New Experience #1

By Andrew Gilstrap

This weekend, my wife Katie and I visited our parents for a day in Anthem, AZ. After watching Jon “Bones” Jones defeat Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in UFC 135 in the evening, I packed my things and headed back home to Chandler. Facing a 55-minute return home, Katie and I did what any rational couple would do to break up the long drive: We stopped for a few games of bowling.

Katie had bought a Groupon for bowling that was running close to its expiration. I made sure we stopped at a specific bowling alley so I could cross one other thing off my checklist. We went to AMF Deer Valley Lanes on Thunderbird Road in north Phoenix. We got inside and I immediately located the the Pop-A-Shot system that I’d played a handful of times before.

We first had to check on open lanes during this busy (and pricey) Cosmic Bowling time. The AMF employee said we had roughly a ten-minute wait to see if anyone would skip the reservations they made. Ten minutes? Just enough time to shoot.

I went into the alley’s small arcade room and saw a pre-teen boy shooting continuously on the Pop-A-Shot with the power off; the lights in the room also happened to be off. I tried to locate the light switch for the room, but couldn’t, and the employee said her staff likes to keep the lights off during Cosmic Bowling hours. No problem. I went under the Pop-A-Shot’s legs and saw the power cord unplugged. Plugging it in, the machine flashed numbers on its screen and the guard went up to catch all the basketballs the boy was shooting. He eventually moved on to other machines. Ready to play, I went and got quarters from the change machine.

The machine at this bowling alley is called Hoop Fever, made by ICE. It’s a pretty heavy-duty system, and it’s similar to the basketball machines you’ll see at Dave and Buster’s or Peter Piper Pizza. The main exception with this system is the rim, which stands about six and a half feet off the ground, is stationary. The machine gives you 40 seconds to shoot, and your baskets count as three points each in the final 10 seconds. This bowling alley charged 50 cents for each play.

I put my first two quarters in and got to work. I felt good about my first game, recording a score of 76. I played another round and got 79 points. I went and got change for a dollar to play two more games. The third game was my best — 81 points — and the last round I ended with a slightly-disappointing score of 74. In most of the games, you would’ve only needed one hand to count the number of shots I missed in 40 seconds. Here is the best picture Katie could get in the dark room:

ICE Hoop Fever at AMF Deer Valley Lanes. Taken by Katie Gilstrap.


After my four rounds of basketball, Katie and I got into some bowling. We bowled five games, and I struggled in the first and last ones. My five games averaged out to 131, with my best score of the night being 153. Katie doesn’t bowl often, but she had a solid average on the night of 105, with her high game being 132. I’d break down the bowling further, but, hey, this isn’t a bowling blog. Both Katie and I got to bowl for a pre-paid price of $15 for two hours — cheaper than it usually costs for one person during Cosmic Bowling. Hail Groupon!

Before Katie and I left, I went and got change for one more dollar so I could play a couple more rounds of Pop-A-Shot. I was on fire in this newest round, but the clock never seemed to end: It wasn’t keeping my score correctly. I felt I had a record for the night, but I couldn’t tell what that score was. I waited, put the last two quarters in, and the machine ate them. Perhaps I should have stayed content with my scores before I went bowling. I know this doesn’t leave a ringing endorsement for the machine, but maybe this is why the cord was unplugged in the first place.

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