I have been to at least 16 US states (and raced in 10 of them) and Texas is by far one of my favorites so far.
They really do love their state, and not in an obnoxious way. No, they welcome you with open arms, are thrilled you want to visit their great state and want you to love it just as much as they do. I mean, where else is it standard in hotels for the waffle machine to be shaped as the state?
I must also say that my trip was as special as it was no doubt due to my good friend Jen (who I met through Twitter – @jenkirk72). She drove all the way from the other side of Dallas (6ish hour drive) to spend the weekend here with me. This, the weekend before her first marathon!! I will forever be grateful to her.
But let me go back to the beginning. I flew out last Thursday morning…the start was a little frustrating when, as per what is becoming usual, there were not enough agents at United’s check-in…in fact, there were none.
But eventually they showed up and I got through security with relative ease (my suitcase was one of the lucky ones selected by the TSA to be searched and the only thing that I could tell had been fully examined (no, not my evil foam roller – yes, I packed it!) but the jar of REAL Canadian Maple Syrup that I brought for my friend Jen).
While waiting at my gate in Ottawa, I saw this woman walking around (keep in mind this part of the airport is TINY) with walking poles – that alone caught my attention. Then I saw her doing this:
Yeah, that’s normal. Not. And then I caught this (I so wanted to tell the guy with the beard to turn around to catch the show I was seeing!)
I flew through Washington (Dulles) where I met a nice Pediatrician flying to San Antonio as well (but for a conference, not the race). We talked shop and then shared a cab to our hotels (within a block of each other). See? It helps to be a Chatty Cathy sometimes!!
I checked into my hotel (the Crockett Hotel – would recommend it) and then ventured out for some dinner. In my preparations for this trip, people kept talking about this Riverwalk. I live in a city with incredible paths along the canal so I really didn’t even consider that I would impressed by this Riverwalk. Ha. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In search of food, I went down to the river, chose a restaurant (Tex-Mex – duh!)), was seated next to the water and left to peruse the menu. But I was completely distracted by the beauty that surrounded me (and the fact that I was wearing flip flops in December!).
The next morning I set out first thing to see the famous Alamo. Because I don’t learn well by just reading museum type signs, I paid for an audiotour – and because I was there so early, I had the place almost to myself.
I watched a movie while on my tour and was both taken with the history AND the woman (clearly a Texan) who was emphatically nodding her head throughout as though her own brother had been killed in the battle. To be honest, I knew very little about the history between the various explorers and colonialists here, so this was a great intro for me BUT, overall, the Alamo itself was disappointing.
After that I got myself on a doubledecker bus tour of the city…
It was an informative tour with set stops you could hop on and off but I chose to stay on and visit spots that caught my interest, later, at my leisure. One thing that had me really amused was we had a tour guide speaking as we drove around the city, but in between talking points, rather than allowing us to sit in silence and enjoy the trip…
Cracked me up.
After the tour I went to the expo to get my race packet and see if there were any fun little things to buy…does the Garmin 620 count as fun and little?
NOT what I was planning to do this weekend, but it was discounted by around $70 for the expo and since I had been planning to buy it (in the next 6 months), I went ahead and pulled the trigger. Stay tuned for my entrance into nerdville with all the data I can now gather and analyze!! First however, I need to figure out how to charge it and turn it on! Lol
I had some lunch (Tex Mex) and found myself a quiet table along the Riverwalk and ordered myself a drink…
It was truly like paradise and I was basking in how lucky I was at that moment…until a mariachi band showed up and “entertained” the table to my right. I thoroughly averted my gaze when they slowed at my table. I like those bands…from a distance…like across the river!
Finally, it was the moment that I had been most looking forward to – meeting Jen, in person!! She is just as fun and friendly as I have made her to be in my head through our numerous messages back and forth over the last few months…well, almost the same. I hadn’t fully imagined her accent. And IT. IS. AWESOME. I, of course, have no accent.
We had a drink (no mariachi band this time) and then went back to the hotel to get changed for dinner. We ate at, you got it, a restaurant specializing in Tex-Mex, along the Riverwalk and then went on a boat cruise along the river (yes, I know I’m obsessed with this River!).
And, just in case you wanted to know what it was like being on the boat…LOL
It was awesome – I was so fortunate to be there at this time of year with all the Xmas lights!! But I’ll tell you, we got a DUD of a tour guide. Jen was much kinder to him in her blog, but I will tell you the full truth. He sucked. But it’s ok, the lights were spectacular!!
The whole time I was there, my brain struggled with seeing Xmas decorations/trees and hearing xmas music with no snow and warm temps. It just doesn’t compute with my Canadian brain.
On Saturday, Jen suggested we go out to the San Antonio Missions. This is why I travel to races so I was totally game for a chance to learn more about the history of a place, but this was even better than I expected. We first watched a movie at the visitors’ centre (which I will say is top notch) and it gave me some more necessary basics for me to understand what I was about to be shown.
Our first stop was Mission Concepcion.
We then moved onto Mission San Jose. Some of these structures are almost completely original from the 1700s, others have had reconstruction, but it has all, for the most part, been reconstructed to look as it originally did. And, if you are lucky enough, you will get this incredible tour guide:
Jonathan is a park ranger who is dedicated to preserving what is here and sharing the information of the past so that we can learn to be better people and not make the same mistakes that were made in history. He literally brought to life, life living in one of these missions almost 300 years ago. Which, to be honest, was not ideal.
The Missions are a must see in San Antonio.
Once finished at the Missions, we were starving so we grabbed quick food at Fuddruckers (I had never been to this chain). Jen had a chicken salad while I had a bacon cheeseburger with guacamole – I wanted to drizzle on some liquid cheese from the dispenser but Jen doesn’t know me THAT well yet and I feared she was already concerned with the amount of food I shovel into my mouth!! And yes, this is the day before my race. Lol!
We went back to our hotel for a short rest and then we got on the road and headed to Gruene (pronounced Green) – another place I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience if it weren’t for Jen!!
She had warned me that their dance hall was HUGELY popular and drew crowds, but we were still shocked when we could barely make it into town because of the traffic. After miraculously finding a place to park, we learned that it was the Lighting of the Town that night and everyone and their aunt from a 30 mile radius had descended upon Gruene!
We poked around in a few of the antique/souvenir stores…
and then headed to the Gristmill River Restaurant. What an absolutely breathtaking place. Another must see. And the pictures just don’t do it justice – including the view that my camera just couldn’t capture and so isn’t here.
I’ll recount the race in tomorrow’s post (as I’m sure you need a break from my Texas rambling!!) – which will include the celebrity who shook my hand and congratulated me as I crossed the finish line and the “interesting” people I met as I traveled home. But I want to leave you with some Texas gems…
You can tell me if this is normal in your town, but this is not normal here. Pretty much every stoplight in San Antonio has a man (voice) who tells you to wait, when to go and even counts down the time for you to safely cross. Here is a portion of his instructions. I don’t know why, but it really made me laugh. Great for seeing impaired, though!!
This was in my hotel room’s bathroom. Is this a real problem in Texas?
My brother wore one of these when he was 6 years old pretending he was Davy Crockett but it’s not acceptable as an adult as far as I’m concerned! LOL
For a state that doesn’t ever really get cold, they sure do sell a lot of animal print hats!
And finally, another pink cowboy hat – but what’s special about this one you ask?
After I tried it on and Jen took a pic, we were chased down by a little Mexican-American shop owner who then pointed to a SMALL sign that indicated taking pictures of merchandise cost $1. I would have told the guy to screw off (the sign was HIDDEN behind stuff), but Jen thought the pic was well worth the $1 and paid him happily! LOL.
Happy Tuesday, y’all!!