Monday, May 3, 2010

San Antonio

Just so everyone's up to date - if you haven't heard yet, we made it home safe! I'll cover San Antonio in this post, and finish up the rest of our trip in the next post.

(Adam's photos inserted and his comments in italics)

Our time in San Antonio was great!  I had no prior conceptions of what the city would be like, and I was blown away.  Adam used his couchsurfing membership to hook us up with a great couple with an incredible old house just a few miles north of downtown and the Riverwalk.  Steve and Jayne got us set up in our own separate bedrooms in their totally restored 100 year old house (my bed was a 400 year old antique), then sat us down to give us the house rules.

Rule 1:
Anyone that stays must spend at least one night with the owners of the house, drinking too much and telling their story.

That is all.

Evidently Steve and Jayne are very popular in the couchsurfing network, due to their incredible house and their gregarious personalities.  One of their absolute favorite things is having houseguests and hearing all of their stories.

After telling us they don't feed their house guests, they fed us a delicious gourmet meal with fresh baked bread and pesto sauce, and opened a bottle of wine handpicked from their wine cellar.  We then fulfilled the terms of our contract, and due solely to our sense of propriety, helped Jayne polish off the bottle of wine as we told our tale. 

It took much longer than absolutely necessary to get our story told.  Storylistening is an interactive art with Janie, and we would get only a few sentences out before Janie would jump in with comment, anecdote, or amazing tale of their own bicycle touring done on a recumbant tandem all over Europe.  The evening felt a bit like a tennis game, bouncing lines back and forth.  It took some focus and strength of will to get the story straight and complete, especially as our excessive sense of duty had compelled us to finish off several more bottles of wine.

In addition to his many other talents, Steve is studying to become an official San Antonio tour guide.  The next day, he took us all over town, pointing out old buildings designed by famous architects, structures left over from the World Fair, and lots of the famous houses and public works of art.

We like our hosts and the city so much we stayed an extra day.  The restaurants around where we were staying were excellent, and we got great recommendations from our host.  Downtown, the bustling Riverwalk was great.  It was a bit commercial, and overrun with national chain restaurants, but the public art built into the walk itself was unique and funky.  With passages beneath waterfalls, plants rendered in lifelike concrete, locks and a surprising variety of waterfowl, the Riverwalk was captivating.

 A trip down Adam's memory lane - The Alamo

 The best Mexican bakery in San Antonio

We convinced Steve to ride with us on the next leg of our journey.   Adam and Steve rode together on Steve's tandem while I followed behind.  Having a local guide immediately paid off and we stopped at a french bakery to stock up on supplies for the day. 

Dwight taking a spin with Steve on the recumbent trike         
Adam and Steve ready to ride to New Braunfels

Spring had arrived.  We covered so many miles east on the night train from Del Rio that we had crossed from the arid regions of West Texas to a more humid zone resembling North Carolina.  It had been chilly and wet for most of our time in San Antoino, but it was warm and sunny as we pedaled north out of town.  The clear air was full of the smell of blooming flowers, lush green vegetation and wet earth.  It brought me very strongly back to the summers of my youth, and the feeling I'd get when I would head out on a brand new adventure, with no responsibilities and no one to answer to.  It was a strangely pleseant feeling, one of freedom and discovery mixed with the strongest homesickness I have felt in a long time.  It lasted all the way to New Braunfels, where we stopped for lunch.

Adam had been looking forward to this since he was in Iraq, when he got a care package filled with New Braunfels Smokehouse jerky and whatever else kind of meat can be shipped to the desert and not spoil.  The food was up to the hype, and the brisket was good, but by this time I was beginning to grow a bit weary of beef.  Not a frequent beef eater at home, I was beginning to feel the effects of a West Texas diet.
After a quick and cold swim in the Comal River, we met up with Janie, who dropped off Adam's bike and picked up her husband.  We asked if they would like to have one more meal with us, and they said in that case, we couldn't miss eating at Coopers Barbeque, the BEST barbecue in Texas.  "Oooh", I thought.  Barbecue again.  But I sucked it up, and I was glad I did.  It was a sight to behold.  You walk in the door and up to a brick pit.  They pull the lid off to reveal row upon row of cooking meat.  Sausage, brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, all crowding each other for space and sizzling over the coals.  You point and grunt, and the meat guy skewers a giant piece, chops off a chuck the approximate size you indicate with your hands, dunks it in a vat of sauce and slaps on a tray, which he then hands to you.  The food was very good, but it was the memory that was worth the stuffing I took.

Cooper's BBQ with Jayne and Steve  

The sun was setting by the time we pulled out of Coopers.  We had 15 miles to go to make it to our next host's house, and we were already late.  We raced through the dark past fields and cows.  Pulling up to the house, we breathed hard from the push.  We looked forward to a shower and a good rest. I was still stuffed from Coopers.

We were welcomed into the house and told not to worry - Don and June Seebeck had waited on us for dinner and they were taking us out as soon as we had a chance to clean up.  There was nothing for it but to smile graciously and get ready to eat, one more time.

Doc Seebeck operating his windmill and Dwight climbing it

Dinner was not bad, and the company excellent.  Doc looked older than he was, as he's a brain cancer survivor.  Blind and deaf on one side of his head, he has more energy than Adam and I put together.  We ate at his favorite Mexican restaurant in San Marcos, where they fix the vegan meals that Don and June (also a cancer survivor) demand.

After dinner we got a tour of Don's house and land.  He has a giant RV, which he used to help him bike over 100,000 miles in his lifetime.  He would put in his miles in a race or fundrasing event, and Jen would follow along behind with a comfy home for him at the end.  Hanging on the wall of his garage are several old bicycle frames he rode to death - they literally fell apart after too many miles.

All across the southwest, we had been seeing the old metal windmills used to pump water into cisterns to provide water for cattle.  Don had acquired a couple of these old windmills and had them erected in his yard as ornaments - the best yard ornaments ever.  Especially since he let us climb to the top and check out the view before we rode away in the morning.  

After a late night, we got up early.  This day's journey would bring us to Austin, Texas.  We knew this as our final destination; this would be our last morning waking up on the road.