Day Forty – Thursday, September 29, 2016

 

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Day forty of our journey finds us waking up on the Texas Gulf Coast in Corpus Christi.  It also finds us waking up on the morning of our 37th Wedding Anniversary!  We’re pretty sure we’ve never celebrated a wedding anniversary in Texas before, so something new for us!!  As I said in the blog post I wrote about our anniversary, we may call this trip Our Big Adventure, but that really started on the afternoon of September 29, 1979 at the Interfaith Chapel on the C.W. Post Campus where we’d both gone to school!  It certainly has been an adventure, and it still continues!!

So, forty days on the road, huh?  We are well into our 5th week, and have stayed in God knows how many hotels, had so many room numbers I wonder how we keep remembering where to go when we return at night, and let’s not even talk about my adventures getting ice every night!  The good news is we are still having fun, still enjoying seeing new things, places, and people, and still talking!  So many great memories we’ve made so far, and so much more to go.  At the very minimum we’ve got the 14 days of the cruise that starts this Sunday (10/2), and Susie and I have been talking, and I have a feeling that when we get back to Texas on October 16th, the trip will continue a little longer!  As long as we are back in New York for Henry’s First Birthday on October 28th, we are going to be good!!

So, breakfast today at the Best Western Marina is on the 11th floor on the opposite side of the building we ended last night at the Grandview Lounge.  You can see by the sign on the door, these folks are not Kenny Chesney fans, as they have somewhat changed the lyrics of his famous beach song!

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After breakfast, we headed out on a mini adventure…finding a car wash!  If you remember yesterday’s blog, and the tale of the Monarch Butterfly’s migration, you will remember that the grill, hood, and especially the windshield of the Sonata were the final resting place of many of the poor creatures!  With the hot Texas Gulf sun (it’s 4:45 PM now, sunny, and the temperature is 90 degrees, feeling like 92), I didn’t want them baking into the paint, and really like a cleaner windshield, so we were off to find a car wash.  I looked up a couple on Google, but couldn’t tell if they were self service or not, but we headed off to what I thought was the closest one.  Well, close is obviously a relative term, and this one was related to just about nothing!  We drove for blocks and blocks, only to ultimately find it, and have it turn out to be a full service car wash!  Damn!  So we continued our hunt, trying to stay in populated commercial areas, and even getting ourselves trapped in Del Mar Community College, as students were looking for parking places so they could make it to class.  Fun!

Ultimately, we were about to give up, as we saw an Interstate in the distance, and low and behold, there was a self service car wash just on the corner!  We ducked in, and with Susie pointing at the more resistive bug smears from the inside of the car, I power washed off the windshield, the grill, and the hood.  Finally we had a cleaner car!  Now, we had no idea where we were in relation to our hotel, so we punched up the GPS and headed back to the hotel.  As we got back to Ocean Drive (but it’s a bay, not an ocean?) Susie said, “Oh, I need a Post Office to mail a couple of things.”  She needed a Post Office because we hadn’t seen a mail box in days.  Perhaps they only exist in the NY/NJ Area?  So we plugged in Post Office in the GPS, and you know what it said?  “Make a U-Turn in 400 feet”  Yep, we went back to almost where the car wash was to mail 2 cards!  The good thing was we did pass a Walgreens, and Susie was able to bop in and pick up a couple of things she needed!

Our main stop for the day was the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier, which is docked in Corpus Christi Bay.  It’s one of those funny things, that you can see from everywhere, but just can’t get to.  We had to avail ourselves on the GPS’s assistance again, and considering the convoluted set of turns we had to make, thank God we had one!  The Lexington was commissioned in 1943, set more records than any other Essex Class carrier in the history of Naval Aviation, and she was the oldest working carrier in the USN when she was decommissioned in 1991.  During WWII, the Japanese reported the Lexington sunk 4 times, but each time she came back to fight again.  This caused Tokyo Rose to nickname her, “The Blue Ghost”.

The Lexington came to Corpus Christi in June of 1992, and within months, was opened as the USS Lexington Naval Aviation Museum.  We started our tour on the Hanger Deck, and just based on it’s size, it is an impressive space.  There are several planes on display, as well as many other Naval Aviation items, and several places for photo ops.  At the bow of the ship, there is a theater where they show a 30 minute 3D movie about the job of the aircraft carrier.  The displays and the movie were very interesting, and just being there, and imagining what the hanger deck was like during operations was amazing.

Then it was time to head up to the flight deck.  Lots of planes there, lots to read. and in the Texas Gulf sun, the walk from the bow to the stern of the carrier seemed about a mile.  Disappointedly, we only walked about a mile during our visit, so I guess it only seemed that long!  Luckily for us, some person (I’m betting an older employee) put a bench at the stern of the flight deck, in the shade of one plane’s wing, making for a delightful place to rest for a few minutes, out of the sun, and enjoying the bay breezes!  We really enjoyed looking at the displays, and having watched so many World War II Navy movies, just imagined being there as things we’d seen in movies (Midway, Tora,Tora,Tora, In Harms Way, etc) happened.

After touring, we decided to hit the head before leaving…okay the sign did say rest rooms, but it’s a ship, right?  The Men’s and Ladies Room were both down a deck, but you went down different stairs to get there.  We agreed to meet at a bench by the gift shop, and when Susie came back she said, “Boy, that was interesting?”  “Interesting”, I replied?  “Yes, lots to look at.”  Well apparently they gave the ladies a treat, because the men’s room didn’t look like they’d done a lot since the ship was decommissioned, but here are some pictures that Susie took as she went down to the Lady’s Room!

We were hot, thirsty, and just a little hungry, and since we were in this lovely setting on Corpus Christi Bay, I said, “Let’s find a bar on the water, and have a drink and a snack.”  Susie agreed, and once we found our way though the convoluted directions back to the bay (yes, we had to depend on our GPS girl again), we ended up at the floating Tiki Bar at Harrison’s Landing, just down the road from our hotel!  We had a couple of Texas Ice Teas (they could get you in trouble) and a delicious warm cheese and shrimp dip, served with tortilla chips!  Exactly what we needed!

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Then we decided to come back to the room, and crash for a couple of hours, until it was time for dinner.  For I think the third time in our travels, we came back to the room a little before 4PM and it hadn’t been made up.  When the maid tried getting in after 5PM, we said never mind.  I really don’t blame the maids, but I think some hotels seem to be trying to save money, by not having enough staff to take care of the rooms they rent.  Not a big deal at all as we don’t use a towel once at home and throw it in the laundry, but it kind of makes you wonder what you’re paying for.

After being so pleased by our dinner last night at Landry’s Seafood House, right on the water, we decided that rather than go to another seafood restaurant, and have no view, and perhaps be disappointed with the dinner, we’d return.  So we made a 6:45 reservation, and left the room at 6:30, to head across Shoreline Blvd, and up the pier to the marina where the “boat” was docked.  I didn’t mention it last night, but Landry’s Seafood House is a very big, two story restaurant, built on a barge!  Yes, you actually have to walk over a gangplank to get to the front door, so for the second time today, we ate (and drank) on a “vessel” that was tied to a dock!

We asked for the waiter we had last night (Richard), but he was not working today.  So we got a lovely table on the second deck, and had Ashley for our server.  Although we started with the same two specialty martinis we’d had last night, the rest of our dinner was totally different!  Two beautiful Shrimp Cocktails were the way we started tonight.  6 Jumbo shrimp, served over ice with cocktail sauce in a radicchio lettuce cup!  Wonderful!  Oh, I lied, we did have their house salad again.  Then Susie had their Fish and Chips and I had Southern Fried Fish…basically a variation on the theme of each other, and both good and very bountiful!  We accompanied that with a bottle of one of our favorites, Prosecco.  Then the Manager came over, asked us if everything was good, and said in honor of our anniversary, he’d like to buy us dessert!  So Susie had Key Lime Pie and I had one of my favorites, Creme Brûlée.  A very nice gesture, and a very nice ending to a great meal.  Take a look at the pictures below to see our wonderful meal.

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Oh wait.  Sorry, but the food came, and we ate it, and after we were finished, with every course, we both said, “Pictures!”  To be honest, the above picture was of our last glass, that we enjoyed while relaxing after dinner.  Ashley was great and just told us to stay as long as we wanted to and enjoy the wine.  We asked, and she is another really nice native Texan we’ve met.  Another day in Texas interacting with just nice people!

Tomorrow we will be sorry to say good-bye to Corpus Christi, because we’ve had a great time, but it’s on to Galveston and preparation for the cruise!  On Sunday morning we will be back with Kenny and Chris, spending two weeks on the high seas, and getting to know the rest of their Liberty of the Seas Family!  Having not seen Kenny since March, it will be good to get to hug him in person.  FaceTime is great, and we’ve been in contact 2 or 3 times a week since he’s been gone, but actual person-to-person hugging is different!

So that’s the end of our 37th Anniversary, the end of our two nights in Corpus Christi, and the end of our 40th day on the road.  If you have been with us even through part of this journey, thank you!  If you’ve spent every day of the past 40 in the backseat of the Sonata, I hope our driving has’t scared you, and you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as we have!  I appreciate your continued involvement in this blog, and your comments that let me know somebody besides Susie and I are reading this! If we’re related, know I love you a little bit more!  If we’re just friends, know that we are more like family now.  After all, how can you spend 40 days in a car with someone, and not think of them as family!

See you tomorrow in Galveston…cue Glen Campbell!

Thirty Seven Years – Saturday, September 29, 1979 to Thursday, September 29, 2016

You know, we keep calling this trip we are on, “Our Big Adventure”, but in reality, Our Big Adventure started on the afternoon of September 29, 1979, at the Interfaith Chapel on the C.W. Post Campus.  You see, it was on that day, before our family and friends, that Susie and I took the vows that cemented our lives together as one!

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Through the last 37 years, we have weathered the storm of life, dealing with 3 kids, jobs, different houses, paying the bills, going on vacation, stretching the budget, and just spending time together!  She is still my best friend, the single most important person in my life, and the one person, above all others, that I like spending time with (haven’t we proved that the last 7,500 miles????).

So on the occasion of the 37th Anniversary of the day we tied the knot, thank you Susan Lynn Johnson D’Elia for giving me the greatest life anyone could ever desire!  It has truly been  Our Big Adventure, and it ain’t close to being over!!

Day Thirty Nine – Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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It was time to leave San Antonio, and we were sad. Sad because we loved the Homewood Suites Hotel, loved the city of San Antonio, and loved all the people we’d had the opportunity to interact with.  Of course, the day we were leaving, we woke about 8 AM, threw open the room darkening curtains, and were greeted by a beautiful sunny day, as we looked down on the Riverwalk!  Oh well, we figured that yesterday had been such a perfect day, we probably wouldn’t be able to duplicate it, sunny skies or not!  Time to move on!

We went down to breakfast this morning, saw some of the usual characters we’d seen for the past couple of days, but not our two friends.  Really, what’s the likelihood we’ll see Hotel Friends from Trinidad and Kentucky ever again?  After another nice breakfast, we returned upstairs to get our act together, and about 10:40, I called down to the Valet to get the Sonata out of the garage.  She was waiting there for us after we checked out of the hotel, and we loaded up, and were on our way in a few minutes.

If we’d just gotten on the Interstate, Corpus Christi was just a little over 2 hours away, but as we’ve said before, it’s not always about the destination, but how you get there.  We decided to take a little detour, and visit one of the five Spanish Missions that were erected in the early 1700s, with the last one of the group being the Alamo.  They are all part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and we visited the middle mission, San Jose, because it is where the Visitor’s Center is located.  After watching a 25 minute movie about the Spanish Missions, we ventured out to the actual mission.  Frankly, I think this was more what I was expecting at the Alamo, as here, the entire wall surrounding the church is still intact, and there is Indian and Administration housing still on sight.  It was a more complete view of what a mission was like, and in that way, more interesting.  The fact that this mission is still an operating Catholic Parish Church was also interesting.

After leaving the mission, we could have hopped on the Interstate, but again decided to follow advice we’d been given (Thanks Walt) and take one of the smaller roads to our destination. US 181 headed south and honestly was a much more interesting drive, with a lot of small towns along the way, and some interesting things to see.  It took about an hour longer than the Interstate probably would have, but was much more enjoyable!

Something that was with us at the mission, and we had “along for the ride” almost all the way to Corpus Christi was little bugs, that we realized were butterflies.  Once we got on US 181, they  were everywhere, and were hitting the car and splattering across the windshield!  It was almost like a scene in a Hitchcock movie, and we wondered what was up, so Susie Googled “Butterflies in South Texas”.  Turns out that we were in the middle of the annual migration from Canada to Mexico by the Monarch Butterflies!  Sorry to say, that hundreds of them will not make it this year, because they died on the grill, hood, and windshield of the car!

As we got closer to Corpus Christi, we saw something we hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks…farms!  It was back somewhere in the Midwest, before we got to the mountainous regions and places with ranches, that we’d last seen real farms.  Plowed fields, and silos, and something else…windmills by the hundreds!  Just so we know we are in Texas, there were also oil wells, and a huge ranch or two!

Last weekend, we missed the Air Show in Ocean City that takes place every year along the Boardwalk.  Well, to make up for it, as we traveled along US 181 today, we were treated to a private airshow!  We don’t know if he was learning how to fly, practicing aerobatics, or just having fun, but we enjoyed the brief show!

As we got to Corpus Christi, we also returned to something else we hadn’t been at for close to 2 months…the shore!  We left Ocean City and the Jersey Shore 2 weeks before we embarked on our Big Adventure, and until about 3 this afternoon, we hadn’t seen anything that looked like a coast!  Big power boats, sail boats, heck, even an aircraft carrier!  Not only that, but after spending weeks at elevations of 8,000 feet and above, we were back at sea level!  It was hot, and humid, and looked like we could have just as easily been in Florida, as the Gulf Coast of Texas.  It was nice to feel like we were home!!  We’re at the Best Western Marina tonight, right on the Seawall in Corpus Christi, and it’s nice to see water out our window!!

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Our View

Tonight, we did our usual trick of opening up the Apple Map on the iPads, and seeing what was in the immediate area for dinner.  After some reflection, we zeroed in on Landry’s Seafood, which we saw from our balcony, and we think we made an excellent choice!  For the second night in a row, our waiter’s name was Richard…Kismet?  We had a couple of great drinks, one of the best calamari appetizers we’ve ever had, two great seafood entrees, and split an obscene Bananas Foster dessert!!!  Can you say full???

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Landry’s from our balcony

Returning to our hotel, we ventured up to the Grandview Lounge on the 11th floor, and had a couple of Grey Goose on the rocks with a twist. Say that in NY or NJ, and they know exactly what you mean.  Everywhere else they ask, “lemon or lime?”  We enjoyed the drinks while looking over most of Corpus Christi!  A nice way to end our first night in town!

Tomorrow we get to explore Corpus Christi, see about visiting an aircraft carrier, and get ready for a cruise which sets sail in just 4 days!  This is day 7 for us in Texas and we’ve enjoyed it a lot.  From spending time with our good friends Nancy and Mike on day 1 and 2, to three lovely nights in San Antonio, we are very taken with Texas!  I guess it’s only fair, that based on it’s size, we’re spend more days in the state of Texas than any other state during our travels!  We’ve talked about it, and think that someday in the future, a Texas Exclusive Road Trip may be in our future!

See you tomorrow!!

Day Thirty Eight – Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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Today was our second full day in San Antonio, and honestly, this morning when we got up and discussed what we were going to do today, we were a little conflicted.  We considered getting the car out of the garage, and exploring Texas Hill Country, but since we’re only going to Corpus Christi tomorrow, which is 2-3 hours away, we thought we might head that way tomorrow, before heading to the Gulf Coast.  So ultimately, since we are staying in downtown San Antonio, we figured that San Antonio was why we decided to stay here, and that we should explore again today.  We are glad we did!

As usual, our day started with our Homewood Suites breakfast, a short visit back in the room, and then we headed out to explore the city.  When we bought our Double Decker Bus Tour of the city, the package we got came with two additions, a ticket to the Buckhorn Tavern Museum, and a San Antonio River Cruise.  We got out our San Antonio map, and walked the 5 or 6 blocks to the Buckhorn Tavern to start our day.

Albert Friedrich opened the Buckhorn Tavern in 1881, and he realized that since many folks coming off the trail didn’t have money, he’d accept horns and antlers in exchange for beer and whiskey.  Because of that, the Buckhorn Tavern contains one of the largest and most unique collections of horns and antlers in the world.  While not in it’s original location, and really more of just a tourist stop today, the Buckhorn Tavern has been a part of history.  From Teddy Roosevelt being a patron to the rumored planning of the Mexican Revolution at the bar by Pancho Villa, in its long history, it has seen it all in San Antonio!

After exchanging our vouchers for tickets, the first person we met was the Buckhorn Cowboy, who told us what we were about to see in the various museums on the property, and suggesting that going through the museum with a drink was his favorite way to see the museum!  Talking to him further, he told us he was originally from that great Cowboy Rearing state, New Jersey!  Sorry we didn’t get a picture with him, but we did take his advice and got a couple of margaritas for the tour!

The first museum on site is the Buckhorn Museum, which contains over 500 species of wildlife.  There were many displays, putting the stuffed animals in their natural habitat.  Think Museum of Natural History stuff.  Then there was a big “Side Show Exhibit”, with many items about PT Barnum and others of his ilk, as well as things you could actually participate in, like a tilting room, water running uphill, and other optical illusions.  In 2006, they added the Texas Ranger Museum to the attraction, which contains many authentic Texas Ranger artifacts, and a recreation of San Antonio at the turn of the century called, Ranger Town!

Of course, like any good tourist attraction, you exited into the gift shop!  A very nice employee started talking to us, and like everyone we’d encountered in San Antonio, was friendly and very helpful.  I’m not sure if that’s the reason or not, but I do have to report that this was the first gift shop we have been in on the trip, that Susie made substantial purchases.

After our shopping spree, we headed over to the Menger Hotel I talked about in yesterday’s blog.  Just across the street from the Alamo, the Menger Hotel was built in 1859 (just a bit more than 20 years after the famous Alamo Battle) and the famous Menger Hotel Bar was allegedly the place that Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders calvary brigade!  I say “allegedly”, because they make the same claim at the Buckhorn Tavern!  Yesterday, we saw it from the outside, but today we ventured inside, and it is a beautiful hotel!

We attempted to have a drink in the Menger Hotel Bar, but unfortunately it’s a really tiny place, with but 10 seats at the bar, and they were all full.  Oh well, another day in the future perhaps.  Since we were right at the beginning of the double decker bus tour, we decided to take a ride on the upper level, see the early part of the tour again, and get off at the stop for the River Cruise.

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We had a different driver today, and the tour seemed to function much better than yesterday, and since the weather was better (still overcast, but no rain), we enjoyed it better than yesterday.   The stop for the River Cruise is on St Mary Street and Crockett Street, which is just 2 blocks from our hotel, so really in the neighborhood.  We got on the boat with our Captain/Tour Guide Mike, and he did a great job in the 35 minutes or so we were with him.  We finally saw the Riverwalk that we’d seen in all the pictures of San Antonio, and are planning to return there for dinner tonight.

After our cruise, we walked back a couple of blocks to a Walgreens we’d passed earlier to pick up a couple of items we needed.  San Antonio is very interested in maintaining what is old, and you could clearly see this, from the vintage Walgreens sign, as well as other buildings right across the street.

Then we walked home to the Homewood Suites.  It was a good day.  We walked, the humidity seemed better today (or we’d gotten a little more used to it), and we saw a lot.  Literally on every corner and every block in San Antonio there seems to be something to see, or take a picture of, or a plaque to read!  According to our iPhones, we walked a little over 2 miles today, and we’re not done yet!!

After crashing and having a Cuba Libera (Rum and Coke to you Gringos) in our room, we changed, and went downstairs for the Homewood Suites Happy Hour!  Same Drinks, different snacks tonight!  We saw our two friends from last night (the Lady from Trinidad and the Gentleman from Kentucky), but as there were no tables near each other, we just said hello.

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Tonight we decided to fly without reservations for our dinner, but knew we wanted to head back to the section of the Riverwalk we saw while on the boat cruise this afternoon.  We opened Apple Maps on my iPad, and looked for names of restaurants along the Riverwalk.  We wanted something (1) that was Mexican and (2) that was an easy walk from the hotel.  We checked out the websites of several restaurants we found, and after careful consideration, we picked the Iron Cactus!  So after having just one glass of wine each tonight, we headed out about 6:30, and we walked up St Mary Street, and went down to the Riverwalk at Crockett Street. Iron Cactus was just beyond where we got the boat this afternoon.   We went up to the Hostess Station, asked for a table, and as she had nothing outside without a wait, we said we’d go inside.  Unfortunately, the table she assigned to us was about as far back in the restaurant as you could go, so Susie went up and asked for one of the tables in a window alcove, and they moved us!  What an excellent move, because we had a great view, air conditioning, and saw so many people swatting bugs outside!!!  We also had a wonderful waiter, Richard who helped us through dinner!

Richard, Susie and the Iron Cactus

He suggested to us a special Margarita they were featuring tonight, and they were great!  He also suggested the Table Side Guacamole – 2 whole avocados, onions, peppers, tomatoes, citrus, cilantro.  He said it was excellent, and it was.  Then he told us about some of his favorite dishes on the menu, and we picked one of them, Southwest Paella.  We both decided to have it, and at Richard’s suggestion, we only got one order (so there was enough room for dessert), and it was delicious and more than enough for us!  Jumbo shrimp, mussels, bay scallops, jalapeño Texas sausage, roasted poblanos, lobster cream, and cilantro-lime rice.  Hungry yet?

Full Drinks, 1/2 Guac, and sorry, ate all the Paella and then took picture!

There was indeed room for dessert, and after Richard brought us the Dessert Tray, we decided to split Mexican Donuts!  Homemade with sweet cream filling, powdered sugar and a Kahlua fudge sauce for dipping!  Heavenly!!  I’m sorry to say that Susie and I ate the four of them, before we even remembered to take a picture, so you are just going to have to let the words paint a picture for you!

Our suggestion for you is that if you happen to be in San Antonio, and if you want to try and duplicate one of, if not the best, meal we’ve had on this trip, you get yourself to the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar (they have over 100 varieties of tequila) at 200 Riverwalk, Suite 100!  If you really want to have the best meal, served by someone who will make the meal even better, then you MUST ask for Richard!  What a great way to end our last day in San Antonio!!

After dinner we walked the Riverwalk a bit, and took some more pictures, before heading back to our hotel!

As we were walking towards home, Susie and I agreed that today was probably the most perfect day we have had at a tourist destination.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great experiences at Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore, and all the other wonderful places we’ve seen, but from start to finish, today was just wonderful!  If we had to do it again, we’d stay longer in San Antonio.  Perhaps an All Texas Road Trip one year is in our future!

Tomorrow we leave San Antonio, and head to Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast, and get nearer and nearer to the cruise, which seemed so far off, but which starts this Sunday!  We will leave San Antonio with nothing but fond thoughts of the town, the Homewood Suites by Hilton, and the people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had!  It was a great 3 nights and one of our favorite places on Our Big Adventure!!

See you tomorrow!

PS – Walking total for the day, a little over 3 miles!

Day Thirty Seven – Monday, September 26, 2016

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Welcome to our first full day in San Antonio, Texas.  We woke this morning in our suite at the Homewood Suites on The Riverwalk to a cloudy and rainy day.  After getting ready, we went downstairs for a wonderful, full and enjoyable buffet breakfast.  The best of our trip so far, and perhaps a reason to stay at Homewood Suites!  The weather forecast showed for improving weather, but looks like we’ll have to wait till tomorrow for sun.  One thing we didn’t have to wait for was humidity!  Welcome back to the kind of sticky weather we had most of the summer in the New York/New Jersey area!  When we left the hotel this morning, the temperature was in the low 70s, but the humidity was up in the high 80% range!  A real change from the very low humidity we’ve experienced for weeks. Frankly, it’s been so long since we’ve felt like this, we can’t remember!  Don’t imagine it will get any better when we get to the Texas Gulf Coast, or into the Caribbean Sea during our cruise!

The view from our room this morning

We walked over to the historic Menger Hotel, where we picked up our San Antonio tour tickets.  Just across the street from the Alamo, the Menger Hotel was built in 1859 (just a bit more than 20 years after the famous Alamo Battle) and the famous Menger Hotel Bar was the place that Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders calvary brigade!

Once we got the tickets, we headed over to the tour bus, and low and behold, it was obviously planned for us so that we couldn’t miss it!

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Along the tour we passed the Oldest VFW Post in America (from Veterans of the Spanish/American Bar).

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We also heard about the Scottish Rite Cathedral

And we passed the Emily Morgan Hotel.  We had no idea who Emily Morgan was, but were told that according to legend, she was captured by the Mexican Calvary in 1836, and was forced to travel with the troops of General Santa Anna.  On April 21 of that year, Santa Anna’s forces were defeated by an Army led by Sam Houston at the Battle of Jacinto in 18 minutes.  Supposedly, Santa Anna was unprepared because he was having sex with Emily!  It was also suggested that she may have been the inspiration for the song, The Yellow Rose of Texas, but historians think both suggestions are more story than history.  She had no involvement with the hotel, but it’s a good story, you must agree.

We also passed a number of old theaters, that after closing, because of changing tastes in the mid 20th Century, were resurrected by residents as performance spaces.  The Majestic, the Aztec, and the Empire are busy places, and in the sense of full disclosure, the person performing at the Empire is no relation to us, although he is from New Jersey!

The bus tour also passed the Esquire, where we ate dinner last night,

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and this place.  Have no idea of it’s name, but the guide told us it was originally a convent (see the cross) but is now a bar!

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Then it was time to explore the Alamo.  It seems that a lot of people have been somewhat disappointed by the Alamo, as it seems a lot smaller than most of us imagine.  I already knew that the John Wayne movie of the same name, was not filmed at the real Alamo, but rather a replica that was indeed bigger than the original (found this out reading a John Wayne bio), but I have to put myself in the disappointed category.  Not sure if it was because it was smaller than I thought, or because it was not in a setting that I imagined.  Having seen it in many movies, books, etc in a certain setting, it was odd to see it in the middle of a city!  San Antonio is, after all, the third largest city in Texas, and the area surrounding the Alamo was a city, with restaurants, shops, and tourist destinations.  I guess my expectations were not realistic!

After visiting the Alamo, we went over to the Shops at River Center, to see the IMAX movie, Alamo, The Price of Freedom!

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As luck would have it, we’d just missed the start of the 1 PM showing, and we had to wait till 2 PM.  Again, as luck would have it, there happened to be a Margaritaville Cafe on the River Walk in the same mall.  Guess where we ended up killing 45 minutes??  A couple of “Boat Drinks” (two 5 O’Clock Somewheres, followed by two Bahama Mamas) with Gabe the bartender, surrounded by our friend Mr. Buffet and his music, and time passed very quickly!

San Antonio seems a little empty to us, and the IMAX Theater was no different, as we were two of just 5 folks that watched the Alamo movie.  It was a very good 45 minute telling of what happened at the Alamo during the February 23rd to March 6th period of 1836, and we enjoyed it.  Just an FYI…although we were sitting just a block or so from the real Alamo, this movie was also, I believe, filmed at the same location that the John Wayne movie was shot.

We walked around the Alamo Plaza a little bit more after the movie, but the humidity had gotten to us, and we decided to walk back to our hotel and crash for a bit, with a couple of rum and cokes, in the air conditioning.

Tonight we headed downstairs about 5:30 for the Manager’s Complimentary Social (free drinks and snacks). We had a couple of glasses of white wine, and a nice conversation with a man from Kentucky and a lady from Trinidad.  One of the nice thing about the Homewood Suites is the evening social, and the ability to meet and enjoy people from different places!

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At about 6:45, we headed next door to the Westin Hotel, and the Italian restaurant,  Zocca Cuisine D’Italia, where we had a 7 PM reservation.  We had a lovely dinner, with a bottle of bubbly, a couple of great apps (sorry, we ate them before the pictures), two great pasta entrees, and dessert!

On the way home, we had a lovely walk along the River Walk back to the Homewood Suites.  It is probably the nicest it’s been all day, and we enjoyed the walk, the sights we saw, and just being out and about!

 

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Our Bedroom Window, overlooking the River Walk

Tomorrow, day two in San Antonio, and the weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, and a high of 79.  Let’s hope the humidity isn’t as high, but I wouldn’t count on it!  Have a good night, see you tomorrow!

Day Thirty Six – Sunday, September 25, 2016

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Here we are, day 4 in Texas, and it already feels like home!  Now, if we can only get resident status for tax purposes, we will be in great shape!

We started the morning in Fort Stockton, at the Best Western and our objective for the night was the Homewood Suites in San Antonio.  The day started cloudy and overcast, as we filled the car up with gas, and continued our eastward journey on Interstate 10.  I have to say one thing before going on, about Texas Interstates.  What the hell do they make the surface out of???  My God, they are the noisiest roads we have ever driven on!  The radio is up a notch or two, we have to practically yell at each other to be heard, and it constantly feels like you are driving on road that is being prepped for repaving!  Okay, moving on….

Wait..one more thing, Bed Heights.  Over the past 35 days, we have slept in dozens of hotels, and sampled lots of King Sized beds.  There seems to be a trend that the bed height is above what we use to consider a standard height bed.  I don’t know if it’s the mattress, the box spring, the frame, or all three, but some of the beds are so tall that you literally could use a step stool to get in.  Last night at the Best Western, the beds were so tall that the only way we could get in was to throw ourselves up and in.  God forbid if you roll out of one of these beds!  Now, we really move on!

The theme of the early part of our trip today on Interstate 10 was ENERGY.  We passed fields with hundreds of electrical generating windmills, oil wells pumping away on the side of the road, and high tension wires, I guess carrying that wind generated electrical energy to the cities.  An interesting mix.

The theme for the rest of the day was rain.  It started as a drizzle, went to a slow steady rain, and then the sky opened and it poured!  The combination of the rough pavement, the trucks (of which there were many), the wind, and the teaming rain just made for a wonderful drive!  In fact, at one point when I was driving, Susie had me get off at an exit in the middle of nowhere, just so we could wait it out a bit.  Our wait was long as the rain didn’t let up, but became heavier before abating a bit. We tried to check the radar, but we were of course in a 1X service area!   It was a lot of fun changing drivers in the downpour.  Shower taken for the day!

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Eventually the rain did let up for a bit, and it even almost stopped for a while, but just before we got to San Antonio, up it started again.  This time, it was joined with lightning and thunder!  Oh joy!  When we got to the hotel, and drove into the garage, the young attendant told me that they only did valet, and that it would be $27 a day.  I told him I’d gladly pay twice that, not to have to drive anymore in the rain!!

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As I said before, we are in the Homewood Suites on the Riverwalk, and it’s a very nice hotel.  It’s obviously not a new building, and after checking in, I found out that the hotel was built by converting the Historic San Antonio Drug Company Building.  The building is on the National Directory of Historic Places and the conversion was done with great care to preserve the original design of the building, including keeping the original windows.  This is the first time we are staying in a Homewood Suites, and we are very impressed by our king bed suite, and the whole hotel.  We look out on the river, and all the amenities seem to be top shelf!

Speaking of top shelf, after having a stiff drink, we started looking for a place for dinner, and found that the Esquire Tavern was just a block or so away.  The Esquire is billed as the oldest bar on the Riverwalk, having opened in 1933.  The walk only took a couple of minutes, so we made it there getting only slightly wet.  We started our dinner with two Moscow Mules, a drink we were introduced to by our friend Dennis, the bartender at the St. James Restaurant in Mineola.  These came in the traditional copper mug, and were a great way to start off dinner.  Fried pickles, a couple of great burgers, and a couple of more mules, and we were in shape to take on the night!

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Tomorrow is forecast to be cloudy with occasional rain.  Let’s hope they’re wrong, as we’d like it to be dry, if not sunny, as we explore San Antonio.  We will be here for 3 nights, so we have 2 full days to explore, and there is lots we want to see!

As they say, Remember the Alamo!

PS…Let’s Go Mets!!!!

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Day Thirty Four and Thirty Five – Friday, September 23 and Saturday September 24, 2016

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Susie and I woke in Nancy and Mike’s bedroom a little after 7, and decided to catch a shower before starting our day.  We exited the bedroom a little after 8, and went outside to sit in the beautiful Texas morning with Mike.  The weather was perfect, and we talked about the kind of weather, and seasons they experienced in El Paso.  Mike told us about the 9 inch snow fall they’d had last year, and about the cold mornings and warm afternoons, that were the norm for winter in El Paso.  Pretty soon Nancy joined us, and when it was established that nobody really wanted breakfast, we sat around for a couple of hours, talking.

I’m not quite sure what Nancy and Susie were talking about, but Mike and I talked a lot about the old days at WABC, and about things we both remembered happening when we worked there, and how retirement was going.  We also had lots of discussions that the 4 of us participated in, talking about kids, life expectations, travel, and just about everything that came into anyone’s mind.  Then Nancy suggested that we take a ride and let them show us around El Paso.  Sounded like a good idea, so we all grabbed what we needed, and headed out to the car.

By this time (around noon) the temperature had risen, and I’m not going to say it wasn’t hot, but the lack of humidity does make it a lot easier to take than a hot day in New York!  We drove through their part of town (they live on the West Side of El Paso), and they showed us some incredible houses, and great views.  Then we went past the University, and saw some of downtown El Paso.  The Rocky Mountains, that we drove over three weeks ago, and that have been so much a part of our travels since then, end in El Paso, and as we drove up Rim Road, around the very end of the chain, we had some great views of the city below, and views across the Rio Grand into Mexico.

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The Southern End of the Rockies

It’s amazing to be so close to Mexico, and to stop at a scenic overlook, and clearly see the tall fence that separates our country from their’s.  We also saw the Border Patrol Agent that sits there all day (and probably night) in his car, watching for folks that might be trying to get over the approx. 10 foot tall fence!  The difference between what you see on the US side of the border, and what of Mexico you can see are quite a contrast.  Big buildings, highways, and lots of cars on the US side, and small buildings and what looked liked dirt roads on the Mexican side.

After our tour, the decision was made to go out for lunch, and then to just have some sandwiches at their house for dinner.  We decided to go the PF Changs , and the four of us had a very nice meal, and of course, lots more conversation.  Then it was time to get back to the house, so that Nancy could drop of Mike and me, so she could take off with Susie.  You see, Nancy had been able to score a 4 PM appointment with her hairdresser, to get Susie a trim, and thereby solving a dilemma Susie had, about what to do about her hair on the trip.  After the girls left, Mike and I sat down in the living room, and guess what…we talked some more!  Like I said yesterday, it’s like the past 30+ years that we haven’t been in contact, hadn’t happened, and it was just two old friends talking about anything and everything!

When the girls returned (lovely hair Susie…nice job Nancy), Mike again started up the blender, and there were more margaritas on the horizon.  This time, the four of us sat in their back yard, and although it was warmer than it had been that morning, it was still a really nice late afternoon.  We sat there talking (gee…big surprise, huh?) till Mother Nature treated us to a beautiful sunset, and then Nancy decided it was time to eat.

What a great idea, to have a nice lunch and then eat a sandwich later.  Really something we should do more often. Thanks Nancy for coming up with the idea, and supplying great sandwich fixings to boot!  After dinner clean up, the four of us adjourned to their lovely living room, and the conversation continued till about 11, when we all went off to bed!

When we got up and out this morning, Mike was alone, as Nancy and Sammy had journeyed to the Dog Park, and some fun for the four legged kids, and conversation for their Moms.  No strangers to conversation, we joined Mike in the back yard, and converse we did!  When Nancy got home, she proceeded to assemble a great ham and egg breakfast for us all, and over good food, with good friends, we had more great conversation.  As our time with our friends came close to ending, we realized that it really didn’t matter if we did big things, went for a ride, or just sat around their pool.  The conversation flowed, and it was obvious the four of us were very comfortable, and frankly, that’s something that doesn’t always happen.  Susie and I are so glad that we reconnected with Nancy and Mike, so glad that they asked us to stay with them, and so happy to find that a great relationship still exists!

It was with much sadness that we left their house, and it was with lots of hugs, promises to stay in better touch with each other, and the hope of Susie and I, that our two good friends can journey to Ocean City, and be our guests at the beach next summer.  I’m sure that if this two days proved anything, next time we all get together, there will be lots of great conversation!

So off we went to Interstate 10, and the 4 hour or so trip to where we find ourselves tonight, Fort Stockton, Texas.  Our whole trip was on Interstate 10, and at first we thought we were looking at a 5 hour trip, but then realized that before we got to Fort Stockton, we passed another time zone,  Right now we are back on the Central Time, so suddenly we lost an hour of our day.  The advantage we had of gaining that hour, when we crossed into a new time zone from east to west, is evaporating as we go back east, and very quickly it was 6:30 PM!  Susie had planned to do some laundry tonight, and we were fortunate again that the facility was on our floor.  The only problem was that as the washing and drying went on, the time got later.  Our solution tonight?  Well, as the drying cycle was in progress, we ran out to a McDonalds that was down the road, and picked up Two All Beef Patties, Special Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, Pickles, Onions, on a Sesame Seed Bun.  Yes, two Big Macs!  We wondered if anyone not our age can recite that jingle?  Not a gourmet meal, but something we haven’t had in months, that was quick, and satisfying.  Had we waited till after the clothes were dry, we probably wouldn’t have gotten to a restaurant till after 8, so this worked tonight for us!

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As I write this, it’s after 10 PM, but since we just changed from Mountain to Central time, its not that late for us.  The good news is that I’m all caught up, and back on track with the blog.  That’s good, but as we ship out on the Liberty of the Seas a week from tomorrow for 2 weeks, I realize it won’t be the last interruption of this blog before we drive back to New York.  Still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do, but fear there will be an interruption again, but as that’s still 7 days away, let’s just have fun in the present, and not worry about it.

Tomorrow we start 3 nights in San Antonio.  The River Walk, the Alamo, and a fun time for all…I hope!  See you tomorrow!