Our granddaughter Alissa was visiting us from Australia so our Waco family—the Hardins—graciously took all of us on a three day journey to San Antonio, the tourist mecca of Texas.

There were eight of us packed into the Odyssey, so we didn’t carry much luggage and peace keeping forces were constantly on call. Mike and Karol sat on the front seats, Alissa, Kirsten and (usually) Cam were in the back, and Joice, myself and Evan were in the middle row. The middle seat of the middle row was not popular, so Cam and Evan argued about which of the two should not sit there. The parents arbitrated, so the boys had to “take turns”, so to speak, although one or the other of them had to be reminded when it was his turn to sit between their grandma and me. And when seated, they talked as much as we did, but did not sleep nearly as much. Actually, the boys were quite good, much better than my brother and I had been at those ages.

Day one was cloudy and rainy, with the weather people promising even worse weather to come. The forecasters had a field day drawing circles and waving their hands and arms in the direction the wind was blowing. They pointed out giant blotches of green and yellow on the weather map, with the occasional burst of purple or magenta, and warned us of impending danger. Indeed, it did not look good, but Mike and Karol had their smart phones out and were aware of any possible tornado or flooding. We were in good hands.

The trip from Waco to San Antonio is “normally” about three and a half hours but, of course, we were not normal. We needed a rest stop, not to rest, but to eat and “go potty”. The rain hurried us along.

We arrived in wet San Antonio and checked in at our hotel, the Contessa, which was upscale –not at all like those that missionaries normally stay in. The Hardins occupied one room, and granddaughter and us were in another. From my hotel room I could look down four stories and watch people getting splashed by cars as they umbrellied along the sidewalks.

But we weren’t there to sight-see other pedestrians—we were off in the pouring rain to the new Western Art museum. We all had umbrellas, although mine had a rib broken and encouraged the rain to pour, as if from a gallon jug, directly into my shoes. Having lived in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, we were veterans of rainy conditions, and we had brought an extra pair of shoes. It was the lightning and thunder that kept us moving and because the museum was free on Tuesdays!

It consisted mainly of paintings of cowboys and some Indians. The artists, like the paintings, were old and had experienced the frontier and its challenges. There were also occasional life-size replicas of a Wells Fargo wagon and chuck wagons, as well as statues of cowboys, horses and Indians. It evoked the proper feeling in us as temporary residents of San Antonio.

But what we had really come for, primarily, was the Riverwalk. The river slithered along the walk, and reminded me of a gigantic dirty snake. On it boatloads of tourists glided by each other as their guides explained the history of the bridges and buildings. Tourists eating outside their hotels waved at the boats and those in the boats would wave at the eaters. It was a friendly Texas scene. I did not see one “open carry” gun person in the two days we were there.

The river is not deep—about 5 feet in most places—so the guide explained to us later, when we took our own boat ride, that if we fell out to just “stand up”, although there was one area that it got to 15 feet, so the standing would be difficult. There was one life jacket on board and that was reserved for the guide.

The guides are acquainted with the history of the area, the building codes, the hotels (there are at least 10 of them along the walk, but 99 in the city), the cost of renovations, the names of the architects and owners and any other details that you might want to know but will never remember.

Over the river at certain intervals were arched stone or steel bridges from which tourists took pictures of us and we took pictures of them. We could also take pictures of the ducks, and other “special items of interest”. Our guides name was Fifugamanuentona, or something like that, and he was worth the tip that Mike gave him.

The next day we visited the Alamo (which, with reverence, I’ll skip for now) and San Jose, the mission of the Franciscans, named in part for the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo and founded in 1720. The mission was built to serve the Coahuiltecan Indians, who lasted about a century, and is now a UNESCO heritage site. It contains the largest colonial mission church in Texas, which is still actively used for worship (or used for active worship). However, for some reason, this Catholic mission is “closed on Easter”.

We spent a couple of hours at the mission, examining the structures, grounds and posters in some detail, with hundreds of photos to prove we have been there. There are also 18 reviews of the church on Google, with remarks like “enjoyable”, “awesome”, “beautiful” and “incredible”. I would add “impressive” and “tiring”. Our grandsons might add “old” and, perhaps, “boring”.

For lunch we went to one of the great BBQ places in Texas, the Big Bib, with “wood-smoked meats, hearty sides & classic desserts” at a “casual barbecue haunt”. We ate outside and had enough brisket left over to take some back to the hotel. Of course, the boys each drank about a gallon of Dr Pepper. Once in the car, I thought I heard two blasts from a truck passing by but it was only the boys belching.

I should mention the Contessa hotel again. The rooms were excellent and the side suite was well suited for Alissa. Joice and I slept in the giant king-sized bed. We were so far apart we had to send emails to talk to each other. We also had breakfast there—outside, with friendly birds and the river boat people to wave at. One went by with the people having their own meal on board (well really on table).

There was a swimming pool on the roof so the two boys tried to drown each other while “playing”, Kirsten read a book in between laps and Mike snoozed in the sun. It was the perfect vacation.

One of our evening meals was at a Mexican restaurant. Two Mexican guitar singers serenaded Alissa, who had her picture taken with them. We were stuffed with burritos, Jalapeno poppers, refried beans, Spanish rice, enchiladas, tortilla chips, chimichanga, fajitas and other dishes that I will not attempt to describe. After a few attempts at ordering, the waiters were able to understand Alissa.

In the evening a gigantic slideshow took place on what appeared to be the front of the Alamo. It was a whirlwind of images that portrayed the history of Texas and the people who were instrumental in allowing the slideshow to be created. The dazzling hodgepodge of images was accompanied by genres of music that representing both Mexico and current Texas. Watching it for five minutes, I got dizzy and sat down while a horde of Japanese tourists took turns trying not to step on me.

Leaving San Antonio for Waco, we stopped at Lulu’s bakery & café for a 3-pound cinnamon roll. It was as massive as it sounds and made one drip with sugar just to look at it. Even Mike had a nibble at it and I, feeling ill as I did so, swallowed some of the icing. It hit the lowermost part of my stomach with a thud and diffused into my arteries. I looked around at the rest of our party: Except for Mike, me, Joice and Alissa, everyone was indulging wildly—Cam and Evan had gobs of icing in their nostrils, Kirsten was oozing between her braces, and Karol was singing madly as she licked her hands. Goodbye Lulu!

All good vacations come quickly to an end and it looked like a rainy day going back to Waco. But somehow Mike and Karol, using their smartphones, took us the “back way” and we missed most of the storms. It had been a wonderful trip—no one got sick and the boys were so tired they didn’t care whose turn it was to sit in the center seat.

June, 2016
To and from San Antonio