Day Trippin

A collection of day trips: Wurstfest

Wurstfest returns November 2nd-11th of 2018. Photo by Courtney Sellers

This year we celebrated the 56th anniversary of Wurstfest — the huge outdoor sausage and beer festival in New Braunfels, TX. I haven’t been to Wurstfest since I was in college at Texas State, and since we were going to a wedding in the hill country anyway we decided to head up a day early so we could attend.

First things first, I think Wurstfest could be a day trip if you aren’t a huge drinker. But I never condone drinking and driving, so turn this into an overnight stay if you plan to enjoy the pitchers of beer. The hotel hustle in New Braunfels during the two-week period of Wurstfest is unparalleled anywhere on earth. I recommend staying at the Microtel on I35 – prices were cheaper than anywhere else in town, all of their rooms are non-smoking, and they have the greatest policy on earth – after the checkout time of noon, you can stay in the room for $10/hr. This was clutch the next morning after drinking beer all night. Noon would have been an impossible task – we barely made it to the 4:30 pm wedding.

Uber has been a major development in the time that has passed between my last trip to Wurstfest a decade ago and now. Parking is a struggle and many churches and other businesses offer up parking in their lots for a price. I spoke to a member of the Knights of Columbus for a local church, and he told me they don’t even have to do fundraisers anymore because the money they make from parking during the two weeks of the festival pays for everything they would do fundraising for. That’s incredible. Be prepared for a pretty long walk either way — the traffic leading up to the festival entrance is so slow you’re likely to jump out of your Uber, and the waiting area for cars is a good walk away when you leave.

Once you actually get there, you can purchase entrance and drink tickets either online or at the door. At the door and once inside the festival everything is cash only. The only exception to the cash only rule is the souvenir stands where they do take credit cards. I found this hilarious — it’s too hard to take credit cards until they really want your money, then it’s simple.

So you’re inside Wurstfest. Now what? We attended the second weekend of the festival and it was packed to the gills. Walking is nearly impossible once you get inside. The festival has outgrown the grounds so much that every single inch of space is taken, and the fair grounds are just a writhing mass of people all trying to get to different places. There are tents set up around the festival with different musicians and performers, and the big tent near the main entrance of the festival for the main attractions. This tent is massive, and it was by God’s own grace that we actually were able to find our friends. Cell phone service is almost non-existent here due to the huge crowds. The big tent in the middle is where you’ll find all the beer and meats your heart desires. My advice is to find a stand that sells the beer you want, get your sausages, and post up shop at an entertainment tent nearby and just sit there. If you can’t find a place to sit, get ok with standing the whole time, it’s not that bad!

A pitcher of German beer cost $29 each. The food was more reasonably priced and some places were even giving away little pins and stuff when you bought food. For $30 we were able to get fried bacon, German chocolate cake, three different types of bratwurst, more sausage, and sausage on a stick with a tortilla. Six pitchers of beer later, it was time to go home. Despite claims to the contrary, I am a generally happy person. It takes a lot to get me upset, especially in crowds where I know things will never go very well. But not everyone is that way. We saw people throwing up everywhere, getting in fights over space on picnic benches, kids running to and fro — their parents oblivious to their whereabouts, and people like us just trying to relax, drink beer, listen to polka, and eat. It’s not all bad crowds though, standing in line for beer, I met a man whose dad has been a “red vest” since the 1970’s, and he himself just earned his red vest this year. The guys in the red and green vests help put the festival together and the green vest guys are like pledges. Hearing about the early days of the festival taking place in a church basement on a single day to the monstrosity we attended was interesting, and really made the beer line move faster. Wurstfest is over until next year but make sure you check it out in 2018!

Jovan Abernathy in Iceland. Courtesy photo

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com.

So, I promised to tell you about my runcation to Iceland. I have to start with the race of course; that was my whole reason for going (Besides, I promised to give some shout outs. Before I tell you anything else, let me tell you about the Reykjavik Autumn Half and Full Marathon).

The local running clubs did an excellent job of showing the 300 run tourists and I the relaxed and friendly Icelandic running culture. Although small, the race was well organized. From the start line to the finish, we were kept as comfortable as possible from the freezing temperatures and constant wind.

Heated tents were there for us to gather in before and after the race. Once we crossed the finish line, we were handed our medals, a veggie sandwich, and chocolate treat, and most important, our beer.

They thought of every detail. Here is this for detail: the trophies that were handed to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finishers were made of basalt column hand-picked from a secret place in the mountains. Truly one of a kind. The course was an asphalt, flat terrained running trail that circled the island. I can now say that I ran around the Island of Reykjavik. I totally recommend this marathon for a destination race.

And now the truths….

This trip was centered around the marathon. I have dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights for quite some time. Oh how much I wanted to hold an Iceberg in my hands and to relax with a face mask in the Blue Lagoon. But, it didn’t happen. Needless to say, I was disappointed. In fact, I didn’t know how I felt about Iceland. So, I walked about and this is what I found.

Truth #1:

Icelandic people are very hospitable. The first couple of days, I spent my time meeting locals (By locals, I mean bartenders) and the other guests in the guesthouse. Very sweet people who are ready to get to know you.

Truth #2:

Iceland is not ice and Greenland is not green. The myth was a trick that Ingolfr Arnarson, the Viking who first settled Iceland, pulled on the rest of the world so every other heathen wouldn’t junk up his country. It is cold though. I strongly suggest packing a heavy coat, hat, ear muffs, waterproof gloves, and a ski mask, yes a ski mask.

Truth #3:

Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities in the world. No. 14 to be exact. Example: What can you get for $30 in Reykjavik? A 10 minute taxi ride to the start line OR (notice I said or) a burger and fries. The average price for a tour was 20,000 Icelandic Krona or $161.

Truth #4:

Transportation is free….because everything is in walking distance. During the days, I walked the city in search of murals to pose in front of. And at night, I walked the streets in search of Bjork and the Ice cubes, I mean Sugar cubes.

Truth #5:

Loki Guesthouse (where I stayed) is legit.

It has everything you need without being super fancy. This included a fully loaded kitchen, washer and dryer, and free wifi. Even though we had to share the bathroom, it made up for it with a shower with a hand held shower head with excellent water pressure (and ladies you know what that is good for, if you know what I mean as my eyes roll back.)

Truth #6:

Everything in Reykjavik is hard to pronounce.

Case in point. Loki Guesthouse is next to Hallgrimskirkja or as everyone calls “the Big Church.”

Truth #7:

You can drink the water right from the faucet.

But, please ignore the fact that it smells like boiled eggs. Just hold your nose and don’t ask questions.

Truth #8:

The Icelandic food tastes like…

I don’t know. You tell me. I could only afford ramen noodles from Bonus discount grocery store. It became a joke at the guesthouse. Everyone would go to Bonus and come back with Ramen noodles. You could also get a six pack of Thule (an ale with a smooth, crisp finish and official beer of the Reykjavik Autumn Marathon which means the ends of the earth) for 75 cents. Now that’s legit.

Truth #9:

Reykjavik has an entire museum devoted to the penis. The Iceland Phallocogical Musuem has 280 specimens from 93 species of animals including whale. No, they do not have human specimens though porn star Jonah Falcon, who has the longest penis on record, has willed his penis to the museum when he passes.

Truth #10:

If you can’t get to the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik’s thermal swimming pools are the next best thing. Steamy oasis’ of hot water that stays open until 10 p.m. You can relax those muscles in a hot pot, hot tub, or sauna. Added bonus: Invest in a city pass and get free admission to all 8 thermal pools.

Truth #11:

Aside from Lake Como, Italy, Iceland is the safest place on earth. The police have only had to shoot one person in the history of modern police. The police don’t even carry guns. They actually have a special unit for that.

The last truth was revealed at the post race party which was held at...wait for it...Bryggian Brugghus Brewery in the Old Harbour. It is the poshest brewery I have ever seen. The race committee arranged for us to get half off beers if we wore our medals. So 12 of us got cozy on plush sofas in the corner.

We made our introductions. There was Antone (a Norwegian run coach), Svandhildur (who handed me my post race snacks), Craig (he ran his first full marathon in 3:53:00), his partner Shelley (who took the race photos). There was also Runa (the first Icelandic woman to run the Major 6 marathons) and Magano (who later drove me back to my hotel).

We took pictures, drank beer, and contemplated important questions on topics like which contributes most to Iceland’s GDP? Tourism or fish? Where’s you next runcation (Because there is always the next one)? And finally, what do you do when you client is faster than you?

As we talked, I realized the final truth: that this moment was what I came for. It was hard as hell to get here. I had to get really creative to make this happen, but I belonged here and I deserved it. I smiled knowing that I had the experience and the drive to get my goals accomplished and that I had another one in me. And since I hate the cold, I think the next one will be in the Amazon. I’m dead serious.

A special thanks to Petur Hegalson, race director and international ultra marathoner for the insight and the pictures and thank you for the volunteers of the Reykjavik Autumn Marathon. The Reykjavik Marathon is held twice a year in the spring and autumn. If you want to make this a runcation destination, visit marathonlaup.is to register.

 

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