On April 1 we left Mission, TX, and headed north to San Antonio home of the River Walk and the Alamo. We stayed at Guadalupe River State Park just north of San Antonio. The sites in the park are well spaced with trees and shrubs between. Although we very much liked Bentsen Palm Village where we stayed in Mission, the more natural setting of a state park was an enjoyable change after having been at an RV "resort" for a month.
Construction of the Alamo, which was originally called Misión San Antonio de Valero, was begun in 1724. The mission was closed in 1793 and in the early 1800's the Spanish stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission. The soldiers called the mission the Alamo (Spanish for cottonwood) in honor of their former home.
Texas was originally claimed by Spain and was later part of Mexico following the Mexican Revolution. Many Americans settled in Texas and became Mexican citizens. In 1835 internal strife in the Mexican government led to General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna abolishing the constitution and declaring himself dictator. These acts eventually led to the famous battle in 1836 where roughly 200 heroic Texans perished defending the Alamo holding out for 13 days against the overwhelming numbers of Santa Anna's army. Among the men commanded by Col. William Travis were Jim Bowie, famed knife fighter, and David (he didn't like to be called Davy) Crockett, frontiersman and former U. S. congressman from Tennessee.
Less than two months later on April 26, 1836, Santa Anna was defeated by Texan forces commanded by Sam Houston in a battle that lasted 18 minutes. Santa Anna himself was captured enabling the Texans to extract a treaty granting them their independence.
Whereas Alamo Village depicts the Alamo as it was in 1836 without a roof and with earthen ramps inside, the real Alamo has been largely restored. The only other original building that survives is the barracks, which now serves as a museum. The Alamo stands on a 4.2 acre plot in downtown San Antonio and is surrounded by serene gardens and live oak trees.
Near the Alamo is one of many entrances to the River Walk or Paseo del Rio. The San Antonio River makes a loop through the downtown area and lies one level down from street level.
The River Walk can be accessed by means of steps from most of the many overhead bridges and through several buildings that front the River Walk.
There has been development along the river throughout most of the history of San Antonio, but a comprehensive flood control plan created a bypass channel with flood gates and flood pools in the 1930's and made possible the River Walk as it exists today. Major planning and renovation of today's River Walk took place in the 1960's. Plans for improvements and expansion are ongoing.
The River Walk is a quaint, picturesque area of shops and restaurants along the San Antonio River. There are 35-minute narrated tours of the River Walk aboard small, colorful boats. The buildings have been built or renovated in the early Texas or colonial Mexican style. Walkways wind along the river and are lined by beautiful landscaping and shaded by overhanging trees. Many of the restaurants have tables with colorful umbrellas right along the water where you can sit, eat, and watch families of ducks scurry out of the way of the tour boats. Down along the river it's easy to forget about the hustle and bustle of the city above. See Photo Album 016: San Antonio and the Hill Country the for more pictures of River Walk.
At the western end of San Antonio is the Market Square or El Mercado.
This historic area houses dozens of cafes, restaurants, and shops selling Mexican pottery, clothing, leather, jewelry, and art. El Mercado claims to be the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. Of course, we could only window shop. :)
To the north of San Antonio are several German settlements dating back to the 1800's. Gruene, (pronounced Green) which is one of these towns, was just about 30 miles west of where we were staying. It was founded by Henry D. Gruene in 1872 when he established a grist mill on the banks of the nearby Guadalupe River. This general store was one of many of his later businesses.
Gruene is a small town that is full of quaint shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. This is is the Gruene Mansion Bed and Breakfast.
After a week in the San Antonio area, we left for Fredericksburg which is deeper in Texas Hill Country. Hill Country is an area of rolling, sometimes somewhat rugged, limestone hillls in central Texas that runs from San Antonio roughly 75 miles northward and from Austin roughly 100 miles westward.
Hill Country attracts millions of tourists each year and is dotted with quaint towns, wineries, bed and breakfasts, shops, and art galleries. The area is very picturesque, even when the wildflowers are not in bloom, but we were thrilled to arrive at the peak of bluebonnet season.
One of the things we liked about the terrain was that although the hills could be covered with trees, generally the trees were only 15-20 ft. high which meant when getting to a rise in the road, you could see over the top of the trees into the valley and on to the next hill.
Fredericksburg is another of the German settlements in this area of Texas. The town was named for Prince Frederick of Prussia. After being so close to the Rio Grande River and the Mexican border for the past few months, it was strange to see the German influence. We were used to seeing the names on streets, mailboxes, businesses, etc. in Spanish, and we were now seeing them in German.
Fredericksburg is the home of the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific during WWII, was born in here so Fredericksburg is a fitting home for the museum. Neither of us ever had the chance to study WWII when we were in school, so we really appreciated the opportunity to learn more. The Museum follows the entire history of the war in the Pacific from early Japanese aggression against the Chinese through the attack on Pearl Harbor to the dropping of atomic bombs and the Japanese surrender. Throughout the progression of the displays about the war in the Pacific, there was information about what was going on in Europe and the rest of the world. There are many interesting exhibits from a real B-25 bomber to photos, diaries, artifacts, and mementos.
The Museum of the Pacific War includes the Japanese Peace Garden. The garden was a gift from the Japanese people to the American people to promote good will after the war.
In addition to learning about WWII and driving the back roads looking at wildflowers, we also visited Enchanted Rock. Below is the view approaching Enchanted Rock from the south. Enchanted Rock is the large dome just to the right of center. Little Rock is to the left.
Enchanted Rock is a pink granite dome that rises 425 feet above ground level. It is a steep 20 to 30-minute walk to the top. See Photo Album 016: San Antonio and the Hill Country the for more pictures of Enchanted Rock, including views from the top.
After spending about two weeks of almost daily sightseeing in the San Antonio and the Fredericksburg areas, we needed a little time to catch up on grocery shopping, laundry, and relaxation. So we moved about 20 miles down the road to the Kerrville-Schreiner Park to get outside the bustle of the main tourist areas. A former Texas state park, Kerrville-Schreiner Park is now operated by the city of Kerrville. It has sites along the Guadalupe River on one side of the road, but we opted for the quieter sites with reportedly more wildlife on the other side of the road. We weren't disappointed. Deer came through in the mornings and evenings and frequently stopped to graze. Some of them came quite close to the campers, but Molly seemed to make them a little nervous so they stayed about 20 feet away from us.
Although we traveled through major produce-growing areas most of the winter and had little trouble getting vegetables, one of our favorite things that is hard to find in the southwest is fresh basil. We had been thinking about trying to grow our own and now that it was spring and we were in an area with numerous nurseries, we picked up a basil plant and also a cilantro plant. Although fresh cilantro is plentiful in the grocery stores here, we never seem to have it when we want it; and, unlike many other herbs, cilantro is one herb that there is just no substitute for fresh.
Paul stopped at Lowe's and picked up some small pieces of lumber and some paint to build a caddy for the potted herb plants. The caddy will help keep the plants upright during travel and will make moving them outside easier. In spite of not having a table saw, drill press, and belt sander, he was able to turn out a respectable-looking caddy using hand tools.
Near Kerrville is the Thousand Hills Cowboy Church. We had the privilege of worshiping there one Sunday during our stay. This was a truly unique worship experience with the service taking place in a corner of their partially-completed horse arena, complete with "horsey" smells. The ministry reaches out to cowboys, ranchers, and country people with their no-nonsense message and old-time country/western gospel songs.
At the beginning of the service there was an announcement for the benefit of newcomers. We were told not to touch the electric fence that surrounds the property as "it is hot and will definitely give you a perm." I was only one of two men there without a hat, and Margery was only one of two women not wearing jeans. The pastor's red heeler dog sat on the platform with him as he preached and recited cowboy poetry. It was definitely a non-traditional service, but the message was right on, and we felt surprisingly at home.
One of the other things we did during our stay at Kerrville-Schreiner was some broad planning for the next several weeks of travel. After leaving the snowbird areas, we are noticing that campgrounds are getting busier on the weekends as the weather warms. One of the great things about being retired and being full-timers is being able to be flexible in our travel plans. However, we don't want to get caught short with no place to stay, so we are finding that some planning and making some reservations are necessary. As they stand now, our plans are to backtrack through the Davis Mountain area of Texas and then head toward New Mexico.