with larvae for an extra protein punch. They expertly coax fire from sticks. The women gather berries and tubers, and most importantly fruit from the baobab tree, which is rich in anti-oxidants, fiber and a fat laden seed. They are very lean but well nourished. Their diet consists of more than 600 items and is very nutrient dense and studies have shown they have an exemplary gut biome. They have no oral history of starvation or famine or war, and historically their numbers were in sync with what the land could provide.

They have vigorously resisted multiple attempts at forced education, settlement, modernization and religious conversion and have succeeded, but they are endangered. Today, there are less than 2,000 Hazda people.

Encroachment on their hunting grounds by pastoral tribes and wealthy foreigners who buy safari camps, and game that has been poached to unsustainable levels is threatening their survival. Now they have resorted to hosting tourists to help sustain them and get word out to the outside world that they exist and choose this life of peaceful tradition that goes back to the beginning of human history.

We spend a lot of time working to protect wild spaces and endangered species. Should we also protect the rights of indigenous people who want to live on the land as their ancestors have for millennia? Or should we just allow their fires to burn out?

– Paula Hiuser is the owner of Epic Global Adventures. She is committed to purposeful small group travel that sustains, conserves and protects people, places and wildlife.

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The little hunter in the blue shirt was the hero of the day. (Courtesy photo)

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Singing and dancing in a baobab tree. (Courtesy photo)

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Hunting with the Hadzabe tribe. (Courtesy photo)

Southern Style


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By Elizabeth Howard 

It is difficult to identify the one American writer I most admire. When I put William Faulkner at the top of the list other authors immediately spring to mind: James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Herman Melville. Then the list grows from there.   Notwithstanding, William Faulkner always makes the short list. 

 My dog-eared copy of The Sound and the Fury is filled with notes, highlighted paragraphs and awkwardly drawn boxes around words that are repeated in one or two graphs. Faulkner’s use of sensuous language, “smelling the rain” or “hearing the roof,” and his long rambling sentences are poetic.  One of the places I have wanted to visit is Rowan Oak, the house in Oxford, Mississippi where Faulkner lived and did most of his writing.

Last week I made that trip.  It began in New Orleans visiting the William Faulkner bookshop located just off an alley on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. In 1925, Faulkner rented rooms in the house when he moved to New Orleans and it is where his writing career began. Now a lovely independent bookstore, The William Faulkner Bookshop has become a literary landmark. 

The drive from New Orleans to Oxford is almost six hours, fortunately broken up with a stop for lunch at Rick’s Diner Inn in Goodman, Mississippi, a small hamlet with a population of just over 1,200. Almost every town in Mississippi has some literary connection and Goodman is no exception, as it was the home of David Herbert Donald, a Pulitzer-winning historian.

Rowan Oak, situated on forty acres of land just a few miles from the Square in downtown Oxford, was the Faulkner’s home from 1930 until his death in 1962.  Faulkner’s daughter, Jill Faulkner Summers, sold it to the University of Mississippi in 1972. There is a trail, approximately five miles long, that meanders through the woods from Rowan Oak to the campus of the University.

The house is left as it was when Faulkner was living there. In his office and writing room his small manual typewriter is set up on a simple wooden table so he can look out across the expansive grounds. The plot outline for The Fable is written in his hand on the wall. 

Southern style is radically different from our northern style.  The cultural influences of the French who settled much of Mississippi in the mid-1700’s, the Spanish who came later, then the British and the many Africans, have collectively made major contributions to the Delta region.

 This cultural integration, combined with fresh fish from the Gulf, has contributed to extraordinary food. The rhythm of music, gospel, blues and jazz, just seems to hang in the air. The many planation’s and stately houses, now either restored as historic homes or renovated as private residences, remind us of the elegant Southern lifestyle. All framed, of course, by the complicated under belly of the South that is ever present. The poverty, the racial inequality and the lingering prejudice.  Leading to stories and fascinating characters, of course.

The homes of writers have a similar ambiance. Like Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts and Robert Frost’s farmhouse on Sugar House in Franconia, New Hampshire, the rooms are spare, and there are simple writing desks and large windows that open onto a landscape of nature. The Frost homestead also has a trail where one can walk and read lines posted along the way from Frost’s poems.   

Touring Faulkner’s home we notice a radio in the room that was Jill Faulkner’s bedroom. Apparently, she and her father had an argument over this because he didn’t want a radio in the house.  One can only smile.  What would he think of our various devices and enormous television screens with the screeching cacophony of political diatribes constantly being broadcast. Somehow one can picture William Faulkner sitting quietly, a pipe in his mouth and a tall Bourbon over ice on a side table, working on his small black Underwood Standard or Remington typewriter.  Even now. 

Elizabeth Howard is an author and journalist.  Her books include:  Ned O’Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited (Easton Studio Press, 2015), A Day with Bonefish Joe (David R. Godine, 2015), Queen Anne’s Lace and Wild Blackberry Pie, (Thornwillow Press, 2011). She lives in New York City and has a home in Laconia.  You can send her a note at:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Travels with Paula - What is Angkor Wat?


It is the only one of the seven wonders of the world.

Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, is the world’s largest religious building complex. It represents Mt. Meru, the Mt. Olympus of the Hindu faith. The sacred place where the Hindu gods reside. It is a place that you have to see to believe.

Though the temple was originally Hindu, Buddhism is the prominent religion today and you can receive a blessing from a saffron clad priest while there. Carved on the walls are over 3,000 apsaras, or heavenly nymphs. Each one of them is unique and there are 37 different hairstyles depicted. The level in intricacy in the architecture, the scale and the number of artistic flourishes is mind blowing. An 800-meter long wall surrounding the main temple is a never-ending series of extremely detailed bas relief carvings depicting myths and historical events. Amazingly, the Angkor Wat temple was built in only 30 years from 1112 to 1152 AD.

Though Angkor Wat is the largest temple, the Angkor complex which encompasses about 400 acres, is a sophisticated ancient urban center with multiple temples, reservoirs, canals and information routes. It is easily the ultimate expression of the architectural genius of Cambodia’s Khmer people.

Other famous temples in the complex include the Banyon, Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, which most people will recognize from the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. It is one of the most photographed of the temples. The roots of silk cotton trees and strangler figs coiling around the buildings give it an other-worldly feel.

Angkor may be one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, but it is not a museum. The park is still inhabited by 100,000 residents. Many of the 112 historic villages can trace their ancestors back to the Angkor period, they still practice rice cultivation, and collect herbs for healing in the park and take them to the temples that they still use for their ceremonies, to be blessed.

Today Angkor faces two problems. The first is encroachment of its residents, who constantly try to expand their living area, and the second concern is tourism. The sheer volume of people is a threat to the integrity of the site and so it is imperative that people respect the site by not touching or pilfering anything from the park. Ten years ago, the park was surrounded by rainforest; today, there is a golf course and a lot of fancy hotels.

Cambodia has also only recently started using plastic containers and bags, which are strewn everywhere outside of the park. They do not have adequate garbage disposal and since they had always used biodegradable things like banana leaves for carrying food, they have a culture of tossing it along the side of the road. Plastic is just one very visible plague that is worsened by having millions of people descending on the site. This has caused a welcome shift in lifestyle and wealth for the local people, but it isn’t without complications. Degradation of the environment and culture are the very real risk of having millions trample through your back yard.

There are a number of agencies, national and international, that are working at keeping the park safe. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and the French and Polish have been long time supporters of preservation and sustainable development in this country which has had a long history of occupation, genocide and war.

Even with the number of people who visit, it is still a must see, and if you wander away from the main temple, you will discover plenty of quiet places where you can absorb the majesty and sacredness of this place. And of course, if you go, you must get up before dawn and take a tuk tuk to the park to get the shot of the sunrise over Angkor Wat. You will not be alone, but you will not be disappointed with iconic view.

Paula Hiuser is the owner of Epic Global Adventures.  She is committed to purposeful small group travel that sustains, conserves and protects, people, places and wildlife.

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Angkor Wat at sunrise with the reflection on the canal

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia, on of the seven wonders of the world

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One of 3,000 life-sized apsaras carved at the temple

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Ta Prohm, or the Tomb Raider temple, being swallowed up by the jungle.