Posts from the ‘Texas’ Category

Schlitterbahn ’08: Going Home & Misc Pics

Our last day began as all the other mornings had…waking up entirely too early (although we did “sleep in” until a luxurious 9am) and eating another delicious breakfast cooked by Lloyd’s son. Our plane didn’t take off until sometime after 2pm and checkout wasn’t until 11am, so we used our time after breakfast for last-minute packing.

Once we were all packed and the car was loaded, we walked down the road to Historic Downtown Gruene, to check out the various small-town crap shops on the main drag. There wasn’t a whole lot that piqued my interest, although I managed to find two “wine related” shirts (Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir) that fit me (size-wise AND personality-wise) to a T. We browsed around an antique shop as well…not because I’m much of an antique sort of person, but there was a lot of stuff to look at and it gave us something to do for a half-hour or so. Besides, Joe found some things at the shop that normally would have just caused an, “Oh, cool!” but now, with the new circumstances in our lives, they were near-treasures that brought tears to my eyes for a few seconds. And now they’re mine.

After exhausting all of the crap shops, we went back to the car and started our drive back to the airport. Before we got there though, we stopped off at Freddy’s to get frozen custard. Cuz we could.

We made it back to San Antonio Airport, brought the car back to Alamo, then grabbed the shuttle to our terminal. We had plans to meet Steve at the Famous Famiglia and he was already there when we arrived.

We ate some pizza, took and immediately sent the above picture to make Kurt jealous (VBEG) and, once it was available, boarded our plane to go home.

Although enjoyable overall, it had definitely been a vacation of highs and lows. It was our third year in a row of going to Schlitterbahn and although the water park is still a whole lot of fun, we’re just starting to get a “been there, done that” feeling for it. So before we burn out (and with the extended vacation plans we have for 2009), we’re not planning on going back next year. Maybe in 2010.

Before I finish with the vacation tales, here are a few pictures that bear some looking at, even if they really didn’t have anything to do with the stories I told:


The guy at Schlitterbahn with the big ass leopard bag


My “favoriate” example of bad spelling


This just happened cuz his hair was very wet but I thought Joe looked AWESOME with spiky hair, don’t you?

Schlitterbahn ’08: “Toobing” (Tubing) and Exploring the Gruene and New Braunfels area

I rarely remember my dreams but that night I dreamt something about “a place” (don’t remember what kind) closing and how everyone who went there was so unhappy about it. I started to wake up and the first thing that popped into my head was, “I feel bad for them but I’m glad that’s not happening to the Adventurers Club.”

And then I woke up completely. And remembered.

Shit.

But we were on vacation and I had to make the best of it. As I learned in the past, no matter how shitty the situation, “life goes on.” So I jumped out of bed and started my day.

The B&B was sold out and the breakfast spread was AMAZING. Another egg quiche main course, and bacon and sausage and hash browns and pastries and some sort of bread pudding made out of Twinkies and a chocolate-and-peanut-butter torte sort of thing and the list goes on and on. And it was all fabulous. No wonder why they sell a cookbook (I didn’t buy it…you could tell that all the ingredients weren’t the best for you…but MAN, was the food GOOD!). We were able to invite Steve to have breakfast with us, so he could take part in what they had to offer, too.

We had a variety of plans for today, all based on how much time we had. But it was definitely going to be something of a quieter, no-stress day. Steve decided to go out on his own, so it was just the 2 of us after breakfast.

First on the list was tubing (or as many people there spelled it, “toobing”) on the Guadalupe River. Lloyd had recommended Rockin’ R River Rides, which was less than a 5-minute drive away, just around the bend from the B&B.


ABOVE: Rockin’ R River Rides building. BELOW: view of the launch

We paid for our tubes (toobs?), put our stuff in the car and went to the riverbank to start tubing. It was fun…for a while. The river was relatively wide where we went in, so the water moved very slowly. It sped up here and there, and even had some minor rapids to deal with but we had paid for 2 hours and although it was a very pretty, quiet ride, it was a very L-O-N-G two hours. The worrying about not hitting rocks or tree branches or roots, on top of the occasional bee, didn’t help matters, either.

We were amazed that people camped out on the river’s edge and tubed all weekend long…didn’t they get bored? THEN we got it…we saw a lot of people renting a tube for their coolers full of beer…the beer must be what made it bearable. Not that it was an awful two hours (well, I didn’t think so…Joe might disagree), but not being the type of people who are going to get drunk while tubing in order to fully appreciate the experience, I don’t think we’ll be doing that again any time soon.

We went back to the B&B after our tubing excursion, showered and hit the road again, this time in search of what is considered to be the oldest bakery in Texas.

Naegelin’s Bakery opened in 1868 and is the oldest continuously operating bakery in the state. Jennifer had been there last year and said it was really good. And if that wasn’t reason enough to make us want to go, it was a German-style bakery…I grew up with Italian bakeries and German bakeries. Orlando has NO German bakeries. Or Italian ones, for that matter. They have Latino bakeries and Publix. That’s it. And although I suppose they’re adequate, they’re not particularly good, either. Actually, I’ve heard of one place on the east side of town that’s supposed to be good but I live on the west side of town…so it doesn’t count (wink). So anyway, we went to Naegelin’s and yeah, it was really, really good. I even drank a container of milk with it and didn’t die (for me, that’s amazing…I detest plain milk and will not drink it). And nope Jen, I didn’t get any of the Bakery Nazi Ladies…I got one of the younger, ones who was as sweet as pie. Speaking of sweet, I got a maple covered cinnamon bun. Yeah so, if you’re ever in New Braunfels, I highly recommend visiting Naegelin’s.

After our snack, we decided to hit the local winery. Because we could. It was mainly for our own amusement because we’ve been to wineries in other places where you wouldn’t expect to see them growing grapes, like Hawaii and Clermont, and, as the old saying goes, “just because you CAN grow grapes there, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” I’ve tasted Hawaiian Hibiscus wine and no truer words were ever spoken…couldn’t even use that one for cooking, it was so bad. So off we went on the 30-minute trip to the Dry Comal Creek vinyards and winery.


Above & Below: views of the winery

Joe’s shirt almost matches our rental car (grin)


The few grape vines they actually grow on the property

We tasted all 10 of the wines they offered and lo and behold, it wasn’t that bad! See, the guys that own Dry Comak Creek, they’re smart. They realize that they can’t grow good grapes on their rocky property. So, except for a few dozen vines that, for all I know, might just be for show, they buy all their juice from other wineries who CAN grow grapes well, and then DCC does the rest of the work of fermenting, mixing varietals, etc. We wound buying half a case worth of bottles and went on our merry way.

It was beginning to get late so we agreed to start heading back to the B&B. We decided to take a different route “home” than how we got to the winery, using “River Rd.”, whose claim to fame (if you want to call it a claim to fame. Or if a road can even HAVE a claim to fame) was that it crossed the Guadalupe River 4 times. I took some video of the oh-so-exciting trip…enjoy!

We had enough time to take a short nap when we got back and it was a delicious one. After waking up and getting ready, we went to our favorite restaurant in New Braunfels and Gruene, Huisache Grill.

We had discovered Huisache Grill in 2006, during our first trip to Schlitterbahn. It was rated Number One in TripAdvisor, proved to be “our kind of place”, and we’ve made it our business to go back every time. Apparently many other people feel the same way, because they’ve added an expansion to the restaurant since the last time we were there.

The one thing we forgot to do was to make a reservation to eat, as we were going on a Saturday night. By the time we got to the restaurant, they had so many people waiting that they actually had run out of beepers. As it turned out, the problem wasn’t so much huge crowds, but several large parties who were done eating but still not leaving. We had no qualms about waiting though, so Joe got us glasses of wine and we sat in the cool evening breeze until they had a table for us. It took about 75 minutes.

The food and service was as awesome as ever and, except for wondering if the party of 6 who held hands and “thanked the lord” before they ate had any idea that the server they shared with us practically needed a fire extinguisher for flaming so much, it was a very downplayed and relaxing meal, just as a “last vacation dinner” should be.

Schlitterbahn ’08: Day 2 and Bad News

We managed to wake up at 8am instead of 7:30am for breakfast this day…still mondo early (especially for me), but not quite so bad as 7:30am. We switched, so I had slept on “my” side of the bed, and SLEEP I did! I wasn’t completely caught up from what I had missed the night before, but at least I got closer. Anyway, apparently there was ONE other couple with us for breakfast…and, since Lloyd’s son was back from wherever he had been, there was quite the spread, with a salsa quiche, bacon, sausage, cinnamon buns that were to DIE for, fruit, yogurt, coffee, and I forget what else. Still not as big as what we got on Saturday and Sunday but still and all, DELICIOUS stuff.

Today’s plan for Schlitterbahn was to hit the stuff we hadn’t hit yesterday and to repeat the stuff we wanted to go on again. Since we had pretty much hit everything at Schlitterbahn West and had no immediate plans to repeat anything there, we agreed to meet Steve at Blastenhoff at their 10am opening, so we could claim our picnic table and get lockers. As it was, we got there closer to 9:45am, but it was all good because so did Steve…we wound up being right behind him at the ticket line.

After dropping our stuff off and slathering on as much suntan lotion as was humanly possible, we hit the park:

(All ride descriptions have been taken from http://www.schlitterbahn.com)

Family Blaster
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Uphill family water coaster
Height Requirement: 42 inches tall
Ride Length: 554 feet
Water Source: Closed, treated system


Master Blaster (blue), Black Knight (black) and Wolfpack (yellow) all launch off Blastenhoff Tower. They are surrounded by The Torrent and are accessible by bridge, on the far end of the park.

Black Knight
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Tube Needed?: Yes, pick up at end of ride carry to start
Water Source: Chlorinated Municipal Water
Ride Length: Tunnel A 557 feet; Tunnel B 565 feet
Ride Height: 49 Feet
Height Requirement: No
Start Location: Blastenhoff on the tower with Master Blaster and Wolfpack
End Location: Inside Torrent

Wolfpack
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Family downhill raft slide
Location: Blastenhoff Area
Height Requirement: None
Ride Height: 63 feet
Ride Length: 676 feet

The Torrent
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Wave river, tube ride
Location: Blastenhoff Area
Height Requirement: None
Ride Length: 1,088 feet
Water Depth: up to 4 feet
Water Source Closed, treated system

Throughout the day, we periodically went back to Boogie Bahn, so I could get my “fix” (grin). Besides Steve and Joe going on it once each, I managed to ride it about 6 times over the course of the vacation, and managed to stay on for anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds. I guess I need more practice.

When I mistakenly got 55,000 gallons per minute into my left eye on my 6th try, I decided I was done for the day. Joe and Steve had had enough too, so we went back to our hotels and got changed for this evening’s dinner, at a place called Myron’s Prime Steakhouse.

Myron’s, housed in the old Palace Movie Theatre in downtown New Braunfels, was a higher end establishment, with darker wood tones and an online menu that didn’t have prices on it (grin). To give a better idea, my main course, a small filet with 3 shrimp, was $35. Unfortunately, I never got to enjoy it because in between the salad and our main courses, I suddenly got 2 text messages in a row that said essentially the same thing: “Have you heard that The Adventurers Club is going to close?”

Oh No! Oh Dear God, Please No!

I quickly went to the Orlando Sentinel online and there it was, as a front page headline: “The party’s over at Pleasure Island: Disney to shut down 6 nightclubs.” I read the article out loud to Joe & Steve, finishing it just as our food arrived.

I ate 2 of the shrimp and took a couple of mouthfuls of my steak but I never really tasted any of it. The Adventurers Club was closing…that place I had been visiting for almost 16 years. Where I hung out 1, 2 or sometimes 3 times a week. Where so many talented and hysterically funny people work. It was my Song-of-the-South-esque “laughing place”. Closing. In 3 months. For forever. I was in total and absolute shock and all I wanted to do was (A) not cry in the restaurant and (B) leave the restaurant and go back to our hotel room. I managed to keep the tears pretty much in check as long as no one talked to me (especially about IT) and, blissfully, we left as soon as the meal was through, not bothering with dessert.

When we got back, Joe, with my assuring him that I would be OK, took his opportunity to see a Hootie & the Blowfish concert a few doors down from our B&B (they were playing a benefit concert…it was sold out but the “walls” of the venue were chicken wire so you could watch from the outside – well, until the cop in the ten-gallon hat made everyone stop “loitering”), so I was left alone to collect my thoughts and see what else I could find online. There was quite a bit, plus all the emails, text messages and private messages that I was receiving. In the first 12 hours that “the news” hit, I heard about it from no less than 8 people (4 of whom used to or continue to work at the Club) and my cell phone, as Joe said, was lighting up like a Christmas tree that night. It was when I was writing back to Robyn that it hit me HARD and the tears finally came…big, choking tears that came from deep inside, similar to the ones I cried when my dad died. Definitely tears of grief. It didn’t last long and I felt a little better afterwards…but thoughts of the Club and the people who worked there, were “right there”, either front and center in my brain or just under the surface, for pretty much the rest of the vacation.

Schlitterbahn ’08: Day 1

Thursday started with a 7:30am (ARGH!) wake up after an evening where I got very little sleep. I have never had problems sleeping on vacation before and there was no good reason for it happening this time, although there were several small ones…the room was too warm, then it was too cold, Joe and I had switched what side of the bed we slept on (so I could have a better view of the clock. I HAVE to know what time it is the SECOND I wake up. I don’t know why.), we couldn’t find a good channel on the TV that had “music to fall asleep to” (we are big fans of channel 433 at home to help us get sleepy), plus my mind kept thinking about really, REALLY stupid stuff and just. Wouldn’t. Shut. Off. So although I think I slept from around midnight to 2am and from 5:30am to 7:30am, the rest of the night was a just a hodgepodge of every trick in the book to try to fall back to sleep. It wasn’t fun.

So anyway, 7:30am came and after throwing on bathing suits and then clothes to wear over them, we went downstairs for breakfast.


View 1 of the Dining Room


View 2 of the Dining Room


The porch outside the dining room, which overlooked the Comal River

Although it filled up more and more on subsequent days/nights, we were the ONLY people staying at the B&B that first day so we had the entire dining area to ourselves. The owner of the B&B, Lloyd, apologized for having such a small spread but his son, who usually did the cooking for the establishment, was out of town and coming back later that day. So we would have to “make do” with “just” scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits & gravy, yogurt, fruit, pastries, cinnamon buns, cream puffs and about 3 or 4 other delicious things to load our plates with. Apologize indeed…he didn’t realize we had had 2 years of powdered eggs and dried-out bacon at the Gruene Homestead Inn. This was a feast in comparison! The food was delicious and the coffee was good too…but I was disappointed to see that they didn’t have yellow stuff (Splenda). They had blue and pink and white stuff (which was better than the Gruene Homestead Inn, who only had pink and white. I can deal with blue in a pinch but the pink stuff is NASTY) but no yellow. It was OK because I always bring my own supply, but it meant I needed to remember to bring some packets down every morning. Shrug…a small price to pay.

They had a player piano in the lobby of the B&B, which they played every morning during breakfast, usually Broadway songs (I recognized Phantom, Les Mis and My Fair Lady, to name a few). This morning though, when it was just us, it played an hourlong medley of classic Disney tunes. How did he know??? Was it because we lived on Orlando? We certainly hadn’t mentioned being Disney fans to him. Whatever the reasoning – or coincidence – we enjoyed our breakfast with “our” music (yeah, it even played “our song” – grin).

Before we went out the door, we got to meet the Gruene Apple’s two cats, Sam and George. I don’t know which was which but they were both very friendly. They’re not allowed into the guest rooms but are otherwise indoor/outdoor cats and come and go as they please.


Above and below: Sam & George or George & Sam

Schlitterbahn is a wonderful water park but their food is NASTY. However they allow people to bring coolers with food & drink into the park (just no glass and no booze), so besides the stuff we brought from home, we stopped off at Walgreens to pick up some luncheon meat, bread, bottled water, ice and a cooler.

Whereas we arrived on Wednesday, Steve’s plane wasn’t coming in until Thursday morning so we had plans to meet him at Schlitterbahn at noon, with contingency plans in place when he had “Steve luck” in his travel. As it turned out, he had no delays in his flight (Steve. No flight delays. THUD!) and was able to meet us at the park when we arrived at 10:30am.

Schlitterbahn is divided into 2 parks: Schlitterbahn West (that’s the original park that opened in the 70’s; the majority of its rides are tube chutes, slides and other attractions fed by the Comal River) and the newer Blastenhoff/Surfenburg area (which generally houses more modern “thrill rides”). The two parks are about a mile apart and they have ongoing free shuttle service between the two. We decided to start at Schlitterbahn West so after grabbing lockers and a picnic table in the shade, and slathering on LOTS of Coppertone SPF 8,362, we were on our way.

And these are the things we went on…

(All ride descriptions have been taken from http://www.schlitterbahn.com)

RAGING RIVER
The world’s longest tube chute! A swirling 45-minute float from one end of the original section of the park to the other! Riders can float directly into the Congo River or the Tunnel Tube Chute. Halfway through Raging River Tube Chute you will choose to finish your ride in the Congo River Float or through the Tunnel Tube Chute. Get with your party to decide which way you are going to go.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Tube chute
Height Requirement: None (WHEW!)
Ride Length: 1414 feet
Ride Time: 45 minutes
Water Source: Spring-fed Comal River

BAHNZAI PIPELINE
Twin, translucent slides tower above Schlitterbahn West marking the start of the Banzai Pipeline. Riders bring their inner tubes to the top of the tower and get a brief bird eye’s view of the park before dropping into one of two tunnel slides. Then it’s nearly 600 feet of twisting fiberglass as riders bank through turns and spiral through drops before splashing down into a pool four stories below the start.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Tube Slide
Height Requirement: None (YAY!)
Ride Length: 581 feet
Water Source: Closed, treated system

HILLSIDE TUBE CHUTE
Beginning at the base of the Schlitterbahn Castle, the Hillside Tube Chute snakes through a series of hairpin turns, rapids and whirlpools before splashing down in the Lagoon Pool.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Tube chute
Height Requirement: None (SCORE!)
Ride Length: 1,060 feet
Water Source: Spring-fed Comal River

CLIFFHANGER TUBE CHUTE
Another of Schlitterbahn’s unique tubing experiences, the Cliffhanger Tube Chute is perched atop the cliffs overlooking the Comal River far below. The adventure begins with a series of rapids and pools, weaves through the trees and past the Der Bahn speed slides before taking a plunge to the river’s edge. Finding the starting point for the Cliffhanger can be a little challenging. Riders access the stairway leading to the entrance from a walkway that runs midway along the cliff side. This walkway can be reached from a stairs near the Castle Entrance or from the walkway that borders the Comal River. Because geography makes it a little harder to find, the Cliffhanger often has one of the shortest waiting times of any Schlitterbahn tube chute.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Tube chute
Height Requirement: None (YES!)
Ride Length: 746 feet
Water Source: Spring-fed Comal River

Above: Part 1, Below: Part 2

WHITEWATER TUBE CHUTE
This is a ride that really lives up to its name! Adventurous riders begin their journey with a twisting vortex before plunging down a huge waterfall. After that, it’s a series of whitewater rapids as the tube chute drops down the cliffs at the edge of the Comal River. The Whitewater Tube Chute begins near the Castle Entrance and ends at the lower walkway along the Comal River.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Tube chute
Height Requirement: None (YIPPEE!)
Ride Length: 620 feet
Water Source: Spring-fed Comal River

After Whitewater Tube Chutes, we had hit just about everything we wanted to go on in Schlitterbahn West for the day, so we shuttled over to Surfenburg.

DRAGON’S REVENGE
This was Schlitterbahn’s “new for 2008” attraction. Except instead of being an actual “new” attraction, it was a re-named Dragon Blaster, with “thrilling” and “exciting” (and, OK, mostly cheesy) special effects. The wait for this attraction was 60 minutes just to get a tube, then another 15 minutes or so at the actual attraction. Was it a good attraction? Well, it was OK. Was it worth a 75 minute wait? Nyeh. Anyway, here’s the info on it.
Eight uphill blasts, six creepy caverns, surprise waterfall and one angry dragon. After crossing over a draw bridge and entering into the castle’s guard tower, guests quickly discover the only way out is through a labyrinth of ominous caverns.
Special Effects: Spinning tunnels, theatrical lighting, fiber optics, riveting original music, aromatic atmosphere, fog, faux fire and an encounter with an angry dragon.
Ride Length: 1,360 feet
Ride Time: 1 minute 45 seconds
Height Requirement: 42 inches tall (MADE IT!)
Uphill Sections: 8
Tallest Drop: 30 feet
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Water Source: Closed, treated system

BOOGIE BAHN
Professional surfers from all over the world have challenged the Boogie Bahn, the first surfing ride anywhere. But you don’t have to be a pro to surf at Schlitterbahn. Just grab a bodyboard and try it for yourself. You might not get the hang of it at first, but be careful, when you do you might just get hooked!
Some locals who had never surfed before Schlitterbahn opened the Boogie Bahn are now among the best in the world. And while you might not become that good, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. You lie on your body board and slide down onto the wave surface. Although 50,000 gallons of water flow across the surface, the water depth is just a matter of inches. Beneath the sheet of water is a foam covered surface to ease the occasional “wipe-out.”
The basic concept of The Boogie Bahn is a rapidly moving sheet of water rushing across a wave-shaped surface. The job of the surfer is to maneuver and maintain control on this surface. While amateurs and aficionados alike surf the Boogie Bahn every day during the summer, professional surfers challenge the wave during special competitions. Then the flow rate is doubled creating a curling wave that takes special skill to master.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Surf
Height Requirement: 42 inches tall
Flow Rate, Normal: 55,000 gallons per minute
Flow Rate, Professional: 110,000 gallons per minute
Water Depth: 3 inches
Water Source: Closed, treated system

The Boogie Bahn is my number one favorite attraction at Schlitterbahn and I only wish we had one here in Central Florida. It’s a Flowrider system, but it’s a freakin’ HUGE one. There’s a smaller-sized Flowrider at Adrenalina stores in Orlando…seriously, anyone who wants to get me a gift certificate, maybe for Christmas or my birthday, please, feel free (grin).

We were starting to get tired by this point, so we decided to hit just one more attraction in the Blastenhoff area and then call it a day. The walk between Surfenburg and Blastenhoff runs along the Comal River, which, besides offering the water supply to New Braunfels, is also a popular place for tubing and, of course, housing with water views. I took this shot of the condo development right across the river from the Surfenburg-Blastenhoff walkway.

LOVE the guys standing in the river, drinking their beer…

MASTER BLASTER
Selected as the best water ride in the nation again and again, Master Blaster combines the up and down thrills of a roller coaster with the unique experience of being propelled by jets of water. Riders ascend to the top of the Blastenhoff Tower where they find two-passenger inflatable boats waiting for them. Once in position on the launch platform, they are sent down a three-story plunge, then back up three stories and into a twisting tunnel.
Riders get a brief glimpse of the tower they just left before dropping once again. Master Blaster continues its course, figure-eighting around the tower, blasting uphill and down before entering the climatic pretzel-shaped downward spiral. Master Blaster is non-stop action!
Master Blaster uses patented technology first developed for Schlitterbahn by our sister company, NBGS International, Inc., a worldwide leader in innovative water ride technology.
Attraction Rating: Red Diamond
Ride Type: Uphill water coaster
Height Requirement: 42 inches tall
Number of Drops: Seven
Number of Blaster Jets: Nine
Water Source: Closed, treated system

After gathering all our stuff, we drove to our respective hotels (Steve was staying somewhere different from us), showered and get ready for dinner, with plans to re-gather around 8pm or so. Steve contacted us a little bit before 8 and said he got a call from work…he had some major programming shit to fix on their computers, so he was going to have to bow out of dinner. Joe and I were then on our own so we decided to eat at the Liberty Bistro.

The Liberty Bistro is located in the basement of the old New Braunfels City Hall building, which was built in 1929. They serve a variety of “American” food, all with a modern, somewhat artistic flair. I don’t remember what Joe ordered but I got the Roasted Duck Salad, which was wonderful (it had duck breast and goat cheese…how could it be bad?) and a Chocolate Pot de Creme for dessert (a thin layer of Oreo crumbs topped by a thick layer of chocolate mousse, topped by a layer of whipped cream, topped by chocolate shavings, served in a coffee cup. I was in heaven. it was so good that I was taking only teeny-tiny bites, savoring every mouthful…to the point where our server commented that he had never seen anybody eat it quite that way, hehehe). Anyway, the food was great, the service was terrific and it was definitely “our” kind of place.

We got back to the room at 11pm or so, at which time I quickly put on my PJs and, after “switching sides” so I was on “my” side of the bed (screw the clock issue), I was deeply asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

Schlitterbahn ’08: Arrival Day

Our trip began with a very Steve-esque start…we were scheduled to take off at 2:20pm but over the course of 11:30am and 12:30pm, that changed to 3:05pm, then 3:15pm, then 3:25pm. Meanwhile, the daily summer storm came in at 2:30pm, which caused our plane (coming in from Islip…you know there had to be a bunch of pissed off New Yorkers on THAT plane) to circle for forever and a day before it could land and then, no doubt, continue to circle while “in line” with all the other weather-delayed planes, before they could land. So it was little surprise that at 3:25pm, they changed our takeoff time to 3:55pm and then at 3:40pm it got changed to 4:05pm. We boarded at 4pm and, after another delay while sitting on the plane, finally took off at 5:08pm. The plane staff was very funny, with comments like, “We’d like to tell you all that the sooner you get into your seats, the sooner we can get off the ground so we can arrive in San Antonio on time. (pause) That’s not going to happen though and we’re just trying to get there as soon as possible, so the faster you get settled, the faster we can finally get there.”

We had a slight delay in getting our luggage so while I waited for our bags, Joe got the paperwork done for our rental car. Once we had everything in order and our luggage off the conveyor belt, we were on our way.

The B&B we stayed in was called The Gruene Apple. It was in the town of Gruene (duh), the same town as the B&B we stayed in for the past 2 years…but although we liked the facilities in that place, the breakfast was pretty icky…powdered scrambled eggs and overcooked, reheated bacon every day. So we decided to switch. Anyway, final check-in time for the Gruene Apple was 8pm but with our plane landing so late and how long it took to get our luggage, we were pretty sure we weren’t going to make it. So we called the owner and told him we probably were going to be late. He said it wasn’t a problem; he’d just leave us an envelope with the key and our room number taped to the front door (cuz you can DO that in Gruene TX – population 20. Really…20). As it turned out, we arrived at 8:05pm and as Joe was scraping the tape off the door, the owner opened the door and our tour began:


The front of the Gruene Apple. We were the only ones there that first night. That yellow car on the left-hand side of the picture is our rental. Yes, I picked out the color (grin).


From lobby as you walk in. The staircase is repeated on the other side of the room.


The “other” staircase, as seen from the top of the stairs.


View 1 of the Library


The rest of the Library


There was a Game Room downstairs, with a pool table, board games and snacks.


The extension to the Game Room was on what would be the back porch (converted into a regular, weather-resistant room) and included a Pac Man/Galaxian game, Air Hockey, Foozball, etc.)

Our room was on the 2nd floor, which was accessible by stairs or elevator. We had room 207, which was the “Wild West Room”. Each room had a theme and the theme was carried over into the hallway. Facing our room was this picture:

Which we SWEAR is the predecessor to the mural in the Men’s bathroom of Hoop Dee Doo:

Anyway, back to the tour…


The bed, table, chairs and window of our room, as seen from the door of the room. The window looked out onto our private patio/deck.


View from our patio/deck. We could see/her the Guadalupe river below us, through the trees.


Following clockwise, a better view of the table and chairs, plus the amoire and, hidden behind the chair, our mini fridge.


Continuing clockwise, the entry into the bathroom and some more decorations


The sink was pretty typical


So was the shower, albeit the SMALLEST shower you’ve ever seen. No really, *I* was claustrophobic in there. It was a pre-fab triangular shape, built into the corner. The “wide” part of the shower, where you step in, was a whopping 3′ across and the far end was 12″ I think showers in European hotels are bigger.


But the toilet was neat. Reminded me of Dixie Landings.


And the tub was COOL!


LOVED this


Sex toys, Texas style?

The tour ended at our room and, after taking lots of pictures (gee, can ya TELL?), it was time to find somewhere to eat. It was nearly 9pm so someplace nearby would be best, but not the GristMill, which was within walking distance and not bad, but…sorta grubby. We’ve been there twice before, enough was enough and we were willing to do better (grin). Lloyd (the owner) recommended the The Gruene River Grill, which was only 2 doors down. PERFECT! So off we went.

The restaurant was very nice…had a nice variety of entrees, from beef to pork to chicken to pasta. I got a freakin’ HUGE ribeye steak that had been pan seared in in butter and aged balsamic, while Joe got a the Southwest Shrimp Pasta (shrimp, black beans, corn, ‘shrooms, pico de gallo and garlic tossed with fettuccine in a spicy cilantro cream sauce). For dessert Joe got the Caramel Toffee Apple Pie, while I gorged myself on the Kahlua Fudge Nut Brownie. Both were awesome (we tasted each other’s). But mine was better (grin).

We went back to the B&B and were in bed by 11pm, ready for our first day at Schlitterbahn!

Schlitterbahn ’07

We had such a good time at Schlitterbahn last year that we decided to go again this year, as an attachment to the Annual Bowling Trip.

Steve went with us this time but wound up on a different plane than we did, going. Just as well, since his plane wound up being 5 hours late (“weather” in his stopover of Houston caused an unplanned landing New Orleans for hours). We would have been stuck in the same “Houston” clusterfuck, but because they were overbooked, Continental had offered us a direct flight to Austin not long after we arrived at the airport (we didn’t even hear the overhead page..we were eating breakfast at the MCO Hilton at the time. Steve heard it, called us, then gave his cell phone to the airline guy to make us the offer). So we got to Austin during mid-afternoon. And waited. And waited. And waited. Joe called our B&B to see what was the latest we could check in and they said 9pm but if we got there later, they’d leave the key and instructions in the mailbox for us. Cool beans.

We finally rented a car (Steve originally was going to rent it but there was NOTHING to do at the airport and desperate times call for desperate measures) and, at the suggestion of the National guy, went to Downtown Austin. Walked up and down Congress Avenue for a while and finally ambled into a wine bar called Cork & Co. Besides offering a small selection of desserts and cheese platters, they also sold wine by the bottle, flight, glass or taste. I got a “thousand chocolate chip fudge cake” (which was fabulous) and a flight of dessert wines…2 moscatos and one icewine. Joe got a gouda platter, as well as a different flight of white wine. After a LONG day of traveling and the stresses that go with it (especially the various changed and delayed flights), it was a nice, quiet, relaxing way to spend an hour.

Steve finally arrived around 8:30pm. After a quick stop at a fast food joint to ward off starvation (wink), we drove the 45 minutes to Gruene, the town outside of New Braunfels where our B&B was. While waiting for Steve, we had discovered on the ‘net that almost every place in Gruene closed at 10pm, but we finally found a restaurant that closed at 11pm. As it turned out, the one place was The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar, which we had visited last year. At the time, we thought the food was OK but nothing special and not someplace we were planning to visit again. But again, desperate times in a sleepy little town call for desperate measures and as it turned out, we liked the restaurant better this time around.

After dinner, we went to our B&B, the Gruene Homestead Inn. We had stayed there last year and loved almost everything about it. As promised, the keys to our respective cottages were in the mailbox, so with plans to meet up at 9 the next morning, we went to bed.


The Faust House: the main building of our B&B


The Millwood House: the building where our room, Landa’s Loft, was.


Our room was on the 2nd floor, first room at the top of the stairs, #25


View from our porch. Part of Faust House is visible in the distance, the one with the gray roof


Inside our room


More of the inside of our room


Joe looking bored while I take even more shots of the inside of our room. Could be worse…if I had a video camera, I’d have captured the toilet flushing. No, really…I’ve done it before.


No flushing this time…just a picture of the toilet…


…and the sinks

Breakfast at the B&B was not the greatest…we had learned last year that although the buildings in the compound are terrific, the food wasn’t very special or even particularly good. Today was scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, a small variety of danish, cereals, fruit and breads. We remembered from last year that their variety of sweetener for coffee and tea was limited. They still only had white or pink stuff, but we were prepared with our own packets of yellow (me) and blue (Joe) stuff.

After breakfast, we headed out to the reason for the whole trip, Schlitterbahn!


The front of Schlitterbahn West (the main park)


Map of Schlitterbahn. PDF of the complete park can be found here.


The Schlitterbahn West “castle” and Hillside tube chute


Part of Hillside goes through the locker area


Hillside exits into the Lagoon, a large pool fed by the Comal River


Lagoon Hot Tub, Lagoon, Castle


Downhill Racer


Double Loop twin body flumes


Part of the beauty of Schlitterbahn West is how they’ve worked the attractions around the existing trees and included natural shade just about everywhere


Banzai Pipeline next to some of Schlitterbahn’s motel rooms


Me tubing (Sorry for the grainy quality…photo taken with waterproof camera)


Steve fell off his tube!


The Comal River parallels Schlitterbahn West and feeds into several of their pools and tube slides.


The river also helps to transport HUGE piles of tubes from one area of the park to another


Further downriver, another New Braunfels water sport: people can tube down the river itself.

Schlitterbahn West opened in 1979 and they opened the “East” part of the park in the early 1990’s. They offer free tram service between the 2 parks.


“Blastenhoff” area of Schlitterbahn East. Yellow = Wolfpack, Blue = Master Blaster (predecessor to Typhoon Lagoon’s Crush ‘n’ Gusher), Black = Black Knight. Surrounding water = The Torrent (tidal wave river)

Found this video of Master Blaster on YouTube


Steve exiting Wolf Pack. He had his own float because he had FALLEN OUT of ours at launch (miscommunication with ride operator) and, sliding without a float on a slide that requires one, got stuck a few feet down the slide. Lifeguard dude had to bring him a float, help him in and send him on his way down the slide. Meanwhile, Joe and I had gone down the slide, not knowing if Steve was OK or not, since the last we had seen him was when he said, “This is not good” and slipped out of our float. Once we knew he was OK, we laughed at him (wink)


I told Joe to stick his head in the water for this picture. When he tells the story of what happened after this picture was taken, keep in mind that I DIDN’T tell him to keep his eyes open.


Steve kept his eyes closed


Nice eyewear, dude! Next time keep your eye closed!


Me in the Kristal River…a VERY not-so-lazy river


The alligators that float in the Kristal River are VERY popular. I had to beat up 3 six-year-olds to finally get this one (wink)


Hopefully this will be the only time Joe is attacked by an alligator


Joe on Dragon Blaster

Found this video of Dragon Blaster on YouTube


Boogie Bahn and Family Blaster


Someone on Boogie Bahn


Steve on Boogie Bahn


Me on Boogie Bahn (forgive the poor cut of the picture. Damn waterproof camera!)


Another angle. It was SOOOO much fun and my new favorite thing at the park!

Here’s a short video of Boogie Bahn that I found on YouTube


The power from Boogie Bahn gets converted into a strong flow of water called Backsplash (sort of like surfing, but sitting, without a board), which empties into Kristal River

After about 6 hours at the park, we were pretty exhausted so we went back to the B&B and took showers and naps. I was SORE after waking up, hehehe. After getting dressed, we went to Huisache Grill, which Joe and I visited last year and LOVED.


Joe going into the restaurant

We shared the Chips & Three Salsas appetizer, after which Steve and I both got the Mixed Grill, while Joe got….something else (I forgot, blush). The guys got dessert but I was way too full to think about anything beyond a spoonful of ice cream off Joe’s hot fruit crisp a’la mode.

We went back to the B&B after dinner and although Joe watched TV for a while, I, for one, pretty much fell asleep within 10 minutes of getting back to the room.

Monday’s breakfast at the B&B sucked (wink). Monday was also our check-out day. The B&B staff allowed us to keep our “stuff” in their office while we went to the park, with the promise that we would come back to reclaim it before they left at 7pm. Before we left, I took some pictures of Steve’s room:


His room, The Garden Room, was part of the back/side end of the Faust House


View of Steve’s room

Monday at the park was a repeat of Sunday, with avoidance of our less-favorite and/or longer-lined attractions and repetition of the ones we liked more. We also walked through both parks with the digital camera, specifically to get shots of the park itself, which was something I regretted not doing last year. Most of the better pictures we took are above.

After we agreed we were done with the park, we stopped back at the B&B to gather our stuff, then made a quick pit stop at Freddy’s Frozen Custard. Next was a 45-minute drive to our next hotel, the Hilton Austin Airport Hotel (link here), which was located, of course, at the Austin Airport.

After taking showers, we were on our way to an Austin icon that some GE friends had recommended, the Iron Works BBQ restaurant.


Outside of the restaurant

The food at Iron Works was OK, but not the greatest BBQ I’ve ever had. It was definitely a lot spicier than I’d prefer (yeah, I know…it was Texas; what did I expect?). I’d take Bubbalou’s ANY day.

It was only about 9pm and we decided to get dessert at Cork & Co. again, since we were nearby. While looking for a parking spot, we noticed hundreds of people on a bridge on Congress. Being maudlin me, my first thought was that someone had jumped. But Joe said he read about some famous bats in Austin who fly out of a bridge downtown every night…so we decided to go check it out. Apparently they hadn’t made their appearance that night yet, so we hung out with everyone for about a half an hour.


Still no bats (not even calls of “Here batty batty batty” helped), so we gave up and got our dessert and wine flights.

We drove the car back to National, then took the shuttle back to the hotel. At 11:30pm I called for our 4:30am wakeup call (4:30am kill me now). Our 7am flight took off on Tuesday without a hitch and, after a 2.5-hour stopover in Houston, made it home in time to pick up the car from my in-laws, who were on their way to Reno.

The vacation was a short one and went WAY too fast. But we had a really nice time. One of these years I’d like a little extra time in Gruene and New Braunfels…both are charming little towns, with more than just Schlitterbahn to hold interest. One of these days…