The drive through Beaumont and Houston to Katy was uneventful, but not too trying. Traffic outside of Houston was fairly calm, as we managed to miss the crush of rush hour.
Houston appears to be one of the few cities that rivals or even exceeds Atlanta’s uncontrolled sprawl. Any city with two perimeter highways is doing something wrong in my book. Anyway, we made it into Katy and caught up with India’s aunt Julie and cousin Tate for a quick wedding picture slideshow and lunch. We talked about the wedding, the honeymoon, and the 8 months that Julie’s parents (India’s grandparents) waited out hurricane Ike in the small house in Katy while they were evacuated from their former home on the Bolivar peninsula, and while they searched for a new place after it became clear that the hurricane had destroyed their old home. I can’t imagine the feeling of having the home that you designed, built and lived in for more than 25 years literally wiped off the map and turned into a mud field. I was also blown away by the amount of damage the hurricane did as far inland as Houston. Julie and Tate’s neighborhood was without power for more than a week after and they lost some major chunks of roof, but everyone came out of the ordeal pretty much unscathed and unhurt. We were certainly counting our blessings that we don’t live anywhere near hurricane country.
After lunch we climbed back into the car and headed back to I-10 towards San Antonio. We rolled into town in the late afternoon, but the sun was still hot and bright, beating down on the broilerpan of the city with white intensity. We arrived at the O’Casey bed and breakfast...
and were greeted by a serious gnome theme in our room. There were gnomes describing all the important features of the room, including the lightswitch,
Without these little hatted helpers to guide me, I would have been completely lost and would have probably tried to sleep in the toilet, flip the bedswitch and urinate on the porch light. Thankfully, we had no such trouble. After a quick change of clothes and check of the clock, we decided that we had better make for downtown and the Alamo before it closed at 5:30, so we hopped on the bikes and made the short trek into downtown San Antonio.
The Alamo itself was pretty inspiring and gave me a little insight into the intense pride that Texans take in their state. It’s hard to imagine what would inspire men from all across the country to come and fight and give their lives for Texan independence from Mexico when they seemed to have no real stake in the fight, but maybe I just don’t know the whole story. But, it was pretty wild to see some of Davy Crockett’s personal effects, his rifle, a beaded vest, letters that he wrote and some other things that showed that he was indeed a real person and not just a legend from Saturday morning cartoons. He was also a Freemason, along with several other prominent Alamo fighters like James Bowie and William Travis.
Who knew? Another layer to the mystery… The conspiracy theories surrounding Freemasonry and the birth of the United States could fill volumes… Oh, and here's India by her favorite tree in Texas, the huge live oak at the Alamo that is so huge that several of its branches have to be held up by steel cables!
After our visit to the Shrine of Texas Liberty, we made for the San Antonio Riverwalk, the super-touristy Disneyland “downtown” surrounded by cheesy themed restaurants, gift shops, and motorized cattleboat gondolas that circle the concrete river loaded down with huge families of tourists. We lingered for a while to watch some ducks diving in the water for their dinner, but quickly tired of the theme-park vibe and thought we’d find somewhere to eat that was a little bit off this beat. We were feeling half-starved and ready for some Mexican food and margaritas, so he headed up to street level from the riverwalk and made our way into the first Mexican restaurant that looked appealing. We found ourselves a seat outside on their balcony that happened to overlook… the Riverwalk! Despite our disappointment at being unable to get away from the outrageous touristy-ness of the city, at least we were up out of the melee on a balcony where we could sit and people-watch while we drank our margs and ate tasty food. The food was good, but not amazing and the margaritas may have been a bit overpriced, but we left with full bellies and no complaints. We found our bikes again and rode home, stopped by a drive-through beer store for a 6-pack of Lone Star tall-boys, and headed for the B&B to make our plan of attack for the next couple of days. All the main protagonists (Plant, Brownie, Fly, and Ol' Surly Burly) nestled neatly into our little room, and we sat down at the desk to polish out the details.
Tomorrow would be our big grind across the remaining central and western portion of the great state of Texas, taking us all the way to the bordertown of El Paso, just a stone’s throw from Mexico. We wrote down precise directions to our camping destination in the Gila national forest, then on the next day through New Mexico to the Carson national forest. Plans made, we turned in under the watchful eye of the gnomes for a good night’s sleep before the next day’s Texas blitz.