About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Texas: Family & San Antonio

Scottish Rite Cathedral

Friday, ‎August ‎19th
I left the German village of Fredericksburg this afternoon and arrived at my cousin Aundrea's at 7pm, about 70 miles away in San Antonio.  We hadn't really talked since we were kids, and even then our families weren't very close, but I'm so glad she contacted me and invited me for a visit after so long; she opened her door and gave me a big hug, and introduced me to her Fiancé Jeremy.  He's a commercial roofer, so he was beat after a hard day in the hot, summer sun, but that was fine; it allowed Aundrea and I to catch up on everything and how our lives have taken their courses, and of course we reminisced of childhood memories, like the magic of Christmas at Grandma's house.  Though we are very different people now, we haven't lost ourselves, and I still see the kind, shy cousin from back in the day.  

"So Happy Together..."

And that's how we spent the evening, the 3 of us just talking, and I got to know Jeremy a little too.  Jeremy and Aundrea got to know each other online, they've been playing the popular, epic computer game "World of Warcraft" or "WOW" for short, for about 4 years, Aundrea playing from Minnesota, and Jeremy from California, and after a month or so of regular chats on Skype and phone calls, Jeremy followed his heart to Minnesota to be with Aundrea.  They moved to Virginia for a while, then back to Minnesota, then Jeremy moved to Texas (where his mother and grandparents live) for a new job roofing, and Aundrea followed.  Talk about the classic "chase" for love.  Aww... :)

Ever Seen the Inside of a Canon? 
Yep, pretty much what you'd expect, lol.

Saturday, ‎August ‎20th
After a lazy morning the three of us went to Downtown San Antonio to see The Alamo.  To my surprise, it was Drea's (as she's called now) first visit there, too!  "The Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound, site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and now a museum, in San Antonio, Texas. The compound, which originally comprised a sanctuary and surrounding buildings, was built by the Spanish Empire in the 18th century for the education of local Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. In 1793, the mission was secularized and soon abandoned. Ten years later, it became a fortress housing the Mexican Army group the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, who likely gave the mission the name "Alamo."

Fresh Tortillas at HEB

"Although the Alamo fell in the early morning hours of March 6, 1836, the death of the Alamo Defenders (a small band of Texans held out for thirteen days against the Centralist army of General Antonio López de Santa Ann) has come to symbolize courage and sacrifice for the cause of Liberty, and represents nearly 300 years of history.  Three buildings - the Shrine, Long Barrack Museum and Gift Museum with exhibits on the Texas Revolution and Texas History."

I didn't experience the same overwhelming feelings as my dad who nearly cried when visiting the place, but then I am from a younger generation and therefore father removed than he.  I did, however, enjoy exploring the grounds (it's not a big place) and learning of its significance to so many.  We visited the exhibits in the Gift Shop first, then the ones in the Long Barrack.  Drea & Jeremy had plans to bring me to their weekly get-together with Jeremy's family, so we left without seeing the Shrine (church), but that was fine, because I would be in San Antonio long enough to see it.

He Was a Nice Distraction From the Obnoxious
Evangelist Shouting in the Streets of the Alamo

A couple miles before reaching Jeremy's grandparents' house, we stopped at an H-E-B Plus store, so I could check out the Texas version of a Walmart (of course, they have those, too).  Nothing special, but a Texas experience nonetheless.  I got to watch a couple workers make tortillas from scratch, and there were lots of yummy sample stations, including one that we stayed at for an unusually long time - Drea & I had about 5 samples of wine, haha.  I reached the limit of samples and was officially cut off by the HEB employee, lol.  Well I say, don't put out 6 different samples if you don't intend to provide all of them! :)

The Emily Morgan Hotel

We got to Jeremy's Grandparents' house at 5pm and it seemed like Thanksgiving or something, everyone was greeted at the door with warm welcomes and their was food coming out of the oven and place settings thoughtfully set out on the table - it was me, Aundrea, Jeremy, Jeremy's mother, her partner, and his grandparents.  After fun, silly banter over dinner, Jeremy's mom insisted we sit down and watch the movie she brought.  Jeremy and I for sure, and maybe Aundrea, found ourselves uncomfortable as the next 90 minutes was spent watching a conservative evangelist sing his lungs out with "silly songs" berating the government and encouraging home schooling (to keep our kids away from the devil no doubt) among other things, who thinks he's relevant because he's young and goofy.  Was he talented?  Yes.  Was he offensive?  Yes!  And did Jeremy's mom send him on his way with a book about overcoming failure right in front of everyone?  YES!  We should have watched a parenting video on loving your kids.  I was so hurt for him.  How disgusting.  He's a responsible guy who works full time and pays his own bills.  He's not out terrorizing the neighborhood or having children to make up for his own shortcomings.

Along the River Walk

When we got back I made it a point to tell him how proud he should be of himself; that he's not a failure.  Of course, god only knows what damage may have been caused earlier in life with the other disgusting displays of "concern" he was no doubt subjected to.  I'm surprised he turned out as well as he did; a kind, level-headed guy who just wants to be happy like everyone else.  He's a grown man and doesn't need to be reminded of your disapproval of his "living in sin" with his girlfriend or some other crazy, archaic nonsense that religion likes to push.  Your son's happy.  That's enough.  Oh, and I could hardly wait to get out the door when his grandfather started talking to me about politics.  *Sigh*  My friend Alida was raised to know there's three things you don't talk about in front of guests: Religion, Politics and Abortion.  It's disrespectful.  I'm glad everyone felt at ease around me, but don't put me on the spot or try to engage me in controversial discussions when we barely know each other; its rude.  And THAT'S this week's rant, lol.  Be sure to tune in next week, haha.

The River Walk Along La Villita

Sunday, ‎August ‎21st
This morning I headed back into Downtown to check out the rest of The Alamo and explore other parts of the city.  The Alamo Shrine itself, and even the entire grounds for that matter, was surprisingly small, so it didn't take much time to walk through; we did all the exhibit stuff yesterday which makes up the bulk of a visit to The Alamo, so I had the whole rest of the day to check out Downtown.

Main Doors to The Alamo Shrine

I crossed the street and popped into the Visitor's Center to pick up a map, then walked around the corner down to the River Walk, "a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath about 5 miles of downtown, lined by bars, shops and restaurants - it's "the number 1 tourist attraction in Texas."  What a unique park right in the heart of the city!  The most frequented "tourist attraction" part is fun and lively and runs in a loops, and I discovered if you get away from the loop it's a whole other world; a place of tranquility.  Apart from the river itself, and the diverse range of restaurants (from beautiful brunch cafes to Dick's Last Resort - a loud, obnoxious restaurant and bar, where the rudeness from the staff is part of the fun), highlights included the water garden terraces near the Visitor Center, a stop-off at the quaint, little, historic arts village of La Villita (beautiful buildings, art galleries and a Scentchips factory, mmm), beautiful bridges and underpasses, old lampposts and majestic trees.  If there was a definition for "Urban Nature," the River Walk would be it.

A View of Downtown

About halfway into the River Walk loop, I took a detour onto Market and Commerce streets (there are entrances/exits on the River Walk).  I snapped a couple photos of the wonderful red sandstone, Romanesque Revival-style Bexar County Courthouse, before visiting the San Fernando Cathedral built by the same architect.  It's "the oldest cathedral in the United States; the walls of the original church were built between 1738 and 1750, and today form the sanctuary of the cathedral."  I didn't know I'd be completing my Alamo experience by finding the remains of The Alamo heroes entombed in the chapel at the left-hand side entrance of the cathedral.

Market Square

Next I stopped by the Spanish Governor's Palace, a remarkably humble "palace" by today's standards.  "Built in the first half of the 18th century (possibly as early as 1722), it was originally intended to protect the nearby San Antonio de Valero Mission (the Alamo) and the growing colony. It is considered the sole remaining example of an aristocratic early Spanish house in Texas.  The building was actually the residence and working offices of the local presidio captain, and not the palace for the region's Spanish governor" so why they want to call it that and deceive everyone I don't know.  I didn't go in, because I thought an admission fee of $4 was silly, but I got a good sense of the place from peering into the open windows =)

Mi Tierra Restaurant

 I continued up the street and took a couple of the [closed] little O. Henry House, "a two-room dwelling, typical of the homes of early German settlers, built in 1855, occupied by William Sydney Porter, who gained national renown as the short story writer O. Henry."

Just across the street is the vibrant block of Market Square (aka "El Mercado)," a mix of Mexican restaurants and souvenir shops, and the market building with "Mexican cafes and 50 stalls selling handcrafted traditional blankets, clothes, leather and metal goods, all brought from Mexico; it's the largest Mexican market in the nation!"  Before entering the market building I poked around Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, a huge, colorful place serving Tex-Mex dishes 24 hours a day, since 1941, over-accented in a mish-mash of festive lights, murals and garland-type decorations - it's like a pinata exploded!  The market building was fun too, with plenty of neat shops to keep your eyes and wallet busy!

Market Building

I wrapped up my day in Downtown with the completion of the beautiful River Walk loop, then went back to Drea & Jeremy's.  We got ready and hopped into Jeremy's old, red pickup truck for a night at The Alamo Drafthouse.  "Cold beer, hot movies, and delicious snacks and meals; The Alamo Drafthouse is dinner, drinks, movies and events, all under one roof. Our attention to detail in film presentation and programming has earned accolades from the likes of Entertainment Weekly (#1 theater in America), Wired.com (Coolest Movie Theater in the World) and Fandango.com (One of the Best Theaters in the Country).

Mission San José

 "Enjoy a break from our "no talking" policy by yelling out your favorite lines at one of our Quote-Along events. Pull out your cell phone and openly mock the movie you're watching with texts that show up on the screen at HeckleVision. Or just enjoy slumber party classics like Dirty Dancing or Clueless back up on the big screen in an auditorium filled with like-minded fans at our monthly Girlie Night presentations."

"The Alamo is expanding and opening both company-owned and franchised locations across the U.S. Currently there are theaters in Houston and San Antonio, as well as one location in Winchester, VA, and plans are underway to open in several markets in the coming years."

An Underpass Along the River Walk

Kicking back to the very entertaining "Fright Night" film with my delicious pizza (spinach, four cheeses, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and goat cheese), combined with the Drafthouse's zero tolerance for talking or cell phone use, custom preshows instead of lame ads, and in-movie food service (big menu; great selection, better tasting than you'd expect for a movie theater), the 3 of us had a great time, and I can't wait to go again and order the Guinness milkshake!

Monday, ‎August ‎22nd
Today I dropped Drea off at work and went to El Mirador for a bite, but everything I wanted to try was on the dinner menu, so I had to take a rain-check, instead.  I popped into the historic Aztec Theatre in hopes of seeing "the magnificent chandelier installed in the main lobby in 1929. Weighing over 2,000 pounds, this ornate, 2 story, 12 foot in diameter fixture was billed as 'The largest chandelier in the largest state in the Union,'" however, the lobby and auditorium were closed for rehearsal.  At least I got a taste of the place in the ticketing area; better than nothing.

The Men's Room at Mi Tierra - Not Too Shabby!

I went back to Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery and had their cheese enchiladas topped with Green Tomatillo Sauce, Monterrey Jack Cheese and Sour Cream, served with Guacamole, Spanish Rice and Refried Beans.  Muy Bueno!  No visit to Mi Tierra's is complete without a sweet from the bakery case, so I took the waitress' recommendation for an authentic Mexican treat and tried an Empanada de Calabaza - a turnover filled with the traditional sweet pumpkin filling - not bad!

I walked off some of the calories at Mission San José, one of four Spanish frontier missions that makes up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  These missions were communities "established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity among the local natives, part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish Southwest in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  Known as the 'Queen of the Missions,' this is the largest of the missions and founded on February 23, 172o, with a heavy outer wall built around the main part of the mission, which contained rooms for 350 Indians."

Garcia Art Glass

 At the Visitor's Center I watched "Gente de Razón," an "award-winning film, which tells the story of the native people of 18th-century south Texas, their role in colonizing New Spain, and the results of entering the Spanish missions." It's very sad an entire peoples' culture was lost to the agenda of the Catholic Church; who denounced their ceremonial dances "demonic."  Afterward, I roamed around the property, which includes a church, Indian quarters, grist mill, granary, convento, workshop foundations, bastion, ans exhibits.  It was beautiful; I couldn't stop taking pictures, and lucky for me, because the mission had just been reopened on Friday, after ten months of preservation to the interior of the church structure!

Chile Relleno at El Mirador

Tuesday, ‎August ‎23rd
Today I blogged and went back to El Mirador for a feast of authentic Mexican cuisine!  I arrived at 5pm, which proved to be a great time, as there was hardly anyone there, and it was they were serving both dinner and drinks and food from Happy Hour!  I ordered a $3 margarita, and complimentary fresh baked chips and salsa, queso and the best refried beans I've ever tasted, followed.  What a generous set-up!  Then I ordered the Taco de Langosta appetizer ("tender lobster meat sautéed with spinach, garlic and cheese rolled in a flour tortilla), the Huitlacoche Empanada appetizer (stuffed with huitlacoche, twin cheeses and chipotle adobo on a bed of mixed greens and mandarin oranges), and for the main course, the Chile Relleno (tortilla chip crusted chile pepper, filled with a shrimp chipotle cheese mix, served with Mexican cabbage and frijoles a la charra).  It was all super yummy, but the award goes to the empanada for the best taste and the best value (the lobster taco is a close second for taste).

Wednesday & Thursday, August ‎24th/25th
Day: Blogging, emails, photo uploading (boring!)
Night: Nip Tuck Season 4 - I got sucked back in!

Friday, August 26th
A day of nothing but kicking back, finishing Nip Tuck Season 5 :) 

Saturday, August 27th
Said goodbye to my dear cousin Drea and her Fiancé Jeremy, and got back on the road again, headed for South Padre Island, 300 miles south.

Thanks Drea & Jeremy for a wonderful visit to San Antonio! :)


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