Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas in San Antonio

It's an unusually cool and rainy day here; a good time to catch up the blog. I'm sitting here in the motorhome, our 3-foot tall Christmas tree surrounded by presents and glowing brightly, holiday shows on the TV, and enjoying a cup of coffee. Brenda's finishing up a marvelous coconut macaroon cheesecake, and the cat is sleeping (big surprise). We're getting close to moving again, but before we do we'd like to share our travels here in San Antonio. As usual, our trips are defined by restaurants; here in San Antonio our favorite for lunch is Schilo's, a downtown deli for over 80 years that is listed in the Mobile guide and voted one of San Antonio's 10 best. It's an old building with old furniture and a great German menu. Brats, wurst, rye bread, and home made pea soup....with homemade root beer; all for under 10 bucks. If you travel to the Rivercenter Mall, look it up, it's right across the street. Another of our favorites is Rudy's Bar-B-Que, a local chain where you order your ribs by the pound. Great stuff, and cheap! In between eating, we managed to visit a few places also. After visiting the Alamo again, we decided to explore another of the "chain of missions" that follow the San Antonio river south. The largest, Mission San Jose, has a great visitor center and has been restored to its original size and condition. Since the perimeter wall is the same size as the Alamo's was, (about a city block) it's easy to see how it would be impossible to defend with less than 300 men.  We thought it interesting that a Catholic mission, still in use, is managed by the US Park Service, a government agency. Also interesting was the granary, a reproduction of the original water-driven mill. The Spanish missionaries and soldiers would not eat corn flour, so the mill only ground wheat for their bread, and the millstones (still in use) were imported from France. So we end up with a stone from France grinding wheat for their enemy the Spanish in a country where everyone eats corn.
Brenda's love of animals always makes the local zoo a "must see", and the San Antonio zoo is one of the best we've been to. It helped that it was a marvelous day, high 70s and sunny; and with everyone else out shopping we had the place to ourselves.


The highlight of our visit was when a Lory decided that Brenda's hair would make a good nest and decided to make itself at home. It would have been interesting if she could have brought her new "hat" home and let the cat have a look, assuming it could stay awake long enough to notice.
Somehow we're always too busy to see all the sights on our list and have to move on, so after a Christmas Eve dinner (Brenda's making Zele and Knedlicky - Roast pork and potato dumplings for you non-bohemians) with our full-time friends Dennis and Ann, and a Christmas Day dinner with our friends Tom and Janet  we'll be heading west. Thank you all for the holiday wishes, we feel so lucky to have so many friends in so many places. We wish you all the best this year and next, and hope that like us, you can live your dream. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bye-Bye Brazoria

Sad to say, we left the Brazoria refuge after a little over three weeks of battling mosquitoes and being kept prisoners in our motor home. While we were told by the volunteer coordinator to expect mosquitoes, we weren't prepared to deal with the huge numbers day and night. Because the volunteer RV park was located on the refuge and near the water, the nasty bugs swarmed around us continually.....let me take you to a typical night returning to the coach: 1) I get out of car, make mad dash to unlock coach door; 2) I pick up can of mosquito fogger and create "fog corridor" from door to Brenda's door on car; 3) Brenda and I make mad dash back to coach spraying madly as we go; 4) once inside, we spend another hour tracking down bugs that followed us inside (the Dustbuster vacuum works great!). Along with the mosquitoes, the area was infested with fire ants, venomous snakes (saw two rattlesnakes), and, of course, alligators. All in all, it wasn't enjoyable and while the people were great to work with, we realized that we were not enjoying ourselves any longer, and so, after 88 volunteer hours each, we advised them that we were going to move on. They were gracious and understanding; I'm sure this happens often in such a hostile environment. I knew I was in trouble when these two vultures kept following me around every day waiting for the blood loss to slow me down. We have the greatest respect for the US F&W staff that work everyday under these conditions; but the difference is that they went home to a relatively bug-fee area each night. We wish them well but have learned a valuable lesson - do more research on an area that we're interested in visiting.
We're now in San Antonio at a nice park that we stayed at last year. It's conveniently located near I-35 and the "loop", and we're only 15 miles to the Riverwalk, one of our favorite places to visit. Here we met with our friends Trixie and Bob, who are on their shakedown cruise of a new motorhome. We spent a wonderful evening at a riverwalk restaurant during the annual lighting ceremony and Xmas parade. Our table overlooked the river and gave us a great (and relaxing) view of the events while wearing our stylish Santa hats. We were especially happy to be sitting down since over 150,000 people crowded the downtown area for the event. The downtown area and Riverwalk are magical places during the Xmas season; lights decorate the trees, luminaries line the sidewalks, and boats of Xmas carolers travel up and down the river. Being able to enjoy it wearing a short -sleeve shirt is an added bonus! We'll be spend a month here, and are looking forward to exploring more of the area and seeing old friends. Thanks for tuning in and enjoy the holiday season!