Crossing Texas is a daunting task and the Texan DOT like to remind you of that fact with the first mileage sign as you cross into the state. They are also a bit cruel because when you reach Beaumont after driving 852 miles and are singing “hallelujah”, you realize they lied and you still have 30 more miles to go to actually reach the Louisiana border! In fact, once we leave Beaumont we have fewer miles to travel to our home state of NC than we just traveled through Texas alone! We also have left behind “just warm” dry heat for “plain ole’ hot” humid heat and the day we arrive in San Antonio is one for the records with a high temp of 96! Ugh. Thank God for the campground’s swimming pool!
We spent two nights in San Antonio so that we would have a free day to enjoy the city’s Riverwalk, take in some history at the Alamo, and explore one of its missions dating back to the time when the Spanish called this territory their own. And albeit a hot day, we thoroughly enjoyed what these spots had to offer!
One of the smartest decisions we made for our sightseeing was to take the city bus into downtown San Antonio. With a stop right in front of our campground and an all-day pass costing only $2.75, it was a deal not to be beat! Not only was it convenient and stress free, we had 2 bus drivers who were pleasant, chatty, and funny. And the AC was much cooler than the Kia’s!
The original idea to improve the area around the river was in 1929 though funding for the work was not approved until 10 years later as part of the New Deal program. Once completed it was an immediate hit but, by the 1950’s it had become an area known for its seediness. To return it to its former glory, city officials hired engineers from Disneyland to revitalize the walk. Their idea to bring shops and restaurants down to the basement level of the buildings surrounding the Riverwalk and to keep a Mexican-colonial feel to the area was genius and once again, the Riverwalk became a tourist drawing attraction. It is estimated that 11.5 million visitors enjoy this vibrant and unique area each year.
A popular way to see the downtown’s portion of the Riverwalk is by a boat tour. For $12 a person you receive a narrated cruise of the river that not only provides you with the aforementioned history but also the pop culture stories of “this is the stage where Sandra Bullock stood in Miss Congeniality” or “this is the bridge where Jennifer Lopez stood in her role as Selena.” On the day we took it, it also provided a way to see the walk without working up a sweat!
The Alamo sits on the street level about one block away from the Riverwalk. It is free to explore though you can pay for a guided tour – we opted for free and watched the movie playing in the visitor center! Originally built as a mission, the Alamo today is remembered more for the battle that played an integral part in the struggle for Texas to gain its independence from Mexico. It is representative of the heroic resistance that endured incredible odds and tragic losses to win it. Following a 13 day siege by General Santa Anna and his Mexican troops in February 1836 the Mexican army attacked the fort housing the rebel defenders. Vastly outnumbered, all but a few of the rebels were killed in battle. Counted among the dead were the famous frontiersman, Davy Crockett and Colonel James Bowie (known for the knife he carried). For the next 2 months, Mexican troops occupied the Alamo and held the territory. In April, Sam Houston, the commander-in-chief of the Texan forces, led 800 men to victory over Santa Anna’s army with the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo”. With Santa Anna’s surrender, Texas gained its independence from Mexico and 9 years later became the 28th state of the Union. The statue in front of the Alamo is a lovely memorial to those who lost their lives in the battle.
Last up on our day in San Antonio was to visit Mission San Jose which was just a short drive from our campground. With its history as a Spanish held territory, San Antonio actually has 5 missions (including the Alamo) that were built in the city as part of the Catholic Church’s efforts to spread Christianity throughout the Spanish colonies in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. All of the missions except the Alamo are part of a National Historical Park and considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Alamo is excluded because it is owned and protected by the state of Texas. Mission San Jose was built in the late 1700’s with limestone from the area and is a fine example of Spanish Baroque architecture. It operated as a mission for 104 years before the Mexican government issued orders for the property to be turned over to them. After that time, the mission was neglected until 1931 when Franciscans returned and began restorations. As a National Historical Park, the park service is now responsible for protecting and preserving the mission’s heritage. Today, it continues to operate as a Catholic parish – what a beautiful place to worship!
With San Antonio behind us, our itinerary is clearly focused on getting home. With a couple of overnight stops along the Gulf beaches of MS and AL we will turn north with our sights squarely on NC. Road Trip 2019 is quickly coming to an end…