South Padre Island Beach

Best way to start the morning? Walk on the beach!
When it got a little lighter, we took the dogs out for a walk. Shorty loves to walk/run on the beach but he doesn't want to get in the water. Randy tried to show him it's OK, but Shorty wasn't buying it.
The forecast said it would be 78 degrees today - a great day to lay on the beach. Randy R. has a big truck and lots of experience driving here, so he took us out. This is the first place I recall where cars and trucks can drive along the beach, and it's a great way to get away from the crowds!
We found a nice spot, set up the awning, and set out the chairs. Before setting down, we all did a little shelling. Occasionally we would see a little lumps of hard black stuff on the beach; it's oil. Oil washed up here last March, although nobody knows where it came from. But there has been a lot of cleanup and it's not very noticeable; it only showed up when I dug my toes in the sand.
No problem, we were there to relax, so everyone got a chair and a good book and got busy! 
It was a fine, sunny day, and really windy. After a long afternoon on the beach we were so relaxed that we didn't go out for dinner. We went back to Kris's mom's place and had sandwiches and chips - a perfect ending to the day.

Looking around South Padre Island

Our morning on South Padre Island started with a walk on the beach. Then we joined our friends for breakfast at Pier 19. They are famous for their Texas Cinnamon Roll, so named because, like so much of Texas, it's super-sized!
There were 7 of us at breakfast and we still couldn't finish it! Of course, in my case that had something to do with the chocolate chip pancakes I ordered. To walk off some of that bounty, we went to the beach. We didn't exactly power-walk; it was more like a stroll, looking for shells. In the afternoon Kris drove her sister to the airport, and the guys when biking. I didn't do either of those, I just goofed off.

The beach here is hard enough to drive on, so after the guys got back, Randy R. drove us along the beach for about 5 miles. There has been some erosion here over the years, so there is an on-going effort to maintain the beach. In one area we could see the old rolls of hay that have been placed there to help trap the sand. 
Randy stopped the car so we could get out and walk up the larger dunes. So far, we love South Padre Island!


Arriving at South Padre Island

It's a pretty long drive from San Antonio to South Padre Island. We don't usually cover 320 miles a day in the RV any more, but this time it made sense to drive straight through. Fortunately the road was multi-lane the whole way. At the end of the drive we crossed a 2-mile bridge to check in at the Isla Blanca RV Park.
After hooking up the RV, we drove back to the mainland to meet up with Aaron and Randy. We sat on the back porch/deck, soaked up the sun, and visited. Soon Kris, her sister and her mom came home, and we all headed back to South Padre Island, where Louie's Backyard is located. Their buffet included ribs, blackened fish, baked potatoes, and several kinds of shrimp. They have crab legs, so of course I got a plateful of those. They have prime rib, so of course Randy got a lot of that. I didn't take any pictures because I was too busy eating. For dessert we had coupons for free 6-layer chocolate cake. I didn't take any pictures because I was still too busy. We all ate too much and rolled out the front door. At the front of the restaurant is a big, tall sand sculpture. That wasn't edible, so I did take a picture of it!

A quick visit

Today we had arranged to meet friends out in the country, at their RV. They are gate-guarding, which is something we tried to do in 2014. It didn't work out for us but John and Diane have been doing it, off and on, for several years. When Randy set this up, we planned on getting there around noon. But I was ready early today, and we had a lot of things to get done in the afternoon, and it's 120 miles to their place, so we left early and arrived at 10:30. And discovered that 10:30 was a terrible time to visit! John was right in the middle of his sleeping hours and Diane was very, very busy, recording every vehicle that goes in or out of the gate! And there was a lot of traffic today; right after we arrived, a group of 5 or 6 trucks came in, and it continued like that the whole time we were there.

So we visited for just a few minutes. Diane told us about their current job, and how much they like their new RV. We have sometimes wondered if we would really like gate-guarding, but there is no doubt it suits them to a T. Diane is creating her own Disney animal family here; she has half-tame deer, rabbits and lots of birds, including this road runner who takes treats from her hand. 
As we got ready to go, Diane woke John up, just for the pleasure of saying goodbye to us! They were great sports about our poorly-timed visit; hopefully the next one will be better coordinated!




Austin

Today we went to Austin to see the Capitol building. The first thing we learned was that there are a lot of homeless people near the Capitol. The second thing we learned is that it's tough to get a parking spot. 

But we found one, fed the meter, and walked a couple of blocks to the Capitol. The view as we walked up the stairs is scenic as all get out. The building is topped with a big statue, which makes the Texas Capitol building taller than the US Capitol building. Good ol' Texas, got to be the biggest in everything!
That beautiful dome is 266 feet up. The star in the very center is 8 feet wide, and the letters around it spell out "Texas". Like there could be any mistake!
Marla had pointed out that Texans love to display their state star, flag and/or name. Boy, is she right! Here even the door hinges proclaim the state name. These are the fanciest door hinges I've ever seen, and each one weighs 8 pounds. 
And in the Senate and Representative rooms, the overhead lights are shaped like the Star of Texas, and the lights in them spell out Texas. 
We were just in time to take a tour. I learned that Texas was an independent territory republic for 9 years, between gaining independence from Spain and joining the Union. 

I learned that after President General Antonio L√≥pez de Santa Anna wiped out Texas defenders at the Alamo and again at Goliad, he lost everything in an 18 minute battle at San Jacinto. 

I learned that the original Capitol building was built without using any public funds or taxes. They just traded 3 million acres for the $3.7 million needed.  

And I learned that the collective photos of the Senate historically include several children. The children don't have any duties, of course, it's just something they have done here for several decades.  
I found another example government's odd way of doing things. On the three levels of the rotunda, they hang the portraits of Texas governors. The most recent portraits are on the first floor; from there the portraits go back in history, filling the first and second story, and most of the third. Currently there is room for six more portraits on the third floor. And every time they get a new governor, they move each and every portrait over one position, to hang the new one in the first space. 

But they did show some sense when it came time to expand the Capitol. In order to preserve the beauty of the building, they built their 4 story addition behind the old building and underground. The skylight at top level of the addition is level with the ground.  
We wanted to each lunch in Austin and asked our docent for suggestions. Her list included the Capitol Cafe, so we decided to eat there. I ordered a baked potato that was supposed to come with veggies on top. I sweet-talked the server into topping it with pulled pork instead. I know how to eat a baked potato!
Before we left Austin we walked over to see a beautiful nearby church. It's the St. Mary Cathedral, built in the 1890s. Love the bell tower! (Thanks to Wikipedia for the pic, I couldn't get the whole thing in frame)
File:Saint Marys Cathedral Austin Texas.jpg
And inside it's just as wonderful. Even the roof supports are beautifully designed and executed. 
There are breathtaking stained glass windows everywhere. The most colorful one is in front, over the altar.
Tall stained glass windows line both walls. I thought the one of St. Cecilia was particularly sweet. 
And what an amazing Rose Window! This beauty was pretty much obscured by the organ until 1977; who could cover this?
That was enough of Austin for one day; we drove back home and got ready to go to Marla's for dinner. Randy wanted to make breakfast for dinner: bacon and eggs, sausage and waffles. As always, I ate too much!

A day in San Antonio

You know you are in Texas when:
Today is was chilly and overcast. It could have been a good day to stay in, but it was a better day to go out with friends. Randy, Kris and Aaron stopped here last night, on their way south. This morning we had breakfast together at Mi Casa in Sequin, then headed to downtown San Antonio. 

We walked along Riverwalk, taking in the sights and catching up. I asked them to pose at one of those sights - a big goofy head. Not conducive to serious photography!
We walked up some stairs into La Villita, a group of about 30 small artsy shops. But soon it became apparent that we wanted to do a lot more talking than shopping, so as soon as there was a break in the rain we went back to Riverwalk, got a table under an awning, ordered appetizers, and settled down to talk...mostly about food!

Next we decided to go to the Alamo. We've all been there it before, but it is definitely worth visiting again. This place touches me.
I am always surprised how small it is. It's tall inside, though, because there is only one story. The large main room is flanked on both sides by smaller rooms. Long ago women and children huddled here, waiting for the fighting to end. There is a poignant display of one of Davy Crockett's old buckskin vests, decorated with beading in the shape of flowers. Many items here, like Davy Crockett's rifle and fringed shot pouch, and Jim Bowie's knife, are donations from rocker Phil Collin's personal collection.  I guess the story of the Alamo intrigues people everywhere.

We had a great time today, but all good things come to an end. Our friends left to continue their journey and we went home to let our doggies out.

Uncle Randy

Randy is a great uncle, and in Liam's case, a great Great-uncle. His style of carrying his Great-nephew is a bit unusual . . .
but Liam seems to love his Uncle Randy an awful lot. 

Old Mexico in San Antonio

It rained early this morning but cleared up by 10, so we went to the Mexican Flea Market in downtown San Antonio. And discovered that it's not a flea market at all, it's an enclosed shopping district. Not what we were hoping for, but since we were there, we went through all the stores. Outside of one was a memorial of sorts for deceased loved ones. 
There were some nice things for sale, but most of the stores all had the same stuff. We probably enjoyed the bakery as much as anything. They had a big selection of goodies, and the ceiling was full of pretty decorations.
Across the street from the Market is a Salvation Army outlet with a really nice mural on the outside. Never saw one decorated like this before!
A map showed us that the old Spanish Governor's palace was within easy walking distance, just a couple of blocks, so we went to see that. 
At least one part of the building is from 1722, although more rooms were added on as the years went by. Crowned double eagles are an important motif here; they are carved on the top of a wooden chest, on the back of the patio bench, and over the main door.
 
When I see something like this place, I always think of the old Zorro TV show, where the Comandante issued orders to his sergeant or caballeros entertained guests.
But they would have been short caballeros.
But for once I wasn't really interested in the story of the place, I just love the look of it so much. Personally, finding places like this is why I love to travel.

Walking Riverwalk

Today was overcast with moderate temperatures; a good day to go to Riverwalk. We were there in January of 2012, but we didn't spend much time there because the Alamo had our attention. This time we wanted to see more of it. 

Since Randy had already fixed breakfast for us - french toast, eggs and fried gyro - we were not ready for lunch yet. So we walked half of the U-shaped shopping/restaurant district, then turned right into a quieter area. 
It was about 1 mile to the small lock-and-dam that regulates the water level. The tour boats that go through here have to wait for the water level to change before continuing. 
This part of the Riverwalk is a great place to exercise. Not only are all the walkways paved, but the scenery is attractive, like this pretty little waterfall.
In one area the builders paid tribute to past workers by preserving old tools in the concrete.
Eventually we had to walk up to street level to continue. There we found the beautiful red sandstone Bexar County Courthouse. Love the detail in these old buildings; this one was built in the 1890s.
When we went back down to the river level, we saw another kind of boat on the water. This one has arms on both sides that spread out or fold in. Each arm has 6 nets that drag through the water. This thing is picking up all the liter that messy people drop!
Nearby is a large sculpture of a Vaquero herding some lively cattle. 
We never saw any fish in the water, but there were lots of squirrels running around. And lots of birds - ducks, sparrows, blackbirds, and at least one white chicken. 

By the time we got back to the restaurant district, we were hungry. We got burgers and fries at Lone Star Cafe; OK, but not something we will hurry back to. We sat on the upper level patio, and the nearby trees were full of pigeons, sparrows and blackbirds who, in spite of signs saying otherwise, expected to be fed. This couple were attentive, but when they weren't staring at our food, they were cuddling together. They were very affectionate - this was the first time I've seen pigeons mate!