San Antonio: A Quickie Visit

Sunday, 7 September 2014
Gulf Waters RV Resort  — Port Aransas, Texas
Temps: Hi 86F (30C) / LO 81F (27C)

When I ended my previous post saying I hoped to have some interesting stuff to share from our daytrip to San Antonio, I didn’t envision it would include having a flat!  Unfortunately, that’s how our daytrip-turned-weekend getaway started.

The good news is that it was the toad that had a flat tire, not the Phaeton, which sat out the short trip!

Luckily, we have cloth seats!

So, to begin the story of our weekend …

Saturday, 6 September

As planned, we were on the road to San Antonio shortly after 7:30a.  The 179-mile (286 km) drive started out smoothly.  We crossed over from Padre Island to the mainland; drove through Corpus Christi.  All A-OK.  Then, as we were approaching the I-37 junction, the noise started — a phlap-phlap-phlap coming from the rear of the car.  At first we attributed the noise to the seams on the highway, but we pulled over anyway to make sure.  Not road noise!  The rear driver-side tire had gone flat!!!  We must have had a slow air leak that finally gave way.  Luckily, we had all the necessary gear and a full-size spare.  Within 20 minutes Mui had the flat replaced and we were on our way again.

An unexpected delay, but with the tire replaced, we’re on the road quickly enough.

The remainder of the drive went by quickly enough and around 11:00a, we were at San Antonio International Airport (SAT) to take care of the primary reason for our trip.

Are we at SAT to catch a flight or meet incoming passengers?  Nope, Neither!

With our frequent overseas travels requiring flights hither and thither, we recently decided to sign up for Global Entry.  This is a US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) program that “… allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.”  Reading up on it further, we figured the $100 pp fee — good for five years — would be worth it … especially since having a trusted traveler number would also qualify us for the TSA PreCheck program and give us expedited airport screening privileges at TSA checkpoints.

We submitted our application online on 21 August and sat back to wait as we had read that it took a while to get invited for the final, in-person interview.  Imagine our surprise when four days later we received our invites.  The enrollment centers in Houston didn’t have any appointments until November, so we checked the online calendar for San Antonio and found two consecutive appointments for 6 September at SAT.  Cool!

Following the directions in the letter of invitation, we found the GOES office at the SAT baggage claim area.  We were prepared to wait until noon, but the CBP agent was able to fit us in early.  We would have been in and out in the 15 minutes allotted for each appointment, but Mui’s background with DHS led to lots of laughter and chit-chat, so linking our passports with the program and getting fingerprinted took a little longer.  No problem; not like we had anywhere special to be in the middle of a hot afternoon … other than Costco to get the flat taken care of.

The original tires for the toad had been installed at Costco in 2011 and came with a warranty.  The good news — they were able to take the toad into a service bay immediately.  The bad news — our existing tires were discontinued, so they would have to give us tires with a different tread.  But they pro-rated the flat and gave us a free tire to boot, so for about $50 we got the problem resolved to our satisfaction.

Once we were done at Costco — of course we did some shopping while waiting for the work on the toad to be completed — we drove to our hotel.  We had decided to turn our daytrip into a weekend getaway, and had booked last minute via Priceline.  Our bid was accepted by the Marriott Plaza San Antonio — just a five-minute walk from the city’s famed River Walk.  In the “it’s a small world” category, we were checked in by one of two Turks working the front desk.

Room 108 @ the Marriott Plaza San Antonio.

The ground floor room made it easy to bring in our groceries — a bit of a pain, but better than leaving everything in the car on a 95F (35C) afternoon.  It didn’t take long for us to be back out for a quick trip to REI to purchase new hiking boots and a few other accoutrements for our winter travels overseas.  Unfortunately, we got stuck in rush-hour/construction traffic on the way back, so I had to call and let Susan and Bob (of Travel Bug fame) know that we were going to be about ½-hour late meeting them for dinner — thanks for being so understanding, guys.

The Travel Bug people meet the Two to Travel people … for a second time.

We met Susan and Bob in person for the first time in January when they came down from San Antonio to Corpus Christi to do a 10K Volksmarch with us and Faye, another RVer who was at GWRVR at the time (post here).  We all hit it off — seems par for the course with RVers.  So, when we scheduled our appointment at GOES, I dropped Susan a note suggesting we have dinner somewhere on the River Walk.  She was quick to reply and suggested Iron Cactus, which, as it turns out, was Mui’s first choice as well.

A first time dining experience for all … and we agreed that it was a good one.

From the way the conversation and laughter picked up immediately, you’d think we’d last seen each other just days before and not months ago.  Add to that some sangria and good food — Yucatan fish tacos, served with a lime butter sauce and mango salsa, for me; chipotle glazed salmon, topped with a black bean corn relish and served with cilantro lime rice, for Mui — and a couple of sweet endings, and it should come as no surprise that a good evening was had by all.

Mui: Tres Leches, a traditional Mexican cake soaked in three milks & topped with whipped cream.
Erin: Mexican Ibarra chocolate mousse served in a crispy cinnamon tortilla bowl.

After dinner, we strolled over to San Fernando Cathedral with the intent of seeing a unique art installation that was to have been projected on the façade of the building.  We were at the right place at the right time.  Even the lights illuminating the façade of the church went off as scheduled just before 9:00p.  But the light and sound installation was a “no show.”  Disappointed, we finally gave up shortly after 9:30p when the second show was to have started.  Having since checked out the website, we will make every attempt to see The Saga when we return to San Antonio for a longer visit in November.

Capture

One of the scenes we would have seen had the show not been a “no show.”

Susan and Bob walked us back to the River Walk before we bid adios … until next time.  A leisurely stroll along the promenade returned us to our hotel for a good night’s rest and a surprise — a “goody platter” of nuts, apples, and chocolate … compliments of Doğan and Çağlayan, the Turkish guys at the front desk.

Today … 7 September

We were up at 7:00a, hoping to beat the heat for our short walk to the Shrine of Texas Liberty — as the Alamo is oft described.  We didn’t succeed.  It was already hot and humid when we left our room at 8:00a — much too hot to be out sightseeing in my book.  A quick look-see at the façade of what was once the Spanish Mission of San Antonio de Valero; a couple of quick snapshots of the nearby Alamo Cenotaph … and we called our sightseeing quits.  We’ll be visiting these places again when we return to San Antonio in cooler weather, so just a few introductory photos for now.

The 1836 Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution.

The Alamo Cenotaph is also known as the Spirit of Sacrifice.  The marker reads:
in Memory of the Heroes who sacrificed their lives at the Alamo, March 6, 1836 in
the defense of Texas.  “They chose never to surrender nor retreat; these brave
hearts, with flag still proudly waving, perished in the flames of immortality
that their high sacrifice might lead to the founding of this Texas.”

We decided to return to the hotel via the River Walk, hoping to find a place to have breakfast along the way.  The promenade was quiet, with only a few places open for business — quite a change from last night.

Terraced garden along the River Walk.

Reflections galore on the river … we’re headed to The Original,
a Mexican restaurant and bar, at the foot of the bridge in the distance.

The food at The Original was decent, but the portions were oversized.  Should have guessed they would be that way and ordered only one breakfast to share.  Mui’s Chorizo con Huevo (scrambled eggs mixed with spicy Mexican sausage, served with refried beans and potatoes) was the better of the two dishes we ordered.

Breakfast by the river, in the …

… company of geese and ducks begging for handouts.  Plenty of fish in the water, too!

This poor goose has a deformed neck; I admit, I fed him some of my pancakes.

Tummies full, we continued our walk along the river promenade, stopping a few times to take a couple more photos.  Eventually, we made it back to to the hotel to check out and head home.

How can I not stop when there are colorful reflections to be photographed.

Boats like this one were doing brisk business last night.

Rosita’s Bridge
dedicated to Rosita Fernandez, “singer of songs which have helped to build the bridge
of understanding for the many cultures that make San Antonio a great place to live …”

The return drive to Port Aransas was uneventful.  Before crossing back over to Padre Island, we stopped — or rather, tried to stop — at NAS Corpus Christi to buy a few things from the commissary.  But when we arrived at the entrance to the base, we found it blocked across all lanes.  Looked like there was some work being done at the gate.  With no alternate directions to get aboard the base, we turned around to shop at Walmart instead, stopping en route at the Corner Bakery for lunch.  By 3:00p, we were at home, putting the groceries away and talking about what we might do in San Antonio the next time we go up that way.

Stranded on the Beach

Thursday, 4 September 2014
Gulf Waters RV Resort  — Port Aransas, Texas
Temps: Hi 89F (32C) / LO 82F (28C)

This morning we headed out for our morning exercise as usual … speed-walking around the resort.  I don’t usually take my camera with me, but I did so today as there was some nice morning color in the sky.

By the time we arrived at the boardwalk, the deep colors of sunrise were gone.  Oh well … the camera came in handy for capturing something else.

Reflection of the sun’s rays lights up a patch of clouds.

By something else, I don’t mean the seaweed that continues to plague the beach, although I took some photos of it anyway.  I understand from the locals that the amount of seaweed on the beach this year isn’t normal.  We had quite a bit of it washing ashore earlier in the season.  At one point, it got so bad that there was mound after seaweed mound piled up all along the six-mile (10 km) length of the beach.  Then we went away on vacation and when we returned the seaweed seemed to have lessened considerably, with just a narrow strip of it at the water’s edge.  Well, that changed again this week.

The storm surge from Dolly not only brought large quantities of
seaweed ashore, but also pushed it much further up the beach at high tide.

Just a narrow segment of the beach near the dunes is seaweed-free and drivable.

Beach Morning Glory covers the dunes.

All we can do at the present is hope that as the weather turns cooler, the seaweed will disappear.

Now for the “stranded” piece of this post.

Just as we were about to resume our exercise walk, our eye was caught by something about 2/10ths of a mile from the GWRVR boardwalk.  Peering through the sea mist, we realized it was a trailer.  Nothing really unusual about that — we’ve seen lots of RVs of different shapes and sizes camping on the beach here.  Except that this one was perilously close to the water, and it actually looked like it was partially submerged.

We quick-stepped our way down the beach to make sure no one was inside the trailer.  It was abandoned … no hitch that we could see; the windows open; no one responding to our calls.

We have no idea what the story behind the trailer is.  When we returned to the beach in the early evening, it was gone.  A couple we spoke to told us that the trailer had been on the beach for several days, and was towed away mid-afternoon.  A mystery unsolved … for us.

To end this post on a happier note … one last scene from this morning’s walk.

We have a daytrip scheduled to San Antonio this weekend … perhaps I’ll come back with some interesting stuff to share ;-)

A Contortionist Moved in Next Door

Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Gulf Waters RV Resort  — Port Aransas, Texas
Temps: Hi 90F (32C) / LO 80F (27C)

A highly-skilled contortionist moved flew into the neighboring pad today!  I promised myself that I would not take any more Great Blue Heron photos while we’re here, but I couldn’t resist when it started putting on a show ;-)

This GBH is a frequent-visitor at our pond.  Recently, it has taken to flying into the site next door, which has been empty for two weeks.  It seems to like perching on the windbreak in the BBQ area, probably because the wall provides a high vantage point from which to scrutinize the fish-action in the pond.  It’s quite habituated, and if you approach slowly, you can get quite close without scaring it off.  I opted to leave it in peace to groom itself after a sudden downpour, and used my Canon SX50 for zoom captures from the edge of our pad!

Now if only the Snowy Egret would be as cooperative!