Cheap thrills

By ELLEE DEAN  |  June 14, 2006

Haskell Free Library and Opera House, $12 (if you're Canadian, tickets will cost you $15.)
“The only library in America with no books” and “the only opera house in America with no stage,” the Haskell Free Library and Opera House (built in 1904) straddles the border of Derby Line, Vermont, and Rock Island, Quebec. The neoclassical opera house and library, with century-old graffiti, reclining fresco nudes, and painted Venetian scenes, rouses both rowdy and refined imaginations. The international boundary’s thick black line runs beneath the opera-house seats and diagonally across the library’s reading-room floor. Opera House audiences can watch stage performances in Quebec from 400 cheap seats in Vermont. This season’s $12 shows include Mike Goudreau and Friends’ The American Songbook and Manny Veinish and Joni Miller’s Broadway Revisited and More. We think we’ll splurge on the $15 The Magic of Master Fiddlers IV or the Banjo Dan & The Midnite Plowboys bluegrass jam sesh. C’est super, eh?
The Haskell Free Library and Opera | 93 Caswell Avenue, Derby Line, Vermont | Or, 1 Church Street, Stanstead, Quebec 

Fairlee Motel and Drive-in, $69.95 (putting on your own show is optional, but it will cost you your pants, baby.)
The Fairlee Motel and Drive-In Theater’s 90-feet-long-by-45-feet-high screen is one of four drive-ins left in Vermont. Fairlee’s manager, Chris, tells us the family-owned, motel and drive-in double feature is one of only two in the country; the other sleeps out West. From the 12-unit motel behind the grass lot, you can watch the flicks through picture windows. More than 300 cars park on the weekends, but Chris assures us that motel guests can see over the “sea of rooftops.” Roughly $70 buys a room with a double-feature view, surround sound, and satellite TV. We like the 10-minute vintage dancing-hot-dog intermission and the snack bar’s organic burgers. Farm country and tall trees seal our king-size bed and outdoor theater in an envelope of big-screen gleam and darkness. Curtains wide open, we get cinematic. You get the picture.
Fairlee Motel and Drive-In Theater | 1809 US Route 5 North, Fairlee, VT | 802.333.9192

Tubing on the Saco River
Tubing on Saco River, $5 (floating cooler will cost you $5 and 40 ounces of pee in the river.)

Drunk, waterlogged, and floating in your own warm . . . tube. The folks of Northern Extremes — a group of “happy paddlers” at the North Conway Dunkin Donuts Plaza — rent tubes for $5 on weekdays and for $7 on weekends. They call their three-mile New Hampshire Saco tube route the “original lazy river.” We rent a cooler for our case of Coors Light and test the float. The tire tubes’ black heat wraps tired city skins; sandy beaches, rope swings, mountain views, and exposed rock cliffs drift by in our mirrored sunglasses. Riding the river and drinking beer feels good (and mostly warm, when downstream of the heavy drinkers). The Saco River 300-tube regatta sails in July. We’ll be the kids who pee on that parade.
Northern Extremes | Dunkin Donuts Plaza, North Conway, NH

Kancamagus Highway, free (the Lower Falls will cost you your sweet ass.)
A US Forest Service Scenic Byway, the Kancamagus Highway, winds 34 free miles through New Hampshire’s craggy White Mountain National Forest. Scenic overlooks, trailhead parking, rapids, waterfalls, and gorges dot the highway that flanks Mt. Kancamagus and climbs to an elevation of 3728 feet. Polished river rocks in Lower Falls natural water park glimmer in the roadside Swift River. The parking lot, the changing rooms, the picnic tables, the small sandy beaches, the swimming holes, the slippery riverbed slides, the hole in our striped maillot, and the bruise on our ass — all are free.
Kancamagus Highway | US Route 112, New Hampshire

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