A Travellerspoint blog

Day 155 - San Antonio & Texas Hill Country

We visited a ranch area north of San Antonio, the German immigrant town of Boerne, and the San Antonio River Walk (at night!)

semi-overcast

While we've enjoyed just visiting my sister, Becky, and her family - she also wanted to make sure we got to see some of the area around San Antonio that she really loves. So this morning, we decided to head up to a small town they liked. First however, everybody got charged up with some good old Seattle refreshments!

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Becky and Raul took us through some of the Texas Hill Country to the north of San Antonio. If you want to know what she considers the ideal lifestyle, check this out. We even managed to find a longhorn (cattle, that is, Texas style)

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Then we drove to the town of Boerne which was largely settled by German immigrants in the mid 1800's and still retains some of that flavor. The town is on the Cibolo Creek, which has been dammed up to make a nifty duck pond. Of course, this was probably done originally to power a mill or something, but today it's just a pond. And once again, my birding fails me - if someone knows what kind of duck this is, please post a comment and let us know?

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The downtown area was just around the corner from Cibolo Creek. It looks fairly typical for small towns we've seen in this part of Texas (as well as elsewhere).

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One thing that's a little different is that some of the buildings have 'Historical Marker' signs out front. This one is identified as the Staffel Store, founded by August and Bertha Staffel who immigrated from Germany in 1852.

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We had lunch in Boerne in a little place called the "Bear Moon Bakery & Cafe", which was quite good, then headed back to my sister's place. Becky had to run some errands and Raul was feeling a little under the weather (Cedar Fever?), so Mom and I relaxed in the RV for a bit (I got some work done on the blog I think?).

Later, Becky really wanted to take us to the San Antonio River Walk. Both Mom & I had seen this before, but it had been many, many years ago - long before the age of blogging. So off we went, it was already pretty late but fortunately I didn't have to drive (San Antonio streets are complicated).

We got to the River Walk Mall after dark and proceded down to the water level. A music vendor was playing some of the CD's his group produced and Mom really liked it, so Becky bought her a CD. We'll play this during our trip as we drive - along with all the CD's we brought along and have already purchased on the trip.

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We also took a few pictures by the water. It was pretty dark so many of the pictures I took didn't come out very well, but I got a few.

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Becky found out that the river boat cruises were still running, even though it was dark! She treated us to a cruise down the river with our guide, John.

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John was quite a cut up, but also very knowledgable. He pointed out a lot of interesting tidbits about the hotels and restaurants along the cruise as well as some of the history of the River Walk. Of course, it was too dark to take pictures and we were sitting in a tour boat, so some of the pictures I did get have people's heads in them (or parts of heads). Ugh. There are a couple I could use however, which might give you some idea of the types of things we saw on the cruise. Here is the river entrance to the Aztec Theater, then also a tree that is growing from the side of a building, quite odd.

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Finally, once we were done cruising the San Antonio River, Becky took us to one of her favorite restaurants in San Antonio (or the favorite) - Mi Tierra Cafe, which also has the famed (?) Mariachi Bar.

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We were all resolved to just eat a light snack, but somehow ended up ordering full meals and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The restaurant is decorated with lots of lights and Mexican brick-a-brack, very well done. We all enjoyed ourselves.

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I guess we enjoyed ourselves a little too much since we didn't get home until 11:30 PM! (If you were wondering why I didn't get the blog done last night?) Even so, I stayed up a few more minutes to get the skinny on the Superbowl (I seem to be the only one curious from this part of the family - looks like it was a good one.) We're planning to head out tomorrow morning, so I needed to try to get some sleep.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 0 (still visiting my Sister's family)
Camped at - my sister's house in San Antonio

Posted by jl98584 21:33 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (5)

Day 152-154 - Visiting My Sister's Family

We are having a great visit with my sister, Becky, and her family in San Antonio, but haven't really done much sightseeing here.

sunny 67 °F

When we first got to San Antonio, my sister and her family were all at work. They also had to work some Thursday and Friday, so Mom and I had plenty of time to tidy up the RV, reorganize a cabinet that had been bugging us, and get all our books and gift shop booty boxed up to send home. I did some work on the blog, paid some bills and cleaned up one of my email accounts (many ugh's).

Friday, Becky took us by the Hospital where she works as a Director on one of the post op floors. She introduced us to some of her nurses and staff and showed us some of the things she's set up to improve performance and morale. It appears to me that she's really found her nitch. I've got to say, I'm quite proud of my baby sister!

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On the way home, she made arrangements to meet her son, David, and his girlfriend, Kara and her son Kaden at an 'authentic Texas restaurant', Logan's Roadhouse. Fortunately we got there before the rush and got seated fairly quickly. By the time we left however, the line was really backed up.

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Of course, Mom and Becky couldn't help horsing around a little. Like mother, like daughter I guess.

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David and Ana both work for Smith Barney and work Sunday through Thursday. Ana is currently living at home with Becky & Raul, so we were able to spend quite a bit of time with her Friday and Saturday and some with David Friday & Saturday evenings. Becky & Raul work M-F, but different shifts, so it's been interesting trying to figure out who's doing what, when.

Their neighborhood has a large number of deer roaming around. It's hard not to see them as you drive around, or anytime you're outdoors really. I took a walk this morning and encountered at least six. These two were the most photogenic however.

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Like everyone else in our family (I think), Becky and her family seem to be fond of pets. Becky & Raul have four dogs They had two, that had puppies, of which two are still left. Anyone need a dog? Anyway, I did get some pictures of Becky with all four dogs, but liked this one better - just FYI, the two that are missing are both black, with just a white patch or so.

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Ana is keeping the streek alive, she has a very large, strong willed cat.

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Everyone was dragging a little, seems the Cedar tree's here cause a lot of problems with their pollen for a couple of weeks every year - which is happening right now. We've all be sniffling, watery eyes, stuffed up, runny noses, etc., so haven't felt too much like running around excessively. We played some Rummy Cubes, then Mom and Ana started playing Chinese Checkers.

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This afternoon, Becky had some errands to run and Raul and Ana's boyfriend, Aaron decided to go hunt down some provisions for a big BBQ tonight. Ana took Mom and I up to Guadalupe State Park. The Guadalupe River runs through Limestone cliffs here and is a popular rafting destination (although the river is a bit low right now).

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Ana decided to wade over to a large rock and see if she could climb it. Mom just enjoyed sitting in the warm sun and I attempted to revive the ancient skill of rock skipping (with some limited success)

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When we got back, Raul got the BBQ started, but prefered to have 'someone pretty' in the photograph, so drafted Kara to pose with the feast.

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So all in all we've just had a fun time with a nice, normal family visit the last few days. Bit of a change of pace for this trip, but not totally as we've stopped to visit family whenever our trip allows. There will be plenty of time to check out brown signs when we hit the road again.

Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow (Sunday), but Mom and I will probably hit the road again Monday morning.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 0
Camped at my sister's house

Provisions - I had to buy an extension cord to plug in the RV (I imagine Lewis & Clark would have given their eye tooth for such amenities). Decongestant - seems San Antonio is plagued with "Cedar Fever" this time of year, even people normally without allergies are suffering.

Posted by jl98584 21:29 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 151 - We make it to Becky's (Photo's Added)

We toured an old Mission in Goliad, then headed to San Antonio where my sister, Becky, lives with her family.

overcast 60 °F

We got to Becky's Wednesday night, a day earlier then we had otherwise planned. However, she was able to get one of Mom's prescriptions filled that we'd been having trouble with - so we decided to just go ahead and get that taken care of.

Before leaving Goliad, we went through the Mission Nuestro Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, which is actually located within Goliad State Park.

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This was moved to La Bahia (now Goliad) in 1749, where it was thought it could be more successful then an earlier effort on Matagorda Bay. Spanish Franciscan missionaries worked here for 70 years to convert the Native Anarama people and teach them craft skills deemed necessary to become good Spanish citizens. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) restored the Chapel, Granary and workshops in the 1930's. The original priests quarters, seen below, have not been restored.

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Part of the Mission is being used as a museum, which was quite good, although somewhat small. Everything in the Museum is either from the period or demonstrates or explains how Spanish Missions operated. Their goal was to be self sufficient communities. At La Bahia (this community, before it was renamed Goliad), the only really successful venture was cattle. In fact, the mission's cattle herds became the foundation for the modern cattle industry in Texas.

Here is an example of an Ox cart wheel such as would have been used at the Mission in the mid 1700's. This is a much heavier wheel than I've seen on wagon's and buggy's from the 1800's of course. Spoked wheels were invented prior to the 1700's, but I suspect a solid wheel such as this might have been easier to make.

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The Museum also had a copper perol that was excavated from the site.

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If you don't know what this is, as I didn't, don't worry - they also have a nice diagram explaining how it was used to distill liquor for use in the Mission, both as drink and for medicinal puposes.

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There was quite a bit of signage explaining how a Mission functioned during this period as well as some excellant diorama's. Mom especially liked these, they certainly convey a sense of what things would have looked like during the last 1700's.

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One room in the Chapel was called "The Old Sacristy", which is a room for storing church objects and records.

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The workshop was in a separate building from the restored Chapel & Museum. It houses reproductions and signage to explain the crafts employed/taught at the Mission, including a blacksmith forge, weaving loom, and other items.

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After visiting the Mission, we drove down to the San Antonio River. This is still in Goliad State Park, but further down river from San Antonio where the river is better known. (I suspect it's also prettier in the spring when everything is green - it's still January here afterall).

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Since we were originally going to go back to the coast before heading to San Antonio, we ended up driving east as far as Refugio before changing our minds and going west instead - a bit of backtracking unfortunately. I remembered that there were a lot of cool looking old houses in Refugio from the day before, so this time I turned off long enough to take a couple of pictures. This log house was built in 1876 for John and Virginia Linney by his father as a wedding gift. They raised eight children here.

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...and this house is for sale, any takers? It's giagantic (probably converted to apartments from the looks of it, but I'm not sure).

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So, other than taking a couple of pictures of old houses, we turned around and headed to my sister's (Becky) house in San Antonio. The family, Becky, Raul and their daughter Ana are at work today so we've spent some time cleaning & organizing the RV. Depending on how much longer we have before they get home - I might be able to get the blog caught up again.... (OK - that didn't work, but the good news is I didn't take very many pictures the next couple of days, so they won't take as long to write.)

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 172
Camped at - Sister's House in San Antonio

Provisions Procured
...Gas $30.00, 10.137 gallons at 124,510 miles

Sightings:

Wild Animals - caracara, hawks, deer
Domestic Animals - cattle, horses, goats, chickens

Posted by jl98584 12:34 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day 150 - Aransas NWR and Goliad (Photo's Added)

We went back to Aransas NWR this morning, then drove to Goliad where there is an old, Spanish Presidio that played a significant role in the Texas Revolution.

semi-overcast 76 °F

When we arrived at Aransas NWR yesterday, it was already fairly late. Since we'd been able to find an RV park fairly nearby, I decided to go back to Aransas this morning before leaving the area (it didn't hurt that we'd had a pretty good time yesterday either).

We had to stop by the Visitor's Center again to register. As a National Park, they charge a fee for entrance, but Mom's Golden Passport gets us in for free. We still have to register however.

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Behind the Visitor's Center was a pond with several ducks and birds around it. While I was wandering around looking at the ducks, an Osprey flew overhead and landed on a tree. I thought this was pretty cool!

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We didn't see any more Whooping Cranes this morning, but saw some more Roseate Spoonbills feeding and some alligators.

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At another pond, we saw some Northern Pintail Ducks (you don't want to know how long it took me to find out what these were! I just don't know my birds very well, and don't recall having seen these before.)

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We also checked out the tower this morning, but the Whooping Cranes weren't out yet so we didn't get to see them. Mom wanted to drive the long loop drive through the park, but just as I prepared to turn onto it, I read the sign saying No Vehicles over 8' Tall - my RV is 10', so we had to skip that route.

After spending quite a bit of time at Aransas, we finally headed west to Goliad. The reason I went to Goliad is that man at the Texas visitors center strongly recommended we visit this if we really wanted learn about Texas history. I'm not so sure he was right, it seems like Texas probably has more interesting destinations then this. However, based on the Visitors Center guide recommendation, it seemed kind of interesting so I thought I'd check it out. During the drive, it got kind of warm (& humid) - I actually ran the A/C a bit!

As we neared Goliad, we saw a very unusual structure off the road to the right. This turned out to be the Presidio La Bahia, which is the key historical feature of Goliad.

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This was built by the Spanish in 1749 to help protect their claims to the Texas area. Of course, by the 1900's it was largly in ruins, but was carefully restored (rebuilt?) in the 1960's. It is the oldest fort in America west of the Mississippi and the only structure significant to the Texas Revolution that appears as it was in 1836. After Santa Anna defeated the Texans at the Alamo, one of his generals, Gen. Urrea, overran the Texan's who had been defending the Presidio La Bahia. When the Texan's realized they could not prevail, they negotiated and surrendered to Gen. Urrea - not realizing that Santa Anna had ordered all enemy combatants (Texans) be executed as 'pirates'. Gen. Urrea was aware of the order, but led the Texans to believe that they would be treated honorably as prisoner's of war. A few days after they surrendered, the Mexicans marched them in separate groupd to a short way from the fort and opened fire. 342 Texan's were massacred that morning, which helped galvanize public sympathy and support for the Texans, both in Texas and in the United States. When Sam Huston's forces defeated the numberically superior forces of Santa Anna a short time later, the rallying cry was "Remember the Alamo - Remember Goliad!"

Here are some other views of the Presidio:

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Presidio is a type of fortress build by the Spanish. This one has bastion's, which are fortified corners that extend out from the corners to allow defenders to protect the walls with a cross fire.

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Here's another shot of the Presidio from the Memorial, which give's you an idea how far out it is.

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By the time we finished at the Presidio, it was late enough that we decided to stay in Goliad State Park. Also, since this was the 150th day of our trip - I decided we should go out to eat to celebrate. Little did I know, there was only one restaurant in Goliad! (Excluding a couple of fast food joints).

Goliad is a very old, but very small town, even though it's the county seat for Goliad County. The main business section of town is in the form of a square, with the County Courthouse in the center. There is a very old, giant oak tree outside the courthouse called "The Hanging Tree". During the 1800's, the area was fairly wild and lawless and, yes, the tree was used as described.

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Across the street from this was the only (open) restaurant, called appropriately enough "The Hanging Tree". This is a view of part of the town square from in front of the restaurant.

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After eating too much at "The Hanging Tree", we settled in the campground for a good night sleep. We'll probably visit the Mission in the morning - then head back to the coast for a little more sightseeing before visiting Becky (she has to work the next couple of days).

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 83
Camped at Goliad State Park

Provisions - Gas $39.71 for 13.89 gallons at 124,390 miles.
Dinner at "The Hanging Tree" Restaurant, Goliad, TX

Sightings:

Wildlife: Alligators, Roseate Spoonbills, Ibis, Osprey, Northern Pintail ducts, Brown & While Pelicans, Snow Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, Caracara

Domestic Animals: Cattle, Horses, Goats, Black Faced Sheep, Chickens

Posted by jl98584 20:26 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 149 - Gulf Coast to Aransas NWR (Photo's Added)

We drove hard to get to a NWR north of Corpus Christi where we saw Whooping Cranes

overcast 65 °F

Sorry to have gotten behind on the blog again, it doesn't seem to take much to knock me off schedule I'm afraid.

We reluctantly left my cousins after a thoroughly enjoyable visit, but we needed to hit the road. Friday I had found a place a little west of here that could fix my propane problem so we headed there first. The problem wasn't so much the valve as the mechanism behind the valve that shuts it when the tank gets full, some kind of float valve system. It was shutting the valve, but leaving it shut even after the propane level dropped. So now we have a new valve, including new float mechanism and are good to go with all appliances fully functional.

BTW - the place is Coastal Butane in Richmond, TX. They are top notch!

We decided to head south since we'd heard the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has Whooping Cranes this time of year. It is just north of Corpus Christi, so is a long way from Lake Jackson. We also found there wasn't much to see along the way - but we have a few pic's from our drive.

We stopped for lunch at a little city park in Palacio on a bay off the Gulf. There were a lot of terns (or gulls - I'm still looking into this) at the park and we really enjoyed feeding them whatever we could spare (maybe we should pick up some birdfood for these occasions, might be a little healthier for the birds). This time, Mom caught me feeding them however.

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A little farther south, in Port Lavaca, we saw a lighthouse on a corner as we were driving through town. This one is no longer in service and was all locked up, but the sign described it as the Half Moon Reef Lighthouse, originally built in 1858 in Matagorda Bay. It was moved to the town's Civic Center in 1979. Just a cute little building.

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Along the highway, I spotted a very strange looking bird, I'd never seen anything like this before. Later, when we got to the NWR Visitor Center, I showed the ranger a picture on my camera and she identified it as a Crested Caracara, or 'Mexican Eagle'. That's just a nickname, it isn't really an Eagle, but is the national bird of Mexico. We have seen several more of these since, so they're not uncommon in southern Texas.

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We did finally make it to Aransas NWR. This is a cool place in general, but is mostly known for the Whooping Cranes. These normally hang out at the south end of the park during the winter. There is a large tower you can climb (by a ramp) to view the bays and grasslands - but it's quite distant from most of the wildlife. Mom actually made it all the way to the top of this!

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We did see three 'whoopers', however they were very far out. Fortunately another bird watcher was there with a very powerful scope, so we got a much better view then from our little binaculars or the park service's scope. Unfortunatly, I couldn't hook my camera up to it so this is what I got.

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Miserable Confession - I've generally been quite happy with my camera's pictures. However, when I take pictures of birds using the maximum (12x) zoom, then try to crop down to just the bird section of the shot - the pictures are never as sharp as I'd like. This is a five Megapixal camera, so isn't as grand as some of the newer models or the DSLR's of course. However, I just realized I've been taking pictures at about 1/2 the capacity of the camera - 2.1 megapixals! Ugh! Maybe if I change the settings I'll get sharper details??? (Nevery hurts to pay attention to details, the 2.1 MP looks great for most shots, afterall I'm not trying to blow them up into wall posters, but...).

OK - so now you know why my closeup's sometimes look a little blurry. Fire the photographer!

In the meantime, while still at the Aransas NWR, we saw a lot of other shore birds as well as armadillo's, deer, wild pigs and peckering pigs (the last of which we were unable to get a shot of before he disappeared into the brush).

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Just outside the NWR is a little (population 192) village of Austwell with an RV park. We have a spot with full hookup for $15/night, which is hard to beat.

Mom is out for the count, I've been working on the blog, we should have not trouble getting to my sisters house in San Antonio by her Birthday, Thursday - so I may head back into the NWR in the morning just so see what we can see.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 205, Cumulative 14,446
Camped at RV Park in Austwell, Tx (Population 192)

Purchased med's for Mom at Walmart in Lake Jackson, TX this morning
Propane repaired at Coastal Butane in Richmond, TX this morning

Wildlife seen: Caracara, Peckery Pigs, Deer, Armadillo, Roseatte Spoonbill, Brown & White Pelicans, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, 3 Whooping Cranes (in distance), Terns

Posted by jl98584 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

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