Quick-hit thoughts and notes from vacation … with a Patriots twist

This sometimes happens as a vacation winds down. I get an itch to write something for Sunday morning, which has become a big part of my weekly routine over the last two decades. So for something a little different, and a bit more personal, this could be called “quick-hit thoughts/notes around vacation and (maybe a little) Patriots”:

1. Our family stayed local, because we love New England at this time of year. I took this photo from a day trip to Matunuck-Deep Hole in South Kingston, Rhode Island. The surfers get after it here – fearless like Julian Edelman going over the middle — but our day was more about relaxation. Hearing the waves crash into shore, and being in that environment, it’s the extreme opposite of the day-to-day grind of the NFL. Cap it off with an ice cream from “The Original Vanilla Bean” and it was a game-plan executed to perfection.

2. The weather? Didn’t exactly cooperate – extreme heat, then cold and rainy, some thunderstorms, and finally a tropical storm. But falling back on the Bill Belichick tried-and-true philosophy of always practicing vacationing outside because it prepares you for game-day all possibilities, we persevered.

3. We might need a little more practice, however, on kayaking in extreme wind. That didn’t go so well. Complete fail, all the way down to the white-knuckle 60-mile drive to Buzzards Bay, Mass., wondering if we secured the kayaks on the roof well enough. We pulled over three times to assess, but it wasn’t a three-and-out drive because we didn’t punt. Probably should have, though.

4. Lightning is about the only thing that forces the Patriots inside for practice, and it’s what re-routed us to Boston’s Museum of Science on one day. One of the highlights was a film in the Omni theater called “Back from the Brink” – the tale of three endangered species revived through the work of scientists, park rangers and students. Incredible. Then, of course, I was reminded of the football version of “Back from the Brink” – Tom Brady mentioning during “The Match” that the Patriots’ comeback from 28-3 in Super Bowl LI was the best game he’s ever played in. He called it “second to none.”

5. It isn’t a summer vacation in New England without mini-golf. A career-low round of 3-under par 44 was Mickelson-esque, as the old man shocked the group of youngsters who expected easy fodder. In the post-match interview, I cited a favorite Belichick quote he said he remembered from his dad: “Age is just a number.”

6. The other best part of mini-golf? Bumping into an old pal from the UMass days and reminiscing after not seeing each other for at least a decade. Another reminder that life is moving fast, but it sure is fun to look back when the nostalgia flows.

7. I didn’t check social media very often, which felt … refreshing. Maybe there is something to the whole “SnapFace YourFace” approach. When I did hop back on Twitter, it was basically just to defend Hulk Hogan from essentially being struck with a foreign object by my pal @mikemagz07. Watch out for the leg drop the next time I see you, brother.

8. When can you say you’ve been on a duck boat, but have never actually been on the official duck boat tour of Boston? Answer: When you report on the Patriots and have had the privilege to cover six Super Bowl championship parades. Finally took the official duck-boat tour through the city we love – on “Arborway Alex” with tour guide “The Great Garabaldi” — and can’t recommend it enough. The smile on our 9-year-old’s face for the 80-minute journey over land and water was worth the $45.99 ticket price … and then some. Inside tip: Those looking for a “hometown discount” can get it in advance, when booking 9a and 930a tours.

9. Our oldest is at overnight camp (making us a team of 3), which puts us in throwback mode from a communication standpoint. No texting. No emails. No computers. So it’s old-school letters, sort of like a modern-day NFL coach “padding” games to prepare for the next opponent. According to a league source, it might be true that when the sound of the mail truck is heard on the street, my short-shuttle time has improved dramatically from Week 1 to Week 2.

10. Football Xs and Os can be fascinating and challenge the mind. The best camp-letter Xs and Os can warm the heart and make you feel close even though you’re physically far apart. I’ll happily take them both.

11. Planned to attend a WooSox game but the weather had other ideas. So we did what Tom Brady often did best – audibled, and ran a play that gave us a better chance at success.

12. Date night. One of the best pieces of advice ever received – from former Patriots athletic trainer Ron O’Neil – came when I was just out of college and in my first year working for the team’s official newspaper, in 1997. “Never stop dating your wife,” he said. His sage words came on the team bus en route to a road game – just a reminder that work can oftentimes be long and stressful, life will move fast, you will change, your partner will change, there will be unexpected challenges along the way, so always try to stay true to that fundamental. A great night.

13. Yardwork. On vacation. In the rain. Not a highlight.

14. Successful teams usually have a play they have the most confidence can bail them out of a tough spot. Those also come in handy on rain-filled vacation days, and “Car, Target, Legos” usually works wonders for us.

15. Still kept tabs on what was unfolding across the NFL – and with the Patriots there was N’Keal Harry’s agent requesting a trade, and Stephon Gilmore telling Josina Anderson he just wants to get paid what he’s worth. Those are topics to dive into in the coming weeks as we approach training camp, but until this vacation ends in 24 hours, the plan is to keep it lighter. Looking forward to getting back to it next week.


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