San Antonio

Spring: it's finally, really, come.

Spring: it’s finally, really, come.

Thursday, March 12

The alarm goes off, and I am momentarily confused. Is it a work day? No it’s a Thursday, and it’s still dark outside. Why the heck are Julie and I waking up before dawn if it’s not for work? I’m not a morning person, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the sunrise in the past year. Then my brain catches up with my body and I remember. Ah yes, San Antonio.

Bertha has a 9:00 am service appointment at a Goodyear there today. I know I know, why the heck would I drive an hour and a half to get work done on the truck when there are places closer that could do it? Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but we have ulterior motives…

A tour raft on the San Antonio river

A tour raft on the San Antonio river

We arrive downtown in a timely fashion and drop Bertha off. She’s getting her rear shocks and front brakes replaced today, to compliment the front shocks and rear brakes that I had replaced in Los Angeles at the beginning of the year. She’s also getting two new tires, an alignment, oil change, and I’m having them look at the driver side door, which has started squeaking recently. It’s going to take a while to get all of this work done, so we’ll be stuck in the city for a while. Oh darn, wink wink.

It’s only about a mile from Goodyear to the San Antonio River Walk, I guess we can kill some time there.

When I first lay eyes on the River Walk, I gasp and stop in my tracks, it’s that incredible. The San Antonio river runs through downtown about one story below street level, and all along it’s curvy, twisting length runs a public park complete with paved walking path, boat tours, and shops. You’re walking along through a typical big city and then all the sudden bam! You’re crossing a bridge and look down and see another world down below, a greener world. Vines grow on the storefronts down at water level, a riot of flowers and greenery line the trails. Tall cypress trees along the water’s edge butt up against towering skyscrapers… and somehow this jarring mix of natural and urban works beautifully.

Tall trees and skyscrapers

Tall trees and skyscrapers

Can anyone name that building in the background? It's impressive whatever it is

The Tower Life building behind palms

Julie and I stroll down the path, watching ducks swim in the river and enjoying various water features and the sun, which has made a comeback after the recent bout of bad weather. We see a sign pointing up a side path labeled ‘Alamo’. Well heck, might as well learn something while we’re enjoying ourselv- I mean, while we’re stranded here. Ahem.

Even if you’re not a history buff I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase: “Remember the Alamo!”, that was about the extent of my knowledge before today. The history of this building complex is long and sordid, but I’m going to try to keep it short and sweet.

The Alamo was first built in 1744 as a mission called ‘San Antonio de Valero’ when the area was under Spanish rule, it’s purpose was converting the local Coahuiltecan tribe to Catholicism. In the late 1700’s, it became a military outpost for the Spanish, who guarded San Antonio from Indian raiders and American and French troops out of Louisiana. The first group of soldiers to arrive were called The Alamo Company, hence where the name comes from.

Along the River Walk

Along the River Walk

In 1821 when Mexico declared its independence from Spain, the soldiers of the Alamo shifted allegiance, and new Republic of Mexico opened immigration from the United States to help bolster Texas’ small population ostensibly to make it easier to hold. Because Texas didn’t have enough people to be designated a state, they were considered a department within a larger state, which didn’t sit well with the locals and settlers. When the locals started complaining, Mexico tried to shut down immigration which just made matters worse, but enough people had settled in Texas by now that they could put up a fight.

The Texas Revolution started in 1835, and the colonists and local Tejanos stormed San Antonio in October and by the end of the year had taken control of it and the Alamo from Mexican general Martin Perfecto de Cos. The next February as Texas was declaring its independence, Mexican forces led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived in force to take back the city and laid siege to the Alamo, which was being held by roughly 200 desperate souls. On March 6 after ten days, the Mexican force broke through the walls wrested control of the Alamo back in a fierce battle than lasted 90 minutes, ending in the old church.

Texian General Sam Houston would surprise the Mexican army later that spring near Buffalo Bay (present-day Houston) while it was divided with his smaller force, capturing Santa Anna and achieving independence to the cry of… yep you guessed it, “Remember the Alamo!”.

It’s too busy to get inside the buildings today, the lines go all the way down the sidewalk and Julie and I just don’t feel like waiting, but even getting to walk the grounds is a very neat experience. The grounds are well kept, old Live Oaks provide relief from the sun, and the history of the place still reaches you, even from outside. This is a place that mattered.

Part of the Alamo

Part of the Alamo

Onward, to the Market Square. Called El Mercado by the locals, this bustling district hosts over 100 locally owned shops and is the largest Mexican shopping center in the city. Reportedly you can find live music here every day of the year, I cannot attest to that, but I can say that there were no less than five music groups performing during our visit. It was so loud in fact that we spent little time outside because the noise level was so high. We duck in to two of the buildings and browse. There’s a lot of neat authentic Mexican style merchandise to be found here, but I was able to resist spending any money. The sterling silver jewelry is the hardest to say no to.

More Alamo

More Alamo

Well, gosh, still no word from Goodyear, and it’s past lunch time. I guess we’ll just have to grit our teeth and have lunch down on the waterfront. What torture.

We stop at MadDogs British Pub, and enjoy lunch out on the porch with a great view of the River Walk. We take our sweet time eating and enjoy people watching. Every five minutes or so, another tour boat comes down the river, laden with people. The boat tours are $15 a person and probably very informative, but I have two good legs and don’t mind walking.

Finally at about 3:30, after a successful stop in at Goodwill for jeans, Goodyear calls: the truck is ready (are you sure? Can’t it wait just a bit longer?) and we reluctantly head back. As far as days spent waiting for for a vehicle to be serviced, this is hands down the best experience I’ve had, ever.

Err, I mean, what a rotten day. Who’d ever want to go full-timing and have to spend a day without transportation in a strange city? All that new stuff to see, things to learn, food to eat…

Yeeeah, who am I kidding, I had a blast. Any successful full-time RVer quickly learns how to make the most of what could be an upsetting situation. And as icing on the cake, the work ends up being less money than I was quoted for back in California when I went in for fluid changes and was told I had all of this stuff that needing fixing – yay Texas!

I was going to post a picture on the state of the bathrooms, but I didn't want to give you nightmares

I was going to post a picture on the state of the bathrooms, but I didn’t want to give you nightmares

* * *

Why was the Alamo so busy on a weekday? Because Texas is in the middle of spring break. This week most of the public schools have been out, and next week most of the colleges are out. This means things have really been hopping at Enchanted Rock – the busiest two weeks the park is going to see all year. It’s like Saturday, every day! Pretty exhausting stuff, but it hasn’t quite taken over my life. I have been working on something else behind the scenes. Next week I’ll be making a big announcement about the e-guide, something a lot of you have been waiting for. Hint, it’s coming out soon, real soon! Stay tuned.

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  1. Rene Kipp on March 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Just catching up on your recent posts. I enjoyed this one with the gorgeous photos and even bookmarked your SARW link. I’d definitely like to visit here one day. My husband visited the Alamo as a teen but I’m sure it will be a better experience as an adult 🙂
    Rene Kipp recently posted..This May Take AwhileMy Profile

    • Becky on March 21, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Yeah Rene, the Alamo is definitely something I think adults would appreciate more. 🙂

      Hope you get the chance to go see it someday! It’s a neat city.

  2. Ed @ Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on March 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Several years ago, I purchased a key piece of equipment for our business from a private party who lived in the hill country immediately north of San Antonio. My son and I made a bee-line to that area from S. California and, unfortunately, made a bee-line back without ever actually seeing San Antonio. We were within 20 miles and actually had the time to visit Riverwalk, the Alamo, etc. Just chose to head home. I’ve kicked myself ever since. Won’t make THAT mistake again. But this time it will be with my wife in our home on wheels. 2016 can’t come fast enough.

    • Becky on March 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      Oh darn Ed, so close! Luckily you’ll get a second chance to see it. 😀

      I remember being where you are now and time will seem to crawl and fly simultaneously. Hold on, the open road awaits.

  3. Don Matthews on March 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I am sorry that you were unable to get inside of the Alamo. There is a special kind of aura once you pass through the doors. It is kind of hard to describe, at least that is what I sense. I was born in San Antonio and have been there many times. There are several old missions around San Antonio to visit. Mission San Jose is referred to as the”Queen of the Missions”. They still have church there. They were having a funeral there the last time we were there.

    • Becky on March 15, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Well there’s always next time Don. Next time I’m in the area I’ll have to check out San Jose too.

  4. Jodee Gravel on March 14, 2015 at 9:34 am

    How lucky for you that there just happened to be an awesome place to kill some time while getting all that work done on your vehicle – sweet coincidence! Good for San Antonio for combining a space for nature and consumers in such a beautiful setting……..looks like such a lovely place to spend a few days. I rarely wear jewelry anymore and it is still hard to walk away from handcrafted silver pieces 🙂
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Those Jello Plans Everyone Talks AboutMy Profile

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:59 am

      I rarely visit big cities because I’m just not a city person, but we’d done our research ahead of time and figured that there would be stuff to do there that we’d enjoy – and we were right.

      You should have seen the bracelets and silver hoop earrings with patterns, so pretty…

  5. Anita on March 14, 2015 at 9:26 am

    yes, we loved our visit to SA too. it was a wonderful treat after weeks of gate guarding in Shiner. Before we moved down to Laredo area.

    I hesitate to mention . . . . i think you meant “troops” not “treats” in the first Alamo paragraph, Spell check is great for typos and misspelled words . . . but similar words, not so great.

    we also have had some of our best day-trips in a place having repairs done. almost like Someone said, you should stop and see this . . . ummm what to break to get their attention? ha ha

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:56 am

      Haha, good catch Anita!

      Usually when I’m getting car work done the shop isn’t near enough to anything worth visiting. So this time I made sure I picked a shop where there was stuff nearby to do since I knew it would take a while.

  6. Maura on March 14, 2015 at 9:15 am

    The river walk really makes San Antonio, without it SA would just be another city. Glad to hear your e-book is near done congrats!
    Maura recently posted..No Beach Day For UsMy Profile

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Thanks Maura, and I agree. It really sets SA apart from other big cities.

  7. Margaret on March 14, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Loved the great pictures. Thanks for posting them so we could enjoy them.

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Glad you liked them Margaret.

  8. dawn from camano island on March 14, 2015 at 8:49 am

    What an informative post–will definitely put SA on our to-see list. Doesn’t it feel good to know your vehicle is doing the happy dance after being cared for?

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Yes! I’m hoping she’ll last for several more years.

  9. Roger on March 14, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Hi Becky,

    Well this post made my morning, I enjoyed reading it, brought back memories of when I visited SA. It also made my morning since this RV park I am working at is a family park, and because of spring break it has been crazy with tons of kids, I don’t expect next week to be any less. Stay safe and we can both make it through the last week of spring break.

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:51 am

      One week down, one more to go Roger! We can do this thing. 😉

  10. Cathy P. on March 14, 2015 at 7:18 am

    This was my impression of San Antonio in 1975 when I was in AF Basic Training there. The River Walk was so amazing like nothing I had seen before. Thank you for the photos, I can share them with my husband who has never been there. Dream of going back when the house is sold and we are footloose and fancy free.

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:50 am

      I read up on the making of the River Walk, the pictures of the river before the park was completed in the 1940’s were so sad looking – it was really run down and a muddy mess. Glad you enjoyed the pictures, and I hope you get the chance to go back and see it yourself soon!

  11. Jeff on March 14, 2015 at 4:57 am

    Wow, thanks for the great post about the Riverwalk, I like the picture of you in front of the waterfall by the Embassy Suites hotel.
    The office building I work in is next to the Tower Life building on the Riverwalk.

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Another near miss Jeff! I didn’t realize so many IO readers lived in that area. 🙂

  12. Rick on March 14, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Thanks for the pictures of SA. I lived there off and on while attending various schools (Univ Texas Health Sci Center). Always enjoyed the downtown area – and the Hispanic culture/food from the area. Be safe.

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Glad you liked the photos Rick! Would be a nice area to go to school.

  13. Phyllis on March 14, 2015 at 3:19 am

    Tower Life Building – originally the Smith-Young Tower. Renovated in 1953 and again in 2010. Also on the national register of historic places.

    Phyllis in Oklahoma

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Phyllis! I’m going to update the photo description now. 🙂

  14. TravelBug-Susan on March 14, 2015 at 1:16 am

    What you stopped in our city and didn’t say “Hi”? We love it here…have been here almost three years, still full-time in our 5th wheel, but both of us are working to save up money.

    Both our jobs allow us to take 4-6 week trips, so we’re happy for now.

    If you’re coming back to San Antonio (and why wouldn’t you?), come stay at Travelers World Carefree RV Resort 3-/12 miles from downtown. We’re on the city bus line into downtown, so you wouldn’t need to drive, find and pay for parking, fight traffic or crowds of people walking across the streets.That where I work.

    Happy to hear you’re enjoying the city so much. You definitely need to spend more time here to see the other four missions that make up the Missions National Historical Park, walk the Museum Reach of the River Walk (north of downtown), and visit the McNay Art Museum. So much to do.

    Plus, you can make day trips into the Hill Country easily from here.
    TravelBug-Susan recently posted..Bob OK, Resting – Thurs., Mar. 12, 2015My Profile

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Shoot Susan, didn’t realize you were that close. Then again I didn’t have a vehicle all day so going much farther out wouldn’t have been practical.

      I’ll keep that RV park in mind if I get back there! Being on a city bus route must be very handy indeed, especially if you’re in a 5th wheel and your truck takes a lot of fuel.

      Take care!

  15. Ron on March 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    I too love the River Walk and downtown San Antonio, I lived within walking distance for over a year. If you get back to San Antonio the zoo and Japanese hanging gardens are worth a look, also the mission tour south of town.

    • Becky on March 14, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Thanks for the tips Ron, it must have been great to be within walking distance of all those neat places.

  16. Old Fat Man on March 13, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I am glad you enjoyed the Riverwalk. Over the years of my employments, I got to do parts of the detail design of two different sections of the Riverwalk. It was an interesting project.

    • Becky on March 13, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Wow, that’s really neat! I bet you had a lot of fun with that.