I’m on my way to Stowe for Oktoberfest (inexplicably in September) with a couple friends. I wanted to go alone but had the foresight to realize a designated driver would be necessary. We’re getting a late start because my driver has gotten onto the wrong interstate and is speeding us in the complete opposite direction of Stowe. The car was full of the angry silence that falls after someone screams, “You’re going the wrong way!!” The driver is embarrassed to have made such a stupid mistake, the passenger is angry at the stupidity of the driver, and the girl in the back is angry to be losing valuable beer time. After we turn around and finally make it to the proper exit off I-89N, I pull out the detailed directions I printed off of the Internet.
“Okay, you need to drive along Route 100 for 7.1 miles and then take a left onto Moscow Road,” I say.
We come up to a sign pointing towards the town of Moscow and make the left.
“Then, turn left onto Shaw Hill Road.”
Turning left onto a dirt road, we begin to wonder where we are. This road looks rather private and residential. Could the Jackson Ice Arena really be out here, in the middle of the woods?
“Uh…” I say, looking from my papers to the farms outside the window, “And… uh, then take a left onto West Shaw Hill Road.”
We make the turn by several of mailboxes at the beginning of another very bumpy dirt road. The other passengers start accusing me:
“Are you sure this is right?”
“Yeah, man. I mean, I think so. Look, it says right here on the Stowe Oktoberfest web page ‘331 West Shaw Hill Road, Stowe, Vermont.’”
“This can’t be right, Amy. Look at it here. Besides, I think we’re in Moscow, not Stowe.”
“It’s supposed to be on this sharp corner coming up, right on the corner.”
We see a minivan coming toward us, the driver motioning for us to stop.
“Hey,” he calls out his window, “You all know where,” he stops and looks to his wife in the passenger seat. She mouths something and he says, “Uh, Jackson Ice Arena is?”
“Dude, we’re looking for the place ourselves,” my driver says.
The wife pushes across her husband and holds up the exact same internet pages I’m holding in my hands. “It’s supposed to be right here,” she says.
I show her my pages and say, “Hey, baby, we thought it would be here too.”
She slinks back into her seat while her husband tries to find out whether or not we’re lying. “So, you don’t know where it is?”
“No,” we collectively say.
“Well, I’d hoped you were local,” he mutters and speeds away in the opposite direction. I manage to glance at the back the minivan and see New Hampshire number plates. Jerk. He should just go back home to stupid New Hampshire. We’re more local then you, shithead.
We continue down the road and find 331 West Shaw Hill Road to be a nice white country house. My other companion wants to go knock on the door but I’m adamant not to. Fifty people have probably already done that today and besides, we’re wasting beer time by dinking around out here in the woods. We gotta get the hell out of Moscow and head for Stowe.
We stop by a country store to ask for directions. Eventually, we find signs pointing toward the Oktoberfest. Hurray! We made it! We park outside the arena and walk up to the entrance. I had printed several ‘$1 off the entrance fee’ coupons from the Internet, but accidentally left them at work. Luckily, one of the web pages with the directions printed on it had the little coupon icon that linked to the coupon page. I tore out the picture, roughly half the size of a stamp, and brought it with me.
“Here’s my coupon,” I say at the ticket desk.
The woman takes the tiny stub and squints at it. She put her glasses on and asks, “What’s this?”
“It’s a coupon for a dollar off.”
“Oh… okay. So that’s eighteen dollars for the three of you, then.” We pay, get a beer drinking stamp on the backs of our hands and head inside. It’s not quite the Bavarian village they advertised, but it’s all right. There are cardboard backdrops made to look like tutor buildings and alpine vistas. Nice, but first I have to find the beer.
A loud, obnoxious oomphah band it wailing away while I make my way to the back. I see a booth that says, “Beer and Food Tickets” and purchase a string of red, $1.00 tickets. For some reason, the beer and food booths don’t take cold hard cash; you have to pay with the proper amount of the tickets. Weird.
It looks as thought Otter Creek is the only brewer represented here. There are many outstanding breweries in Vermont (Magic Hat, Long Trail, Harpoon, Trout River) but I guess Otter Creek is just the designated one for this event. Fine by me. I buy one of the Oktoberfest pint glasses and have it filled with Oktoberfest beer. Ahhhhhhh… Rockin-toberfest.
Taking a look around the arena, there’s not much to see. There’s a silent auction area, the performance stage and dance floor, a huge dining area around the stage/dance floor and a few retail booths set up along the back wall of the arena. We grab a seat to watch the band play songs and wave people up to the dance floor for games. These games are just a disguise to find out who’s the most wasted in the audience. They ask, “Who wants to do the chicken dance?” and all the people who jump up and run to the front are the ones that have been boozing since 10 a.m. As the tempo of the chicken dance increases, the people look as though they’re suffering from particularly violent seizures. At this point, the only thing they can do is bend forward at the waist and puke onto the cement floor.
After drinking a lot more beer and realizing nothing exciting was going to happen, I slap my hand down on the table and tell my companions that I’m ready to leave. I stand up a little too quickly and totter a bit to the left. It’s cool, I’m cool. No one noticed anything. I look around to see everyone staggering around and suddenly all these people are my new best friends. I grin stupidly at strangers, sharing that “I’m drunk and it’s the middle of the day, hee hee” feeling.
On the way back to the car, we stop by a brook to look at the minnows and frogs. I get down to the water’s edge, where I can see a small green frog looking expectantly up at me. I approach slowly… slowly… and then… SNATCH! I caught it. I triumphantly hold the slimy amphibian over my head and say, “Iss frog’s legs [belch] fer supper tonight.”
Unfortunately, a young couple with their small son were standing on the wooden bridge watching me when suddenly their son burst into tears at my exclamation. They scowl and hurry away. Whoops. I toss the frog back into the water and wipe my hands off on the grass. Yech, I may still have my motor skills intact but I’ve plainly lost my mind. What the hell was I thinking catching a frog? I’m gonna get warts now or some kind of disease I bet.
The idea of driving up Mt. Mansfield is mentioned and I’m all for it.
“Lessgo [hic] lessgo hiking,” I say.
We drive up the narrow, curvy road to the top of the mountain and pull off to the side of the road. There are a great many cars up here, which surprises me considering what a cold, windy, wet day it is. My companions start up a trail between the huge rocks and I follow. We climb up and around the rocks, over and between them. I’m growing more terrified by the second because (a) the rocks are wicked slippery (b) we’re going really high up and (c) I think I’m gonna be sick.
Interspersed throughout the crags there are some serious rock climbers. I come around a corner and see a man chalking up his hands, preparing to scale a particularly impressive escarpment. Here’s my chance…
“Hey,” I say, leaning seductively against the rock, “You gonna go up there?” I point in the general direction of heaven and he looks at me but doesn’t answer. “Iss perrdy high,” I say knowledgably. “And yer mat,” I point at his small, blue mat on the ground, “If you fall -- whish I’m not saying you will! -- I don’ think that iddy bitty mat’s gonna save yer life er anything… [hic]” Here, the hand I was leaning against slips off the rock and I land face down on the blue mat. So comfy… so sleepy… I feel hands grab the back of my collar and I’m pulled up to my feet. It’s my two companions.
“Heya guys, where’ve you two been?” I ask.
I’m promptly thrown into a vehicle and the journey home begins. I sleep the whole way.
Next Week: The Brattleboro Literary Festival! In which Vermont Girl will try to corner and seduce Steve Almond. And maybe hear about a book or two.
* * *
Miles driven: 158
Beers consumed: 4
Men in lederhosen: 14
Women in dirndl: 23
Children playing in ‘Das Jumping Fun Haus’: 0