Road Scholar 14419ENZ

I've driven through San Antonio several times in recent years, but it has probably been about 40 years since I've done any sight-seeing there.

Day 1, Sunday, Oct 28 Check-in/Registration/Orientation
For a short trip, I'll drive to the airport about 9:30 for a mid-day flight to San Antonio.

United UA 4509Houston - San Antonio12:47 P - 1:57 P1:10

On this flight, in the time between initial push-back and gate stop in San Antonio, we spent 2 minutes more taxiing or holding than in flight. ADVANCE RESERVATIONS were made 10/23 for shuttle to the hotel. Shuttle pickup is at 2:30, with arrival at the hotel about 3:00. Check in at the hotel begins at 3 with time to relax until registration at 4.

Our week begins at 5 with a "Dis-Orientation and Introduction" session at the Hotel. At that time, we pick up our packet which contains the week's itinerary, list of Road Scholar participants, our name tag, maps of San Antonio and Fredericksburg and brochures. The tour guide (Hector Cardenas) initiates a "Getting to Know You" session and discuss the role of Road Scholar, the coordinator, and tour guides, etc. regarding the programs. It's a relatively small herd of cattle on the trip - only 32 of us.

We were originally scheduled to have all our (hotel) meetings, presentations, and dinners in the "Alamo Room" but it got flooded in the recent rain storm and is totally closed off so we have all our activities in the "breakfast room". Tonight we have a catered dinner at the Crockett Hotel with an excellent fresh salad and really yucky lasagna. At least my hotel room is very nice (but with a very noisy a/c unit). Accommodations: The Crockett Hotel (D)

Note: in December, 2011, a housemaid fell down the elevator shaft and died. Hopefully the elevators are in better shape when we are there.

Day 2, Monday, Oct 29 Visit the Alamo and take a private barge cruise through the Riverwalk
The expected low temperature this morning is 42 but it's supposed to warm up to 72. A very basic "Continental Breakfast" (they don't even have cold water to drink and only a limited amount of orange juice) is included at the hotel each morning. This morning begins at 9 with an 18 step walk to the Alamo. Let's clarify that "18." Maybe it's only 18 (giant) steps from one corner of the hotel to the back entrance (not open to us) of the Alamo, but it's at least 250 steps around to the front.

An educational adventure awaits on these hallowed grounds. Tread softly in the shrine where David Crockett and other heroes died to create the Republic of Texas. Hear the Alamo story told under the six flags of Texas. See the Alamo video and Long Barracks Museum. The Alamo represents nearly three hundred years of human activity. On our visit to the grounds, a representative of the Alamo Education department gives a very good (excellent) presentation on the battle of the Alamo, reminding us of the sacrifices of a few that were made for many. Afterwards, a short, quick walk-through tour of the elegant historic Menger Hotel reveals stories of the many famous people who have stayed there. Learn about the close connection of this hotel and Teddy Roosevelt.

Enjoy lunch (a set lunch consisting of some unidentifiable soup and an almost hamless ham sandwich) at the Buckhorn Saloon, established in 1891, a true Texas treat (??) in the middle of downtown. "Belly up to the bar" (serve-yourself iced tea dispenser) in this old-fashioned saloon-turned-café. This is where it all started...where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders and Pancho Villa is rumored to have planned the Mexican Revolution. Many of the original furnishings still grace today's Buckhorn Saloon, including the back bar which was hand-crafted of marble and cherry wood. We then head back to the hotel where Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa, from the University of the Incarnate Word, presents "Destination Texas". Learn about Texas history and participate in a question and answer session. Its a truly excellent presentation.

We have some free time then in late afternoon, the tour takes us to the Riverwalk, where we board a private barge for a personal tour of the river. Sit in dis-comfort as we listen to not-so-"entertaining" narratives of the rich history of the San Antonio River and the historic Riverwalk area. Although the area is very nice, there is no chance to take any pictures. The barge conveniently unloads steps from the Zuni Grill, where dinner is served. Inspired by the flavors of the American Southwest, Zuni's menu offers two kinds (flavors) of chicken for everyone. (BLD)

Day 3, Tuesday, Oct 30 Tour the missions and the San Antonio Museum of Art
Leaving at 8:15 to continue on our journey of the Spanish influence on Texas culture, we tour two of San Antonio's five missions. Arrive via tour bus and step back in time at our Queen of the Missions, Mission San Jose. Built by Indian labor at the direction of Spanish artisans, view the meld of the New and Old World cultures. See the splendid church and the working gristmill in the guided tour. A video, "Gente de Razon" - "People of Reason," gives an overview of mission life. It's an excellent video.

Lunch is at the unforgettable Mi Tierra restaurant in "El Mercado" (Mexican Market). Here in the center of the Mexican Culture, discover a land of treasures, bright, bold and beautiful. Market Square... authentically Mexico and enriched with a fascinating legacy of public markets. Choose from the entire lunch menu at Mi Tierra; rice, beans, tacos, enchiladas, salads and more! Overly loud Mariachi music (if you can call it music rather than "noise") while we dine is sure to impress! It's a really nice meal - the best of the trip so far (and turns out to be the best meal of the trip)- and lots to eat.

After lunch, stay for shopping and possible seasonal entertainment in the market (no thanks) or tour San Fernando Cathedral. Built by Spanish citizens from the Canary Islands, it is the oldest active parish church in the United States. San Fernando Cathedral has always been at the center of San Antonio. It is a special place that occupies a unique position in this city and for the many visitors who come by the thousands every year. From its founding on March 9, 1731 by a group of 15 families who came from the Canary Islands at the invitation of King Phillip V of Spain, this church was planned to be at the center of the life of this city. Over 5,000 participate at weekend Masses each week of the year. Over 900 baptisms, 100 weddings, 100 funerals, and countless other services are performed each year. Symphonies, concerts, and television specials are but a few of the special events held in the cathedral regularly.

Later in the afternoon, visit the San Antonio Museum of Art. SAMA is dedicated solely to furthering its mission to promote a deeper understanding of human cultures, values and traditions by displaying and interpreting art works from all cultures and periods. At the conclusion of this tour, board the bus to the Boardwalk Bistro for dinner, a locally owned and operated restaurant featuring Mediterranean (seafood) cuisine in a friendly, informal ambience. Oops, it's a set menu of fish, so since I might not get more than bread and water, and I had a big lunch, I'll skip dinner - as I often do on some trips. (BLD)

Day 4, Wednesday, Oct 31 Take a chartered bus to the LBJ Ranch and hear live Texas music noise during a home cooked, "Steak Nite" dinner
After another morning snack, we board our bus at 8:15 and enjoy a drive to the famous Texas Hill Country. We start by visiting the LBJ ranch in Stonewall TX. The LBJ Ranch is the location of President Lyndon Johnson's birthplace, first school, ranch house, and final resting place. Few presidential sites give a better reflection of a president than this ranch which is a virtual portrait of a larger-than-life historical figure. The video, "LBJ's Texas" sets the mood before our tour. See if the white Continental is truly parked out back! (No it's inside in an enclosed area!) Then we travel on to Fredericksburg.

Lunch is on our own somewhere on Main Street or skip a meal. After lunch, anyone with an interest in World War II has the opportunity to visit one of the finest war museums in the United States. The National Museum of the Pacific War is the only institution in the continental United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific Theater battles of World War II. It's fantastic; I could have stayed here all day - and then some. Otherwise we (not me) are own our own until late afternoon to investigate the tourist-trap shops along the Main Street. That's all that is left there; all the regular shops were put out of business by WalMart.

After leaving Fredericksburg, we have a planned but unannounced stop in Luckenbach, what little there is of it, where Willie Nelson and others used to put on a big "Fourth of July" show. The nice, friendly LuckenCat even came out to meet us. Where we stopped there were more roosters than people. At least it was something "different."

For dinner, we enjoy a "Steak Nite" (horribly overdone - basically inedible, but the mashed potatoes were good) meal and music overly loud honky-tonk noise at the Waring General Store in Welfare, TX. Established in 1903, the "General Store" offers a unique setting. Don Strange purchased the general store in 1987 and "Steak Nite" was developed in 1997. There are plenty of dishes (your choice of chicken or overdone steak) for everyone. Then after we finally escape from the noise, we have a long drive and a late evening return to San Antonio arriving a bit before 9PM. (BD)

Also it's "All Hallows Eve" so I wonder if there will be anything extra. No - no sign of anything even in Luckenbach, Welfare, or elsewhere.

Day 5, Thursday, Nov 1 Institute of Texas Cultures and an 1859 flour mill
It's not exactly a "dark and stormy night;" instead "It's a foggy gray and gloomy morning …" After another "snackfest" we head out again about 9AM. Definitely no sweater needed today since it's supposed to get up in the upper 80s if the fog ever clears. Take a short walk to where we board a slight-seeing trolley to see part of town (barely in the fog) then take a guided tour of the Institute of Texas Cultures, the state's center for multicultural education which focuses on ethnic and cultural history. With more than 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Institute showcases the artifacts of more than twenty three major ethnic groups that formed the State of Texas. It's quite nice but didn't quite catch my interest as much as I had expected.

We take another trolley (by a round-about route due to street redestruction) then a walk for a few blocks to the King William Historic District where we have one of our nicer lunches at the historic Guenther House Restaurant on the site of the original 1859 flour mill on the banks of the San Antonio River. By the latter half of the 19th century, the King William Historic District had grown into a fashionable neighborhood popular with another large cultural demographic, the German immigrants. Also here we tour the Victorian home (very ho-hum) of Edward Steves, a notable German merchant. We were to have done a walk down a major street in the area but that was curtailed by the trolley problems. We go back to the hotel by 3 for some relief from the heat and high humidity.

This evening we have our (Surprise! Very good!) "Bon Voyage" BBQ Dinner (why "Voyage" - we're nowhere near the ocean nor going on a cruise) at Paesano's Riverwalk Restaurant - Oops it got revised, probably due to travel arrangements, to the Crockett Hotel. I did manage to get my boarding pass printed for tomorrow.(BLD)

Day 6, Friday, Nov 2 Visited by a "Cowboy" - Depart
It's another snack on another foggy morning. To end our week, we have a very short-changed morning: when a "Cowboy" from the Institute of Texan Cultures brings a collection of artifacts to the hotel. This is our opportunity to learn what the "Texas Cowboy" is all about. The presentation is over at 10. Adding insult to injury, the speaker was a substitute who had never done the presentation before, didn't know all the materials that were available, and made many errors in the information given. I noted some myself, andalso several statements that were very different from what the ITC on-site expert had said the day before.

I'm really disgusted that Road Scholar didn't include that ending time either in the documentation or when I talked to a RS representative on the phone since I booked a (very) late flight to make sure I have time for the program. I could have booked a much earlier flight. This means lots of wasted time. In effect, this entire day was a total waste. (VERY Much grumbling!!!)

Again I have an advance shuttle reservation to the airport. After sitting around for 4 hours, the shuttle pickup is at the hotel is at 2:00PM, arrival at the airport is 3:00 PM with plenty of time (three more hours) to waste, and/or get some junk food to eat.

United UA 426San Antonio - Houston5:50 P - 6:40 P0:50

I made it home by about 8:00 - fairly late. It could have been much earlier since there are almost hourly flights from San Antonio to Houston - if only Road Scholar had given decent information about the final day.

Selected pictures
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The Crockett Hotel 320 Bonham, San Antonio, TX, 210-225-6500. The hotel is centrally located in the heart of downtown, just 18 steps from the Alamo. The hotel stands where Davy Crockett once did and was carefully renovated in 1982 to preserve its original grandeur, earning it a place on the National Register of Historic Structures. In room movies, wireless Internet access. Rooms have been redecorated in soothing shades of sage, plantation shutters line the windows, custom made bedspreads. Complimentary Internet access.

Hector Cardenas, Group Leader After a 34-year career as a paramedic and firefighter for the San Antonio Fire Department, Hector Cardenas retired and began a second career sharing his love of his native city as a group leader. Hector continues to help San Antonio by serving on the boards of several community groups and commissions.