Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Part the First:

In the late early middle of July, we went on our first family vacation (other than to Wal-Mart) in about four years. New Braunfels was the destination and the famed Schlitterbahn was the main attraction. The excitement built up to Wednesday when we were to leave. All preparations were made, the gear and snacks stowed in the van, and I trotted out to turn off the water, then in to bleed the pipes. Turn the thermostat WAY up, lock the doors and fly off to New Braunfels.

The Schlitterbahn park in New Braunfels is the original installment in what is turning out to be a very popular water park franchise. There are parks on South Padre Island, and Galveston Island, respectively. And according to Dennis, the tram driver, there has just been a purchase on the Mississippi in St. Louis in the range of $50 million and something like 200 acres.

The success of the park is due in equal parts of fun rides and features coupled with the philosophy of the ownership that if people bring in their own food and drinks, the park concessions would not utterly collapse. Sure, the sausage-on-a-stick and corndogs are priced well beyond their worth, but there is a market for them. And the fact that a family can come in and stake a claim on a picnic table (if they’re quick of eye and fleet of foot) to leave their basket of goodies there while they play, and to have the stuff undisturbed hours later is amazing. I saw many families bringing in lunchmeat, soft drinks, bread and assorted snacks. I also saw nobody messing with anything that wasn’t their own.

Another thing I saw a lot of was tattooed skin. So much, in fact that if NOT having ink under your skin were a disease, I’d be part of a rare segment of the population doomed to illness. Guys, girls, old men, young women, teenagers, grandmothers, nearly everyone had some sort of body art/piercing showing on sometimes pale, sometimes brown skin in nearly every conceivable configuration. Some have elaborate sleeves or floral scenes growing from the tops of their bathing suits. Others look very ordered and prescribed, as if by some ancient script of a ritual. Like, ah, a GANG tattoo job.

Still others retain the look of a teenager’s sketchbook. Random drawings of skulls and symbols and math equations and a host of other random marks and letters marched across the tableau of human skin that was paraded in the sun of the Hill Country. I did notice that Texas and America were popular themes. And there were a whole lot of skulls with vampire teeth and glowing eyes.

One guy that I shared the queue to the Dragon’s Revenge for an hour and a half was sporting the “sketchbook” approach to his skin art. One particularly scary and demonic looking skull was on his left bicep, with ultra-long top teeth and an elongated mandible that descended below his inner elbow. I asked him if was intentional that when he extended his arm, the mouth was open, and as he bent his elbow, the mouth ALMOST closed.

He replied, “Naw, a lot of people ask me that, but I didn’t really think about it when I got it done.” I told him, “Well, I think you should stick with the story!”

“Yeah, and I’m thinkin’ of puttin’ in a little bitty Snicker’s bar right here,” he said, pointing to the open space between the jagged teeth of the skull just above the crook of his elbow.

“DO IT!”, I shouted laughing. “You have to do it, please tell me you’ll do it! Will you call me, email me?”

He cackled, as did most of the other people within earshot. “I’ll do it! And I’ll call ya!”

The positive atmosphere of Schlitterbahn pervades the park, encouraging disparate types of people to be friendly and civil to one another.

One other humorous vignette involved a guy who was clearly a gang tough guy. He was in his early thirties, his torso was covered with three inch blackletter text letters across his chest, down his abdomen, across his back and arms and up his neck. He had a blue bandanna folded “just so”, very wide and worn down over his eyebrows. Built like a wedge, and very serious in his visage, this guy was standing in line for the Soda Straws, a simple body slide down the hill into the pool of river water. He looked out of place, to say the least. Especially when compared to the seven year-old white girl with blonde hair and a carefree, chatty attitude standing fourteen inches from him.

After two days of trudging up and down the hills that make up the three water parks of Schlitterbahn, we opted on Saturday for the leisurely ride down the Guadalupe River. My nephew and his fiancĂ© joined us from San Marcos and we went to the Horseshoe Bend of the Guadalupe just down from Canyon Lake. We floated down the cool river, enjoying the beautiful cypress trees, limestone cliffs and the soothing sounds of wrens, cardinals and AC/DC. Some hard-core river tubers had a CD player hooked up to their tubes, blasting out heavy-metal hits from the early 80’s.

That took about an hour, and as a follow-up to the pace of the Schlitterbahn and even the crowded conditions of the Guadalupe, we opted for a nice, long swim in Canyon Lake. We spent probably three or more hours just floating and talking with my nephew and his gal, bobbing in the waves and getting just a little sunburned, but very relaxed.

On the way back to New Braunfels later that afternoon, we passed a guy in a parking lot selling Fredricksburg peaches. I couldn’t wait to stop the van and buy some of the peaches I have been craving for the last 25 years.

If you know me, you have no doubt heard me lament the lack of good peaches. “Used to be, you could walk into Weingarten’s and tell when the Fredricksburg freestone peaches were in just by the smell.” Phrases like, “big as your fist” and “juicy and sweet” are constants in my lexicon when peachy reminisces surface.

Well, you can imagine my disappointment when I walked up on this guy’s table of racquetball-to-tennis ball-sized peaches. A small basket was five dollars. They did smell like my memory said they should, so I picked out the most likely group and shelled out my Abe. A little chagrined, I returned to the van and reluctantly presented my prize. Everyone marveled at the “compact size” of the fruits, but my middle gal pawed through the prize bag and with no reluctance, pounced on a likely suspect.

“OooOOOooh”, she said, “this is GOOD!” she slurped. This prompted everyone else to partake and sure enough, this was the stuff that memories are made of. These tiny, oversized apricots were every bit as tasty as the old-time peaches of bygone days. Just not as hefty. And more expensive.

We spent five days in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas, but were ready to come back to our home on the Gulf Coast. The trip home was totally lacking in remarkable events. Upon arrival on our street, our little guest (that we had brought along for our youngest to pal around with) had called her parents and they were waiting in the driveway as we rounded the corner. After standing and talking for a few minutes, we were all anxious to get home.

When we arrived in the driveway, we immediately disembarked with our most important items for our comfort in our home.

That was when I saw the water seeping out from under the garage door.


invigilator_tex said...

What? A cliffhanger! Ahhhh!

I predict: Shlitterbahn Alvin; the Geezer Garage Gusher Experience.

aA said...

Yes, cliffhanger indeed! That was one of the Schlitterbahn rides!

But the title you offer is very tempting, even with your alliteration.

Who am I kidding? It's BECAUSE of your alliteration!

The process is still unfolding, so this will be a serial.

I just wish it were happening to Roy and Dale instead of me...

invigilator_tex said...

Happy pails to you...

aA said...

Tex, you must have had razor soup for breakfast!

Don't worry, i won't ask you to bail me out...

Rob V. said...

Dinky peaches. Now, that's the pits.