Saturday, March 24, 2012

Getting Ready for the Road

This is the time of year when we prepare our rolling home for another season of travel and exploration, and as a result I haven’t posted for a while.  As I write this, Brenda is back in Ohio visiting her mom, now 93 and still going strong (if you don’t believe it, just ask her opinion on something…anything!).  I’ve been busy fixing all of the irritating things that break in any home, and taking care of preventative maintenance for our travels and what I assume will be rainy weather for a few months in Oregon. 
We left the “Coastal Bend” of Texas last month and are now back in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston’s “family campground”.  We’re glad we visited the coast, the number and variety of shorebirds was amazing and the weather was warm, but we’ve crossed that part of the country off of our checklist.  Except for a few select areas, it’s not particularly scenic, the wind and high humidity are ever-present, and there’s just too many old snowbirds crowding into the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Well, older than us.  By maybe a little.  It’s amazing though, to look at the license plates as you walk through a parking lot in Rockport.  5th-wheel hauling pickup trucks from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and other northern states outnumber the Texas vehicles, and don’t even try to get into a restaurant unless you’re ready for a wait (full time RVers don’t like to cook – it heats up the RV!). 
So now we’re on Fort Sam Houston, correctly referred to as “Joint Base San Antonio” under the newest cost-savings idea of consolidating all of the military installations in the area. Fort Sam Travel Camp The park is very nice, with concrete pads and patios, lots of manicured grass, and trains that run all night serenading us with their horns.  But overall it’s a nice park, and the location, almost in the center of San Antonio, gives us easy access to the surrounding area.  Fort Sam Houston is an immense post - it is now the consolidated medical treatment facility for the San Antonio area and the central training facility for all medical training in the Department of Defense.  Over $10 Billion and 10,000 additional personnel have made this a mid-sized city in itself.  Sitting in the PX “food court”, you’re surrounded by young men and women in Army, Navy, and Air Force uniforms, all very painfully young.  Taking a drive through the base after school hours will put you in an area of city-block sized dormitories with thousands of young people, cell phones glued to ears, relaxing after a day of instruction.  It’s a busy place…sometimes after watching all of the activity I have to go home and take a nap.
Old HospitalAlthough much of the Fort is new construction, there are still many buildings that reflect the post’s long history.  The old hospital, housing, and barracks are still in use, although the hospital and barracks now house administrative offices.  You can see what the new hospital looks like here.

Fort Sam Historic Housing
Old Barracks
We’ve taken a break or two while we’ve been here and have visited some of our favorite places.  The Riverwalk has been on our list, but each time we’ve driven downtown the traffic and crowds have discouraged us from visiting, so we’ll put it off for later.  One of our favorite restaurants, Casbeer’s at the Church” has closed – it was our favorite place for Sunday brunch.  Housed in a 100-year old church, the brunch was accompanied by “Miss Neesie and the Earfood Gospel Orchestra”, a terrific group that played the blues and gospel music.  It’s a tough business with all of the restaurant choices downtown, but we’ll miss this place for it was one of a kind.  After all, where else could you have a Thanksgiving buffet and watch “Alice’s Restaurant” while sitting in a pew eating pumpkin pie?
One interesting place that we’ve visited was the Japanese Tea Gardens, not exactly a place that you’d think of in San Antonio. Japanese Tea Garden Entrance It was a surprisingly beautiful and serene place to visit; many varieties of colorful flowers, interesting landscaping, and multi-colored Koi made this a worthwhile visit.  Having lived in Tokyo, it falls far short of the real thing (in Japan, every inch of the tea garden would be meticulously developed and manicured), but we still admired the work that went into developing this lovely place.  Outside the gardens we came across this Double-crested Cormorant, probably waiting for an opportunity to sample some of the Koi once the people left.

Japanese Tea Garden2
Koi & CootersSan Antonio Park CormorantWe’ll be leaving here at the end of the month for a week-long trip to Tucson to meet our daughter and her husband.  From there, we’ll be working our way slowly to Oregon, where we’ll be spending the summer volunteering at another of the great state parks, teaching the “Junior Rangers” and giving talks and tours.  This is, for us, the fun part of the year, as we look forward to another summer of new places, new adventures, and new friends.  Please stop back, we’ll keep you posted on what we’re up to!