Travel Blog (Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels, TX)

IMG_9562.JPG

Voted as the best waterpark in the world, we needed to see where the action was on a hot summer weekend. I knew a little bit about the park, having been to the one in Galveston, TX a couple times, but this was the original.

Schlitterbahn started as a small motel on the bank of the Comal River in New Braunfels, TX. This is around 30 minutes from where I live in San Antonio. Since then, the park has expanded almost as fast as the population of San Antonio. Despite having competition from Splash Town USA, Aquatica at Sea World, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn has remained the most popular water attraction.

Now I know why.

IMG_9924.jpeg

First off, the park is huge. The original park outgrew the available land, so a second west park was bought (a former campground of some sort), and built on. As a result, Schlitterbahn has a sort of small town feel, mixed with an old school Disneyland feel. The parking is free. The bus (1970 style with no windows) that moves you from one park to the next is free. The employees are seasonal and Texan, and kind of bring a chill vibe to the whole operation. Is there some complicated thumb print system to triple check if the person paid that day and only once? Nope. They just give you a wrist band and cut off the ends. They really don’t care that much. The colors rotate every so often, so I assume a few people have a collection of the rainbow of bands instead of just springing for a cheap season pass.

Full price admission is around $50. A season pass is a bit more, but not bad if you plan to go a few times, and a really good deal if you plan to go all summer. Online, there are a bunch of seasonal promotions the park does. I remember seeing one in South Padre Island where free food was included (during a 2 hour period).

IMG_9571.JPG

I guess this was the original tower. There are tubes chutes that swirl around it, but from the looks of the people, they seemed to enjoy the leisure stroll through, despite hundreds of people looking at them with their shirts off. If they were at the mall, they would be uptight as hell. At Schlitterbahn, nobody gives a shit. This is opposite mob theory, when everyone is chill and takes off their shirt, people are not as uptight to take off their clothes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.42.37 PM.png

Here was some face first slide of some sort. You sit on your stomach on a mat and hold on for dear life. What? Does that sound like I was scared or something? The thing about sides is the bigger you are, the faster you go. I forget how many different slides I went down, but I swear I got air a number of times, especially one where I don’t even know what happens the last 2.5 seconds of the slide because my face is covered in water.

IMG_9578.JPG

The place is fun despite it being about commerce. At the park, you are actually able to bring in your own food, unlike practically any other park who wants $10 for one slide of pizza. Do you want to haul in a 24 pack of water? Go ahead. The park staff doesn’t care. There are bag checks at the entrance, but they are mostly looking for contraband like a big ass bottle of Grey Goose. We figured why stress about it when we can just buy a pizza. $19 isn’t that bad compared to a pizzeria on the outside.

IMG_9581.JPG

How was the pizza? I would rate it slightly above Chuck E Cheese pizza and slightly below Dominos pizza. Like with many things, when you have been out in the sun all day and are hungry as hell, this pizza was like an 10/10 (first slice) with diminishing returns on each subsequent slice. Why eat soggy sandwiches in the cooler when you can eat something hot?

IMG_1908.jpeg

The attractions appeal to all demographics. Are you a young kid? There are kiddie parks and slow riders everywhere. Are you a little older and more adventurous? There is wake boarding and water slides and high angle chutes that might scare some travel bloggers. Someday, I’ll post the pathetic video of me on the Schlitterblast. It was short and tragic but had a brief moment of hope in there somewhere, I swear.

IMG_7269.jpeg

I don’t think I can look at other lazy rivers the same. Schlitterbahn literally has like 7 of them, ironic since Schlitterbahn is literally next to a river that people tube down in the summer. Why tube down a murky looking river when you can float in an artificial lazy river like this?

Overall, the place was fun. The cost wasn’t too much and the parking (like 30 yards from the gate) was much better than the half mile it takes to walk to Six Flags from your parking spot (after paying a crazy amount just to park) plus another 500 yards to get to the waterpark after passing through the gate (plus the return trip). The staff at Schlitterbahn was more relaxed. And most importantly, the attractions were not packed in with people. I swear, at Six Flags in the summer, I’m not even calling that tiny and narrow thing a lazy river, it is a “mosh-pit river.” The one in the picture above is like 4 times as wide, with an actual current.

Theme Park Rating: 10/10 Floating Alligators (you’ll understand the reference when you go there)

 

 

 

Foodie Review: Twisted Root (San Angelo, TX)

IMG_5634.jpeg

This is an off-the-beaten-path foodie review. Located in San Angelo, Texas, is the Twisted Root Burger Company. Nestled up against a river near downtown, this restaurant was in a prime location. The entire company sports 16 locations, mostly in Texas. For a town as small as San Angelo, the place stuck out as one of the few dining establishments with a modern touch.

IMG_3829.jpegAs soon as you walk in, you are surprised by the modern decoration. The “signage-fest” alone takes a while to scan. For those of you that follow me on twitter @Matt_M_Leonard you saw my tweet storm last month on Bob’s Big Boy … well if you look in the back of the picture, there he was, standing proudly, supervising the patrons of Twisted Root. I was only in town a few days, but quickly got a gist to what the place was about from the menu.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 9.15.09 PM.png

The prices were pretty reasonable for a fast casual burger joint (no so much for you foot-long-hotdog aficionados). I ordered the buffalo burger version of the Western and fries. It isn’t too often that a fast casual burger joint offers buffalo, so I struck while my hunger was hot.

IMG_7938.jpeg

While we waited for our order for pickup at the counter, we waited at this “shotgun table.” I’m not sure if this is the typical burger decoration, or if this related to the buffalo I was eating, but it was different. Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 9.19.19 PM.png

What else was different? Instead of giving us an order number, they gave us a laminated name. I was naturally Alfred Hitchcock. Each had a fun fact of some sort. We waited around ten minutes, snacking on the complimentary pickle slices, until the names were called on the loudspeaker. IMG_3325.jpeg

There it is; behold, the Twisted Root Buffalo Western Burger. The cardboard presentation wasn’t as hip as the company might believe. A basket with a liner like you find at Shake Shack or In-N-Out would have been better. Dumping food in a cardboard box doesn’t really speak “clean” to me. Plus, the portion of the fries wouldn’t have looked so pathetically small. I mean, just look at that? It is sadder than the random piece of lettuce getting pinned by the onion slice. Maybe I’m spoiled from Five Guys going the other way and overloading me with fries (since it costs pennies to make), or the bottomless basket as Red Robin.

How was the burger? Pretty damn tasty. I hadn’t had a burger in a couple of weeks, and this was pretty delicious. I couldn’t really tell the difference between buffalo and beef, mostly because it was fully cooked. Does it beat a Five Guy’s burger? No. Does it beat Red Robin? No. Does it beat fast food burgers? Yes. If I was to make a comparison, this is sort of like when you visit a jack-of-all-trades restaurant like Applebees and order a burger. It’s going to cost about the same, even after factoring in the tip at Applebees, and taste about the same, with the random decorations in the restaurant.

At least at Applebees, they will serve it on a plate.

Foodie Review: Pei Wei (San Antonio, TX)

IMG_0491.jpeg

The last time I had Pei Wei was around 2 years ago. I had been dining there for a couple years since living in San Antonio, and the quality seemed to have dropped over the course of around 6 months until a final straw was broken after a horrible order when our order was over-sauced and the vegetables were overcooked. You know the sight. This is if you threw in a bunch of food in a wok, and just kept layering on sauce until it reduced to nothing because you were not paying attention, and then threw on some more sauce. It was so bad that night, we stopped going, preferring a local Chinese restaurant closer to my house.

I joined twitter in February. I didn’t really know how to use it, and kind of just search through feeds to see what is going on. One day in April, I saw Pei Wei had posted something to which another person had replied (I think it was something to do with their service). I added my opinion, compacting my experience in 140 characters or less, to which Pei Wei actually tweeted back to me.

After exchanging some contact information, they asked me to explain my exact issues to which I said forget about it, it was long ago and I was lost as a customer. My time is too valuable to explain a tweet.

It didn’t matter.

In the mail around a week later, I received the $30 in gift cards to try out Pei Wei again, which was pretty cool. We decided to order a family meal this past week, and I wanted to share the results.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.00.37 PM.pngWe ordered the Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Steak, and the Korean Spicey Chicken. IMG_4683.jpegKung Pao ChickenIMG_2711.jpegMongolian Beef

IMG_4938.jpegKorean Spicy Chicken

So how was it? It was pretty tasty. The sauces were just about right this time, and I was especially surprised by the new Korean dish (limited time offer). It had just enough of a little kick to it. The vegetables all in all were not overcooked. Blended on one plate, each of the dishes complimented each other, and unlike the last time I went, I ate all the food off my plate.

Pei Wei just won me back as a customer.

With around 200 locations in the US, you can find Pei Wei in many cities. As a fun fact, I learned that Pei Wei is a fast casual offshoot of P.F. Changs, a restaurant I enjoy eating at.

For the price (total a little under $30) it was a decent value for 3 dishes and exactly comparable to the Chinese restaurant we have been ordering takeout the last couple years at. The service was fast, being ready for pickup in around 20 minutes.