There are about 17 cities across the USA that tout themselves as the "River City", and we were about to visit one of those.
After a very --memorable-- trip in the small town of Bastrop, we packed up the RV (which usually takes about an hour an a half) and moseyed off to San Antonio. Not only was I interested in seeing the city's rich colonial heritage, I was also curious to see if the ubiquitous homelessness we saw in Austin was replicated in San Antonio.
When you're not on a schedule, and its a picture-perfect day outside, what do you do? You pull off on the side of the road and have lunch! One of the luxuries of having your home in tow.
NEXT STOP: TRAVELER'S WORLD RV RESORT
This park was a pleasant two hour drive from our last stop and conveniently located in the heart of the city. As a side note this is the 64th RV park at which we've stayed since leaving Delaware in October of 2017.
This RV park was a bit dated but nice overall. The only downside was that the electrical pedestal was located on the right side of our RV (like most RV's, all our utility connections are on the left side of our rig), which means we needed to stretch our electrical cord under our RV to order to connect. Not only does this present a tripping hazard if you're walking around your RV, but having to stretch the cord this far can put a dangerous amount of stress on your shore power inlet plug. I don't know what RV park designer thought that was a good idea!
After unpacking (which usually takes about 35 minutes), we decided to visit a nearby attraction, the Mission San Juan. This was a very interesting place to visit because it gives you a glimpse of what life must have been like three hundred years ago.
This Catholic mission (these were walled communities with the church at its social center) was founded in 1720 to help relieve the overcrowded conditions at another mission community about five miles north of here, mission San Antonio de Valero (now known only as the Alamo, but more on that later).
The church building, which is still standing, was constructed in 1768 from local limestone. Below are some pictures we took while there.
At its height, over 350 inhabitants lived and worked within these walls. The courtyard was filled with cattle, chickens, horses, mosquitoes and the smoke from dozens of open fires. It must have been a fascinating mix of indigenous people, Spanish soldiers, fur traders, explorers and clergymen. Mission activities ended in 1826 and the propterty gradually fell into disrepair. In the 1930's public and private organizations began the gradual restoration of these grounds. Money well invested.
There are four other missions that can be visited in San Antonio and if you're feeling ambitious, there is a 13.9 mile hiking (loop) trail that allows you see all of them!
ON TO DOWNTOWN SAN ANTONIO:
Overall, downtown San Antonio was a very nice place to stroll around. Not very glitzy, down to earth, no nonsense. It's what you'd expect to find in a state like Texas. Kind of a big, small-town with friendly people.
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
HOMELESSNESS: Homelessness was not nearly as prevalent here as was in Austin. We were able to comfortably walk the streets and not be confronted every block by multiple pushy (and sometimes hostile) panhandlers. Not that we didn't see people that looked as if they were in economic distress, and, not that people didn't occasionally stop us and ask for money, but what we didn't see were the masses of people camping under bridges, lying in every empty doorway, and filling every empty lot. I know San Antonio is not without its "big-city" issues, but we definitely felt far safer here than in downtown Austin.
SIDE NOTE: Not that our hearts --and our wallets-- aren't deeply moved by the plight of the needy. Traveling this great country has broadened our prospective of homelessness. Whether caused by personal choices or economic whirlwinds, our hearts tell us that we're obligated by God to help the less fortunate, but our heads remind us that we are to be good stewards of the money with which we've been entrusted. So how do we bring peace between the quarreling voices from our heads and our hearts? Of course, we haven't formulated the perfect solution but we have found a strategy that works for us. If you'd like to know more, click HERE.
ON TO OTHER THINGS:
"REMEMBER THE ALAMO!":
If visiting San Antonio, and you're interested in Texas history, this is a must see. This iconic structure dates back to the early 1700's.
Back in the day when France and Spain were colonizing large portions of the New World, there were constant boundary disputes between these two super powers. While France colonized most of the middle of New World, Spain was colonizing northern Mexico and the New World's southern rim.
To prevent the French from encroaching onto their territory, Spain decided to establish a string of forts (presidios) and missions. The goal of these missions were to teach the indigenous population how to become good Spanish citizens. They were taught the Spanish language and skills such as weaving, farming, masonry, and metal-working along with the tenets of the Catholic faith. While the Spanish were welcomed by many of the indigenous people, others saw them as invaders, necessitating thick exterior walls around the compound.
I found it very interesting to learn that the intended life of these missions was about ten years. Afterwards, they were to be "secularized", that is the land and the belongings of the mission were to be divided (or sold) among the parishioners.
This mission was also the site of a major battle that inspired the Texas revolution. To make a long story short, in the 1830's, Mexico was going through a time of political upheaval. Trying to quell stirrings of insurrection, Mexico sent a small garrison to the town of Gonzales (75 miles east of San Antonio) to retrieve a cannon that was there on loan. The town refused to surrender it and a skirmish ensued.
Leaving empty handed, the Mexican troops withdrew to the town of Bejar, across the river from the Alamo. Citizens from all over Texas rallied to push the Mexican army out of the town. In a brutal reprisal, the Mexican government sent an army to attack the mission where over 200 Texan militia had gathered.
It was a lopsided battle, the defenders of the Alamo were completely wiped out, but "Remember the Alamo" became the rallying cry to inflame the hearts of citizens across the territory. A month later, at the Battle of San Jacinto, the Mexican army surrendered and Texas received its independence.
Below are some of the pictures we took while visiting. I don't know if this is true, but our tour guide told us thar the pock marks in the exterior wall (in two of the pictures below) were from rifle shot and cannon fire during the siege!
This is an iconic structure --while much smaller than we anticipated-- carries an enormous historical significance and well worth a visit.
THE DOWNTOWN RIVER WALK:
We had heard so much about San Antonio's River Walk that we made a visit here a top priority. As it turns out, it was one of the most enjoyable aspects of our visit.
The River Walk is a beautiful, tree-lined stretch lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. The five-mile trail is a colorful, vibrant, fun place to stroll. It is an incredible asset for downtown San Antonio. We enjoyed grabbing a cold drink and watching families, romantic couples, and friends enjoying themselves.
Of course, no visit would be complete without a 30-minute boat ride along the San Antonio River!
If you're into people watching, or having a romantic stroll along a peaceful waterway, then this is the place for you. We highly recommend adding the River Walk to your San Antonio itinerary.
OF COURSE THERE WAS HIKING!
There are many beautiful hikes through this area. We chose a hike along the Guadeloupe Canyon which is in the Guadalupe River State Park. The trail's name was the Bald Cypress Trail. Its a leisurely trail that works its way around limestone bluffs and huge bald cypress trees. The river’s cool, sparkling waters attract visitors (and their unleashed pets) that come to swim, wade, tube, canoe and fish. It was the first time we encountered such beautiful, chiseled bluffs and thoroughly enjoyed putting our feet in the water and soaking in the scenery.
It was a short 1 1/2 mile hike but there are other trails in this area if you want a better workout.
The park even had it's own Discovery Center:
VISITING OLD (YOUNG) FRIENDS:
One of the (many) enjoyable aspects of our travels is the opportunity to visit friends that have moved away from the old homestead of Delaware. My wife's best friend since childhood, has a daughter, Gina, going to graduate school out here. While I didn't know her well, Lorraine has watched her grow up. At the time, Gina was attending graduate school at Our Lady of the Lake. Gina showed us the sites of the city.
She took us to:
THE RIVER WALK:
AND, THE PEARL DISTRICT:
This is the former home of the historic Pearl Brewery the largest brewery in Texas. It was in operation from 1883 to 2001. The vacant property, approximately 23 acres, was turned into a mixed-use development that would include restaurants,cafes, boutiques, a splash pad, hotel and an amphitheater. I found it ironic that one of the many businesses here is a young brewery named Southerleigh's. It seems to have taken root under the shadow of the old brew house. I guess it's a circle-of-life-thing.
Gina was a wonderful host. Since she was single, I tried to repay her by finding her a qualified suitor. Sadly, her standards were much higher than mine! --Come to find out, she has something against men with lengthy police records! -- (Inside joke :D)
She also has a wonderful sense of humor. We really enjoyed spending the day with her.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:
It just wouldn't be Texas without finding something labeled "The World's Biggest.." and in San Antonio you can find the world's biggest pair of cowboy boots!
One last interesting site, was this light shining into the San Antonio night sky. We think it was the Bat Signal!
We spent an enjoyable eight days poking around San Antonio. From here, we are going to take the RV into the area known as the "Texas Hill Country" a region of the state known for it's rolling hills, deep caverns, and wineries! Some consider it to be the border between the American Southeast and Southwest, and it's home to the beautiful town of Fredericksburg.
See you on down the road!