“I have spent too much of my life opening doors for cats—I once calculated that, since the dawn of civilization, nine hundred and seventy-eight man-centuries have been used up that way. I could show you figures.” Heinlein, The Door Into Summer
Cast of Characters - One male human, Mike, age 50+, retired UPS driver, crazy vintage motorcycle and car aficionado (he has 35 bikes and 5 cars), more energy than a 5 year old the day after Halloween, vertigo and motion sickness sufferer. Mike with one of his first vintage motorcycles, a 1969 BMW R60
One female human, Pam, age 50+, retired (mostly) tech support and web design for a motorcycle performance manufacturer, avid motorcycle rider (you’re probably sensing a theme here), very amateur photographer, lifelong sloth, coaster freak. Nowhere I’d rather be than here...or on a good coaster.
One female cat, Tajah, age indeterminate, retired since birth, consummate traveler, ambivalent about coasters, occasionally camera shy. Don't worry, you'll see ample images of her face soon enough.
We live in Central Oregon, which has decidedly un-oregon winters with lots of cold and some snow. Winter before last the “some snow” became “tons of snow” for months on end. Our summer was meh, and then fall turned to winter in about 2 seconds. By January we were all ready to find a damned Door into Summer. Yeah, soooooo done with this.
So of course we decided on a road trip to Florida! Sure, we could fly, but Tajah isn’t a carrier cat, and we thought it would be cool to visit some places we had on our “must see someday before we die” list.
So we packed the car overful with clothes, alcohol, cat treats and a litter box and headed out on January 15. "What the hell? There's still white stuff on the ground here. Keep driving human!"
Fair warning, there’s probably going to be just as many non-coaster updates as there will be coaster-updates. If you don’t like history, there will be links below so you can skip to the good stuff. On the plus side, I’ll be sure to include at least one photo of Coasterfreak Tajah in each post.
Prior to this vacation my only experience with Texas was flying into Dallas for some sort of dad-conference when I was in grade school. Memories from that trip include purchasing an awesome cowboy hat at Neiman Marcus (I looked so cowboy in my nerd glasses and culottes, oh yeah) and a trip to the Dr. Pepper plant (my parents really knew how to party). Mike and Tajah had never been to the lone star state. We decided it was time to remedy that.
We chew big chunks of pavement on road trips, especially when we’re driving through familiar country. Our first day was Central Oregon to Victorville CA, just under 900 miles, the next day was shorter, just 800 miles to El Paso. Hah! Right!
Rolling into El Paso we looked over at a nearby hill and wondered why the houses there were so crummy when the rest of the town looked pretty nice - then we realized we were looking at Mexico just a literal stones-throw away. D’oh.
We spent the night in the El Paso at a La Quinta, actually, we spent nearly every night of this trip in various LaQ hotels. If you have pets, this chain is great because they don’t charge pet fee, they don't have a bunch of weird requirements (some places don't let you leave a pet alone in the room) and you can book online. The only problem is that quality can run the gamut from nice to fleabag, we always look for the properties that have been renovated recently and have interior corridors. This particular LaQuinta had been renovated in the past decade but didn't have interior corridors, but for $60 a night and only one night, we took a chance. It wasn't awful.
Our first actual stop of this trip happened the following morning at the Border Patrol Museum.
This tiny free museum is supported by donations and run by a group of very committed and caring volunteers. It’s also the only border patrol museum in the US.
We spent the better part of 2 hours here, mostly shaking our heads and saying “I didn’t know that!” to each other as we found out the Border Patrol started way back in 1924 when the major worry was liquor smuggling. For the first few years, recruits had to furnish their own horse and saddle and the government paid for oats and a badge (the horse got the oats, the rider got the badge).
Mike has a similar Model T, although his wasn’t used to smuggle hooch...at least we don’t think it was.
The museum has quite a few original documents from their earliest history plus some very intriguing machines used in modern smuggling across the Mexican/American border.
Tajah thinks she’d make an awesome smuggler, we told her no, but she’s definitely a scofflaw at heart.
If you’re in El Paso and are interested in history, definitely make time for this little gem.
Last edited by pfalcioni on Wed Jun 27, 2018 9:59 pm.
After museum time we logged more seat time, rolling into San Antonio early enough in the evening to grab some really remarkable Tex Mex and Margaritas at Viva Villa on Deloroso.
The next morning we headed downtown and learned that everything we thought we knew about the Alamo was pretty much wrong. Fortunately, the reality was much cooler than our Disney-fied version of events.
First thing we learned, this building is a lot smaller than it appears in those old movies.
The guided tour is well done and worth taking, although our guide was seemingly imbued with the superpower of making even the most exciting event sound boring.
On weekends they have period actors who do some reenactments, well, except for the part where everyone dies, they leave that out.
We hung around the Alamo just long enough to let the weather catch up with us and by the time we arrived at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park it was pouring rain. The Mission Park isn’t like most parks, the missions are scattered throughout the city along the 15-mile Riverwalk trail and since it was raining, I had an excuse to avoid the 15 mile hike (yay bad weather!). I also ended up getting some cool photos from the deal, so it was a win-win in my book.
Mission San Jose is the most popular site to visit, it is also home to a nice visitor’s center with a small museum. The gorgeous church was built in 1768.
The area in front of the church was a courtyard surrounded by small apartments where natives who had been converted to Catholicism could live, the mission even provided bread-baking machines for their use! (some assembly required)
Our next stop was Mission Concepcion, which apparently ranked higher on the totem pole and was granted two bell towers instead of just one.
It was also home to a stairway that Tajah thought looked like the door into summer, but was disappointingly just another view of rain.
The weather started clearing up a bit and we were starving so we headed back downtown to the Riverwalk which must be an awesome place to watch drunk people fall in the water on Saturday nights.
They even have boats that can take you from bar to bar in case tequila renders your legs inoperable.
The ducks seem to like it too.
I know at this point you’re all screaming “Why the HELL aren’t you at Six Flags Fiesta???” Because Texans think 60 degrees is freezing and they close the place in the winter. Ugh.
Although we only had a day to explore the city, we thought San Antonio was a pretty cool mix of old and new, rich and poor, wet and dry, I just wish it was a mix of coasters and flats year-round too!
This thread is off to a fantastic start. I especially enjoyed the missions. I teach 4th grade in California, and the California mission chain is part of the social studies curriculum. Keep 'em coming! *clicks subscribe button*
Thanks guys! It's been really fun going back through my trip notes and bringing it all together. I used to do a blog but it fell by the wayside a few years ago and this made me realize how much I missed doing trip recaps.
San Antonio is one of those cities that seems to have everything we love, history, natural beauty, great places to walk or bike, excellent food that doesn't cost too much, and lots of good alcohol. The only weird thing we had trouble finding on the Riverwalk was coffee - only one $tarbux at the very end of the promenade and one other place selling ice cream and coffee. I guess usually it's warm enough that people aren't wanting hot drinks, but after spending a day in the rain we were chilly!
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