The Alamo and Much, Much More


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April 12th 2010
Published: April 13th 2010
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Roadside SplendorRoadside SplendorRoadside Splendor

Near San Antonio TX
Beautiful wildflowers! That’s about all that can be said of our leisurely trip through the Texas countryside on the way to Von Ormy TX - just south of San Antonio. It seems like the roadside splendor intensifies every day of the trip. First the blues covered the shoulders of the roads. The low-growing yellows joined them. Then taller yellows and some whites. Kay tells me there are some reds, pinks and purples here and there. Even though I don’t see all of the hues, those that do register are truly pleasing to my eye. I remember that very little of the rural Midwest has been left to fields of “weeds” and know that the concentration of the flowering cacti in the Southwest cannot compete with the power of this panorama. Even though the timing of this trip has resulted in some missed opportunities on one hand, this gift has compensated us quite well.

The Wednesday, March 31 drive to Uvalde TX was familiar. From there we took the “road less traveled” through Pearsall, Charlotte, Pleasanton and Poteet. My GPS, which I have nicknamed “Informational” Irene, takes the shortest/quickest route. I can plot a custom scenic route (that would avoid the
Wide Open ShadeWide Open ShadeWide Open Shade

Hidden Valley RV Park - Von Ormy (San Antonio) TX
Interstates) on my laptop and upload it to Irene, but it’s usually easier to plug in city to city points as we journey to our destination. Our drive was uneventful save a little old lady in Charlotte TX who wanted to know if she could help us as we sat in the truck eating our lunch on her street in front of her house under her shade tree. Attaboy neighborhood watch!!!

Our space in the Hidden Valley RV Park is roomy, shady and quiet. The manager is extremely helpful and informed. The laundry consists of one washer and one dryer, so we decided to take the laundry with us when we “did our thing” on Thursday. “Our thing” consisted of going to the visitor center (which is across the street from the Alamo), seeing the IMAX movie “Alamo…The Price of Freedom” (which was made at Alamo Village), visiting the Alamo Shrine and buying groceries. We waited until the AM rush was over so it took only about 15-20 minutes to get to downtown San Antonio. Of course, the first stop ended up being the Alamo - from the parking deck; we had to walk past the landmark to get
The Hallowed GroundsThe Hallowed GroundsThe Hallowed Grounds

The Alamo - San Antonio TX
to virtually anything else downtown. After a quick walk through the shrine, we went to the visitor center where we learned our timing was lucky because the NCAA Women’s Collegiate Basketball Final Four would be played at the Alamodome during our visit and San Antonio would be “puttin’ on the dog” for the next few days. We went to the IMAX movie to get some more background about The Alamo. My opinion - worth the time, slightly overrated, drastically overpriced. Then we set out for a more comprehensive tour of hallowed grounds.

Many had prepared me for the reality of the “Alamo experience.” Thank you. I found it much easier to assimilate the presence of John Wayne and Richard Widmark on the movie set at Alamo Village than to embrace the ghosts of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett on the sterilized grounds of The Alamo. Amid skyscrapers, airliners on final approach and hawkers of “sideshow-style” gimmicks positioned across the street, I had to focus on the sacrifice of those patriots who voluntarily came to the Alamo to defend freedom. Strolling along the pristine paths woven through manicured lawns of green velvet, I had to construct images of the hardships
One of Many to SeeOne of Many to SeeOne of Many to See

Fort Sam Houston - San Antonio TX
the defenders endured as the final assault drew nearer and nearer. My experience in Alamo Village was much more realistic, more relevant, more intense and more lasting. I would never advise anybody to skip the Alamo. I would strongly advise everyone who visits to include Alamo Village for a comprehensive Alamo experience.

The weather forecast for Friday included intermittent showers so we decided to visit the Fort Sam Houston Museum and the U.S. Army Medical Department Museum. Fort Sam Houston is a designated National Historic Landmark and has an array of really interesting, photogenic buildings. Almost all are still operational and are not open to the public. Both museums are focused on the pre-Korean War era. To be candid, I was quite disappointed with the meager attention paid to Vietnam in the medical museum. Many innovations that were developed in Vietnam and then evolved into standards in the civilian EMS world were completely overlooked. I noted this in my evaluation and hope those shortcomings will be addressed. Overall, Fort Sam Houston is worthy of a half-day visit.

Saturday morning we set out for a hike in the 232-acre Friedrich Wilderness Park that lies within the city limits of
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Wild Animal Orphanage - San Antonio TX
San Antonio. The park offers trails with four levels of difficulty from paved, flat trails for wheelchairs to trails as vigorous as I want to tackle. Plants are identified with numerical markers (and referenced in a guide available at the trailhead) and a bird checklist of some 140 species is available as well. After enjoying the beautiful morning, we set out for the Wild Animal Orphanage. The WAO takes in abused and/or neglected wild animals seized by local authorities from around the area or unwanted animals the owners can no longer manage. Many have medical issues resulting from inbreeding or neglect and none are candidates for reintroduction to the wild. A staff member guides all tours and the histories of most of the animals are outlined during the tour. Time well spent.

Some of you may know that The Alamo was one of five missions built along a nine-mile stretch of the San Antonio River in what is now San Antonio. We decided Easter would be a good day to embark on the mission trail. All four missions are National Historic Parks administered by the National Park Service. Since only Mission San Jose has a visitor center, we started
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Mission San Jose - San Antonio TX
there. San Jose is also the largest and most well preserved of the missions and has an ambitious schedule of religious services. Easter was no exception. Even though there was a full house already seated, the mass had not yet started and visitors still were being allowed to pass through and photograph the interior of the mission. All of the missions are unique architecturally and historically, but Mission San Jose is definitely the most impressive. Highly recommended.

So far, it seems like no destination has been complete without a trip to the local veterans memorial. On Monday, San Antonio was no different. The memorial is small, but well placed across the street from Civic Auditorium. The Vietnam Memorial is a great sculpture portraying a Marine calling for a Navy Corpsman to tend to his fallen comrade on April 30, 1967 during the battle of Hill 881 South where over 50 Marines paid the ultimate sacrifice. The artist was a participant in the battle. Even though I missed that particular battle, the monument is somewhat haunting to say the least. From the memorial, we set out for the elegant San Fernando Cathedral. The cathedral sits on one side of a
Long Ago, But Still VividLong Ago, But Still VividLong Ago, But Still Vivid

Memorial Park - San Antonio TX
popular plaza and contains the remains of the Alamo defenders. During our visit, a jazz ensemble was performing as several people enjoyed their brown-bag lunch. Both are highly recommended. A short stroll took us to the Spanish Governor’s Palace which was closed for renovation.

It seems that a beautiful day deserves nothing less than an outdoor lunch - especially for the basketball fans from northern climates. Our thirty-minute wait on the Riverwalk was worth the delay. After lunch, shopping availed itself in the nearby El Mercado; however, nothing that would fit in the travel trailer AND withstand the rigors of the nomadic lifestyle caught our fancy. Leaving El Mercado financially intact, we decided to do the Riverwalk thingy back in the direction of the truck. Although the businesses along the river cater to the yuppie set, the walk itself is a must. If other cities could only hold such a vision for their downtown! The Riverwalk experience is awesome - intermittent sunlight and shade, birds abound, waterfalls and river taxis. Depending on the locale, businessmen and joggers, shoppers and lovers, young and old, strollers and wheelchairs - San Antonio did itself proud on this one! Over the course of
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NCAA Womens Championship Game - U Conn vs Sanford - Alamodome San Antonio TX
the day, we covered about 5-6 miles - much to the chagrin of my waning paunch.

Could we be stymied by “under renovation” destinations on two consecutive days? Does a wild bear…? Of course we could. Tourist books and locals alike touted the Texas Pioneer and Old Trail Driver Museums as excellent collections housed in one building that was, yes, closed for renovation! Now that’s three reasons to return to San Antonio. Next on the list was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower - indeed a pretty church, but it should not be mentioned in the same paragraph as the San Fernando Cathedral. “There’s plenty of time left to stop for an oil change, and hmmmmmm…. Could there be any tickets left for the Women’s Basketball Championship game later tonight?” Sure enough! What the heck, I might never have an opportunity like this one again! Even though we were up pretty high, we still could see the action on the floor quite well. Anyway, I couldn’t have identified any of the principals even if I had been closer - except for Vice President Joe Biden who stopped in for some hand-shaking and photo ops with
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Downtown Area Trolley - San Antonio TX
people wearing ties, high heels or military uniforms. Maybe that’s why security confiscated my pocketknife!

We had no more than returned from the game than Kay learned that her 87-year old father had died. At his age and with his health history, it was not a surprise; but it was a surprise at the moment. Because her father wanted no funeral service per se, Kay had no plans to make a hasty return to Silver City because of his death. She slept in Wednesday morning and then dealt with family issues while I caught up with odds and ends and did some planning for down the road.

Parking in the downtown area is expensive by Silver City standards - the Alamodome was $25 for the basketball game, but we walked 10-12 blocks from the Rivercenter Mall and paid only $15 for about four hours. By Thursday, we had the parking thingy for downtown figured out and were ready for some low-keyed, relaxing, fun stuff. We headed downtown and found our favorite on-street parking place on Fourth Street right next to the Holiday Inn El Tropicano. The meters are $.25/hour with a 10-hour maximum and are only in force
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Hemisfair Park - San Antonio TX
until 6 PM. I popped in my eight quarters, walked ½ a block to the Holiday Inn, bought all-day street trolley passes for $4.00 each and waited outside for the next trolley (they run about every ten minutes). There are three routes (red, blue and yellow) that run until 9 PM or later and get you to any of the multitude of attractions in the downtown area. Highly recommended.

We stopped at the HemisFair Park to get the view from the 750’ Tower of the Americas built for the 1986 HemisFair. The waterfalls and landscaping are great, and the reasonable entry fee covers the use of the entire facility all day. We rode the glass elevator to the observation deck which was nice but ho-hum by Sears Tower standards and then went to the 4-D theater for a showing of “The Skies Over Texas.” For some reason the third dimension (glasses) were not available but the fourth dimension was a blast. The seats shake as the space shuttle lifts off (of course, Houston is in control), and large fans blow air during a visit to the Texas plains. I won’t show the rest of the cards, but the 10-15
Learning the Ways of the Good LifeLearning the Ways of the Good LifeLearning the Ways of the Good Life

A Bold Visit During Lunch on The River Walk - San Antonio TX
minute presentation is worth the price of admission by itself.

It was about two blocks to the Riverwalk where we sought out a lunch spot. From our table right next to the river, we were entertained by well-schooled ducks and “in-training” ducklings only feet away and pigeons so bold as to walk across my boot. After lunch, we embarked on the mandatory 45-minute guided riverboat tour (there also is a river taxi we didn’t use). The price is reasonable and the experience is unique, but I think it’s over-rated. Hint: The seating has all hands facing to outside of the boat - sit facing the right (starboard) side. There’s more to see from there than if you are facing the left (port) side. We walked about a half mile to La Villita - several square blocks of restored buildings containing a wide variety of unique arts and crafts shops and strolled among the buildings but omitted the shopping experience. Back on the trolley and a stop at the Farmers Market - an indoor, “open-air” mercado of tee shirts, Mexican crafts and other tourist paraphernalia. Back on the trolley and a return trip to the Tower of the Americas for
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Guadalupe River - Kerr County TX
an encore movie and to watch the sunset and the lighting of the city. A full day indeed!

Rand-McNally depicts as scenic a loop between San Antonio and Leakey TX - one of the towns on the picturesque route we had driven out of Del Rio on March 26. We decided to conquer that uncharted portion of the Texas Hill Country on Friday. The drive west through Castroville and Hondo to Tarpley was unremarkable except for an old-fashioned gas war in Hondo TX. Again, our atlas maker did not disappoint. We found rivers and waterfalls, colorful vistas from (small) mountaintops, lush valleys with an assortment of critters (antelope, deer and turkey as well as horses, cattle, sheep and goats), quaint little villages and motorcycles, motorcycles, motorcycles. I’ve observed that motorcyclists have an inherent ability to congregate on some of the most spectacular roads I have ever driven. If you’re looking for beautiful scenery, follow the bikers - but you might want to drop the trailer at the RV park first!

Strawberries, entertainment, strawberry shortcake, carnival midway, strawberry daiquiris, bull riding and chocolate covered strawberries - that sums up the Poteet Strawberry Festival. As the itinerary was being developed,
St. Philips Ballet Folklorico GuadalupanoSt. Philips Ballet Folklorico GuadalupanoSt. Philips Ballet Folklorico Guadalupano

Poteet Strawberry Festival - Poteet TX
the Festival and the coincidental 2010 dates were discovered. Timing is everything. When we checked in at the RV park, we asked the manager about the event. She told us the evenings are very crowded so we arrived at noonish and took advantage of some on street parking about four blocks away. The $10 entry fee covered all fourteen stages of entertainment - we only got to see the gun fighter reenactment, strawberry eating contest, Spanish dancers, mountain cloggers, mariachi and the Joe Nichols concert before the evening bull riding began. As we strolled the grounds, we found a booth plugging Bandera TX and got all of the details about the chuck wagon races we already planned to attend next weekend. Timing is everything. When we left about 9:30, the pedestrian line at the gate was about 75 feet deep, and the line of cars coming into town from San Antonio was about half a mile long. Again, timing is everything. Just how late does this festival last?

Our last day at Hidden Valley RV Park was leisurely. The charcoal grill was cleaned and put away. The American flag and the wind chimes were stowed. The journal was updated.
Fire on the Mountain CloggersFire on the Mountain CloggersFire on the Mountain Cloggers

Poteet Strawberry Festival - Poteet TX
Some of this and a little of that. In the afternoon, we put on the “Sunday-go-to-Meetin’ dog” and went downtown to the Rivercenter Comedy Club in the Rivercenter Mall for an evening performance. Both of us were ready for some light-hearted entertainment after those hectic days following the death of Kay’s father. Comedy clubs are comedy clubs. Some performers are better than others, and these were okay. There is a two item (drinks, soft drinks, appetizers, entrees) minimum per person. The food was okay, and everything was reasonably priced. Next stop - Austin. The Capital, the University of Texas, LBJ stuff, some live music and (of course) the chuck wagon races in Bandera TX are on the agenda.


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